by Jennifer Donnelly
The Tea Rose is a big fat soap opera of a book. It's historical fiction, but it's also a romance. It's 1889 and Fiona Finnegan and Joe Bristow are on the cusp of adulthood. Both in their late teens, they are from poor families in the East End of London, but they're both dreaming big. The pair are in love and can't wait to open their own grocery store and start the rest of their lives together.
Of course things are never that simple. There's a rich man's wife, Millie, who has her eye on Joe. There's a push for Fiona's father's work to unionize and a dangerous group that opposes that change. On top of all of that Jack the Ripper is on the loose and everyone is running scared.
It's a big novel that crosses from England to America and back again and over years of time. It's easy to sink into and it was just what I needed when I picked it up. Yes, there are absolutely too many coincidences and unbelievable elements, but that's half the fun with a book like this. You just embrace the melodrama and go with it.
Fiona was a great character, strong and resilient, determined to succeed against all odds. She, along with her best friend Nick, really made the story for me. There's one moment in the story that didn't sit right with me. Fiona does a complete 180 and it doesn't make any sense in the context of her character, but the ship quickly righted itself and I forgave the hiccup.
I love the historical elements woven into the story. It's incredibly readable but at the same time you are getting snapshots of real historical events, like the Jack the Ripper murders, immigration to New York City, and even a bit a glimpse of the painting scene in Paris in the late 1800s.
BOTTOM LINE: A bit of a guilty pleasure book, very enjoyable. I'll definitely be reading the next book in the series, The Winter Rose, but I'll save it for when I need to lose myself in a thick novel.