Category Archives: Tea Cooper

Review: The Cartographer’s Secret by Tea Cooper

Title: The Cartographer’s Secret by Tea Cooper
Publisher: Harper Muse
Genre: Historical, Australian, Mystery, Romance
Length: 400 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


A map into the past. A long-lost young woman. And a thirty-year family mystery.

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.

A gripping historical mystery for fans of Kate Morton and Natasha Lester’s The Paris SeamstressThe Cartographer’s Secret follows a young woman’s quest to heal a family rift as she becomes entangled in one of Australia’s greatest historical puzzles.

The Cartographer’s Secret is a galvanizing, immersive adventure following a family’s entanglement with a vanished Australian explorer through the lush Hunter Valley at the turn of the twentieth century, forcing the characters to reckon with the choice found at the crux of passion and loyalty and the power of shared blood that can either destroy or heal.” —Joy Callaway, international bestselling author of The Fifth Avenue Artists Society and The Greenbrier Resort

  • Daphne du Maurier Award Winner, 2021
  • Historical story with both romance and mystery
  • Full-length, stand-alone novel (c. 104,000 words)
  • Includes discussion questions for book clubs


The Cartographer’s Secret by Tea Cooper is an engrossing, multi-layered historical novel which takes place in Australia.

In 1880, Evie Ludgrove is a gifted artist who prefers spending time with her father and exploring the surrounding area. Her older sister Miriam yearns for city life and she is soon off to Sydney to marry. Evie and her Aunt Olivia stay at home and Olivia runs the family business. Meanwhile, Evie is attempting to solve a mystery that has long been unanswered. German explorer Dr. Ludwig Leichhardt’s mysterious disappearance has remained unsolved for decades. Believing the clues to his fate might be in her father’s diary, Evie formulates a secret plan she hopes will finally explain what happened to Leichhardt on his last expedition. Evie believes she knows where she might find the evidence she needs and she sets out on a journey from which she never returns.

In 1911, twenty-five-year-old Letitia “Lettie” Rawlings is mourning the death of beloved brother Thorne. She is an independent woman who envisions a different future for herself than her mother, Miriam. She is shocked when her mother decides to confront her estranged aunt, Olivia, over a family inheritance. Needing distance from her grief, Lettie convinces her mother to allow her to go instead. She is a little leery of the reception awaiting her yet she eagerly sets on her trip in Thorne’s Model T.

After an awkward first meeting, Olivia soon warms up to Lettie and she reveals intriguing information about their family. Lettie is still uncertain of the details she has learned but she agrees to Olivia’s request that she try to find out what happened to Evie who has now been missing for thirty years. A lot has changed over the intervening years, but Lettie is soon immersed in the same papers that her aunt was looking over before her disappearance. Is it possible Lettie can unravel the mystery of what happened to Evie after all these years? And will she find out what happened to Dr. Ludwig Leichhardt ill-fated expedition?

The Cartographer’s Secret is a captivating historical novel that seamlessly weaves fact and fiction into an interesting family drama. The characters are richly developed with all too human foibles. The storyline is fascinating and the setting springs vibrantly to life. The mystery surrounding Evie’s disappearance is compelling and Tea Cooper brings this fast-placed novel to a gratifying conclusion.


Filed under Harper Muse, Historical, Mystery, Rated B+, Review, Romance, Tea Cooper, The Cartographers Secret

Review: The Girl in the Painting by Tea Cooper

Title: The Girl in the Painting by Tea Cooper
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Genre: Historical, Australian Fiction
Length: 383 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Netgalley


A young prodigy in need of family.

A painting that shatters a woman’s peace.

And a decades-old mystery demanding to be solved.

Australia, 1906

Orphan Jane Piper is nine years old when philanthropist siblings Michael and Elizabeth Quinn take her into their home to further her schooling. The Quinns are no strangers to hardship. Having arrived in Australia as penniless immigrants, they now care for others as lost as they once were.

Despite Jane’s mysterious past, her remarkable aptitude for mathematics takes her far over the next seven years, and her relationship with Elizabeth and Michael flourishes as she plays an increasingly prominent part in their business.

But when Elizabeth reacts in terror to an exhibition at the local gallery, Jane realizes no one knows Elizabeth after all—not even Elizabeth herself. As the past and present converge and Elizabeth’s grasp on reality loosens, Jane sets out to unravel her story before it’s too late.

From the gritty reality of the Australian goldfields to the grand institutions of Sydney, this compelling novel presents a mystery that spans continents and decades as both women finally discover a place to call home.


Based around true life events, The Girl in the Painting by Tea Cooper is a captivating historical novel.

In 1862, fifteen year old Michael Quinn and his five year old sister Elizabeth set sail from Britain for Australia to join their parents. Upon arrival in Sydney, Michael leaves Elizabeth in the care of the Cameron family while he travels to the goldfields to locate their parents. After making a tragic discovery, Michael successfully builds a family business in Hill End. When Elizabeth joins him, she divides her time between school and working as a bookkeeper for their business.  A few years later, Michael and Elizabeth relocate to Maitland where they begin a new business and become philanthropists.

In the early 1900s, Michael and Elizabeth bring ten year old Jane Piper into their home to provide her with an education and hopefully set her up in a career when she is older. Jane has lived her entire life in a local orphanage and she has an aptitude for numbers. She is very intelligent, straight forward and full of life. Although the Quinn’s do not adopt her, Jane is part of their family.

In 1913, Jane and Elizabeth visit a local exhibit which includes an archaeological find, paintings and taxidermy. Jane is shocked to discover Elizabeth cowering in fear and repeating a strange word.  Because Elizabeth remains troubled and unlike herself, Michael reveals a secret he has been keeping for decades. After telling his sister, he then confides in Jane in hopes the two of them will find answers that might bring their beloved Elizabeth peace and comfort.

The Girl in the Painting is a thoroughly enchanting historical novel that is rife with historical details. From Sydney to the goldfields to Maitland, this enthralling novel springs vibrantly to life. Elizabeth and Michael are wonderfully drawn characters who are altruistic and charming. Jane is a breath of fresh air as tackles everything in her life with enthusiasm.  With an unexpected plot twist, Tea Cooper brings this enthralling novel to a heartfelt conclusion. I absolutely loved and highly recommend this brilliant historical novel.

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Filed under Fiction, Historical, Rated B+, Review, Tea Cooper, The Girl in the Painting, Thomas Nelson Publishing