Preview Reviews: The True Story of Maddie Bright by Mary-Rose MacColl

Preview Reviews: The True Story of Maddie Bright by Mary-Rose MacColl

Our latest Better Reading Preview title was The True Story of Maddie Brighta compelling novel that tells stories and reveals truth; a novel that considers the inescapable ties of mothering, friendship, duty and love. Here’s what our Preview reviewers said about the book…

‘An engaging book that captures your imagination from the first chapter. A truly compelling story told over three time periods that interrelate and connect the now reclusive author Maddie Bright – from her involvement in the 1920 Prince of Wales visit to Australia to her life in Brisbane in 1981 and the tragic death of Diana in 1997. Family, friendships, lies, regrets, memories, loyalty and love. This book really covers all the emotions. The characters are beautifully developed and you become invested in Maddie’s life and her life decisions. I couldn’t help but fall in love with Maddie Bright; she may appear to be a cantankerous old woman struggling to write a sequel to her famous ‘Autumn Leaves’ book but she has a wonderful story to tell and has a heart of gold. Thank you Better Reading and Allen & Unwin for an ARC copy. I thoroughly enjoyed ‘The True Story of Maddie Bright’.’ – Karyn, ACT, 5 stars

‘Richly detailed and meticulously researched, The True Story of Maddie Bright reads beautifully and definitely tugs at the heart strings. Told over three time lines (Prince Edward’s 1920 tour of Australia, the 1981 announcement of Diana and Charles’s engagement and the tragic 1997 death of Princess Diana) with two main characters, Maddie and Victoria, you become invested in this story. It is at once romantic and heartbreaking, full of lies and deceit, but also hope and promise for the future in all three time lines. There were some characters I disliked intensely, particularly from the 1920 timeline but for the most part I was charmed. Maddie and Victoria obviously were favourites but I also developed quite a character crush on Helen Burns, Rupert Waters and Andrew Shaw. Mary-Rose makes you care about her characters in a way that can be so rare these days. If you are looking for a book about love and loyalty and regret and long-hidden secrets this is the book for you. I am now keen to read Mary-Rose’s other seven novels. She is an engaging writer and this book is full of warmth and depth.’ – Emily, VIC, 4 stars 

‘Although I enjoyed parts of The True Story of Maddie Bright – I fell in love with Maddie and her early and later in life story – I found it difficult to take in the fact and fiction combination, and also going from Victoria to Maddie. I have not read any of Mary Rose MacColl s books but will definitely try another. Thank you for giving me the chance to review this book.’ – Christine, NSW, 3 stars 

‘Wow, this is a standout historical fiction novel. Absolutely loved it. It definitely takes you on an historical journey over three different time periods. The time periods are seamlessly entwined and flows beautifully. The characters experience love, friendship, sadness and many secrets and take you as the reader along with the storyline. I could not put the book down and did not want the book to finish. I really fell in love with all of the characters, in particular Rupert Waters, young Maddie and Victoria. This is a must-read for lovers of historical fiction, especially Australian historical fiction. Exceptional story. After finishing this story I have got a ‘book hangover’ and will find it extremely hard to start another book.’ – Yvette, NSW, 5 stars

‘McColl weaves a wonderful tale, seamlessly blending fact and fiction as we move between the end of WW1 the impact on the lives and families of those who return and those who don’t, the 1920 tour of Australia by Prince Edward, Prince of Wales and the shock of the untimely death of Princess Diana. At 17 Maddie Bright seeks service on Prince Edward’s Royal Tour, the fascinating characters she meets on the train inspire her to write her much loved novel Autumn Leaves. At 80 Princess Diana’s death causes Bright to unexpectedly reach out to Victoria Byrd, an English journalist, offering an interview, with the tempter of a sequel to Autumn Leaves. Byrd is happy to accept the assignment. Recently engaged to an American actor Ben, pursued by the paparazzi, she is ruing the loss of her privacy, and also questioning whether she has made the right decision. Her meeting with Bright is going to turn everything she knows about her world upside down. MacColl’s characters are engaging and believable, with real and fictional characters indiscernible. The impact that loyalty and sense of duty can have on people’s lives is accurately portrayed in this powerful work of historical fiction.’ – Marcia, SA, 5 stars

‘What a wonderful book! Mary-Rose MacColl has written a real page turner. The book chapters go from the 1920s to 1981 but are very easy to follow. This is a moving book about friendship, loss, betrayal and loyalty to one’s country, and readers will be swept along with the story of young and old Maddie Bright.’ – Deborah, NSW, 5 stars 

What a lovely novel… Two protagonists, Victoria and Maddie, share parallel lives in different decades, with each concerning a Prince or Princess of England. This novel explores issues of relationships, love and tragedy. Whilst I was reading this book the theme that kept coming up was how in two different generations, woman then and now continue to be mistreated by men. It kept me thinking, after all the years since Maddie’s character, have we not learnt from generations passed? This book I would recommend to anyone who is a fan of subjects surrounding the monarchy – be it loosely based on historical facts. One thing I loved about the book was how the two protagonists, whilst living parallel lives, merge at the end of the book. A wonderful read that I could simply not put down!’ – Katazyna, VIC, 5 stars

‘I loved this book! Such real and honest characters, and it was set in a very interesting period. One of the things I enjoyed the most was the growth of the characters, particularly Maddie. She was relatable and likeable. I couldn’t put it down, and I loved the ending! Excellent.’ – Ros, ACT, 5 stars

‘I have conflicting feelings about this novel. From the beginning, I loved the flow and easy read of Mary-Rose’s writing but I found story confusing from the very first page. It is 1921, London and who is this girl and baby? Next chapter we jump into 1981 Brisbane. The story progresses back and forth between 1920, 1981 and 1997. A little too much time-travelling for me. I would just get settled into one timeframe and next chapter, would be flung into another. Mary-Rose’s way of connecting her characters with historical characters is interesting, but added to the confusion I felt while reading. I was not sure why the references to Princess Diana were made. However, Mary-Rose painted her characters well. Maddie, delightful but naive. Helen, a good friend but flawed. Ben, abusive and selfish. Mr Waters, devoted but a very sad man. David, Prince of Wales, womaniser, tormented but compassionate when needed. It was such a pity that plot explanations and tying up ends seemed to come in a very rushed way in the last few pages of the book. An unpleasantly worded rape scene led to a predictable ending. All in all, a book for Mills and Boon story lovers.’ – Andrew, ACT, 3 stars

‘The strength of “The True Story of Maddie Bright” lies in vividly drawn, interesting and empathetic characters. The plot, while interesting, is largely familiar; but the characters will keep you reading. The novel has three strands – Maddie, a teenager in the 1920s who finds herself over her head when she becomes involved with people far more worldly than she. We also meet Maddie in her 70s. There’s a lot of interest in finding out how her life got from there to here. Those strands are set in Australia; a third is set in England and follows Victoria, a mature and experienced journalist who’s been asked to interview Maddie. Young Maddie and old Maddie are recognisably the same person; intelligent, caring, straight forward, and sometimes blisteringly honest. She’s a character we care about, and I genuinely wanted to know what happened to her. I really enjoyed the novel, mostly due to the characters. I enjoyed spending time with them, and wanted to know what was going to happen to almost all of them. Only two or three are (deliberately) less appealing. Most are people you’d be happy to know. I particularly recommend this novel to people who enjoy strong characters.’ – Lorraine, ACT, 4 stars

‘An engrossing read for those who love family sagas based loosely on historical events. There are four main sub plots – 1915 when an ambulance driver and the Prince of Wales’ batman meet in the war zone of France; a young Maddie Bright who gets a job as correspondence secretary for that Prince of Wales during his tour to Australia in 1920: a young journalist who is writing in London at the time of Diana,Princess of Wales’ death in 1997; and Maddie Bright’s later life in Australia. These plots are skilfully woven, with enough intrigue and hints to keep the reader interested until they are all tied together in the last few pages. The author stresses it is a work of fiction. The account of Diana’s death and funerals rang true as far as the newspaper reports of the time went. The behaviour of the Prince of Wales on the 1920 tour would have to be pure conjecture but made me wonder if the traits in his character explained some of his reluctance to take on the throne and his abdication not long after. This book should be a hit in 2019!’ –  Sue, WA, 5 stars

‘I really wanted to enjoy this book because I lived throughout Diana’s years as a Princess and her early death. I also wanted to learn about Edward. Unfortunately, I found the writing and switching between stories confusing.’ – Julie, ACT, 2 stars

‘Historical fiction fans are in for a ‘royal’ treat with this spellbinding novel. Following three extraordinary women, each generous of heart, motivated and determined to succeed, tragedy soon strikes them all. Transcending key moments in time from Edward, Prince of Wales’ 1920’s Australian tour, to Princess Diana’s and Prince Charles’ engagement, through to Diana’s death in 1997, MacColl masterfully weaves the plot lines together. The powerful themes of World War, royalty, grief, remorse, guilt, power play, regret, the media circus and post traumatic stress are layered with friendship, family, duty, love, perfectly throughout the story. Featuring undertones of humour and history set amongst the backdrops of quintesenntial Australia and London, ‘The True Story of Maddie Bright’ is a beautifully balanced tour de force. It is a breath of fresh ‘heir’ to discover an author with a unique voice that captivates you with a clever tale full of mystery, intrigue and twists.’ – Fleur, NSW, 4 stars

‘The True Story of Maddie Bright is an impeccably researched, engaging and nostalgic work of historical fiction. The first two chapters had me equally intrigued about how the events of both the 1920s and the 1980s would unfold. I always enjoy books told from multiple perspectives where the narratives then tie together and I enjoyed this variation with Maddie’s story told from two points in time although, on reflection, I wondered if Victoria’s story could have been introduced further into the book as an interesting interruption to Maddie’s alternating narratives. I’ve previously read In Falling Snow and enjoyed the link between the two books through the Royaumont Hospital connection. Overall a deeply enjoyable holiday read.’ – Leanne, QLD, 4 stars

‘An amazing novel! This 500 page book has you captured from the very beginning! This book is so detailed, and is told over three different timelines – Prince Edward’s tour of Australia in 1920, the engagement announcement of Diana and Prince Charles in 1981, and then the death of Princess Diana in 1997. I became very attached to the two main characters, Maddie and Victoria, from the very beginning. It’s a romantic but heartbreaking story all in one. There is love, heartbreak, deceit, lies, secrets and hope. There were many interesting characters in this book and my favourite was definitely Maddie – an amazing author throughout the story. Then, the plot twist at the end of the book that explains who Maddie was to Victoria made me so happy. Mary-Rose MacColl’s descriptions and plots keep you invested in this book. Her style of writing is amazing, and you feel like you are right there with the characters, sharing in their feelings, hopes, desires, heartbreak and secrets. If only all books kept you this involved. Mary-Rose is such an engaging writer and I would recommend her to everyone. Thank you to Better Reading Previews and Allen & Unwin for this ARC.’ – Amy, ACT, 5 stars

‘Having read the blurb on the back cover I was quite excited to be given the chance to read and review this book. And what a long book it was. For me maybe too long! A book of many parts and eras, many people and lives, many lies and tales. Sometimes to the point where you get a bit lost trying to keep up. Taking pieces from history and turning them into a fictional story such as this makes an interesting and enjoyable read but I felt some of the stories just didn’t really gel. I really enjoyed Maddie and Victoria’s lives and how they entwined but found some parts unnecessary and long-winded. I understand the author Mary-Rose MacColl was probably trying to cover all bases but for me it didn’t work. I enjoyed reading it for the most part, loved the tales of friendship, family relationships, love, loss and hope. It really did hit home that in life we don’t always control our destiny to the full; power, money and loyalty all come in to play. The characters were perfect, their lives were interesting. This is what made the book worth reading. A good but long-winded read.’ – Donna, TAS, 4 stars

‘The True Story of Maddie Bright’ is an interesting mix of reality and fiction, woven together beautifully. From the 1920’s visit to Australia by Prince Edward, to the 1981 engagement of Charles and Diana, to 1997 with Diana’s death, the impact these real-life people had on the fictional characters of Maddie, Victoria and Helen (amongst others) is life-changing. There are certainly some characters that aren’t likeable but, on the whole, it is a story of love, loss and redemption.Thank you to Better Reading Preview and Allen & Unwin for this ARC.’ – Donna, VIC, 4 stars

‘I very much enjoyed reading “The True Story of Maddie Bright”. The title was intriguing and the book was an easy read with very interesting information about a Royal Tour of Australia in 1920. The book moves smoothly between characters in different decades of the twentieth century. Maddie Bright is the star of the book and her intelligence, self-reflection and humanity shine through. She is personable and grows from an intelligent but naïve young girl into a reflective older woman seeking to tie up ends. The detail in the book is wonderful for bringing to life the broad range of characters and events in different eras, including the engagement of Diana to Prince Charles, and then her untimely death. I particularly loved the behind-the-scenes peek at the 1920 Royal Tour. The book inspired me to research Edward VIII who was the Prince of Wales in 1920, and as a result I believe his portrayal is true to form. I found “The True Story of Maddie Bright” to be interesting on so many levels, and simply a delight to read.’ – Sandra, ACT, 5 stars

‘This novel covers three timelines, and of the three I definitely felt most drawn to Victoria’s story and the death of Lady Diana. This would be because it is an event I lived through myself and I could understand the responses that were going on in this timeline. Halfway through the book, the events happening in 1920 with Prince Edward and his entourage became totally engaging, eliciting many emotions from this point on. For Maddie, this tour changed her whole life as well of the life of Helen, her friend who took Maddie under her wing. Watching Maddie’s character grow from naïve and childlike to strong and more knowing about the ways of the world was both encouraging and heartbreaking. Maddie in 1981 is a wonderful character who made me laugh with her directness and way of being. This book covered some important themes of abuse and the way people deal with this, both then and now. It was a story that will stay with me for a long time.’ – Claire, WA, 5 stars

‘Reading a novel by a talented Australian author is always a treat and Mary-Rose MacColl doesn’t let her audience down with ‘The True Story of Maddie Bright’. The narration of events that we all remember, like Princess Diana’s death, intertwined with the introduction of characters like Ed, makes for a good read on a lazy summer afternoon. We follow the story as it initially develops in three different times, 1920, 1981 and 1997. The beginning timeline jumps can be confusing and being jolted out of the storyline is slightly disorientating but as you come to know and love the characters, switching between each storyline becomes more and more like greeting old friends. Well-researched events and detailed settings force you to consider your own memories or thoughts on the time. By the end of it, the strands of the yarn are so intertwined and the characters are so familiar that closing the book feels like saying goodbye to a friend.’ – Emma, NSW, 5 stars

‘Mary-Rose McColl takes us on a trip through the 20th Century and across the globe whilst wrapping us in a tragic story of love, loss, and ultimately redemption. As she skilfully weaves all the fragments of the past together, we cover some topical subjects including domestic violence and the status of the British royal family in the Australian psyche. Maddie is a very endearing character, both as a naive young woman and a vulnerable elderly woman. The tapestry McColl creates is peopled with believable though not always loveable characters. This story keeps you reading and thinking right until the end, where it is very neatly pinned up and tied with a bow. The True Story of Maddie Bright is a perfect holiday read, not too heavy and definitely not too light.’ – Aisha, QLD, 3 stars

‘I will preface this review by saying that this is not the kind of fantasy/adventure/sci fi type book I usually read, but I was lucky enough to be given an uncorrected proof copy to read and review. I would honestly read this book again for the first time if I could because I enjoyed it so much. The characters are engaging and loveable (or hateable!), and you really grow with each character as you progress through the story. The story is just manipulative enough to make you really attach to the two main characters and also have changeable reactions and feelings towards many of the side characters. The plot is engaging and interesting with a plot twist that I honestly didn’t see coming but really loved. The novel is well written and drew me in right from the first chapter – it definitely had me in tears at one point! I would definitely recommend this read to all – even if it’s not necessarily the type of book you would usually read. The book was so enjoyable that I am keen to read more of Mary-Rose MacColl’s books.’ – Kahri, ACT, 5 stars

‘This tale, told over many decades from 1918 to 1997, allows us to meet and get to know the main character Maddie Bright over tracts of time and in a number of places. At fifteen, Maddie experienced the behind-the-scenes machinations of a British royal tour in Australia. Armed with her writing abilities, her youthful exuberance, gentleness and naivety, Maddie threw herself into the tour and at this point I wanted to paint warning signs for her, or slip her notes of caution. It was clear there were going to be struggles with many of the characters – power struggles, and struggles of love and loss complicated by loyalty, lies and subterfuge. There’s a prince, a princess, writers, lovers, a builder, an alcoholic and a teacher all in the mix of intensely emotional events. Episodes of plot were cleverly explored in one chapter but before the intensity became too great, Mary-Rose MacColl took us to another time period with the same or other characters in the next chapter. This non-linear approach to the storytelling worked so well and enabling us to get to know and care about the characters, especially Maddie who was ninety-five years old at the completion and revelation of the tale.’ – Jane, QLD, 4 stars

‘I would not recommend this novel. I found it disengaging and arduous to read. In fact almost 200 pages in, I feel that the characters lack presence, and the storyline still has not hooked me in.’ – Dianne, SA, 2 stars

‘Thank you for allowing me to review this book. I did feel that it dragged out quite a lot and it was a bit too long at approximately five hundred pages. I think the author could have got to the point of the story a lot quicker. However, having said that, I did rather enjoy the overall plot and the themes it touched on across generations – power, money, love, family etc. It was a good drama once the story started coming together and it did grab me, but the first half of the book did tend to be a little dull. I liked and found the characters of Maddie and Victoria rather intriguing, and both had their fair share of love, loss and heartbreak. Intriguing also were the characters Helen and Rupert and the suspenseful aspect of the ‘will they, won’t they be together’. I think the author finished that storyline up nicely. And I found Prince Edward to be a rather interesting and complicated character also. Andrew Shaw I was curious about but he was a likeable character that fitted in well. I must say Mary-Rose MacColl is a very good writer and I look forward to see what she delivers next.’ – Danielle, VIC, 4 stars

‘This books takes us through three different decades – the 1920s, 1980s and 1990s – and follows the story of Maddie Bright. The story starts in 1921 when Maddie gets a job as a serving girl on the royal tour of Australia and meets Edward, Prince of Wales. Her new relationship with his press secretary Helen Burns changes her life.’ – Karen, VIC, 3 stars

‘I love Maddie, both the young and old versions! I was a little hesitant about the story being set around the British Royals at different points in time, but the story was well written, with themes of love, lies and regret. Heartbreaking, and full of detailed descriptions of the various timelines. An interesting array of characters, all with their own little stories. A lovely but sad read.’ – Hanadi, NSW, 4 stars

‘To begin with I found this book challenging, as the chapters jumped back and forth between the early and late 1900s. The characters and the detail in these chapters requires the reader’s full attention. But there are so many memories entwined with reality that the reader is truly drawn into the story. I enjoyed the sense of duty and protocol versus loyalty and happiness. The behind-the-scenes glimpses of royal life in both Prince Edward’s time and Princess Diana’s time were similar and heartbreaking. The ending was an unexpected and delightful surprise.’ – Margaret, NSW, 3 stars

‘The True Story of Maddie Bright is a delightful tale. It’s warm, hopeful and honest. The book is well researched and meticulously detailed. At first, I found the structure of the story to be jarring, but it pulled me in deeper and deeper the more I read. I couldn’t put it down. I typically would not choose this type of book, but I am glad I had the opportunity to read it. The characters are strong, independent, motivated women, but flawed, and I found this made them more relatable than other characters often found in this genre. I came to care about the characters and the stories they had to tell. The book respectfully and realistically addresses the themes of love, loyalty, and loss. I particularly enjoyed the way that the book dealt with uncertainty, betrayal and heartache. It approached the confronting parts of life with understanding and respect. It was unapologetically honest. I found this to be refreshing and above all, kind. It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book that has dealt with these issues so well. I thoroughly enjoyed my journey into The True Story of Maddie Bright. I’m sure many others will too.’ – Laura, SA, 4 stars

‘What a great book! The characters are real, rounded people, the settings are evocative, and the dialogue is really good. The intertwined stories mesh well with some unexpected turns. There is a sense of historical reality too, looks like some good research went into the writing! All in all, an excellent read.’ – Victoria, NSW, 4 stars

‘The True Story of Maddie Bright had me hooked from the first few pages and left me wanting to know how it all ends. The hybrid storyline, with its mix of fiction and non-fiction, provides an interesting twist, coupled with characters who are loveable, heartbreaking and frustrating all at once. The main theme centres around the royal family and their secret lives, forever intriguing to their followers, and is brought out in the open. Hardened by past events, Maddie’s tone over the different periods of her life is transformed from a bubbly and imaginative young girl, to older Maddie who, for a reason we are yet to discover, has kept everyone in her life at arm’s length, but at the same time is longing for human companionship. Maddie is caring, kind, and fiercely protective of those loyal to her. When all the characters’ stories finally come together, the emotion is well worth the wait. If you love Kate Morton’s style and cross-time period chapters, then The True Story of Maddie Bright is the book for you.’ – Brooke, VIC, 5 stars

‘I really enjoyed this book and found the two main characters, Maddie Bright and Victoria Bryd, such interesting and strong personalities and related to them very quickly. The book covers three time periods – the Prince of Wales’s 1920 visit to Australia, the 1981 engagement of Diana and Prince Charles, and the tragic 1997 death of Diana. Maddie’s involvement with the Royal Tour showed her strength of character from a young age, and this developed further throughout her life. It was towards the end of the novel when the missing pieces of her life are put into place that my admiration for her and also for Victoria greatly increased. Mary-Rose MacColl has a good style of writing, and this is an easy-to-read novel with lots of description which brings the characters to life very quickly. For me there was a good balance of feelings towards some characters and becoming annoyed with others. The historical facts were clearly defined to suit the time period, and the final twist was a great conclusion to a most enjoyable read. I will be looking forward to reading more novels by Mary-Rose MacColl.’ – Margaret, VIC, 4 stars

‘The True Story of Maddie Bright sucks you in to the stories of Maddie – past and present – and makes you want everything to turn out okay. Young Maddie had so much ahead of her; her life should have been so different… I absolutely loved Maddie, especially the older version – she really gets under your skin. The glimpses into the past were very interesting and enlightening, and made for a really memorable book. I could see some of the revelations coming, but the suspense was agonising: wondering if it would all resolve in the end. Luckily (for everyone concerned) it does…’ – Ayesha, NSW, 4 stars

‘I had my “reading mojo” before starting this book and was very excited to have been offered an advanced copy to review. Unfortunately, I found the book difficult to get into. The beginning felt disjointed and it took me some time to get used to the style of writing. The three timelines, two “novels”, many characters (and their different names) and various storylines were, at times, hard to keep track of. I really enjoyed the underlying story and that is what kept me reading – that and the need to submit a review by tomorrow! It took until well over the 100 page mark for me to start enjoying the book. The book got better as the story went on as the author dedicated more pages to each storyline. I enjoyed Maddie and Victoria and would have liked to have discovered more about present-day Maddie at the beginning of the book. Given the length of the book, I was disappointed in the ending and the very haphazard way it all came together. Perhaps earlier parts of the book could have been streamlined to allow more time at the end to reach the conclusion without the breathless rush in which we found out what happened. The concept of taking events and figures from these particular moments in history (who doesn’t remember the wedding of Diana and Charles or the lonely death of Diana in Paris and the media circus that followed?) and turning them into a storyline with a lovely set of fictional characters (as well as some not so nice and some not needed) made for an interesting and at times very enjoyable read.’ – Jodi, NSW, 3 stars

‘Told from multiple points of view, ‘The True Story of Maddie Bright’ is a sweeping tale of love and friendship set in 20th Century Australia. Being a fan of crime fiction and biographies, this is not the type of book I would usually read, but I’m glad I read this page-turner! The character of Maddie Bright, both young and old, is interesting – she is intelligent as a 17 year old, witty as an octogenarian, and kind and caring throughout. I look forward to reading Mary-Rose MacColl’s other works, in particular, her biography ‘For a Girl: A True Story of Secrets, Motherhood and Hope’.’ – Louise, VIC, 4 stars

‘Mary-Rose McColl has done it again! The True Story of Maddie Bright is a story of similarities and differences. Two women, Maddie and Victoria have much in common. Both are young writers, dealing with events connected to the British Royal family. Maddie, however, lives in Australia in the 1920s and Victoria is in London in the 1990s. In an attempt to help her struggling family, Maddie seeks employment as a tea girl for Edward, Prince of Wales, whilst he’s touring Australia. However, Maddie’s writing ability is very quickly recognised and she becomes Prince Edward’s letter writer, dealing with the mountains of mail he receives. Victoria, on the other hand, is a journalist who is sent to Paris to cover the death of Princess Diana. We also meet Maddie as an elderly woman as she deals with her past, whilst Victoria deals with her future. Readers of McColl’s book, In Falling Snow, will recognise snippets of it in this book. Love, truth, deceit and loyalty come together in a warm, emotional story. The reader cannot help but feel empathy for the two woman as McColl’s superb writing brings the characters alive.’ – Cathie, QLD, 4 stars

‘Maddie Bright was a young girl employed on the Prince of Wales’ Royal Tour of Australia in 1920 and who, as M.A. Bright, wrote just one novel, “Autumn Leaves”, set in the First World War. This was extremely successful and supposed excerpts of which appear in this novel which tells Maddie’s story from her point of view across the 1920s; 1981, as Diana gets engaged to a subsequent Prince of Wales; and 1997, when Diana dies and Maddie is an elderly lady. However, the novel also tells the story of Victoria, a British journalist recently engaged to an American actor, and tasked with writing about both Diana and M.A. Bright, from Victoria’s point of view, and thus encircles the globe. Some readers may find the combination a little confusing at first, but I found this to be a hook upon which I was willingly caught by this clever author, wanting to know more about the engaging if flawed characters, even those who were clearly less appealing, and to discover their truth amongst the lies, loyalty, duty, destiny, love, loss and challenging relationships. Both sad and romantic, this novel ends with a twist which left me with hope. Thanks to Better Reading!’ – Pamela, VIC, 4 stars

‘Enjoyed reading this book about Maddie’s and Victoria’s lives during some royal historical times. If you like a book that’s easy to read about love, family, friendships, regrets and secrets… and of course royalty, this is a book for you. Oh and the twist at the end was good. This is my first Mary-Rose MacColl book and I did enjoy reading it, especially because I knew the time periods she based the book on through the 80s and 90s. Plus, I knew a bit about Prince Edward. I am now looking forward to reading some of her other books. I loved Maddie as the young lass that found a job on the train replying letters for Prince Edward during 1920, and her as an old lady in 1981. She was an interesting character with a strong personality. Victoria was interesting too, a journalist/writer. I really liked how MacColl has managed to use major parts of our history that changed the way the royals were seen by the public, and made them into an enjoyable fictional story to read. The story was based in three different time periods: 1. 1920, Prince Edward of Wales’s Australian tour. 2. 1981, Prince Charles’s engagement to Diana. 3. 1997, Death of Princess Diana. In real history, Prince Edward abdicated his kingship to marry a divorced American Wallis Simpson… and wasn’t Prince Charles in love with Camila before he was engaged/ married to Diana? Both princes have always been told what they can and cannot do, and both were princes waiting to be kings. I also enjoyed being able to visualise the Diana events, because that was the period I grew up in. I still clearly remember the engagement announcement and her always being chased by the media until the night she died in that horrific car accident. I liked how MacColl put Victoria (a tabloid journalist) on the receiving end of paparazzi when she got engaged to a high profile guy (Ben). The poverty and hardships that people faced after WW1 were also mentioned in the book, especially with returning soldier’s families. I think this is important for people to read about because of the war. Just to finish… I kept thinking of Maddie being very similar to Harper Lee. Both recluses. They both wrote one book that schools read, and then many, many years later a follow-up book came out.’ – Maria, SA, 4 stars

‘The True Story of Maddie Bright is a captivating novel beautifully delivering a story about friendship, love and family. Spanning over seven decades, this book skilfully combines multiple narratives: Maddie Bright as both a hardworking seventeen year old about to start a trip of a lifetime, and older Maddie as a more world-weary and somewhat jaded woman in her late seventies. Then there’s Victoria Byrd, a British journalist newly engaged to her film-star boyfriend. At first Maddie and Victoria seem to have little which connect them, but their stories weave together so well in a story that shows another perspective on peoples’ fascination with royal life. I wasn’t expecting to be as drawn into Maddie and Victoria’s stories as I was. I loved how their writing careers showed us a different side of the royals. But I also was hanging on to the end to find out how the storylines – and the story by M.A. Bright – would all come together. This isn’t the typical mystery novel, but secrets within the different timelines and way in which the book is written make it a compelling read.’ – Kate, QLD, 5 stars

‘This book was described in great detail, which allowed the imagination to roam .The opening storyline had me captivated and heartbroken all at once. The settings in which the characters lived were described in great detail therefore enabling the reader to visualise the clothing the characters wore, all the way down to the kind of furniture and style of house they lived in. The feelings and attitudes of the characters were described in depth. A very enjoyable read.’ – Tracey, QLD, 4 stars

‘I loved every single page of The True Story of Maddie Bright. I loved Maddie old and young. I am only sorry I have to say goodbye to her now. I loved the royal tour- love that I can picture Harry going about his recent tour in the same vein. I loved the empathy and warmth towards the characters and subject matter contained here. I loved it. The themes of love, friendship, truth, youth and wonder are all so loving handled. The scenery and descriptions are gorgeous. The book is just lovely and I wish it hadn’t ended. Have I mentioned I loved it?’ – Anna, NSW, 5 stars


In 1920, at seventeen years of age, Maddie Bright takes a job as a serving girl on the Royal Tour of Australia by Edward, Prince of Wales. She meets the prince's young staff - his vivacious press secretary Helen Burns, his most loyal man Rupert Waters - and the prince himself - beautiful, boyish, godlike. Maddie might be on the adventure of a lifetime.

Sixty-one years later, Maddie Bright is living a small life in a ramshackle house in Paddington, Brisbane. But an unlooked-for letter has arrived in the mail and there's news on the television from Buckingham Palace that makes her shout back at the screen. Maddie Bright's true story may change.In August 1997, London journalist Victoria Byrd is tasked by her editor with the job of finding the elusive M.A. Bright, author of the classic war novel of ill-fated love, Autumn Leaves. It seems Bright has written a second novel, and Victoria has been handed the scoop. Recently engaged to an American film star, Victoria is horrified by her own sudden celebrity and keen to escape to Australia to follow the story.Written with real warmth and wit, these three evocative strands twist across the seas and over two continents, intersecting with the lives of Edward and Diana, two of the most loved and hated figures of the twentieth century. The True Story of Maddie Bright is a novel that tells stories and reveals truth; a novel that considers the inescapable ties of mothering, friendship, duty and love.
Mary-Rose MacColl
About the author

Mary-Rose MacColl

Mary-Rose MacColl is an Australian writer whose first novel, No Safe Place, was runner-up in the 1995 Australian Vogel literary award. Her first non-fiction book, The Birth Wars, was a finalist in the 2009 Walkley Awards. In Falling Snow (October 2012), Mary-Rose's fourth novel, tells the largely unknown story of a small group of Scottish women who ran a field hospital for France in World War I in an old abbey. MacColl holds degrees in journalism and creative writing and lives in Brisbane, Australia with her husband and son.

Books by Mary-Rose MacColl


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