Science writer in America's heartland
This book surprised me. I bought it largely to hear the author's descriptions of Scotland and the sea -- and they are beautifully crafted -- but the plot-within-a-plot immediately captured me. As a writer, I wondered if I could enjoy a book about a writer writing a book. The answer in this case is a resounding yes.
I absolutely loved this book and have listened to it at least 4 times. I love both the story and the narrator. The combination of history and sweet romance make it a winner with me.
Avid Reader in Iowa
creative and artistic
I loved this book--with the modern and historical twist. I thought it was similar in style to Lauren Willig a fantastic author. I think anyone who enjoys Scottish history would enjoy this.
This story has it all! History, mystery, love, deceit, etc. Especially entertaining was the fact that there were actually 2 stories going on. One surrounding the main character (who was an author) and the other around the historical novel she was writing. Two thumbs up!
Kearsley hits the ball out of the park. The best "time fiction" is seamless and believable; this is it and more. I've spent time in Scotland and she nailed her Scottish, present day characters and her other "Character:" Scotland itself, past and present.
I'm a voracious audiobook listener, rarely found without my iPod.
I was very excited to read this book with all the fanfare it's been receiving, but was a little nervous it would be too much of a romance. I love historical fiction, and as the main character states of her own work, they usually end with a kiss, but I don't like it to lean too heavily on the romance. The story is very formulaic, so there really are no surprises for the majority of the book. But the end is clever and has a tiny bit of a twist that may catch you by surprise. On the whole, the story is very well done. Character development and like-ability are great. The jump between present and past is done very well. I would have liked to have more of the set-up of past story told through the eyes of Sophia, where the author uses a history buff in the present to explain some of the timeline. I found it difficult to nail where exactly the family and castle history fit into the overall history between Mary Queen of Scots and the Jacobite unrest, but it does become clearer toward the end. Very well done! Will definitely download The Rose Garden.
Enjoying one good listen after the next!
This is a truly delightful book! It is history and fiction, a little romance and a bit of battle rolled into a great story. Underlying it is the question of whether or not it is possible for DNA to carry the voice, memory, and experience of our ancestors to us. This story may make a believer out of you!
The main character is a contemporary American writer - (Carrie or Kerry?) who is writing a novel set in early 17th century Scotland. She writes about the return of exiled King James to the Scottish throne during the reign of England's Queen Anne. This story features the experiences of a 17th century heroine named Sophia who is orphaned, is adopted by a distant relative and falls in love with a sea-going, warfaring soldier. The novel shifts back and forth between the present and past. In the present, especially in the Scottish ruins, Carrie hears the voice of Sophia, relives her experience and these experiences provide the script for Carrie's novel.
It is amazing how the narrator seamlessly portrays the two women so well and tells the story of both as they find love and satisfaction in their lives. A very good listen for all who enjoy historical fiction.
I seem to remember reading a review here or there which indicated that people who love Diana Gabaldon's work will love this book too. I agree with this statement, but I also feel it does this book a disservice.
Yes, it is about the Scottish resistance to the Hanover dynasty, beginning in the 18th century. And it features a beautiful young damsel and handsome Scottish rebel. But in my opinion, that is basically where the comparison ends.
Kearsley has given us, basically, two novels in one; and there is no time-traveling involved. Her modern-day protagonist is an American novelist with Scottish ancestry who moves to a Scottish village near the sea and falls in love with a 'local'. The historical plot is about a young 18th century woman who has lost her nuclear family and moves in with relatives who live in a castle/manor house close to the same village that features in the modern plot.
These two timelines connect during the novelist's dreamstates. And, since she is a writer, the dreamstates become the source of her new novel. In addition to her artistic interest she soon finds that, since her father is a history/geneology buff, they can combine interests by sharing information - each researching the same material on opposite sides of the Atlantic . The two of them sort out the lost details of the young couple's romance. By doing this, they also end up connecting the dots to their own ancestry. (All while the protagonist is also trying to sort out a tricky familial relationship concerning her lover.)
I really love this story. It is moving, well-written and engaging. As a writer, I enjoyed her portrayal of the various ways authors can approach their craft.
The only thing that bothered me had to do with the narrator. I know that the modern protagonist is a woman in her 30's, and so have no problem with the mature voice given her. But I felt that the way she used her voice when mentioning her prurient interest in the man who becomes the character's lover is overplayed. To me, that type of tone is more realistic when used by a male character. The protagonist is a feminine intellectual with heightened sensitivies. Hearing her description of a man's physical attractions in what I would almost call a 'predatory' tone of voice adds a "smarminess" which I find at odds to her character. I think she should have played those lines straight. They would have been more powerful. (Come to think of it, I'd find it smarmy if used by a male character.)
But otherwise, the narrator does a beautiful job. I am always amazed at how female narrators are able to recreate a variety of male voices. Plus, her ability to switch from one accent to another is so natural that I only thought about it in retrospect - after I read the book and was allowing the phrasing of this review mix in the "soup" of my subconscious.
So don't compare it to Outlander and you will love it.
I grew up on Golden Age Radio, and while I love to read, I typically consume more books via audio thanks to a job that lets me listen while I work. As an aspiring writer, I try to read a great deal of non-fiction in addition to a variety of fictional genres. I especially love history, historical fiction, science fiction, fantasy, and old-style gothic horror.
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.
I really wanted this story to delve more into the characters. I think it went too long sometimes on the historical aspects without the characters being involved. I didn't connect to the story and kept waiting for something bigger to happen. It never did. It was a long book that kind of went nowhere. The performance was good, but don't expect too much from this over-hyped book.