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Review: The Tea Rose by Jennifer Donnelly

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Cover of The Tea Rose by Jennifer Donnelly
3 Stars

Fiona Finnegan is growing up poor but happy in Whitechapel in the 1880s. Her family might not have much but they have each other, they have a roof over their heads and food in their bellies. That's more than most of their neighbors can say. She also has Joe Bristow, the boy she's always loved, and their shared dream of someday owning a shop together. But everything changes in a tragic series of events that leaves Fiona scrambling to care for herself and her younger brother. She's also out for revenge.

I'm so torn. I adore A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly. Like, top-five-books-ever adore it. So I know she can write. But this is her debut novel and it shows. It also got laughably melodramatic. There's a better word to describe this book but it's escaping me. Dickensian? Maybe.

Fiona's tragedies just pile one on top of the other, on top of the other, on top of the other! I do have to admit that I didn't see a lot of them coming, and I do appreciate that. The final climactic scene was predictable--until the shocking twist that was so implausible it truly left me laughing. But I think the author was kind of going for that over-the-top feel. It's certainly reminiscent of someone's writing from that era, even if I can't place who it is.

Star-crossed lovers doesn't even begin to describe Fiona and Joe. The number of obstacles they had to attempt to overcome eventually became ridiculous.

I did keep turning the pages quickly, especially once everything starts falling apart.

Fiona was maybe a little too perfect. She's beautiful, intelligent, fiercely loyal, and driven. She does have a temper, which I guess could be a fault, but since it only flares up in defense of others or to help her achieve her goals, I'm hesitant to classify it as such. I was mostly as charmed by her as all of her family and acquaintances were.

In the right mood, I would probably have eaten this up but instead I feel that it amused me a bit more, and in a different way, than it was intended to. I'm not a huge romance reader so I'm not the best judge of this kind of thing. While it wasn't exactly for me, most readers do seem to love it, so don't let me dissuade you from giving it a try if you're so inclined.

Read an excerpt.

Find author Jennifer Donnelly on her website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Buy The Tea Rose at

I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop's, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site. My opinions are completely my own.

1 comment:

  1. Ah sorry to hear this book wasn't as good as you thought it would be. Perhaps you are right in that you just weren't in the mood for this kind of book. I can see how that would affect your overall reading experience with it. This one has been on my TBR for quite some time now. Hopefully when it comes to the top of my pile I will be in the right kind of mood for it.
    Nice review. :)


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