Book and a Brew with Ritu – Christmas At The Borrow A Bookshop Holiday by @Kiley Dunbar @HeraBooks #NewRelease #BookReview

Trying something a bit different today with my book review… You’ll have to let me know if it should be a regular ‘thing’.

Today, I am thrilled to welcome amazing romance author Kiley Dunbar to my blog for a cuppa and a bit of a chat about all things writerly, especially her newest release, Christmas at the Borrow a Bookshop. it’s out TODAY!

Hello, and welcome to But I Smile Anyway, Kiley! Let’s get you set with a drink first. Now would you prefer a coffee of some sort? I have a Tassimo machine. I can stretch to that! Or maybe a cup of tea, chai latte, or would you like to be brave and have a traditional homemade Indian masala tea?

Hiya Ritu! Thanks so much for having me. It’s been ages since we had a brew and a catch-up! Since I’ve already had my morning coffee, I’d better switch to tea, please, or I’ll get the shakes! Very jealous of your Tassimo machine, though!

Don’t worry. We can try that later if you need a top-up. 😉

If we’re going masala tea, then I can bust out the samosas and pakoras (fried potato and vegetable fritters), but I do have biscuits, specifically shortbread, too!

 Ah, wow! Hit me up with the samosas and pakoras, please! They smell amazing, and I missed breakfast again, a bit of a bad habit I have when I’m in the thick of writing!

I promise the snacks won’t be too spicy. I am a very bad Indian, you know… I can’t handle food that is too hot! Right, here we are. I have fried snacks, the masala tea, and I’ve got a plate of Indian sweets here, too, since we attended a wedding last week, and we were gifted boxes of the stuff! It is very sweet, mind you.

So, the last few years have been pretty busy for you, haven’t they? No less than seven books out, since 2019. Quite a feat! Can you tell me a bit about your journey to getting published? Did you think of going Indie at all, or was it agent then publisher, or publisher direct?

It’s been a whirlwind of writing and publication days since March 2019, when my debut came out. There wasn’t much time to think about anything back when I was writing my debut because it just sort of happened one day in the summer of 2017. I sat down and just started writing a romance. I was compelled to do it! It just sort of poured out, and by Christmas, I had a full draft and no idea what to do with it. I hadn’t heard about agents or indie publishing (I was that clueless) and just sent my manuscript to the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writer’s Scheme for feedback which came back really quickly, and then I rewrote it following their advice and immediately sent it out to publishers who had open submissions (I just googled romance publishers and made a list) then in August 2018 Hera Books expressed an interest and that was it! I was going to have to share my book with actual readers. Gah!

I still remember reading your first book, Kiley. It was fantastic, and because it was set in Stratford-Upon-Avon, which was so close to where I grew up, I felt a real pull to read it. I am so glad I did because you are now one of my have-to-read authors!

How does that compare with your experiences, Ritu? I am in awe of your writing journey. Do you agree that the very best thing about debuting is that people are finally going to be able to read your book, and that’s also the very worst thing about it too? Ha ha!

Oh, goodness, my journey was a winding one, starting in the year 2000… Yes I am ancient, I know (and hitting 47 on Saturday, too!) I always wanted to write but didn’t know where to start. the first few chapters of what became Marriage Unarranged were written then, but the manuscript didn’t get completed until 2018! This is also the reason why my books are set in 2000 and onwards because that is when I started writing them. And I remember being in conversation with you not long after your first release when I sent it to Hera Books, but it wasn’t right for them at the time. I did try a couple of agents but ended up thinking life is too short, so I went down the self-publishing route. I found a fantastic editor, cover designer, and beta readers, too. The release was all set for February 2020, then a certain virus hit, which meant a lot of plans I had went down the drain. However, the book got a wonderful response from readers and ended up in the hands of one of the directors of Spellbound Books. They are so keen to represent Desi (Indian origin) authors and offered me a three-book deal, including rereleasing Marriage Unarranged in June 2022. And that is where we are, right now!

I only have one book to talk about so far, but you have several now. Do you have a favourite out of the books you have written?

I know you’re not supposed to have favourites, but I definitely do. Matchmaking at Port Willow (Hera Books 2021) feels like the book where it all came together for me. I loved those characters, too, and I got to write about an older female character who was going through menopause and a mum in her early 40s having a baby after miscarriage and terrified, and a very cute guy who’d been ripped off by a catfishing scammer he’d fallen in love with. It’s a real rollercoaster of a book with lots of love and laughs and Christmas cosiness.

I really related to this one, too, I have to say, being a little older, but also having experienced miscarriages. It was very sensitively written, Kiley. Thank you for that.

Tell me about yours because you’re busy writing the follow-up to Marriage Unarranged for Spellbound Books, aren’t you? I cannot wait!!! How do your feelings for them compare? Did one prove easier or quicker to write than the other?

I have just finished the first draft of book two during the summer holidays, actually! It’s with Alpha and sensitivity readers at the moment. Marriage Unarranged was never meant to be more than that one book we all have in us, but my characters! Oh, they weren’t to be silenced! As a result, the next two books will follow two different couples we met in the first book, and I try and cover cultural issues and stigmas that are prevalent in the British Indian community. Book Two is tentatively titled Straight As A Jalebi – The road to love is never straight… and looks at sexuality… I’ll leave you to ponder that. 😁 Considering MU took me 18 years to write, three years for SasaJ isn’t too bad, is it? And I hope that book three will be even quicker! Plus, now having a publisher means that there is more of dead line though Spellbound Books have been amazing, because they know I am a teacher, too with limited free time! I will always have a special place for Marriage Unarranged because that is where we meet all the crazy characters, but I think, as you said, each book we write holds its own place, doesn’t it?

Now, I’m intrigued. Where do you like to write? Because you often post about being at the coffee shop!

I’m a coffee shop writing girl. I’ve a desk in my bedroom, but it’s just not comfy. I am very impressed with your gorgeous new writing room. It looks idyllic! Is that where you always work?

Thank you. I am very lucky with my special area. A little secret? It wasn’t meant to be my room. It was initially going to be Hubby Dearest’s ‘working-from-home’ office, but due to issues with internet access, he set himself up in the smaller room downstairs, and I got this one. I wasted no time setting it up, and now I have my own haven! I tend to do most of my writing here but sometimes bring my laptop down to the conservatory or garden, if the weather is good.

Kiley, there are so many genres out there. Why romance? Have you ever toyed with the idea of writing in a different genre?

It was always going to be romance for me. I love the genre and have since I was in my early thirties (I came late to seriously reading romances). Before I wrote my debut, I had it circulating in my brain that one day I’d tell a love story, but I was so wound up in my academic career and publishing non-fiction stuff as part of that I just didn’t have space for falling in love with romance writing. Then, in 2017 I found out I was going to be made redundant from my uni job. That changed everything.

Redundancy can offer so many chances, can’t it? I know a few people who grabbed the bull by the horns and made dreams come true when they were let loose from their day jobs!

What about you? Are you tempted to kill off a few characters or send them into space or back in time?

Oh, gosh, no! Nothing that extreme! I enjoy my Chickpea Curry Lit! But I would like to dabble in children’s picture books one day, too. That’s another dream of mine. Now, to find a decent illustrator…

Coming back to the Borrow a Bookshop series, where did the inspiration hit for this premise? I have said it to you before, but I would love to go on a holiday and borrow a bookshop, as well as enjoying a bit of baking! (Might add an Indian twist to the items served!)

Living and working in a bookshop (but with none of the financial and business worries) is The Dream! Especially if it has a cosy café too! Since writing the first book, I’ve found there are a few opportunities around the world to live and work or sleep over in bookshops, but I was just dreaming up the ideal holiday for my characters! Setting is everything in my stories. And I like writing about nerds falling in love, so where better to unite these nerds than in a bookshop?

Perfect! And where did you get the inspiration for the idyllic village of Clove Lore, where this wonderful bookshop is?

I borrowed the village’s layout from Clovelly in Devon. Have you ever been? God, it is Gorgeous! My partner took me there on a date the weekend after we first met, and I associate it with the newly-in-love feeling and summertime.

That is just so cute, to base it on a real place that has such lovely memories attached! 😍

How do you pick a setting, Ritu? Have you used places that were important to you in your real life?

So far my books are set in Birmingham, UK and various places in India. They are all locations I have been to, or where I have lived, so I can relate to them, and describe them in the best way possible for me. Birmingham will always be special. That’s where I was born.

Now, I loved the first book, The Borrow A Bookshop Holiday, with Jude and Elliot finding love in the midst of a booking mix-up. What can we expect to read about in Christmas in the Borrow a Bookshop? Will we get to meet some of our old friends from book one? It’s always lovely to know what loved characters are up to.

Only if you tell me all about your own series! Hehe! 😜

Well, in Christmas at the Borrow a Bookshop, there’s a gorgeous cosy love story that looks idyllic until a massive storm hits the coast and Clove Lore suffers a huge flash flood right before Christmas. Suddenly there’s a lot more to fight for than lovers and books. There’s a whole village at risk. It’s a story about community and pulling together to recover when it seems all is lost. And all the characters from book one are back, and you’ll get two love stories and one surprise wedding for your money!

OK, now you!

Ha ha! So, the books are all centred around one family; Aashi’s family; and each subsequent book takes one of her brothers and concentrates on their lives and relationships. Book two will be about Sunny, and Book three will be about Bali and Kiran. Most of the characters people have already met in Marriage Unarranged, will be there, and a few new ones, too!

You are very naughty, Kiley. You keep on leading me astray. I could talk about my books forever but this about you!

I was lucky enough to read an arc of Christmas at the Borrow a Bookshop, and I hand on heart loved it. Tell me, and our readers here, will there be any more in the series?

You’re lovely! Thank you for saying so! That makes my heart happy. Well, I haven’t told anyone, but there is a freshly inked contract on my desk, and the promise of three new Borrow a Bookshop stories between now and early 2025. There, the cat’s out the bag! Yippee! I’m having another samosa to celebrate, if you don’t mind! They’re yummy.

Three new stories? Oh wow, now. I can’t wait, and congratulations on the new contract, too! When we celebrate anything, we always say ‘mooh mittha karo‘, which means sweeten your mouth after good news, so you will need to try one of the sweets!

Thanks so much for having me over, Ritu! Let’s do it again soon! Next time we’ll be celebrating your new book. I’ll bring the snacks this time. Something Scottish, like me. Haggis, neeps and tatties, maybe?

That sounds like a plan, Kiley! What fun that was!

Peeps, you heard it here first! Kiley has THREE more Borrow a Bookshop books coming out!!!

Now, as I mentioned before, I was lucky enough to read an ARC of Christmas At The Borrow A Bookshop, so let me share the blurb and my review.

The Blurb

With just two weeks until Christmas, everything in Clove Lore should be perfect. But the latest holidaymaker to the Borrow a Bookshop is feeling far from festive…

Icelandic ex-bookseller Magnús Sturluson might be surrounded by love stories in the Bookshop, but he’s nursing a sadness that not even fiction can fix.

When Alexandra Robinson finds herself stranded in Clove Lore, she finds a safe place to hide from heartbreak. After all, all that’s waiting for her at home is a cheater boyfriend and the memories of her parents. As Alex finds herself embraced by the quirky village community, she finds her tough exterior thawing – and as she grows closer to Magnús, she finds an equally soft heart under his gruff shell.

It seems that Clove Lore is working its magic once again – until a great flood on Christmas Eve brings devastation in its wake. It’s up to Magnús and Alex to batten down the hatches and help bring the village back together again, while also introducing the locals to the Icelandic tradition of the jólabókaflóð – Yule book flood – where families and friends gather on Christmas Eve to exchange books and read together.

But can Magnús and Alex truly rescue the ruins of the village, and salvage their Christmas spirit? Or is there another complication lurking even closer than they thought?

A totally uplifting read that will lighten the winter gloom, for fans of Jenny Colgan and Trisha Ashley. Booklovers will adore this seasonal treat!

My Review

Christmas at the Borrow a Bookshop by Kiley Dunbar
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When I finished the first book in this series, I didn’t know there would be another, and all I wanted to do was find a place like this bookshop and immediately book a holiday there! Books and baking are two of my things, you know.
To know there was a second book was just too much excitement to bear, and I devoured this story revolving around another holidaymaker, Magnus, and his story, coupled with a stranger, Alex, who comes into his holiday life out of the blue with her secrets.
Clove Lore is a special place (which I wish were real!), and it’s a place filled with optimism and hope. Qualities that are needed in large quantities by the residents, and certain visitors, as the story progresses.
I loved how Kiley Dunbar wrote an obvious romance from the start, with no enemies to lovers or other silly obstacles. However, things couldn’t just be that simple. We, as readers, know they will be together, but after learning their backstories, we know there will be hiccups or storms.
A big one, in fact!
The biggest storm they have ever seen in the area threatens to uproot each and every one of the inhabitants of the village.
I also liked the fact that the story wasn’t solely centred around Magnus and Alex, but that we revisited the first couple who were brought together in book one, Jules and Elliot, and that we learned more about Lady of the Manor, Minty, and her best friend Jowan, who is still mourning the loss of his wife.
There is romance, yes, but that isn’t all this book is about. It’s about community and working together to bring back something you all love,
I loved it, and after reading the Author’s letter to the readers at the end, I am even more excited because there will be a third book! Sqeeee!!!

These are the buy links for #christmasattheborrowabookshop





And here’s a little about Kiley and her other books.

Kiley Dunbar writes heart-warming, escapist, romantic fiction set in beautiful places.

One Winter’s Night is shortlisted for the RNA Romantic Comedy Novel Award 2021.


Take your pick from Kiley’s six novels (for author’s accompanying content/trigger warnings go to

Matchmaking at Port Willow (NEW FOR SEPT 2021) Beatrice is back in this sequel to Summer at the Highland Coral Beach, and she’s loved up and wanting other inn guests to experience the same magic she did last summer. Low-tech dating profiles, empty-nesters on a second honeymoon, and a lonely New Yorker in exile. With added puppies and Heiland Coos.

The Borrow a Bookshop Holiday (May 2021) Jude rents a tumbledown bookshop by the sea in Clove Lore, Devon, for a fortnight. When fellow bookseller-holidaymaker Elliot turns up unannounced, she discovers she’s not the only one running away from real life. Only one bed, bookselling and blossoming romance.

One Winter’s Night (September 2020) Return to Stratford-upon-Avon for a winter full of adventure, romance and family drama. Mystery, new neighbours, and a show-stopping theatrical procession. The sequel to One Summer’s Night.

Summer at the Highland Coral Beach (2020), the first in the Port Willow Bay Series, takes you on an impromptu crafting holiday in the Scottish Highlands and reminds us that after the storm comes the rainbow. Crafts, ceilidhs, coral bays and gentle recovery.

Christmas at Frozen Falls (2019) will fly you to snowy, remote Finnish Lapland over Christmas where Sylvie Magnussen is getting a second chance at love with an old flame – sexy Stellan Virtanen – the one who got away – well, he ran away actually, and Sylvie never understood why. Hot kisses in a cold climate, Northern lights and a stunning resort setting.

One Summer’s Night (2019) whisks you away on a working staycation in beautiful Stratford-upon-Avon during a sultry heatwave summer. A starting-over story, handsome actors, backstage passes, and a whole lot of drama in the Heart of England.

Twitter: @KileyDunbar

‘Kiley Dunbar Author Book Page’ on Facebook

Website and newsletter:

Instagram: @kileydunbarauthor

Shakespeare And Me – Guest post by @KileyDunbar and #BookReview of #newrelease, One Winter’s Night

Last year I was introduced to the debut novel of someone who I have come to view as one of those authors whose books I will put others aside, to read as soon as I can.

Kiley Dunbar’s first book, One Summer’s Night, is a wonderful story, based in Stratford-upon-Avon, and heavily influenced by that famous bard, William Shakespeare. As I read her fourth book, One Winter’s Night, (yes, she’s got that many under her belt since last year’s release!) I realised it was also Shakey-heavy, too, so I decided to be nosy and ask all about her fascination with Shakespeare, and how much he’s influenced her writing, and life, too!

Over to you, Kiley!

I fell in love with Shakespeare’s poetry when I was fourteen and I talked my mum into buying me A Midsummer Night’s Dream, based solely on my lovestruck reaction to its gorgeous cover. I still have that book! (pictured).

That was the summer my parents dug out a small pond in the back garden of their terrace in the coal board village where I grew up. I spent hours that summer sitting by the pond trying to get to grips with the strange language and magical characters. I only understood half of what I read and it took me the whole summer to finish the play.

I was always a dreamy kid but something about the summer moon reflecting in the water and this 400-year-dead beardy English bloke had me reeling. I was a goner.

Cut to Mrs Marr’s English class a few years later and I’m head over heels for Hamlet, outraged by Othello and totalled on Twelfth Night. Thank you Mrs Marr!

In May 1999 I was writing a long letter to the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in Stratford upon Avon explaining my obsession and asking if they have any summer job vacancies – and they did!

Within weeks I was living in Stratford, working as a tour-guide and seeing every single play at the RST and the Swan. I was in heaven!

And I didn’t want to leave.

So I applied to study at the Shakespeare Institute and, to my amazement, got a place – after a nerve wracking interview. I made Shakespeare-obsessed friends for life there.

A few years, and a lot of studying, later I have been fortunate enough to be able to teach my own Shakespeare courses at a uni in the North of England. Seeing the moment where it finally all made sense for my students was utterly magical!

It felt as though all my teenage summer dreams had come true. Except for one. I wanted to write love stories and comedies of my own.

In March 2019 my debut novel, a rom com, called ‘One Summer’s Night’ came out with Hera Books, inspired by my love of Shaky and (v. v. loosely) based on my first summer in Stratford all these years ago where I met my husband and we got engaged after FOUR days! I know, I’m not exactly risk averse. Now I’m looking forward to sharing the sequel to that novel. It’s called One Winter’s Night and is out on 17th September 2020 and follows the same characters and some new ones through a very romantic, dramatic winter in Shakespeare’s hometown. One of the storylines is a gender-reversed version of Love’s Labour’s Lost, one of my favourite Shakespeare plays.

I hope you love it, Kiley, x

You can download your copy of One Summer’s Night here:


And One Winter’s Night can be bought here:




Here’s the blurb:

A gorgeously uplifting, romantic read that will warm your heart – take a trip to Stratford-Upon-Avon, where magic happens…

It’s autumn in beautiful Stratford-Upon-Avon and Kelsey Anderson is enjoying her new life in her adopted town. Her Shakespearean tour guide days behind her, she’s now opened her own photography studio and loved up with boyfriend Jonathan – even if a long-distance relationship is sometimes lonely.

When best friend Mirren Imrie moves down from Scotland, Kelsey is delighted to have her friend at her side – and as the nights turn colder, Mirren throws herself into dating, until she finds herself growing closer to sexy journalist, Adrian Armadale. But when Mirren uncovers a long-buried scandal while working at the local newspaper, her big scoop might throw Kelsey’s – and Jonathan’s – life upside down. Will she choose her career over her friends’ happiness?

And when Jonathan returns from America and discovers the secrets Mirren has uncovered about his family, it throws his relationship with Kelsey onto shaky ground. Can they find their way back to love, before it becomes the winter of their discontent?

A romantic, funny and feelgood read that will make you smile from ear to ear. Fans of Milly Johnson, Heidi Swain and Holly Martin will fall in love with this cosy winter read!

Thank you, so much, Kiley, for sharing your love affair with Shakespeare with us all!

And four days! Wowzer! Well, they do say, when you know, you know. 😉

As I mentioned, I was honoured to be able to read an ARC of One Winter’s Night, and it was fabulous! Here’s my review.

One Winter’s Night by Kiley Dunbar
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I happened upon Kiley Dunbar and her debut last year, and after devouring the first one, I have awaited any other releases with great anticipation, and she’s never failed to satisfy.
Hearing that the characters from One Summer Night, Dunbar’s debut were getting another outing in One Winter’s Night, made my summer.
I love Shakespeare, Stratford-Upon-Avon is a place we visited plenty when I was growing up, And though I’ve never been, Scotland and its. beauty has always enticed me.
One day I will visit.
And romance? Well, I love a bit of romance, so, having all these components in a book should be a guaranteed good read, for me, at least.
And it surely was!
Catching up with Kelsey Anderson, as the Scottish lass comes to grips with settling far south of her home town, in Shakespeare’s land, attempting to set up a business fuelled by her passion for photography, with no good friends or family close by, and the love of her life off acting across the Atlantic was a joy.
And I loved the parallel story of Kelsey’s best friend Mirren, the newly single, Scottish journalist who’s finally had enough of the sexist world of broadsheet journalism, and finds herself swearing off men, jacking in her job, and jumping on a train to join her best friend, for a little while, as she straightens her life out.
There were a whole host of new characters introduced, including the old soak, propping up the local bar, who ended up being a rather famous actor in his prime, with a hidden secret, and Blythe.
Oh, I loved Blythe! Everyone needs a Blythe in their lives.
An eccentric elderly woman who was a force to be reckoned with in her prime, on stage, until life threw her some huge curveballs. Blythe may be a bit of a recluse, but she has amassed a veritable smorgasbord of memorabilia and hard-learned wisdom over the years, along with the talent of distilling her own extremely strong flavoured gins.
Kelsey’s unusual, initial meeting with Blythe cements a multi-generational friendship that adds another layer to an already wonderful story.
So there’s love, heartbreaks, more romance, Shakespeare, family angst, and GIN! What more could a reader want?
Absolutely a recommended read.
Many thanks to NetGalley and Hera Books for an ARC, in exchange for an honest review.

Now, I 100% recommend you get reading all of Kiley’s books, they are wonderful little nuggets of escapism!

Happy Reading!

My interactive peeps!

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