The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley

Best-selling author Carrie McClelland is struggling to complete her latest historical novel.  A visit to her editor in Scotland changes things – as it happens, her editor lives near a site which played a role in the failed Jacobite Rebellion of 1708, the setting for her book.  Settling herself into a cottage near Slains Castle, Carrie creates a heroine named after one of her own ancestors and the story begins to write itself at an incredible pace.  Sentences form almost without thought and intense dreams about her characters fill in the blanks.  As she turns to research to flesh out her story, however, she discovers that the novel she’s writing is more fact than fiction.  Spooky!

Kearsley presents us with two intriguing storylines, one set in the present, one set in the past – genetic memory is the device used to link the two narratives.  For whatever reason, the genetic memory angle didn’t quite work for me but I still enjoyed both storylines a great deal.  Kearsley describes her writing as modern Gothic: a blend of historical adventure, modern-day suspense, and romance with a touch of something spooky.  I think that description suits this novel well.   We know that the Rebellion failed but Kearsley gives us an insider’s look into the people behind the history: who betrayed whom and why?  Will longtime friends betray one another? What will happen to Sophia and John?  Why does Carrie feel a sense of panic every time she makes the climb to her cottage after dark?  What happened to the Castle’s inhabitants back in 1708???

What I like best about Susanna Kearsley is that she creates characters I can relate to.  I also appreciate her skill in creating vivid settings, particularly since she takes me to places like England and Scotland – sigh.  And I love, love, love the way she handles romance between her characters – the romantic tension is there but she leaves the bedroom details to the readers’ imagination.  I like my imagination much better than most of the sex scenes written for romance novels!!!

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