I listened to this a little while ago and when time passed, I figured I would skip reviewing it. Facing Valentine’s Day and because it really is a good read, I changed my mind.
My former roommate recommended Susanna Kearsley to me a couple years ago. Through an award I was judging, I had the opportunity to listen to The Winter Sea. While I have previously confessed on this blog my fondness for historical romances featuring heroines with more modern sensibilities, I do have to say straight-up romances sometimes leave me annoyed. In The Winter Sea Kearsley presented romance in both our time and in 1708, jumping between time periods as she often does in her books I have been told. Though hesitant, I pressed on in large part due to Rosalyn Landor’s wonderful narration.
The Winter Sea begins when Carrie McClelland, a writer in our time, decides to abandon France as the setting for her next book and instead travels to Scotland to research the attempted Jacobite uprising of 1708. Once there, she finds herself mysteriously drawn to the ruins of Slains Castle. The pull goes beyond historical interest as Carrie’s vivid dreams of past events in the area seem to actually be memories of another person- Sophie Paterson, a distant relative.
In 1708, Sophie Paterson is a young woman living with family in Slains Castle. Though not a part of it, she is aware her family members and their peers are plotting to bring Prince James, “The Pretender”, to England to challenge Queen Anne for the throne. James has been recognized by the French and the Catholic Church as King James III of England and King James the VIII of Scotland. In the swirl of intrigue and deception surrounding her, Sophie meets John Murray.
Sophie and John’s relationship grows into a deep love even as the political plotting becomes more dangerous. Kearsley gives readers a nice blend of romance, rich historical detail, and real characters but never “dumbs it down”. I stayed awake too late more than a few nights because I was so caught up in Sophie and John’s tale in particular.
In the present, handsome history professor Graham provides Carrie with a romance all her own. The relationship is a nice side story to Sophie and John’s without being a wasted story arc or too distracting. Kearsley handles the balance well by not creating unnecessary drama in this relationship allowing Carrie, and the reader, to focus on Sophie, John, and the planned rebellion. Lauren Willig should take notes for her series.
A couple twists along the way made me unsure what I thought of the story, but, ultimately, I have to say this was finely crafted historical romance. If you have a chance to listen to Rosalyn Landor read it, I recommend her highly. Her narration lent to the pace and feel of the scenes and her ability to give each character, including the men, distinctive voices was outstanding.