The one with the holiday that wasn’t quite as we’d hoped

I love going on holiday. I don’t mind whether it’s in the UK or abroad as I simply love that time to switch my brain off and hopefully catch up on some sleep. Yesterday evening, we returned from a week in Lanzarote. We’d been so looking forward to it as it was our first trip overseas post-pandemic. Like many people, we’d cancelled a holiday when that first lockdown hit (Portugal in May 2020) and the idea of sitting on a plane or round a pool wearing face masks didn’t appeal so we’d waited until things settled before booking another holiday abroad.

We’ve visited the Canary Islands before – Gran Canaria twice, Tenerife and Fuerteventura – so we decided to complete the set of the four main islands with a trip to Lanzarote.

We were that excited about the prospect of going abroad again that we didn’t do as much research as usual. We also hadn’t really thought about our changing needs as a family. Our daughter will be 16 at Christmas and is in her final year at senior school. She was approaching 11 on our last Canaries visit (Gran Canaria) and in her final year at primary school. Very different situation.

So we bodged. We choose a much larger hotel than we’ve chosen before in a resort which looked pretty central and therefore easy access on a small island to anything else we wanted to get to. We knew it would be different but we’d overlooked quite how different it would be. And how it wasn’t going to be right for us!

When we looked at the hotel on the website, the pirate ship and slides in the middle of the pool should have been a big clue. The many kids’ clubs for different ages up to 18 should have been another. The giant daisy mascot should have rung bells. But nothing clicked until we took a wander round the hotel grounds (an early flight meant our room wasn’t ready on arrival) and were hit by a wall of sound. Oops! This was a large family hotel and the majority of the children were primary school age and younger. There were children absolutely everywhere, squealing, shouting, laughing, crying. The quiet read by the pool I’d been looking forward to suddenly became a distant dream. (Note, the photos were taken before the pool opened in most cases so don’t be deceived by how few people there are!)

Before anyone yells ‘Bah, humbug!’ at me or whatever would be the appropriate equivalent for a ‘summer’ holiday, I’ll just clarify that there’s nothing wrong with this type of holiday and I absolutely agree that young children should be squealing, laughing and having fun in the pool, enjoying their holiday. It’s just that it’s not for us at this point in our life and not for our daughter either.

The resort itself – Costa Teguise – was very pleasant. It was clean and had a lovely promenade along the sea into the town – something we’ve always loved about the other Canarian resorts we’ve visited. However, this one didn’t have as many bars and restaurants alongside it as we’re used to so it was a little different and we ended up doing that walk into the town for lunch or dinner a lot.

There were some trips that had appealed but, with the pound not performing well, these were very expensive. The three places we’d have liked to go would really only have been 1-2 hour visits and we couldn’t justify £45 each per trip on that basis. We did go to Rancho Texas Park near Puerto Del Carmen where there was a mix of animals from a Siberian White Tiger to dolphins to buffalo to guinea pigs. Yes, that’s a very eclectic mix! The park was nicely arranged and if you attended all the shows and spent time in the water park part, you could easily spend a full day there but we didn’t do the water park or attend all the shows so we only needed a few hours.

I loved seeing the guinea pigs in their cute wigwams and a baby buffalo in his food trough but I do struggle with seeing some animals in captivity and like to know their story. At the Sealife Centre in Scarborough, there are some resident seals but they all have stories which mean they would struggle in the wild e.g. one is blind, another has a brain injury etc. I wanted to hear those sorts of stories about the dolphins here but they didn’t share any and the show was very much the traditional jumping through hoops and jumping for balls type. Looking on the website since then, they were all born in captivity. Does this mean they can’t be released into the wild? I don’t know. I’m no expert on this. All I can say is it makes me a bit twitchy. Same with the tiger. He was amazing to see but is it cruel to have him there? Again, I don’t know. One of those things that makes me go hmmm.

As we hadn’t been there all day, we caught a taxi to Puerto Del Carmen’s harbour thinking we could catch a boat trip to see dolphins in the wild but there weren’t any running which was disappointing. I’m sure Puerto Del Carmen is lovely if you’re in the ‘right’ part but the walk from the harbour to the town wasn’t the nicest.

The daughter and I have a favourite shop called Ale-Hop aka ‘The Cow Shop’ as there’s always a cow outside it (not a real one, of course!) It sells a mix of things from stationery to hair accessories to toys to gadgets. There was an Ale-Hop in Puerto Del Carmen so we visited that, spent some Euros, and decided we were done with Puerto Del Carmen and headed back to the hotel.

I purchased the most gorgeous squashy cat who I’ve christened ‘Pusstachio’ because he’s pistachio green. I was quite proud of that name. I neeeeeeded him! My phone is actually full and I can’t take any more pictures (and don’t have the energy to go through deleting old ones) but if you’d like to see him, this is Ale-Hop’s Spanish website and a link direct to my green cat here.

I managed to shut out the noise and did read two books on a couple of pool days and loved them both: The Will of the Witch from Sharon Booth, book four in her fabulous The Witches of Castle Clair series and Happy Endings at Mermaids Point by Sarah Bennett which is the final of five books in this gorgeous series and was simply the perfect (happy) ending. It’s rare I get time to read so this was a luxury for me. I also caught up on a lot of sleep and I switched off completely from work which was much needed as I’ve had quite a tough year with my writing – several books in a row needing quite major editing which had taken it out of me. So I did achieve some of my holiday goals which is good.

Usually when we get to the end of a week away, we wish we were staying longer and had ten days booked, but this is the first time a week seemed too long. Again, I emphasise that there was nothing wrong with our resort or the island and I’m sure many readers of this will love the places. They just weren’t quite for us and we’ve learned a valuable lesson about what we really want from our holidays now. We don’t love the heat. We don’t enjoy lounging by a pool and, if we are, we prefer a quiet pool where you can swim properly. We love things to do and beautiful scenery. This is why our spiritual home is Keswick in the Lake District, even in the rain. You don’t get much more stunning than Derwent Water and the mountains surrounding it.

There were some stunning flowers in the gardens around the hotel and they’d made a brilliant effort with Halloween decorations in the lobby. There was a fabulous set of bookshelves and I took a couple of my books to gift to the collection. I would absolutely love it if someone spotted one of them and shared a pic on social media.

On our final evening – Thursday – we had a late lunch/early tea so that we could pack our cases. The daughter wanted one last ice-cream from a place called Crème which we’d visited a few times (highly recommended) so she and the hubby went for a final walk into town while I packed the cases. My phone rang. Husband. ‘We’ve just seen a hedgehog!’ How typical that the one and only time I stayed in the apartment, they spotted a hedgehog. How gutted was I? The daughter dug her phone out but didn’t manage to get a clear picture as it was dark and she didn’t want to use flash and startle it. Apparently the Algerian or North African Hedgehog can be found on the Canary Islands. It was introduced to all the Canary Islands and has a much lighter face than our European Hedgehog.

We had a delay coming home – late boarding and then about 3/4 an hour sitting on the plane having missed our departure slot as there was quite a lot of faffing about boarding (won’t bore you with that story) – but there was a strong tail wind so the flight was an hour shorter and we landed only about 20 minutes later than planned. We needed to get the shuttle bus to the car park and had just missed one. Despite them supposedly being on a 7-10 minute loop, we must have waited heading for half an hour and had even checked out Google Maps to see if walking was an option.

Finally a bus appeared and everyone piled on. Except nobody seemed to know how these buses work. There is luggage space to put large cases in with a lip to stop them rolling out and two shelves for the smaller cases/hand baggage. So many of those who’d boarded first had small cabin cases but they’d filled the large case space with them meaning there was no space for us or anyone behind us to put their large cases. The daughter managed to get a seat with hers beside her and hubby and I squashed into the mid-bus exit with ours. Then a family got on with 2 children and a gazillion cases between them and they hadn’t a clue what to do. The driver instructed people to move down the bus which is fine … but what do you do with your luggage? A woman getting on shouted some abuse at them, ordering them to move and they tried to but there was still nowhere to put their luggage. They ended up standing by us, completely blocking the exit.

The driver gave up getting everyone on and had to leave a handful of people to wait for the next bus. Perhaps if he’d instructed people as they got on to put their small luggage on the shelves, everyone could have squeezed on, but he gave no guidance and perhaps didn’t see that as his job. Mind you, you would think logic would say put small, lighter luggage on shelves, wouldn’t you?

Anyway, there’s a reason I’m giving you all this background because there was an incident. We pulled up at the first stop and not many people needed to get off – maybe 3-4? The man and woman from the family finally realised they needed to get off to let people out so they did that with their big suitcases but another woman getting off needed to retrieve her smaller suitcase from where it had been pinned in behind a load of other cases. This wasn’t easy with people and cases everywhere. In the meantime, the man and woman from the family had got back on the bus so I explained to them that they would need to get off again until everyone was off so they did that and hubby got off too to give even more space.

And that’s when the incident happened. Some woman sat near the back suddenly started on me. It came out of nowhere but, my goodness, she had opinions and I was going to be the butt of them. Apparently I was ignorant and blocking the exit and should have had the sense to get off. I wasn’t blocking the exit at all! I was squashed at the far side, away from where people were trying to get off. The family who’d got off after us were the ones blocking it and it was already resolved by me explaining to them that they needed to get off temporarily and by hubby getting off too. But this woman was on one and apparently it was all my fault. I’ve never experienced anything like it. I asked her why she was having a go at me when I wasn’t in the way but she just kept going on and on. I said could she leave it because everyone had had a lovely holiday and just wanted to get home and things were sorted now and there was no need for the abuse but, no, I was the one to blame for absolutely everything and she continued in her rant at me, complete with scary looks.

Crazy thing is she couldn’t have seen me when all the kerfuffle started as I’m too short for her to have seen me past everyone else so there was no way she could have pinpointed me as being the one in the way (when I wasn’t). She wouldn’t leave it. I can’t bear confrontation and was shaking at this point but I wasn’t going to just stand there while she continued with her verbal abuse so I said very strongly, ‘Hey! Stop it!’ It was all I could manage as I was on the verge of tears. Of course, she didn’t stop. This got a whole raft of further abuse about me telling her to stop it.

I had sympathetic looks from those round me and a couple caught my eye and I could tell they were stunned at what had kicked off and why it was directed at me. I know why. This woman was clearly tired and wanted to get home. I get that. I was tired and wanted to get home too. Things weren’t happening quickly enough for her. I get that too. The whole luggage storage thing was a disaster, but it wasn’t anyone’s fault and it certainly wasn’t mine. There were 6 people stood in the exit and she’d have taken one look at them wondering who she could vent at. She couldn’t have a go at the children but she couldn’t have a go at the parents either without potentially being accused of racist behaviour as they were people of colour. The hubby is over 6 foot so no way was she going to have a go at him. Which left the short fat woman.

She got off at the same stop as us. I shot across the zebra crossing to the car park, desperate to get away with her, praying she was in a different section to us. I feared her having a go at me again. I don’t know what she’d hoped to achieve by the abuse. If it was to scare me, it worked. I was terrified. I couldn’t stop thinking about it all the way home, wishing I’d been able to say something more effective or clever to shut her down.

I didn’t sleep last night.

It’s after 6pm today and I’ve been thinking about it all day today.

Why are there people like this? Why would someone verbally attack a stranger in this way? Why do bullies exist? And why did nobody defend me? My only comfort was that, as we got off, a man said to hubby that he has no idea why the woman had a go at me when I was doing nothing wrong. At least there was some support for me, even if nobody voiced it.

We didn’t have the best holiday but this wiped out all the positive memories and made it one of my worst experiences ever. I’ve already told hubby that we’re going to have to do the private parking thing at the airport so we don’t have to do that shuttle bus again. No way could I risk experiencing that.

Everything happens for a reason and all experiences are useful to an author. Perhaps I’ll use that incident in a future novel. I certainly know how horrendous it feels to be on the receiving end of unprovoked and continuous verbal abuse.

Anyway, to end on a bright note, I hope you enjoyed the photos. As you can see, we ate a lot of ice-cream and drank a lot of cocktails, milkshakes and smoothies!

Big hugs
Jessica xx

The one where the hedgehogs pass an amazing reviews milestone on Amazon

Me again with two posts in one day! Aren’t you lucky?!

Just a quickie to say a huge thank you to everyone who has left me a review or rating on Amazon because the six Hedgehog Hollow books combined have today just passed 20,000 reviews/ratings (20,023 at the time of taking the screen shots below). Oh my gosh! Go hedgehogs go!

I can’t quite believe this figure. Back during my five-year struggle, I longed for my eight books to get 200 reviews between them so to have six books getting 20,000 in the space of a little over two years is beyond my wildest dreams.

There are reviews elsewhere, including a large number on Audible, so thank anyone who has left a review anywhere, but it is particularly this whopper of a milestone on Amazon that I wanted to celebrate today. Eek!

I cannot thank you enough for the hedgehog love.

Big hedge-hugs
Jessica xx

The one where the past two months have been crazy busy

Do you ever have months where there’s so much going on, you hardly get to pause for breath? I’ve just had two of them and there’s more still to come this month. But it’s (mainly) been wonderful.

I’ve met up with lots of friends, new and old…

Before I became a full-time author, my most recent role was as an HR Tutor – something I did for about five years. I marked assignments for students studying their HR professional qualification, CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development), and ran online workshops. However, when I first started in the role, the workshops were run in person on weekends and I met some wonderful students and also some amazing tutors.

One of my former (and favourite – but don’t tell the others!) students, Charlie, was holidaying in Whitby with his husband, Paul, and asked if I’d like to meet them in Robin Hood’s Bay. We worked out it had probably been about seven years since the workshop. It was so good to catch up with Charlie and to meet Paul. I never thought to take a photo but here’s a pic of Robin Hood’s Bay from a previous visit.

From my tutoring role, I also met up with my former colleague, Carol, for a day out in York. York’s my favourite city and so lovely for a wander, especially outside the school holidays on a weekday when it’s a bit quieter. We met at York Station where I spotted this gorgeous postbox topper and completely fell in love with the viking on the top – so perfect for York. Whoever made this is so talented.

I also had a catch-up with a blast from the past. An old friend from school dropped me a message recently on my author page and, as I write under a pen name, it was a bit of a mystery at first as to how she’d found me. It turned out that she’d seen me on the re-run of my appearance on ITV’s The Chase and had recognised me from school. She couldn’t find me on Facebook under my maiden name but couldn’t remember my author name. Then, spookily, she was running a workshop and a delegate mentioned that she was reading one of my books! So she found me and it was so good to meet up, although the memory was certainly tested as it’s 34 years since we left school. We’ll hopefully catch up again before Christmas.

I had several writing-related get-togethers too. My first was with Sharon Booth and Eliza J Scott which was several hours of wonderful chat. There’s a cafe and farm shop on the outskirts of Scarborough which is a great central location as Sharon and Eliza live in different directions and I’m in the middle.

I indulged in the most amazing hot chocolate before lunch and we had a quick look at a few of the animals before we left – and I mean quick because it started raining!

A second writerly meet-up was with author Lizzie Lamb who was also holidaying in Whitby. Sharon and I have both met Lizzie on several occasions at RNA events (Romantic Novelists’ Association) but, with so much happening and so many people to talk to, conversation has always been brief so it was fabulous to have a full afternoon together.

We exchanged signed books, which was lovely. Thank you, Lizzie, for my copy of Scotch on the Rocks and the accompanying bar of chocolate – nom nom!

My next writing-related meet-up was with four of the five-strong admin team on the amazing Facebook group, The Friendly Book Community. If you’re interested in sharing the love for books, this is such a happy, friendly place to be. I was thrilled to be invited to join the group right at the start and watch them grow to a whopping 2.7k members so far.

They’d come to Scarborough for a weekend and I met them for lunch. It was amazing to meet (from L-R in the pic) Sarah, Marie, Louise and Hazel in person (I’m in the middle), having got to know them virtually over the past 18 months or so, and they were just as warm and welcoming in real life. I stayed with them all afternoon and wish I could have stayed longer, but I had a deadline to get home to (more on that later). Love to Adrienne who was unable to join them for the weekend.

Our only disappointment is that we nipped to The Works where they hoped to get a photo of me next to my books on the shelves but the shelves were pretty empty at that point and all my books had sold through.

I have a final writerly catch-up today which I’m really looking forward to. Sharon and I are having lunch with authors Joy Wood and Sylvia Broady. Sylvia is in the same RNA Chapter as us so we have seen her recently but the last time I saw Joy was last September at the RNA’s York Tea. I’m excited to hear all their news.

There’ve been writing events…

I had three writing events lined up for September but only one of them actually went ahead. The first would have been the RNA’s annual York Tea but it was being held a little earlier in September than usual and, unfortunately, the date clashed with a few other events so there weren’t enough tickets sold and that got cancelled. It’s my favourite RNA event so hopefully all will be back to normal next year.

The next cancelled event was to be my first ever festival appearance. I was so excited about appearing as a speaker on the Richmond Walking & Book Festival but my slot was scheduled for 11am on 19th September – the same time and day of the Queen’s funeral – so it couldn’t go ahead. Hopefully I’ll appear next year instead. It was the only day that was cancelled so such a shame that I was booked for that day. What a sad time that was, losing our Queen, and it feeling so sudden too.

What did go ahead in September was a library talk. Stockton Libraries had kindly invited me to speak one evening so I went along to Norton Library and was thrilled to have an audience of roughly twenty there. They’d created an amazing display of my books and a local library user had made the most stunning (and delicious) cupcakes. Mmmm.

I completely fell in love with the kissing hedgehogs in the display and was told they were from Next. I couldn’t find them online but we have a Next Home on a small retail park near us so I nipped there the following day and was thrilled to find one on display so I bagged it!

A huge thank you to Ruth for arranging the evening and the amazing team at the library for being such welcoming hosts. Thank you to all those who attended including a few members of my Facebook group Redland’s Readers who it was lovely to meet in person. I am, however, mortified, as a member of my group came along and I didn’t register who she was. For some reason, I had it into my head that she was coming to my Richmond talk and couldn’t make it to the library. When she said her name, I misheard it too and made no connection at first. Even though we’ve messaged and it’s all sorted, I still feel really bad as I know she was disappointed that I didn’t click who she was. All I can plead is brain drain. There’s so much going on in my head at an event like this and my brain can’t always hold everything.

My friend and amazingly gifted artist Lucy Pittaway came along to support – an extra surprise for some audience members who love her work – and we went for a quick drink afterwards with her and her colleague, Vicki, which rounded off a perfect evening.

I’m excited to announce that, although I hope to speak at the Richmond Walking & Book Festival next year, I will definitely be appearing at a festival. Stockton Libraries collaborate with the Hartlepool, Middlesbrough and Redcar & Cleveland districts to put on an event called Crossing the Tees (genius name – the River Tees running through the area alongside the literary meaning of the phrase). A date for your diary is Sunday 10th June 2023 at 2.00-3.30pm at Ormesby Library, on the outskirts of Middlesbrough. I’ll be on a panel of authors talking about the romance genre. Jane Lovering, a fellow-Boldwood Books author, will be joining me and I’m in the process of securing another author too.

If anyone is an aspiring writer, I’m also going to be running a beginner’s writing workshop on the afternoon of Saturday 9th June. The details of the workshop and the venue will be confirmed later but I’m really looking forward to that.

It was my wedding anniversary in late September (17 years) and we had a family trip up to Whitby and a delicious meal on the way home. I was excited to see a whopping FOUR of my books in Great Reads Whitby (a discount bookstore) including one in the window.

It was a beautiful day, but very windy as you can see from the photos. That sea was definitely wild… and so was my hair!

There was a publication day…

Already looking pretty busy? There’s more! Around all this, I had publication day of Christmas Miracles at Hedgehog Hollow and a separate audio publication day on this occasion as we couldn’t secure the main narrator for the original publication date. Publication day is always busy with announcements, responding to congratulations messages, having the blog tour start, and eagerly watching the chart.

The hedgehogs have been dipping in and out of the Top 100 since publication day and, at the time of writing, they’re currently at #90 which is exciting (they have been higher – woo hoo!). This week, a day shy of 6 weeks since release, they had their 1,000th review/rating on Amazon and I’m so grateful to everyone who has taken the time to share their thoughts.

And some special offers on my Hedgehog Hollow series…

Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow (book 1) and Christmas Miracles at Hedgehog Hollow (book 6) both went into Prime Reading so are free to Prime Reading subscribers. Finding Love is currently 99p on Kindle.

Although not in Prime reading, book 5 – Chasing Dreams at Hedgehog Hollow – is also currently on a 99p offer so do grab that if you haven’t already done so.

I mentioned writing deadlines a couple of times. These two months have also been deadline-filled. Book 18 is out on 24th January 2023 and is called Healing Hearts at Bumblebee Barn. It’s available to pre-order for Kindle right now (click the title to get to it) although the cover and blurb won’t appear until early November. It will be available to pre-order on other eBook platforms and on Audible nearer the time. It will also be out in all the print formats from publication day too.

I had a deadline to get the first draft in to my editor which I had to extend as I contracted conjunctivitis and had to spend a few days away from the screen. I’m really squeamish with my eyes. You know that episode of Friends where Rachel needs eye drops and the others have to quite literally pin her to the sofa? That was me! I swear the hubby took far too much delight in putting those drops in my eyes!

I made it to the revised deadline but knew my manuscript was a bit of a mess and that I wanted to change one part of the plot and the ending. My editor, Nia, is amazing and she typically agrees with what I’ve already identified is wrong with the story (but didn’t have time to fix) and comes up with some invaluable suggestions of her own. I then had deadlines for getting the 1st round of edits back and the 2nd, which were returned at the weekend. In between those rounds of edits, I came down with Covid for the second time!

Fortunately it was reasonably mild – bad cold, tired – and I’m so thankful it hit me between edits instead of during them as working was too exhausting. I watched lots of films but had hoped to do lots of catching-up on my admin so that all had to be put on hold.

I’ve seen the gorgeous cover and have had the blurb finalised too and can’t wait to share them with readers.

And as if all that wasn’t busy enough, I’ve had a flu jab, hair appointment, physio sessions (I have back/neck/shoulder problems – typical for an author spending too much time hunched over their keyboard!), a tour round the local sixth form ready for my daughter applying there for next September, and an open evening at her school about GCSE revision tips. Phew! Exhausted thinking about it all!

So today I’m off to meet Sharon, Sylvia and Joy as mentioned and then I’m off on my holidays over half-term – a much earned (and needed) rest after a couple of busy months.

Hope September and October have treated you well and hope you’ve enjoyed my photos. Do grab yourself those Hedgehog Hollows on offer if you haven’t already done so. And spread the word!

Big hugs
Jessica xx

The one where the hedgehogs start and end in Prime Reading and I talk about reading a series in full and in order

I recently announced that the first book in the Hedgehog Hollow series – Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow – had gone into global Prime Reading meaning that Prime members can access it for free and find out how it all begins.

I’m excited to announce that the final book in the series – Christmas Miracles at Hedgehog Hollow – has also gone into Prime Reading this week so we now have the start and end of the six-book series in there.

You know that weird feeling you get when you see a police officer and you instantly feel guilty, even when you’ve done nothing wrong, or when the boss asks to see you and you instantly feel like you’re going to be in trouble? This is how I feel when I ask readers to read a full series.

It feels ridiculously uncomfortable and I don’t fully know why. Perhaps it’s because I feel bad asking them to buy six books, but it’s not like I’m asking them to shell out for six up-front. Try one and, if you like it, go for the others. Perhaps it’s because I’ve had a few readers telling me they don’t like series and wish I’d write standalone stories and I feel guilty that, each time I try to do that, I think too big and it typically ends up being a series or at least with a connected book.

Whatever the reason, I shouldn’t feel that way. I should be proud to say that I write in series and not feel embarrassed to state the truth: that some series should be read in full and in order. You’ll notice a specifically used the words ‘some series’ because this is not necessarily true of every series. There are some that you can dip in and out of or join in on later books but the Hedgehog Hollow series is not that type of series and here’s why:

  1. There is one consistent narrator – Samantha Wishaw – throughout all six books. It is her story and, running alongside that, we meet her family, friends and members of the local community, some of whom also have stories to be explored alongside Samantha’s, resulting in a guest narrator from book 2 onwards
  2. Samantha grows and develops across the six books and so do some of the characters. Joining the series partway through misses out on their journey and it’s the journey that makes them three-dimensional flawed characters, just like you and me. It’s why we’re rooting for the heroine and hissing at the villain(s)
  3. There are some recurring storylines and themes handled across the series such as the difficult relationship Samantha has with a couple of family members, mental health and forgiveness. Joining the series late misses out on these
  4. I come full circle on a couple of things. I can’t say much more as I’ll give away spoilers but there are some things that happen at the start and end which are poignant but would be missed by anyone who hasn’t followed the full series
  5. There are a lot of characters introduced across the series. They cast grows gradually with each book but, if anyone starts at book 6 when they’re all there, they’ll be lost. There are way too many characters to meet at once
  6. I didn’t design this as six standalone books. I wrote a series set in a hedgehog rescue centre and the full story is roughly 600,000 words long and being told across six books

I do provide a ‘story so far’ section at the start of book 2 onwards, alongside a cast of characters, but these were written to act as a reminder for readers who want a quick refresh on what happened in the previous book before they settle down with the next instalment. They weren’t designed to cover everything that happened in the previous book(s) to negate the point of reading the previous books.

Before Christmas Miracles at Hedgehog Hollow came out, it was available for early reviews to bloggers and influencers and pretty much everyone who had read the other books give it a 4 or 5 star rating (mainly 5). All the negative reviews were from those who’d picked up book 6 as their starting point and they didn’t follow what was going on, thought there were too many characters, didn’t understand the connections between characters, believed there were too many issues covered (despite many of those mentioned being ones from previous books which were coming to a conclusion). Basically, they hated it and that was so upsetting.

I felt like I’d scream if I saw one more review open with the immortal words “I didn’t realise this was book six in a series…” What doesn’t make sense to me is why those reviewers continued to read it and leave a negative review. If it was me, my reaction would have been: Oops, better not continue as I’m probably not going to follow this. But maybe that’s just me.

Anyway, the whole point of this is to explain why this particular series really needs reading as a series. Readers will get so much more enjoyment by doing this, seeing Samantha grow and develop and the world of Hedgehog Hollow change so, if you’re new to the series, absolutely do grab yourself book 1 from Prime Reading and maybe book 6 too but do read the four in the middle for a richer, fulfilling story. After all, they’ll both be in Prime right up until the end of the year and probably a little past that so there’s plenty of time to fit them all in:

  1. Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow
  2. New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow
  3. Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow
  4. A Wedding at Hedgehog Hollow
  5. Chasing Dreams at Hedgehog Hollow
  6. Christmas Miracles at Hedgehog Hollow

And for those not in Prime Reading, all six are free via Kindle Unlimited, can be borrowed from your library in a range of formats, and book 1 is available on Audible Plus for free if you’re an Audible subscriber.

What are your thoughts on series, as a reader, author or both? Are you very particular about series being read in order or perhaps you don’t mind flitting in and out? Maybe you never start a series until you know the last book has been written or published and then you binge it. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

In other news, just a quick heads-up to say that the first book in another series – Snowflakes Over The Starfish Café – is currently part of Audible UK’s 2 for 1 credit deal but it ends at 11.50pm on Saturday (8th October) so do grab it quick.

Happy reading!

Big hedge-hugs
Jessica xx