I’m so pleased to be taking my turn on the blog tour today for Summer at the Highland Coral Beach by Kiley Dunbar. Kiley is fast becoming one of my favourite authors and I could not wait to read her latest book. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part in the tour and to the publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.
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?
At the very end of 2019, an author whose writing I had loved since I was in my teens very sadly passed away. That author was M. C. Beaton and the books beloved by me were the Hamish Macbeth stories. I spent many holidays in the Scottish borders as a child and in the town in which we stayed there was a newsagents, the Scottish version of W H Smiths, where I discovered the first Hamish Macbeth stories. I was in my early teens at the time and I immediately became addicted. As I am very old, this was in the days before Amazon, and I could not find these books in any local bookshops in the UK, so I used to wait eagerly for the summer holidays, saving up my pocket money, so I could rush and buy the next books in the series.
Several years later, the BBC made the Hamish Macbeth books into a delightful TV series, starring the gorgeous Robert Carlyle and set in a remote and dreamy part of the Scottish Highlands, and I was soon addicted to this too and still love it to this day.
Why is this in any way relevant to a review of the latest book by Kiley Dunbar, I hear you ask? Well, that TV series was filmed around the towns of Plockton and the Kyle of Lochalsh in the western Highlands, and this is a place I have been dreaming of ever since I first fell in love with these books and this show but I’ve never made it there, until now. Because Summer at the Highland Coral Beach is set in the fictional Highland village of Port Willow, which Kylie has based on that long-for destination of Plockton and the setting of the book is so gorgeous, so vivid, so…. touchable on the page that I feel like I’ve spent the last two days there, rather than stuck on my sofa at home. The book filled me with the same kind of joy and peace that made me fall in love with the portrayal of life in this small, remote Highland village and its eccentric characters in the M. C. Beaton books from my youth.
Anyone who read my reviews of Kylie’s previous two books will know I have waxed lyrical before about how wonderful her writing is at making a setting, location and a mood come alive on the page. It is a real gift, this ability to imbue the pages of a book with the spirit, the essence of a place so the reader is really there with the characters, in that place, at the time, and she really has it, possibly more than anyone I have read writing in this genre at the moment. If I really want to escape, these are the kind of books I want to pick up.
Setting aside, the characters in this book are just a delight, and I fell in love with the immediately. They are all warm and likeable and relatable from the off, and it doesn’t hurt that the main male protagonist is a hot Scot in a kilt. But it is the character of Beatrice that carries the book and made this particularly special and moving. For starters, the is in her late thirties, which is refreshing and relevant to us middle-aged readers, and she has been through something that is very moving and personal to me, because I have had a similar experience myself. I found the portrayal of Beatrice and her experience and the reaction to it very realistic and affecting, but it is written with love such and sensitivity and gentleness and understanding that, although it caused me to shed some tears and feel that little crack I forever carry in my heart give a shift, I also nodded along and smiled and acknowledged the truth of what was being shown in the story. This is a hard topic to write about, as well as to read, and it is done here with bravery and grace and I applaud the way it is handled. We must not be afraid to talk about these things, because they are the reality of people’s lives and should not be hidden and ignored.
I don’t want you to get the impression that this is a book full of sadness and pain, because it really isn’t. It is joyful and hopeful and truthful, full of warmth and sunshine and love and optimism. I adored all of the characters, the setting, the feeling of community and caring and family that flowed through it from first page to last. It was just what I needed to lift me at what is a dark time for a lot of people, and left me heart-warmed and cheered. Even in the darkest time, there is brightness and hope on the horizon. In fact, to steal a family motto from the book, ‘Dulcis Ex Asperis’. Let’s hope so.
Summer at the Highland Coral Beach is out now and you can buy a copy here.
Please do check out the other fantastic blogs taking part in the tour:
About the Author
Kiley Dunbar is the author of heart-warming, escapist, romantic fiction set in beautiful places. Shortlisted for the Joan Hessayon Award for Debut Romantic Novelists 2019 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.
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