The Tea Rose by Jennifer Donnelly – Book Review

The Tea Rose by Jennifer Donnelly
Published by St. Martin’s Griffin, an imprint of Macmillan

This is the first book in the Rose series.

Fiona Finnegan may be a poor Irish girl living in Whitechapel, but she has big plans with her sweetheart, Joe Bristow. Together, they are determined to save enough money to marry and open a shop of their own, something that can take them away from a neighborhood where Jack the Ripper roams the streets after dark. When Joe takes a better paying job, it pains them to be apart, but seems a means to an end, until three tragedies rip Fiona’s life asunder and she is forced to face life on her own, with only her young brother by her side.

The Tea Rose is not a short book, and it is just the first in a trilogy of equally long books. Thus it is only to be expected that there is quite a bit of initial set up and characterization. This resulted, however, in a slow first 100 pages or so. Fiona was engaging the entire time, but her poor-but-getting-by family and her dreams of a future with Joe went a bit longer than would be optimal. Around page 100, though, things begin happening, and Fiona really begins to show her mettle and the story takes flight. Fiona is a strong character, without being too overly modern. She is certainly bold and willing to break out of societal molds, but never comes across as anachronistic.

Once it gets going, The Tea Rose is completely engaging late 19th-century historical fiction, an epic that captures the imagination. I cannot wait to read the rest of the series.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

If you are already a fan of this series, the third book, The Wild Rose, was just released by Hyperion Books. Buy it from:

Powells | Indiebound*

Source: personal copy.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.
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26 comments to The Tea Rose by Jennifer Donnelly – Book Review

  • I liked The Winter Rose even more than this one, I think because I liked the main character a little more and found her profession more interesting than Fiona’s. I’m glad you’re getting into the series! I need to lay hands on a copy of The Wild Rose sooner rather than later…

  • I definitely want to read this trilogy. I am glad you gave a warning about the beginning so I will know to stick with it.

  • julie

    YAY! I read The Winter Rose first not realizing it was a trilogy, so I really wanted to know the story behind Fiona and Joe. Perhaps that is why I didn’t find it slow at any point. :)

    I’m glad you enjoyed it enough to continue on.

  • Pam

    Oh1 I just started this. It’s delightful so far. Glad you enjoyed it.

  • Julie, that is exactly what I did! I knew Jennifer Donnelly’s name from reading NORTHERN LIGHT and just grabbed WINTER ROSE without knowing about TEA ROSE.

    I very much enjoyed both (WINTER ROSE more, though)… the end of TEA ROSE I remember being slightly soap opera-ish… and it always bugs me when characters in books are credited with real-life inventions (the tea bag, for instance). I am so excited for WILD ROSE and have been waiting forever; I might need to go and get it right now.

    • I totally get that annoyance. I’m okay with just one thing, although the tea bag IS kind of big. I get super annoyed when a character is involved in EVERY big innovation in his or her field.

  • Loved this one. It was one of my favorites last year. I just picked up book 2 at Border’s last night. I’m so looking forward to it.

  • Loved this one. It was one of my favorites last year. I just picked up book 2 at Border’s last night. I’m so looking forward to it :)

  • Ugh. I’ve had the first two books loaded on my Kindle since Jill told me I had to, but have yet decided I was ready for the commitment. I absolutely loved Revolution, so why not? Maybe once I get myself settled and in a routine, I’ll take these on.

  • I couldn’t get in to this when I started it but now I wonder if I should have just stuck through — will have to try again!

  • I liked this one, but I thought THE WINTER ROSE was even better – and I’ve just finished THE WILD ROSE and preferred that too. :p So there are definitely good things ahead for you! I thought Fiona and Joe were a little too perfect for my tastes – I preferred the characters in the following books. I’m glad you’re enjoying them.

  • This book can never seem to attract me from the beginning, so I never get around to reading the rest. I really have to tolerate it and see what the hype is about because it does sound like something I would love!

  • Amy

    I had no idea there was a trilogy og these books…I’m glad I found before reading any. Thanks for letting us know that it takes a little time for the book to take off. Fiona sounds like a terrific character and I love the setting.

    I’m putting this book and the others on my tbr list for when I have time to read some bigger books!

  • This sounds like a good book to hunker down with when it gets cold this winter.

  • This sounds like a series I would love! I need to look into getting it.

  • I liked this book but thought there were a few too many near misses and coincidences. I did however LOVE The Winter Rose! Such a fantastic book, and then The Wild Rose was good too, although Jennifer Donnelly really likes to torture her characters!

  • I just listened to Donnelly’s Revolution on audio – it was amazing. I really need to read this series soon!

  • livvy

    I have just finished reading ‘The Tea Rose’ and loved every second of it….after 300 odd pages it had already become my favourite book and Im excited to read the Winter Rose (and the Wild Rose when it gets published in the UK)….I was just wondering if anyone who read this book had any other suggestions for good reads that was similar to this trio (apart from Donnelly’s other great reads) as am going to struggle finding books I enjoyed as much as this one!

  • My first thought was Outlander, as well. Also, Dorothy Dunnett has two series that are more highbrow and not as romance-y, but they’re fantastic, amazing, wonderful books. They’re historicals that each feature multiple characters that are loosely connected but over the course of the series they become more involved in different ways. There’s lots of exotic travel, intrigue, and politics just like in The Winter Rose & Wild Rose. There are six books in The Lymond Chronicles and eight books in The House of Niccolo series.

  • The ROSE series reminded me a bit of some Maeve Binchy books… and perhaps you might try the Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear.

  • Thought of one more – your question really made me think! :) Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth and its sequel have that same ‘sweeping’ feel.

  • Livvy

    Thank-you so much for all your help! I will definitely be looking into the suggestions you have made and am hoping they will captivate me as much as ‘The Tea Rose’ did!
    One question in relation to ‘Outlander’– is the author Diana Gabaldon or Gil Adamson? – two results have come up on my search and I wanted to make sure to get the right one :)
    Thanks again- you’ve all be a great help :)

  • I just finished a reread of TEA ROSE and WINTER ROSE… and now I keep wanting to use the phrase, “Wait a mo’ “.

    Now for THE WILD ROSE!!