The Winter Sea was one of my library books. It took me a little bit to get into as the characters were not initially compelling and it's on the longer side. The book follows Carrie McClelland, a historical fiction writer, who is writing a book about a failed Jacobite invasion of Scotland in 1708. I don't know much about the Jacobites (who wanted to put King James Stewart on the throne of England over William and Mary and later Mary's sister, Anne; essentially people opposed the Hanover family) or about Scottish history in general, but the books explains enough that I didn't feel lost.
So Carrie goes to Scotland to see her publisher and on the way, spots a castle by the sea. She is drawn to it and rather than returning to France where she had been writing the book, she takes a cottage in this small town by the sea where she feels inspired. She decides to write her book from the perspective of a fictional woman named Sophie, inspired by one of her own ancestors, rather than from the perspective of Nathaniel Hooke, an Irish man who was heavily involved in plotting to return the Stewarts to the throne of England.
In Scotland, Carrie meets Jimmy Keith (who has a very Scottish accent) and his two sons, Graham (a historian) and Stuart (a ladies man who does some kind of tech work). A romantic triangle develops as Carrie works. At the same time, she is increasingly lost in her writing and comes to discover that elements of her story seem to be true to history. She develops something that the book refers to as "genetic memory", meaning that she has inherited the memory of her real ancestor, Sophia, which is literally becoming the foundation of her novel.
The novel switches back and forth between Carrie's story and Sophia's. At first Sophia's is a little boring but since Carrie doesn't do a whole lot beyond write and have instant love connections with one of the guys, Sophia's story becomes much more interesting. She also develops a love story with a man who is quite a bit like Carrie's love interest.
The biggest problem with the story is that neither Carrie nor Sophia are particularly interesting. More happens to Sophie, so her plot is more compelling, but it's not really clear why men are so drawn to the two of them. Carrie is just a little too boring. You have the feeling that she writes cheesy, girlie historical fiction... you know, like The Winter Sea. It doesn't seem like she'd write a story with a male protagonist.
Besides that, the premise is a little ridiculous with the whole "genetic memory" thing. It sounds like a cool idea but again, I felt like the novel itself just wasn't that great. Also there's a twist at the end for other stories. Sophia's was really obvious and I guessed it pretty quickly. Carrie's was a bit incestuous. You'll see if you read it.
I did get a bit sucked into Sophia's story but overall I felt sort of blah about this book. I don't think I'd seek out Kearsley's other novels, but if you like historical fiction you might be into this. I'd recommend the Philippa Gregory books over these because the characters seem so much more interesting.
Buy The Winter Sea at amazon and barnes and noble.