[amazon_image id=”0312378025″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” class=”alignleft”]The Tea Rose: A Novel[/amazon_image]Jennifer Donnelly’s novel [amazon_link id=”0312378025″ target=”_blank” ]The Tea Rose[/amazon_link] is the story of Fiona Finnegan, poor but relatively happy with her fiancé Joe and her boisterous Irish family in Whitechapel. But a murderer is stalking their midst. A man known as Jack the Ripper is murdering prostitutes. Fiona’s world is shattered when her father is killed for attempting to organize a union in the tea company he and Fiona work for. In the wake of his death, Fiona loses almost everyone and everything that matters to her and makes her way to New York where she engineers an incredible rags-to-riches story and climbs to the top of the world tea trade.
OK, this book is really, really, really improbable, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying it a great deal. Sure I rolled my eyes at the over-the-top coincidences and unbelievable turns of events, but it was a great ride. The plotting is fast-paced; it was difficult to put down. Set against the backdrop of Jack the Ripper’s Whitechapel and Edith Wharton’s Old New York, the book brings together many areas of personal interest for me: tea, the Whitechapel murderer, and the Gilded Age. Fiona has spunk, as we are constantly being told by the characters, all of whom adore her on sight for her shrewd business acumen and forthright manner. Donnelly brings the era and settings to vivid life. In the bargain, the reader, through Donnelly’s characters, rubs shoulders with everyone from Gilded Age robber barons and Mark Twain to up-and-coming artists Monet and Van Gogh. It’s an epic sweeping story, but doesn’t try to be anything other than good escapist reading. I can’t wait to read the next two books in Donnelly’s generational saga: [amazon_link id=”1401307469″ target=”_blank” ]The Winter Rose[/amazon_link] and [amazon_link id=”1401301045″ target=”_blank” ]The Wild Rose[/amazon_link] (I was able to obtain a galley from NetGalley, even though the book won’t be released until August). I won’t say I loved it as much as I loved [amazon_link id=”B003F3PN0Q” target=”_blank” ]Revolution[/amazon_link], but it was a gripping summer read. I would recommend it to fans of Diana Gabaldon’s [amazon_link id=”0440423201″ target=”_blank” ]Outlander[/amazon_link] series.