The Cartographer’s Secret – Tea Cooper

Synopsis

1880 The Hunter Valley

Evie Ludgrove loves to map 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 one thousand pound reward for proof of where Leichhardt met his fate, Evie is determined to figure it out – after all, there are clues in her father’s papers and in the archives of The Royal Geographical Society. But when Evie sets out to prove her theory she vanishes without a trace, leaving behind a mystery that taints everyone’s lives for 30 years.

1911

When Letitia Rawlings arrives at the family estate in her Model T Ford, her purpose is to inform her Great Aunt Olivia of a bereavement. But Letitia is also escaping her own problems – her brother’s sudden death, her mother’s scheming and her own 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, her curiosity is aroused and she sets out to discover the truth of Evie’s disappearance.

But all is not as it seems at Yellow Rock estate and as events unfold, Letitia begins to realise that solving the mystery of her family’s past could offer as much peril as redemption. 

My review

The Cartographer’s Secret is a beautiful balance between historical fact and fiction. Tea Cooper is a mastermind of Australian historical fiction.

This dual timeline novel follows the story of the Ludgrove and Maynard families. Evie Ludgrove is inspired by her father to solve the mystery of Dr Ludwig Leichhardt, the great Australian explorer. As she grows up, Evie’s father tells her past stories of his own adventures and that of Dr Leichhardt. He also encourages her to create maps reflecting Dr Leichhardt’s adventures. Evie and her father are close and share this common interest. Evie soon realises that the family is in financial difficulty and as such heads out to solve the mystery of Dr Leichhardt in order to claim the reward being offered. Evie vanishes and the family have no idea of her whereabouts…

In 1911 Letitia Rawlings sets out to meet her Great Aunt Olivia, who was looking after Evie at the time she disappeared. Letitia uncovers her Aunt Evie’s detailed maps and sets out to find out how Evie vanished. The family have experienced loss, love, heartache and tragedy. In finding out the mystery of Evie, Letitia uncovers the reasons for disconnection between her family members, in particular her mother and Aunt Olivia. From the outset of the novel, I connected with the characters. Letita is an interesting protagonist and her thoughts and feelings are shared with the reader in such a way that we can feel her pain, heartache and grief upon losing her brother.

The Hunter Valley setting is perfect. Tea Cooper’s research and knowledge of the area is translated through the pages. As a local, myself, I learnt significant historical facts and enjoyed the descriptions of the land. The atmosphere of the Australian bushland and nature described is magical. I felt like I was back home in an instant. I could feel the ‘warm sunshine’ on my back, see the ‘wildflowers’ and ‘butterflies’ and smell the fresh Australian air.

The Cartographer’s Secret was an enjoyable and intriguing read and I would highly recommend this novel. Tea Cooper had me on the edge of my seat trying to solve her mystery. If you love Australian historical fiction, Tea Cooper’s novels are a must!

Thank you Harlequin Australia for sending me a copy of The Cartographer’s Secret in exchange for my honest review.

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