Monday, November 10, 2014

Missed Connections of Epic Proportions

"Men are the weak ones, luv.
Didn't you know?
Oh, you make a lot of noise, but it's the women who are strong. Where it counts.
In 'ere...touching her fingers to her heart."
--Jennifer Donnelly, The Tea Rose

Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Pages: 544
Publication Date: December 10th, 2007
Source: Bought
Previous Books in Series:First book in series
Goodreads Description

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, 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 life is shattered when the actions of a dark and brutal man take from her nearly everything-and everyone-she holds dear. Fearing her own death, she is forced to flee London for New York. There, her indomitable spirit propels her rise from a modest West Side shop-front to the top of Manhattan's tea trade. But Fiona's old ghosts do not rest quietly, 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.

So I've had this on my shelf for awhile and I've been on a binger of historical fiction for the past few weeks AND the book came highly recommended from Hannah. I was in the mood. So I started...and I'm so happy I did...


The story is focused on Fiona Finnegan, a working class 17 year old girl in love with her childhood sweetheart, Joe. They are ridiculously adorable and plan to dream big and open up their own shop one day. That's the beginning and let me tell you when I say I can't even begin to talk more about the plot because SO MUCH happens that I'll go off on seventeen tangents only being able to describe one-tenth of the plot of this epic story. This book is a chunker, people, so know that a lot of drama happens for us to read about so I'll spare you the details and urge you just to read the book.

See? I wanted to talk about Fiona and I've already written an entire paragraph about how I can't tell you all the stuff that happens. Anyways. Fiona is the type of character I love to find while reading. Independent. Strong-willed. Ambitious. Driven. STRONG. She is so fucking strong it breaks my heart sometimes. She cares deeply for her family and those she loves and will do anything and everything to protect them and take care of them. Her journey is one of shitty circumstances and even shittier luck sometimes...and yet she persevers. Jennifer Donnelly wrote a character that has flaws, isn't perfect, but hot damn if you don't just bleed your heart out for her. This bitch does not mess around and she never stops working towards her dreams. Without giving too much away and because it says so in the description, Fiona fights for her dream and succeeds and not by luck. She's smart. I mean, she's really f'ing smart! She asks for help, she doesn't pretend to know it all, but she learns and I love her for this. Reading about her journey broke my heart as well as uplifted it. I cannot say enough about how much I love Fiona's character and it is a character that is inspirational for anyone who reads about her.

The Story

The story takes us from 1888 London with Jack the Ripper terrorizing the streets to New York City. How do we get there? Don't even ask. The ups and downs of this story and its fluidity was everything. We have a lot of character arcs to keep track of, a lot of details falling into place, and a LOT going on in general with regards to the plot. I loved it. This is why I love big books. We get a complete circle of a story complete with character exploration that isn't rushed and the slow burn of what's going to happen next? I didn't want to stop reading this because of all the drama (I mean that in a good way). I just can't say enough that what I love about this book is that while so much happens, we get so much development of not only the plot but of the characters. I feel completely satisfied after finishing this book.


While Fiona is my favorite character, Nick makes quite a good argument and is second in my heart only to Fiona. Nick...Nick is just amazing. He's Fiona's best friend and without giving too much plot detail and the circumstances surrounding the situation, he saves her life. He saves her life and he doesn't even know it. She in turn saves him in many other ways and their relationship was my favorite of the entire book. Sorry, Joe, I'll get to you next. The warm fuzzies I got while reading about them just made my heart swell. They are a perfect team and they love each other so much. I had tears in my eyes multiple times because they care so much for one another that it breaks your heart in the best way.

The Romance

Holy angst, Batman. This book needs to come with a warning: Massive Feels Ahead, Read At Your Own Risk. Ugggggh, you guys! Joe and Fiona are just freaking amazing! They are so comfortable with one another, they love each other so incredibly much, and they're freaking adorable!!! I loved when we got to be inside Joe's head and hear what he thinks about Fiona. It's just too much of a good thing. He is so funny and witty and charming and you JUST WANT TO KILL HIM at some points, you learn to move forward. While I wish I could have gotten more of them, how their relationship played out was absolutely perfect for the story and the pacing. It needed to happen the way it did but it still hurt to read it...le sigh...

The Women

My favorite theme of this book was the underlying criticism of how men deal with conflict. My quote at the top pretty much lays it out but it is seen quite clearly with how the women deal with defeat and how the men do. Examples? Fiona's mother Kate. Woman loses everything. I mean, everything she holds dear. She works her ass off and does whatever she can to provide for her family. Fiona is the same way. She loses even more than Kate--no spoilers--and she perseveres. She doesn't give up. She doesn't even see that as an option. She has her moments of despair, nobody's perfect, but at the end of the day she fights. She fights for herself, her family, everything she holds dear. She does not give up. Joe's mother also has an AMAZING story where that quote comes from but I'll let you read it to find out. Men? Well, Joe doesn't handle things very well and thank goodness for that because he sulks and gives all he has to his business. That's all I'll say. Fiona's Uncle Michael is the epitome of a sad and broken man. It's ironic when you compare his loss to Fiona's, I actually laughed out loud at his weakness. I know you can't compare loss but with all that goes on I wanted to slap Michael myself and be like want to go one for one on who's life is shittier? Fiona will win. Hands down. Don't play with her. I just loved that Donnelly highlighted the strength of women to endure basically anything life throws at them. I know I'm generalizing because everyone is different but I've learned that as a loose general rule, women are strong of heart, much more than men and I loved this example of it.

Jack the Ripper

While I know a lot of people love this storyline or any book involving this part of history, it's not something that personally interests me. So for me, this aspect of the story fit but wasn't my favorite. I didn't really like reading about the murders or the investigation, it kind of bored me. I also KNOW that it fits into the storyline in a major way, I also felt it was kind of unnecessary, too. I know that doesn't make sense but it does in my head so whatever.

Backstage Pass
If you like your historical fiction with fantastically flawed characters, a lot of drama and angst, and a heroine who won't quit--this one's for you.


  1. I don't read a lot of historical fiction, but this one sounds really cool! Jack the Ripper, holy mega batman angst? I'm down! Love your reviews as always!!

  2. All you had to say was Jack the Ripper. I AM OBSESSED WITH JACK THE RIPPER.

  3. I totally ordered The Tea Rose off of Book Outlet recently - and I cannot WAIT to get to it. It's been a while since I've properly immersed myself in a historical fiction novel, and I definitely want to read this one soon! Loved reading your review - I can tell you really enjoyed it!


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