The Winter Rose

Publisher: Hyperion

Year: 2008

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The second book in The Tea Rose trilogy reunites readers with the much-loved Finnegan family. Beginning where The Tea Rose ended, on the river Thames, the novel follows the story of Charlie Finnegan – now Sid Malone – and an intriguing new female character – India Selwyn Jones.

The Story

The Winter Rose, second book in The Tea Rose trilogy, reunites readers with the much-loved Finnegan family. Beginning where The Tea Rose ended, on the river Thames, the novel follows the story of Charlie Finnegan – now Sid Malone – and an intriguing new female character – India Selwyn Jones.

The year is 1900 and the dangerous streets of East London are no place for a well bred woman. But India Selwyn Jones is headstrong: she has trained as one of a new breed, a woman doctor, and is determined to practice where the need is greatest.

  • "I loved this book. It is truly seductive, hard to put down, filled with mystery, secret passions, unique locations, and a most engaging heroine. India Selwyn Jones is a new breed of woman in London in 1900, a doctor practicing in the grim East End, and she captivates from the first page to the last. "

    Barbara Taylor BradfordAuthor of A WOMAN OF SUBSTANCE
  • "Donnelly is a master of pacing and plot, with enough high points scattered throughout to keep your pulse racing ... I became so consumed with finding out how it would end that I read the last third at near-choking speed. I just had to know: happy or not happy? I imagine you will, too."

    The Washington Post 
  • "The Winter Rose confirms Donnelly's place among the elite writers of epic historical fiction … Lyrical and captivating, The Winter Rose is an astounding work that will speak to your heart."

    The Strand BookstoreNew York City

It is on these grim streets where India meets – and saves the life of – London’s most notorious gangster, Sid Malone. Hard, violent, devastatingly attractive, Malone is the opposite of India’s cool, aristocratic fiancé, a rising star in the House of Commons. Though Malone represents all she despises, India finds herself unwillingly drawn ever closer to him – enticed by his charm, intrigued by his hidden, mysterious past.

The Winter Rose brings the beginning of the turbulent twentieth century vividly to life, drawing the reader into its wretched underworld, its privileged society, and the shadowland between the two, where the strict rules of the time blur into secret passions.

The Inspiration

When I finished The Tea Rose, I actually – foolishly – thought I was finished with Fiona Finnegan and her family. After all, it had taken over ten years of my life to write that book and I needed a break. I soon found out, however, that these characters weren’t finished with me.

I wasn’t planning on writing a second book, not at all, but a few weeks after The Tea Rose was published, I found myself wondering what that girl was up to, and missing Joe and Seamie, and most of all, wondering what on earth was going to become of Charlie, Fiona’s blacksheep brother – now Sid Malone.

At the same time, out of nowhere, this new character materialized in my head – a young, idealistic woman doctor. A counterpoint to Malone. I knew what she looked like and that she was Maud’s sister. Why Maud’s sister? God only knows. I knew she was a dedicated physician, a social reformer, and as committed to the public good as Sid Malone was to his own dark pursuits. I also knew she was a wounded soul. Like Sid. And I knew that they would meet in the only place in London where two such characters could meet in 1900 – Whitechapel.

And after that, I was off. The game was afoot. I knew where the story was going and how it was going to get there – but of course, as in any 725 page novel set a hundred years in the past, a little bit of research had to get done.

Research – as much as the characters and their story and its setting – is a huge part of what inspires me as a writer. I use many sources. General histories. Memoirs. Biographies. Diaries. Photographs. Newspapers. The list is endless. But one of my best resources both for The Tea Rose and The Winter Rose wasn’t a book or a photograph. It was a man.

His name was Fred Sage and he was a Londoner through and through. I met Fred on my first research trip to London for The Tea Rose. He had retired from the docks and was working as a historian of East and Southeast London. He called himself The Sage of the Docklands.

I’d contacted him from New York and made arrangements to meet. I told him I was working on a novel set in Wapping and Whitechapel and wanted to learn as much about river work as I could.

Fred Sage, 2002

Fred took me around Wapping and Rotherhithe. He told me of London. His London and his father’s. He told me of backbreaking work. Of hard living. Of strikes and fights and Saturday nights. Of times and places and women and men the like of whom this world will never see again.

We must’ve made an odd sight – a Cockney docker dressed in a suit and tie, striding down the ruined lanes of Wapping, pointing out warehouses and wharves, and bits of rusted machinery and what they’d been used for, and a breathless American in sneakers and jeans trotting after him, scribbling notes. Fred had a few years on me, but he could walk the legs off a mountain goat.

Fred gave me a lot of valuable information on the docks and dockwork, but he gave me something else, something even more important – a glimpse of a vanished East London. And of his love for it. I’d never seen that before – such a strong love for a city and a people and a life. A life that wasn’t rosy, or easy, or lovely…but real.

Fred Sage passed away while The Winter Rose was being written and I’ve dedicated the book to him. It’s hard to think of London without him in it, and hard to think of him anywhere but in London, but I like to imagine him sitting in heaven now, telling God that creating the world’s a hard bit of graft an’ all, but if He wants to see what real work’s all about, He should come down the London docks.

Goodbye, Fred. And thank you.

Click for an excerpt from The Winter Rose.

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2 comments

  1. fabienne loreal says:

    Jennifer,
    I just finished “the Winter Rose” and I must admit this is the second best novel I ever read. I read the best one when I was 15, and I had to wait 30 years to find the second one! A little bit of patience…
    This first one being Jane Eyre, you can imagine the level of my expectations…
    I read it in French under the titlle “L’ange de Whitechapel”, which is just a very good title indeed, giving an excellent snapshot of both main characters. We can wonder if this angel is India or Sid….
    As I am moving to your country, leaving France for a while, and I am writing a bit too, I am looking forward to find inspiration in your beautiful country!
    warms regards,
    Fabienne

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