I read cozy and historical mysteries, a bit of Paranormal/UF, and to mix it up, I read science and gardening books on occasion.
I've been looking forward to this second book for months and while it wasn't quite as good as the first book, it definitely wasn't disappointing.
In the first book, startling revelations about Veronica were a big part of the plot, and Stoker's past was shared in teasing bits here and there. I suppose, given those revelations, the author couldn't resist using them to prop up the plot in this book, but I'll admit I found the device (especially the you must investigate this!) trite. At a guess, the family angst bit was perhaps meant to show Veronica's vulnerability and humanity - we all just want to be accepted and loved, dammit! But it just didn't work for me. I found the scene with the butterfly in the garden to be far more effective and moving, without being a cliché. I did enjoy learning more about Stoker's family though.
A BookLikes friend of mine wrote, in her review, that the themes throughout this book seemed chosen as much for their shock value as for their ability to showcase Veronica's conscious independence. She's not wrong. I'm not sure if the author wanted to shock, or just combat the general assumption that Victorian England was the apex of prudishness, purity and virginal thinking, but either way, this book is not for anyone who prefers a chaste story. There's no overt sex, but boy howdy, is it talked about. A lot.
The murder reveal didn't surprise me; the more the author asserts a character's innocence, the more I suspect them, but I hardly cared. The banter between Stoker and Veronica–actually the banter between anyone and Veronica–were what I enjoyed the most about this book. If you want a strong, intelligent, pragmatic, rational female heroine you cannot do much better than Miss Speedwell. Raybourn knows how to write.
My favourite highlights: Patricia the Galapagos tortoise, and that final scene between Stoker and Veronica. That final scene might, in fact, make my top 5 favourites of all time.