Young Woman Rents Cottage, Romantic Suspense Ensues

The food:
Banana Chocolate Chip Muffin

Fresh-baked Banana Chocolate Chip Muffin at Ward's Island Cafe

Fresh-baked Banana Chocolate Chip Muffin at Ward's Island Cafe

The story:

This past week, I read The Winter Sea, a novel by Susanna Kearsley, a Canadian writer who is a big name author of romantic suspense in the U.K.


The Winter Sea alternates between two storylines, contemporary and historical. In the first, a Canadian woman writer rents a cottage in the Scottish village of Cruden Bay, during the winter, in order to write a novel set in and around the nearby ruined castle of Slains, in the year 1708.

The second story line consists of the historical fiction the writer channels from the ghostly consciousness of her main character, a woman who was the writer’s ancestor.

Kearsley has made a name for herself writing books that combine present and past story lines, and has been hailed as a worthy successor to revered (and still living) English author Mary Stewart, described in an awesome fansite I just discovered as “the mother of the modern romantic suspense novel.”

My 2 copies of my favorite Mary Stewart novel

My 2 copies of my favorite Mary Stewart novel

I was a big fan of Stewart’s novels in my youth and would go so far as to say they inspired, in part, my brief fling with studying ancient history and archeology in university.

I also made an intertextual reference to Mary Stewart’s novel The Ivy Tree in my novel The Glenwood Treasure,


which, like The Ivy Tree, pays tribute to Josephine Tey’s classic thriller Brat Farrar.


Kearsley’s historical fiction is impeccably researched and makes exciting use of the physical and atmospheric details of her locations – her ear is well-trained to hear the stories that still live on in old places.

But I preferred the contemporary story line in The Winter Sea – for nostalgic reasons, I’m still a sucker for stories in which an intelligent, bookish young woman holes up in a remote country cottage, takes long walks along seaside cliffs, meets a rugged and handsome local guy, and becomes involved in solving an old mystery.

I was midway through the book when E and I took our bikes, by ferry, to Toronto Island on a cloudy weekday, and did our usual ride from Hanlan’s Point to Ward’s Island and back, with a stop at the Ward’s Island Cafe for a warm and delicious banana chocolate chip muffin and coffee.

The Ward's Island cafe in the Ward's Island Association clubhouse

The Island is beautiful in any weather – quiet and woodsy, with the lake and endless sky on one side of the path, and semi-groomed parkland on the other.

As I rode along, with the wind blowing whitecaps on the waves and rustling the leaves on the trees, toward the small community of former cottages (now homes) on Ward’s Island, it occurred to me that the Island would make a great setting for a young woman in a cottage story in the Mary Stewart and Susanna Kearsley vein (though minus the historical fiction angle). I might have to write that story someday.


2 thoughts on “Young Woman Rents Cottage, Romantic Suspense Ensues

  1. Pingback: Twitted by HSWLA

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