In the East End of Victorian London, Fiona Finnegan and Joe Bristow share their hopes of getting out of the slums and of someday marrying each other. But when Fiona's father, the breadwinner, dies after a suspicious accident in the tea warehouse, things go downhill. After Fiona overhears the truth, she and her brother, Seamie, run for their lives all the way to New York, where she sets up a tea house. But despite her accumulating fortune, the ghosts of Whitechapel beckon her back to the shores of England where she comes face to face with her nightmare.
I was actually a little foolish and read The Winter Rose before I'd read The Tea Rose
. BUT NEVER FEAR. Because The Tea Rose was still equally gripping and I loved the huge cast of characters that each played such an intricate role. Fiona is a fantastic female character who has the reader rooting for her every step of the way. The novel is long, but Fiona's ups and downs had me holding my breath to see how it would turn out, even having read its sequel. Meanwhile, Joe Bristow's tale is also fantastic, albeit a little less gripping. His struggles in London both contrast and parallel with Fiona's in unusual ways, making it interesting to swap back and forth between them.
The writing is intensely beautiful, particularly the descriptions. Victorian London really comes alive through subtle suggestions of a different time. All you nitpicky historians out there can relax because Donnelly has really done her research on this novel. It's a great read for anyone into historical fiction, but don't let the genre deter you if its not your thing; the romance will have you holding out for the end as well!