Guest Contributor: Theresa Atashkar
with many thanks for writing what I have been unable to put into words. I have been
in awe of Ms. Kearsey. I told Theresa and asked her to write the review.
Carolyn McClelland was writing a historical novel based loosely on Nathaniel Hooke, an Irishman close to King Louis XIV at Saint-Germain in the late 1600/1700‘s. When King Charles II died and his brother James II took the throne he helped organize the Scottish Highlander Jacobites and taken up arms to defend King James. Carolyn had spent five months in France researching Nathaniel Hooke but was getting nowhere.
Carolyn decided to visit her agent, Jane, in Scotland and let her read what she had so far written in her book and get her opinion. Her research was not going well and thought she may find fresh information in Scotland. “So on that winter morning when it all began, when I first took my rental car and headed north from Aberdeen, it never once occurred to me that someone else’s hand was at the helm.”
It is here at this place and time that Susanna Kearsley pulls you in and wraps you deep into the story of Carolyn’s very own ancestors. Carrie, her family calls her, loses her way and ends up strangely in front of an old castle that was in sad disrepair. The area around is totally deserted and she wants to go exploring but is afraid to wander into the castle alone, she is drawn to this castle and doesn’t want to leave; it is the Earl of Erroll’s castle, Slains. Carrie meets a man there and he explains to her where she is and how to get back to the main road to be on her way to Peterhead so see Jane.
After revisiting the castle with Jane and finding more history that she had thought she would, she decides to rent a cottage in Cruden Bay. The only cottage available was an old cottage on a headland jetting out above the sea and when she turned and saw the view of the castle ruin and knew she needed to stay there. She could already hear her characters speaking to her but it was not that of Nathaniel Hooke, it was a woman’s voice. “So, you see, my heart is held forever by this place,’ she said. ‘I cannot leave.”
I imagine all writers have some kind of “trance” they go into or dream of what their characters want the writer to say about them. But Carrie’s dreams and trances took her to the Castle, Slains and she saw it as it was in the 1700’s and it was there that she met Sophie, the woman that was her ancestor who would tell her everything she craved to know and told her all about her own history. Carrie was deeply wrapped up in learning about who were the real traitors to King James; she watched as Sophie fell in love and married secretly. She watched and cried as I cried when Sophie gave birth to Anna alone and scared, and again when she found out her husband had been killed in battle. While Carrie was not writing she was also falling in love herself with a wonderful history professor and the small town of Cruden Bay.
I’ve never read a historical romance novel that pulled me in and made me fall in love with the characters, the location and at the same time teach me so much about true history! This was an amazing story and one that I will read again and again. I would recommend this book to anyone and I look forward to reading her other works for me to read…and learn…and cry.