The Butterfly Collector

Narrated by Emily Barrett
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Pub Date 28 Nov 2023 | Archive Date 28 Dec 2023

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A botanical illustration of a butterfly. A missing baby. And a twisted mystery fifty years in the making.

1868, Morpeth. Theodora Breckenridge, still in mourning after the loss of her parents and brother at sea, is more interested in working quietly on her art at the family’s country estate than she is finding a husband in Sydney society, even if her elder sister Florence has other ideas. Theodora seeks to emulate prestigious nature illustrators, the Scott sisters, who lived nearby. She cannot believe her luck when she discovers a butterfly never before seen in Australia. With the help of her maid Clarrie and her beautiful drawings, Theodora is poised to make a scientific discovery that will put her name on the map. Then Clarrie’s newborn son goes missing and everything changes.

1922, Sydney. When would-be journalist Verity Binks is sent an anonymous parcel containing a spectacular butterfly costume along with an invitation to the Sydney Artists Masquerade Ball the same day she loses her job at The Arrow, she is both baffled and determined to attend. Her late grandfather, Sid, an esteemed newspaperman, would expect no less of her. At the ball she lands a juicy commission to write the history of the Treadwell Foundation, an institution that supports disgraced young women and their babies. As she begins to dig, her research quickly leads her to an increasingly dark and complex mystery—a mystery fifty years in the making. Can she solve it? And will anyone believe her if she does?

The Butterfly Collector is USA TODAY bestselling author Tea Cooper at her best.

A botanical illustration of a butterfly. A missing baby. And a twisted mystery fifty years in the making.

1868, Morpeth. Theodora Breckenridge, still in mourning after the loss of her parents and...

A Note From the Publisher

The Butterfly Collector is also available for purchase on Spotify.

The Butterfly Collector is also available for purchase on Spotify.

Available Editions

EDITION Audiobook, Unabridged
ISBN 9781400245208
DURATION 10 Hours, 43 Minutes, 17 Seconds

Available on NetGalley

NetGalley Shelf App (AUDIO)

Average rating from 187 members

Featured Reviews

The Butterfly Collector is a historical novel by Australian author, Tea Cooper. The audio version is narrated by Emily Barrett. In 1922, Verity Binks loses her job as a stenographer at The Sydney Arrow, in favour of returned servicemen. Her boss does offer to consider her freelance articles for printing. On the same day, a costume, mask and ticket to the Sydney Artists’ Ball arrive from a mystery sender.

As the daughter of the late War Correspondent, Charles Binks, she is introduced to Mr Treadwell, whose mother began the Treadwell Foundation, for which he wants some positive publicity to attract funds. It sounds like a worthwhile organisation, providing support and care for unmarried mothers, but he seems reticent about his mother’s background, and Verity’s journalistic interest is piqued.

In Morpeth, in 1868, Clarrie loses her job as maid-of-all-work when Rev. Lodestar discovers she is pregnant. Her beau, Sid Binks has promised to take care of her, and finds a midwife who will allow Verity to leave the baby in her care and find work. Sid works at The Morpeth Want as a compositor, but lives in quarters with other “Want” men, quite unsuitable for a mother and baby. His boss, though, Redmond Kendall is an understanding man and he has an idea…

After a period of bereavement for their parents and brother, Theodora Breckenridge’s sisters are focussed on re-entering the social scene in Sydney. As a nature illustrator, she would much rather stay in Morpeth, helping ready the garden for winter and looking out for the amazing butterfly she’s spotted once only, apparently never before seen in Australia.

Verity research involves a trip to Morpeth, where she meets the current Want editor, Arlo Kendall, and from the archives and further investigation, she manages to uncover a shocking racket involving the adoption of illegitimate babies, something she’s determined to expose. And when she discovers a personal connection, it solidifies her resolve.

This dual timeline story is told by Clarrie, Theodora and Redmond in the mid-nineteenth Century, and by Verity and Arlo in the early twentieth Century. The depth of Cooper’s research is apparent on every page and her descriptive prose is very evocative: the sights, sounds and smells of both inner-city Sydney and the Australian bush are particularly well-rendered. There are some dramatic scenes and the element of mystery will keep the reader enthralled through to the final pages of this superb Australian historical fiction.
This unbiased review is from an audio copy provided by NetGalley and Harper Muse

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Tea Cooper is masterful in this thrilling story set in the late 1800s and early 1900s in Australia. This is historical fiction at its best - a good mystery, a cast of characters full of connections, and a dash of romance. Loved this!

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Ok I loved this. I started my audiobook journey with cozy mysteries set in the early 1900s so safe to say I love a historical fiction. Truthfully I had no idea where this book was going. I don’t read a large amount of straight fiction without some kind of murder mystery element often so I was skeptical. But I’m so glad I stuck with this book. It was incredibly well written and the narrator did an absolutely fantastic job. Completely fell in love

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This was absolutely stunning! The plot was well-paced and captivating from start to finish. The characters were well-developed; complex, and intriguing. I highly recommend this beautiful telling of the power of love. Many thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for the advanced copy of the book.

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This is so beautiful I could explode. I may buy this one. The narrator was perfection for this role too. It was just a lovely book all around. I can't wait to see what the author writes next.

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Thank you to the author, publisher and Net Galley for an ARC of this book in exchange of an honest review.

I enjoyed The Butterfly Collector. It was a very interesting book: butterflies and baby farming. You wouldn't think they go together, but Tea Cooper weaves together an amazing mystery. I enjoyed getting to know the characters. I felt like was at the Landing with Thea. I highly recommend this novel.
I thought the narrator was wonderful.

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The Butterfly Collector is a delightful and captivating story set in Australia. It begins in 1868 with a young lady named, Theodora. She enjoys painting and hopes to emulate her neighbor’s daughters who have done the intricate illustrations for their father’s guidebook on butterflies. She dreams about this so much that she’d rather stay home and paint her beautiful surroundings than venture with her older sisters on an outing to Sydney.

The story continues 54 years later in 1922, with another young Lady named, Verity, who aspires to be a journalist. She is spirited and enjoys riding a bicycle in a time when it is unladylike to do so. She wants to be known for writing articles about topics that further women’s rights.

The story switches back and forth between the two girls and their narratives finally bringing their lives together in a surprising way.

There are many secrets along the way, including a missing baby and long hidden family secrets. The beginning is slow while the story is being set up but when it picked up the pace I couldn’t stop listening. The ending brings the secrets to light and you finally see how everything is tied together.

Tea Cooper has done intense investigation about the events and people in Australia during both time periods and even though it’s fiction she has carefully added important facts. She explains fact vs fiction in an authors note. She also suggests books to read if you want to learn more.

This is a great historical mystery that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Many thanks to Harper Muse via NetGalley Audio.

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Beautifully narrated by Emily Barrett, the audio book version of Australian Author Tea Cooper’s dual-timeline historical fiction mystery, “The Butterfly Collector,” is a feminist manifesto on progressive rights in sexual relationships; the workplace; and the home front.

Theodora Breckinridge is a 19th C artist and naturalist living in remote Morpeth, Australia, who discovers a phenomena unique to down under shores—a rare butterfly before only known to the Americas.

Roaring ‘20s Sydney, Australia, Journalist Verity Binks is determined to become a leading writer just like her famous grandfather, Sid, but her career dreams are suddenly squelched when she’s fired by her editor from her permanent position to make room for men returning from WWI. Her boss does concede to publish any newsworthy articles she discovers as a stringer, but that’s it.

Luckily, Verity is soon offered a possible lead that could solve not only her desire for writing fame, but perhaps also answers questions about family mysteries that have gone decades without resolution.

This is a story about lies, deceit and betrayal—of unwed mothers whose children are taken from them without their knowledge or permission. It’s haunting and heartbreaking in its tragic truths of Victorian politics and women’s struggles and suffrage at the hands of self-righteous individuals.

TheBookMaven graciously thanks NetGalley, Author Tea Cooper, and Publisher Harper Muse for this advanced audiobook for review.

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I am not big on blurbs and expected some mystery in another era from this book but it ended up so much more.

The author beautifully places you in this time period, in the lives of women who can’t support a family and make big sacrifices, thinking it’s best for their children.

What they found, and at the hands of those in monetary power, was deeply disturbing and for you to unravel.

The most deeply tragic part of this story comes in the end, in the true stories of women who experienced what the fictional characters endured.

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This book follow three stories lines 1. Verity (1922) 2. Theodora ( 1868) 3. Clarrie (1868).
As this book has multiple POV — I think the audiobook would have been easier to follow and more enjoyable if there was multiple narrators for the different POV — but the narrator chosen was good at reading the story - though I did wish there was more variation in her voicing of male and female characters. But this didn’t detract from the excellent writing of the author.
The longer I listened to this book the more the threads of the story entrapped me and had me needing to know how everything was connected - I was most invested in Verity and Clarrie’s characters and stories and especially —Verity’s investigative reporting . This book is a great addition to Australian literature as it includes historical facts mixed with fiction. The historical notes at the end were really interesting too! I really enjoyed this story and highly recommend it !!

Thank you to Netgalley and Harper Muse for this ARC , this is my honest review .

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The butterfly collector
By Tea Cooper
A complex blend of history and fiction, so we'll done that readers can not believe her characters are not historical figures. Dual time lines fill in the story of the family shown as the connection linchpin of the story.
Dynamic characters that go through remarkable arcs. Many hints at Australian culture and historical facts. She does indicate many aboriginal beliefs with cultural respect and understanding.

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The Butterfly Collector by Tea Cooper
(Narrated by Emily Barrett)

What a twisty, well-written and interweaving Australian historical fiction.

The dual timelines happened in 1860s and 1920s, between Theodora Breckenridge who was a butterfly enthusiast and Verity Binks who was a young journalist.

While you thought there was nothing connecting between them, then you were absolutely wrong.

Theodora discovered a special species of butterfly in Australia and she had helped with her maid Clarrie in this discovering journey. Clarrie and Sid were trying to have a baby, but their newborn went missing.

On the other hand, Sid and Clarrie’s granddaughter Verity had a chance to write about Treadwell Foundation and she received a mysterious invitation to a charity event. When she was there in a butterfly costume, Verity recognized a painting there that related to her family history and some secrets.

Amazing story plot which connected two subtly storylines but turned out into a surprising story. Intriguing and keep you guessing what’s going on.

Many thanks to NetGalley, Harper Muse and Tea Cooper for that audiobook!

Format: Audiobook (10h43m)
Pub date: Nov 28, 2023

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The Butterfly Collector is a captivating historical novel that transports readers to Morpeth, New South Wales, in two distinct timelines, 1868 and 1922. The novel skillfully weaves together the lives of two remarkable women, Theodora Breckenridge and Clarrie in 1868, against the backdrop of a society marked by the rigid constraints of class and gender. Theodora is from a well to do family, mourning the loss of her parents and brother in a recent ship wreck.. She emerges as a character of depth and passion. Her fascination with the arts and nature, particularly butterflies, sets her apart from her sisters, who are solely preoccupied with securing suitable husbands. Her aspirations to follow in the footsteps of the Scott sisters, renowned nature illustrators, ignites a fervor within her to explore the world of unique butterflies and scientific discovery.

Clarrie's story, add a poignant layer to the narrative. Her struggles as an unwed mother, facing societal judgement and discrimination, reflect the harsh realities of the 1800's. The author expertly portrays Clarrie's determination to care for her child, Charlie and both Clarrie and her partner Sid, are very devoted to him. Theodora's decision to hire Clarrie as her housekeeper and assistant forges a unique bond between them, highlighting the power of female solidarity and the support women can provide each other in challenging circumstances. The addition of Maude, a scrupulous character, who assists unwed mothers, who runs a child minding business as a ruse to take advantage of these poor mothers and covertly run a baby farming business, showcases the depravity of human nature.

As the timelines intersect, the mystery surrounding baby Charlie's disappearance adds suspense and intrigue to the narrative. I found myself eager to uncover the truth and learn more about this heart-wrenching subplot.

Meanwhile, in 1922 Verity Binks, a talented journalist, finds herself at a crossroads in her career due to the prevailing gender biases of the post-war era. When she inherits her grandfather Sid's home, she is gifted a mysterious, anonymous invitation to the prestigious "Sydney Artists Masquerade Ball", complete with a stunning butterfly masquerade dress and a beautifully embossed invitation and a paid ticket. This enigmatic gift sets the stage for a thrilling and emotionally charged story. At the ball, Verity is presented with a significant commission to write a story for the Treadwell Foundation, an organization dedicated to supporting disgraced unwed mothers and their babies. This commission catapults Verity into a world of secrets and scandals, as she delves into her own family's history, particularly her grandparents heartbreaking experience with the baby farming business.

The novel skillfully navigates between the 1922 timeline and flashbacks to the late 19th century, where the shocking truth about Verity's grandparents past slowly unravels. The juxtaposition of Verity's contemporary struggles with her family's hidden shame creates a compelling and emotionally charged narrative arc. The historical context surrounding baby farming and its consequences for unwed mothers add depth to the storyline and sheds light on a dark chapter in Australian history.

Verity's determination to uncover the truth and redeem her family's name is a driving force that kept me engaged throughout. The character development is strong, especially in Verity's journey of self-discovery and resilience in the face of societal challenges.

Thank you to NetGalley and the author for providing me the book to read.

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This was a beautifully written story! It has the perfect mix of history, intrigue, and a touch of romance. The characters and setting are enthralling and well written. The narration was wonderfully done. I would recommend this for any historical fiction fans!

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Thanks to Netgalley and Harper Muse for an advanced audiobook copy in exchange for this honest review.

The narrator is great, and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the audiobook (nearly 11hours). The narrator's accent wasn't too strong and I really enjoyed the sound of her voice. I truly enjoyed that I found both timelines so calm and relaxing to listen to.

The title is misleading as it gives the idea that the butterfly collector is the main angle (and character) of the book, however it most certainly isn't. This didn't really affect my enjoyment of the book, but is why my rating is 4.5stars rather than 5 as it gives the reader the wrong expectations.

I absolutely loved this book, I was totally invested in both storylines and characters. There is just enough description to help you paint a picture, but not too much that you get bored of detail, which was great considering it's set in 1868 and 1922, in Australia. Occasionally I got lost with the dates and timelines, but eventually I used the characters to help place myself in the correct one.

I loved how the author touched upon different aspects throughout the story: collecting a rare species of butterfly, the history of baby farming, unexpected relationships. (However these relationships didn't lead to too much romance and the author religiously stuck to the drama - this was a major plus for me).

The mystery really kicks in in the second half of the book, whereas the first half is all backstory to help the reader understand once the mystery begins. I do wish the ending was spread out a bit more, maybe giving more detail instead of tying everything up in the final couple chapters and then jumping to the epilogue, but that's just a personal preference.

I will be looking up Coopers other books.

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I had never read any of Tea Cooper’s books before listening to The Butterfly Collector, but I certainly will from herein out. Set in two different time periods, Set in Australia, The Butterfly Collector focuses on three women: Theodora and Clarrie in the 1860s and Verity, Clarrie’s granddaughter in the early 1920’s. The plot is the star of this wonderful book. The story pulled me in from the start and then pulled me along through the many twists and turns of this complex story. there are a few obvious clues that the characters should have seen and there is a little over-reliance on coincidence, but it hardly matters. Fans of historical fiction will love The Butterfly Collector.

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I am grateful to Netscape and Harper Muse for permitting me to listen to the audiobook version of The Butterfly Collector.
From the gorgeous cover to the history of the monarch butterfly as it pertains to Australia, through the sprightly reading by Emily Barrett, Tea Cooper’s story is immersed in Australian history. It begins in Sidney in 1922, Verity Binks, daughter of a deceased war hero and granddaughter of a newspaperman, wants to be a journalist. She handles the classifieds at the Sidney Arrow, her grandfather Sid’s old post, and occasionally gets to publish a ‘feminine’ column about ´feminine trifles’. While Verity bridles against these limitations, she contents herself that she can at least earn her own living, if at half the wages men earn.
Her hopes are dashed, however, when a government decree to address the unemployment of veterans passes, and she is obliged to relinquish her place. Like most other women so displaced, she puts up a brave patriotic front by publicly agreeing it is the right thing to do. No doubt also like many of her newly jobless sisters, she is very worried about how she will survive, since most women needed their pay, and also frustrated that even the vote didn’t guarantee women’s right to work if they chose to.

But Verity Binks comes from hard-scrabble working class people, both her grandfather Sid and her equally loved Grandmother Clarrie. Her grandmother died in the Spanish flu pandemic, with the devastated Sid closely behind. They bequeathed to her the small terrace house they had bought in Sidney after abruptly leaving their home in Morpeth, the small town where her father Charlie was born, and where they had been staying with their benefactor, Theodora Breckenridge, for whom Clarrie did domestic service. But she also helped Theodora to collect and paint butterflies, as she strove to document a new species—the monarch. In 1868, Theodora became the first lepidopterist to spot the species, thought to have migrated from the Americas,

After many years during which they were believed to have died out, Verity spots one in her own backyard. She too becomes fascinated and starts her own research into its history, hoping to publish a serious piece in the Arrow, whose editor promised to look at anything she submitted as something of a consolation. Doing so, she slowly unravels her own family secrets, especially concerning Theodora and the Breckenridge family, and how these connect with her grandparents and her father. She uncovers the involvement of her own family and Theodora’s with a nefarious and still operating baby farming scheme that had persisted without penalty for half a century.
In a system that quickly dismissed women’s testimony and protected the wealthy under rigid defamation laws constraining the news media, this was both difficult and dangerous.
The baby farming story is not fictional, and the author makes her version historically factual in most details. Nor, of course, is it uniquely Australian. It happened wherever pregnant girls found themselves abandoned and, for lack of money or to spare their families shame, gave their babies into the care of unscrupulous minders. It happened when young women, married and unmarried, had to work and thought their babies were well looked after, even as the minders who took much of their pay were drugging them, killing them and calling it ‘failure to thrive’, or adopting them out to rich childless parents without their mothers’ knowledge or permission. Few were ever reunited.
This is a sad but hopeful story, with Verity Binks in the forefront of ending what was in effect a system of lucrative serial killing and human trafficking. The family mysteries and layered timelines and the Australian setting are very well done, and I’m happy to recommend this book to those interested in the plight of women and children, rich and poor, not all that long ago.

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I have to say that I really enjoyed this audiobook. I have never read anything from this author before. But after listening to this audiobook. I will be adding more of this author books to my tbr. The narrator does amazing job. I didn’t feel like I wasn’t getting into this book. Yes this audiobook took me a little longer to finish. But this was to good of a book to rush through. Especially with a mystery that need to be solved. I really felt bad for the mothers who did go through things like this in those times. And learning about a certain butterfly that made its way to Australia. That was so interesting. Had me googling that particular butterfly mentioned in this book. I went in not knowing to much about this book. I mean that cover alone is beautiful. And the fact that this is historical fiction. Won me over wanting to listen to this book. I enjoyed the two different POV and the different timelines. These two female characters are strong women. Never giving up on on story that needed to be wrote or trying to raise a family. So many fun and interesting characters in this book. I definitely want to get my own physical copy when this book is to be released. This book was nothing of boring. New part of the mystery on a different chapter.
I highly recommend this audiobook. This definitely a 2023 favorite audiobook. A book never to forget. And thank you the author and netgalley for the opportunity. This book does release on November 28,2023
My review will be posted everywhere I can leave a review. Definitely worth a read.

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Tea Cooper is a master at combining historical fiction with suspense and this was brilliant. Set in Australia with dual time periods, the character development is divine and the writing beautiful. The narrator is excellent and the audiobook has a nice rhythm and glow to it. For fans of Christina Baker Kline and Martha Hall Kelly.

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The Butterfly Collector AUDIO by Tea Cooper is a lovely listen focusing on a young woman who had been laid off from her job working at a newspaper in Sydney, Australia, opening her job to be filled by a returning veteran. She didn’t fault the concept but was unhappy about how it affected her. This novel takes place in two timelines: 1868 and 1922. In 1868 the bulk of the story takes place in Morpeth, and the 1922 portion takes place primarily in Sydney and follows this young woman struggling to became a newspaper reporter: Verity Binks. Verity’s grandfather, Sid, had worked in Morpeth, in the press room of the very newspaper who would break a life-changing article in 1922. He and his wife, Clarrie, had moved to Sydney after a nearly tragic incident in Morpeth. They had led a good life, and had one son, Charlie, who was Verity’s father. All were dead now and Verity was working hard on a story featuring a well-known family. In her research she discovered some startling information.

Verity was a strong and decisive character as was her grandmother, Clarrie. Her father had been a famous war correspondent who died in Palestine, reporting on a war. When Verity went to Morpeth to research the Treadwell family, she found some interesting information on her own as well as meeting Arlo, a descendant of the very woman who had painted the butterfly painting that had earlier intrigued her. There are so many twists and turns in this compelling story about a woman who loved nature and another who stole babies for a living, and the woman who put their stories together. She and Arlo kept talking to people and uncovering memories that led them to putting together the information they had. It was a well-plotted story, full of interesting facts, many of which are actually historical fact.

The narrator is Emily Barrett who had just the right voice and demeanor for this book. She portrayed Verity, her grandmother, Clarrie, and Arlo’s mother, Theodora, to perfection. He accent was just right, not too strong, and made listening such a joy.

I was invited to listen to an audio e-ARC of The Butterfly Collector by Harper Muse, through Netgalley. All thoughts and opinions are mine. #Netgalley #HarperMuse #TeaCooper #TheButterflyCollector

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Well done book with 2 storylines running in parallel that eventually converge into one. Appreciate the author's notes at the end that outlined which parts were based on true history and which parts were more fictionalized. Well written that really took you back to another time, to Australia. Based on the characters involved, you can figure out how it ends, to a point, but several twists need to be navigated to get there.

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It is worth the ending! When first starting this book I felt a bit disjointed with the two stories in two different times, and was not sure if I would enjoy it. But, the way the author pulled together the two stories was done extremely well. Once you have ajustes to the switching of times the book is incredibly enjoyable. The pacing is well done and you find yourself slowly unraveling the mystery of the story like a butterfly unraveling its cocoon.

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The Butterfly Collector by Tea Cooper takes place between 1868, Morpeth and 1922, Sydney. Theodora Breckenridge an aspiring artist who discovers the first Monarch butterfly sighting in Australia. As Theodora searches for more butterflies she get swept up with Sid Binks and his girlfriend Clarrie, who just gave birh to Charlie. Clarrie is hired by Theodora as a her maid and to help her find more of the butterflies. In 1922 Verity Binks is sent a mysterious package and an inventation to attend a gala. Her goal is to write an article for the local newspaper with the hopes of getting her old job back. Verity is commensioned to write an article about the Treadwell Foundation. Once she starts her investigation/research she finds that the Treadwell Foundation is not what meets the eye. This is a fast read and I could wait until all the pieces fell into place at the end. Anyone who loves a good historical mystery book will love this one. If you love Kate Morton's books you will love Tea Cooper's books.

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Excellent historical fiction about real events in Australian history! In 1868, Clarry is a young unmarried pregnant woman who is fired from her housekeeping job once her condition becomes apparent. Her attentive and loving boyfriend, Sid works for a newspaper and finds a midwife to take Clarry in and care for baby Charlie once Clarry secures employment as a companion for Theodora, a young woman who is estranged from her sisters following the tragic deaths of their parents and brother in a shipwreck. To her sisters’ dismay, Theodora is more interested in studying and painting butterflies than in societal expectations.
In 1922, Verity is trying to follow in her grandfather Sid’s footsteps and become a journalist in spite of her gender. When Verity stumbles upon a lead for a story about babies being stolen and either killed or adopted out for the previous 50 years, she sees her breakthrough into serious journalism and finds out that the stories are connected to her own past.
I found this audio book to be very entertaining and I think the book will be just as good. The dual timeframes were well written and the characters well developed. The unfolding of a mystery along with interesting history really added to the book. I appreciated the author’s note about her research and the interesting facts around the discovery of Monarch butterflies in Australia as well as the horrendous “baby farms”. I enjoyed the audio book so much that I finished it in 2 days!
#NetGalley #HarperMuse

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I enjoyed this audiobook set in Australia with 2 different narrators, Theodora in 1868, who’s lost her parents and brother and enjoys painting nature, and Verity in 1922, who is working as a journalist until she is let go to have her job go to a man returning from the war.

I don’t want to spoil the whole story but I enjoyed that this book of historical fiction was set in a different continent and time period. If you like historical fiction you’ll enjoy the Butterfly Collector. Thank you NetGalley for the arc in exchange for an honest review.

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A blend of mystery and historical fiction, about Australia by author Tea Cooper. It highlighted a part of history that I didn't know about, which I appreciate!

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