This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Genres: Historical Romance, Mystery Romance, Romantic Suspense
Published by Berkley
Released on March 12, 2019
At the close of the last book, things were left in an interesting place for Veronica and Stoker. I was eager to proceed and see what came of them next as they faced another exciting murder adventure together while exchanging acrimonious quips. A Dangerous Collaboration took them away from London to the atmospheric Cornish coast where they must solve a cold case mystery and perhaps discover something more.
A Dangerous Collaboration is the fourth Veronica Speedwell mystery, but it doesn’t make a good standalone or place to jump into the series. There has been a long, sizzling slow burn relationship building through the books along with other series developments making sense only when got in order.
A Dangerous Collaboration jumps in a little over six months after the finish of A Treacherous Curse. It is six months because Veronica pulled a panic when emotions happened and ran off with her ladyship to go hunt butterflies on Madeira. Naturally, she would die before admitting as much and she is in desperate straights when she returns knowing that she hasn’t purged Stoker from her system or found her mojo to go back to her butterfly hunts like what was supposed to result from the trip. Life is decidedly flat particularly when her absence doesn’t spark even one letter from the person she desires to forget. In fact, she knows she has no right to feel hurt when it was her choice and when she comes back and he treats her the same as he did before, but seeing right through her like he always had.
Fortunately, Stoker’s brother saves her with the dangling of a new mystery in the form of an old disappearance case involving his friend and the possibility of a new butterfly for her collection out on the Cornish coast so long as she poses as his fiance. Stoker wasn’t invited, but he tags along as well for the houseparty in an atmospheric castle on the remote Cornish island with the Romilly family. Malcolm Romilly is determined to discover once and for all what happened to his disappearing bride the day they married.
I always anticipate each new release of this series for this pairing who drive me nuts and pull me in, all the same. But, I let myself believe things were a certain way between this pair at the end of the last book and this book snatched that away in the first pages and I had to reset and change my expectations. As a result, I will probably be going the unpopular opinion route for a good portion of this review. No worries, if you had a different experience when reading it.
Veronica and Stoker have been in denial since day one. I remember saying in my review of the first book that she is terrified of commitments, relationships, and, most of all abandonment and rightly so, but hides it behind her independent, highly intellectual, equal in all ways including sexually, outrageous persona. I call it a persona because it is something she has deliberately cultivated like her own version of armor. Until Veronica met Stoker, this was adequate, but over the course of these books she has slowly, bit by bit had it proven to her that all that is a brittle and hollow thing, but she is too scared to try for more and then when she slips in the last book and cops to feelings, she runs in fear.
I bothered to say all that because I really thought Veronica had made it through the last hurdle by the end of the last book and this would be the start of them trying to build something deeper. She’s a fierce, brilliant woman who will never be like the typical women of her day- Stoker never once expects her to nor does he ever disparage her mind or anything else. He likes her as is and treats her as a partner and equal. She knows all this on one level and revels in it, but then that sticky fear from the past takes over and she is right back where she started pretending she is an island and doesn’t want love or marriage or wanting a man for more than a night.
In this one, I skimmed and drifted through a book I felt dragged after the opening pages until around the fifty percent point when the suspense plot really kicked in and big things were happening. It’s not that I minded the long set up of the situation or what was happening among the larger cast of characters, but with the focus, stronger than ever, on Veronica and Stoker while they churned up the same patch of earth with each other…sigh. I couldn’t even get into the atmospheric setting and gothic overtones (that were great by the way) without being distracted.
Let’s just say, I’d had enough. At this point, she’s a tease and an emotional coward. Harsh, yes, but with Veronica, it’s always Stoker being juvenile with his brother or Stoker being ridiculous and sentimental because God forbid a person have feelings for you or feelings about his brother cutting in and Veronica letting him. She knows what his wife did to him in the past and that his family was torn since he was a child and he’s just now tentatively starting things with his brother. But hey, let’s rile the guy up emotionally and pull back and then play coy while involving the brother. On purpose or not, she did it. I was honestly to the point where I wanted Stoker to back away and leave her with his brother. Yep, I was just that exasperated, but then I held in there for that precious solid gold moment when Stoker shines with a heroic inferno that burned away all the petty shirking she was doing. That scene was almost worth putting up with everything before it.
The mystery was a gothic style and that was the bright and shining bit. Even while the romance end was driving me batty, seeing them in action as a detecting pair, sparring and being witty while getting to the bottom of matters, I was as dazzled and thrilled as always. This is where this pair has always shone for me. I actually had my finger on the right answer, but then thought that I was wrong when the second disappearance happened. Loved the setting of foggy, isolated Cornish island shrouded in legend and lore with a castle full of hidden passages, a possible ghost, a definite disappearance and a house full of suspects.
Now, I did yammer on for some time about something that got my dander up and it probably seems I didn’t like this book. But in truth, aside from my wild hare about that relationship, everything else was stellar. And, I would even go so far as to say that many people will have more patience and generosity than I did and not mind so much what got to me. This was a solid historical romantic suspense in a shining, witty series that I can recommend to those who enjoy the genre and strong willed characters.
I rec’d this book via Net Galley from Berkley to read in exchange of an honest review.
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