The Wild Rose by Jennifer Donnelly: Review

About a million years ago (okay just three), I reviewed The Winter Rose, the second in the Rose series by Jennifer Donnelly. It was a huge book but somehow there was more to tell and it ended with a cliffhanger.

The Wild Rose takes up where The Winter Rose ends with Willa Alden mourning her long lost leg and Seamus Finnegan toddling off to Antarctica (like you do). The plot is just too complicated to get into, so here's the run down: Willa and Seamus spend the novel hooking up and breaking up, there's The Great War, spies, Lawrence of Arabia, the Spanish Flu, secret babies and crazy gangsters. Toss all that in a blender and hit pulse.

Since it was ages ago that I read the last in the series, I couldn't remember much about the characters and spent a portion of my time trying to figure out who was who. And let me tell you there are a lot of characters- ones from the previous books and several new ones. There was quite a bit of recapping at the beginning as well. This all made for a slow start. But do not fear! Once the war starts, the plot picks up and we're cooking with gas. There are several subplots but they all tangle and weave though one another. When one plot ends another continues, keeping the pacing of this 600+ page tome steady.

While I enjoyed the plot, I had trouble with the two main characters: Willa and Seamus. Their 'love story' is the focus of much of the novel. I found them both incredibly unlikable. They are selfish people who manage to ruin the lives of the innocent people around them. Willa whom I'm supposed to admire because she's brave and fearless turned me off with her self-pity. She might have avoided much of her fate if she had a sassy gay friend to tell her to get over herself. Seamus's treatment of Jennie, a strong independent woman before he met her, was appalling. I was very disappointed by that storyline. In fact, there are a number of innocent characters who suffer unfairly in The Wild Rose while Willa and Seamus get bashed around and still come out smelling rosy.

However, I'm one of those people who can overlook annoying characters if given something else worth my while. I actually ended up liking The Wild Rose very much. It's set in an exciting time period with plenty of adventure in England and Africa. Donnelly is at the top of my list of authors who write amazingly vivid historical fiction. Sure, there are unlikely coincidences and parts will have you humming "It's a Small World" but it's all in good fun.

If you've read the other 2 books, you'll want to read The Wild Rose. It tidies up several loose ends.


  1. Oh, that's too bad that you didn't like the main characters... but I'm glad there were still parts you enjoyed. Annoying protagonists are one of the fastest ways to kill a book for me.

    I loved The Winter Rose, so I've been looking forward to this one, although it's been long enough since I've read it (four years!) that the recapping at the beginning of this one will probably be a good thing.

  2. I just read Donnelly's Revolution and loved it. I am adding this series to my to-read list.

  3. I'm so behind, I haven't even started this series, but it is one I want to try.

  4. I have an awful time liking books when I don't like the main characters, so this series might not be for me. But the plot does sound pretty interesting!

  5. Not yet got to this author. The cover is delicious.

  6. Fyrefly- The recapping was helpful even though it slowed the plot.

    Suzanne- I read that one too. It was good. Did you read A Northern Light yet? I liked that even better.

    Kathy- Enjoy!

    Col- Yes, it was entertaining anyway.

    Mystica- I know, all her covers are so pretty!


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