The Tea Rose, by Jennifer Donnelly

Cover ImageFinished 6-29-10, rating 5/5, historical fiction, pub. 2002

A jealous anger surged through Fiona.  Sod good relations; Millie Peterson had just crossed the line.  “You feeling ill, Millie?”

“Ill?”  Millie eyeing her like so much rubbish.  “No, I’m fine.”

“Really?  You look like you might fall over, leaning on Joe like that.  Joe, why don’t you get Millie a crate to sit on?

“There’s no need, thank you,” Millie snapped.  She removed her hand from Joe’s arm.

“If you say so.  Wouldn’t want you to faint away.  Maybe your jacket’s too tight.”

“Why, you little cow!”  Millie cried, her cheeks turning red.

“Better a cow than a bitch.”

Chapter 1

Fiona, a tea factory worker, and Joe, a born salesman, grow up and in love in the working class neighborhood of Whitechapel in 1880’s East London.  They are both saving every cent they can so that one day they can open up their own tea business.  But life has  way of changing in a heartbeat.  Joe makes the mistake of a lifetime and Fiona loses almost everyone she loves.  Forced to flee the country Fiona makes her way to New York City and her indomitable spirit and smarts give her a life she had hardly imagined.

I loved it and I feel like that should be enough to convince you to pick it up.  Need more?  It is a heavily addictive, 550+ page saga that will have you reading every spare moment you have.  It covers the true plight of the working class, Jack the Ripper, a new and vibrant New York City, the tea trade, and the forming of the unions.  I listed it as historical fiction, but I do think it is at heart a love story.  Take away all of the excitement, the struggle, and the success and you really have two people struggling with the loss of each other.  It has many elements of a romance, but is so much more.

Fiona is a strong, bold woman, which is why I included the excerpt above, who is capable of making her own way in a man’s world.  The losses in her life are heartbreaking and I was rooting for her happiness.  I loved her story.  And Donnelly also tells the story of Joe, back in London and his plight of finding his own happiness. 

I know there is a sequel and I plan on getting my hands on it soon.  I highly recommend you give this one a read and see what you think.


This is from my personal library and was chosen by Mary, Linda, Melody, Jennifer, ‘Nise, Sandee, Bonnie, and Kathrin.  Here’s what they had to say…

“This is one of my favorite books. Richly written saga based in England and there is a sequel that is just as good.”  Bonnie

“It was a favorite read of 08”  “Nise

“I enjoyed it and hope to read The Winter Rose this winter.”  Jennifer

“A lovely rags-to-riches saga about an Irish girl. I also enjoyed the sequel, and am anxiously awaiting a third book.”  Linda

“Entertaining saga with a sequel to follow it – which is always nice!”  Mary

“I want to read that one in 2010 as well”  Kathrin