Wednesday, September 14, 2011
The vast multi-generational epic that began with The Tea Rose and continued with The Winter Rose now reaches its dramatic conclusion in The Wild Rose.
London, 1914. World War I is looming on the horizon, women are fighting for the right to vote, and global explorers are pushing the limits of endurance at the Poles and in the deserts. Into this volatile time, Jennifer Donnelly places her vivid and memorable characters:
- Willa Alden, a passionate mountain climber who lost her leg while climbing Kilimanjaro with Seamus Finnegan, and who will never forgive him for saving her life.
- Seamus Finnegan, a polar explorer who tries to forget Willa as he marries a beautiful young woman back home in England.
- Max von Brandt, a handsome sophisticate who courts high society women, but who has a secret agenda as a German spy;
- and many others.
At last, the great conclusion to the Tea Rose Series! I found it riveting, melancholy and hard to stop thinking about. I'm truly sad it's all over for this was a great series. I didn't think I was going to be crazy about this book, for Willa Alden, the obstreperous heroine, is hard to like at first. We first get to know her in the previous book, The Winter Rose and she rubbed me the wrong way. Stubborn, impetuous and annoying, she acted like a spoiled brat who always had to get her way. Not in a ritzy, pampered spoiled kind of way. She's a rough and tumble tomboy. A mountain climber with an intense drive to get to the top first - in whatever she does. She is described at one point in The Wild Rose as someone who steps all over other people that get in her way, regardless of their feelings and desires. As much as Willa bugged me at first, I wound up loving her in this book. We really get inside her head and her many adventures are full of surprises!
Willa is loved by Seamus Finnegan, and vice versa, yet because of a harrowing fall on Mt. Kilimanjaro, Willa lost a leg. Seamus was with her and had to make the choice of either having her leg amputated or let her die. Of course, he chose the leg and because climbing was her life she couldn't deal with it and turned away from him to venture out on her own. The Wild Rose picks up several years later. Willa is living at the foot of Mt. Everest, a photographer - and addicted to opium. The drug eases her pain for her lost leg - and her lost love: Seamie. Despite her addiction, the still beautiful Willa is hardy and brave while living alone at the end of the world. Her fierce independence, combined with an underlying vulnerability prove irresistible to most men who have a tendency to fall in love with her. She has a certain je ne sais quoi. She is memorable.
And what about Seamie? He has become a famous explorer, but he has never stopped thinking of Willa and wondering about her. He has remained unmarried, she is the love of his life. But he meets a young woman, the daughter of a vicar while in London and due to a series of events, they marry. She's a nice young girl, but their marriage is built on a web of lies. The story becomes more and more complex. As WWI is looming, we get to know Max von Brandt, a spy for the Germans who has a knack of invading London's social circles. He's very charming and also very good at blackmail. I really liked his character, even though he's a "bad guy." Or is he?
I'm leaving tons out, but this is a great book. It's sprawling adventure is captivating! Willa, Seamus and Max's lives are all tangled up together from London to the Sahara. Fiona and Joe are still around from the previous books, and we even see a bit of Charlie and India from The Winter Rose. The most wonderful part of this book is the love between Seamie and Willa, who never stop loving one another, despite what happens to them. I found it hard to put this book down it was so good - exhausting too!
I highly recommend this entire series, it's hard for me to say which one of the books is my favorite, but I think it's this one, The Wild Rose. A great and fitting finale to one of my favorite historical fiction series. It's full of emotion, adventure, interesting locales and the writing and research that goes into the plot lines is first rate. It fits the bill with a romantic edge to it as well. You won't be sorry!
Overall Series: 5/5