The Winter Sea is a story that alternates between the past and the present as historical novelist Carrie McClelland writes her latest novel set in Scotland during the Jacobite rebellion of 1708.
As a Scot, I love our history and it’s not often you come across a novel set around this time period but I think I was expecting a whole lot more, so it was a bit of a disappointment. The problem lies in the choice of Sophia as narrator because the story is limited to the castle and what little is done in her presence, so a lot of the subsequent action happens “off page”. Being a woman, Sophia would obviously have been expected to remain at home while the men fought their battles, but the book would have been a whole lot more interesting for me if it had been written from Moray’s point of view since he was in the midst of things.
The romance between Moray and Sophia doesn’t have much time to evolve so it is nothing more than a case of love at first sight for them both and while it is sweet, it never really sets the book alight. The same can be said for the mirror romance between Carrie and Graham which is more of a slow burn but nothing startling. We really didn’t learn much about the men in the lives of these ladies so the characters were a bit underwhelming.
The genetic memory aspect was a nice idea and since I’m doing my own family tree, I can definitely see the appeal of being able to tap into an ancestor’s memories to learn a whole lot more about them but it was a bit of a stretch. For the most part, it was executed well but it did get a bit tedious after awhile, especially when events in the past reflected those in the present.
I’m also not a fan of dialects in books because they always throw me out of a scene. The Doric accent is one of the hardest to understand in Scotland, and I appreciate what the author was trying to do here but it was very distracting, and Jimmy’s impenetrable accent was even hard for me to read. It seemed a bit pointless since none of the other accents were exploited in this way.
The big twist was not a surprise but it didn’t really matter because I had started to get bored of the story long before that point and just wanted it to be over. I’m not sure if Suzanne Kearsley’s books are really my cup of tea, and although I do like books with a past-present narrative, I also like a whole lot more depth in my history.
I’ve also no idea why this book has been re-published as Sophia’s Secret in the UK because The Winter Sea title fits it so much better.