Quite by accident, I discovered The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley recently. I wasn’t sure that I would finish it, because it seemed too much like a romance novel. Well, actually it was, but I would also categorize it primarily as historical fiction, because it is set during the 1708 Scottish and French attempt to bring James I back to the Scottish throne. I am the last person who would be an expert on Scottish history, but I still enjoyed it very much, and I was hooked from the first page waiting to see how things would turn out. Most of the time, my predictions were accurate. But as a reader, I did not feel cheated in any way. It alternates between the modern-day attempt of writer Carrie McClelland and her attempts to finish the latest novel she is working on, and the historical time she is writing about. To get over her writer’s block and do research, she rents a secluded cliffside cottage in Scotland, where along the way she finds the man of her dreams. (In my experience, this part only happens in books. I would think if you’re isolating yourself to write, that’s what you’re going to be concentrating on. But hey, it could happen.) And it’s almost like she is living her characters’ experiences–literally. But having worked with fiction writers over the past year and a half, many do say that their characters speak to them–often not shutting up until the next chapter is written.
Kearsley reminded me immediately of Rosamunde Pilcher and Mary Stewart. Both writers had a really lovely way of describing places, making you feel as if you were actually there without being trite, stereotypical, or condescending. Kearsley shares their skill. While her works might be too light for a book discussion, they are worth spending time on. Like Pilcher and Stewart, it’s like sitting down with a nice cup of tea.