cover image The Butterfly Collector

The Butterfly Collector

Tea Cooper. HarperMuse, $17.99 trade paper (400p) ISBN 978-1-4002-4517-8

The immersive latest from Cooper (The Fossil Hunter) interweaves two historical narratives linked by butterflies and family bonds. In 1868 Morpeth, Australia, Theodora Breckenridge has her heart set on becoming a scientific illustrator. When she catches a monarch butterfly, a species never seen in Australia, she hopes that her discovery will launch her career. Her sharp-eyed housemaid Clarrie Binks helps her find and document more monarchs. One day, while Clarrie’s infant son Charlie is in the care of a midwife, an unidentified woman abducts him. Charlie is swiftly and safely recovered, but the woman is not apprehended. In a parallel narrative set in 1922, Charlie’s orphaned daughter, Verity Binks, is an aspiring journalist in Sydney. She supplements her freelance income with a commission to write a history of the Treadwell Foundation, a private home for unwed mothers and adoption agency in the city. In the foundation’s office, Verity finds a striking watercolor of a monarch butterfly with a reference to Morpeth in a handwritten note. Her curiosity piqued, she travels to Morpeth, where she uncovers connections between Treadwell and her family’s past, along with hints of Treadwell’s unsavory adoption practices. Cooper melds fictional lives, scientific history, and social issues into a compassionate story. This will please fans of historicals with smart women protagonists. (Nov.)