Monday, July 7, 2008

Lisa's Review: The Tea Rose

Summary: East London, 1888 - a city apart. A place of shadow and light where thieves, whores and dreamers mingle, where children play in the cobbled streets by day and a killer stalks at night. Where shining hopes meet the darkest truths. Here, by the whispering waters of the Thames, a bright, defiant young woman dares to dream of a life beyond tumbledown wharves, gaslit alleys, and the grim and crumbling dwellings of the poor.

Fiona Finnegan, a worker in a tea factory, hopes to own a shop one day, together with her lifelong love, Joe Bristow, a costermonger's son. With nothing but their faith in each other to spur them on, Fiona and Joe struggle, save and sacrifice to achieve their dreams. But Fiona's plans are shattered when the actions of a dark and brutal man force her to flee London for New York. There, her indomitable spirit – and the ghosts of her past – propel her rise from a modest West Side shop front to the top of Manhattan's tea trade. Fiona's old ghosts do not rest quietly, however, and to silence them, she must venture back to the London of her childhood, where a deadly confrontation with her past becomes the key to her future.

The Tea Rose is a towering old-fashioned story, imbued with a modern sensibility, of a family's destruction, of murder and revenge, of love lost and won again, and of one determined woman's quest to survive and triumph. Authentic and moving, The Tea Rose is an unforgettable novel – one certain to take its place beside such enduring epics as A Woman of Substance, The Thornbirds, and The Shell Seekers. ~back of book.

Here's the thing about romance, in literature, once you realize that you've chosen a romance, you know things are going to end in one of two ways and more often than not, that ending is going to be a happy one. Therefore, any novel with a romance at its core becomes about the journey, not the destination and The Tea Rose is one heck of a ride.

I'd read The Winter Rose, the second book in the trilogy, first and knew if only by summary the path Fiona and Joe's story took, so I was concerned that the urgency would be diminished. An unfounded fear if there ever was one. As a matter of fact, I feel incredibly compelled to pick up The Winter Rose again, just to see if the story takes a different shape, now that I've gotten more of a foundation.

Here again, Ms. Donnelly's characters are rich, well formed and a pure delight to know and love (or hate)! Fiona is spirited and stubborn, strong in the face of adversity (of which there is quite a bit). Joe, equally determined and strong, is a man tortured and paying for a mistake, he hardly knew he was making. The secondary characters are just as brilliantly written, right down to Jack (the Ripper, that is).

Set in the time when Jack terrorized London, Donnelly, obviously takes her research seriously. The details packed a powerful punch and Ms. Donnelly's prose evokes emotions and images that make you feel a part of the action. I don't doubt that an anachronism exists here and there , however you are so caught up in the story, I couldn't care less about such trivialities.

So apart from an "Oh come on" moment - there were one too many near misses for Fiona and Joe- I have no complaints. The Tea Rose has joined The Winter Rose at the top of my "Best of 2008" list and Jennifer Donnelly cements a spot amongst my favorite authors. I can't wait for the third of the trilogy and in the meantime, I'm tackling A Northern Light and planning my re-reading sessions.

Final Take:4.95/5


Anonymous ,  July 7, 2008 at 11:55 PM  

Wow, you have me convinced! I'm getting out my TBR list and adding it right on.

I really like triologies. It lets you to really get into characters before you have to give them up.

Julie P. July 8, 2008 at 6:29 AM  

I really liked this book too. I'll have to give the next one a try!

Julie July 8, 2008 at 9:16 AM  

Must run to library this weekend....

Marg July 10, 2008 at 5:20 PM  

I totally agree on the too many near misses thing, but other than that I really enjoyed this book, and LOVED The Winter Rose! I am very much looking forward to the third book!

Anonymous ,  July 14, 2008 at 11:01 AM  

I picked up The Tea Rose awhile back but haven't actually read it (although it seems like a wonderful book). I'll have to read that one soon!

tinylittlelibrarian July 19, 2008 at 4:37 PM  

I have this one down for the Triple 8 Challenge and am looking forward to it. Glad to hear it made the top of your list, that makes me look forward to it even more!

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