The Winter Rose by Jennifer Donnelly
It has been twelve years since a dark, murderous figure stalked the alleys and courts of Whitechapel. And yet, in the summer of 1900, East London is still poor, still brutal, still a shadow city to its western twin. Among the reformers is an idealistic young woman named India Selwyn-Jones, recently graduated from medical school. With the help of her influential fiance - Freddie Lytton, an up-and-coming Liberal MP - she works to shut down the area's opium dens that destroy both body and soul. Her selfless activities better her patients' lives and bring immense gratification, but unfortunately, they also bring her into direct conflict with East London's ruling crime lord - Sid Malone.
India is not good for business and at first, Malone wants her out. But against all odds, India and Sid fall in love. Different in nearly every way, they share one thing in common - they are both wounded souls. Their love is impossible and they know it, yet they cling to it desperately. Lytton, India's fiance, will stop at nothing to marry India and gain her family's fortune.
Fractious criminal underlings and rivals conspire against Sid. When Sid is finally betrayed by one of his own, he must flee London to save his life. Mistakenly thinking him dead, India, pregnant and desperate, marries Freddie to provide a father for hers and Sid's child. India and Sid must each make a terrible sacrifice - a sacrifice that will change them both forever. One that will lead them to other lives, and other places...and perhaps - one distant, bittersweet day - back to each other.
Review by Brittany:
This novel is the second in the Tea Rose trilogy, the first of which I absolutely fell in love with. This one was no different.
I always love books that are part of a series but do not require that the first be read, and this one fits the bill. Of course, reading the first in the trilogy will enhance the reading experience, but it is not necessary to the story as the book recaps enough to keep the reader up to date with what's happening now.
This book saw the return of many beloved characters from the first novel. Readers get to follow up with Fiona and Joe, and Fiona's youngest brother Seamus gets some development in this novel as he's now seventeen. Sid Malone is also a returning character, and the book follows up on the big reveal from the first one. Readers also get to meet some new characters, both wonderful and awful. Ella, a nurse who works alongside India at her first job, becomes a fantastic friend to India and dreams of having a free clinic in Whitechapel just like India does. Freddie Lytton is a new character to this book, and he's one of the best villains - the type you love to hate. Frankie Betts, Sid's right hand man, plays a huge role in this novel and alters the course of the book drastically.
I loved reading about India and her dreams of making life better for Whitechapel women. These stories were so well-written that I often found myself almost grieving for some of the struggling characters that India attempted to help. I also felt her anger at the male doctor for whom she works when he denies women anesthetic during labor and the option for birth control once they have a whole litter of children.
I also loved Freddie, in a morbid sort of way. Gah, what a cruel, cruel man. When Donnelly writes from his perspective, it is clear that his main drive is money only. He is conniving and manipulative, doing anything he can to remove people he sees as obstacles. His brutality was often shocking, and some of the most brutal scenes in the book are tied to Freddie.
Charlotte, India's illegitimate child with Sid, is a wonder of a character. She's written to be incredibly perceptive and often way more grown up than a child of her age should be. She asks the right questions to illustrate how much she notices, but there are also moments when her childishness poke through - such as when she gets overexcited to see the animals in Africa.
The story line does get a bit crazy sometimes - faking deaths, breaking out of prison, climbing Kilimanjaro, hyena attacks, and much more - but I loved the drama of it. Donnelly's writing and storytelling sucks me in from the first page, and I love rolling around in the Whitechapel that she writes about. I'm definitely going to be reading the final book in this trilogy.