Someone please call Rede Globo and let them know about this book asap! For those of you who weren’t fortunate enough to grow up with Globo as a household name, they are the producers of the best Brazilian soap-operas. They’re as much a part of my childhood as Nesquik and the manga version of Anne of Green Gables.

The Tea Rose would be perfect for them, and I mean it in a good way. There’s tragedy, revenge, romance, rags-to-riches galore and it’s bloody adictive! The good are very good, the bad are very bad, so no need to upset your pretty little heads about flawed characters, just sit back and enjoy the epic ride that spans decades and two continents at the brink of the industrial revolution.

Our story starts in London in 1888. Fiona Finnegan is 17 and works at one of the city’s prosperous tea businesses. But she doesn’t plan to be doing this forever: together with her childhood sweetheart Joe, they’re painstakingly saving to one day be able to open their own shop. Their bright future seems a done deal, until Joe is offered a job with London’s best wholesale grocer, a self-made man with a daughter with her mind-set on poor Joe. As of that moment the world starts to conspire against Fiona and, with a bit of help from Jack the Ripper and Union struggles, not long after she finds herself on a boat to America. But of course, one day she’ll have to come back and reap vengeance.

A friend of mine was put off by The Tea Rose because Fiona is the embodiment of a Mary Sue. Well, it’s true, Fiona is perfect and no one can resist her, but I didn’t find myself turning against her as I usually do with these characters (as Austen would say “Pictures of perfection make me sick and wicked”). She’s brilliant and revolutionizes the groceries and tea industries (she invents the tea bag, for crying out loud!), but she’s not naïve or annoyingly innocent. She’s interesting, strong, independent and takes matters into her own callused hands.

Just like a Globo soap-opera, you willingly suspend your cynicism over the coincidences and the perfect romance, and let yourself be carried away by the historical detail and larger-than-life plot. Also, and maybe not of small importance, I think Donnelly writes good sex scenes – racy without being vulgar, and no awkward metaphors. I can imagine how complicated it must be for a writer to get the right tone on those, as the literary Bad Sex Award clearly proves.  

I’ve already pre-ordered the paperback of the next in the Tea Rose trilogy – The Winter Tea. From what I understood, each book works as a stand-alone and will follow different characters in the Finnegan/Bristow family.

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