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