India Selwyn Jones isn't a blond, spoiled, stunningly attractive heiress. Yes, she comes from money but you wouldn't know it to look at her. Her clothes are clean yet very worn; her hair a pretty colour but tangled and hastily pulled back and twisted atop her head; her eyes beautiful yet hidden behind spectacles. She could be you or I, a hard working woman wanting to make a difference in a cold world. What does make her beautiful is her inner being, her drive, determination, strength of spirit and generous soul. She is a female doctor in England, battling for respect and equality with her male counterparts in the early 1900s. Instead of taking the easy road after medical school and practising her profession in the esteemed parts of London, she sets off for the East End to serve the bitterly poor. It is here that she encounters Sid Malone, the same Sid Malone we were introduced to in The Tea Rose. He is the notorious gangster ruling the streets of London with fear and a heavy hand. The fates allow Sid and India to meet, but she isn't afraid of this mob boss....she is infuriated by his "business adventures" which affect the poorest people of London...her patients. Little does she know that in his own way, this seemingly cold-hearted man is as determined as she is to help those who have nothing.
Malone represents everything that India loathes. He is the polar opposite to her fiance, the aristocratic Freddie Lytton, a man on his way up in the House of Commons, but also a man that would do anything, including using India, to get where he wants to be. Yet India can't help but be drawn to Sid and his mysterious past. She soon realizes that he is a wounded man, a good man that "sometimes does bad things". Sid finds himself drawn to this fiesty, determined woman who somehow has the ability to make him want to be a better man, a man he was meant to be before that fateful night so many years ago...a lifetime ago. India gives Sid something no one else has ever given him....hope....a hope steeped in love and acceptance...a hope that he can lead the life he truly yearns for, the life he was supposed to lead. But he can only do it with India at his side. And there lies the battle.
In this second installment of the Tea Rose trilogy, Jennifer Donnelly makes us aware of the bitter poverty in London and the struggle of those trying to eradicate it. She takes us from the brutal streets of Whitechapel to the exotic plains of Africa and across the ocean to America. And all the while the reader is immersed in a plot that intertwines murder, sex, politics, women's rights and a bittersweet love story. I so wanted India and Sid to be together... to beat the odds.... to prove that there are second chances in life...to believe in hope even when living in hell...and most of all to believe that we all deserve to be loved. Isn't that what we all hope for?