Day 29: The Winter Sea

Cover for The Winter SeaLet me start out by saying that this is not my kind of book. There are carefully researched and plausible historical novels that make you feel like you understand the time and place and that may or may not include a romance. Then there are romance novels that just happen to be placed in a historical time but otherwise read as if the writer did not bother looking up a single fact. And there are all ranges in between. Despite the notes from Susanna Kearsley about her research, I would locate The Winter Sea closer to the latter end of this range.

Carrie is a writer working on a novel about one of the Jacobite rebellions. She has been living in France where all the intrigue went on, but she isn’t getting into her novel. On a visit to her agent in Scotland, she is attracted to a ruined castle. When she hears that part of the rebellion was based there, she decides to move to the nearby village, and on a suggestion by her agent, make her main character a woman. She arbitrarily picks Sophia Paterson, her own ancestor.

She begins to imagine vivid scenes, which interleave the modern story. But when she checks the facts surrounding these scenes, she finds the details are actually correct. After awhile she decides the explanation must be that she carries her ancestor’s genetic memory in her DNA, an explanation so absurd that it dumbfounded me.

The modern author’s romance with her landlord’s son is interspersed with the story she is writing about Sophia’s romance with a young Jacobite. Although the story reflects some historical research, the focus is on the romance. The dialogue in the historical section is awful, as if the writer thought all she had to do to make it authentic was stick the word “did” in constantly. (“I did arrive from Edinburgh last month.”) I almost quit reading because I could barely stand to read the dialogue. I would rather have the writer use modern English than patently fake and unconvincing archaic English.

Had the author based the writer’s insights on some form of second sight–they are in Scotland after all–I would have found that explanation more acceptable than the pseudo-scientific claptrap. Avoid this one unless you absolutely don’t care about any historical or scientific authenticity.

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