The Tea Rose by Jennifer Donnelly
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Oh, the melodrama! It's soaptastic! I'm usually a much more cynical chica but I have to admit that I loved this story. I rooted for Fiona & was worried and sad when things went from awry to totally off the rails for her. I cheered when things turned around & held my breath for the next catastrophe. Joe garnered my annoyance early on but I never got to full on hating him & have to admit that when he was missing from the story for long stretches, I was wondering & concerned about him. His major crime was having been hapless, naive & easily manipulated. He paid in deep dividends so I couldn't wish more ill on him. All in all, I was pulling for a "Happily Ever After" & I'm not usually one who pines for those. This was the first I've read of Jennifer Donnelly but she was able to pull me in & play me from beginning to end.
For the most part, the rest of the cast of characters were very well drawn. I especially adored Nicholas (his father was a particularly nasty piece of work), Seamie, the Munroes & Uncle Michael. I didn't feel much investment in Will. He just felt like a temporary character (along with his family) meant to propel the plot. Like Fiona, I was dialing it in & just passing the time while Will was around. Millie wasn't well fleshed out & I didn't like her but I kept wondering why she was the way she was. Still, when she was gone, I was glad. All the characters tied to Burton & the union were okay but if I'm honest, I wasn't really into them much. They provided a particular counterpoint in the story but that aside, I didn't find them especially compelling. I thought the Ripper angle would factor in more but I don't mind that it didn't.
This was not my usual historical fiction read but I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was long, played some common tropes & strung out the starcrossed lovers theme to the point I thought it would break. And somehow, it all worked for me. I never stopped caring, kept turning the pages & hoping for the best. It's not deep or revelatory but it definitely engaged me. The setup for the next installment was handled deftly, so I'm looking forward to it & I enjoyed the preview of "The Winter Rose" in the paperback version I read. I recognized the mains quickly. I must say that I'm sorry it took me so long to read this one but I'm thrilled that I finally have.
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