The Tea Rose

Publisher: St. Martin's Press

Year: 2003

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There’s a new Tea Rose story!
Molly’s Letter, a new novella-length story set within the Tea Rose, is out October 3, 2023!

East London, 1888 – a city apart. A place of shadow and light where thieves, whores and dreamers mingle, where children play in the cobbled streets by day and a killer stalks at night. Where shining hopes meet the darkest truths.

Here, by the whispering waters of the Thames, a bright, defiant young woman dares to dream of a life beyond tumbledown wharves, gaslit alleys, and the grim and crumbling dwellings of the poor.

The Story

Fiona Finnegan, a worker in a tea factory, hopes to own a shop one day, together with her lifelong love, Joe Bristow, a costermonger’s son. With nothing but their faith in each other to spur them on, Fiona and Joe struggle, save and sacrifice to achieve their dreams.

But Fiona’s plans are shattered when the actions of a dark and brutal man force her to flee London for New York. There, her indomitable spirit – and the ghosts of her past – propel her rise from a modest West Side shop front to the top of Manhattan’s tea trade.

  • "This is a splendid, heartwarming novel of pain, struggle, decency, triumph -- and just what we need in these times. "

    Frank McCourtAuthor of ANGELA'S ASHES
  • "Donnelly indulges in delightfully straightforward storytelling in this comfortably overstuffed novel...the novel's lively plotting, big cast of warmly drawn characters and long-deferred romantic denouement make this a ripping yarn."

    Publisher's Weekly 
  • "Steeped in melodrama, revenge and a maddeningly star-crossed romance, The Tea Rose is a fine yarn ... Bottom line: Guilty pleasure."

    People Magazine 

Fiona’s old ghosts do not rest quietly, however, and to silence them, she must venture back to the London of her childhood, where a deadly confrontation with her past becomes the key to her future.

The Tea Rose is a towering old-fashioned story, imbued with a modern sensibility, of a family’s destruction, of murder and revenge, of love lost and won again, and of one determined woman’s quest to survive and triumph.

Authentic and moving, The Tea Rose is an unforgettable novel.

Buy The Tea Rose Now

Buy now from Amazon, B&N, or your local independent bookstore!

The Inspiration

Funny, isn’t it, how most people who believe in reincarnation are convinced they were once queens and kings, priestesses, generals, artists and shamans?

I’m not really sure if I believe in reincarnation. Maybe a little bit. I am sure about one thing though: if I did live a previous life, I was no queen. I was a slum dweller.

The only time in my life I ever had an “I’ve been here before” feeling was when I lived in London and my landlord, Clark, took me to the Brick Lane market in Whitechapel. Clark loved antiques. He had a Model A Ford. I thought then that it was just a funny old relic, but now I know it was really a time machine.

We drove east from Notting Hill early one Sunday morning. This was about sixteen years ago. Long before Oasis, Madge and Guy, and the whole Cool Britannia thing. Notting Hill wasn’t tony then. And East London? It was totally off the map. There were no wine bars or posh hotels. No multi-million dollar flats or art galleries. There were lots of crumbling houses, though. And dark, cobbled alleys. There were smoky pubs, boarded-up warehouses, and silent, brooding wharves.

I remember with amazing clarity how the charming, pastel houses of the Portobello Road became the squat, sooty brick dwellings of Whitechapel and Spitalfields. I’d read about this area; it was notorious. It was Jack the Ripper’s London. General Booth’s London. Annie Besant’s and Ben Tillet’s London. The Kray brothers’ London. It was a worker’s London, where dockers, factory hands, builders, seamen, and costers lived. The smallness and plainness of the houses spoke of hard lives and meager resources. They were strangely comforting in their bleakness. Familiar, inevitable and bittersweet. Seeing them felt like coming home. I’ve never fully understood why.

Clark pulled up just before a rusted railway overpass. As he cut the engine, I heard music. We walked under the bridge. Large iron doors had been unlocked, revealing rooms built into the structure of the bridge itself. They were filled with market people selling all manner of goods: costume jewelry, packets of custard mix, bags of candy, old shoes. On our way back to the street, I noticed a group of men standing outside the doors. They quietly passed pieces of gold jewelry back and forth — thick bracelets, clunky sovereign rings — nodding, talking, occasionally dipping a hand into a pocket to fish for a loupe or a thick wad of notes.

When we emerged on the other side of the bridge, I discovered the source of the music. Big, burly costermongers were singing the praises of their fruits and vegetables. They smiled and winked as they did, their voices rising in competition. Watching them, I felt as if I’d left modern day London and stumbled into the same city that Johnson, Hogarth and Dickens knew. We bought some clementines and walked on, passing in and out of musty warehouses, stalls, sheds and old stables. Picking up trinkets. Tripping on cobbles. Sampling apple fritters, jellied eels, pickled whelks. I found a rhinestone necklace for a pound. A tweed jacket for two. Clark found a toilet.

I found something else that day, too — inspiration.

East London was a shadow city to the western metropolis, a place to soothe a darker heart. It was honest and raw and in its own hard way, breathtakingly lovely. I was utterly captivated. I fell deeply in love with it and knew that I wanted to write about the place and its people. I made many, many trips back, spending countless hours in the narrow streets of Shoreditch, Whitechapel, Spitalfields, Wapping, and Limehouse doing research and storing up sights, sounds and impressions for what would become The Tea Rose.

This love affair between me and East London has endured even though we don’t get to see each other much anymore. Even though Wapping’s High Street has been developed and there’s a Starbucks across from the Spitalfields Market. Even though so many of the ruined, quiet places that I loved are no longer ruined or quiet.

I still get a feeling of having crossed over some tangible boundary when I get off the tube at the Liverpool Street Station, though. I can still lose myself in the winding lanes, and I still feel distinctly uneasy walking down Hanbury Street after nightfall.

I hope I always do.

For a Limited Time
: Own a brand-new, signed first-edition copy of The Tea Rose, directly from Jennifer Donnelly’s personal collection!

I was born in a suburb of New York City. But when I’m in the East End of London, I’m home.

Click for an excerpt of The Tea Rose.

Buy The Tea Rose from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or your local independent bookseller.


  1. Eva says:

    Hello, Mrs. Donnelly!
    I just recently finished reading The Tea Rose trilogy. I found the first two part in the library, and I really loved them, so I decided to purchase the third part.
    This is an amasing and lovely story with wonderful characters! I really admire you and this book. This trilogy definitely brightened up my days and became me favorite! I hope that someday a TV series Or a movie will be released based on this trilogy.
    Thank you so much for such a unique and great story!!!

    • Jennifer Donnelly says:

      Thank you, Eva — this is such a lovely note! I hope you enjoy The Wild Rose as much as the first two! ❤️🌹

  2. Zoe says:

    Hello there,

    I just want to let you know that I have had the Tea Rose for years now; unfortunately, it has become quite tattered and worn over that time. However, I believe theres something beautiful about that, as it speaks to how much I truly love this story. I have read the other books in the trilogy and enjoyed them immensely, but Fiona has been and always will be the character I connect to most. Out of all the books I have read (and there are many), the Tea Rose has stood the test of time. It has remained my favourite book for years, and every time I read it I learn something new and see the story differently Your writing is a great inspiration to me and to many others – please continue with the Tea Rose trilogy or with any other subject you please (we will read them)!

    • Jennifer Donnelly says:

      THank you, Zoe – this makes my day!! I agree with you that there is something very special about a book that’s tattered and worn from years of reading and re-reading. I have a few such books myself – and I’m honored that the Tea Rose is one of yours! If you’re on social media, maybe you can share a photo of it and tag me (@jenwritesbooks on most platforms) so I can see it! As for a new chapter in the Rose saga, stay tuned … I may have something to share soon! 😉

  3. Jamie Boyer says:

    Hi Jennifer-

    I just finished reading the Tea Rose Trilogy and LOVED IT! It was so awesome and you are an amazing writer, I didn’t want it to end. I would love to read next about Katie or Charlotte and/or anyone else associated with the families! I hope you continue it one day!

    Thanks again – Jamie

  4. Mrs Thompson says:


    I absolutely adored reading The Tea Rose Trilogy and am thrilled that The Winter Rose is on Audible.

    I understand that there may be complicated licensing issues and publishing rights as to why the other 2 books are not available in audio book format in the UK… but I hope this can be resolved! I have been searching high and low to find a place where i can purchase the audio book.

    Looking forwards to reading (and listening to) more of your works : )

    • Jennifer Donnelly says:

      Hello Mrs. Thompson: I did not know that the other Rose audiobooks were not available in the UK! I hope this is only a temporary glitch and the others will be available on Audible UK soon!

  5. April says:

    I am a cataloger at a public library and I was wondering what the official name of this series is? I’ll admit that I haven’t read them, but I will have to add them to my TBR list!

    • Jennifer Donnelly says:

      Hi April: I have seen a few names used to describe the series … but I like The Tea Rose Trilogy! Glad you’ve put the books in on your TBR list – hope you enjoy them!

  6. Lluvia says:

    Just finished the trilogy and restarting the whole thing again. What a writer you are; I simply loved the way you tell the stories and am fascinated by the way you combine history with your stories.

    What book comes after the trilogy? The die series? Where do I start? I’m readying them all but wondering the order.

    Thank you for your art.

    • Jennifer Donnelly says:

      So happy you enjoyed the Rose Saga, Lluvia — I hope it’s just as good the second time around! There is no book following the trilogy at this point — but it’s something I’d love to resume one day. I miss those characters so much — and I miss writing for my Rose readers as well!

  7. CoCo says:

    I love just about all things English especially the things of the past. I’m used to watching and reading about the more fancy side of English life but it’s quite refreshing to read about this side too. My understanding has been broaden just by reading this book.
    THIS IS THE PERFECT BOOK FOR A MOVIE OR SERIES. So much going on which means lots of interesting story lines. I will devour this as a movie or series. I do think a series would be better suited. I’m at about chapter 14 and can’t wait to see how it all unfolds. So exciting.

    • Jennifer Donnelly says:

      I hope you enjoyed the rest of the book, CoCo — and hopefully you’ll go on to read The Winter Rose and The Wild Rose to get the rest of the story! I agree with you that it would make a great series. It has been optioned by a great producer, I’m happy to say — so hopefully we’ll both get to see it soon!!

      • CoCo says:

        Hello Jennifer, I did finish The Tea Rose and I’m now listening to The Winter Rose. Jill Tanner is amazing. She brings the stories to life. I love everything about how she narrates the story. I’m literally in 13 hours now of The Winter Rose and all I can think of is, “why hasn’t this book been made yet?” Or “this would make such a good drama series”. I just love English novels and this has all the elements to it, romance, humour, mystery, drama and so much more. I’d love to see which actors and actresses are chosen to play each role. I look forward to listening to it everyday. I know I have to get through the story to know more but man I don’t want it to finish.

      • CoCo says:

        By the way, the way you tell a story is breathtaking. I can’t imagine all the research you had to do on history, locations and medical terms/practices and such to bring this story so much life. You’re an amazing writer.

  8. Caitlin Hatch says:

    This book was recommended to me by a Co-Worker. We quite often talk about the books were reading and she just adored this trilogy. I bought The Tea Rose Last March 2020 and was quickly Consumed by this Beautiful Book. It was all I thought about (True Story). For Three weeks i read it as much as i could and i talked about to my Co-Worker every step of the way. I would stay awake into the wee hours of the night reading until my eyes were barely open. I actually was driving one day, stopped at a red light looked down at my book and seriously considered picking it up to read as many words as could through the red light. I didn’t … because i am certain that reading and driving is considered a driving offense .. lol. The whole book from start to finish was such a page turner. When i finished my Co-Worker asked me when i was going to start the next books. I actually avoided reading the Winter Rose and Wild Rose for months because i was so worried that it would ruin everything and wouldn’t be as good as the first. I was WRONG! They were both just as beautiful and captivating with more Characters and Adventures to fall in Love with. I have read many books in my 36 years. Some okay, some good and some great. Then there are the others, the ones that have Captured your heart, your mind, your body and your soul. The Books that stay with you forever. I will always cherish and remember the Tea Rose Trilogy, they have become my favorite books. Jennifer Donnelly, you did such a Beautiful job. I don;’t know how you did it, three equally amazing books and long books at that. They were all just so incredible were such a treat 🙂

  9. Nat says:


    I am currently reading the Rose trilogy for the 10th time (let’s be honest it’s probably more!). I cannot understand why this book hasn’t been picked up for a movie or TV series!? I am dying to see how it would transfer on film and would book out cinemas to watch it haha

    I think I have forced everyone in my world to read this series, who like me, have become incredibly obsessed.

    Thanks for your writings! I can’t imagine not having your stories in my soul

    • Jennifer Donnelly says:

      Thanks, Nat! The Rose series has been optioned for development, so hopefully our collective dream to see that on screen will come true!! ? I’ll share any news I can share as soon as I get it!

      • Laura says:

        Which actress (current or from the past) do you picture as Fiona or Joe or Millie or Roddy or Nick or Michael? It was a free book from Audible last month so I took a chance and just listened because it was free and I LOVED it, now I have purchased the next book in your series…so excited to start it but still obsessing over this one. Fiona – maybe a young Sandra Bullock?? My dog thanks you for over 20 hours of walking him while I listened to your lovely book!

        • Jennifer Donnelly says:

          Such a tough question! There used to be a website where you could vote on the actors you want to play parts in your favorite books — and the Tea Rose page was SO much fun! So happy you’re ejoying the Rose series — I hope it will make its way onto the screen soon!

          • Jennifer Donnelly says:

            There are several talented actors I’d love to see play the Rose characters. The book has been optioned for a mini-series; it’s still a ways from a done deal, but maybe we’ll find out who will play Fiona soon!

  10. Maya Eastmond says:

    I just finished the Tea Rose trilogy and I cannot get it out of my head. The romance, the loss, the rawness of each and every character. The way you described them captivated me, each character with their own background, their own personal story. I had to read Winter Rose over again because India and Sid’s romance was too good for this world, too pure. Reading about the East-End slums and hearing your own experience within its streets, I get the same feeling reading these stories that you felt standing there. I wish I could have visited London when you did, to see everything before it was modernized. These books will forever hold a special place in my heart, for all the emotions they brought out of me helped me through my depression when it spiked a few weeks ago. I binge-read these books in 2 weeks, and felt like a new person walking out afterwards.

  11. Rachel M says:

    I’ve come onto this website to remind myself of the Rose trilogy because during the covid-19 lockdown we’re all experiencing I’ve found a lot of my TBR pile is just not appealing to me and I need some true comfort reading. I remembered this series and I am going to re-purchase The Winter Rose and The Wild Rose having given them to friends years ago (I still have The Tea Rose).

    I also (like the previous person who commented) read this when I was 16 and it blew my mind. I don’t think I had ever been so gripped by a book up until that point! I started reading it at about 4:30pm after school and only stopped for dinner and to get into my pajamas and then read the entire thing throughout the night. I finished at 6:30am the following morning and I remember having to go to school completely dazed but in love with the story! I then re-read it a year later (at a slower rate) and loved it even more. This was my first (of only a handful) of all-night reading sessions because the book was just too good to put down.

    I CANNOT wait to re-read this series, thank you so much for writing them 🙂

  12. Jasmine Bindra says:

    Hi Jennifer,

    10 years ago I emailed you from a now retired account gushing to you about how much this story had meant to me. I was 16 at the time and related greatly with Fiona’s character. Throughout the years, I’ve read this trilogy many times and am currently listening to it for the second time on Audible (it makes my painful work commute astronomically more bearable). It’s funny how the 10-year time lapse in the story makes me relate to it in a completely new way now that I myself am 26. I am once again compelled to tell you that this story has meant the world to me and how it has helped me get through many difficult times in my life. Fiona’s character is like an alter-ego to me, something that I lean on when I need an extra surge of strength to go on. I’m at a precipice in my life now and I’m not completely sure how things are going to go or which path I should be taking. There is a lot of fear and excitement mixed into it all but I’m trying to be strong. I just want you to know that this story is once again helping me at a time that I could really use some belief in myself. Thank you for writing it.

    • Jennifer Donnelly says:

      Thank you so much for sharing this! It means so much to me to hear that Fiona’s story still speaks to you ten years later!

    • Jennifer Donnelly says:

      Thank you so much for sharing this! It means so much to me to hear that Fiona’s story still speaks to you ten years later!

  13. Sandra says:

    Hello Mrs. Donnelly, i just wanna say Thank you. THANK YOU for writting the Rose Trilogy. I love everthing about it! Especially the Winterrose, the Lovestory between India and Sid. I’ve read a several of time the Trilogy. It feels like coming Home. I love the strong Female Character’s. I hope so much to see the Books becoming a Movie. What will be your favrouite Cast for the Movies? For Sid i always thinking about Charlie Hunnam and Fiona as Emma Watson.
    I wish you all the Best.
    Greets from Germany Sandra

    • Jennifer Donnelly says:

      Thank you, Sandra — that is so nice to hear! I don’t think I can name a dream cast for the Tea Rose — there are so many great actors out there! The book has been optioned for screen development, so hopefully it will be cast for real in the not too distant future!

  14. Marzana says:

    I read The Tea Rose trilogy a few years ago. I love historical fiction but The Tea Rose will always be special to me because I have lived in Tower Hamlets my whole life. All the streets and areas you mention are part of my story too and The Tea Rose evokes the old east end for me before gentrification took hold. Thank you for this lovely story, I plan to reread the series again over Christmas when the weather makes the past more vivid in this area. Please write another series like this!

    • Jennifer Donnelly says:

      Yes, I remember the pre-gentrified East End very well — it’s what inspired the series! I don’t know when I’ll write another one, but I do hope that one day before too long the Rose Trilogy will make it onto the screen!

  15. Lisa-Marie Pauletich says:

    Jennifer Donnelly the Rose Trilogy is magical. I’m currently two thirds of the way through the winter rose and I cannot put it down. Your stories are so captivating, I feel as though I’m actually there and so relatable I see parts of myself in Fiona and India. The story is so well written that I feel like it has encouraged me to work on my strengths and weaknesses and to continue to learn from my mistakes just as Fiona and India have. It has reminded me that everyone you meet has a story and from everyone you meet you can learn something new. There is so much wisdom in this book I feel like I has taught me more than my parents ever did or might ever know. It’s a reminder that there is still so much good in the world and has thus encouraged me to want to be a better person and help any one I can every day. I love the selflessness, intelligence, intuition and grit of India and Fiona and I’m greatful to have gotten to know them and learn from them and I’m only two thirds of the way through the second book! So thank you Jennifer, I’m not one to ever know what to say or how to explain something out loud but through your books I feel like my life has new meaning, so thank you.

    • Jennifer Donnelly says:

      Wow, Lisa-Marie, what an amazing thing to hear! The Tea Rose Saga came from deep within my own heart, and it means so much to know that it touched yours.
      This sort of note gives me the strength and energy to keep writing — thank you!!

  16. Cate says:

    Hi, Mrs. Donnelly!
    First, I just wanted to let you know how much I admire you and your work. Your Tea Rose series truly changed my life. I have always loved to read but I have never been so captivated by a story and it’s characters than I am with this series. At this point I’m convinced you must be magic!
    I know you have mentioned in the past that the rights to the series have been sold to possibly become a movie. I was wondering if you had any more updates on that? One of my favorite things about reading is being able to imagine the scenes in my own mind, but being able to see what the author imagined is something I always wonder about.
    Until then, I can’t wait to get my hands on your next book! Thank you for sharing your beautiful words and talent. They have given me a new happy place to escape to.

    • Jennifer Donnelly says:

      Aww, what a sweet note — it makes my day. Thank you! ? I WISH I had an update on the Tea Rose film option, but I’m in a wait-and-see mode just like you! I promise I will keep you posted — if you haven’t signed up for my mailing list (there’s a signup form on my homepage), you might want to. I’ll definitely send out a note to that list as soon as I have any news!

  17. frances h carlton says:

    I just finished the Tea Rose ,Its the 1st book I have read of yours.It was wonderful ,a lot like Woman of Substance.I have orderd more of your books,love them

    • Jennifer Donnelly says:

      Thank you, Frances! I LOVED A Woman of Substance — in fact, that book was an inspiration for the whole Rose series. Barbara Taylor Bradford herself read the Winter Rose (book two in the series) and said this about it:
      “I loved this book. It is truly seductive, hard to put down, filled with mystery, secret passions, unique locations, and a most engaging heroine.”
      You can imagine how thrilled and honored I was to read that!!

  18. Penny Vandoros says:

    I was given Tea Rose as a gift by a dear friend & I fell in love with all the characters and their lives so much that both Winter & Wild Rose were very soon on my bookshelf. I couldn’t stop there as for the next couple of years I bought the trilogy as gifts for many of my friends, both in Greek & English!! I love them and will cherish them forever ??

  19. Tracey Olson says:

    What great photos! They look EXACTLY like they did in my mind’s eye while reading this fabulous series. Thank you for sharing! It brings me right back there. I miss those characters.

  20. Tiffany says:

    This was the first book series I read (in high school, but I was always a mature soul) that really made me feel. I wept with Fiona when she was betrayed, and my heart pounded during all the tense moments especially as she uncovered the truth about her father, I cried at her family’s plight (trying not to hint at spoilers). Later in the trilogy, I loved exploring the lives of the relatives, and fell in love with these people you created. I thank you for helping me when I was lost and depressed in high school. Reading, especially this trilogy, brought light to my life in such a meaningful way. I re-read this trilogy once every two years or so and it just brings me back, and is just as beautiful each time around. I love seeing the actual places that inspired this story.

  21. Tara Cox says:

    I just can not tell you how much I truly love these books! Love the pictures, it’s like coming home after a long time away. I may need to pull the one that didn’t get lost in a move across country out of the bookcase and revisit my friends.

  22. Mary says:

    Pictures are great! The one of the stairs ok me right back to the story of Fiona and Jack sitting there. Loved this trilogy.

  23. Sofie Devriendt says:

    I Don’t have read many books that Spoke to me, like the rose trilogy. I have read And reread all of them like every possible holiday. When i open the books, it feels like home. It was rather weird what you Said about reincarnation And people believing they were kings of Queens. If i believe, i am quite convinced i was a working lady 😉 in the eastends of something.
    My life has little resemblance with the lives of your female main characters but i do feel powerless sometimes. Or dominated by men or life’s ways (just or not).
    Never did i love books more than the rose trilogy.

    I didn’t read them in english actually yet. Maybe i Should do that 🙂 i am dutch speaking. Oh well, zou excuse Would do to just step a moment Back into the finnagans World.
    Thank you so much!

    Now i’m going to explore your website Some more.

    • Jennifer Evans says:

      I agree with you! I always say that I feel that I lived in London in another life even though that does not coincide with my beliefs. I have a strong physical reaction when I see pictures of London. I was there once as a 17 year old and my goal is to go back at my 40th birthday.

      One of the interesting things is that my maiden name is Lackey and now my married name is Evans…

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