It’s such a pleasure today to be joining the blog tour and sharing my review of the latest book from Kiley Dunbar: Summer at the Highland Coral Beach is published today (27th March) as an e-book from Hera Books, available both for kindle and Kobo. My thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for the invitation and support, and to the publishers for my advance reading e-copy.
I’m still kicking myself that I never got round to reading Kiley’s first book, One Summer’s Night – it’s a tough life being a blogger at times! But I’d heard such great things about her writing that there was no way I was going to miss her second, Christmas at Frozen Falls – despite the fact that it meant reading about Christmas in Lapland in August’s baking heat to get a review done for my tour date. It was just SO wonderful – you’ll find my review here, and it’s the first time I’ve ever included a Christmas read in my Books of the Year list, while also adding a destination to my bucket list. (In fairness, I really must mention that Jules Wake’s Notting Hill in the Snow made it onto my list too – they were both such great reads, and I do love Christmas!).
So, a new book from Kiley – and it’s rather exciting that it’s the first in a new series about Port Willow Bay. And having read it, I rather think I might be spending as much time there as Beatrice…
Escape to the Highland Coral Beach – where broken hearts can be healed
Beatrice Halliday needs a break from life. Booking a trip to the Highlands on a whim, Beatrice hopes learning Gaelic in a beautiful Scottish village might help her heal her grief after losing her baby, her husband and her much loved job in a space of months.
But Port Willow Bay isn’t exactly as the website promised. Instead of learning a new language, she’s booked in to learn the ancient skill of willow weaving, her hotel room is Princess and the Pea themed (with a stack of mattresses for her bed!) and worse still, her tutor is Atholl Fergusson, grumpy landlord of the hotel where Beatrice is staying – and she’s the only one doing the course.
But as Beatrice finds herself falling in love with Port Willow Bay and its people, and as she discovers the kind heart beneath Atholl’s stony exterior, can she really leave?
Escape to the beautiful Scottish Highlands with this utterly romantic, feelgood book; one visit to Port Willow Bay and you’ll want to come back! Fans of Sarah Morgan, Carole Matthews and Holly Martin will be captivated.
There’s so much I enjoy about Kiley Dunbar’s lovely writing, but she really does have a particular knack for characterisation: I think a lot of it has to do with the way she develops her main character’s “voice”. The narrative might be third person, but this is very much Beatrice’s story – you share her experience, see things through her eyes, feel for her, hurt with her, feel her frustration and joy, even get annoyed with her at times, but then become entirely invested in hoping she’ll find her happy ending.
I will admit Beatrice didn’t win me over straight away: I thought she maybe wallowed for a little longer than I’d have liked, but that might have been my fault, reading the book in short bursts. But from the moment she found herself in Port Willow Bay, an impulsive decision she initially regretted, the pace really picked up and the the whole story took off: I raced through the rest with a wide smile on my face.
And that smile wasn’t just because of Beatrice herself – the whole supporting cast, however minor their role and involvement, is simply superb. The author very successfully builds an entire community, every individual entirely three-dimensional, with the hotel and its staff and residents as its beating heart.
And then there’s the setting, so vividly imagined and wonderfully described. I see from the author’s letter at the book’s end that Port Willow is a re-imagined version of Plockton in the West Highlands – most definitely one for that bucket list (and perhaps a bit more achievable than Lapland, eh?).
The story itself – although tinged with some serious themes at times – has immense warmth, an essential sunny lightness interrupted only now and then by a few passing clouds. It follows the oft tried and well-tested path of enemies becoming friends (and possibly more), but with real originality in the way the story twists and turns and different individuals become its focus.
And I must mention that although I’m not always a particular fan of attempting to capture people’s speech patterns, it’s done quite perfectly here – it might sound bizarre, but I really found myself reading with a Scottish accent (is that a “thing”, do you think?).
All that, a touch of match-making, the Princess and the Pea bed with its ladder and towering mattresses, an introduction to willow-weaving (quite fascinating), how to revive a field of lavender – and one of the most characterful dogs that you could ever wish to meet. There’s supportive friendship, fresh starts and new beginnings (and not only for Beatrice), and a real and believable romance as the characters discover what might just make them happy. You really can’t ask for much more, can you?
An absolutely gorgeous read, thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommended – and I’m really looking forward to returning to Port Willow Bay…
About the author
Kiley Dunbar is the author of heart-warming, escapist, romantic fiction set in beautiful places. A finalist in the Joan Hessayon award for debut novelists this year, for One Summer’s Night, Kiley is Scottish and lives in England with her husband, two kids and Amos the Bedlington Terrier. She writes around her work at a University in the North of England where she lectures in English Literature and creative writing. She is proud to be a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and a graduate of their New Writers’ Scheme.
One Summer’s Night was Kiley’s first novel (published by Hera Books) and is on sale now – and there’s also a fabulous Audible audiobook narrated by Eilidh Beaton. Kiley’s cosy, sexy-swoony, very snowy festive romcom Christmas at Frozen Falls is on sale NOW too!