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The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley

The Winter Sea (original 2008; edition 2010)

by Susanna Kearsley

Series: Slains (1)

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1,222946,525 (4.01)1 / 117
Title:The Winter Sea
Authors:Susanna Kearsley
Info:Sourcebooks, Inc. (2010), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 544 pages
Collections:Read but unowned

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The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley (2008)

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This book contains a story within a story (Mise en abyme is the French term for this literary device, stemming from the practice in heraldry of placing the image of a small shield on a larger shield) using the clever conceit that the main character (in the present) is writing a book about a character in the past.

Carolyn (“Carrie”) McClelland, 31, travels to in Aberdeenshire, Scotland to see the ruins of Slains Castle (also known as New Slains Castle), for research for her new novel. She rents a cottage near the ruins from a local man, Jimmy Keith, who just happens to have two handsome (and single) sons, Stuart and Graham.

Carrie’s book is set at the time of the 1708 Jacobite Rebellion in Scotland, an attempt by the Scots to negate the Union of 1707 between England and Scotland and bring the exiled Catholic King James VIII back from France to take the Scottish throne. [James is Jacobus in Latin. The Jacobite movement was not finally quashed until the 1746 Battle of Culloden, which readers of historical fiction will remember from Diana Gabaldon’s “Outlander” series. Jacobites had to meet in secret, and there were many in Scotland who served either as spies or co-conspirators. This book brings us into the thick of the story, with much more historical background provided than is given in the “Outlander” series.]

While at the cottage working on her novel, the main protagonist of which is her ancestor Sophie Paterson, Carrie keeps having the sensation of déjà vu, and soon is forced to accept that she is somehow channeling Sophie’s memories. (The emphasis is not on the “paranormal”; Carrie consulted a local doctor, who told her there is a theory that ancestral memories can be transmitted by DNA.)

As Carrie continues to write (the chapters of her book, which stem more from Carrie’s unconscious than from any active effort on her part) are interspersed with chapters from the present day), what happens to her parallels, in some ways, what happens to Sophie.

Both stories are quite compelling, and you will feel much as Carrie’s agent does when Carrie gives her what she insists is the final chapter of the book.

Evaluation: This is an excellent book for fans of Diana Gabaldon (who actually should read this book first, since it not only precedes The Outlander Series in its historical framework, but provides great background information on the Jacobite Movement). There is plenty of history and romance, and there’s something irresistible (to Americans at any rate) about the Scottish setting, accents, and romantic style. (As I’ve mentioned before, when you add the historical backdrop of Scotland, you win over a large number of American women. Check the incredible number of books on Goodreads labeled “Highlander Romance.”) ( )
  nbmars | Jun 15, 2015 |
so far, couldn't finish this book - got about 1/4 the way through. Will try again, maybe when I'm more in the mood for a historical novel. . . . ( )
  suzyblack | May 17, 2015 |
This one swept me right in -- very atmospheric! I preferred the modern half of the story but enjoyed the book as a whole and will definitely be seeking out more by the author.
  devafagan | Jan 2, 2015 |
Although the history details were a bit more than I would have liked, it all came together in the end for a beautiful story. I love this author's writing and will definitely read the 2nd book in this series. ( )
  Dawn94 | Dec 20, 2014 |
I picked this up at random after reading the back cover,which had me at Scotland, but didn't realize till I got home it had a big old Romance tag on it and I was terrified I had one of THOSE romance novels (ew). Luckily this book is far from trashy romance books with Fabio on the cover, while there is romance in it, it did not make me roll my eyes and gag. This book was beautifully written and well researched and I was totally enthralled by the magic of Cruden Bay and Slains Castle. ( ( )
  reigningstars | Dec 4, 2014 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Susanna Kearsleyprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Landor, RosalynReadersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Come home! The year has left you old;
Leave those grey stones; wrap close this shawl
Around you for the night is cold;
Come home! He will not hear you call;

No sign awaits you here but the beat
Of tides upon the strand,
The craig's gaunt shadow with gull's feet
Imprinted on the sand,
And spars and sea-weed strewn
Under a pale moon.

Come home! He will not hear you call;
Only the night winds answer as they fall
Along the shore, 
and evermore
Only the sea-shells 
On the grey stones singing,
And the white foam-bells
On the North Sea ringing.
-E.J. Pratt, "On the Shore"
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It wasn't chance.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Carrie settles into the shadow of Slains Castle in Scotland, creates a heroine named for one of her own ancestors, and starts to write about the Jacobite invasion of 1708. When she can no longer tell the difference between today and centuries ago, is she dealing with an ancestral memory-- a memory that might destroy her?… (more)

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