The Winter Rose by Jennifer Donnelly – Book Review

The Winter Rose by Jennifer Donnelly
Published by Hyperion Books, an imprint of Disney Book Group

This is the second book in the Rose series. I have previously reviewed The Tea Rose. This review may contain spoilers for The Tea Rose.

When I settled in with The Winter Rose, I was expecting to settle back in with Fiona and Joe and the family they were finally able to create. Although that does happen, they – and in particular, Fiona – are almost secondary characters in The Winter Rose.

Instead, Donnelly features Fiona’s older brother Charlie, best known to the citizens of London as Sid Malone, infamous crime boss, and India Selwyn-Jones, a woman of a good family who has defied her mother in order to follow her passion and become a doctor. Worse still than simply becoming a woman doctor, India will not even deign to be part of a fashionable practice in a good neighborhood, but instead is determined to practice in Whitechapel, and eventually set up a clinic there. India’s work in Whitechapel brings her into direct contact – and conflict – with Sid very quickly. As much as they grate on one another, though, Sid is impressed with India’s occasionally misguided but strongly-held desire to help the people of the East End. India, in response, cannot help but see that Sid, too, cares for these people she assumed he was only exploiting. It might seem logical for love to bloom here, but between India and Sid stands India’s fiance and childhood friend, Frankie Lytton. Frank is also an ambitious Member of Parliament who sees the capture of Sid Malone the one thing that could best guarantee his political future.

In some ways, the Rose series is getting formulaic. Donnelly focuses on a new couple here, so she can again wrench them apart, divided by a different partner, in a way that seems utterly insurmountable. That somehow true love will prevail is obvious from the very beginning – as is the fact that India and Frankie for all their bickering will fall in love in the first place. Frankie Lytton is a much more insidious dividing partner than Millie Peterson was, but they serve much the same function.

Here’s the thing, though. In the middle of the book, the reader is likely to recognize the pattern that Donnelly is falling into, but is equally unlikely to care. She is such a strong writer, creating such vivid characters and settings that she allows the reader to simply get lost in her romantic historical epics. Perhaps this is best evidenced by the fact that she is successfully able to supplant her beloved main characters with characters who were minor or completely missing from The Tea Rose. Fiona and Joe are, of course, still around to give the story continuity, and we do stay within the Finnegan family, but having Fiona take a minor (and eternally pregnant) role could have easily been disastrous in the hands of a less able author.

With The Winter Rose, Donnelly gives us a strong second book in the Rose series. I can’t wait to read the third book, The Wild Rose. Highly recommended.

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17 comments to The Winter Rose by Jennifer Donnelly – Book Review

  • julie

    I’m so happy that you are continuing to love the Rose books. The third book is wonderful as well. I already miss these characters.

  • Oh, I love this series! I’m interested to hear what you think about The Wild Rose; I was disappointed.

    • julie

      WHAT?! I loved the final book. But truth be told I loved all of them.

      • I don’t want to talk too much about why I didn’t like the third because it will get too spoiler-y, but believe me, I wanted to like it, especially because we’ve pretty much watched Seamie grow up throughout the series. I was really upset when I finished and thought “Wow…that wasn’t what I’d hoped for at all.”

  • I think Winter Rose was my fave of the three… possibly because I read it first.

    I completely agree with you about the formula and also about enjoying the books nonetheless. After reading Wild Rose, I decided that the Rose books remind me of Maeve Binchy books with possibly a touch of Danielle Steel… Still, mostly well-written and certainly engrossing.

  • These books sound wonderful. I’ve just added them all to my TBR pile!

  • I have the series on my Kindle, I just haven’t taken the plunge. I have such a tough time getting to print, and these books are loooooong. I’ll save it for a long trip maybe.

  • I still need to read The Tea Rose! I *almost* picked it up a few days ago but ended up going for something else.

  • I enjoyed The Tea Rose, but it felt long to me – or at least that’s how I’m remembering it. I guess that’s why I’ve never picked up this book from my shelf. It’s sitting there and even gets my attention every now and again. It sounds like it would make for a decent winter read.

  • It’s been years since I read The Tea Rose. I may re-read that one before I start this one. I’m glad to see you liked this one despite the formulaic stuff. I have a ton of chunksters I want to read (and re-read) but I really need to be in the right mood to dive into the big ol’ fat historical fiction stuff.

  • I really need to read this trilogy. I have owned the first book forever!

  • I loved the first one so much. I have this one to start in the new year :)

  • This is my favourite of the trilogy by a long shot! I liked the last book, but didn’t love it!

  • Lisa

    I liked Tea Rose but I’m loving Winter Rose. It seems to get started much faster.

    P.S. It’s Freddie Lytton, not Frankie. Frankie is Sid’s right hand man.