Cover Image: The Winter Sea

The Winter Sea

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Member Reviews

Present Day – Canadian novelist Carrie McClelland travels to Aberdeenshire Scotland to write her latest novel which is set in the historic Slains Castle. Once there, she finds that the book is almost writing itself as she seems to be writing from memory, not imagination. Could it be genetic memory? Meanwhile, she is appeasing her agent and best friend with the vast number of pages she is writing, and finding a present day love of her own.

1707 – Sophia Paterson is living at Slains Castle with her distant cousin. She is caught up in the intrigue of castle life and finds herself drawn to a man who has a high price on his head. The man she has come to love is a Jacobite who conspires to bring the James Stewart back from France to once more rule as Scotland’s King.
Oh… what a book! A dual-time line historical love story that cannot fail to stir your emotions. Separated by three hundred years, the timelines evoke the connection of people to a place and explore the possibility of genetic memory.

My Thoughts

I’ll confess that I read this book many years ago, long before I began blogging. When I saw it was re-released and offered on NetGalley, I wanted to see if my feelings about the book might have changed over the passing years. Rest assured, this is a novel that can withstand the passage of time.

Like the narrator, Carrie McClelland, I was born and raised on the shores of Nova Scotia (New Scotland), so the sea is in my blood.

Rich in well-researched Scottish history, this is a dual love story. The sense of place is all prevalent and I could almost smell the sea and hear the waves crashing on the rocks. Set for the most part on the site of Slains Castle in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, this novel spoke to my own Scottish heritage.

This book will be loved and appreciated by all fans of historical fiction, most especially by those readers who appreciate the unexplained, and those who enjoy the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon.  Some would term this book a ‘romance’, but I disagree. It is no more a romance that “Outlander”. It is a love story overshadowed by some turbulent and often tragic Scottish history.

Love, genetic memory, déjà vu, serendipity and a history-rich Scottish castle. What more could you ask for?

In short, I loved all 528 pages of this wonderful book. Highly recommended!
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The book was way long and had too many historical references that were of little interest to me. The historical and modern day love stories seem to develop quickly with love at first sight. Carrie and Sophia both had several gallant men in their lives who were at their beck and call. The whole Jacobite, King James and the Duke of Hamilton parts were laborious to read. The descriptions of the landscapes and seas were well done. Carrie’s ability to know historical events was hard to believe and Sophia’s Cinderella ending was the same.
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I first heard of  Susanna Kearsley several years ago after seeing her at an event and I think she may have been the first Canadian historical fiction author I took note of. So, it's ridiculously embarrassing to admit that it took me until 2021 to finally read one of her books. I've been told by friends for years that I would enjoy them. And, reader? They were right. Her novel The Winter Sea was first published in 2008. Simon & Schuster Canada has rereleased it this year for reasons I'm not entirely clear on BUT I am thrilled about because that meant I had the chance to read and review it. And oh my goodness, I adored it. "Could not put it down, thought about it when I wasn't reading, wanted to wrap myself up in the story and never leave" kind of adored it.

Here's the synopsis:
1707. The walls of Slains castle shelter Jacobite rebels, who are conspiring to sail the young, exiled James Stewart from France into Scotland to reclaim his crown—and a young woman caught up in their plot.

Present day. Writer Carrie McClelland is enchanted by an impromptu trip to Cruden Bay, Scotland, and decides to settle in the tiny village, hoping to find inspiration for her novel about the Jacobite uprising in the area’s evocative past—and in the haunting ruins of the castle.

She creates a heroine named after one of her own ancestors, Sophia Paterson, and quickly finds the words flowing, almost faster than she can write them down. But, discovering that her novel inexplicably contains more fact than she can remember researching, Carrie wonders if she could possibly be dealing with ancestral memory—in effect “recalling” what her ancestor lived.

The only way to discover the truth is to continue writing and to bring to light the whole of Sophia’s story. With each new chapter, Carrie uncovers the tale of an innocent entangled in a dangerous enterprise, the secret of forbidden love, and the final betrayal that cost James his throne—and may cost Sophia her heart.

I get really, really wary when books are compared to other books, especially when they're mega popular. The Winter Sea is said to be for fans of Outlander so I was curious to see if it would hold up to that comparison. And you know what? It totally does. It's very different, of course. It's present day vs early 1700s instead of 1940s and '60s and the mid-1700s. But the feel of it and the setting is for Outlander fans. Plus they both deal with Jacobite rebellions, which is interesting for the history nerds out there. Outlander is a tough series to describe. It's historical but it's also a love story with a dash of magic realism in the form of time travel. The Winter Sea could be described in almost the same way but the magic realism in Kearsley's novel is the fact that the heroine, Carrie, seems to have memories of her ancestors that she has no business knowing. It may sound like it's a combination that shouldn't work but it does. Oh, but it does.

I was head over heels in love with just about every character Kearsley wrote. Carrie, Graham, Sophia, and John, of course. (The first pair are the love birds in the present day story whereas the latter pair feature in 1707.) But also Jimmy, Graham's father, Dr. Weir, who helped Carrie with her novel, Jane, Carrie's agent, the Countess of Erroll, who seemed like one badass lady I would have loved to have a drink with, Kirsty, the maid at Slains, Colonel Graeme, John's uncle, and even Hugo, the giant mastiff at the castle. They all came alive in the story and I felt like I was wandering right alongside each of them throughout the story.

The history in the novel was, I felt, well researched and presented. Sometimes it got a bit convoluted but honestly, it's a very convoluted part of history. Who wanted which king on the throne? Which king was exiled? And which Stewart was he again? Who practiced which religion? Because that usually meant they were for one king or the other, but not always. And which Jacobite rebellion are we discussing again? The first? Second? Third? (The first, by the way. Outlander features the third.) But Kearsley does a really good job of giving the reader the background information they need without it being an info dump. Or, if it is, it's because the character's asked for it. I love, for example, how Carrie asked Graham, a history professor, for information on something. Kearsley used Stuart, Graham's brother, as the every reader and had him asking even more questions that the reader may not understand, especially if they're not from Scotland. For someone who has a lot of ancestors from Scotland (I'm a Stewart, after all) and is a fan of history, it was super interesting for me to read and learn.

Not only did I love the story and was completely hooked by it, but I liked how it was written, too. I was a bit worried at first because I wasn't sure how I felt about reading Carrie's novel as she was writing it. You see, you'd get Carrie's first person perspective as she came across Slains and started coming up with the idea for her novel. And then she would get to work and you'd be reading the story she was writing. It seems kind of odd but by the end of it I was completely invested in both storylines and gladly would have read the full novel Carrie wrote.

Historical fiction fans need to read Susanna Kearsley. I'm going to make an effort to get through some of her backlist this year, hopefully, because I loved The Winter Sea so much. I loved Kearsley's approach to history and the way she wove an amazing story full of lifelike characters. Trust me when I say The Winter Sea needs to be your next historical read. It's fantastic.

*An egalley of this novel was provided by the publisher, Simon & Schuster Canada, via NetGalley in exchange for review consideration. All opinions are honest and my own.*
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True confession, I didn't get very far in this ARC - not because I don't love Susanna Kearsley novels (I do) or because I couldn't get into it (I could...)  I just found it so familiar and then realized I read an earlier version as it was originally published in 2008, I believe.   

That being said, I remember enough to declare this book is hauntingly beautiful and engaging.  Written with Kearsley's trademark dual-timeline format with elements of historical intrigue, science fiction, romance, and politics.  I would recommend it.
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OMG!
I did a happy dance around the living room, when I got this ARC!
I have loved everything Susanna Kearsley has ever written and this one is fantastic!
The characters ... the setting ... the suspense ... the history ... 2 stories revolving around each other ... all in one book!
I could gush forever!
Grab your wine and a blanket. You won’t be able to move until you’re finished.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing an arc in exchange for my honest review.
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Thank you Netgalley and Simon & Schuster Canada for the chance to read The winter sea by Susanna Kearsley.  I really looked forward to reading this which was touted for fans of Outlander. Two stories, one set inside the other;  Carrie McClelland is writing a new novel set around 1708 when an invading Jacobite fleet of French and Scottish soldiers nearly succeeded in landing the exiled James Stewart in Scotland to reclaim his crown. She has created a heroine after her own ancestor Sophia -- but her novel ends up being more fact than fiction -- how is this possible?  While I enjoyed this book, I had my issues with it. I much preferred Carrie's storyline, than Sophia's. The story is beautifully written, and some people will love it. I had issues with the ending. 31/2 stars.
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I received an ARC of this book to read through NetGalley. All opinions are my own. The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley is a reprint of a book first published in 2008. There have been several editions since then, including the one I discovered that I own which was published last year by Source Books. The version I read for review purposes is published by Simon and Schuster on January 5, 2021, and has a new cover. It looks to be available in both e-book editions and a trade paperback edition. The story moves between 1707/1708 Scotland and present-day Scotland. Present-day author Carrie Mclelland writes historical fiction and is struggling to come up with a point of view for her latest novel that explores an attempt by King James to claim the throne. When she discovers that an ancestor of hers, Sophia Paterson visited Slaine Castle at the time she is writing about, the story begins to write itself almost as if she is channelling her ancestor. I enjoyed the story very much and highly recommend reading it for both the romances in the past and the present that seem to echo each other. 
Steam Level: Closed Door #NetGalley #TheWinterSea #SusannaKearsley #SimonAndSchusterCanada #HistoricalFiction #HistoricalRomance #bookstagram #bookstagramer
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The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley
Publication Date: January 5, 2021
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Description from NetGalley...
“1707. The walls of Slains castle shelter Jacobite rebels, who are conspiring to sail the young, exiled James Stewart from France into Scotland to reclaim his crown—and a young woman caught up in their plot.

Present day. Writer Carrie McClelland is enchanted by an impromptu trip to Cruden Bay, Scotland, and decides to settle in the tiny village, hoping to find inspiration for her novel about the Jacobite uprising in the area’s evocative past—and in the haunting ruins of the castle.

She creates a heroine named after one of her own ancestors, Sophia Paterson, and quickly finds the words flowing, almost faster than she can write them down. But, discovering that her novel inexplicably contains more fact than she can remember researching, Carrie wonders if she could possibly be dealing with ancestral memory—in effect “recalling” what her ancestor lived.

The only way to discover the truth is to continue writing and to bring to light the whole of Sophia’s story. With each new chapter, Carrie uncovers the tale of an innocent entangled in a dangerous enterprise, the secret of forbidden love, and the final betrayal that cost James his throne—and may cost Sophia her heart.”
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Thank you to @NetGalley @simonschusterca @simonschuster for the digital ARC in return for my honest review.
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My thoughts...
I’m going to look for more Susanna Kearsley books! I really enjoyed reading this book. I could not put it down. I liked her writing style, it had an easy flow that was perfect for the transition between the two timelines. The theme for gene memory or blood memory was so interesting, it made me think of reasons why we have deja vu. This is a great historical fiction. I read the background information/her research that she provided at the back of the book after and it just added to my enjoyment of the story. It was also a historical romance that was just the type I like to read. And the way she tied it altogether 😭. If you’re a fan of historical fiction and you also like anything Scottish (like me) you may want to pick this up. I’m also bias, because it mentioned Canada too.
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Thank you to Netgalley, the publishing house and the author for the opportunity to read a complimentary copy of this book in return for a review based upon my honest opinion.

Susanna Kearsley has a way of writing dual timeline stories that sucks me in every time; they are magical and full of wonderful characters and stunning vistas. This book is no exception, I loved the historical aspect to this book as well, I know very little of the Jacobite uprising but found the way it was weaved into this story mesmerizing. The ancestral DNA memory storyline was interesting. All in all, this book was a great story, it hooked me right from the beginning and I stayed up later than I should reading long into the night. I enjoyed the past and present stories equally although Sophia and John’s story captivated me so much, I had to get to the ending. Great historical dual timeline story, great author
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A real page-turner!

If you loved the series Outlander, then you'll love Susanna Kearsley's novel 'The Winter Sea'! When I saw that this book had almost 600 pages, I wasn't sure if I wanted to read it. Well, surprise! I did give it a try and wasn't disappointed! What a wonderful story with a touch of time-travel! I couldn't put it soon! I soon became mesmerized about it. 

It tells the story of Carrie McClelland who is an author of historical fiction and who settles herself in the shadows of Slains Castle to create a character named Sophia. Her heroine will live a journey filled with twists and turns. Sophia and Carrie's stories is well written, rich with historical facts and wonderful characters. The time travel transition went smoothly! I found it interesting to discover Scotland in the past and present day!

"I received a complimentary copy of this book from Simon & Schuster and NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own."
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I absolutely loved this book! I was transported to Scotland and the story of Carrie and Sophia, two women connected through time by fate, love and family. The story is well-paced, the characters well-written and likeable, and the descriptions of the Scottish countryside are beautiful and vivid. Filled with history of the 1708 Jacobite revolt, the author interweaves these historical elements with a wonderful love story. Susanna Kearsley is a talented Canadian author who has written this wonderful historical novel. 100% recommend!

Thanks to Simon & Schuster and Negalley for the copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
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