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The right book can instantly transport you to anywhere — and anytime — in the world. Every Thursday, we recommend one of our favorite books with a strong sense of place so you can see the sights, meet remarkable people, go on exciting adventures, and feel big feelings. Bonus: You don't even have to put on pants.
This post is part of our 'Weekend Getaway' series.
This weekend, why not slink around a velvet-and-brocade with Veronica Speedwell in Victorian London. There are costumes, capers, and oops! muuuuurder.
Veronica Speedwell’s name is synonymous with mayhem and moxie. A butterfly hunter (lepidopterist!) with a disarming attraction to trouble, she’s armed with a sharp mind and a dangerous hatpin. She’s also the secret and semi-legitimate daughter of the Prince of Wales.
Despite (or perhaps, because of) her sometimes prickly personality, she’s found a stalwart colleague and companion in the Honourable Revelstoke Templeton-Vane, a.k.a. Stoker. In between their legitimate work on taxidermy and other natural wonders, they stick their overly curious noses into other people’s larcenous capers.
In this, their fifth adventure together, Veronica and Stoker go undercover at a sumptuous brothel — The Club de l’Etoile — run by one Madame Aurore. It seems the proprietress has come into possession of a pricy jewel that can be traced back to a member of the royal family. Quel scandale! It’s up to our intrepid pair to retrieve it before the news breaks in high society and the papers.
But as usual, not much is what it seems. And oh! Jack the Ripper is stalking the streets of London.
Tightly plotted with sparkling dialogue and dazzling set pieces, this novel is a gilded time machine back to 1888 London, a chance to hobnob with the upper crust as they indulge their baser desires. There are lavish settings, shoot-outs, daring escapes, surprising glimpses of mettle, annoying royals, shocking revelations, and swoony moments of true romance.
When the caper finally comes to its (very) satisfying conclusion, Veronica must find deeper stores of courage — to dare to be vulnerable — and face the fears that haunt her heart and mind.
Still, how often had I used travel as a means of escaping my troubles? An untidy love affair, a thwarted professional commission, a disappointment of any sort—these had frequently provided the impetus for a fresh journey. How the spirits lifted with every embarkation! The sound of a steam engine roaring to life, the full-bellied sway of canvas sails, the sharp tang of hot metal rails or salt-scented sea. There was nothing more promising than the first stage of a new expedition. Everything was possible in that moment; there was no past, no future, only that hollow in time when everything paused. — Deanna Raybourn
This exhilarating caper (320 pages) was published in March of 2020 by Penguin. The book takes you to Victorian England. Melissa read A Murderous Relation and loved it; it wouldn't be on our site if she didn't recommend it.
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Top image courtesy of Bedford Lemere.
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Strong Sense of Place is a website and podcast dedicated to literary travel and books we love. Reading good books increases empathy. Empathy is good for all of us and the amazing world we inhabit.
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