Author: Susanna Kearsley
Format: Trade Paperback & eBook
Publication Date: April 1, 2012
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
This past summer there was a huge sale on ebooks at Amazon, and one of the books I downloaded to my Kindle was Susanna Kearsley’s The Winter Sea. It was outstanding, and ever since I’ve been a fan of her writing. I’m not sure that her books qualify as romances, although they have strong romantic elements in them, nor do they seem to fit in the category of women’s fiction. All three of Ms. Kearsley’s books that I’ve read (The Winter Sea, The Rose Garden, and Mariana) deal with either time travel or some type of reincarnation. I love how she incorporates history into her fiction without huge info dumps, because she brings the history alive for the reader through the characters’ experiences. Mariana was originally published in 1994 and is now being reissued by Sourcebooks. I’m delighted to say that it stands up to the test of time very, very well, and I highly recommend it.
Narrator Julia Beckett is an illustrator of children’s books, and years ago on a family vacation she spotted a house, Greywethers, that she just knew was “her” house. Many years later as an adult, she comes across it again, and armed with a recent inheritance, she impulsively purchases the home and moves from London to Wiltshire. But the longer she resides in Greywethers, the more unusual her experiences become. She starts to relive the life of Mariana Farr, a young woman who escaped the plague in London of the 1660s, and the more Julia relives Mariana’s life, the more she begins to see parallels in her present day existence.
The central romance in Mariana is not Julia’s – rather it is Mariana’s affair with local gentleman Sir Richard de Mornay. Mariana has fled London to stay with her uncle Jabez, a dour and cruel man who has ordered her not to speak to the stunningly beautiful Richard. Unfortunately Mariana’s parents taught her to think for herself, and the temptation of Richard proves too much to bear.
The intriguing part of Mariana is how Julia’s present day life intersects with that of Mariana. Julia never knows when she will be unexpectedly thrust into Mariana’s life and wonders if she is in fact Mariana reincarnated. As Julia learns more about Mariana’s relationships in the 1660s, she starts to look around to see if Richard or any of Mariana’s other friends are also taking this journey with her.
I can’t stress enough how much I enjoy the way Ms. Kearsley incorporates the history into her text. Mariana relives the history, which allows us to relive it along with her, making it easier to understand how different factions during the tempestuous period in England would have fared after the fall of Cromwell. The romance between Mariana and Richard sets up a similar one between Julia and another character, but we’re left uncertain about that character’s name until the very end, although I had guessed who it was fairly early on.
I did find Julia’s initial jumps into Mariana’s time to be a bit disconcerting, because they weren’t indicated by any sort of break in the text. However, this replicates Julia’s experience, and after a quick check back the first time, I was soon able to follow along without any difficulty. I do wish that we could have seen more of Julia’s romance develop, as we do in Ms. Kearsley’s later novels, but it certainly makes for an intriguing ending.
I absolutely loved this book, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Fans of Diana Gabaldon and Lynn Kurland will definitely enjoy Susanna Kearsley’s books, and Mariana is no exception.