The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley

TWS-Sourcebooks1Remember how excited I was to read The Winter Sea in my review of another Susanna Kearsley book, The Splendour Falls? I finally read it, along with Isi, Rean and Bettina.  There are a few things that were indicators that I might like this book: I loved The Splendour Falls, I love historical fiction and after I started reading it, I realized it was a book about a book being written, not really a book within a book in the way The Shadow of the Wind was, but in this novel we follow the author while she is in progress of writing a novel. That is interesting, isn’t it?

Carrie McClelland is a historical fiction author, who lives in France and is busy with her current novel when she travels to Scotland to visit her literary agent. Her latest novel is centered around the Jacobite invasion and the writing is going slowly, but when she is in Scotland she finds her inspiration: Slains Castle. From the first time she set her eyes on it, she felt something and she immediately knew this is where she needs to stay to finish her novel. So she does that.

Living in a sea cottage in Cruden Bay, Carrie is set on continuing (and finishing) her novel, but she has some help with very vivid dreams of scenes and details about what happened during that time. Her characters speaks to her and she find herself writing her novel faster than she thought she would by penning down the details whenever inspiration hits or should we say whenever she hears the voices of her characters?

Her main character is Sophia who lived at Slains during the year 1708 by invitation of the countess, who were family of hers.  During that time the castle was involved in the planning of the rebellion. This is where she meets John Moray, who she will later marry. Sophia, as it later transpires, is actually Carrie’s ancestor. What is most surprising is that her novel turns out to be more fact than fiction. The details that her characters gives her turns out to be true and as much as she wanted to believe that what she has written were things she might have researched in France, it isn’t so. She has ancestral memory and that in itself was a very interesting topic that was covered by this book.

The novel blends historical fiction with romance. The historical elements – about the failed Jacobite invasion were interesting to read about.  There were even some interesting facts mentioned, like Bram Stoker who wrote majority of his novel, Dracula, there. There were betrayal (“A man, when he has fallen on hard times, should seek his friends, not sell them to his enemies”) and romance with a little bit of a love triangle (“He’s been giving everybody the impression that he tucks me in at night”), but did I enjoy it? I enjoyed the historical parts, but the romance part I did not. I don’t mind romance, if it’s well done and not too cliché, but here it was a little too corny for my liking. I liked the romantic ending, but the getting there part were a bit irritating to read about. Nevertheless, it’s still an enjoyable book if you like historical fiction and fans of Susanna Kearsley would probably like this one, I just didn’t find it as engrossing as I did with The Splendour Falls.

I have a fairly good idea what my friends thought of it, but I can’t wait to read their thoughts!

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  • Mary

    I think I liked it a bit more than you but I also agree with you on the romantic aspects of the story.

  • I enjoyed your review. I’ve read several of Kearsley’s novels, but haven’t read Splendour Fall yet. I will check out your review.

  • I’ve had this one on my TBR for a while because I enjoyed The Firebird. I still need to read it!

  • Jennine G.

    I love when I find historical fiction about times I know very little about! Thanks!

    • I’ve also read very little about the Jacobite times and history in Scotland, so I really enjoyed that part of the novel.

  • Ali

    A writer who lives in France but writes in Scotland. Intriguing. I love historical fiction too, but hold the Mills & Boon/Harlequin Romance stuff thanks.

    • Hahaha! Yeah, it was corny “His eyes are like the winter seas”. Romance is nice, if it’s not too cliché, if you know what I mean. There was historical romance that I found nice, but it’s the romance in the present day story that got to me.

  • Glad you enjoyed it for the most part! I recently got a copy of it (along with a number of her other books–Kobo had a sale on the ebooks xD) so I hope to get around to it at some point, lol 🙂

    • I hope that you’ll enjoy it. I loved The Splendour Falls by her, that was a nice read. Do you have that one?

      • I had to double check but it looks like I don’t have it, alas (the books I bought by her were Season of Storms, The Rose Garden, The Winter Sea, and The Shadowy Horses). Will keep a lookout for The Splendour Falls though! 🙂

  • Charlie (The Worm Hole)

    No idea about the romantic part, but on the whole this sounds excellent. You’ve made me want to read Kearsley all the more (not got there yet).

    • I loved her book The Splendour Falls. Yes, the historical parts were great – loved reading about that.

  • Ciska van der Lans

    I realized I could not really recall the romance part of the book so it probably did not impress me much. I looked up my review and noticed I did not even mention it. Glad you liked the historical parts though I do think Kearsley does tell stories very well 🙂

    • You’re right. If you remember I really enjoyed The Splendour Falls and that was one of the reasons that I picked this book up.

  • Lisa Sheppard

    I’ve never read any of Kearsley’s books. Sounds like this is one I could pass on.

    • Probably, if you don’t enjoy romance. You might want to consider The Splendour Falls – I found that to be a really nice mystery novel. I loved it!

  • I do like her books, they are just, good 😀

  • I enjoy historical fiction and books about books, but with the romance in this one, I think I’ll probably try one of Kearsley’s other books first. I have been interested in giving her books a try for a while because I’ve heard such good things about some of her other books and I’d love to try one of the ones with magical realism.

    • I liked Splendour Falls a lot! I must admit, from the two I read, this one was my least favourite 🙁