The Winter Sea
by Susanna Kearsley
In the spring of 1708, a Jacobite fleet of French and Scottish soldiers anchored off the coast of Scotland and nearly succeeded in reclaiming the throne of England for exiled James Stewart. Bestselling author Carrie McClelland intends to use this historical event as the backdrop for her next novel. She rents a small cottage near Slains Castle in Scotland and begins to write, taking the name of one of her ancestors for her heroine. But as she weaves her story, she realizes that many of her ideas correspond perfectly to real historical records, leading her to suspect that her book may not be the fiction she thought it was. As she grapples with this strange ancestral memory, Carrie is pulled along by her own story. Soon she will be the only one that knows exactly what happened all those years ago.
I must admit that when I first began reading this book, I had no idea it was a romance. This was a disappointing discovery for me, as romance is my least favorite genre, but I was still able to enjoy the book because of the author’s writing. Kearsley has a graceful way of writing that is pleasing to read and helps the story flow; she doesn’t use big words or flowery language, but rather weaves simple words into elegant sentences. In addition, while I generally do not like romance, I did find it rather amusing to watch Carrie tangle herself in a love triangle where one man was completely oblivious to the fact that the woman he found himself so attracted to was not reciprocating. The Winter Sea also follows the story of Sophia, Carrie’s heroine, whose life mirrors Carrie’s in some ways.
One character I particularly liked – although she doesn’t appear very often – was Carrie’s agent Jane, a sharp, quick-witted woman with top-notch negotiating skills and a head for organization. She is Carrie’s opposite in many ways. This makes for rather entertaining interactions between the two, what with Carrie’s attempts to hide her love life from Jane and Jane’s hawk-like eye and perceptive mind. Carrie forever has her head in the clouds of her novel while Jane is down to earth and all about practicality.
While I did enjoy the book, I found it to be rather predictable in some ways. I was able to guess a future turn of events far in advance of when it actually occurred, and this took a little away from the story. When Kearsley revealed to her readers the reason behind Carrie’s ancestral memory, it felt anticlimactic and unrealistic. I also thought Kearsley could have saved this revelation for later in the book to keep her audience guessing a little longer.
I would recommend this book for older readers. There are several intimate scenes, although most have almost no detail at all, and one mild four-letter word. Mature young adults with an understanding of intimate relationships and their effects could also read this book. The Winter Sea is a good pick for those who enjoy not-too-cheesy romance and are eager to learn from Kearsley’s eloquent writing.