A little bit of history, a little bit of romance, a little bit of suspense. What else could I ask for?
I have a passion for well written, Australian historical fiction and The Butterfly Collector certainly fits that category. From the start the story had me invested.
This is the first time I have read a Tea Cooper story and I have already bought another for my reading pile.
It is a delicious blend of fact and fiction, told in two timelines and two locations - Morpeth NSW 1868 and Sydney 1922 - but does not confuse the reader.
The story begins in 1922 when Verity Binks, a journalist, is sacked from her job at Sydney Arrow newspaper. It is a common situation post World War I to open positions for soldiers returning from active service. However, her editor is happy to publish, and pay for, any stories of interest she sends him.
When she receives an invitation to a masquerade ball along with a butterfly costume, she embarks on an investigation that has her in Morpeth where her father was born.
Verity’s father was a well-known journalist and Verity is keen to follow in his footsteps by writing an interesting article. When an anonymous parcel arrives containing an invitation to the Sydney Artists’ Masquerade Ball and a butterfly costume her curiosity is piqued.
At the ball, she is introduced to Mr Treadwell who asks her to write the history of the Treadwell Foundation which supports unmarried mothers and their babies.
Her research takes her back to Morpeth, her grandfather’s birthplace.
The visit results in linking with the other storyline of the book as she learns about her connections with the Breckenridge.
The second story line is set in Morpeth in 1868 where we meet Theodora and her three sisters Florence, Constance, and Viola. They are mourning the loss of their parents and brother when a steamer ship hit a reef and sank.
Florence decided their period of mourning was over and they should go to Sydney and put themselves back out into society and find husbands.
In addition to preferring to painting and enjoying her mother’s garden to socialising, the thought of travelling on a steamer like her parents did terrifies her.
While painting in the garden, she discovers a butterfly never seen in Australia. She knew the famous nature illustrators, the Scott sisters and is keen to follow in their footsteps.
Her search to find them again leads her on an adventure.
Clarrie is a maid working for the reverend but fires her when he discovers she is pregnant. She and the baby’s father, Sid, have not been able to marry but find a local midwife, Maud, prepared to deliver the baby and look after him for a fee when Clarrie finds work with Theodora.
Our next character is Redmond, Sid’s employer at the local newspaper. Redmond is keen to spend time with Theodora and asks Sid if Clarrie would be a chaperone on a butterfly search on a river island.
Theodora and Clarrie get on well and Theodora offers her a job.
As the story continues, we learn that Clarrie and Sid are Verity’s grandparents.
I highly recommend The Butterfly Collector to fans of Australian historical fiction and readers who like to relax with a good story and learn at the same time.
My thanks to NetGalley and Harlequin Australia for a copy of The Butterfly Collector by Tea Cooper in exchange for an honest review.
My rating 5*