This book has been one of my favorites since I discovered it back in high school.
The story kicks off in 1888 with a murder by Jack the Ripper and follows the story of a poor Whitechapel girl whose life falls apart as a result. Fiona Finnegan is just a girl working in a tea factory but happy with the love of her life before a string of events force her to take action to save herself and what’s left of her family.
There is a love story at the center of this book but it is so much more. It is the story of an incredible resourceful and determined woman who makes her way out of the poverty she has been born into in a time when women were not supposed to save themselves. Adversity comes at her from all sides, including a brush with the mafia that forces her to take her chances in the new world. She lands in New York and builds a business empire before eventually returning home to London to face the demons she left there.
The Tea Rose is a rags to riches tale, a love story, a family epos and the journey of a lifetime – all filled with countless near hits and misses that can drive the reader insane. I have read this book at least 5 times – probably more – and it never fails to pull me in. Fiona is such a strong woman and her story is heartbreaking and tragic but also incredibly inspiring. She is character that you will either relate to or aspire to because she feels strongly, cares deeply and never backs down. From the first page to the last, you’ll hope and wish that she makes it, that life gives her a break and that she’ll have it all.
From what I know about London and New York in those times, the setting is well researched and as close to accurate as you can be in a work of historical fiction and the places really come to life in the story. Both cities play their own part in the story and fans of the places will enjoy their presence. I’ve been to both cities many times and I felt like I could walk in her shoes – I even took a Jack The Ripper walking tour around London once and the descriptions of “his” Whitechapel matched the book so well, it sent shivers down my spine.
The Tea Rose kicks off a trilogy of books circling the Finnegan clan which can all be read as stand alone novels. Each book has another strong female lead with their very own ambitions and journey – each as inspiring as Fiona’s. The first sequel, The Winter Rose, is my personal favorite of the series and I am sure I will talk about it on here soon. The series finishes with The Wild Rose which I need to reread soon because I’ve treated it like a stepchild for a while now and it doesn’t deserve it.