Reflections on July

I should really have posted this yesterday but I’d hit my fill of storage on WordPress and couldn’t add any more images. I didn’t have the brain power to tackle that yesterday so, this morning, I’ve upgraded and can post my look back although I apologise as this means three posts in one day as there has been so much happening today with Boldwood’s 2nd birthday to celebrate and Yorkshire Day too!

I have no idea where July has gone. Do I say that about every month? It really has zoomed by so here’s what’s been happening:

Another slow month of reading for me – not because the books I’ve chosen are slow but because I’m a slow reader and still struggling for time.

The only book I’ve read in full is Life’s What You Make It by Sian O’Gorman who’s a fellow Boldwood author. It’s set in a small coastal village near Dublin and is a lovely story of starting over and finding home. I very much recommend it.

The munchkin and I continued with our viewing of Castle and are now halfway through season five. We don’t fit in many episodes at a time but we’re still loving it, and hubby and I watch The Rookie each week, also starring Nathan Fillion (star of Castle). Season three has just finished and ended on a cracking cliffhanger.

I forgot to mention in my June review that I had watched Virgin River as I’d heard so many good things about it and decided to give it a try. I’d therefore not long finished it before season three appeared. I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as the previous two seasons. What I’d enjoyed previously was that there was a balance of laughter and tears but this season seemed to be more about the tears. Don’t get me wrong, I like a good cry, but the balance didn’t seem to be there and there seemed to be lots of rushed decisions the characters made with massive consequences. I assume there’s a season 4 as it ended on a cliffhanger but I can’t decide whether I’m going to tune in or not. Jury’s still out on that one.

We’ve continued our eduction of the munchkin in films we’ve loved in the past and, after watching Armageddon last month, we decided to keep the disaster movie theme going and planned to watch The Day After Tomorrow. Unfortunately, we had a huge DVD clear-out last year and gave hundreds of them to charity as we didn’t have the space, and we think The Day After Tomorrow must have been one of them. It wasn’t on streaming and we weren’t going to pay to rent something we’d previously owned so we went for the dramatic but not quite as good 2012 instead. I remember watching that at the time and thinking 2012 seemed so far away! The munchkin loved it.

Hubby and I watched a film he’d seen a couple of times before and thought I’d love, partly because it’s really good and partly because Chris Hemsworth is in it! It’s called Heart of the Sea and is about the story that inspired Herman Melville to write Moby Dick. He was right. It was really good. Do watch it if you have a chance.

Finally, we’ve just started watching A Discovery of Witches. We’re three episodes in and enjoying it so far. I have a feeling I heard someone say it’s slowish to start but really takes off from about episode 4.

I’ve been busy working on A Wedding at Hedgehog Hollow, the fourth book in the Hedgehog Hollow series. I started the month having got to roughy the 50k words point and have finished the month at just shy of 93k words so I’m very close to the end. It will probably be about 110k words and then I’ll remove a few thousand in the editing process. I can’t wait to get to the end and start editing. It’s very lumpy at the moment but I’m confident I can smooth it out and then my editor will work her magic and suggest even more brilliant changes.

I celebrated one year of Hedgehog Hollow at the start of the month, 2nd July 2020 being the day the first book in the series – Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow – was published.

All You Need is Love went into Prime Reading. I thought this was just in the UK but it’s globally so do look for it if you’re in Prime overseas. It also went into a one-week sale on Audible and entered the Top 100 which is the first time any of my audiobooks have done that so that was a lovely moment.

We did the cover reveal for Snowflakes Over The Starfish Café and it’s always so lovely getting such positive responses to how pretty a cover is. It’s now available on NetGalley for bloggers/reviewers and I’ve had 100% 5-star feedback in so far. That’s only nine reviews but it’s still 100%. I know the bubble will burst at some point but I’ll enjoy it for now!

Christmas Wishes at the Chocolate Shop has also been doing exceptionally well on NetGalley. With 80 reviews so far, there weren’t any 1 or 2 stars and only 1 x 3-star, with by far the most being 5-star reviews. Yay! Then yesterday a 2.5 star and another 3 star came in. Boo! Oh well, you can’t please all of the people all of the time and I’m delighted to have pleased a very large number!

I took part in a ‘Northern Lasses’ Book & Tonic Banter Facebook Live which was great fun. My fellow-panelists were Jane Lovering and Sheila Riley. You can catch up on that here. I also interviewed Jo Bartlett and chatted about how we met and our books on an ‘in conversation’ here.

I was thinking I’d barely left the house in July but a flick through my diary tells me I’m a big fat liar! The month started with a trip to Leeds to see Six The Musical, and a whole weekend away with the munchkin. I loved the show but didn’t particularly enjoy the weekend away although it was nice to spend some time with my daughter, of course.

I met my bestie and fellow author Sharon Booth in Beverley (East Yorkshire) for lunch and an afternoon of chat about all things writing. The hours go by in the click of a finger.

I attended the RNA’s conference, albeit virtually. There were some really great talks, all of which I took something from which is great.

The munchkin made her promise at Rangers down on Scarborough seafront and, while she was doing that, hubby and I grabbed some chips and took the dog for a walk. It was the midst of the heatwave but pleasantly cool on the evening by the coast.

August is shaping up to be a busy month with two publication days, a month of birthday celebrations for Boldwood and a couple of other exciting developments. Watch this space! Wishing you a fabulous August.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

Happy Yorkshire Day 2021

It’s 1st August which means it’s Yorkshire Day. Happy Yorkshire Day 2021 to everyone who who was born in Yorkshire, lives here now or has ever lived here, to all those who’ve visited this beautiful part of the country or would love to do so, to those who write about it/read about it/watch it on TV, those who drink Yorkshire Tea and anyone who has any connection to or fondness for Yorkshire.

I love Yorkshire. I was actually born in Teesside but was raised in a market town called Guisborough which borders the North Yorkshire Moors so I very much think of myself as a Yorkshire lass. And I’ve lived in North Yorkshire since 2003 and Scarborough since 2004; the longest time I’ve lived anywhere.

All my books (so far) are set in Yorkshire. North Yorkshire alone is the largest county in England. Add in East, West and South Yorkshire and we’re massive. So it’s no surprise that an area this size has so many inspiring settings from coast to country to city.

I’m delighted to present some of our local scenery and the books that are inspired by it…

The ‘Welcome to Whitsborough Bay’ series, a location inspired by Scarborough, Whitby and Robin Hood’s Bay
The Hedgehog Hollow series (so far) set in the stunning Yorkshire Wolds
Take a trip to Castle Street, inspired by Scarborough’s Bar Street and the cobbled streets of Whitby and Robin Hood’s Bay, full of independent shops and cafes
Whitsborough Bay’s North Bay (heavily inspired by Scarborough’s North Bay) features in many of my books but especially All You Need is Love and The Secret to Happiness
Scarborough Spa at the far end of South Bay is the inspiration behind The Bay Pavilion which features in Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café
The views over Scarborough’s South Bay are stunning. This is one of the first views Tara sees when she moves to Whitsborough Bay in Starry Skies and, in new release Snowflakes Over The Starfish Café, it’s an area called Sea Cliff where heroine Hollie lives
The Starfish Café is the setting for a new series. The location is completely fictional but the beach below – Starfish Point – is a colony to 200 grey and common seals, inspired by the beach at Ravenscar
Scarborough’s harbour aka Whitsborough Bay harbour is mentioned in several books and there’s a key scene set there in Christmas at Carly’s Cupakes

I hope you’ve enjoyed a little glimpse into the real Yorkshire inspiration behind Whitsborough Bay and Hedgehog Hollow.

Do you love Yorkshire? Do you live here/have connections here/have fond memories of holidays here? I’d love to hear from you in the comments if you do.

Big Yorkshire hugs
Jessica xx

Happy 2nd Birthday to Boldwood Books

Today I’m delighted to wish my amazing publisher, Boldwood Books, a Happy 2nd Birthday. Woo hoo!

Boldwood officially launched in February 2019, opening up to submissions that day, and I was all ready with my manuscript the moment we passed midnight and was thrilled to get ‘the call’ the following month and join the team as one of the first twenty authors.

The reason today – 1st August – is the official birthday is that this is the date the first release went out into the world. Nina Manning’s The Daughter in Law – a psychological thriller – was a huge success, as were the other August releases: romcom Honeymoon for One by Portia MacIntosh and contemporary women’s fiction Villa of Sun and Secrets by Jennifer Bohnet.

My Boldwood debut, The Secret to Happiness, was the first September release and it was so exciting seeing a new release out pretty much every week as the portfolio grew.

During their two years, Boldwood have delivered exactly what they promised: publishing reimagined. They have taken the ‘digital first’ concept and said ‘but that doesn’t need to mean digital only’ and, right from the start, all titles were released in several formats: eBook on all platforms, paperback, physical audio and audio download. But they haven’t stopped there. All titles are available in large print formats too and all titles released since March this year have come out in hardback (and older titles will, over time, retrospectively be available in that format). Streaming services have also been added meaning that, whatever a person’s reading or listening preferences, Boldwood have it covered.

They established a programme with The Works and I was thrilled to have three books – The Secret to Happiness, Making Wishes at Bay View and Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow – go into The Works stores and online in 2020. This programme has also seen additional stock distributed around the UK, Ireland, USA and Canada meaning that books could appear in garden centres, post offices, small and large supermarkets in those countries. I’ve personally spotted one of mine in two local garden centres and a friend sent me a photo of one in her local post office which was such a thrill.

Two of my books in The Works together

Another amazing deal saw many books go into supermarkets in Australia. The distributor specified crime and thrillers only so mine weren’t included but I was still able to enjoy the moment vicariously seeing shelfies from down under featuring books by my Boldwood buddies.

Across the two years, Boldwood have been nominated and shortlisted for various industry prizes, winning the regional heat of the Publisher of the Year in the British Book Awards 2021 and winning the Best Newcomer award at the Independent Publishing Awards 2020.

Team Boldwood have also:

  • Sold 4 million books (across all formats)
  • Had 45 Top 10 Bestsellers
  • Signed more than 60 authors
  • Published over 160 titles
  • Received more than 100,000 5-star reviews on Amazon
  • Expanded to a team of 8
  • Acquired over 15,000 social media followers

That’s a lot of amazing achievements in only two years! Very much looking forward to where the next two years take us. I’m already aware of some exciting new opportunities which will be revealed in due course, and I’m sure there’ll be many more.

First to Last Release in Two Years (well, give or take a couple of days!)

For me personally, two years brings an amazing milestone. On Tuesday (3rd August), the final book in my first twelve-book publishing contract is released. Christmas Wishes at the Chocolate Shop is also the final book in my backlist, all of which Boldwood acquired, and was previously out as Charlee and the Chocolate Shop. Then, later this month, Snowflakes at The Starfish Café is published (31st August) which sees the start of a brand new twelve-book deal and a new series. I can’t believe I’m already on my second contract! When it came to resigning with Boldwood, I didn’t even need to think about it. A resounding YES!

A month before Boldwood’s first birthday, I added Hedgehog Hollow to my settings and have been overwhelmed with the love for the hedgehogs. There are now three books out there with a fourth on pre-order and more to come from the hedgehogs in 2022.

The dawn of a new series

A huge CONGRATULATIONS to the whole team at Boldwood Books for creating such a warm, friendly, innovative company and for being so supportive. My particular gratitude goes to Amanda Ridout, our Founder and CEO, for her passion, enthusiasm and tremendous vision and to my editor (and Publishing / Sales & Marketing Director), Nia Beynon, who is an absolute dream to work with. Nia has been my editor from the start and therefore knows, understands, and loves the worlds of Whitsborough Bay and Hedgehog Hollow as much as I do. She is my sounding board and a shoulder to cry on and I have learned so much from her exceptional editing skills about how to turn a good story into a great one.

A thank you to Megan Townsend, Publishing Executive, who works behind the scenes preparing the books for publication and Claire Fenby, Digital Marketing Manager, who only joined the team fairly recently but has already made such a tremendous impact on our social media channels with her digital innovations.

I’m so grateful to the team of authors at Boldwood for being such a supportive, friendly group. Very excited to hopefully meet them all in person at some point. Congratulations to you all for writing such amazing books. I’m a very slow reader but I think I’ve maybe read about twenty Boldwood releases so far and they’ve all been exceptional. My mum, bless her, has read (and loved) nearly all of them!

Finally an enormous THANK YOU to all the readers and bloggers/reviewers who buy the books in whatever format, leave reviews, spread recommendations, send messages, and share the love. We wouldn’t be here without your support. Huge hugs to every single one of you.

Happy 2nd Birthday Boldwood. Here’s to an exciting third year…

Big birthday hugs
Jessica xx

Happy World Friendship Day 2021

A big warm hug to you all on happy World Friendship Day or International Day of Friendship as it’s also known. This is a day with its roots back in the 1930s when Hallmark declared 2nd August as a day to celebrate friendship but cynicism of this as a money-making scheme (surely not?!) meant it faded into obscurity in the USA… for a little while.

Friendships fascinate me and are always a key feature in my stories as there is so much scope to explore the many variations and complexities.

If you love reading about new friendships, you might like to try All You Need is Love, The Secret to Happiness or Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow.

If friends to lovers stories are your thing, then Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes should appeal.

If you prefer enemies to lovers, try Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café or New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow.

Perhaps you enjoy friendships between family members. Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes also fits the bill here and Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow.

Or maybe friends who aren’t family but feel just like it – Christmas Wishes at the Chocolate Shop.

Do you enjoy inter-generational friendships? I explore these in Making Wishes at Bay View and Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow.

How about friendships that change over time and circumstance? Try New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms, Finding Hope at Lighthouse Cove and Coming Home to Seashell Cottage (best read in that order).

To all my friends new and old, near and far, some of whom I haven’t seen for years and some I only know virtually, wishing you a Happy World Friendship Day.

Happy new book friendships.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

Exploring Wharram Percy – a deserted Medieval village

Yesterday, it didn’t look like the forecasted rain was going to make an appearance so we piled into the car to drive around part of the Yorkshire Wolds – Hedgehog Hollow country – to get some more photos.

It was a lovely drive out, stopping to take the occasional photo of stunning rolling countryside, and it was a bit of a mystery tour, arriving at each junction and hubby asking ‘right or left?’ We picked up signs to the English Heritage site of Wharram Percy which is somewhere we’ve wanted to visit for ages so we ended up there. You can find details about it on English Heritage’s website here.

Bit of history for you here: There are roughly 3,000 known deserted Medieval villages around Britain but this is one of the most famous because it’s one of the largest and best preserved. For the past 60 years, archeologists have worked on this site, keen to understand more about this era and why the village was deserted.

Wharram Percy can be found in a valley, surrounded by stunning Yorkshire Wolds countryside. It’s quite a remote site but was occupied for six centuries before being abandoned in the early sixteenth century (around 1520 they reckon).

You can read the full history on English Heritage’s website here and it seems a combination of various tragic and unfortunate circumstances around lack of heirs in the Percy family, forced eviction, famine and the plague resulted in the downfall of a once-thriving village. There’s also an interesting blog post about the ‘ghost village’ here from fantasy author Angus Watson.

I’d heard tales of Wharram Percy being haunted and about dogs in particular, who tend to be more attuned to these things, having strong reactions when visiting the area. So I did some research on this.

There’s a short but interesting clip from presenter Clive Anderson on YouTube about a grisly discovery archaeologists made when excavating the site in 2017 which you can watch here – a pit containing 137 human bones from 10 different people. A little strange when there’s a church with a graveyard and the villagers would all be christians and therefore buried there.

Frustratingly this clip didn’t explain why the archaeologists thought the pit was there so I did some further digging. There still isn’t a definitive answer for this discovery. There is evidence of decapitation and dismemberment with many bones being broken and/or burned after death. The only plausible explanation for the moment is that this may have happened because of Medieval folklore. Back then, it was believed that the dead could rise and spread disease or violently attack the living so this gruesome way of disposing of the bodies (presumably of those who’d died from the plague?) may have been a way of preventing that. Eek!

The Clive Anderson video shows amazing arial footage where the full extent of the remains of the village can be seen; something you don’t appreciate when on foot. Definitely worth watching to see that.

I wanted to find some ‘evidence’ of ghost encounters but all the posts I found seemed to focus on the village being abandoned and the bones rather than anything specific from visitors. I’m sure if I’d spent longer looking, I’d have eventually come across something but I have a huge to-do list today so I’ve abandoned that search!

Did we feel anything spooky? No. Just hunger pangs because we hadn’t expected to visit Wharram Percy and should have been hunting out lunch when we got distracted by a visit there! Ella (our sprocker spaniel) showed no reactions either. When I was at 19, I went to the Isle of Wight on holiday and visited Golden Hill Fort, a former army barracks near Freshwater. It’s now apartments but it was open to visitors back then and was reputed to be haunted. I felt something very strongly there which spooked me big time so I had wondered if I was susceptible to things like this… but Wharram Percy didn’t affect me at all.

My 14-year-old daughter claims to like horror films and spooky books so we got her to stand by the farmhouse which is still standing but boarded up. We couldn’t resist winding her up as she posed in the blocked-up doorway. ‘Just stand by the woman and little girl,’ hubby instructed. ‘You don’t have to hold the little girl’s hand,’ I added. Hubby then couldn’t resist photoshopping the image when we got home! (Look closely at the doorway). Mwah ha ha ha!

I’d definitely recommend a visit to Wharram Percy. It’s £2 for parking unless you’re an English Heritage member (which we are). It’s a 3/4 mile walk there which is mainly downhill although that means uphill on the way back. It’s mainly a gentle slope, though, with just one slightly steeper part.

You’ll then cover a bit more ground wandering round the site itself which is a bit hilly, as you can see on one of the photos below. It’s a lovely walk with lots of wildflowers and pretty countryside to look at as well as the remains of the site, although I realised after I got home that I’d only taken photos of the intact buildings and not the ‘footprints’.

My daughter now has an idea for a story inspired by Wharram Percy. It’s actually quite a brilliant idea and made me excited for her when she mentioned it. I just wish she’d get beyond chapter 1! She has started writing so many stories then abandoned them because it takes too much effort. Probably not going to follow in my footsteps!

Big hugs
Jessica xx

Cover reveal for Snowflakes Over The Starfish Café

I’m thrilled to officially share the gorgeous cover for my forthcoming new release, Snowflakes Over The Starfish Café. Isn’t it stunning?

Here’s all the essential details:

  • PRE-ORDER: Available for eBook pre-order RIGHT NOW! (links just above my signature)
  • RELEASE DATE: Out on 31st August 2021
  • OTHER FORMATS: Available on all other formats from 31st August – paperback, signed paperback (available direct from me), hardback, large print, physical audio, audio download and via streaming services
  • AUDIO NARRATION: Lucy Brownhill and Gareth Bennett-Ryan (the team who narrate All You Need Is Love)
  • SETTING: Just outside Whitsborough Bay on a cliff top above Starfish Point, a colony to over 200 common and grey seals
  • WHAT TO EXPECT: An emotional story (grab those tissues) full of hope

This is my 13th book and sees the start of a brand new 12-book publishing contract with the wonderful Boldwood Books. Over the past couple of years, Boldwood have published four brand new titles from me and eight books from my backlist which have been freshly edited and have new scenes, chapters, titles and covers.

The very last of these is Christmas Wishes at the Chocolate Shop (previously Charlee and the Chocolate Shop) out on 3rd August and also available for pre-order right now.

The new contract will be made up entirely of BRAND NEW titles which is really exciting. The Hedgehog Hollow series will continue with book four – A Wedding at Hedgehog Hollow – out in January 2022 and another one or two Hedgehog Hollow books after that before the series concludes.

There’s plenty more to come from Whitsborough Bay too and from The Starfish Café itself. We have a sequel to Snowflakes Over The Starfish Café currently scheduled for April 2022 and possibly a third book in that series.

Here’s the blurb:

Welcome to The Starfish Café – where you will find stunning views, delicious food and lifelong friendships.

Two broken hearts.

Since she inherited The Starfish Café, Hollie has poured her heart into the business, striving to keep her mother’s traditions and warm-hearted spirit alive. But behind closed doors Hollie is searching for true happiness as she grieves the tragic loss of her family who were once the beating heart of the café…

An unexpected meeting.

Jake lives by two rules: don’t let anyone get close and don’t talk about what happened. Little does he know that a chance meeting at The Starfish Café, facilitated by a fluffy lost dog, is about to turn his world upside down…

The chance to love again.

Can Hollie and Jake break down the barriers that have been holding them back from finding love and happiness, before Christmas comes around? After all, with courage, nothing is impossible…

‘Heartbreakingly moving and yet beautifully uplifting, I cried for all the right reasons!’ Jo Bartlett


‘Achingly poignant, yet full of hope – You will fall in love with this beautiful Christmas story’ Sandy Barker


Pre-order links:

UK: https://amzn.to/3zuzjJ3

USA: https://amzn.to/3iwW1cy


A huge thank you to my amazing editor, Nia, for all the tremendous support and editing guidance on this and my other twelve books. I couldn’t ask for a more perfect partnership.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

All You Need is Love is on an Audible offer

Just dropping by quickly to let you know that All You Need is Love is currently on an Audible offer. It’s included in their £3 sale so, if you’re an Audible listener, you can pick it up for a bargain price.

The deal went on yesterday and only lasts a week so will come to a close this coming Saturday (24th July).

This is a standalone story although it features some cameo appearances from a couple of the characters who appear in other Whitsborough Bay books. You don’t need to have read any of the other books to enjoy All You Need is Love.

I was so excited to see it storming into the Top 100 Amazon Audible Chart yesterday at #64! It has dropped a little today but is still Top 100 which is amazing. I don’t think I’ve had anything close to an audio Top 100 before.

It was really lovely to see it as #1 in the Audible Friendship Fiction category and #4 in Contemporary Romance. Look at who’s ahead of me. Wow! Romance royalty!

And if you’re not an Audible listener but would like to read this book, it’s in Prime Reading and Kindle Unlimited so free to subscribers of either of those programmes, and it’s currently only 99p or worldwide equivalent for all eBook formats so a bargain whatever your reading/listening preferences.

Big bear hugs
Jessica xx

When you’ve loved and lost, how do you find the strength to let love in again?

Jemma thinks she’s found the love of her life. Scott is everything she ever dreamed of and she can’t wait to begin the next stage of their life together. But just as she is heading for her happy ever after, a shock revelation shatters Jemma’s life as she knows it. Left to pick up the pieces, Jemma’s friends and family rally round to help her find the courage to move on.

Sam think he has his future all worked out. A thriving career, lovely home and an amazing fiancée. But when tragedy strikes, he finds himself alone, far from everyone he cares about. Did he do the right thing by running away and trying to rebuild the tatters of his life alone?

This is the story of Jemma and Sam. Two lost souls, desperately trying to find closure and happiness. When a chance meeting brings them together a friendship is formed, but the guards are up. 

Will it finally be their turn for a happy ever after? Or will the secrets from their pasts prevent them from moving on?

Escape to Whitsborough Bay for an emotional, uplifting story of love and friendship from top 10 bestseller Jessica Redland. 

This book was previously published as Bear With Me.

The story behind the story of All You Need Is Love

All You Need Is Love was added into Prime Reading at the start of last week so is available as a FREE eBook for those who subscribe. It’s also FREE – along with all my other books – to those in Kindle Unlimited. And if you’re not a Prime reader, you can grab it for only 99p or overseas equivalent on Apple, Kindle, Kobo and Nook so it’s a great time to pick up this book if you haven’t already read it.

Here’s the blurb and then I’ll tell you a bit about the story behind the story:

When you’ve loved and lost, how do you find the strength to let love in again?

Jemma thinks she’s found the love of her life. Scott is everything she ever dreamed of and she can’t wait to begin the next stage of their life together. But just as she is heading for her happy ever after, a shock revelation shatters Jemma’s life as she knows it. Left to pick up the pieces, Jemma’s friends and family rally round to help her find the courage to move on.

Sam think he has his future all worked out. A thriving career, lovely home and an amazing fiancée. But when tragedy strikes, he finds himself alone, far from everyone he cares about. Did he do the right thing by running away and trying to rebuild the tatters of his life alone?

This is the story of Jemma and Sam. Two lost souls, desperately trying to find closure and happiness. When a chance meeting brings them together a friendship is formed, but the guards are up. 

Will it finally be their turn for a happy ever after? Or will the secrets from their pasts prevent them from moving on?

I wrote this book across 2016-17 and originally released it as an indie author in April 2017 under the title Bear With Me. My publishers, Boldwood Books, acquired the rights to all my back catalogue and Bear With Me was taken down from sale last year, given a fresh edit, and re-released as All You Need Is Love in March this year.

As mentioned in previous posts, I’m a pantser rather than a plotter, which means that I typically have an idea for a story and I let it write itself. Therefore a lot of the plot points unfold as I write and often take me by surprise but I always know what the premise and setting will be right from the start.

For All You Need Is Love, the setting was the starting point. I’d always wanted to write a story set in a specialist teddy bear shop because I’m an arctophile – collector/lover of teddy bears – and I used to have my own specialist bear shop so I had direct experience I could draw on.

Me in Bear’s Pad after winning the Best Newcomer Award in 2004

My shop was called Bear’s Pad and was based at the top of a street called Finkle Street in Richmond, North Yorkshire. I set it up from scratch and ran it for two years from May 2003, closing it down because I’d married and moved to Scarborough which was two hours away.

Some days in the shop were amazing with great sales and fabulous conversations with bear-mad customers. Some days were horrendous. Here’s a few examples of some of my more traumatic days:

  • A local woman who used to delight in visiting the independent sole traders in town and telling them their business would fail because all new businesses did. The first time I met her, she spent an hour in the shop telling me this and she made me cry
  • Turning up on several occasions to find that somebody had vomited in my doorway and having to clear that up before opening for the day
  • A woman in with her daughter who asked if I had a toilet the daughter could use. I said no (I wasn’t insured to let the public use my toilet which was out the back by the safe and spare stock) but explained that the public toilets were 2 minutes’ away. Instead of taking her daughter to the toilets, she continued looking round and her poor daughter wet herself on my floor. Which would have been easily cleaned up if I had tiles or wooden flooring but I had carpet tiles. The mother then abandoned the items she was going to buy and stormed out telling me it was my fault for not letting her use my toilet and leaving me to clean up the mess. Needless to say, she never returned to buy the abandoned items
  • A really ‘lovely’ man came in wanting a large plush bear from the top of a cabinet. The shop was busy and I said he could get it down himself, especially as he was taller than me, but he made out he didn’t want to knock anything and could I do it. So I locked the till and helped him. He said he’d go to the ATM, get some money, and be back later. It had all been a distraction. His accomplice (who I hadn’t noticed at all) had tried to empty the till but couldn’t because I’d locked it, but he stole my mobile phone from under the till instead. They’d been working their way round the town targeting the smaller businesses
  • A woman asked if I’d be interested in stocking some pictures she’d painted of teddy bears. They were lovely but I was only willing to do this on sale or return basis as I had no idea if they’d sell. She told me how much she wanted for them and I told her the mark-up I’d need to put on them to ensure the space I gave them earned the same as other products. She was fine with that. Until they didn’t sell and she stormed in one day to collect them, hurling abuse at me about how they’d have sold if I wasn’t such a “greedy cow” for how I’d priced them!
  • Only making £4 of sales one day because it rained non-stop and I only had one customer all day
  • Several shoplifting incidents
  • Mums sending their children to ‘play in the bear shop’ while they went on a sunbed in the tanning salon opposite, leaving me with a random child or two to ‘babysit’ who touched everything, dropped lots of things, and had no money to spend

I could easily have written a book set purely in a bear shop and included these incidents and many more but it wouldn’t have made a story as they’re all anecdotes, although these incidents may well appear in other books as it’s all good material. A story is made up of so much more than a series of bad days so it wasn’t about me replicating my experiences of running my own teddy bear shop.

I was also conscious that not everyone understands the idea of an adult collecting teddy bears and I didn’t want to risk alienating readers so I didn’t want to have the whole story set in a bear shop.

My idea was for a mother and daughter team, Jemma and Julie, who were keen arctophiles and bear artists (makers of teddy bears) but to have the mum owning the shop rather than the daughter, therefore only using the bear shop as a partial setting.

I established Jemma’s mum Julie as the owner/manager specialist teddy bear shop Bear With Me on Castle Street in Whitsborough Bay but positioned Jemma as a curator at a children’s museum in London who, despite living far away, was very close to her mum and younger brother.

I needed a way for Jemma to return to Whitsborough Bay and had an idea to do that on the back of Julie being diagnosed with a life-changing illness. I went back and forth between several conditions but settled on Parkinson’s. My auntie had recently been diagnosed with it and my parents’ next-door neighbour had it and was very willing for me to spend some time quizzing her about all aspects of living with Parkinson’s. The chance to speak to someone directly was invaluable so my decision was made.

What I was really keen to show was not just the impact Parkinson’s could have on the person with it but also on their family. Because the story is told from Jemma’s perspective rather than Julie’s, I’m able to do this.

This story is a dual perspective one. It’s the first book I wrote in this way and the first time I tackled a male perspective too. At the start of the book, Sam’s and Jemma’s lives are unconnected but, as the story progresses, they meet through a mutual friend when Sam, a neurologist, provides Jemma with some advice and expertise in relation to Julie’s diagnosis.

I can’t remember where the idea of the dual perspective came from. I don’t remember making a conscious decision to do this but equally don’t remember starting writing single POV and then changing it to dual. I therefore suspect it was something that just felt right for this story.

As for everything else that happens in All You Need Is Love, that’s completely down to the characters and where their stories took me.

Authors are often asked which their favourite book is that they’ve written and it’s a really difficult question to answer. Quite often, books will be special for different reasons. I don’t have an outright favourite from my backlist but All You Need Is Love is definitely one of my favourites. I love Jemma and her family so much, I love Sam, and I love their story. It’s such a beautiful tale of having loved and lost and trying to find the courage to take the chance of letting love in again.

Because I love this story so much, I do struggle to understand why it has the fewest sales out of all my books. There’ll always be a weaker-performing book but I do wonder why it’s this one. Thankfully those who read it do seem to love it so hopefully being in Prime reading and on a 99p offer will generate more interest.

Under the previous guise of Bear With Me, I did wonder if the teddy bear-themed title and blurb might put off anyone who isn’t interested in teddy bears, but the new version has no mention of bears and it still hasn’t sold as well as my other books. Strange. If you are a reader who doesn’t feel excited by bears, please do give it a try. Any bear-related details are gently fed into the storyline and don’t provide the main focus of the book so please don’t let that deter you from diving in. I have several reviews where readers ay they weren’t bear fans but they now are!

As I write this, I’m thrilled to see the bears climbing back up the charts. The eBook is currently just outside the Top 300 on Amazon at #309. The previous highest was #127 when on a BookBub promotion in April. They’re also Top 50 in the Prime Reading chart and Top 20 in the Romance Prime Reading chart. Go bears go! Do us proud!

Big bear-hugs
Jessica xx

How amazing to see live theatre again but boo to the ‘great’ British weather

I’m sure we have all experienced cancelled holidays, events and weekends away during the past 18 months. Some may have been cancelled altogether and some may have been rescheduled. Last weekend, the munchkin and I went away to Leeds to see Six the musical – a theatre trip rescheduled from last June. But even the rescheduled trip nearly didn’t happen.

We’d decided to make a weekend of it when I discovered I could book two nights in a chain hotel using loyalty points I’d gained from when I used to travel a lot with my day job. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get the deal again for the rescheduled dates but I’d promised my daughter a weekend away and didn’t want to pull out of that after such a tough 18 months just because I now had to pay for accommodation.

The train journey is usually a smooth no-change one but, when we went to book the train tickets, we discovered there were disruptions both ways so travelling was not going to go as planned either. 

And the delay in restrictions being lifted meant a reduced audience at the theatre. If we hadn’t got our tickets for this year, I’d have lost my hotel money (as it was on a non-refundable deal) and most of my train fare. Thankfully it transpired that we’d booked really early so we had priority over keeping our seats.

Then the munchkin had to isolate after positive Covid cases in her school. Thankfully she tested negative in a PCR and subsequent lateral flow tests and the isolation ended just in time to travel.

I felt a little apprehensive about the trip as was so many firsts for me since before the pandemic began – first train journey, first night in a hotel, first visit to a city and first peopley event, even though it would be reduced capacity – but I was determined we’d have a good time after being stuck at home for so long.

The show itself was phenomenal and, if you have a chance to see it, definitely do. I have to give huge thanks and praise to the staff of Leeds Heritage Theatres, specifically the Leeds Grand Theatre, as it was a really smooth process getting in (via temperature check and track & trace logging) and all the staff were really friendly.

It was really good to be back in the theatre and especially lovely that we’d booked a box which we’ve never done before. With social distancing, we had the box to ourselves!

I’d wondered how they’d manage the social distancing but it was fairly straightforward: every other seat had a covering over it and boxes only had people from the same booking in them with every other box empty.

If you’re not familiar with Six, it’s a musical about the six wives of Henry VIII. I didn’t know what to expect. I’d seen some of the cast performing as an interval act on Britain’s Got Talent years ago which is what prompted us to want tickets, but I hadn’t heard anything about it. 

It’s different to any musical I’ve seen before in that it’s just the six wives on stage throughout the whole show (1 hour 20 mins) alongside a four-piece all-female band (keyboard, lead guitar, bass guitar, drums). They sing and there’s a bit of talk but no set changes/costume changes/long acted segments which was different to any musical I’ve ever seen but it absolutely worked. The songs were amazing with funny/clever lyrics and oh my goodness those voices! Wow, those actors could belt out a tune!

I was on the verge of tears all the way through the first song. It felt so emotional being back in live theatre and thinking about all the struggles that those involved in the arts have faced during the pandemic. Actors, producers, musicians and so on are mainly freelance and would have fallen through the gaps in financial support. The theatres – usually beautiful old buildings with expensive upkeep costs – have struggled so much with the lost income and the staff have had all the extra work of cancelling and rescheduling then rescheduling again and probably some very angry customers to deal with for something the theatre couldn’t control. Add to that the amazing voices and how resounding music can stir the soul, I had to give myself a stern talking-to not to turn into a gibbering wreck!

The audience were wearing masks and I wondered how that would feel from the stage, not able to see the smiling faces, but there was plenty of audience engagement with laughter, cheers, clapping and dancing in the seats. The cast and band absolutely deserved the standing ovation at the end.

If you have a chance to see this, do grab a ticket as it is interesting, funny, and fabulous. I have learned a lot more about history and I now don’t just know the rhyme we all know – divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived – without being able to tell you which wife was which. I now know which is which and why they met their fates. If you’re interested, check out my list under my signature for a little slice of history.

So the show was definitely worth seeing, but the rest of the weekend was a bit of a wash-out – literally. Yes, the great British weather did a number on us. We had steady rain, torrential rain, and thunderstorms. So we got wet. A lot.

I don’t like shopping but was happy to traipse around with the munchkin knowing I’d be able to treat myself in my favourite shop in Leeds – specialist teddy bear shop Mary Shortle. Only it has closed. No!!!!!!

Stuck for what to do in the bad weather on Sunday, we went to the cinema to see Peter Rabbit 2. We’d loved the first one but I felt that this one lacked the same humour and charm so was, for me, pretty disappointing. I’m sure plenty will love it, though, so please don’t be put off by my verdict.

We had an unpleasant run-in with a frazzled server in a famous doughnut chain who told me off, gave me filthy looks and was extremely rude. I understand that retail staff have very unfairly had abuse from customers about masks and social distancing but I’m not one of those customers so there was no need to direct the anger at me. To top it all, the doughnut bags got wet because the rain soaked through the bag I had them in, and they got squashed, so the eating pleasure wasn’t quite the same and didn’t make up for the experience. 

The stress of all the arrangement changes, the horrendous weather, the bear shop closure, the disappointing film, the transport problems, the doughnut incident, and the Covid restrictions made everything about this weekend so difficult. I loved the show and the time with the munchkin but I kind of wished we hadn’t booked our tickets early and had had to defer until next year instead. I’d rather have stayed at home where it’s safe and dry and there are no angry doughnut sellers! Hopefully our next trip out will be more successful.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

Wife 1 – Catherine of Aragon – divorced for not bearing a son as Henry VIII was obsessed with keeping the tudor line going. The Roman Catholic Church wouldn’t grant a divorce so the monarch broke away and formed the Church of England

Wife 2 – Anne Boleyn – beheaded. Henry lost interest in her when she didn’t give him a male heir. She was accused of adultery and treason and their marriage was annulled two days before her execution although the exact legal reasons surrounding the execution remain a mystery

Wife 3 – Jane Seymour – died. Finally Henry had the male heir he wanted (Edward VI) but she died from birth complications a few weeks later 

Wife 4 – Anne of Cleves – divorced. This was a strategic European alliance to marry one of the daughters of Germany’s Duke of Cleves. Henry wanted to see a portrait of each to decide which one to marry and he choose the best-looking. Except the portrait was super flattering and he was shocked at the lack of likeness when he met Anne. It was too late to halt the wedding (he tried!) and his “ugly wife” (isn’t that awful?) agreed to a divorce and generous settlement after six months. She lived in luxury on the back of that

Wife 5 – Catherine Howard – beheaded. She was only 19 and he was 48 (if I’ve done my maths correctly) when they married but he was overweight and unable to walk by this point. Rumours of infidelity on her part surfaced after less than a year of marriage and she was executed for adultery and treason

Wife 6 – Katherine Parr – survived. She was known as a peacemaker and had great influence on so many aspects of court and European relationships. She outlived Henry by a year.

Images courtesy of the programme.

Three amazing offers on my eBooks

A much shorter post today (I promise!) to announce three amazing offers that have just come on this week for my eBooks on all platforms. So whether you’re an Apple, Kindle, Kobo or Nook user, you can bag yourself these bargains.

MAKING WISHES AT BAY VIEW

If you haven’t already read the first book in the ‘Welcome to Whitsborough Bay’ series, now’s your chance to grab it for just 99p in the UK. This is part of Amazon’s ‘first in a series’ promotion for this month only.

Never give up on a wish for a happy ever after…

Callie Derbyshire has it all: her dream job as a carer at Bay View, finally she has found the love of her life. Everything is perfect.

Well, almost.

Ex-partners are insistent on stirring up trouble, and Callie’s favourite resident, Ruby, hasn’t been her usual self. 

But after discovering the truth about Ruby’s lost love, Callie is determined to give Ruby’s romantic story the happy ending it deserves. After all, it’s never too late to let love in again. Or is it?

You can get it on Kindle UK here.

ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE

This book, set in Whitsborough Bay, can be read as a standalone story. There are cameo appearances from a few characters in earlier books but you don’t need to have read those books first to enjoy this story.

I’m delighted to say that All You Need Is Love has just entered the UK’s Prime Reading programme so, if you’re a subscriber, you’ll be able to read it for FREE!

For those not in Prime, it’s on offer too. At the time of writing, it hasn’t quite dipped to the 99p offer on Kindle UK but it should do soon (hopefully overnight) so keep a watch. It is 99p on Apple and Kobo and the prices indicated overseas too.

When you’ve loved and lost, how do you find the strength to let love in again?

Jemma thinks she’s found the love of her life. Scott is everything she ever dreamed of and she can’t wait to begin the next stage of their life together. But just as she is heading for her happy ever after, a shock revelation shatters Jemma’s life as she knows it. Left to pick up the pieces, Jemma’s friends and family rally round to help her find the courage to move on.

Sam think he has his future all worked out. A thriving career, lovely home and an amazing fiancée. But when tragedy strikes, he finds himself alone, far from everyone he cares about. Did he do the right thing by running away and trying to rebuild the tatters of his life alone?

This is the story of Jemma and Sam. Two lost souls, desperately trying to find closure and happiness. When a chance meeting brings them together a friendship is formed, but the guards are up. 

Will it finally be their turn for a happy ever after? Or will the secrets from their pasts prevent them from moving on?

You can get it on Kindle UK here.

FAMILY SECRETS AT HEDGEHOG HOLLOW

The third book in the Hedgehog Hollow series has been reduced for the first time but, unlike All You Need is Love, I would not encourage reading this if you haven’t read the earlier books i.e. the first two in the series.

Although each book does tell a complete story (with a sneaky cliffhanger at the end of books 2 and 3), the books are a proper series following on from each other in the same setting with the same main characters.

There is a ‘story so far’ catch-up at the start and readers have dipped in at book 2 or 3 and caught up through this but have tended to acknowledge that, while they loved the book, they think they’d have loved it even more if they’d started from the beginning. I really do urge readers to do that for a much richer reading experience. You’ll understand the relationships between the characters, the past history, and the motivations.

As book 3 is on offer now, why not grab it and also get the other two? Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow (book 1) and New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow (book 2) are only £1.99 each at the moment so you can get the whole series so far for less than a fiver!

Book 4 – A Wedding at Hedgehog Hollow – is out on 6th January 2022 and available for pre-order now. I’ve just seen a first cover concept and, oh my goodness, it is absolutely stunning! I can’t wait to be able to share it with you soon. I can categorically say right now that it is my favourite so far and that’s only on the basis of a draft cover!

Every family has its secrets, and at Hedgehog Hollow there is no exception…

It was always Samantha’s dream to run her beautiful rescue centre, Hedgehog Hollow, full-time. But just as her wish comes true, she becomes a victim of her own kindness when she finds herself with a house full of guests – all with their own problems and secrets – looking to her for support.

When her self-absorbed cousin, Chloe, unexpectedly turns up at the farm – swiftly handing over her baby to Samantha to care for – trouble is definitely brewing. Especially as Chloe won’t tell anyone why she’s left her husband, James…

As Samantha juggles new hedgehog arrivals, family dramas and her own health challenges, it soon becomes clear that she needs to start putting herself first for once. Little does she know that life-changing secrets from the past are about to unravel and turn their lives upside down…

You can get it on Kindle UK here.

If you’re a Kindle Unlimited subscriber, all my books are available there for free and, if you’re not an eBook user, they’re available as paperbacks, large print editions, some are in hardback (but all will be in due course), physical audio, audio download and on Spotify. So many options!

Big wishes, bear hugs & hedge-hugs
Jessica xx