Author Jennifer Donnelly returns to Victorian London in her latest book, The Winter Rose. Bringing back characters from her 2004 novel, The Tea Rose, we now see Fiona and Joe Bristow as secondary members of the story and another amazing woman as the heroine.
India Selwyn Jones is on the verge of realizing her dream. As a medical student she has endured her family’s censure and faced down many detractors but she will not be swayed. She will become a doctor and care for the less fortunate. There is no private practice in her future. She plans to head to the East End to serve the poor. Even her fiancé Freddie Lytton, an MP in the House of Commons, cannot detour her plans.
India’s genuine need to help others faces many trials as she discovers what life is like for London’s poorest residents. She despairs of giving them the help they need to improve their lives. She also encounters people like Sid Malone, decried as a criminal by some, but a man who cares for those who have no one else. She is drawn to him even though she is repulsed by his nefarious activities.
Sid Malone became a criminal years ago. After the death of his mother, Charlie Finnegan ran away from home and took a new identity. He knows that his sister Fiona wants to save him, but it is too late. Sid has never met a woman quite like Dr. Jones. Grateful that she saved his life, he wants to repay her in some way, but she won’t take his “blood money.” He can see the way she cares for the poorest people and the way that they respond to her compassion. He is worried that she is headed for disaster.
I was thrilled to learn that Ms. Donnelly had written another epic novel. Even more pleased to learn that this is actually the second book in a planned trilogy about Fiona and her brothers. The Winter Rose is written in the same style as her first book, and the characters spring to life off the pages. The teeming London slums and docks are vividly described and you can almost hear the bustling city as you read. I was completely engrossed by the story, and stunned at the revelations it contained. Now I can only hope the third story, about Seamus, does not take too long to arrive.