So here I find myself, with a type of novel I have held no particular interest in for quite some time, a romance, that is saved by its historical context, and a touch of magic, or science, depending on how you look at it. And though I have no particular urge to go on a romance read-a-thon, it was a very welcome reading-slump-buster.
This is really two stories in one. The first is that of Carrie, a historical fiction writer, who wants to tell the story of James Stewart, whose throne was stolen from him and his Jacobite supporters, especially Nathaniel Hooke. She’s been attempting to write in France at the palace of St Germain where Stewart lived in exile, but finds no inspiration there. On a chance visit to her agent in Scotland, she stumbles upon Slains Castle, and hears the voices of her characters finally come to life. As she writes, she discovers many details are history, with not a shred of fiction.
We are also given access to the story she is writing, and the chapters frequently alter between past and present. The story she writes is of Sophia, who finds herself in the household of the Countess of Errol, a staunch Jacobite. This is the story that really stole the show though I hadn’t expected it to. Sophia is not an active player in the Jacobite uprisings, merely a passive observer for the most part, but her story is both joyful and tragic, enchanting and haunting. I ripped through these pages as I cannot recall having done in months.
The romance is told beautifully. There are no sex scenes (they merely fade to black) and I think perhaps that is the most appealing aspect of the entire novel. It allowed the romance itself to take center stage and truly be felt by the reader. Though I could not tell you much about the truth of these events as the author has written them, I was impressed by the afterword (which I always read!) and it seemed to me that she had done very thorough research and perhaps even included a couple of the locals of Cruden Bay in Carrie’s story.
The writing was superb, even if the Doric speech was almost untranslatable to my eyes. But it is Scotland and it lent the story a great deal of authenticity.
I will definitely be checking out Kearsley’s other works in the future (I’ve been eyeing The Firebird for awhile) and would heartily recommend this to fans of historical romance and certainly to fans of Outlander and Diana Gabaldon.