If we had half stars I think it would be a 3.5 star book.
It is hard to rate this book because I really did enjoy it a lot and I really want to read the sequel, The Winter Rose.
I loved the characters and I love how Donnelly sucks you into the past, into her world and despite being so long, it never lets up in pace or story. The Tea Rose is 100% a thoroughly enjoyable book.
However, it is no where near as good as A Northern Light/A Gathering Light which is why for me, I can't rate it higher. I also keep hearing that The Winter Rose is a lot better and it certainly sounds really good - more appealing then The Tea Rose.
Everything was a little overdone, a little over the top - over the top absolute miserable - Donnelly didn't seem to know really when to stop. At some points it just felt jarring and stopped the emotional flow. I ended up thinking 'hmm, really?'
The characters are all too perfect, a little (okay a lot) clichéd and she does really lay the 'oh woe is me' kinda thing, constantly reminding you of what a hard life they have had and how horrible it has been for these characters. She just packs it all in - there isn't one character I think that doesn't have a 'woe is me' storyline. They're all subject to some tragedy or injustice. There isn't anything very original or unique about these characters - a little to Betty Sue/Sam Sue - I've met them before.
The characters are usually wallowing in pity - sometimes self-pity but often it is almost as if Donnelly is trying to push it in your face and make you pity them. Okay, some truly horrible things have happened to them - I already sympathise, I already like these characters please move on! Making you pity or feel sorry for a character doesn't add flesh to the bones. I've read a few books where instead of creating three dimensional characters the author just packs in the misery so you can't help but just feel sorry for them. Fortunately Donnelly is much better then this but I think in this aspect she could have done without all that whinging.
There are too many coincidences, too many near misses and convenient twists that either work to get in the way to cause problems or even work to solve them.
I don't like it when the author writes in too many questions. Sometimes it was just paragraphs of "But what should she do? Did that not happen? Is it going to work?" Most of it simply echoing what I, the reader am already asking myself, almost as if the author is trying to think for me.
I think had I not really loved A Northern Light/A Gathering Light I may not have got that far into this book. However, I let myself become immersed in the story, in her ability to fold your into this world and lose yourself. And once you're in, you're in - you can't just turn back or not feel for these characters.
Despite these rather hefty criticisms I still really enjoyed it. It's a rip-roaring tale and one that leaves you feeling very warm and satisfied by the end. The characters may not be the most original people, but they are very real - they just stand off from the page and certainly do not feel papery.
Donnelly has written this book passionately, direct from the heart and so it is quite raw and a bit ragged around the edges. Despite my criticisms it is still a good book, truly very enjoyable and I think you can look beyond the problems. Obviously I did and I really enjoyed myself. It's a fast read.
Now I just need to get my hands on The Winter Rose.