Miramar Bay, the new book of women’s fiction from internationally bestselling author Davis Bunn, opens with a striking image: Connor Larkin, a successful actor engaged to a famous heiress, boards a late-night bus departing Los Angeles, leaving his fiancée, wealth, and fame behind. He wants to escape and winds up in the small town of Miramar Bay, on California’s central coast. Walking around, Connor stumbles upon a restaurant called Castaways, where he impulsively applies for a job and meets Sylvie Cassick, who will change his life forever.

Connor and Sylvie’s story is a bit of a departure for Bunn, who is known mainly for his inspirational fiction; he has won four Christy Awards for previous books. But he wanted to explore a new theme, which he calls “the miracle of a second chance,” in his new series of novels, all of which will be set in Miramar Bay. The next title in the series, Firefly Cove, due out in January 2018, is about a terminally ill man who is granted a second chance at life. Despite this new direction, Miramar Bay features Bunn’s hallmarks: memorable characters, an enthralling romance, and a universal theme, in this case, second chances.

Bunn, who has also written as Thomas Locke and T. Davis Bunn, has been a professional novelist for 25 years, but he began his career in the world of finance, directing a Dusseldorf-based business advisory group. Always a voracious reader, he realized business would never make him happy and wrote his first book at 29. It took him nine years to find a publisher.

Meanwhile, Bunn wrote six other books and studied with British science fiction legend Arthur C. Clarke, whom he credits as his first major mentor. His success soon began to snowball. He has written more than 40 books—spanning the genres of legal thrillers, women’s fiction, and historical fiction—and has more than seven million copies in print in 21 languages.

Bunn, who was born and raised in North Carolina, now lives with his wife, Isabella Bunn, in the U.K.—at Blenheim Palace, the only nonroyal country house in England designated a palace. They both work at Oxford University. Isabella serves as associate director of the Oxford Centre for Christianity and Culture, and Bunn is currently a writer in residence at Regent’s Park College. Bunn says: “I kind of snuck into this gig through the college’s back door. In our family, my wife has the brains.” Bunn credits Isabella with coaxing Miramar Bay into being. They were watching the 1934 Clark Gable classic It Happened One Night, about a wealthy socialite desperate to change her life and escape the confines of her milieu. She falls in love with a news reporter with whom she shares a few wild adventures. “Isabella said how much she’d like for me to write a story like that,” Bunn says. “Finally, I listened to her.” In Miramar Bay, Bunn crafts his own riches-to-not-quite-rags tale of love and redemption.

The town of Miramar Bay is emblematic of the magical possibilities of starting over. Bunn took inspiration from his own real-life experience of California’s central coast. “The locals have a semisecret way of describing their region,” he notes. “That is what I wanted here. A region that contains a special and somewhat unearthly opportunity.” With Miramar Bay, Bunn has inaugurated a new phase in his writing, inviting readers into an inspiring world where second chances are possible for those willing to take a leap of faith.