Author focus on Kiley Dunbar and her lovely book – Escape to the Highland Coral Beach

I recently reviewed this gorgeous tale of rediscovery and finding love. As this book is currently on 99p, it was worth revisiting and seeing if anyone fancies a trip to the Scottish Highlands….

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?

Read on for an extract from the author – Kiley Dunbar.

Extract from Summer at the Highland Coral Beach by Kiley Dunbar (Hera books, 2020), in which Beatrice – running away from her past – has found herself in the Scottish highlands and somehow accepting a day’s drive over to Skye with Atholl Fergusson, the handsome redheaded landlord of the inn she’s staying in. She’s determined not to tell him anything about the secret grief she’s hiding away inside her.

Beatrice gripped the seat and squinted at Atholl’s determined expression as the gears screeched.

‘Are we going to make it?’ 

The hill was the steepest she’d ever scaled in a car. A queue of tourist traffic was forming behind them. Beatrice glanced out the back window and winced to see increasingly dark exhaust fumes billowing behind them. ‘We’re losing speed, Atholl. Are we going to come to a stop? Will we roll backwards?’ She tried to quell the rising alarm in her chest by concentrating on Atholl’s features, which were set in firm concentration. 

Rusty’s no failed me yet and he won’t today,’ he said, his jaw clenched around the words. ‘But if you know who the patron saint of old bangers is, it might be a good time to start praying to them.’ 

She noticed the crinkle at the corners of his eyes. He wasn’t afraid in the least, and so she told herself this probably meant she shouldn’t be either.

‘Come on, Rusty! You can do it!’ she cried out the window into the summer air, which was growing cooler with every second of their climb.

Atholl looked across at her, a grin forming. ‘That’s the spirit! Come on, Rusty, old pal! We believe in you.’ 

The cars behind beeped their horns and the pair burst into triumphant cheers as Rusty reached the brow of the hill and they picked up speed. ‘He’s no’ so good at the inclines but he can fly down the valleys like a rally car.’

But Beatrice was too distracted to reply. Spreading out ahead of her as far as she could see were enormous mountains, skies higher and wider than any she’d ever gazed up at, glinting sunlight hitting a thousand scintillating tarns and lochs as small and dazzling as sequins from this distance, and something utterly unexpected that took away her breath. 

‘Is… is that snow?’ She pointed a finger to the highest peak ahead of them before realising that all the mountains were capped with sparkling white where they soared into cloudless blue.

Atholl gazed out the windscreen with a look of pride and awe. ‘You’re in the heavens up here, Beatrice. With the very angels themselves.’

You have a way of making everything sound like poetry,’ she said. Beatrice curled her feet beneath her on the seat and turned to lean her elbows on the window ledge, the fresh air blowing her hair back over her shoulders as she scanned the mountaintops for a glimpse of her own angel. Were such things possible up here on this curious island? For a second, she had believed so. ‘It’s beautiful here,’ she said quietly. Deep down, she knew these weren’t really the words queueing up behind her lips. What she’d really wanted to do was tell him about her baby, but she swallowed down the impulse, wondering where it had come from. She’d have to be extra careful on this strange island if its unfamiliarity and magic were going to provoke feelings like that. She tightened her fists as a reminder not to say too much and risk spoiling everything about their sunny daytrip.

***

The walking was hard going. Beatrice was torn between taking in the stunning scenery, and scanning the uneven peaty and puddled ground for the great gaps and trenches that seemed to exist only to trip the unwary tourist. 

It had been a struggle finding a free parking space at the side of the curving mountain road, and when they had finally pulled to a stop, Beatrice had laughed at the sight of Atholl lifting the two bricks from under the tartan travelling rug in the back and wedging them behind the wheels like aeroplane chocks.

Not confident about Rusty’s brakes then?

‘I wouldnae say I had absolute faith in them, no.’

Picnic basket in hand, Atholl pointed in the direction they were to walk: upwards, along the stone-strewn and pitted road. Beatrice glanced behind at the great stream of visitors all walking downhill from their parked cars and along a boggy path between two steep slopes. The visitors had wellies and walking gear on, many had ordinance survey maps hung around their necks in waterproof covers and she was sure she caught a glimpse of the Sussex crafting ladies in their cagoules yomping alongside a burn, gripping their single ski poles. The sight made her think of the summer cardigan she’d stuffed into her bag, suddenly feeling drastically underprepared for the hike Atholl was taking her on.

‘Everyone’s going the other way though, Atholl?’

‘Precisely,’ he nodded sagely. ‘Let’s take the road less travelled.

***

Although they were walking downhill the terrain was pitted and ridged and Beatrice’s thigh muscles began to ache. The burning woke her from her reverie again. Atholl had been talking all this time, but about what she didn’t know. 

‘Can I?’ he was saying, while jutting an elbow out to her. ‘You’re wearying.’

She slipped her hand into the crook of his arm. Weary? Yes, that was the word for how she’d felt these last few weeks. Weary. But somehow walking steadily in silence with Atholl, matching his long strides step for step, was bringing her back to herself, and when they at last reached a narrow valley and she heard the rush of many little waterfalls cascading into deep pools arranged down the valley in tiers, she began to smile again.

‘The fairy pools?’ she cried.

Aye.

The scene held her transfixed for a moment. She understood how these pools had got their name. The waters were clearer even than those at the coral beach but instead of a tropical turquoise their depths shone with a silver glimmer. Tiny waterboatmen rowed across their bright surfaces, winged insects flitted between the minuscule wild sweetpeas that bloomed yellow like Highland butter and grew everywhere around their banks. The pointed spires of purple bee orchids flowered a little further off in the longer grass alongside tough little thistles and clovers. A damp, mossy, sweet smell rose from the soft earth which was everywhere dotted with rabbit holes, grassy tuffets and exposed grey stones. 

Beatrice could well imagine that the Skye fairies were watching her from their magical little hideouts as Atholl asked her where she wanted to sit and she picked out a dryish-looking spot on a grassy bank under a cluster of scrubby bushes right by a flowing shallow rivulet filling one of the wider pools. Atholl spread the blanket on the ground and joined her on it. When she leaned over and dipped her fingertips into the inviting water, she found it was freezing cold and snatched her hand back with a yelp. 

‘Changed your mind about swimming, Atholl?’

Possibly.’

Kiley Dunbar can be found on Twitter where she happily engages with her followers @KileyDunbar

If you fancy buying this gorgeous book, follow these links

Amazon Kobo

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: