Jennifer Donnelly’s novel The Tea Rose features the spirited Irish lass Fiona Finnegan. Employed by a tea factory and saving to start her own tea shop, Fiona’s dreams of a happily ever after with Joe Bristow seem assured. Then tragedy strikes, costing Fiona both her father and her future with Joe. Over many years, Fiona builds her tea business in New York, and even finds some happiness in marriage, while Joe still yearns for her from London.
This novel often has you wondering what else can go wrong for its plucky heroine, but makes for an entertaining read. Some twenty-first century opinions seem to make their way into Fiona’s nineteenth century head, but she is a likable character in a well-paced story.
Then, there’s the tea. While it’s fun to read a love story that centers so much around the tea industry, don’t go here looking for an accurate history or even in-depth knowledge of tea. While Donnelly feels comfortable praising Fiona’s skills at identifying Assams and Darjeelings, she credits Fiona with a few too many inventions.
For example, Fiona is credited with the invention of the tea bag, as well as scented teas in the form of cinnamon tea. Earl Grey is also incorrectly identified as an unscented tea. She is also credited with the invention of iced tea. All the same, Fiona’s complaints of the pervasiveness of tea dust will resonate with anyone who has ever spent any amount of time in a tea shop. Twinings and Tetley also make appearances.
I do recommend this book for anyone who enjoys a good sweeping romance, especially those set in the late days of the nineteenth century. I’ve read it twice and both times I couldn’t put it down until Fiona’s story was resolved.
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