Though a lepidopterist by trade, Veronica Speedwell has been up to much more than chasing after rare specimens of butterflies. Continuing on after the exhilarating adventures of A Curious Beginning, A Perilous Undertaking, and A Treacherous Curse, it’s difficult to imagine how the spunky and spirited Victorian-era sleuth could find herself caught up in even more thrilling and dangerous exploits. But young Miss Speedwell does not disappoint in A DANGEROUS COLLABORATION (Berkley Hardcover; March 12, 2019), Deanna Raybourn’s highly anticipated fourth installment of the Veronica Speedwell mystery series.
After chasing down clues leading to her mysterious past, having quite literally run off to join a traveling circus, solving a murder mystery at a ladies-only social club, and an unraveling an ancient Egyptian curse, Veronica always goes back to her true love: the butterflies. But as colorful and unfettered as the butterflies she collects, Veronica can’t resist the allure of an exotic mystery—particularly one involving her enigmatic, frequently uncouth, yet ruggedly handsome colleague Stoker.
Veronica is whisked off to a remote island off the tip of Cornwall when Stoker’s brother, Tiberius, calls in a favor. On the pretext of wanting a companion to accompany him to Lord Malcolm Romilly’s house party, Tiberius persuades Veronica to pose as his fiancée—much to Stoker’s chagrin. But upon arriving, it becomes clear that the party is not as innocent as it had seemed. Every invited guest has a connection to Romilly’s wife, Rosamund, who disappeared on her wedding day three years ago, and a dramatic dinner proves she is very much on her husband’s mind.
As spectral figures, ghostly music, and mysterious threats begin to plague the partygoers, Veronica enlists Stoker’s help to discover the host’s true motivations. And as they investigate, it becomes clear that there are numerous mysteries surrounding the Romilly estate, and every person present has a motive to kill Rosamund.
A DANGEROUS COLLABORATION is brimming with Raybourn’s trademark clever plot construction that readers have come to love, in addition to provocative storytelling and the smoldering chemistry between Veronica and Stoker. It is sure to appeal to fans of Alan Bradley, Jacqueline Winspear, Ann Perry and anyone on the hunt for a stimulating frolic across the pages.
About the Author
Deanna Raybourn is the author of the award-winning, New York Times bestselling Lady Julia Grey series, currently in development for television, as well as the Veronica Speedwell Mysteries and several standalone novels. Visit her online at www.deannaraybourn.com, on Facebook at DeannaRaybournAuthor, and on Twitter @deannaraybourn.
“What in the name of seven hells do you mean you want to ‘borrow’ Miss Speedwell? She’s not an umbrella, for God’s sake,” Stoker grumbled to his eldest brother as the viscount entered our workroom. (Such demands often comprised the bulk of Stoker’s conversation; I had learnt to ignore them.) “Besides which, she has only been home for two days. I very much doubt she has even unpacked.”
Lord Templeton-Vane bared his teeth in what a stupid person might have mistaken for a smile. “Stoker, how delightful to see you. I hadn’t noticed you behind that water buffalo’s backside. Perfecting your trade, no doubt,” he mused as he looked from the moldering buffalo trophy to the pile of rotten sawdust Stoker was busy extracting. As a natural historian, Stoker’s lot was often the restoration of thoroughly foul specimens of the taxidermic arts. The backside of a water buffalo was far from the worst place I had seen Stoker’s head.
His lordship clicked his tongue as he gave Stoker a dismissive glance. “Besides which, I hardly think Miss Speedwell requires assistance in arranging her affairs.” He lingered on the last word just a heartbeat too long. The viscount had a gift for silken suggestions, and I suppressed a sigh of irritation that he had exercised it just then. Stoker and I had scarcely spoken since my return, exchanging cool greetings and meaningless chatter about our work. But I had hopes of a thaw provided the viscount did not scupper the possibility.
I looked up from the tray of Nymphalidae I was sorting and gave them both a repressive stare. “I am not your nanny, but if required, I will put either of you over my knee,” I warned them.
Stoker, who topped me by half a foot and some forty pounds, pulled a face. His brother’s response was slightly salacious. He lifted an exquisite brow and sighed. “One could only wish,” he murmured.
I ignored that remark and brushed off my hands, putting my butterflies aside. “My lord,” I said to the viscount, “before you explain further, perhaps we might have a little refreshment.”
His lordship looked pained. “I abhor tea parties,” he protested.
It was my turn to snort. “Not that sort of tea.” With Stoker’s grudging consent, I retrieved a bottle of his best single malt and poured out a measure for each of us. We settled in and I studied my companions. In certain respects, they could not have been more different, yet in others they were startlingly similar. They shared the fine bone structure of their mother; from high cheekbones and determined jaws to elegant hands, they were alike. It was in coloring and musculature that they varied. While his lordship was sleek as an otter, Stoker’s muscles, honed by his long years of work as a natural historian and explorer, were heavier and altogether more impressive. He made good use of them as he worked on the mounts that would form the basis of the Rosemorran Collection. Whilst we sorted the family’s accumulated treasures from centuries of travel, the earl had given us the use of the Belvedere, the grand freestanding ballroom on his Marylebone estate, as well as living quarters, modest salaries, and a few other perquisites such as entertaining visitors when we chose.
Stoker, as it happened, was not entirely pleased with our current caller. His relationship with his eldest brother was difficult at the best of times, and it was apparent from his lordship’s expression of feline forbearance that he was rather less inclined than usual to tolerate Stoker’s bad temper. Stoker, for his part, was determined to play the hedgehog, snarling with his prickles out.
The viscount gestured expansively towards the specimen Stoker had been stitching when he arrived. “Why don’t you go and play with your buffalo? I have business with Miss Speedwell.”
Stoker curled his lip and I hastened to intervene before bloodshed broke out. “Poorly played, my lord. You know that Stoker and I are colleagues and friends. Anything you have to say to me can be said freely in front of him.” I had hoped this little demonstration of loyalty would settle Stoker’s hackles, but his mood did not change.
The viscount’s expression turned gently mocking. “Colleagues and friends! How very tepid,” he said blandly. He took a deep draft of his whisky while Stoker and I studiously avoided looking at one another. Our investigative pursuits, invariably dangerous and thoroughly enjoyable, had drawn us together, forcing a trust neither of us entirely welcomed. We were solitary creatures, Stoker and I, but we had discovered a mutual understanding beyond anything we had shared with others. What would become of it, I could not say. In spite of six months’ distance, I still thought often of that last significant meeting, when words had hung unspoken but understood in the air. I had alternately cursed and congratulated myself on my narrow escape from possible domesticity—a fate I regarded as less desirable than a lengthy bout of bubonic plague. I had been so near to making declarations that could not be undone, offering promises I was not certain I could keep. My vow never to be relegated to the roles of wife and mother had been tested during a moment of vulnerability. Stoker was the only man I knew who could have weakened my resolve, but it would have been a mistake, I insisted to myself. I was not made for a life of ordinary pursuits, and it would take an extraordinary man to live with me on my terms. It was a point of pride with me that I hunted men with the same alacrity and skill that I hunted butterflies. Only one sort of permanent trophy interested me—and that had wings. Men were a joy to sample, but a mate would be a complication I could not abide. At least, this is what I told myself, and it was perhaps this elusiveness that made me all the more attractive to the opposite sex.
His lordship included. He was lavishly lascivious in his praise, his conversation usually peppered with deliciously outrageous comments. I never took him seriously, but Stoker took him too seriously, and that was the root of their current lack of sympathy with one another. Like stags, they frequently locked horns, and although neither would admit it, I suspected they enjoyed their battles far more than they did the civil affections they shared with their other brothers.
Stoker was glowering at the viscount, who held up a hand, the signet ring of the Templeton-Vanes gleaming upon his left hand. “Peace, brother mine. I can feel you cursing me.”
“And yet still you breathe,” Stoker said mildly. “I must not be doing it right.”
I rolled my eyes heavenwards. “Stoker, behave or remove yourself, I beg you. I still do not know the purpose of his lordship’s call.”
“I do not require a reason except that of admiration,” his lordship said with practiced smoothness. Stoker made a growling noise low in his throat while his brother carried on, pretending not to hear. “I missed you during your sojourn abroad, my dear. And, as it happens, I do have business. Well, business for you, dear lady, but pleasure for me.”
“Go on,” I urged.
“Tell me, Miss Speedwell, in all your travels around this beautiful blue orb of ours, have you ever encountered the Romilly Glasswing butterfly?”
“Oleria romillia? Certainly not. It was as elusive as Rajah Brooke’s Birdwing and twice as valuable. It is unfortunately now extinct. I have only ever seen one preserved specimen in a private collection and it was in dreadful condition.”
The viscount held up a hand. “Not entirely extinct, as it happens.”
Excerpted from A DANGEROUS COLLABORATION by Deanna Raybourn, published by Berkley, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright © 2019 by Deanna Raybourn