Merina Wilde has it all: a successful career writing the kind of romantic novels that make even the hardest hearts swoon, a perfect carousel of book launches and parties to keep her social life buzzing, and a childhood sweetheart who thinks she’s a goddess. But Merry has a secret: the magic has stopped flowing from her fingers. Try as she might, she can’t summon up the sparkle that makes her stories shine. And as her deadline whooshes by, her personal life falls apart too. Alex tells her he wants something other than the future she’d always imagined for them and Merry finds herself single for the first time since – well, ever.
Desperate to get her life back on track, Merry leaves London and escapes to the windswept Orkney Islands, locking herself away in a secluded clifftop cottage to try to heal her heart and rediscover her passion for writing.
But can the beauty of the islands and the kindness of strangers help Merry to fool herself into believing in love again, if only long enough to finish her book? Or is it time for her to give up the career she’s always adored and find something new to set her soul alight?
I will be the first to admit that Coming Home to Brightwater Bay, the latest of Holly Hepburn’s contemporary romance novels, would not ordinarily be my go-to in terms of genre. Although I binge-read Katie Fforde and Sophie Kinsella in my undergraduate days, I haven’t read much of the genre since.
But 2020 was a long old year so a book described as ‘utterly joyous’ on the cover sounded like the perfect balm with which to begin 2021. Plus Coming Home to Brightwater Bay is set on the Orkney Islands, one of my very favourite places, and the perfect backdrop for adventures of a romantic nature! And I am so glad that I did decide to join this blog tour because Coming Home to Brightwater Bay is an utter delight!
Following an unexpected breakup and a period of tortuous writers block, heartbroken novelist Merry Wilde applies to become the Writer in Residence for the Orkney Literary Society in the hope that the windswept scenery and isolation will, at the very least, inspire her to write again. Leaving London far behind her, Merry is soon ensconced in a secluded clifftop cottage and is swiftly embraced by the local community. But as the scenery and history of the Orkneys inspires her writing, is Merry also prepared for some of the island’s residents to begin to heal her broken heart?
It is worth pointing out that Coming Home to Brightwater Bay was previously published as four ebook parts – Broken Hearts at Brightwater Bay, Sea Breezes at Brightwater Bay, Dangerous Tides at Brightwater Bay, and Sunset Over Brightwater Bay. This paperback edition collects the four parts of the series into one novel but won’t be a ‘new’ book for readers who have already read the eBook series.
Merry is such an endearing protagonist and I came to really empathise with her over the course of the book – especially the knack she has of getting herself into scrapes! I also found the focus on her writing career to be a nice balance to the romance element of the novel. One of the things I sometimes dislike about the genre is when a romantic relationship is portrayed as fixing all the problems in a protagonist’s life. So I really liked that the focus of Brightwater Bay was on Merry and her realisation that, in order to get out of her writing rut, she needs to develop the confidence to try new things and have new experiences.
There is, of course, a romance or two in this romance novel. Merry soon finds herself torn between sexy modern day ‘Viking’ Magnús and handsome librarian Niall. And that’s before her ex Alex starts unexpectedly messaging her again. That said, this is not a ‘love triangle’ novel and I really liked the way in which Merry’d developing affections for both Magnús and Niall are portrayed. This is very much a novel that promotes respectful, healthy and adult relationships – not always a given in the genre and something for I was really thankful.
Having visited Orkney myself, I was also really impressed with the way in which the gorgeous scenery, incredible history, and welcoming community of the islands was portrayed. Whilst Brightwater Bay is utterly charming, there is nothing whimsical about the portrait of the islands and their community. Instead, there is a lovely depiction of a close knit connections and neighbourly concern found in small communities, as well as some evocative visits to some of the most glorious of the Mainland’s scenery, and some lovely nods to the history of Orkney.
Coming Home to Brightwater Bay is a novel packed to brimming with warmth and heart. Offering a captivating combination of feel-good self-discovery, sweet and affectionate romance, and gorgeous scenery, it is a warm blanket of a book that is sure to help any reader who dives into its pages banish those January blues!
Coming Home to Brightwater Bay by Holly Hepburn is published by Simon & Schuster and is available now from all good booksellers and online retailers including Hive, Waterstones, Bookshop.org, and Wordery.
My thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review, and to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for organising and inviting me onto this blog tour. The tour continues until 31 January 2021 so do check out the other stops for more reviews and content.
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