The Tea Rose by Jennifer Donnelly

Tea RoseFiction — print. Thomas Dunne/St. Martin’s Griffin, 2007. Print. 545 pgs. Purchased.

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 life is shattered when the actions of a dark and brutal man take from her nearly everything — and everyone — she holds dear. Fearing her own death, she is forced to flee London for New York.

My first thought when I finished The Tea Rose was “Why? Why did I leave this languishing on my bookshelf for so long?” It’s good, really good.

The characters are believable, and learning about their lives was like hovering over their shoulders and watching them go about there lives. Fiona is a very strong character — beautiful, intelligent, and exceedingly kind — but the heroine in The Tea Rose is appealing because you get to see her flaws. She’s not perfect; she never claims to be. Every character seems real, except for Joe’s mistake of a wife, Millie, and setting the story amidst the time of Jack the Ripper made it even more interesting.

The only thing I didn’t like was mostly part three, especially the ending. It seemed poorly put together, a little rushed. I found myself rereading words, sentences, paragraphs because I was just bored. A great lead up; a poor execution for an ending. And Fiona’s success is a little unbelievable by the time you reach the third section — a poor girl from the largely impoverished Whitechapel area winds up becoming one of the richest people in New York — and some of the details of how she does it are lacking.

Still, The Tea Rose is filled with beautiful language, detailed descriptions, and tear jerking scenes, and definitely worth its size. The first book in the trilogy, I’m planning on reading The Winter Rose very soon.

Others’ Thoughts:



  1. This sounds lovely (and the cover is gorgeous too!)… I do hate when a book has a great build-up only to let me down at the end, but I suppose if your overall experience reading the book was enjoyable, then that’s more important. I’m definitely going to add this one to my TBR pile!


  2. @ Steph: I should have rephrased that part. While I did like the ending, the ending is what keeps it from being very good instead of just really good. It was kind of a let down, but not so much that I would say the book is just so-so. And yes, I had a really enjoyable reading experience with The Tea Rose. I still don’t know why I let it languish on my bookshelf for so long that it made it onto my TBR Challenge list.


  3. Thanks for being in the 9 for ’09 Challenge.

    The cover is lovely. I hope that your copy was just as nice!

    Interesting plot. I can’t wait for your other reviews of the series.


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