Lines to Love: What Veronica Speedwell Taught Me
Veronica Speedwell is a fabulous heroine. Even in her imperfections, she is a joy to read. In A Dangerous Collaboration, Veronica does quite a bit of soul searching. But while Veronica might be undergoing certain transformations, there are aspects of her character that are perfectly indelible. Her animated spirit, her devil-may-care, irreverent attitude toward the opinions of others, her enviable self-possession and confidence, these remain the same. As does her fantastic and ingenious wardrobe with lots and lots of pockets to ferret away all sorts of goodies from her ever present companion Chester to her flask of aguardiente to her knives and minuten pins. One thing Veronica will teach you is to always be prepared for every eventuality.
In this latest installment, Veronica faces her greatest fears on numerous levels. And while she might hem and haw and delay for a bit, it is not in Veronica’s nature to be squeamish or cowardly. I see her as the woman on the prow of a ship, built to endure whatever tumult or tempest the sea might bring against her.
Veronica Speedwell is truly an experienced woman. Through the first three books in the series (A Curious Beginning, A Perilous Undertaking, and A Treacherous Curse), Veronica, along with her colleague Stoker, have endured a great many dangers and perils, some of which came very close to killing them. And, dear readers, Veronica is a continual inspiration because she first faces each fear and then takes the time to let those experiences shape her future actions by better preparing herself. She doesn’t close herself off, and wallow in bitterness or terror because she lived through horrors. As Mrs. Roosevelt suggested, Veronica says to herself, “I can take the next thing that comes along.”
How is Veronica able to do that? Such a feat is not for the faint of heart. But, a key component of Veronica’s ability to embrace the future, no matter how uncertain, is the fact that she truly knows who she is. I’ll harken back to the oft-quoted here at Whiskers:
Veronica certainly knows who she is, and with each experience, she becomes more sure-footed in herself. That is why she is so self-confident. It’s why she can turn up her nose at the opinions of others.
That could be Veronica’s motto right there. She possesses integrity because she is unwilling to compromise herself in this regard. And while she might not always be correct, she is secure enough that when she sees that she’s in the wrong, she faces that too.
There is great freedom is sticking to your guns, in refusing to compromise yourself and your beliefs. The more you walk out who you are, the easier it will become to disregard the opinions of others. Veronica cares so little for others’ opinions that she has, in effect, lost her reputation. But, Margaret Mitchell, who penned another fabulous heroine, said it best in Gone with the Wind:
And, since I’ve mentioned Gone with the Wind, I have to say it. To me, Veronica Speedwell is a blissful compilation of the intrepid, indefatigable Scarlett O’Hara and the dynamic, forthright Rhett Butler. Can’t you just hear her echoing Rhett when some insignificant has crossed her?
And there’s one thing more I’ll touch on. It begins with this quote by the poet E. E. Cummings, which sounds like the sort of advice we might hear from Veronica, too:
To risk curiosity and wonder, spontaneity and any other experience that gives revelation into the human spirit will lead to something else- compassion. On first glance, Veronica doesn’t seem the merciful sort- she’s so forthright and doesn’t suffer fools well at all, yet, because she’s seen so much of what life holds- the good, the bad, and the ugly- she does have a deep seated compassion for the foibles and failings of others, even those who we might consider beyond redemption. That, as Portia would say, is an attribute of God himself; and earthly power doth then show likest God’s when mercy seasons justices.
Veronica is an outlier. And in keeping with outliers, Veronica lives by her own code. This is what she’s taught me:
Always be who you are. Always.
Face your fears, whatever they might be.
Once you’ve faced your fear and lived to tell about it, don’t crawl into your shell and be afraid of what the future might hold. Go off into the wild blue yonder with an intrepid spirit, ready for whatever life might throw your way.
Do not place too much, if any, stock in the opinions of others. What they think about you and the decisions you’ve made doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, you’re the one who has to live with yourself.
Be honest with yourself as well as with others.
Try to be compassionate, even merciful, particularly in circumstances where it seems impossible.
And last, but certainly not least, always carry a flask. They do come in dreadfully handy when storms surge and waters rise.
A Dangerous Collaboration is my favorite Speedwell book to date as Veronica grows leaps and bounds. All the potentials that Deanna Raybourn has been laying the foundation for comes full circle and what we’re left with is a thoroughly satisfying read. And, on that note, there’s still time for you to win your own signed copy of the novel: