The Wild Rose, Jennifer Donnelly


[amazon_image id=”1401301045″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” class=”alignleft”]The Wild Rose[/amazon_image]The third and final book in Jennifer Donnelly’s “Rose” trilogy, [amazon_link id=”1401301045″ target=”_blank” ]The Wild Rose[/amazon_link] follows the story of Seamus Finnegan, younger brother of Fiona (focus of [amazon_link id=”0312378025″ target=”_blank” ]The Tea Rose[/amazon_link]) and Charlie/Sid (focus of [amazon_link id=”1401307469″ target=”_blank” ]The Winter Rose[/amazon_link]), and Willa Alden, Seamie’s childhood friend, climbing partner, and soulmate. In The Winter Rose, Willa lost her leg while climbing Kilimanjaro with Seamie, and the accident tore them apart. The Wild Rose begins as Willa has relocated to Tibet, living in the shadow of Everest, taking pictures for a planned book about the mountain, and guiding other mountaineers for money. Seamie, meanwhile, meets a young teacher named Jennie Wilcott and marries her, trying to forget about Willa. Donnelly’s familiar cast of characters all make an appearance: Fiona is now a suffragette and Joe has continued serving as MP. Their fierce daughter Katie has started a newspaper and has set her sights on a career in politics. Charlie/Sid and India have settled in Point Reyes, California, but return to England after the mysterious death of India’s sister, Maud. Meanwhile, Max von Brandt, a German spy in love with Willa and rubbing shoulders with the likes of gangster Billy Madden, makes trouble for everyone. Donnelly’s characters tramp all over the globe—Willa becomes part of T. E. Lawrence’s party in Arabia, while Seamie joins up with the navy when World War I begins.

This novel was much more Indiana Jones than your typical “romance.” Willa is hardly slowed down by having only one leg. She’s a difficult heroine—she can be selfish, and she nurses a drug addiction for most of the novel. At the same time, she’s fearless and dashingly brave. I quite liked Seamie’s wife Jennie, and I felt she certainly had the short end of the stick, as Seamie would never be able to love her as he had loved Willa, and frankly, she deserved much better. The new villain, Max von Brandt is much more layered and complicated (as all Donnelly’s characters are) in this novel.

The whole series is epic in scope and spans over 30 years. I think just about every historical event that occurs during the time period of this book (1913-1919) touches the Finnegan family. They experience World War I, the Spanish flu, and Lawrence of Arabia—and that’s just in this book, so I’m not sure what else Donnelly could have thrown at them. Like its predecessors, this book is eminently readable, but not without its problems. I did catch some continuity errors (Joe’s age near the end of the novel, for instance), but those may be corrected in the final publication, as I read a galley copy. Like its predecessors, The Wild Rose is just a really big book. So much happens, and the story threatens to become unwieldy at times. Donnelly does a better job keeping it all together in this book than in the other two, and even with the outlandish events that take place in this novel, it somehow seems more plausible than the others, perhaps because the characters are much more “gray” than black or white. Willa is a more interesting heroine than India. I can’t say I liked her as much as I liked Fiona, but she’s complex. The series is definitely worth a read. It certainly kept me turning the pages and staying up way too late to find out how the characters would emerge from the latest trap they’d fallen into. I definitely think romantic historical fiction fans would love this series, and I would recommend it for fans of Diana Gabaldon or [amazon_link id=”0061990477″ target=”_blank” ]The Thorn Birds[/amazon_link].

Rating: ★★★★½

Full disclosure: I received a free galley copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. The Wild Rose is available in stores on August 2, 2011.


6 thoughts on “The Wild Rose, Jennifer Donnelly

  1. Great review. I totally agree about Willa — not as perfect as the other Rose heroines but more complex and realistic and relatable. I loved her (and the book). Donnelly has some interesting things to say about Willa on her blog (, including this:

    "She was a tough character to get to know, and an even tougher one to write. She was a completely new sort of heroine for me. But I’m glad I got to know her. And I’m glad I wrote her story. She showed me a grittier beauty. A grace that’s not simple or sugar-coated. A truth that doesn’t come easy – but is all the more true for it. "

    Well put …

    1. Thanks! I saw that post of Donnelly's the other day and meant to link to it in this review, but forgot. Thanks for sharing it.

  2. Can I ask how you got an advance copy? I am dying to read it and I have pre order it.

    I also wanted to ask you if you have read Jennifer Donnelly's A northern light it was the first book I read of hers and got addicted to her works.

    1. Sure, Blaire. I joined the website NetGalley. It allows you to request galley copies of novels for your e-reader. I have a Kindle. You can also use a Kindle app on your computer or use a different e-reader. Their site explains which readers are supported and how to use them. I saw that the novel was available, so I requested it, and the publisher approved the request. The galley copies of the novels are not as clean as the e-books that will come out in August will be (based on how they looked for the other two books). The formatting was a little wonky. Good luck! I hope you can snag a copy!

  3. Can you believe that I am JUST NOW getting over here to read your Rose Trilogy posts!???? I meant to do it before I left on vacation but then got so behind and then was away from the computer for a week. Argh.

    Anyway, EXCELLENT job. You did a wonderful job summarizing the plot and reviewing the book. I did my reviews all together and started to get bogged down in writing a plot synopsis because so much happens to them. So well done!!!

    I agree with your thoughts … it borders on the implausible some of the stuff that goes on but the books are just so readable and engrossing and that I was willing to give her a pass.

    1. Thanks! I really enjoyed the books. I have another Donnelly that I just received from PaperBackSwap in my TBR pile: A Northern Light.

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