The Tea Rose

( 304 )

Overview

East London, 1888-a city apart. A place of shadow and light where thieves, whores, and dreamers mingle, where children play in the cobbled streets by day and a killer stalks at night, where bright hopes meet the darkest truths.

Here, by the whispering waters of the Thames, a bright and defiant young woman dares to dream of a life beyond tumbledown wharves, gaslit alleys, and the grim and crumbling dwellings of the poor.

Fiona Finnegan, a worker...

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Overview

East London, 1888-a city apart. A place of shadow and light where thieves, whores, and dreamers mingle, where children play in the cobbled streets by day and a killer stalks at night, where bright hopes meet the darkest truths.

Here, by the whispering waters of the Thames, a bright and defiant young woman dares to dream of a life beyond tumbledown wharves, gaslit alleys, and the grim and crumbling dwellings of the poor.

Fiona Finnegan, a worker in a tea factory, hopes to own a shop one day, together with her lifelong love, Joe Bristow, a costermonger's son. With nothing but their faith in each other to spur them on, Fiona and Joe struggle, save, and sacrifice to achieve their dreams.

But Fiona's dreams are shattered when the actions of a dark and brutal man take from her nearly everything-and everyone-she holds dear. Fearing her own death at the dark man's hands, she is forced to flee London for New York. There, her indomitable spirit-and the ghosts of her past-propel her rise from a modest west side shopfront to the top of Manhattan's tea trade.

Fiona's old ghosts do not rest quietly, however, and to silence them, she must venture back to the London of her childhood, where a deadly confrontation with her past becomes the key to her future.

The Tea Rose is a towering old-fashioned story, imbued with a modern sensibility, of a family's destruction, of murder and revenge, of love lost and won again, and of one determined woman's quest to survive and triumph.

Authentic and moving, The Tea Rose is an unforgettable novel-one certain to take its place beside such enduring epics as A Woman of Substance, The Thornbirds, and The Shell Seekers.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Donnelly indulges in delightfully straightforward storytelling in this comfortably overstuffed novel. In 1880s London, the squalid Thames-side neighborhood of Whitechapel is home to Fiona Finnegan, spunky daughter of Paddy Finnegan. Both are employed by unscrupulous tea merchant William Burton, but Fiona is saving to start a shop with her love, Joe Bristow. Just as her future seems assured, a string of tragedies toppledher hopes. Joe is tricked into marriage to another woman, Burton has Paddy killed for supporting a labor union, Fionas mother is murdered by Jack the Ripper and Fionas distraught brother is found dead in the Thames. Fiona had been attempting to get compensation from Burton for her fathers death, but when she overhears his boasts of killing Paddy, she must flee for her life with her sole remaining brother, five-year-old Seamie. She rushes to a seaport, but cannot get passage until the wealthy dandy Nicholas Soames offers it, pretending she is his wife. The scene switches to New York City of the Gay 90s, to the glitter of Delmonicos, the elegance of Gramercy Park and the crowded tenements of downtown. Fiona lodges with her alcoholic Uncle Michael and saves both him and his grocery on her way to making her fortune in the tea industry. But she never forgets her familys fate, and when she can, she returns to England to revenge herself on Burton. Though Donnellys indomitable heroine steps out of period character from time to time"her easy acceptance of Soamess homosexuality is particularly unlikely"the novels lively plotting, big cast of warmly drawn characters and long-deferred romantic denouement make this a ripping yarn. In the final dramatic settling of scores, Donnelly even ventures to unmask Jack the Ripper. (Oct. 1) Forecast: This epic historical novel has more muscle than most and comes equipped with blurbs from Frank McCourt and Simon Winchester. Rights have been sold in France, Germany and Italy, and Donnelly will embark on an author tour. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
In 1888, Fiona Finnegan and Joe Bristow hoard shillings and pennies so that they can marry and open a shop. But Jack the Ripper stalks the streets of London's East End, and poverty threatens from the shadows. Setting the story in motion is the murder of Fiona's father, a dock worker whose union activities angered his tea-company boss. Fiona and her younger brother must flee to New York City to avoid their own murders. Through hard work and luck, Fiona and her beloved Joe prosper on opposite sides of the Atlantic. Misunderstandings and mistakes keep them apart as they build separate lives and incredible fortunes. Children's book writer Donnelly effortlessly takes her narrative through slums and high society while intertwining a number of subplots without tangling them. Both major and minor characters capture and hold interest and sympathy. Although the number of Fiona and Joe's near encounters stretches the imagination, readers will forgive the tease once the lovers' reunion and Fiona's revenge for her father's death converge in an action-packed ending. Public library readers will relish this rags-to-riches romance. Kathy Piehl, Minnesota State Univ., Mankato Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A bright, plucky, and (of course) beautiful Cockney girl escapes poverty and violence in the Whitechapel neighborhood of Victorian-era London to make her fortune in New York City. In Donnelly's sprawling debut, the heroine is heroic, the villains villainous (and rich), and the heroine's love interests in need of a strong woman like her to keep them out of trouble. Seventeen-year-old Fiona Finnegan's plans to open a shop with her childhood sweetheart Joe are dashed when Joe succumbs to the wiles of his boss's daughter and ends up in a shotgun wedding. Fiona's distress is compounded by her father's accidental death at the Burton Tea Company, where he was organizing a union, her mother's murder by Jack the Ripper, and her brother's drowning. When Fiona overhears William Burton, the cold-eyed, knife-wielding owner of Burton Tea, brag that he had her father murdered, she realizes her own life is in danger and flees to America. Befriended en route by a young art collector named Nick, Fiona is put off by neither his syphilis nor his homosexuality, an open-mindedness that rings false in the Victorian setting. Taking over her alcoholic uncle's failing business, Fiona becomes a successful grocer, and, although she still pines for Joe, she enjoys being wooed by a charming, prominent financier. Then Nick faces a homophobic scandal instigated by her wealthy suitor's son. Unaware that Joe, whose marriage ended when his wife miscarried, is still searching for her, Fiona marries Nick to save his reputation and settles into what turns into a happy if unconventional marriage. While amassing a fortune in the tea and grocery trade, Fiona secretly plans to wreak revenge on Burton. After Nick's death andextensive plotting, she returns to London, reunites with Joe, and causes Burton financial ruin, which brings out his murderous side. Or perhaps he was more murderous all along than in anyone's worst suspicions. Bland, despite the gruesome-deaths quotient. Author tour
From the Publisher
"When you start reading Jennifer Donnelly's The Tea Rose give yourself plenty of time because this is a most seductive novel. You will travel from the rough, often savage, back streets of London to the glossy sophistication of New York's Fifth Avenue. You'll be charmed by the novel's heroine, Fiona Finnegan-her intelligence, her courage, her great heart. Despite her suffering-a lost love, a tragic family-there are moments you will want to cheer. It's the kind of novel where the writing is so fluid you feel the author simply loves telling her story. This is a splendid heartwarming novel of pain, struggle, decency, triumph-and just what we need in these times." -Frank McCourt

"I loved this vividly atmospheric and wonderfully rumbustious yarn-brilliantly told, great fun to read." -Simon Winchester, author of The Professor and the Madman

"Bold, brisk, and beguiling. The Tea Rose is splendid brew of a book." -Samuel H. G. Twining, LVO, OBE, director of Twinings Tea

"The Tea Rose is the kind of book that calls for a rainy day, a cozy chair, and a good, steaming cup of tea. It's strong and satisfying, with a taste that lingers in the memory." -Paula Cohen, author of Gramercy Park

"Steeped in melodrama, revenge and a maddeningly star-crossed romance, The Tea Rose is a fine yarn." —People

"An ambitious tale of love, betrayal, murder, revenge and triumph. . . . Full of warmth and rich period detail, The Tea Rose begs for a comfy, overstuffed chair and plenty of time to keep turning those pages." —Dallas Morning News

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312378028
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 12/10/2007
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 592
  • Sales rank: 123,613
  • Product dimensions: 6.13 (w) x 9.14 (h) x 1.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Jennifer Donnelly

Jennifer Donnelly writes books for children and adults. She lives in Brooklyn and Callicoon, New York, with her husband and two greyhounds. She has a passion for tea and roses.

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Read an Excerpt

Prologue

Polly Nichols, a Whitechapel whore, was profoundly grateful to gin.

Gin helped her. It cured her. It took away her hunger and chased the chill from her joints. It stilled the aching in her rotten teeth and numbed the slicing pains she got every time she took a piss. It made her feel better than any man ever had. It calmed her. It soothed her.

Swaying drunkenly in the darkness of an alley, she raised a bottle to her lips and drained it. The alcohol burned like fire. She coughed, lost her grip on the bottle, and swore as it smashed.

In the distance, the clock at Christ Church struck two, its resonant chime muffled in the thickening fog. Polly dipped her hand into her coat pocket and felt for the coins there. Two hours ago, she’d been sitting in the kitchen of a doss-house on Thrawl Street, penniless. The landlord’s man had spotted her there, asked for his fourpence, and turned her out when she couldn’t supply it. She’d cursed and screamed at him, telling him to save her bed, he’d get his doss money, telling him she’d earned it and drunk it three times over that day.

“And I got it, too, you bastard,” she muttered. “Didn’t I say I would? Got yer poxy fourpence and a skinful to boot.”

She’d found her money and her gin in the trousers of a lone drunk wending his way down the Whitechapel Road. He’d needed a bit of coaxing. At forty-two, her face was no longer her fortune. She was missing two front teeth and her pug nose was thick and flattened across the bridge like a fighter’s, but her large bosom was still firm and a glimpse of it had decided him. She’d insisted on a swig of his gin first, knowing a mouthful would numb her throat, get up her nose, and block the beer and onions stink of him. As she drank, she’d unbuttoned her camisole, and while he was busy groping her, she’d slipped the bottle into her own pocket. He was clumsy and slow and she was glad when he finally pulled away and staggered off.

Christ, but there’s nothing like gin, she thought now, smiling at the memory of her good fortune. To feel the weight of a bottle in your hands, press your lips against the glass, and feel the blue ruin flowing down your throat, hot and harsh. Nothing like it at all. And close to full that bottle had been. No mean thru’penny swig. Her smile faded as she found herself craving more. She’d been drinking all day and knew the misery that awaited her when the booze wore off. The retching, the shaking, and, worst of all, the things she saw—black, scuttling things that gibbered and leered from the cracks in the walls of the doss-house.

Polly licked her right palm and smoothed her hair. Her hands went to her camisole; her fingers fumbled a knot into the dirty strings threaded through the top of it. She tugged her blouse together and buttoned it, then lurched out of the alley and down Bucks Row, singing to herself in a gravelly, gin-cracked voice:

“Oh, bad luck can’t be prevented,

Fortune, she smiles or she frowns,

’E’s best off that’s contented,

To mix, sir, the ups and the downs . . .”

At the corner of Bucks Row and Brady Street, she suddenly stopped. Her vision blurred. A buzzing noise, low and close like the wings of an insect, began in her head.

“I’ve the ’orrors of drink upon me,” she moaned. She held her hands up. They were trembling. She buttoned her coat up around her neck and began to walk faster, desperate for more gin. Her head lowered, she did not see the man standing a few feet ahead of her until she was nearly upon him. “Blimey!” she cried. “Where the ’ell did you come from?”

The man looked at her. “Will you?” he asked.

“No, guv’nor, I will not. I’m poorly just now. Good night.”

She started to move off, but he grabbed her arm. She turned on him, her free arm raised to strike him, when her eyes fell upon the shilling pinched between his thumb and forefinger.

“Well, that changes things, don’t it?” she said. His shilling plus the fourpence she already had would buy booze and a bed tonight, tomorrow, and the day after, too. As sick as she felt, she couldn’t turn it down.

Polly and her client walked back the way she’d come in silence, past tumble-down dwellings and tall brick warehouses. The man had a powerful stride and she found herself trotting to keep pace. Glancing at him, she saw he was expensively dressed. Probably had a nice watch on him. She’d certainly have a go at his pockets when the time was right. He stopped abruptly at the end of Bucks Row, by the entrance to a stable yard.

“Not ’ere,” she protested, wrinkling her nose. “By the metal works . . . a little ways down . . .”

“This’ll do,” he said, pushing her against two sheets of corrugated metal, secured by a chain and padlock, that served as the stable’s gate.

His face shone weirdly bright in the thickening darkness, its pallor broken by eyes that were cold and black. A wave of nausea gripped her as she looked into them. Oh, Jesus, she pleaded silently, don’t let me be sick. Not here. Not now. Not this close to a whole shilling. She forced herself to breathe deeply, willing the nausea to subside. As she did, she inhaled his scent—Macassar oil, sweat, and something else . . . what was it? Tea. Bloody tea, of all things.

“Let’s get on with it then,” she said. She lifted her skirts, fixing him with a look of weary expectation.

The man’s eyes were glittering darkly now, like shiny pools of black oil. “You filthy bitch,” he said.

“No dirty talk tonight, pet. I’m in a bit of an ’urry. Need some ’elp, do you?” She reached for him. He slapped her hand away.

“Did you really think you could hide from me?”

“Look ’ere, are you going to—” Polly began. She never finished. Without warning, the man grabbed her by the throat and slammed her into the gate.

“Leave off!” she cried, flailing at him. “Let me go!”

He tightened his grip. “You left us,” he said, his eyes bright with hatred. “Left us for the rats.”

“Please!” she rasped. “Please don’t ’urt me. I don’t know about any rats, I swear it . . . I . . .”

“Liar.”

Polly never saw the knife coming. She had no time to scream as it plunged into her belly, biting and twisting. A soft gasp escaped her as he pulled it out. She stared at the blade, uncomprehending, her eyes wide, her mouth a great, round O. Slowly, delicately, she touched her fingers to the wound. They came away crimson.

She lifted her eyes to his, her voice rising in a wild, terrified keen, and looked into the face of madness. He raised his knife; it bit into her throat. Her knees buckled and all around her darkness descended, enveloping her, dragging her into a thick and strangling fog, a fog deeper than the river Thames and blacker than the London night that swirled down on her soul.

Copyright © 2002 by Jennifer Donnelly. All rights reserved.

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Reading Group Guide

1. In a novel, can a city be more than a setting? Can it influence a character? Or be a character itself? In what way does London shape Fiona?

2. Early in The Tea Rose, Paddy tells Fiona that he doesn’t believe in God, he believes that three pounds of meat make a very good stew. Fiona, too, loses her faith in the aftermath of the losses she suffers. Is it more important to have faith in God, or in yourself? Are the two mutually exclusive?

3. Fiona is a person driven by the past. Is that a good or bad thing? Or both?

4. Is there such a thing as true love? A soul mate? What would have happened to Fiona and Joe if they had never been reunited? What sort of person would Fiona have become if she had married Will?

5. Kate’s friend Lily defends the way Jack’s prostitute victims make their living by saying that “Morality is for them who can afford it.” Do you agree? Is a person’s moral code something that’s written in stone, or does it vary with her circumstances? Would your code of conduct change if you were poor and hungry?

6. Nick encounters brutality from his father because of his homosexuality. He feels he cannot be open about his identity in New York and eventually gets into a great deal of trouble for visiting a gay bar. How have attitudes toward gay people changed over the last century? Do you think a marriage between a gay man and straight woman is realistic? Could it work?

7. When Fiona returns to Whitechapel, she realizes that even with all the success and wealth she’s achieved as an adult, she has never been happier than when she lived on Montague Street. Once you leave the place where you grew up, is itpossible to go home again?

8. Both Fiona and Joe are fighters. What makes one person accept her circumstances and another fight to better them? Ambition? Damage? Loss? Fear? If Fiona and Joe had married as teenagers, would each have achieved all that they did?

9. Though The Tea Rose is set in the past, Fiona has a very modern sensibility and faces many problems that 21st century women face. Do you think that women today are different from their late 19th century counterparts? In what ways? In what ways are they the same?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 304 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(217)

4 Star

(48)

3 Star

(21)

2 Star

(7)

1 Star

(11)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 304 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 7, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Almost as good as the Outlander series

    I've been looking for another 'historical romance' series since finishing the 'Outlander' saga of Jamie and Claire Fraser--which is, in my humble opinion, the best romance saga of all time! But I digress--This wonderful book was recommended to me by a fellow 'Outlander lover' as almost as good as the 'O' series; and she was RIGHT! I loved the characters, the pathos, the descriptive language, the rich development of characters, and the nail-biting murder mystery of the victims of Jack the Ripper. All in all, I'd recommend this book to anyone ruined as I was for any other books except those written by the fabulous Diana Gabaldon. Jennifer Donnelly's writing is almost as wonderful as Herself's prose. I'm just starting 'The Winter Rose'--and can't wait for 'The Wild Rose' which is supposed to be coming out sometime in the next year. If you like historical romance that doesn't devolve into a 'bodice ripper' but has a wonderful love story woven throughout, you will love this book!

    13 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 16, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Wonderful

    I loved reading The Tea Rose. I could not put it down. The author keeps it exciting and fast paced. It has a little of everything in it. It was romantic,sensual, thrilling, intense and truimphet. I just finished the book and now I am reading The Winter Rose.

    10 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 24, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Amazing Writer!!!!

    Jennifer Donnelly has the ability to pull the reader in as she spins her story. You feel the hope, despair, loneliness, happiness and love as the characters unfold. Don't let the size of this book stop you from reading the wonderful words Donnelly has written-you won't be sorry!!

    8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 3, 2008

    Mesmerizing! , speechless..never the less: outstanding.

    I don't even know where to begin, I have two chapters left till I finish the book. I am 17 years old and I just can't come to my senses on how amazing this book is. I couldn't put it down and not wonder what would come next. It brought me to tears too many times happy ones, sad ones, angry ones etc. I found my self laughing a lot and I would read as I walked home! Fiona, a wonderful, strong, beautiful, honest girl who suffers a lot and yet keeps her life going. Amazing love story. Tastefully done. Justice served, this book has it all! Marvelous! I can't wait to read everything else Ms. Donnelly has written. PLEASE PLEASE DON'T HESITATE IN READING THIS BOOK. I ASSURE YOU, YOU WONT REGRET IT!

    8 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 23, 2012

    Definitely my cup of Tea

    Must read. This book has all the drama of real life. A very clean and decent read on how one bad decision will impact the rest of your life.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 1, 2002

    Simple stunning and heart stirring!!!!!!!!!! I couldn't put this book down!!

    The author takes us back in history inviting us to walk the streets of London in the "not to good times" and take a strong character such as Fiona and allow her to blossom from a young girl to a woman with fiery drive and compassion to those that she loved and lost; this is a time in the new world when it was totally unheard of for women to be successful in the world of business. I couldn't put this book down and what a book for television or movies!!!!!!!!!! Jennifer Donnelly.....what a great job and all of your hard work is worth it! Keep 'em coming! This book is #1 on MY list!!!!!!

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 14, 2013

    The best ri The best rose

    Wonderful story, the best of the series.

    Unsicomoro

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 3, 2002

    A VERY Rare Treat!!!!!!

    I absolutely LOVE books by Catherine Cookson. But, since she is virtually impossible to find, it is WONDERFUL to find someone who writes similarly to her. I love stories about the servant classes of Victorian England but I LOATHE the "bodice ripper" type of book. So, it is very hard for me to find a book that I like as well as I like this one.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 9, 2011

    a rare read

    It is rare for me to get into a book so much where I begin to wonder of the characters and plot twists when I have to pry myself away from the story. Jennifer Donnelly's writing entranced me from the very beginning and kept my constant attention throughout. I find that I am often bored in books and it can be a struggle to get through a story, but this book was a constant page turner. A very rare book indeed packed with memorable characters filled with hardship and courage to get themselves back up on their feet.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 21, 2011

    Breathtaking story!

    This book lets you know jusy how easy it is for your entire life to change in a fraction of a second! It shows you should never take advantage of what is good in your life you should always savor every waking moment! This book made me laugh, cry, gasp, hold my breath, everything you cam think of it did. Its a heartwrenching story that will stay with me for a long time to come! Great, expressive, amazing read!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 26, 2011

    Highly Recommended - you must check it out!!

    This book is exciting, heartfelt, smart, witty and the author doesn't let you down. (I couldn't read this book fast enough) You will fall in love with the characters and this wonderful writer brings them to life! If your a fan of Materpiece Theater type books.. you will love this!! The next book in the series is even better.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 30, 2011

    Highly recommended

    I had read "A Northern Light" and had to read another one of Jennifer Donnelly's book, bought "The Tea Rose", could not put it down, I stayed up untill 3am last night to finish it. This will definitely go on one of my favorites list. If you love romance, murder, suspence, and the bad guy getting what he deserves then you will really enjoy this book. Don't miss out GET IT. And just incase in happens I did not put + or % signs in this, I hope B&N get that fixed very soon. Oh will be buying "The Winter Rose".

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 6, 2010

    Spectacular Read!

    I got this book on a whim. I had a gift card, and was trying to fill it up. I stumbled on this because one the staff recommended it. It was one of the best book I have ever bought. So far, I have recommended it to four people and they loved it as well. The characters are so real that you feel you know them and care for them as the story progresses. At times, I felt like I was in the story. It struck so many emotions in me, I felt for the characters. It has everything a good book needs, romance, murder, mystery, comedy. It is just a spectacular read. I could not put it down and that is a test of a truly, good book: When you try and put it down chapter after chapter but you keep reading. 5 stars, 2 thumbs up. Amazing book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 19, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Excellent!

    I am pretty picky when it comes to books and this one was fantastic! I enjoyed everything about it, the characters were great and the love story was wonderful... I enjoyed it immensely! I'm onto to The Winter Rose now~ It was a very well written book and fast paced! I didn't get bored once. Definitely read it, it's a book I think any woman would love!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 29, 2014

    Terrific book!! Great read! Totally grabs you !!

    This book was terrific! Interesting and well developed characters. A plot that twists and turns. People you care about and multiple story lines to keep you thinking. I truly enjoyed this book!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 29, 2014

    Fun Read

    I loved this series. It's the classic old time adventure, with Love, scandal, and revenge. This is one of those rare books that really sucked me in, a real page turner. I enjoyed this series so much I bought it in paper back to give to my aunt, who also enjoyed it. If you enjoy historical fiction, women empowerment, and adventure this is the series for you.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 7, 2014

    Good read

    Couldn't put the book down.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 21, 2013

    I thought it was kinda lame.

    I did not enjoy Ms.Donnelly's style of writing. Whoever compared her to Diana Gabaldon was way off. It seemed like a story that my mother would like...(she's 86) That being said, I didn't totally hate it. It was a nice, somewhat predictable story.

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  • Posted October 1, 2013

    Amazing story or tragedy and triumph!

    This book is filled with so much raw emotion, desperation, love & excitement. You never want to put the book down because you genuinely want to find out what happens next and you will not be disappointed.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 17, 2013

    There are very few books that stay with you long after you've re

    There are very few books that stay with you long after you've read the very last page. It has been about a year since I've read The Tea Rose and I still feel bound to the characters in the book. I find myself thinking about Fiona and her courageous struggle throughout the book. I think about Joe and his fierce love for Fiona despite his mistakes. I even think about the villain of the story and his unflinching insanity. I have since lent the book to a friend and I honestly can't wait to get it back from her so that I can read it again. A great book. My favorite of the series.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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