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Editorial Reviews

When venturing into the historical fiction genre, I’m often drawn to specific, brief events that were either glossed over or left entirely out of the history books, as opposed to those that cover broad subjects that can be densely overwhelming. Given a subject like Henry XIII and his wives or Joan of Arc, both popular subjects of the genre, an author could easily lose an audience to an overwhelming amount of explanation and facts. Instead, Susanna Kearsley’s The Winter Sea offers a narrow, controlled exploration of a lesser known event, the 1708 Jacobite failed uprising by James Stewart against William of Orange and Mary Stewart to reclaim the throne. It is an enthralling story that makes the facts and descriptions of the people and places surrounding the uprising much more palatable and absorbing.

The Winter Sea also offers a unique narrative format. Main character and popular historical fiction novelist Carrie McClelland rents a cottage for the summer on the coast of Scotland, not far from Slain Castle (where she sets her story) and where the Jacobite uprising occurred centuries ago. Thus, The Winter Sea has two narratives: McClelland in present day Scotland, writing her novel; and McClelland’s novel, a work in progress detailing the Jacobite uprising in 1708 Scotland. Such a narrative format is fodder for narrator Rosalyn Landor, whose performance skillfully embodies the complex mind of a writer. Her voicing of Carrie is investigative, creative, imaginative, and discerning. Her deep, expressive tone allows her the versatility to voice the myriad supporting characters, both male and female, past and present. The dreamlike writing sequences of McClelland writing her novel really sing under Landor’s rendering. With Landor as a guide, it’s easy to lose yourself in The Winter Sea’s journey through Scotland and through history.

The Winter Sea confidently flourishes in the intrigue surrounding this political uprising, while also offering the accommodating narrative device of delivering the story through the mind of a writer. Kearsley and Landor together remind us that history does not have to get bogged down by the facts, but instead can be thrilling, suspenseful, and imaginative, especially when presented from a unique perspective. —Suzanne Day

Publisher's Summary

History has all but forgotten...

In the spring of 1708, an invading Jacobite fleet of French and Scottish soldiers nearly succeeded in landing the exiled James Stewart in Scotland to reclaim his crown.

Now, Carrie McClelland hopes to turn that story into her next bestselling novel. Settling herself in the shadow of Slains Castle, she creates a heroine named for one of her own ancestors and starts to write.

But when she discovers her novel is more fact than fiction, Carrie wonders if she might be dealing with ancestral memory, making her the only living person who knows the truth-the ultimate betrayal-that happened all those years ago, and that knowledge comes very close to destroying her...

Please note: This novel has also been published under a different title: Sophia's Secret.

Please note, this title is the original recording, which is now known as Sophia's Secret

©2010 Susanna Kearsley (P)2011 Audible, Inc.

Critic Reviews

  • Audie Award Winner, Romance, 2012
"Rosalyn Landor provides delightful Scottish accents for many of the characters Carrie meets inside and outside her novel....Landor adds a poetic edge to her storytelling while at the same time giving a dreamy aura to the historical side of the story." (Audiofile)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings


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  • Menon
  • Florida, US
  • 08-14-12

Amazing Read

I was recommended this book when I'd said I enjoyed Historical Romances. I must say I wasn't disappointed. It does grab your attention and keep you wanting to read more and not miss even a small detail. The narrator Rosalyn also does a wonderful job with the different voices and puts quiet a bit of emotion into her readings.
If you are looking for heady mind boggling sex then this is not the book for you.
It was full of romance and very subtly done so you can listen to the book even with toddlers in the back while on a long drive. I was so taken by Susanna Kearsley that I went ahead and bought the rest of her books on audible and listened to them too. All of which have proved to be just as entertaining.

29 of 29 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Get Out Your Hankies

I've given this book a rating of four stars because I enjoyed it overall. If you like Diana Gabaldon (who's book, "Outlander", I would give five stars+) you may like this book. I have read one other book by this author called "The Shadowy Horses". I think I prefer "The Winter Sea". Though both books are enjoyable, this one was far more interesting as to its historical content. Kearsley gives a concise history of the Jacobites and the House of Stuart. If you are at all interested in Scottish history, give it a listen. It is also quite sad in some parts. I am not an overly-emotional person, but found myself crying at one point. In order to avoid spoilers, all I can say is: stick it out to the end. I thought she did a good job of tying things up, but I would have liked a little more......oh well, I guess I just hate to end a good read. It's kind of like losing a friend!

72 of 74 people found this review helpful

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  • Gale
  • Elk Grove, CA, United States
  • 08-06-11


I was transported to another place and time with the beauty of this story and the superb narration by Rosalyn Landor. One of the two main characters is a contemporary American writer, Carrie, as she writes a novel set in early 17th century Scotland about the return of exiled King James to the Scottish throne during the reign of England's Queen Anne. The second narrator is the 17th century heroine, a young Scottish woman named Sophia, who takes the reader back to this time of intrigue, deception and danger, and two satisfying love stories. The two timelines are seamlessly interwoven and the narrator's skill at changing accents makes it easy to follow the two narrators, Carrie and Sophia, as the novel shifts back and forth between them. For those who enjoy historical fiction with detail, a sense of place and time, and romance you might find this as completely satisfying as I did.

45 of 46 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Love it

This is one of those rather rare books that you know you will feel sad when it is ends . . . I have not finished it yet and am already missing the characters/friends who are so real that the setting just wrap around you and enfolds you in cozy warmth or wintry sea air. Beautifully and sensitively written . . . don't miss it. It's a story within a story and very thought-provoking as to the origins of the creative process. Very sweet and wonderfully narrated audiobook. Rosalyn Landor does a fabulous job creating the characters and moods. I can hardly put it down. I wish I could listen non-stop -- very engaging story(s). Some mighty strong and attractive male characters here and brainy women.

49 of 51 people found this review helpful

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Ahh, Romance

This is a 3-for-1: two romances and an historical novel. Its proportions are about that, 2:1. Ms. Landor does her usual great narration, which, for me, saved this book (I am a romantic but not a romance reader). Good fluff with a bit of history thrown in.

15 of 15 people found this review helpful

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Please don't compare it to Diana Gabaldon's books

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.

12 of 12 people found this review helpful

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Scottish love story mixed with history....

I'm not a huge fan of romance novels but I like historical fiction and this book gave me both in good measure. The reader was superb in speaking with an authentic Scottish accent that is so much a part of the Scottish experience. And the female lead was intelligent, thoughtful, resourceful, and discerning - all good qualities that enhance a love story. Thank goodness the male characters were presented in mostly the same fashion, not an idiot among them! I don't think anyone who enjoys a good love story would be disappointed in purchasing this book.

12 of 12 people found this review helpful

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I absolutely LOVED this book!!!!!! I love Diana Gabaldons Outlander series and although this is not directly related. it was just as perfectly written and narrarated!! Wonderful book-- two books for the price of one in this audo book! Must buy to understand! :-)

44 of 47 people found this review helpful

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Continuing love for Jacobite tales....

I very highly recommend The Winter Sea to any reader, especially romance and historical fiction lovers.

Is Carrie McClelland writing another best seller, or telling Sophie's (Carrie's ancestor) stunning story of courage, heartbreak and love? You will fall in love with Sophie & John Moray as Susanna Kearsley tells a story that will stay with you and make you want to revisit often.

I liked all and loved some of the "Outlander" books. This is as good as the best of Outlander. I was truly captivated.

The Winter Sea will not disappoint.

43 of 46 people found this review helpful

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  • J
  • 07-15-11

Fantastic First "Winter Sea"

It's hard to believe that this was the first book by this author. I have listened to it twice because it made me laugh, cry and even sometimes holler at it. But I can't wait for her next book, This one should get 10 stars jd

37 of 40 people found this review helpful