The Winter Sea – Susanna Kearsley

c645ca1522e66a1597775345a77434f414f4141Carrie McClelland has had success writing historical fiction – she likes to pick a time, place or event, and live for a time wherever that occurred to immerse herself in the world of her story. Her latest idea is set in the French Court, but is about the Scottish Stewart kings, when they were exiled there. She’s been living in Paris, but when her dear friend (and agent) invites her up to Scotland to meet her brand new baby, Carrie gets lost along the way. When she sees a man out walking his dog, she pulls over to ask directions, and while he helps, she notices the castle in the distance. The man kindly points her on her way, but she’s intrigued now, and finds out more about the castle before she leaves Scotland.

It turns out Slains Castle was central to the story of some of the interesting characters she’s been tracking in France, in the Scottish Court, and Carrie instinctively knows she’s found her way into a great story. Her apartment in Paris is packed up, and within a week, she’s installed in a cottage near Slains. And it turns out, the son of her landlord is the man with the dog that helped her with her directions as she first laid eyes on Slains.

A slight change in direction for the story is needed, and Carrie settles on a female character who she names after one of her ancestors, Sophia Paterson. Sophia did live in Scotland (Carrie herself is from Canada), but on the far side of the country. She has no connection to Slains. But as the story comes to Carrie (in the manner her stories usually do – in great writing fits like trances), the story that takes shape keeps running into real life details – details that Carrie is only able to uncover are true because she has local help researching things for her. Carrie is more and more convinced that she is uncovering actual memories from her distant ancestress.

This is a love story, both for Carrie, and for Sophia. And the ancestral memory bit could very easily go completely overboard, but it’s handled deftly enough that it actually works here. I very much enjoyed the story, and would happily read more from this author.

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