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BOOK REVIEW: Sophia’s Secret by Susanna Kearsley

Wednesday, December 07, 2016


When bestselling author Carrie McClelland visits the windswept ruins of Slains Castle, she is enchanted by the stark and beautiful Scottish landscape. The area is strangely familiar to her but she puts aside her faint sense of unease to begin her new novel, using the castle as her setting, and one of her own ancestors, Sophia, as her heroine. Then Carrie realises her writing is taking on a life of its own and the lines between fact and fiction become increasingly blurred. As Sophia's memories draw Carrie more deeply into the intrigue of 1708, she discovers a captivating love story lost in time. After three hundred years, Sophia's Secret must be told.


A parallel narrative set in Scotland, filled with spies and secrets and forbidden love, Sophia’s Secret (also published as The Winter Sea) is just the kind of book I love to read. 

A young author named Carrie McClelland is writing a novel about the Jacobite invasion of England in 1708, but is struggling to bring her work of fiction to life. 

On a whim, she travels to Scotland for research and finds herself inexorably drawn to the ruins of an old castle that she knows had a key role to play in the rebellion. Slowly she finds herself drawn into the stories of the past, and makes a number of baffling discoveries that logic simply cannot explain. Meanwhile, back in the past, Sophia finds herself drawn into the dangers of the secret mission to return the Stuarts to the throne, risking everything to be with the man she loves.

I really love this period of history, and I also loved Susannah Kearsley’s deft mix of suspense, romance, and magic. Her books are smoothly and swiftly paced, and the heroines of both narrative threads are strong and interesting and likeable. I’ll be reading more of her work, that’s for sure. 

Enjoy books with dual timelines? Then you may enjoy some of the many other wonderful books with parallel narratives that I've read and reviewed.

Any suggestions for me to read? Please give me your recommendations!

BOOK LIST: Books Read in April 2013

Saturday, May 18, 2013

I read 10 books in April, bringing me to a grand total of 44 books for the year. All but one was a historical novel - next month, I must try and read a little more widely!

The Changeling – Philippa Gregory

This is Philippa Gregory's first foray in Young Adult Fiction and I thought it was really well done. From the opening scene, I felt as if I was in the hands of a storytelling master. The pace is swift, the characters are believable, sympathetic and sharply drawn, and the historical setting done with a sure, light touch. The book twists together a medieval mystery, romance, and a touch of the supernatural to make a most enjoyable read. 

The Firebird – Susanna Kearsley

I was drawn to this book by the utterly gorgeous cover and also by a Good Reads recommendation which said it was like other authors I'd enjoyed like Kate Morton and Kimberley Freeman. It's always a risk and an adventure trying out a new author, and I'm really glad I took the jump. Susanna Kearsley's writing is just gorgeous - very sensuous and vivid - and the storyline is intriguing. The heroine Nicola has the psychic gifts of seeing 'flashes' of an object's past when she lays her hands on it. Although she works in antiques and art, she tries to keep her gift hidden from the world. Until she touches a simple, wood-carved firebird ... and finds herself on a quest to discover its story. The Firebird combines contemporary and historical narratives, romance, suspense, and a a twist of the supernatural into a delicate, wise tale. I believe the book is part of a connected series and so I look forward to discovering her other books. 

The Darling Strumpet – Gillian Bagwell
A wonderful historical novel told from the point of view of Nell Gwyn, the feisty mistress of Charles II. 

Silent in the Grave – Deanna Raybourn
Silent in the Sanctuary – Deanna Raybourn
Silent on the Moors – Deanna Raybourn

I read and enjoyed this these Victorian murder mysteries some time ago, but recently realised that there were now five in the whole series and I had only read the first three. So I set myself the task of reading them all again. They were a great pleasure to revisit. Each book is a separate mystery, but a lot of the intrigue comes from the slowly developing romance between the heroine, Lady Jane Grey, and the mysterious investigator she first meets in the first line of the first book: 

"To say that I met Nicholas Brisbane over my husband's dead body is not entirely accurate. Edward, it should be noted, was still twitching upon the floor." 

The tone of the books are wry and clever - there's a lot of subtle ironic humour - plus I loved the way lady Julia slowly turns from being a repressed Victorian lady to a bold, sensual and self-determined woman. I'm looking forward to reading the last books in the series (I've already bought them!) 

The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris – Jenny Colgan
A book bought solely on the title and the cover! I don't read much chick lit but enjoy a frothy comic romance every now and again. This was even frothier than I expected - and not quite as funny as I had hoped - but a few memorable characters, gorgeous descriptions of making chocolate, and the Parisian setting made it a most relaxing and sweet read. 

And Then She Fell – Stephanie Laurents
I enjoyed this Stephanie Laurents book more than I have some of her other titles --- I think because there was a murder in there as well which meant that was a story line other than the usual rake-meets-lady angle. Good holiday reading.

The Perfume Garden - Kate Lord Brown
A young woman inherits an old house in Spain, discovers clues to buried family secrets, meets a gorgeous Spaniard, and finds her true path in life ... interposed with flashbacks to her grandmother's experiences during the bloody and turbulent Spanish Civil War  ... this book is exactly the sort of book I love to read the most. And I did love it! Look out for a longer review and an interview with the author in the months to come. 

The Chalice – Nancy Bilyeau 
I read and really enjoyed Nancy Bilyeau's historical thriller The Crown last year and so was eager to return to her world of bloody Tudor intrigue, romance, with a twist of the supernatural. Her heroine Joanna is a sympathetic character and the story is filled with  slowly building suspense. 

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