The Winter Rose by Jennifer Donnelly
Series: The Tea Rose #2
Publisher: Hachette Books
Publication Date: January 8th 2008
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When India Selwyn Jones, a young woman form a noble family, graduates from the London School of Medicine for Women in 1900, her professors advise her to set up her practice in London's esteemed Harley Street. Driven and idealistic, India chooses to work in the city's East End instead, serving the desperately poor.
In these grim streets, India meets -and saves the life of- London's most notorious gangster, Sid Malone. A hard, wounded man, Malone is the opposite of India's aristocratic fiance, Freddie Lytton, a rising star in the House of Commons. Though malone represents all she despises, India finds herself unwillingly drawn ever closer to him, intrigued by his hidden, mysterious past.
And before long, even as they fight hard against their feelings, India and Sid fall in love. Theirs is an unpredictable, passionate, and bittersweet affair, and it causes destruction they could never have imagined.
That’s all I can say about The Winter Rose.
Never have I read a more surprising book than the Winter Rose. It was completely not what I expected! But in a good way.
First of all, London in 1900? I tend to shy away from that time period, preferring Regency England and earlier. But that time period, there was a lot of social change and Ms. Donnelly showed me, in great detail mind you, how fascinating it was at the turn of the century. There was the old clashing with the new. Members of the ton were clinging to their society while the majority of people, who were not titled, were striving to get their voice heard and their interests represented. Meanwhile, the old boys club was doing everything in its power to keep the working man down.
Amidst this atmosphere, there were women fighting for the right to vote – who were all for social change. And India fit right in there. After graduating medical school (for which her parents disowned her), she went to work in the poorest, roughest part of London in hopes of one day opening up her own clinic. But woah does she come upon old world attitudes in the form of her new boss. This old cracker wants women to suffer during childbirth and basically just hands out medication to dull the pain of the working poor, rather than advocate on their behalf for the right to good healthcare. And this is a passion of India’s. She knows that the average working man can’t afford good health care, thus the idea for her free clinic. And the big part of her free clinic would be the services available for women. The poor women, who can’t afford to have a baby every year, but who do because they can’t pay for birth control – which the dinosaur doctor that India works for refuses to hand out.
At over 700 pages, this part of the book is a drop in the bucket. There is so much more to India’s story. On top of her new career as a doctor, her fiance, is a politician. And he’s one of the dodgy kinds, who promises with his right hand and takes away with his left. But Freddie has some secrets he’s keeping from India. Freddie is a bad bad man.
Meanwhile, India sees Sid Malone as the true villain in her life. He’s the crime lord in London – and India despises everything about him. But her calling as a doctor means when his life is on the line, she still has to save him. And this entangles their lives in a way that has repercussions for everyone in the story.
Yes, dear readers, this is truly a sweeping love story that goes from London all the way to Africa and America. And what an incredible journey it was.
Not only was the setting fascinating, but so to were the plot and the characters. And I just absolutely loved how all the characters affected each other when they didn’t even know each other.
Needless to say, this book made me cry. How the hell could a gently-born doctor and a crime lord from the slums find their happily ever after? Let me tell you, it’s not easy. And that’s why I’m giving the Winter Rose an A. Once it hooks you, it doesn’t let go until the last gut-wrenching page.
5 out of 5
(p.s. I immediately went out and bought the Tea Rose, the first book in the Rose trilogy. And I can’t wait for the 3rd book, The Wild Rose. Hint hint, Jennifer! LOL)