The Winter Sea is unique because it is a novel within a novel. Writer Carrie McClelland has been writing a book based on the " '08 " (or the failed Jacobite invasion that never was in 1708) that could have restored James Stewart to the Scottish throne. She writes historical fiction, and has been researching the '08 in France, but unfortunately she is suffering from writer's block. She travels to Scotland for her agent's son's christening, and there she finds her muse. Jane (her agent) lives conveniently only ten miles from the Slain Castle ruins. Suddenly, Carrie's writer's block is gone. The area around Cruden Bay, the village where Slains is located, becomes Carrie's new home while she writes her book. Carrie lets a cottage by the sea, and she cannot write her novel quickly enough. Her landlord's two handsome sons, Stewart and Graham, might be a wee bit of a distraction to the lass.
The novel within the novel focuses around Sophia, a distant relative of the Countess of Erroll, the mistress of Slains Castle. Sophia moves to live at Slains at the invitation of the Countess. The household is instrumental in planning the Jacobite rebellion primarily due to the Countess's politics and the geographic location of Slains castle on the northeastern coast of Scotland. Visitors and intrigue are a constant at Slains Castle: sea captains, soldiers, gentry, and spies all descend upon the castle waiting for news of James Stewart's return. One young soldier in particular, John Moray, interests Sophia more than all the others. Moray is a wanted man, but she falls in love with him anyway. Sadly, duty calls, and he must return to France to fight for the crown.
Carrie decides to make the focus of her story Sophia, who is one of her ancestors, and her writing explodes from there. Her dreams are filled with detailed scenes about Sophia and her life at Slains. As Carrie finishes a chapter, she is stunned at the historical accuracy of her story. She thinks at first that she must have read these historical facts while doing research for her book, but eventually she is convinced she has never before in her life read most of the information. Could Carrie be reliving the life of her ancestor through genetic memory? Susanna Kearsley brilliantly weaves both Sophia and Carrie's stories together into a seamless book. I love her writing style, and this novel has two romantic story lines, plenty of history, suspense, and atmosphere. I will definitely read more of Kearsley's books.
Have you read any good books this week?
Until next time...