Review: The Winter Sea

Posted 21 October, 2015 by Lianne in Books / 4 Comments

The Winter Sea (Slains #1)
By: Susanna Kearsley
Format/Source: eBook; my purchase

History has all but forgotten…

In the spring of 1708, an invading Jacobite fleet of French and Scottish soldiers nearly succeeded in landing the exiled James Stewart in Scotland to reclaim his crown.

Now, Carrie McClelland hopes to turn that story into her next bestselling novel. Settling herself in the shadow of Slains Castle, she creates a heroine named for one of her own ancestors and starts to write.

But when she discovers her novel is more fact than fiction, Carrie wonders if she might be dealing with ancestral memory, making her the only living person who knows the truth-the ultimate betrayal-that happened all those years ago, and that knowledge comes very close to destroying her…

This book keeps popping up over the years whenever I’m browsing the shelves but it didn’t intrigue me enough to pick it up. This period of history didn’t interest me as much (heresy, I know, especially as I did study 18th century English history towards the end of my undergrad) and I was still reeling from how Mariana, the first Kearsley novel I read, turned out. Fast forward a few years later and I finally got around to reading more books by the author after reading great reviews from fellow book bloggers. And so here we are, finally reading The Winter Sea (or Sophia’s Secret, as my eBook bundle has it under) 😛

Wow, guys, why did it take me so long to get around to reading this? I really liked it xD

I loved both aspects of the story, the 17th century storyline and the 21st century storyline, following Carrie as she puts together this story set at the Slains and slowly finding it eerie how well she knows some events–names, dates–that transpired in the 18th century around the time of the invasion. The time slip element was subtle, I liked how it fed into her writing and we the readers are basically following what she had written down from what she witnessed during these moments. I learned a lot about the details of the first Jacobite invasion–again, only learned the basics when I was in uni, this wasn’t my specialisation–the political climate of the time. Weaved in this is the story of Sophia, who young woman who finds herself in the frays of such plans and events, falling in love with an officer fighting at the frontlines.

Balancing the intensity of that storyline–will Sophia and John Moray survive?–is Carrie’s storyline in writing the story and settling in at the bay. I loved her part of the story, I love the characters she meets and becomes friends with in the area, her relationship with her editor, Graham (be still my heart <3). It felt rather homely, this group of people she meets, as she struggles to also make sense of these memories that plague her. I also really appreciated the whole writing process that this novel highlights, on a personal note it got me rather pumped up with writing again (goodness knows I've been in a heck of a slump recently; I'll admit to that).

Overall, The Winter Sea was absolutely gripping; I could not put the book down once I started reading it. It was intriguing, it had me at the edge of the seat (bracing for something awful and sudden happening–one plot point I sort of anticipated, but I was expecting a pulling-the-rug-from-underneath moment like in Mariana), it was lovely. Again, I can’t believe it took me this long to get around to the book. Readers of historical fiction will want to check this title out!

Rating: ★★★★☆

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4 Responses to “Review: The Winter Sea”

  1. I loved this book! Lovely review – I’m so glad you enjoyed! Are you reading The Firebird next? (Hint: You should!)

    I read The Winter Sea while visiting a very ill friend in the hospital, and my memories of the book are kind of mixed up with the sadness of the visit… so I should probably reread it in a happier frame of mind.

    • Thanks Lisa! Definitely up there with Season of Storms as my favourite, if not my favourite by her overall 🙂 Yup, I did read The Firebird sometime afterward (I read The Shadowy Horses first just to finish the eBook bundle)! My review I think will be up in early December :3 🙂

      Sounds like a re-read is definitely in order! Sorry to hear about the ill friend and memories of the book mixed up with the visit 🙁

  2. I’m always a little leery about books with different plots going on–it’s so annoying to be invested in a story and then have to switch to a different one! It seems like the device really works here, though.

    • Haha, yeah, especially when one story ends on a cliffhanger and the next chapter switches to the other story! But Susanna Kearsley does a lovely job going back and forth between the two stories and having them converge at the end 🙂

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