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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For the King by Catherine Delors – giveaway

Just in time for Bastille Day, Catherine Delors’ story of post-Revolutionary France, For the King is coming to paperback. As you may remember from last summer, I loved For the King, so I am thrilled to be able to offer two copies for giveaway to readers with US addresses, courtesy of Penguin.

If you want to know more about the history behind For the King, please check out the guest post that Catherine Delors wrote about the revolutionary group depicted in her book: “The Chouans and the Downfall of Napoleon.”

To enter, please fill out the form below by Sunday, July 10th at 11:59pm Central.

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The Mistress of Nothing by Kate Pullinger – Audiobook Review

The Mistress of Nothing by Kate Pullinger, narrated by Rosalyn Landor
Published in audio by Blackstone Audio; published in print by Touchstone, an imprint of Simon & Schuster


After losing her parents in a train crash, Sally was sent rather young into service, where she began as a scullery maid. Eventually she found herself as the lady’s maid to Lady Duff Gordon, and travels with her lady to Egypt. Lady Duff Gordon has tuberculosis and decides that she cannot stay alive in the cold English climate, and heads to Luxor, Egypt for her health. While there, Sally falls in love with Omar, Lady Duff Gordon’s dragoman. As much as Lady Duff Gordon gives in to the Egyptian way of life, Sally does even more so, entering into a romantic relationship with an Egyptian man – a relationship which her lady does not approve of at all.

Thoughts on the story:

Although fascinating to experience late 19th century Egypt, and to see the late 19th century interactions between Egyptians and Europeans, the first person narrative really slowed down the first section of the book. Everything was simply Sally observing what was happening around her without much action. Eventually the pace picked up, but I spent a good amount of time at the beginning of “The Mistress of Nothing” wondering when something would happen.

Thoughts on the audio production:

Rosalyn Landor is a talented narrator who infuses her words with emotion, but even she could not keep me interested during the slow points of the narrative. For my complete thoughts, please see my review at Audiofile Magazine.


I recommend this in print or audio for the historical fiction fan who is interested in getting a feel for the interactions between Europe and Egypt in the late 19th century, but be warned that the beginning starts slowly.

Buy this book from:
Powells: Audio/Print*
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound: Print*

Source: Audiofile Magazine, publisher.
* 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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Original Sins by Peg Kingman – Book Review

Original Sins: A Novel of Slavery and Freedom by Peg Kingman
Published by W.W. Norton & Co

After an unconventional childhood – leaving Scotland at a young age for India and the Far East – Grace is not quite at east in the quite conventional society of Philadelphia in the mid-19th century, surely her mother-in-law does not approve of her at all. Life becomes even more complicated when her old friend Anibaddh, a former slave, returns to Grace with a secret, one that will require Grace to travel south, into the heart of that institution which she most despises: slavery.

I did not realize when I first picked up “Original Sins” that it was actually the second in a series or, at least, it is connected to a book set earlier with the same main character. Luckily Kingman balances the series/stand-alone book divide well. There are enough references to past events to tip the reader off to the existence of an earlier book, but the necessary backstory is sufficiently explained, without giving away the entirety of Kingman’s first book, “Not Yet Drown’d.”

I found “Original Sins” to be absolutely captivating. Grace is certainly not the typical mid-19th century American woman, she is feminist and abolitionist in a time when all American women still gave the majority of their rights over to their husbands automatically upon marriage and slavery was still very much a given. Some will complain that Kingman’s work is more about thoughts and beliefs than about story and I would not necessarily disagree, but I also do not think that is necessarily a bad thing. Yes, Grace, and other characters, expound on their beliefs in long discourses, but it is all supported by the characterization Kingman provides and, most importantly, it was fascinating and thought-provoking.

Although “Original Sins” is certainly not for everyone, people who are intrigued by the exchange of ideas about religion, freedom, and human rights will certainly find themselves engrossed. Highly recommended.

Buy this book from:
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound.*

Source: Publisher
* 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.

For the King by Catherine Delors – Book Review

For the King by Catherine Delors

It is Christmas Eve of 1800 when Paris is rocked by an explosion that narrowly misses killing First Consul Napoleon Bonaparte. Chief Inspector Roch Michel is called in to investigate. His investigation is not without danger for him and his family, however. Although Roch is convinced that the Chouans – royalists who wished to reinstate the French monarchy – are behind the attack, the Prefect of the police is adamant that the culprits are the Jacobins – a group to which Roch’s father has some ties. Soon it becomes clear that Roch must solve this case or risk his father’s safety, or even his life.

As is probably evident from the above description, “For the King” is something of an historical mystery or thriller, but it is written to flow more like standard historical fiction than a thriller or mystery. That combination worked brilliantly for me, I loved Delors’ writing.

Perhaps the best thing about “For the King” was how vivid the story way. Delors brought her characters and plot to live so well that I assumed the entire thing was a product of her imagination, just loosely based on the real struggles happening in France post-revolution. This turns out not to have been the case at all. Although she did take some historical liberties, melding or creating a few characters, etc in order to tell the story more fluidly, “For the King” is directly based upon real events. I was absolutely stunned to read that in her author note, after how much life she breathed into the story.

I really enjoyed “For the King” and would highly recommend it to those interested in a bit of historical mystery, or in the aftermath of the French Revolution.

Buy this book from:
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound.*

This review was done with a book received for a blog tour.
* 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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