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The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley

When searching for historical fiction set in Scotland, I came across The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley. Having read and enjoyed The Firebird, I looked forward to this time-jumping narrative as well.

I was not disappointed.

Moving between contemporary times and the early 1700s, the book opens when famous author, Carrie McClelland relocates to the coast of Scotland, Slains, to finish a novel she’s writing on the early rising of the Jacobites and their fight to restore a young King James to the throne. Drawn to a particular area, Carrie can’t explain the strong urges she gets to not just write about the place she now finds herself in, but completely rethink not only the subject of her story, but the plot as well.

Renting a lovely little cottage close to the area she finds impossible to tear herself away from, what Carrie doesn’t count on is the attention of two handsome brothers – dashing, affable Stuart and the quieter, more bookish, Graeme. Nor does she imagine when she begins to write that the voices of the past, in particular of a woman named Sophia, will not only fill her head and heart, but dictate how her narrative unfolds.

As the days go by, Carrie finds that the ghosts of the past are very much in the present and that reality begins to mirror fiction. Unable to control what she writes, will Carrie be able to control her heart?

Moving between the past and present, this lovely book is not only a wonderful romance, it’s a serious and poignant examination of the early period of Jacobite rebellion and the risks and sacrifices those Scots who believed in an independent Scotland and who wanted to cast of the shackles of the newly-formed English Union, were prepared to make. Weaving fact through her fiction, Kearsley tells a story of high-drama, politics, loyalty, danger and love. Stirring in its passion (mostly for the rights and restoration of the Scots and their king), the book also evokes time and place so beautifully. It also explores the agony and ecstasy of being a writer and the relationship those who make living with words have with their agents, imagination, readers and the business that sustains them, if they’re fortunate, in so many more ways than simply financial.

A terrific read that offers so much.

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