When I saw that Rosalyn Landor had won an Audie Award in 2012 for Best Female Performance with The Winter Sea, I knew I had to give it a try. I’d love to find reason to add Ms. Landor to my preferred narrator list. To date, I haven’t favored her voicing of male characters – they generally sound old and stuffy. But much to my delight, her performance of the The Winter Sea definitely swings the pendulum into my “preferred” category and I’ll definitely be on the lookout for more Landor narrations.
Carrie McClelland, a well-known author, is working on her latest book of historical fiction set around 1708 in Scotland. Inspired by the ruins of Slains Castle, Carrie moves from France to Scotland to further research her project. Her writing begins to take on a life of its own as she instinctively writes events that she knows are accurate or play out in her dreams, only to discover later that her research proves each event to be true.
The Winter Sea actually contains two stories (and two romances). The first is a contemporary accounting of Carrie and her landlord’s sons – one a carefree charmer and the other a college professor and historian. The second romance is delivered through flashbacks as Carrie unfolds the events three centuries earlier surrounding the efforts to put the Stewarts back on the throne of Scotland. There’s a truly effective mystery working here. One can pick up a history book and determine the ultimate outcome of the characters’ efforts. However, it’s the personal stories that present the mystery and, of course, those are the most beautiful of all.
And speaking of beautiful, that’s the word that I would use to describe the entire audio version of The Winter Sea. From the first moment, I was drawn to the sheer artistry of Susanna Kearsley as she paints this perfect picture in my mind that is evocative and moving with an almost haunting quality. Don’t even think about looking ahead to the ending – it’s not one you want to spoil.
Landor’s deep voice only adds to that beauty of The Winter Sea. She’s at her best once again with her lovely general narrative and performance of the female roles. Her males still sound a little stuffy but I honestly don’t think I would have noticed if I hadn’t been looking to make the comparison to her previous works. All the characters are easily differentiated and true to the written word. Together with Ms. Kearsley, they give life to the sea – a very real part of the story.
As I want a romance to be romantic, I feared The Winter Sea wouldn’t deliver on that count. It is true that there is a large amount of history and the romance plays a back seat when it comes to page count. But make no mistake – romance drives this tale. Oh, the accounting of history is truly fine but it is the historical romantic characters who ultimately deliver the hit status.
As I listened to The Winter Sea, I often wished I’d had a print version lying at my side for easy reference to the many names with their similar titles and the details of the effort to restore King James to the throne. I wish I could have listened with Amazon’s Whispersync (it had yet to be introduced) as I firmly believe this is one instance where I would have benefitted from a print version synced to the audio. But even with the occasional confusion as to the identity of a character, The Winter Sea was a definite winner in more ways than one and I highly recommend it to listeners even if you have shied from Landor in the past.
Book Content: A
Steam Factor: You can play it out loud
Genre: Mix of Historical Romance and Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Audible Inc.