The Winter Sea is set in Scotland during the Jacobite rebellion of 1708, and also in the same area but modern day.
Although I loved the setting, learned a lot about the time period, and enjoyed the story, I found one of the narrative devices so irritating that I find I can only give The Winter Sea a mixed recommendation.
In the book, a modern day writer arrives on the Scottish coast to research a book she’s writing about the 1708 attempt to return the King James to Scotland from his French exile. The book alternates between the author’s adventures and falling in love in modern day and her heroine’s adventures and love story in 1708. I like the device of a modern story paralleling a historical story, but The Winter Sea takes that concept and adds a silly hocus-pocus layer. You see, the writer character is not actually writing a historical novel, she’s channeling the memories of her 1700s ancestor through her DNA and writing down the story.
I’m sorry, but that’s so stupid.
First of all, even if it was true, life doesn’t happen like a novel. If you were really channeling someone’s memories, you’d still have to go through the hard and time-consuming process of editing and shaping the narrative or you’d have lots of boring dead space. Secondly, the whole idea trivializes the hard work and satisfaction that (I’ve heard) characterizes researching and writing a historical novel. I think it would have been far better to show the writer character stumbling on information in the present day that fit into what she wanted to write, and having the excitement of finding missing pieces using genealogy and historical sources. While some of that comes through in the book, it’s greatly marred by the whole channeling memories thing.