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Handsome Vikings, love and a writer’s inspiration all to be found in the Orkneys

Coming Home to Brightwater Bay by Holly Hepburn 

Bestselling romantic novelist Merry Wilde has hit a brick wall in both her professional and private life… Struck down for six months by a worrying case of writer’s block, and reeling from seeing her 15-year love affair cruelly ended in the space of one evening, Merry is offered a post as writer-in-residence in some of the furthest reaches of Scotland.

But can escaping from London to the wild beauty and balm of the stunning shores of Orkney really help to unlock her lost creative powers, and her heart which remains stubbornly frozen?

If the pandemic is adding to your winter blues, join Merry’s search for love and inspiration amongst the ancient bays and bothies of a windswept corner of Scotland in the first book of Holly Hepburn’s enchanting new series which was first published as four ebooks.

On paper, Merina (Merry) Wilde has it all… a successful career writing the kind of romantic novels that make even the hardest hearts swoon, a perfect merry-go-round of book launches and parties to keep her social life buzzing, and a childhood sweetheart, Alex, who thinks she is a goddess and has promised that he will always be at her side.

But Merry has a secret. The magic has stopped flowing from her fingers and she can’t summon up the sparkle that makes her stories shine. One day she opened her laptop and the words didn’t come. Since then, her writer’s block has ‘sucked the colour’ from every aspect of her life.

And as her deadline whooshes by, her personal life starting falling apart, too. Over what should have been a romantic dinner, Alex tells her that he wants something other than the future she had 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 lands a six-month post as writer-in-residence with the Orkney Literary Society, a job which includes free accommodation at a traditional seaside Scottish croft.

Her welcome to the windswept island is provided by Orkney’s librarian, Niall Gunn, a sort of Clark Kent figure who is not at all what she expected, and who promises that she will be working in the solitude of ‘a beautiful and magical place.’

Merry hopes that by locking herself away in her secluded clifftop cottage, her heart will heal and she will rediscover her passion for writing, particularly as her remit includes producing a piece of work featuring Orkney and its surrounding islands.

‘is it time for Merry to give up the career she has always adored and find something new to set her soul alight?’

But can the beauty of the islands and the kindness of strangers (not least the impossibly handsome local Viking Magnús Olafsson) 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 has always adored and find something new to set her soul alight? ​

Hepburn’s many fans are guaranteed to fall head over heels for lovelorn Merry as she settles into a caring community where unexpected friendships and surprises seem to be around every corner.

With a brilliantly portrayed cast of characters to embrace, and a story of hard decisions and new beginnings to enjoy, Hepburn once more proves herself to be a master storyteller, delivering drama, suspense, comedy and romance with her trademark warmth and wit.

Add on a glorious backdrop of cosy cottages, windswept seas and sandstone cliffs, and you have the perfect read to warm the long, winter nights.

(Coming Home to Brightwater Bay by Holly Hepburn Simon & Schuster, paperback, £7.99)

Pam Norfolk
Pam Norfolk
Pam Norfolk has been writing book reviews for over ten years, including for the Wordsworth Trust. She has also worked as a reporter and sub-editor on regional and national newspapers.

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