: Susanna Kearsley
Genre: Historical Fiction (Scotland), Canadian author
Times Read: 2
Source: Personal copy
Publisher: Allison and Busby Limited
First Published: January 1, 2008
First Lines: "It wasn't chance. There wasn't any part of it that happened just by chance."
Note: Also published under the title "Sophia's Secret"
Book Description from GoodReads: When novelist Carrie McClelland decides to set her new novel in Slains Castle in Scotland and uses her ancestor, Sophia Paterson, as one of the characters, the novel begins to take on a life of its own and Carrie soon realizes that an unusual bond with her ancestor may be providing her with an immediate window into the past.
My Rating: 4 stars
My Review: The description of this book is accurate but doesn't come close to describing the rich characters, Scottish history and atmosphere that Susanna Kearsley brings to her readers. This was my second time reading The Winter Sea. The first time was many years ago, and while I didn't recall the plot I always had images in my mind from reading the book the first time around. The sign of a good book.
Kearsley's writing is rich in detail creating a vivid atmosphere for her story to unfold. The story is told via two narratives - Carrie in modern day and Sophia in the early 1700's during a lesser known Jacobite rebellion. Their stories intertwine, with a little help from a fantastical element, and while they were both compelling I admit to preferring Sophia's story line more. There are some twists thrown into the plot and the characters, generally speaking, are easy to root for making it easy to see why this book is a fan favourite.
For readers looking for a bodice-ripper type read this is not it. While there are some intimate moments they are only hinted at leaving the ensuing passion to the readers' imaginations. Instead more focus was on their relationships, the beautiful setting and the Jacobites attempt to return James to England's throne to replace his half-sister, Queen Anne.
For people, such as myself, who only have a basic knowledge of Scottish history do not fear. Kearsley explains some of the Jacobite history without a huge info dump while still keeping in line with her story. Readers will enjoy reading the appendix at the end of the book where Kearsley explains which characters and events within her book are based on historical fact.
The only criticisms I have for the book is that the ending is wrapped up a little too neatly. Sure, it's a nice way to end the story but a little too easy. I know that some readers weren't fond of one of Sophia's decisions in the book (I wasn't happy reading it either) but, in the end, that was probably a more realistic decision based on how things were in the 18th century.
Overall, I'm happy I could delve back into this book. This time around I got to read my personalized, signed copy and that made it even more special. For fans of well-researched Historical Fiction with a solid nod to genealogy, who like a good love story (or two) set in the beauty that is Scotland then this is a book for you.