It’s been an interesting week. Canada is a Commonwealth country, and the Queen’s death has taken over news cycles, not just here, but around the world. Here in Canada, Monday has been declared a federal holiday by the Prime Minister, which means federal employees get the day off. Otherwise, individual provinces are responsible for statutory holidays for other workers. In Saskatchewan, Monday has been proclaimed September 19 as a Day of Mourning but otherwise it is off to work.
I guess now makes it a good time to have read a regency romance about a widow and a Marquess? How’s that for an awkward segue? To Have and to Loathe by Martha Waters is a delightfully witty read. Waters style reminds me of Emily Henry’s books. I have a bit of a nitpick though. I feel like the title is a bit of a mislead. These two do not loathe each other. I’m not sure they even dislike each other that much. They disagree and they bicker and it’s highly amusing but that’s not the same thing. As a big fan of the enemies to lovers trope, I was disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, still worth the read for the dialogue alone. Just don’t expect any actual loathing. sigh. Also, not sure what that says about me…
Until next time…
Are you planning to watch the Queen’s funeral on Monday? I think I’ll pass. But I totally get why you might want to witness history.
After years of living as London’s brightest scandal, Lady Sesily Talbot has embraced the reputation and the freedom that comes with the title. No one looks twice when she lures a gentleman into the dark gardens beyond a Mayfair ballroom…and no one realizes those trysts are not what they seem.
No one, that is, but Caleb Calhoun, who has spent years trying not to notice his best friend’s beautiful, brash, brilliant sister. If you ask him, he’s been a saint about it, considering the way she looks at him…and the way she talks to him…and the way she’d felt in his arms during their one ill-advised kiss.
Except someone has to keep Sesily from tumbling into trouble during her dangerous late-night escapades, and maybe close proximity is exactly what Caleb needs to get this infuriating, outrageous woman out of his system. But now Caleb is the one in trouble, because he’s fast realizing that Sesily isn’t for forgetting…she’s forever. And forever isn’t something he can risk.
Who can resist a book in which a group of women are intent on setting right some of the wrongs committed against other women. Enter Sesily Talbot, who, along with three of her friends, spend their nights making sure the worst of the very privileged men of their acquaintance pay for their crimes. Sesily doesn’t care about her less than pristine reputation. Then again, she doesn’t have to, she’s rich in her own right. But she’s very much attracted to a man, who cares about his own. With good reason. He can’t afford for others to know too much about him. Or his past. That doesn’t stop Caleb from admiring, and very much wanting, Sesily Talbot, who also makes him want to yank his hair out one strand at a time.
What can I say? This is a bombshell of a book! Well developed characters, plenty of heat, beautiful writing, creative world building, as always. MacLean pulls back the curtain of privilege and aristocracy to show us the dark side of an age where the patriarchy reigned and infuses it with light, laughter, and bar brawls. Sesily is a force to be reckoned with and Caleb is the perfect foil to aid her in her schemes and desires.
Sarah MacLean and romance critic Jen Prokop host Fated Mates, a fantastic romance novel podcast. Their latest episode talks about the top ten books that got them through 2021. Give it a listen and add some great books to your to-be-read pile.
I’ll be back next week with a list of my favourite books from 2021.
What favourite reads got you through the mess and chaos of 2021?
Sundays seem like a good time to talk about the books I’ve read! And so begins Book Talk Sunday. I’m not going to give ratings, or stars, or gold crowns. I’m just going to offer a few of my thoughts.
The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley
Published: 2021 by Simon & Schuster (Originally Published in 2008)
Length: 528 pages
Series: Slains, Book 1
Categories: Fiction / Historical / Romance
Tags: Scottish / Jacobite / Time Slip / Genetic Memory / Time Travel
1707. The walls of Slains castle shelter Jacobite rebels, who are conspiring to sail the young, exiled James Stewart from France into Scotland to reclaim his crown—and a young woman caught up in their plot.
Present day. Writer Carrie McClelland is enchanted by an impromptu trip to Cruden Bay, Scotland, and decides to settle in the tiny village, hoping to find inspiration for her novel about the Jacobite uprising in the area’s evocative past—and in the haunting ruins of the castle.
She creates a heroine named after one of her own ancestors, Sophia Paterson, and quickly finds the words flowing, almost faster than she can write them down. But, discovering that her novel inexplicably contains more fact than she can remember researching, Carrie wonders if she could possibly be dealing with ancestral memory—in effect “recalling” what her ancestor lived.
The only way to discover the truth is to continue writing and to bring to light the whole of Sophia’s story. With each new chapter, Carrie uncovers the tale of an innocent entangled in a dangerous enterprise, the secret of forbidden love, and the final betrayal that cost James his throne—and may cost Sophia her heart.
It’s probably no surprise that I can’t resist a book who’s main character is a writer. In The Winter Sea Carrie McClelland is busy writing her latest book and has created a character she names after an ancestor that lived in 1707 Scotland. When a brief research trip takes her to Cruden Bay, she feels compelled to stay and rents a cottage. Nearby are the remains of Slains Castle that overlooks the North Sear from its cliff top. The story pours out of her and Carrie soon realizes she knows more details than she should about her long-ago relation’s life, that she has, in fact, inherited her memory.
The characters, both 18th century and 21st century, are richly developed by an author who clearly loves and respects history. The shift in time between the present, written in 1st person, and the 1700s, written is 3rd person, makes for seamless reading. Both time periods are brought to life by the characters, setting, plot, and Kearsley’s attention to detail. I also love how Kearsley handles the idea of Carrie inheriting her ancestor’s genetic memory. It is a type of time travel that fascinates me. There is always some sort of mystical element to Kearsley’s books that draws me right in.
I loved the relationship between Sophie and Moray that takes place in the past. It’s a very slow burn, as much of the emphasis is placed on what is happening around the character and the historical efforts of the Jacobites to return a Stewart King to the throne in Scotland. The relationship between Sophie and Moray is much more nuanced than the relationship between Carrie and Graham in the present. Both are sweet, both are engaging, but the earlier one is definitely given preference.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It was entertaining, informative, and gorgeously written. I don’t know what more you can ask of a book. Definitely recommend if you are drawn to historicals that take place outside of Victorian and Regency England. Susanna Kearsley’s books would definitely appeal to fans of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series.
For me, it’s always Susanna Kearsley’s love of detail, her warm writing, and the mystical part of her books that keeps me turning pages, even when there’s a daunting 528 of them.
An overhead view of Slains Castle, which is also said to be the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s setting in Count Dracula. In a tweet Kearsley explains where the main rooms mentioned in The Winter’s Sea could be found.
Have you read The Winter Sea or any other of Susanna Kearsley’s books? What did you think of them?