Although it has been loitering for a few weeks on Amazon, Apple and Kobo, I’m delighted that today is the official cover reveal for my next release, Christmas Wishes at the Chocolate Shop. Isn’t it a thing of beauty?
This book was formerly out as a Kindle eBook only under the title of Charlee and the Chocolate Shop and is the final book from my backlist to go through a full edit, refresh and re-release. Everything that is published by me from this point onwards will be a brand new never-read-before story.
My husband designed the original cover (using stock images) and I love that the street and lampposts are the same but with a new tree and a fabulous new couple in the foreground.
Christmas Wishes at the Chocolate Shop is available for pre-order now – you can do so on Amazon here:
It will be out on Tuesday 3rd August in ten gazillion formats: eBook for Apple, Kindle and Kobo, paperback, hardback, large print, physical audio CD or MP3, audio download and audio streaming. Something for everyone!
So what has changed between the two versions?
The simple answer is pretty much every sentence! But the story hasn’t fundamentally changed. Let me explain…
I found it more challenging revisiting this story than any other book on my backlist which was unexpected because I thought it would be the easiest!
When I first started writing, my intention was to write light romantic comedies but I found myself drawn more towards deeper emotional stories and characters who’ve faced quite significant adversity so my later books are more emotional than my first few.
My amazing editor, Nia, commented on how much my writing style differed in this book to my others which surprised me as this was the sixth book I’d originally written and I thought I’d fully developed my voice and style by the time I wrote Coming Home to Seashell Cottage which, although now the fourth book in the Welcome to Whitsborough Bay series, was the third book I wrote.
When I started to work through it, I was shocked! Nia was absolutely right. This was not typical of my writing style. I realised that I’d tried to write aspects of this story in a lighter romcom style simply because it was a Christmas read while having a story that fitted with the more emotional style I’d moved towards and the two didn’t mesh together particularly well. Or rather I hadn’t meshed them well. Where I did have an emotional scene, I hadn’t taken the opportunity to convey the full emotion that the character(s) would have experienced at that point because I was trying to keep the story lighter.
The other thing that had happened was that I’d wanted Charlee and the Chocolate Shop to be a Christmas novella. It had become apparent that there was a big market for Christmas stories and it seemed that readers were quite happy with shorter ones so they could squeeze more in. As is often the case when I write, I couldn’t think small. My premise was to have my heroine Charlee experiencing two very different Christmases so I already had a challenge on my hands of more word count needed to do justice to two Christmases instead of one. And there were quite a few threads I was covering so it became apparent that this wasn’t going to be a novella (17.5k-40k words). I compromised on a shorter novel instead but, to achieve that, I did quite a lot of telling.
There’s a writing rule: show don’t tell. The idea behind this is that you take the reader on more of a journey by showing them how a character is feeling, for example. In very simple terms, instead of telling the reader ‘Amanda was scared’, I’d show the reader that she was scared by describing her reactions e.g. Amanda’s hands shook as she pulled the duvet under her chin, holding her breath as she heard the scratching once more.
This rule also applies to scenes. I could summarise something: Jane still hadn’t spoken to Steve since their epic fight. As soon as she’d asked him whether there was someone else, he’d turned on her, accusing her of having an affair instead… And so on. This is also telling. If this is a key moment in the book, I really need to show the reader the ‘epic fight’ so that the reader feels what Jane is feeling, hears the dialogue, sees the facial expressions, feels the anger/pain.
There is a school of thought that realistically you can’t show the reader everything because (a) it doesn’t give any credit to the reader for filling things in themselves and (b) the word count could go through the roof. I’m particularly with this on how a character is feeling as sometimes you just need to get it on the page – Ellie was bricking it – and move on. If Ellie is well-developed enough, the reader will know what this looks like for her and be able to fill in those reactions.
With my feedback from Nia, my tell rather than show came more from the latter example of scenes. To move the story forward in less word count, I had summarised. A lot. And I’d missed some key moments as a result which would have added more depth and emotion to the story.
The thing is, the reviews were really positive. In fact, with a 4.8/5 average rating, they were my strongest set of ratings so readers clearly loved this book. I therefore could have made some of the editing tweaks Nia suggested and left the rest alone but I’m very much of the school of thought that if you’re going to do something, you do it well. It’s not in my make-up to take a sub-standard ‘it’ll do’ approach. If I had just done the basic edits, I’d have been left feeling that this book was the weaker one of the collection. As soon as my first negative reviews came in, I’d have put that down to not making the extra effort with this and I’d have kicked myself. I couldn’t bear the thought of reading a review that said something like: It’s okay but not a patch on her other books. I’m sure I’ll get those type of reviews at some point – in fact, I’ve just had a 2-star for All You Need Is Love which says something similar – but I didn’t want to be nodding along and agreeing that it wasn’t as good, knowing I could have done something about it.
As an author moves through their career and builds a bigger backlist, they will often talk about how their writing style has changed and how they don’t love their early work as much as their more recent books and would change loads about it if they could go back. I’ve been in a very unique position where I’ve had the chance to go back and ‘fix’ all my earlier books as part of the backlist edit I’ve been through with Boldwood over the past eighteen months. Even though my earlier books are more of a lighter romcom and my later ones are more emotional – representing a shift in the type of stories I create – I’m immensely proud of how all of them are written as everything I’d learned since the early ones were originally released was used to improve the new versions during my Boldwood edits. I therefore don’t have any I would say are of a lesser standard.
And this is why pretty much every sentence of Christmas Wishes at the Chocolate Shop has changed from what it was in Charlee and the Chocolate Shop. I’ve restructured sentences, I have stronger dialogue, I have more show rather than tell, and I have some extra scenes. But the overall story premise has NOT changed; I’ve just improved how I’ve presented the story.
The major changes are as follows:
- Charlee’s boyfriend is no longer called Darren. He is now Ricky. There is a main character called Daran (Irish spelling) in Coming Home to Seashell Cottage and it seemed unnecessary to use the name (albeit spelt differently) twice. You’re now crying ‘Ricky!’ like Bianca used to on EastEnders, aren’t you?
- Several extra scenes between Charlee and Ricky have been added in, particularly when they hit some relationship challenges. I’m particularly pleased with a new one where Ricky gives Charlee a special gift
- A couple of new chapters relating to Charlee buying and setting up her chocolaterie
- I’ve included some extra scenes between Charlee and her best friend Jodie
- There’s now an ending which doesn’t tie absolutely everything together for all characters with a bright red bow. A review for the original version commented on it all being a little bit perfect for everyone and, on reflection, I agreed, so I have a slight tweak to the ending for a couple of the characters
- There are several other tweaks to smooth out some elements of the story/give more detail but I’d be giving spoilers if I listed them
So where does this leave you if you’ve already read Charlee and the Chocolate Shop? It’s the same as with all of my backlist changes. If you’ve already read the story, then there isn’t any need to read this revised version. There are new scenes and, as a result, it’s a longer book than before (another 14.5k words), but there are no new characters, no additional cameo appearances, and no completely new threads that would mean you miss something by not reading this.
Of course, if you would be interested in reading the story again anyway, you might as well dive into the new version. I took down the old version from sale in December last year and I have had it splashed over social media for well over a year that there was a new version coming out so I know some readers have decided to hold off and wait for the edited version.
There’ll be another Whitsborough Bay book coming out at the end of August – a brand new story – so there’s a double treat in August for readers who love Whitsborough Bay. And then we’re back with the fourth instalment from Hedgehog Hollow in January 2022.
Today is an extra special day for the cover reveal as it’s an anniversary. Two years ago today, Boldwood announced their list of their first twenty authors. It was news I’d been sitting on for months and it was so exciting to have it out in the open. It’s therefore lovely to have the cover reveal of my final backlist book – and the final book in my first contract – on the anniversary of the Boldwood announcement.
I hope you enjoy Christmas Wishes at the Chocolate Shop. Thank you for all your support.
Big hugs and lots of chocolate
Sometimes you just need a little Christmas magic to make your wishes come true…
When master chocolatier, Charlee, takes the leap to move to the picturesque seaside town of Whitsborough Bay, she is determined to follow in her grandfather’s footsteps and set up a chocolate shop.
Luckily, she finds the perfect location for Charlee’s Chocolates on beautiful Castle Street… Now she just has to refurbish it in time for Christmas!
With a useless boyfriend and countless DIY disasters, Charlee doesn’t know if she’ll make it in time. With no ‘traditional’ family to support her, she feels lost in her new surroundings and the secrets of the past are weighing her down.
But the warmth and festive spirit of the Whitsborough Bay community will surprise her, and when plumber, Matt, comes to the rescue, it might be that all of Charlee’s dreams could come true this Christmas, and she could learn what family really means…
Escape to Castle Street for the perfect uplifting, festive read from top 10 bestseller Jessica Redland.
Christmas Wishes at the Chocolate Shop was originally released as Charlee and the Chocolate Shop. Now re-released with a new title and new cover, this version has been freshly edited and features several new chapters.