“People said time healed anything. Maybe those people had never loved anyone.”
Young Fiona Finnegan and Joe Bristow stole my heart in the early parts of The Tea Rose. Best friends since childhood, they have dreams of opening their own shop, selling the best food/produce and of course tea! This was a complete cover/title buy. When I was browsing Book Outlet for some tea books, this one showed up in my search. The cover was striking and the synopsis sounded like one I’d like to read. I had never heard of this book until then and was told by a friend there are two more books in the series, The Winter Rose and The Wild Rose.
Set against the backdrop in East London in 1888, the book opens with a horrendous murder by the man who will come to be known as Jack the Ripper. The author adds an element of suspense with this historical detail as we follow our characters through the day to day aspects of life. If you can call them that with a gruesome murderer running the streets. Fiona and Joe contribute to the overall welfare of their families by working to keep roofs over their heads and food on the table.
Fiona works as a tea packer for Burton Tea but the company is greedy and refuses to pay fare wages to their employees. Everyone is afraid of being fired, as rumors of an employee union circulate. Fiona’s smart with a fiery temper, which her father Paddy, encourages because he thinks she has what it takes to be successful, to follow her dreams.
Joe has a natural born gift for selling goods with his father, but feels frustrated by his father’s lack of ambition and interest to expand their business. When an opportunity to work for well to do produce merchant, Tommy Peterson comes about, Joe sees this as a perfect opportunity to save money for the future he wants for himself and Fiona. Fiona sees it for what it really is; Millie Peterson (Tommy’s daughter) is smitten with Joe, and Millie is accustomed to getting everything she wants, even Joe. It becomes apparent to everyone except Joe that Millie wants Joe for herself. Young and naive, Joe accuses Fiona of being jealous and hot tempered.
When Paddy dies in a work related “accident”, Fiona, her mother and older brother Charlie, work even harder to take care of each other. Fiona’s life seems to be falling to pieces. She can’t seek the solace to soothe her broken heart in the arms of her best friend, and fiancè, Joe. When an second job opportunity is offered to Fiona, she has to miss an invitation to spend a day with Joe.
After a move to a smaller place, things become even more despairing, when Fiona’s mother and baby sister are murdered. Charlie has disappeared, only to be found dead in the river. How much more heart break can Fiona take? Uncle Roddy, a family friend and police officer, takes in Fiona and Seamie. Incensed by the lost of much of her family, Fiona goes to Burton’s office to request financial restitution for the death of her father. Fiona overhears the truth about what really happened to her father. Discovered by Burton, she flees for her life after stuffing some papers into her pocket. Pursued by one of Burton’s men, Fiona runs home to Uncle Roddy’s flat, packs her and Seamie’s things, and leaves an ambiguous note for Uncle Roddy. This is one of many times I screamed for Fiona to get out of there. Barely escaping with her brother Seamie, the kindness of a stranger, Nicholas Soames, was just what she and Seamie needed to get to America. But when she arrives in New York all is not well with her uncle Michael, her father’s brother.
This book had almost everything right, a good story, some suspense and intrigue, but overall, the fight and drive of Fiona.
As Fiona is turned down by men who think she needs to marry and have babies, she proves to everyone she’s not going to back down on her dreams. When she meets a handsome and rich man almost twice her age, I thought for sure she’d fine love and happiness. Her heart still belongs to Joe, although she is completely unaware of what’s happened with his life since she left.
The book had a few things that took away from the overall flow of the story and at times seemed a bit too coincidental.
(1) OMG the crass language, so unnecessary, a person can be a criminal and a sleeze bag, but sometimes the characters I did like fell into lazy speech by being a potty mouth. Definitely a pet peeve and made me roll my eyes as I thought of so many more effective words that could have been used.
(2) The “love” scenes could have been left out. The way the author described some things, “he was inside of her” or some other rubbish just was not needed. People who read have pretty good imaginations and the scenes felt redundant. One can write and allude to such encounters because again, the reader can use their imagination to fill in what’s implied. Thank you next.
(3) Fiona and Joe could not have possibly missed seeing each other that many times, especially in America and then when she returns to London, could they?
In conclusion, I enjoyed this book. I especially admired Fiona’s relationship with Nick, they were best friends and the things they did for each other was what real friends should be. Towards the end when Fiona plays her trump card and brings Burton to his knees, it was a wonderful moment. I didn’t expect her to let her guard down so easily, she had enough history with him to realize he was ruthless and cut throat, so toward the end I felt like she was a bit naive. Considering all Fiona had learned in 10 years but the ending had a few surprises that made this a book I could recommend even with my rants. I more than likely read the other 2 books with a few book friends who told me they have them on their shelves.