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Jennifer Donnelly – The Wild Rose

October 7, 2011

122. The Wild Rose by Jennifer Donnelly (2011)
Roses, Book 3

Read my review of book:
1. The Tea Rose
2. The Winter Rose

Length: 624 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

Started: 17 September 2011
Finished: 21 September 2011

Where did it come from? The library.
Why do I have it? I’ve really enjoyed the rest of Donnelly’s books, so I definitely wanted to read this one too.

Even a war can’t
keep them from agonizing
over their lost love.

Summary: Seamie Finnegan, famous polar explorer, lost the woman he loves in a mountaineering accident on Kilimanjaro. Willa Alden isn’t dead, but when her leg had to be amputated, her spirit went with it, and, blaming Seamie, she fled to the far East. Seamie’s never been able to move on, but when he meets a charming young teacher, he’s willing to try. Jennie gets pregnant, and she and Seamie get married, but soon Seamie runs into Willa – home for her father’s funereal – and it becomes clear that the passion between them never really died. But World War I is looming large on the horizon, and both Seamie and Willa want to do the right thing… but is the damage they’ve done – to others and to their own hearts – too much to repair?

Review: I thoroughly enjoyed The Tea Rose, and absolutely loved The Winter Rose, so I was bummed out that I wound up not enjoying The Wild Rose as much as I expected to. I can’t tell if it’s a fault with the book, or a fault with my mood, or a combination of both, but for some reason, it just didn’t work for me. The Roses books are in a lot of ways pretty formulaic, but I often don’t mind predictable books, as long as they’re engaging. In the case of The Wild Rose, though, either it was way more predictable than its predecessors, or else my tolerance for such things was lower than normal. Similarly, I don’t remember the first two Roses books being models of subtle prose, but in this case, I kept noticing (and being annoyed by) Donnelly over-explaining her characters’ thoughts and feelings that could easily have been left implicit. Not to mention the lengthy recaps of events from earlier books that plagued the first section of this one…

Another part of the problem, certainly, is that I didn’t connect with Seamie and Willa nearly as much as I did with India and Sid, or even Fiona and Joe. I’ve got limited patience with tortured long-suffering romances of the “I know I’m behaving badly and I want to do the right thing but I just can’t stop” variety: Yes you can! Your behavior is entirely under your control! Seamie was personable enough, but not very sympathetic; Willa was just prickly and distant.

Donnelly does do a wonderful job of bringing her time period and her settings to life. I’ve read comparably little World War I fiction, and this is the first I’ve read that looks at the course of the war in the Middle East (and stars Lawrence of Arabia!), so I appreciated how vividly Donnelly was able to depict that section of the book. And, really, there is something to be said for books that are comfortable and familiar in their pacing and plotting. Overall, it was an enjoyable read, but I just wanted something more out of this one, and sadly, it failed to recapture the magic of The Winter Rose for me. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: It’s a pretty easy read despite its length, so if you like WWI-era romances, dive right in. If you’re looking for historical romance more generally, though, I think either of this book’s predecessors were more compelling reads.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: Outlandish Dreaming, Mandy’s Escape, Readin’ and Dreamin’, Rhapsody in Books Weblog
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: Did all English girls make love like a man? Or was it only this one?

Vocab: (see the whole list)

  • p. 40: “She’d looked at it through a camera lens, a telescope, a theodolite, and a sextant.” – a precision instrument having a telescopic sight for establishing horizontal and sometimes vertical angles.
  • p. 43: “They walked on, over the white vastness, for an hour, then two, until Willa had what she wanted – an unobstructed view of the north col.” – a pass or depression in a mountain range or ridge.
  • p. 247: ““Now, tell me, do you like a little demerara sugar sprinkled on top of your cream?”” – a light brown raw sugar grown in Guyana and used especially in the country’s rum-making industry.
  • p. 466: ““I bought us some nice gammon steaks for our tea.”” – a smoked or cured ham.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. October 7, 2011 9:24 am

    Our impressions of the book and the series are virtually identical!

    • October 7, 2011 9:41 am

      rhapsody – That’s reassuring that it wasn’t just me being in a cranky mood, then. (Unless you were also in a similar cranky mood! :)

  2. October 7, 2011 1:55 pm

    I completely agree with you too, so it’s not a fluke. This book was okay, as I did enjoy reading it, but it disappointed me after the previous two. The Winter Rose was my favorite as well.

    • October 14, 2011 9:53 am

      Meghan – Okay, I’m reassured. I agree, it’s not that this book was bad or anything, just not quite up to the standards set by its predecessors.

  3. October 7, 2011 2:18 pm

    I’ve heard a lot about the Rose books, but I don’t read a lot of romance, so I kind of hesitate to pick them up.

    • October 14, 2011 9:54 am

      Kathy – I never really know where the line is between “romance” and “fiction that focuses on a love story”, so I tend not to use the term. I think one could make an equally strong case for the Roses books being classed as Historical Fiction or Romance.

  4. October 7, 2011 10:36 pm

    I am sorry to hear this book wasn’t as good, but I am looking forward to one day reading the first book.

    • October 14, 2011 9:56 am

      Kailana – The first book is really good, but The Winter Rose is definitely my favorite… and can be read out of order (which I did, not realizing that it was technically part of a series.) It’s one of those loose series where there are recurring characters, but the plot in one is both well-summarized in and largely independent from the plot of the next.

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