Monday, November 8, 2021

The Cartographer's Secret by Tea Cooper

The Cartographer's Secret
by Tea Cooper
400 Pages
Published November 2021
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher, through TLC Book Tours, in exchange for an honest review

Publisher's Summary:

The Hunter Valley, 1880—Evie Ludgrove loves to chart the landscape around her home—hardly surprising since she grew up in the shadow of her father’s obsession with the great Australian explorer Dr. Ludwig Leichhardt. So when an advertisement appears in The Bulletin magazine offering a thousand-pound reward for proof of where Leichhardt met his fate, Evie is determined to use her father’s papers to unravel the secret. But when Evie sets out to prove her theory, she vanishes without a trace, leaving behind a mystery that haunts her family for thirty years. 

1911—Letitia Rawlings arrives at the family estate in her Ford Model T to inform her great-aunt Olivia of a loss in their family. But Letitia is also escaping her own problems—her brother’s sudden death, her mother’s scheming, and her dissatisfaction with the life planned out for her. So when Letitia discovers a beautifully illustrated map that might hold a clue to the fate of her missing aunt, Evie Ludgrove, she sets out to discover the truth. But all is not as it seems, and Letitia begins to realize that solving the mystery of her family’s past could offer as much peril as redemption.

My Thoughts: 
Earlier this year I read and reviewed Cooper's The Girl In The Painting and enjoyed it so much that I didn't need to know anything more about this one than the author's name to know that I would read and review it. 

I've told you before that I'm not very good about reading Afterwards and Author's Notes when I've finished a book but recently I've been finding that I'm gaining a greater appreciation for the story by doing so. Cooper reveals that she's always had a interest in maps, especially after she found out that many early cartographers were women. Liking to set her books in Australia led her to the true story of Dr. Ludwig Leichhardt. And thus began her story of a how a young woman, interested in mapmaking, resolves to find the truth between Leichhardt's disappearance. 

Like The Girl In The Painting, Cooper sets her story primarily in the Australian outback and the setting comes alive in her hands. Even before I looked up Yellow Rock to see if there was such a place, I pictured it very much as it's seen here. It's not the only similarity these books have - both have mysteries to be solved, young women who won't be stopped by the conventions of the day, and family at the core of the story. It is the story of love, grief, loss, guilt, secrets, and the things that bind a family together and those that tear a family apart. It's also the story of three women who defy expectations to live their lives in ways that they choose. 

Unlike most dual story lines set in different time periods, there is a direct link between the two stories and not a lot of time between them. It feels much more natural that these stories should tie together then the usual dual storylines and I find that much more enjoyable in a book than when a modern day storyline is used simply as a means to tell an historical story from a modern perspective. 

My only quibbles with the book were that sometimes it could feel repetitive, occasionally it got a bit unnecessarily confusing, and there is a romance that I didn't feel was necessary. Otherwise, it was a book that pulled me through, made me care about the characters, and feel like I was immersed in the setting. 


Thanks to the ladies of TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour. 

About the Author Tea Cooper is an established Australian author of historical fiction. In a past life she was a teacher, a journalist, and a farmer. These days she haunts museums and indulges her passion for storytelling. She is the winner of two Daphne du Maurier Awards and the bestselling author of several novels, including The Horse Thief, The Cedar Cutter, The Currency Lass, and The Naturalist’s Daughter.

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