Friday, 23 September 2011

The Tea Rose

Author: Jennifer Donnelly
Genre: Historical fiction / Romance
Pages: 544
Series: first book in the Rose series
Series Order: The Tea Rose (2002), The Winter Rose (2006), The Wild Rose (2010)

Synopsis: Fiona Finnegan is a teenager living in the Whitechapel section of London in the late 19th century. Fiona is from a very poor family but the love of her boyfriend Joe and their dream of marrying and owning their own business gets her through each day. When Fiona loses almost everything she holds dear she decides to leave London and heads to New York to start a new life. At first it's a difficult life but with hard work and the determination to succeed as well as the desire to avenge her family from the man who tore Fiona's world apart she makes a new life for herself.

My Thoughts: I have to begin this review by saying that I'm not a fan of romance novels. There's nothing wrong with that genre it's just not something that I'm drawn to or personally enjoy. I find them more often than not cheesy and I actually start to feel embarrassed for the characters when the cheesy quota gets too high.

I also have to stipulate that when I opened this book I was expecting a historical fiction book based in 19th century England. Unfortunately what I got was far from what I expected. The book begins as a historical fictional read (great descriptions of 19th century England), then moves into the soap opera realm (scheming rich blonde bimbo included) and then ends up in cheesy romance-land. Too many genres for my liking. I'd describe this book as 80% romance, 15% historical fiction and 5% implausibility.

While this was a very easy read I found that too many liberties were taken to help the reader stay interested in the life of Fiona Finnegan. It's one thing to experience loss and to pull oneself up by the boot straps from extreme poverty through hard work and a little luck. It's something totally different when that same person's family is touched by none other than Jack the Ripper followed by Fiona's whirlwind meteoric rise to riches by inventing not only iced tea in the American south but tea bags as well. It felt unbelievable, contrived and, quite frankly, silly. I believe I actually did quite a fantastic impression of a teenage eye roll when I read that Fiona had invented the tea bag. Wouldn't Englishmen Richard Blechynden (inventor of iced tea) and American Thomas Sullivan (inventor of the tea bag) be surprised to hear that little tidbit?! It seemed that as soon as Fiona's English feet touched New York soil she could do no wrong and her ascent into wealth and fame was fast tracked. Um, no.

The characters were cliched and not very interesting. Fiona was a woman ahead of her time and felt much more like a 21st century woman set in late 18th century England/New York. It just didn't feel right. I also don't want to guess how the story is going to unfold before I even read it. I want some twists and turns. I will admit that there was a twist right at the end that I didn't see coming and quite enjoyed but to read over 500 pages to get a shock is a lot to expect a reader to wait.

If you enjoy a formulaic, easy to predict romance novel then this book may be for you. Did I hate it? No. Did I love it. No. This book just wasn't my 'cuppa tea' {bud da ba!}. Get it? Tea?!? If this book was meant to be escapist romantic fiction then Donnelly met her objective. If she meant to write an accurate historical fiction read then I don't believe she met her mark ... by a long shot. As someone who is used to the historical fiction of Michelle Moran and other similar authors, this book just didn't compare.

My Rating: 2.5/5 stars

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