The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley

If you’ve ever seen the movie Somewhere in Time, you know that sometimes for a story to work, you have to suspend disbelief and just let the magic unfold. That’s what you have to do here. The author will try to help you along the way with characters telling you why the setup actually has a logical sense to it, and if you choose to believe for the duration of the book, it seems to work.

The idea of the protagonist as historical romance novelist was actually pretty interesting. I’m a fan of the creative process, and I wondered if the author mirrored her character in regards to the process of writing her tales… with the possible exception of genetic memory. All of the characters in this story, in both time periods, are three-dimensional people, and that’s the kind of thing that helps to sell their stories. The settings and situations are likewise fully formed in all senses; Kearsley’s writing style is geared perfectly for this, neither over-explaining nor under-explaining as many writers are apt to do. There’s enough there to form an image in your mind, and not enough to beat you over the head with it.

The flaws with the novel are exactly the ones you’d expect to find in any romance novel. If this is your chosen genre, they’re not necessarily flaws. The tropes are the same, and the possible endings are constrained to a select few (I won’t spoil which of the handful she uses here). The author even has her characters hang a lantern on the stereotypes of the historical fiction genre, pointing out that if a man writes it, the book is bloody, whereas if a woman writes it, it ends with a kiss. While this is true to an extent, Kearsley toes that line between playing up to the stereotype and flinging it aside. In the end, it’s still a romance novel and all that implies, but the history still shapes it into something worth reading, giving the characters motivation and limitations within the scope of the lives they lead.

This book is a slow read, but it doesn’t plod haplessly. It’s more like a stroll through the lives of these characters. You get to know them, and you find yourself liking them. This keeps you coming back to finish the story. I’ve seen some reviews where people find the history to get in the way, and where the author force feeds it to you. My argument would be to address the idea that this is historical fiction, that history is what gives this story its depth, and if that’s not for you, why would you read it? The history presented herein is a bit of an info dump at times, but that’s how the research goes when digging into the past; you find a new avenue to pursue, then the knowledge is unlocked in fragments. I think it comes across very well here.

Rosalyn Landor’s performance here is stellar. She has accents down, and even her male characters are believable. She ensures that you can relate to the story, which is always necessary for the fullest enjoyment.

4 stars