Today I’m thrilled to to be sharing an extract from Summer at the Highland Coral Beach. It sounds like the perfect read for the moment, and one that I will be reviewing at a later date once my existing commitments ease off. Anyway, blurb is as usual below and extract further down so read on and see if you think it’s something you might be tempted by……
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?
The Skye Boat
It didn’t matter that Beatrice was hungry, in fact she was glad to give the fried food a miss this morning as she realised her stomach was churning not because it was empty but because it was full of nerves – even though she most definitely wasn’t going on a date.
No. Categorically this wasn’t a date. On dates, you have to talk about yourself and answer awkward questions and she had no intention of doing that. This was just two people celebrating a bit of successful matchmaking with some sightseeing and tomorrow she was going back to Warwickshire to help Angela and Vic with their wedding plans and to see what her house looked like now the removal men had been and done Rich’s dirty work.
She was going to Skye with Atholl to be nice and to prove she wasn’t a moody cow, and maybe also because he was pleasant to be with. But that was all.
Back in her room she grabbed her bag, stuffed in her umbrella, sun lotion and shades, before stopping in front of her mirror to smooth her hair and brush on some mascara. Then, thinking again, she rushed back to the bathroom to brush her teeth for a second time that morning and slick on pale lipstick and dab perfume at her wrists.
Holding onto the sink she fixed a hard stare in the mirror. ‘Get a grip, Bea. He’s just another person who’s taken pity on you. This is nothing more than a day’s sightseeing on Skye, never mind it’s with Atholl.’ The words faltered and she shook her head in exasperation.
Was this how she was going to greet Atholl outside the inn, red-faced and flustered? ‘Ridiculous!’ She gripped her bag and headed downstairs. Ready or not, she’d agreed to go and no amount of awkwardness and inconvenient tummy butterflies was going to hold her back now.
He was waiting by the jetty, just as he’d said, a wicker picnic basket by his walking-booted feet. He was in black outdoorsy trousers and the same brown and orange checked shirt she’d seen him in the first time they’d met. Today it was worn open over a grey t-shirt like some Celtic model in a Barbour advert.
Echo sat obediently by his master’s side on the boardwalk, watching her and panting wide-mouthed as though he were smiling at her.
She gave herself another quick assessing glance down her body as she approached them along the sea wall, glad she’d worn her trainers thinking how muddy the walking in Skye might be, less glad they were white.
Coming to a stop in front of Atholl and Echo she found she was grinning but having trouble looking Atholl in the eyes. Why was she the one feeling this new kind of awkwardness when Atholl looked somehow cool and self-contained? As she was searching for her sunglasses in her bag, a good distraction from her awkwardness, she spotted the boat, already loaded with Atholl’s jacket and woollen blankets.
‘We’re rowing? I thought when you said we had one of Seth’s boats we’d be in something with an engine!’
‘You’ll see more if we’re cutting through the water in silence.’ Atholl stepped one foot into the little rustic-looking boat and steadied it enough for Echo to jump in and crawl the length of the hull beneath the two wooden benches before curling up in the stern ready for a snooze at sea.
Atholl’s hand was reaching out for her own. Was he thinking she was going to make her excuses and run?
She didn’t remember stepping into the bobbing craft, but she was sure the sensation of Atholl’s strong hand clasping her own was indelibly imprinted on her nervous system.
He passed her the picnic basket which she stowed under the little bench she’d perched on and she watched as Atholl stepped into the boat, making it rock. Beatrice was relieved to catch a glimpse of a warmer Atholl when he laughed and grimaced all at once, finding his balance, deftly slipping the rope and pushing the boat off from the jetty.
‘There’s only one set of oars, Atholl, that doesn’t seem very fair.’
He’d already grasped them and was adjusting them in the handles. ‘You enjoy the journey. I don’t mind rowing.’
And so she settled on the bench as best she could, holding the sides of the rocking boat until Atholl had it turned and facing out towards the mouth of the bay. When he made the first stroke she just happened to be making a remark about the blue skies and wondering if the weather would hold but found herself stopping mid-sentence, dry-mouthed and staring at the muscles moving in his forearms and at the broad expanse of his chest as the oars met the deep resistance of the water, his shoulders and biceps straining against the soft, washed-out fabric of his shirt.
‘It’s set to be warm all day,’ he replied.
He was smiling. Had he noticed? How embarrassing. She vowed to be more sensible and turned her head to watch the gulls swooping over the water and the little fishing boats crisscrossing the harbour mouth. By the time the silence was beginning to feel crushing they were nearing the open water. Atholl steered them close to the rocks but the waves grew choppier.
She wanted to simply listen to the slap of water on the prow and the sounds of the gentle wind that was lifting her hair but felt she couldn’t. She wittered something about wishing she had a camera to photograph the scene and Atholl greeted her chatter with silence, his eyes occasionally passing over her face before quickly flitting to where the oars met the water.
Eventually, when she spoke again, Atholl talked over her. His voice was unusually quiet and she could just make out something along the lines of, ‘On the subject of bonny views, you, uh…’ But her own overlapping words erased the sounds.
‘Go ahead, you first,’ he insisted, with what looked like relief.
About the author:
Kiley Dunbar is the author of heart-warming, escapist, romantic fiction set in beautiful places for Hera Books. She is Scottish and lives in England with her partner, 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, a graduate of their New Writers’ Scheme and a nominee for the Joan Hessayon Award 2019.
You can find Kiley on Twitter @KileyDunbar
and on the ‘Kiley Dunbar Author Book Page’ on Facebook