Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace
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Friday, December 24, 2010

Book Review: The Winter Sea, by Susanna Kearsley

A few weeks ago we had Susanna Kearsley guest blog on History Undressed about how she did the research for her book onsite in Cruden Bay, Scotland.

After having a chance to read her novel The Winter Sea, I have to say I think it shows!  There are such little touches in the book that you barely notice, like the rise of the dunes in front of the sea, or the specific scents, the color of the water, little touches here and there that made it come more alive than if the author had simply seen a picture.  I really connected with the main character, Carrie, in this book.  I don't know if its because we were similar in age and occupation, the fact that she travels all over to do research for her next project, or the way the author wrote a truly compelling story, and really it is all of that and more, I was drawn into this book and couldn't let go.

Back Cover...

History has all but forgotten...


In the spring of 1708, an invading Jacobite fleet of French and Scottish soldiers nearly succeeded in landing the exiled James Stewart in Scotland to reclaim his crown.

Now, Carrie McClelland hopes to turn that story into her next bestselling novel. Settling herself in the shadow of Slains Castle, she creates a heroine named for one of her own ancestors and starts to write.

But when she discovers her novel is more fact than fiction, Carrie wonders if she might be dealing with ancestral memory, making her the only living person who knows the truth—the ultimate betrayal—that happened all those years ago, and that knowledge comes very close to destroying her...

Published in December 2010
Available in Trade Paperback and E-book

My Review --  Warning there are spoiler alerts in this part of the post.  If you don't want to be spoiled, take my word for it, read no further, this is one book not to miss! 

There is so much to like about this book!  There is the element of time travel--although a new and unique way that I have never come across before and yet was intrigued by in this story: genetic memory.  The emotions and memories elicited from Slains and Cruden Bay to Carrie were both compelling and struck a spot within me as well.  She is a very easy character to like, and her ancestor who channels through her, Sophia, is also a heroine I was drawn to. 

A book with two heroines... it was well done.  I liked how at one moment we are with Carrie in the present, and then next we are two years in the past with Sophia.  Literally, it was two stories in one. 

I liked the added struggle of the two brothers and I'm happy she picked Graham, and that Stuie in the end was such a gentleman to let it go, and even say she'd picked the better of the two.  But I'm not sure that one brother was better than the other, just that one was more Carrie's type.  A historian!  They could talk for hours and hours and he helped her with her research, not to mention being handsome and physically fit and charming...  A dream come true!

One thing I will say, I was sad in the end that Sophia and own hero, Moray, did not take their child...  I understand the reasons for it, and in the end I did get the sense they were finally back together (Sophia and her child's line that is) but I wish she could have taken her baby.  As a mother, that always makes me sad when I read about it in historical books.  And how true it was.  Often mothers had to leave their children...

The historical research that went into this book was amazing, and if you'd like to read more about that visit, Ms. Kearsley's earlier post (link above).

Ms. Kearsley's The Winter Sea, was an emotionally poignant, gripping tale of adventure both in the past and the present with characters full of life, and conflicts that tug at the heart strings.  A definite read!

About the author...

After studying politics and international development at University, Susanna Kearsley worked as a museum curator before turning her hand to writing. Winner of the UK’s Catherine Cookson Fiction prize, Susanna Kearsley’s writing has been compared to Mary Stewart, Daphne DuMaurier, and Diana Gabaldon. Her books have been translated into several languages, selected for the Mystery Guild, condensed for Reader's Digest, and optioned for film. The Winter Sea was a finalist for both a RITA award and the UK's Romantic Novel of the Year Award, and is a nominee for Best Historical Fiction in the RT Book Reviews Reviewers Choice Awareds. She lives in Canada, near the shores of Lake Ontario. For more information, please visit http://www.susannakearsley.com/.

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