As a best-selling historical fiction author, Carrie McClelland is accustomed to her characters speaking to her. And once again, that same fire and inspiration is beginning to flood her dreams as she embarks on her latest project: a novel set during the attempt to restore Jacobite James Stuart to the Scottish throne in 1708. Embracing historical accuracy to a fault, Carrie decides to relocate to a small cottage within shouting distance of the ruined Slains Castle where much of her story takes place. And in a move seemingly decided by fate decides to use the name of her own ancestor, Sophia Paterson, as her heroine.
While staying at Cruden Bay, Sophia's story begins to flow with an ease previously inexperienced by Carrie. Aided by the amiable locals and her friendly landlord (not to mention his two very charming sons) Carrie slowly realizes that every insignificant detail, every plot twist, even the layout of the castle she has been spot on in writing about -- even before she learned the historical facts. As the line between history and fiction continues to blur for Carrie, she finds herself drawn to her ancestor Sophia who faced heartbreak beyond compare and joy without measure. All of which lead her to question, what if we could tap into the memories stored in our very genes?
When I first heard about The Winter Sea as a sort of time-travel romance I was intrigued. The only book like that I had previously read was Diana Gabaldon's Outlander, which while fun, didn't ultimately do much for me. So happily unawares at what I was getting myself into, I started The Winter Sea expecting such similar tepid fare. How utterly wrong I was. The Winter Sea is like Outlander's more mature, more experienced, intelligent older sister saturated with honest, real emotions and historical treasures like the descriptions of the French court at Saint-Germain and Sophia's stay at Slains Castle. Yet despite the profusion of history described, The Winter Sea is never once plodding or boring. Quite the opposite, in fact. The two stories of Carrie and Sophia were woven seamlessly together. I was always anxious to find out how Carrie would fare in Cruden Bay with her two very different, yet, similar suitors but I quickly became desperate to discover how the bright Sophia would fare in such turbulent times. Because Susanna Kearsley did not let that woman travel the easy road in no way, shape, or form. But thankfully, she did surround Sophia with people who loved her and watched out for her, including the brilliant Countess of Erroll who gave this piece of piercingly accurate advice after Sophia went through some truly heartbreaking events.
'I do promise that you will survive this. Faith, my own heart is so scattered round the country now, I marvel that it has the strength each day to keep me standing. But it does,' she said, and drawing in a steady breath she pulled back just enough to raise a hand to wipe Sophia's tears. 'It does. And so will yours.'"It knows no better." That very line right there got struck right in my heart. The sensitivity and depth of emotion in these chapters did not just induce minor sniffling on my part, but full-out shoulders-shaking, tears-streaming crying. And all because Ms. Kearsley's characters had sunk their lovely hooks deep into my heart and refused to let go. But never fear, because despite my extreme worry that Ms. Kearsley would not be able to give these people I had fallen quite in love with the happily ever after they deserved (you can't change history after all), she somehow pulled it off. Beautifully. To me, this story is all about the power of hope and love and learning to never give up. A truly beautiful book that I would recommend to anyone.
'How can you be so sure?'
'Because it is a heart, and knows no better.'
Because Everyone Likes a Second Opinion:
~ The Adeventures of an Intrepid Reader review
~ Angieville's review
~ Book Harbinger's review
~ Luxury Reading review
~ Tempting Persephone review
Book source: purchased