The Winter Sea
by Susanna Kearsley
I don't usually get into historical romances, unless there's a bit of fantasy or sci-fi involved, and this one qualifies. A writer, researching her historic novel of early eighteenth century Scotland, stumbles across a ruined castle that inspires her. She leases a cottage in town, hoping to break her writer's block, and is successful as the story comes pouring out of her, driven by a new character's point of view. Things get weird when some fact checking reveals the people and events she thought she was inventing actually existed.
This novel is actually two stories running concurrently: The writer in modern-day Scotland, and the historical novel she's writing. Though switching back and forth between them is confusing at first, both stories are compelling. Kearsley paints such a rich word-picture of the rugged coast of Scotland, both ancient and modern, that I feel I've been there to see it myself. In the modern story, the writer is likable and believable, surrounded by charming, helpful villagers and potential love interests. But for me, the really engrossing story is the one in 1708 Scotland. Even though it's centered around an historic event, I found myself hoping for a different outcome than the one I know happened, just to save the heroine some pain. And though the way the two stories dovetail at the end is a bit contrived, it's still ultimately satisfying.
It was so easy to immerse myself in this novel, I found after finishing it, I was still thinking in a Scottish brogue. This is one of those books where you're sorry to turn the last page, which is one of the best recommendations I can give.