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November 8, 2023

The Butterfly Collector by Tea Cooper ~ a Review

by Donna Huber

What connects a botanical illustration of a butterfly with a missing baby and an enigma fifty years in the making?

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free audiobook was provided for an honest review.

book cover of historical mystery novel The Butterfly Collector by Tea Cooper
November 2023; Harper Muse; 9781400245208
audio (10h 43m), ebook, print; historical mystery

Both MK and Susan have reviewed Tea Cooper's books and I've been wanting to read one. When I saw the offer of The Butterfly Collector as an audiobook review copy, I had to say yes.

The story is told in two time periods and locations in Australia: 1868 Morpeth and 1922 Sydney. 

In 1868, Theordora Breckenridge stays at the family's country estate while her sisters go to Sydney to find husbands. As many women with means in this time period, she is interested in the natural world and finds a new butterfly. She is making a thorough scientific study of this new butterfly including painting it so that the discovery can be documented. She befriends a young woman of limited means who needs to provide for her child. The mystery begins in this timeline.

In 1922, Verity Binks is trying to follow in her grandfather's footsteps and become a journalist. She takes on an assignment to write about the history of the Treadwell Foundation which helps unwed mothers and their children. She uncovers a mystery.

I enjoyed the story and the characters. There are a lot of characters and the story flips back and forth between the two timelines - thankfully the chapters are labeled with the time period. However, I still had trouble following the story. If you are going to be on a train, boat, or plane this holiday season, then I recommend getting the audiobook as you will need to concentrate on the story. I was only doing housework and found it to be too much distraction.

The narrator Emily Barrett does a wonderful job and my struggle had nothing to do with her reading of the book. There is a lot going on in the novel and as it is a mystery there are bits and pieces dropped here and there that you have to keep up with.

I wish I had read it myself as I think it is a really great book but the struggle to follow the story and keeping the characters straight diminished my enjoyment.

If you enjoy historical fiction and want to learn more about Australia, then get this book.

Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour.

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