The one where I appreciate all the hedgehog love

The final book in the Hedgehog Hollow series – Christmas Miracles at Hedgehog Hollow – was released on 6th September and I’ve been stunned at the speed it has gathered reviews on Amazon because a book set partly at Christmas, with the word ‘Christmas’ in the title and a cover featuring a hedgehog in a Santa hat is something I know that many readers won’t buy/read this far from Christmas.

When book 2, New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow, was released in January 2021, I recorded on a blog post my astonishment at it receiving 100 reviews in a week, 400 reviews by day 19 and 1,000 within 2 months. Book 3, Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow, eclipsed this. At a fortnight it had 300 reviews but it reached a whopping 1,000 on it’s 3-week anniversary. They just kept coming – 700 reviews in the space of one week! I wondered whether any of the other books in the series would top this or had that been the pinnacle?

Christmas Miracles hit 400 reviews on day 12 so it was looking surprisingly good to steal the crown from book 3 but, by day 20, it was at 600 and there was no way another 400 would come in within the space of one day to match the 1,000 at three weeks. And they didn’t. It was another 50, though, which is still phenomenal and something I still can’t believe I’m writing when it used to take months to gather a handful of reviews pre-Boldwood.

So the award for getting to 1,000 reviews in the most unbelievably quick time remains with Family Secrets but I suspect Christmas Miracles is going to get there sooner than New Arrivals did, perhaps in 5 or 6 weeks rather than 2 months.

The quality of reviews has been phenomenal too. As at the three-week anniversary yesterday, a whopping 88% of my reviews were at 5-star and only 3% were 3-star or below. I’m so grateful to everyone who has shown so much love for the hedgehogs. Of course, now that I’ve said that, I’ll get a stack of negative reviews to redress the balance!!!

I’ve had gorgeous messages on my reader Facebook group – Redland’s Readers – and lots of DMs with lovely feedback for this book and the series as a whole which have been so touching.

I had such an enjoyable chat with my editor, Nia Beynon, on Monday in a Facebook Live. We talked all about the series and I did a reading from Christmas Miracles. If you missed it, you can catch up on it here. I couldn’t resist wearing my autumnal hedgehog dress from Popsy Clothing. I also had a hedgehog necklace on and hedgehog earrings (and socks!) but you probably can’t see them on the video. Got to be done!

Please keep that hedgehog love coming. The hedgehogs and I are so very grateful for all your kind words and recommendations. Quick reminder that Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow (book 1) and Chasing Dreams at Hedgehog Hollow (book 5) are on a 99p eBook offer in the UK and one or both are on an equivalent discount in other territories so please spread the word. Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow is also FREE in Prime Reading globally and the audio version is FREE to Audible subscribers as part of the Audible Plus programme. And, finally, ALL my books are FREE on Kindle Unlimited or to borrow via most libraries.

Big hedge-hugs
Jessica xx

The one with the offers, the event, and the auction

Good morning and welcome to a new week and a new season. It’s autumn! Yay! Autumn is my favourite month. I love the cooler weather, the changing colours, the mix of glorious sunshine and cool crisp days, and the approach of Christmas.

I have lots of news so I thought I’d pull it all together in one blog post so I’d better crack on with it…

THE OFFERS

There are some amazing price reductions on two of the eBooks in the Hedgehog Hollow series right now and some of these are available internationally but, as with any offer, there’s a limited time so do take advantage asap to avoid missing out.

Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow – book 1 in the series – is on the following offers for Kindle:

  • UK – 99p
  • Australia – $1.89
  • USA – $1.99

This book is also in Global Prime Reading so anyone participating in the Prime programme can access it for FREE. It just went in last week and will remain in Prime Reading for at least 12 weeks so we’re pretty much talking the rest of the year.

Chasing Dreams at Hedgehog Hollow – book 5 in the series – is on the following offers for Kindle:

  • UK – 99p
  • Australia – $1.89
  • Canada – $0.99

If you are on Kobo, Apple Books or any other eReader, please do check as I believe the Chasing Dreams offers will apply and the Finding Love ones may well too.

THE EVENT

Tonight (Monday 26th September), I have a Facebook Live with my fabulous editor Nia Beynon. To celebrate the release of Christmas Miracles at Hedgehog Hollow – the final book in the series – we’ll be talking all about the whole series and I’ll be reading from Christmas Miracles.

We have some questions lined up and would love to answer questions from readers who join us. The Live will start at 6pm GMT over on the Book and Tonic Facebook page. You can set yourself a notification here.

I really hope you can join us to celebrate the final release. If you’re unable to join us live, the link above will also take you to the video afterwards. If you can’t join in but you have a question you’d love me to answer in the Live, please DM me on my Jessica Redland Romance Author Facebook page before 5pm today and we’ll squeeze it in.

THE AUCTION

I’m delighted to be taking part in the Children in Read Auction again this year which raises money for the BBC’s Children in Need appeal 2022. You can find the full auction here where there are currently a whopping 517 lots of reading/writing-related prizes to suit all ages and tastes. New lots are being added all the time and the amount bid so far is already approaching £10,000.

I’ve submitted two lots. My first is lot 444 which is all about ‘first in a series’ and is available to UK bidders only. It can be found here. This is a really special lot because the successful bidder will win signed copies of the first book in each of my four series (listed below) and the opportunity to name a character in my fifth series which starts in the summer 2023.

The first in series books are:

  • Making Wishes at Bay View – book 1 in the Welcome to Whitsborough Bay series
  • Christmas Wishes at the Chocolate Shop – book 1 in the Christmas on Castle Street series
  • Snowflakes Over The Starfish Café – book 1 in The Starfish Café series
  • Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow – book 1 in the Hedgehog Hollow series

The retail value of these books combined is just shy of £43 and it currently has 12 bids on it which have reached £39. As I say, the books will be signed but can be dedicated on request.

What I think will really appeal about this lot is the opportunity to name a character in my brand new series set in the Lake District, the first book of which will be out next summer. This will be an important character but not one of the main two characters as I’ve already named them. It can be a male or female character and a reader could see their name in the book, the name of a loved one or perhaps a name they’ve created. My only stipulations are that it needs to be pronounceable and sensible – no Character McCharacters, no swear words and no innuendos. I also can’t accept a character name I’ve already used for obvious reasons.

My second lot is lot 445 which can be found here. There are currently no bids on it – eek! – but hopefully that will change soon. This is a one-hour Zoom conversation with me and this is offered internationally.

My suggestion is that this may suit either an aspiring writer looking for some advice and guidance on an aspect of writing. As I write contemporary women’s fiction, that’s where my expertise lies but I tutor workshops on writing a series and about creating locations and this is transferrable across all genres.

Alternatively a reader might be interested in talking about the books and asking me questions full of spoilers which would be discouraged in an open forum.

That’s all my news for now. Wishing you a fabulous week.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

The one where it’s audio publication day for Christmas Miracles at Hedgehog Hollow

It’s publication day! Yay! This time it’s still the hedgehogs returning for their sixth instalment but with the audio version.

There isn’t normally a delay between publication formats – releasing a book simultaneously globally in all formats is one of the many amazing things my publisher Boldwood Books do so well. However we needed to have a delay this time around. The fabulous voice actor Emma Swan who has narrated the part of Samantha throughout the series wasn’t available to record the audiobook in time for the 6th September release date due to other commitments. I was given a choice of using a different voice actor or delaying and it was a no-brainer for me. Emma is fantastic and it would be very wrong to change the voice of Samantha on the final book, disorientating listeners and likely getting negative feedback so I held off.

I’m not sure why Audible had a further two-day delay this week to bring out the audio version today instead of Tuesday as planned but the great news is it’s out there now and you can find it on Audible here. I’m delighted to see that it’s already in the Top 500 first thing this morning and should rise higher later today.

Thank you so much to everyone who has been patiently (or perhaps not so patiently!) waiting for the final instalment. I really hope you enjoy listening to Samantha’s final story alongside Fizz’s whose chapters are narrated by Lesley Harcourt.

The Audible Narration add-on for Kindle purchases is also available from today.

Christmas Miracles at Hedgehog Hollow

It’s the countdown to Christmas at Hedgehog Hollow Wildlife Rescue Centre, and everyone is gearing up for a festive season to remember…

It should be the most wonderful time of the year for Samantha and Josh as they prepare for the arrival of their first baby. But life at Hedgehog Hollow rarely goes to plan and the pair are faced with adversaries, old and new, and unexpected challenges to overcome.

Fizz’s job at the heart of the rescue centre is a dream come true but her personal life is more like a nightmare. With her love life a disaster and her past about to dramatically catch up with her, she needs the love and support of her Hedgehog Hollow family more than ever.

As the snow falls over Hedgehog Hollow, will Samantha and Fizz find the Christmas miracle they need to overcome their heartache and find happiness?

Top 10 bestseller Jessica Redland welcomes you back to Hedgehog Hollow this Christmas for the final time in this series for a heartfelt story of love, family, friendship—and hedgehogs of course!

Big hedge-hugs
Jessica xx

The one where I thank everyone involved in the blog tour for Christmas Miracles at Hedgehog Hollow

I took a pause from social media after the tragic news on 8th September of the passing of HM Queen Elizabeth II. It was a day I’ve been dreading and I knew I’d be upset but I wasn’t quite prepared for how upset I actually was. There seem to be many who have felt the same – an outpouring of grief for someone we didn’t know/had never met, yet who somehow felt like a member of the family and will be missed so very much.

With a brand new book published on 6th September, just two days before the Queen’s passing, I’d normally have been all over social media for the next couple of weeks, promoting it and sharing the reviews from my blog tour. On the evening we found out the sad news and on the day that followed, it didn’t feel right doing this. Then the weekend arrived and it still didn’t feel appropriate. There was the procession of the Queen’s coffin on Wednesday – heart breaking to watch – and it felt to me like the only appropriate time to start sharing promotional posts was after the funeral. And even now it doesn’t seem quite right but more of that in a bit.

I stopped looking at social media too. I found the pictures, poems, photos and memories shared became too overwhelming. They were beautiful and poignant but I felt exhausted from crying. Over on Twitter, I couldn’t bear to see so many negative, hateful comments and cruel hashtags trending. It was easier to stay away.

The only posts I made on the socials were to announce the cancellation of my appearance at the Richmond Walking and Book Festival yesterday as it clashed with the funeral, and to remind readers that there were tickets still available for a talk through Stockton Libraries. I’ll share some photos from that in a post soon.

It’s the day after the Queen’s funeral and I am back on social media, even though it feels strange to be here. But this is my job and I need to return to ‘normal’ even though there’s still great sadness.

I feel bad that so many lovely bloggers have kindly shared their reviews on Twitter during the blog tour for Christmas Miracles at Hedgehog Hollow and I haven’t re-tweeted them. I have, however, thanked them on their blog posts… or at least I hope I’ve thanked everyone – no offence meant if I’ve inadvertently missed anyone.

I also feel bad that I haven’t shared news of any other author’s publication days, cover reveals or big successes over the past twelve days. I will be catching up this week. Congratulations to those who have had exciting news recently.

So back to the blog tour, a huge thank you as always to the amazing Rachel Gilbey from Rachel’s Random Resources for organising it. Another whopping 12-day tour with 36 stops, I’ve been thrilled by so many gorgeous reviews. There were three non-posts this time. I know that one of those was a reviewer taking some time out, like me, but I don’t know about the others. They may appear late – some time away while processing the news or perhaps there’s been illness or a family emergency for the bloggers to deal with – or they may not appear at all. To those bloggers, I wish you all the best and am forever grateful that you take the time to read, review and promote my books.

For those who did post their reviews during the tour (which finished on Saturday), thank you so much. There was so much love for this finale and for the series as a whole. There was sadness that the series has come to an end but also excitement to see what I’d write next. No pressure, then! I’ve included a random selection of tour quotes in this blog post.

Have a great week and I have a date for your diary. I was going to be doing a Facebook Live last Friday (16th) talking about the whole of the Hedgehog Hollow series but we decided to delay it and it’ll now be on Monday 26th September at 6pm over on Book and Tonic’s Facebook page. Hope you can join us.

Big hedge-hugs
Jessica xx

The one where it’s publication day for Christmas Miracles at Hedgehog Hollow

The hedgehogs are back for one final outing of the series. Christmas Miracles at Hedgehog Hollow is out today on paperback, hardback, large print and eBook formats. The audio will follow on 20th September.

Yesterday, I wrote a blog post about a publication day wobble I was having. I’d have had one anyway with it being the final book in a much beloved series which many readers don’t want to end, but a particularly cruel 1-star review on NetGalley (an early reviews site) floored me with its personal attack. I have been so overwhelmed with the outpouring of support I’ve received from readers and authors with comments on the blog itself, my Facebook page and direct messages. It has been humbling and uplifting reading all those messages and I’m so grateful.

I had a lovely message of support from Karen Louise Hollis, book reviewer and author, with a great analogy which she’s given me permission to share. A lot of this reviewer’s comments came from her joining a six-book series at book six. She complained about there being too many characters and too much tragedy happening to them. The thing is, the issues explored were across six main characters in six books and 600,000 words. They weren’t all in one book. Karen says, “Of course if someone comes in at the end, they won’t get the most out of it. It’s like turning up to a party late, finding out your mates have already gone home and you don’t know anyone. You can stay and try to make an effort, chat and get to know someone, or – like your reviewer – turn around, flounce off and moan it was the worst party ever…” Isn’t that just perfect? Thank you Karen. You can find the first book in Karen’s 1980s-based series, Welcome to Whitlock Close here.

Today is a new day and the hedgehogs and I are going to enjoy every minute of it despite the trolls.

A blog tour starts today, organised by the fabulous Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources who celebrated five years of her business this last week. Happy business birthday, Rachel.

Thank you to everyone who has signed up to participate in this tour. Really excited to read all your comments.

How am I spending today? I’ve just been working through all the wonderful messages from readers in response to my blog post yesterday and will be responding to the publication day messages now. I have an Instagram Live with Fiona Jenkins at 1pm over on her Instagram page. It will be between 30-60 mins of chat and we’d love to have questions from anyone who can join us. You can find Fiona’s page here.

Tonight I’m off out for a meal with the hubby and daughter to celebrate publication day. I often have a Facebook Live on the evening with Boldwood Books so don’t get a chance to do this but we’re doing a lunchtime live next week instead – 12noon on Friday 16th September – as we’d like to give readers a chance to read some (or all) of Christmas Miracles first. That will be over on the Book and Tonic Facebook page found here.

Thank you to everyone who has shown the hedgehog love. Much appreciated.

Big hedge-hugs
Jessica xx

The one where I have a massive wobble about tomorrow’s publication day

It’s publication day for Christmas Miracles at Hedgehog Hollow tomorrow. When asked how I feel about publication day, I often say I’m nervo-cited – a mixture of nerves and excitement – but this time I’m far more nervous than excited and kind of thinking I’d like to hibernate for the day.

This is my seventeenth book but, as nine of my titles are re-issues, it’s actually my twenty-sixth publication day so you’d think I’d be used to it by now and not be fazed at all. Not the case. If anything, I think it gets harder and this one is the ‘worst’ yet.

I always knew that publication of this particular book would be a toughie because it’s the last book in a six-book series and there are so many readers out there who absolutely don’t want the series to end. Seeing comments on social media about being sad that the series is ending and how reading the last book will be bittersweet is exceptionally flattering, but it brings with it guilt and pressure.

I feel guilty that I’ve ended the series. I stand by it being the right thing to do, but I feel like the mean adult who has taken the toys away from the lovely children!

And I feel the pressure of wrapping up a six-book series in a way that satisfies, thrills and delights. Having said that, I’ve felt that pressure all along with each new book declared by many as ‘better than the last’. Part of my reason for ending the series at six was to end on a high note and not stay too long at that party, but there’s always been the fear that the next book would be the one that stayed too long. Would readers think book six was that one?

Early copies of the book go onto a site called NetGalley which is meant to be for genuine book bloggers/ reviewers/ influencers with a big platform of followers who get a free copy of the book in return for an honest review which will hopefully entice their following to make a purchase. Unfortunately this system massively gets abused and there are readers on there who grab free books without a second thought as to whether the book/ author/ genre is actually right for them. But that’s a separate story.

When used properly, NetGalley reviews give the author and publisher a sense of how well the book is going to be received on actual publication day and it should also give them some great early reviews to use in promotion.

There are always negative reviews in there – we can’t all like the same thing – but I’ve had more negative reviews than usual for Christmas Miracles. It has been so frustrating as they’re nearly all from readers who claim not to have realised this was the last book in the series and this is the first one of the series (and often the first one of mine) they’ve read. Personally, I think the parts of the blurb I’ve popped in capitals here would be a bit of a clue that it’s the last in the series: Jessica Redland WELCOMES YOU BACK to Hedgehog Hollow this Christmas FOR THE FINAL TIME IN THIS SERIES for a heartfelt story of love, family, friendship… but that’s obviously not clue enough.

Several of these negative reviews comment on there being a lot of characters and how confusing it was to keep track of everyone and their back stories. Of course it is! You need to have read the whole series to gradually meet everyone and get to know their stories. This cast wasn’t there from the first chapter of book 1. They have steadily grown.

In the main, I’ve been able to ignore these reviews because this is not a standalone book and I certainly wouldn’t recommend anyone diving in at this point because it won’t make sense. It isn’t meant to. But over the weekend, I read a review (also from someone who hadn’t read any of the other books) that floored me…

It began with these words: “In the acknowledgements, the author says she is a “pantser” when it comes to writing, and girl…. I can tell.” Ouch! Clearly written by someone who has no idea what pantser means or an understanding that it’s not an inferior approach to writing. I got the full meaning of her comment here – that I’d just slapped down any old rubbish and had no idea what I was doing.

She writes, “I have never really understood when people write super mean book reviews but I honestly wish I hadn’t wasted my time on this book” and then guess what happens? She goes on to be that person who writes a “super mean book review” with a horrendous 1-star 550-word rant including one of the meanest comments ever: “Color me shocked when I realized this author has published 17 books and this is the 6th in this series… I am in complete shock that even one book like this got published, let alone 6.” This is really personal now. I get that she didn’t like the story and I completely understand why she’d be confused when she hadn’t read the others, but to suggest I can’t write and should never have had 17 books published! There’s no need for that.

Her closing words are: ““Miracles” is a bold word to use in your title when you made fictional characters just to give them horribly traumatic life experiences. I see no miracles in this fictional world, only pain, like the pain I feel when I realize I spent 5 hours of my life on this. Do not recommend.”

Wow! She certainly didn’t hold back on how much she hated the book. And me!

One of the key objections in the main body of the rant – which I haven’t shared because of spoilers – is the subject matter. I write about life and life can throw some tough blows. Across this series, there have been a number of difficult issues explored and they are alluded to in the final book along with the issues handled in that instalment, but this reader lists them all as though they all happened in one book. So I do know that part of the reason she hated it so much was that she hadn’t read the rest of the series and I keep telling myself that, but I just struggle to understand why someone can be so nasty … especially when they’ve declared that they can’t understand why people do this either!

Life’s too short to read a book that you’re not enjoying. You don’t need to invest ‘5 hours of my life’ on a book you hate, that you’re not following, whose subject matter you aren’t enjoying. Shut down the Kindle and accept it wasn’t for you. You haven’t paid for it. Nobody has forced you to read it. Walk away.

I know I should take that advice and walk away from this review and, in other circumstances, I’d probably lick my wounds and do that, but I’m struggling this time because I’m a bit stressed and rundown at the minute. I tend to get problems with my eyes when that happens and the worst-case scenario is that I get conjunctivitis which I have right now. It’s a virus and, although stress doesn’t cause a virus, the body is more likely to pick one up when a person’s rundown so this is my body telling me I need to take care of me a bit more – something I’m not very good at. In the great scheme of things, conjunctivitis is nothing compared to what many people are facing so I can’t really complain, but I think it has made me more sensitive to the Negative Normans and more worried about publication day tomorrow as a result.

I don’t shy away from tough storylines and, while there are loads of readers who love that about my books, there will always be something that somebody doesn’t like. Many of my regular advance readers have given superb reviews and commented that, although the storyline was tough, I’ve tackled it with my usual sensitivity. But a couple of my regular readers who have loved the series so far have said they haven’t liked this book as much as the others, with some even giving negative ratings because one of the topics I’ve covered is an uncomfortable one. Yes, it is, but it is not uncommon so I have included it. I also don’t give any specific detail. Having a couple of big fans of the series drop a couple of marks for that reason is adding to the nervousness around tomorrow.

As I can’t get away with hibernating – far too much work to do – I’ll smile and face tomorrow but my stomach will be churning all day, far more than usual.

A huge thank you to the wonderful Boldwood authors who have been so supportive and encouraging during my wobble. You are superstars.

To anyone who is going to be reading Christmas Miracles at Hedgehog Hollow this week (or listening to it from 20th September – slight delay on the audio version), I hope you love the story as much as I do. I’m very proud of this end to the series and, despite the negative comments from some, I wouldn’t change a word of it. It’s the story that Fizz and Samantha needed to tell and I’m honoured to be that conduit for telling it. I already know that a couple of readers have resonated with some of the subjects explored and have found it immensely cathartic.

Wish me luck for tomorrow! Brave face on!

Big hedge-hugs
Jessica xx

The one where The Secret to Happiness is 3 years old – my first Boldwood release

With so many books out there now (will be seventeen on Tuesday with the release of Christmas Miracles at Hedgehog Hollow), book birthdays are becoming a regular thing. So regular that I actually missed two of my August ones – oops! I’d celebrated one year since Christmas Wishes at the Chocolate Shop came out through Boldwood Books but missed two years since Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes was re-released by Boldwood on 13th August and one year since the release of brand new book Snowflakes Over The Starfish Café on 31st August. Happy belated book birthday to both of them!

However, today is a super special birthday which there’s no way I could miss because it’s three years since The Secret to Happiness came out (3rd September 2019) and this was the book which secured my publishing deal with Boldwood Books and was my debut release with them.

I’ve just been reading back over the blog post I wrote the day before it came out which you can find here. I was absolutely terrified of failure back then. After so many years of struggling to make an impact with a publisher who went bust and then as an indie author, I’d placed all my hopes on Boldwood Books. This had to be my break at last. If a publisher of their calibre couldn’t find me readers who loved my books, then I may need to walk away and accept that I wasn’t good enough and would never make a living from writing. The thought of doing that was both terrifying and heartbreaking. I have no idea what I’d do with myself if I didn’t write because it is so completely who I am.

It was a slow start and I’ll admit I did have a bit of a panic in those first few months, worried I’d let Boldwood down as sales on my book weren’t anywhere near as high as the others that were released either side of mine, but momentum built as my backlist started to be re-released in 2020 and sales for The Secret to Happiness started to creep up.

Although it has never made it into the Kindle UK Top 100 (#122 being the highest), this book has had some pretty major achievements including Top 10 in Canada and Australia and #32 in the overall Audible UK chart. It’s my second best selling book with nearly 72,000 copies sold as at end of June (Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow is my bestseller) and continues to sell steadily each month. It also has a canny few reviews on Amazon, 92% positive.

It has even more reviews than that over on Audible where it’s FREE as part of the Audible Plus programme. Again, they’re hugely positive. Yay!

So much has changed for me in the three years since The Secret to Happiness was released. Boldwood have been the dream publisher and the past three years have been such a gift. I’ve signed two twelve-book publishing deals and had sixteen books out so far, have had four books secured for foreign translation, have had eight titles go into The Works, and have sold more than 770,000 of my books across all formats. I’ve been able to write full-time for the past two years and I’ve met either virtually or face to face so many authors and amazing readers who have been such great support on this journey. Yet this time three years ago, I was in the last chance saloon.

So if you’re a struggling writer, hang on in there. Dreams come true … just not always overnight.

An enormous thank you to my amazing editor Nia Beynon and the team at Boldwood Books for taking a chance on the manuscript of Wish I Could Tell You Goodbye and turning it into the top 10 international bestseller The Secret to Happiness. I count my blessings every day. I found my secret to happiness the day I joined the Boldwood family.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

Everyone deserves a chance at happiness…

Danniella is running from her past, so when she arrives at the beautiful seaside resort of Whitsborough Bay, the last thing on her mind is making friends. After all, they might find out her secrets…

Alison is fun, caring and doesn’t take herself too seriously. But beneath the front, she is a lost soul, stuck in a terrible relationship, with body confidence issues and no family to support her. All she really needs is a friend.

Karen’s romance has taken a back seat to her fitness business. But she doesn’t want to give up on love quite yet. If only those mysterious texts would stop coming through…

When the women meet at their local bootcamp, a deep friendship blossoms. And soon they realise that the secret to happiness is where they least expected to find it…

An uplifting story of friendship and finding the strength to come to terms with the past: perfect for fans of Tilly Tennant and Cathy Bramley.

The one with TWO more books going into The Works

I’m delighted to announce that another two of my books have gone into branches of The Works. Woo hoo!

My seventh title to go in is Christmas Wishes at the Chocolate Shop which is the first book in the Christmas on Castle Street series but can be read as a standalone as it’s connected to the other two by virtue of being a business in Castle Street at Christmas. My eighth title is Snowflakes Over The Starfish Café, which is the first book in my Starfish Café series.

I’ve been watching for them appearing online so I could share a link with my news but they still don’t appear to be on the website. However, my daughter went into our Scarborough branch earlier today and reported back that they were in stock there so, as I needed to go into town anyway to drop off my accounts, I’ve just been to sign them.

They only arrived with Tuesday’s stock but half of them have already sold through. The Scarborough branch gets ten copies of each and there were five of Christmas Wishes left and only four Snowflakes. I suspect the remaining ones will sell through pretty quickly as they often do because the staff are so great at promoting me as a local author to anyone browsing the books, bless them.

An enormous thank you to Boldwood Books for securing this for me and to The Works on for being so amazing to have taken so many of my books over the past two years.

The shelves were a little bare as they’re waiting for loads more winter book deliveries so I’m feeling very honoured to be among the first on the shelves. If you do spot either or both of them in your local branch of The Works, please do let me know on social media and I would love to see a shelfie (photo of them on the shelves) as it’s so exciting to see them out and about. And if you’re Scarborough-based and manage to grab yourself a signed copy, do let me know too.

Oh, and Mum, I took my special pen you gave me to sign them. Thank you xx

Big hugs
Jessica xx

The one where we explored Northumberland Part 2

Hello, me again with the second part of our Northumberland holiday. Hadn’t realised I had quite so many photos to share so thought I’d better break down the holiday review into two posts.

If you’d like to read the first part, you can find it here.

I’ll pick up on Tuesday at the end of the day when we visited Amble. We’d just watched an RNLI rescue attempt on a grounded yacht and had moved onto the pier. It was a beautiful evening and such a lovely walk.

There are a couple of piers joined together around an area of beach which looks so perfect for families as it’s really shallow. A woman and child were practicing paddle boarding and falling off was simply a calf-deep step into the sea – absolutely ideal.

There was a red and white striped lighthouse at the end of one of the piers – my favourite sort of lighthouse – but it was through a locked gate so I could only get so close to it. I don’t know what it is about lighthouses but they make me so happy. It’s on my bucket list to have a holiday in one at some point.

There are several islands off the Northumberland coast. This particular one here (also with a lighthouse on it) is Coquet Island, a mile from the coast of Amble. It’s a haven for puffins who breed there in the spring.

On the beach I mentioned earlier – the very family-friendly one – there’s a lovely set of beach huts all beautifully painted in different colours. Beach huts are also a love of mine even though I’ve never owned or hired one. They’re just so pretty to look at.

The following day – Wednesday – we were back to the gloomy weather. It wasn’t cold – it was just dull. We’d decided this was the best day for a trip to Lindisfarne aka Holy Island based round the tide times and how long we wanted to be there. For those who aren’t familiar with Holy Island, it’s off the Northumberland coast, a little south of Berwick-Upon-Tweed, and is approached on a causeway which gets flooded by the rising tide, cutting the island off twice daily. Careful planning is therefore needed around when to cross based on when is safe and how long you want to spend on the island.

We didn’t want to spend a full day there this time as we still had a lot of other activities we wanted to squeeze in. We’ve also been several times before and our main aim was to explore Lindisfarne Castle which we haven’t been to on previous visits. The castle is run by the National Trust but dogs can’t go in so hubby stayed near the entrance and my daughter and I had a quick explore. There are great views from the castle but the photos don’t really do justice to them with the weather being so dull.

Photo credit for the boat pic on the left (above) goes to the hubby. I took one but mine wasn’t nearly as good!

Our plan on leaving Holy Island was to visit Bamburgh Castle but hubby had read about a lighthouse and a stag rock just north of the castle which we went to visit first. This took us on a walk along the beach and back along the cliff path. I’m so glad we did this walk as it was really interesting with lots of rocks and rock pools on the beach and, of course, a lighthouse.

There were some old WWII sea defence blocks on the beach which had been turned into dice and Rubik’s Cubes which looked great and made the concrete blocks so much more interesting.

Bamburgh Castle

Is it just me, or do you think that lighthouse has faces on it? I see a face at the front and on the left side of it!

As we got closer to Bamburgh Castle, we could see it was very busy and decided not to visit on this occasion as we went on our last visit. If you’ve not been before, I do highly recommend it as it’s a great place to explore and the beaches on either side are beautiful.

We were really shattered from so many days out and out – many of them very breezy – so we decided to head back to the holiday apartment via a quick stop-off in Alnwick for a gelato. Yum yum!

The plan for Thursday went a little wrong. We’d intended to visit Alnwick Castle on the morning then meet with my parents for lunch in Alnwick. I nipped onto the website while we had lunch on the Wednesday to check opening times and prices and there was a big notice saying you needed to book and walk-ups probably couldn’t be accommodated. Eek! I tried to book but there were no tickets left. Double eek! If there were no bookable tickets, the likelihood of a walk-up place felt very remote and we weren’t willing to take that risk so that scuppered things somewhat.

Hubby needed to work that morning so I decided that we’d have to skip the castle but placated the daughter by suggesting we did the crazy golf instead. We’d spotted this as part of The Alnwick Garden attraction but it’s entered separately so you don’t have to be going to the garden to get in. It had been very people-y when we visited the garden with big queues but I wondered if we might be able to whizz through it more quickly if we booked the first slot on Thursday morning so that’s what we did.

We were the first on The Forgotten Garden Adventure Golf and actually made it to hole six before anyone joined us. It was so nice not having anyone right behind us but also not having to wait for a large family to finish as I hate feeling like I’m putting pressure on others by queueing.

It’s a brilliant crazy golf course and reasonably priced (£4.80 for adults and £3.80 for children at the point of writing this). Watch out for the spider, though, as it spits venom! I wondered why the path near it was so wet!

As we whizzed through the golf and had already looked round Alnwick, we weren’t sure what to do for the rest of the morning until we met my parents so I suggested another trip to Barter Books where we could get a hot chocolate.

When we’d visited earlier in the week, two of my books had been on the fiction shelf but I was surprised and delighted to see they’d been joined by Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow so, of course, I had to have my photo taken with all three of them.

We had a lovely hot chocolate and shared a piece of shortbread and a Malteser tray bake in one of the old station lounges. If you’ve never visited Barter Books, I really do recommend it. Packed with pre-loved books and a stack of 1st editions/collector’s items, it does great food and is so beautifully set out with a miniature railway running round one section.

As we left, I glanced across at the fiction section where my three books had been earlier and look what I spotted…

That’s right! The hedgehogs had gone! At some point during the hour (probably not even that long) that we were in Barter Books, somebody had been in and had bought one of my books! It blew my mind a bit to think that somebody had done that with absolutely no idea that the author was in the building. They might have even walked past me holding it! If that was you, thank you. We nearly met!

We met up with my parents for lunch after that and then hubby and the dog picked us up and we returned to Amble so we could visit the beach hut gift shops which had been closed by the time we got there earlier in the week. I treated myself to a silver necklace with a heart over a deep blue piece of seaglass, thinking of Hollie from The Starfish Café series who collects seaglass for her crafting.

We then travelled up the coast to Low Newton by the Sea. This was another place we hadn’t been before. It’s a little north of Embleton from where we’d walked to Dunstanburgh Castle on the Monday and we could have extended the walk to set off from there but hadn’t wanted to leave Mum and my daughter alone for the longer time that would have taken us.

I’m not sure about Low Newton. It’s a village mainly owned by the National Trust and appeared to have a lot of holiday homes in it. The village part was pretty and there’s no doubting the beach was lovely but we took a walk over the sand dunes and there were lots of wooden buildings which seemed too big to be beach huts but quite remote to be holiday cottages (in that you can’t access them by cars). Some looked cared for but others were quite rundown and I personally found it a little creepy. I have no idea why it affected me this way and I’m sure most would completely disagree but you know how sometimes a place simply doesn’t do it for you and you can’t pinpoint why? This was my place. Which was a shame as it really brought my mood plummeting which doesn’t happen often.

Thankfully our final stop of the day was much nicer for me personally – the fishing village of Craster further south. The sun was out and the harbour was calm. We had a drink in the pub overlooking the harbour and, even though I was a bit gutted they’d run out of crisps, it was a lovely end to the day.

In the bottom three photos, you can just see Dunstanburgh Castle in the distance. On our last visit to the area in February 2018, we walked to the castle from Craster. It’s a gorgeous walk across the cliff tops but we did it from the other side this time.

All too soon, our holiday was over. We packed up the car and set off home on Friday morning. Our plan was to visit National Trust run Cragside. I was really looking forward to this because it meant we still had one more day of our holiday and would be visiting somewhere else we’d not been before.

First thing I said to hubby on setting off was, ‘You do know the way to Cragside?’ He assured me he did. I had no idea where it was in proximity to Alnwick so I trusted him and didn’t look at the map. Big mistake. We seemed to be travelling a long way down the A1 before he admitted he thought we may have gone too far. We had! In fact, we shouldn’t even have gone on the A1 at all. It was actually south west from Alnwick along a back road. Google Maps told us it would take us 40 minutes to turn round and drive back. We weren’t going to do that and, with no particular inspiration as to where to go via on the way home, we headed straight back. Not the ideal end to the hols but these things happen …. usually to us!

It was a good week but not as amazing as our Easter break in the Lakes. We struggled to find pubs to eat in where dogs were welcome or where you didn’t have to have booked well in advance. It’s not easy to book a pub before you go to an area and don’t know the pubs! We couldn’t get in Alnwick Castle because there were no tickets, and we did have a couple of driving round a car park aimlessly moments as it was way busier than we’re used to. Hubby also had more work to do than he’d anticipated which was a shame, although it did mean that the daughter and I could go to places where dogs aren’t welcome. All these things cast a few shadows over an otherwise bright week. I loved that we discovered some new-to-us places like the riverside walk in Berwick, Alnmouth, the beach and piers area at Amble and the northern side of Bamburgh Beach with the lighthouse and Stag Rock. We’ll definitely return and visit all of those on our next trip. And, of course, a personal special moment for me was being in a bookshop when someone bought one of my books, even if I didn’t see it happen.

Hope you’ve enjoyed my second set of photos. Enjoy what’s left of your Monday.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

The one where we explored Northumberland Part 1

To all my UK-based followers, happy bank holiday weekend! Can you believe, that’s it with the bank holidays until Christmas Day? Eek! However you’re spending this one, hope you have a lovely time. I’m in my office all weekend catching up on emails and admin as well as starting my edits on book eighteen which came through on Saturday night. But, before you feel sorry for me working all weekend, I have just had a week’s holiday so I’m quite happy to be back in the office.

On Friday we returned from a week in Northumberland which, for anyone not familiar with the UK, is the most north-eastern area of England, bordering with Scotland. It’s an area full of spacious beaches and steeped with history so if you like the coast and you like castles, it’s a fabulous place to explore.

We’ve visited on several previous occasions and had originally booked this holiday for February half-term but we couldn’t go as hubby and I both came down with Covid. We’d been talking about having a week somewhere in August but hadn’t yet booked anything so we managed to shift our booking rather than cancel it completely.

One of the things we’ve loved about previous visits out of season has been how deserted the beaches can be, how quiet some of the attractions are, how we’ve never had problems parking or finding somewhere to eat. We were therefore a little apprehensive as to how busy it might be in the summer and it did end up impacting on some of our plans.

We were staying in Alnwick which is about 125 miles from us and, in theory, a 2 hour 40 minute drive. Hmm. Add a couple of hours to that for being stuck behind tractors and campervans on the minor roads and held up by roadworks on the main ones! We therefore stopped off for lunch in Durham en route although we couldn’t believe how hard it was to find somewhere that made takeaway sandwiches. Must have been looking in the wrong places. It was only a fleeting visit so no photo opps but I spotted this on the side of the library which I loved.

It was shortly before tea when we arrived in Alnwick. We were staying in a beautiful conversion called ‘The Malthouse’ which had formerly been where malt was stored ready to be used by the local brewery. It was beautifully decorated and perfectly located right at the top of town so not far to walk to anywhere.

I loved how so much of the decor was relevant to my books. Check out this little selection along with the most fabulous goody basket:

On the Saturday, we ventured up to Berwick-Upon-Tweed – the most northern visit we had planned. We’ve visited before but hadn’t gone out of the town centre. This time we took a walk along the coast, through the town, down by the river and through a park, discovering new parts of the town. The weather was hit and miss with bright blue skies and sunshine one minute and torrential rain the next.

In the town, I visited The Works and found a copy of Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow on the shelf in the sale so had to get a photo. The manager asked me if I was looking for anything in particular and I said I was visiting, but then was brave and said I was an author and always checked out The Works to see if they had stock in from me or my author friends. She was so excited to have an author in and I was whisked back to the shelf for more photos and her colleague wanted the book signed and dedicating so she could buy it. I love the staff in The Works. They are always so friendly and enthusiastic and make me feel so special if I’m brave enough to mention I’m an author.

One of my fellow Boldwood authors, Lisa Hobman, owns a pre-loved bookshop called Slightly Foxed in Berwick, along with a friend of hers. We’ve not yet met in person so we stopped in hoping Lisa might be working that day, but she wasn’t. Next time, Lisa! Slightly Foxed is gorgeous and I was particularly excited to see Starry Skies at the Chocolate Pot Café on the shelves!

We left Alnwick and drove to nearby Spittal, which we’ve never visited before, and I managed to grab some pics of the lighthouse shown in the ceiling image at Slightly Foxed before the weather turned again.

Our final stop of the day was Seahouses where we had a wander round the gift shops and an ice cream before returning to Alnwick.

On Sunday, hubby needed to do some work so my daughter and I went to The Alnwick Garden. Dogs can’t go in so Ella stayed back at the holiday apartment. I’ve never been to The Alnwick Garden but one of the lovely members of my Facebook group, Redland’s Readers, highly recommended it and it was lovely. We were lucky with the weather although it took us a while to work out that the big display on the water fountain was an hourly thing on the half hour and we kept missing it!

The gardens were stunning although we’d just missed the best time of year for the flowers, particularly the roses. I loved all the fountains and streams running through them and the beautiful gates.

There was a beautiful area with rows of cherry blossom trees and double swings. We were too late in the year for the blossom but we did have a moment on the swing. This is me trying (and failing) to look casual!

We moved onto Barter Books after that which is the same end of town as the entrance to the gardens. I’d wondered if I might see any of my books in there and was delighted to find two in the fiction section as you go in – Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café and Making Wishes at Bay View and another copy of the latter in the romance overflow in the main building. It really is such a thrill to see my books on a shelves, especially when it’s unexpected like this.

On Monday, we’d arranged for my parents to come over. They’d brought their caravan to an area about half an hour away and the plan was for hubby and me to go for a hike with my dad while our daughter entertained my mum.

It had been pouring on the morning so we were expecting a wet walk but the afternoon was overcast with a few spots of rain rather than anything torrential so, although it made for very pleasant walking conditions, the photos aren’t the brightest. Last time we visited Northumberland was February 2018 and we did the walk from Craster to Dunstanburgh Castle along the cliff tops. We decided to do the walk to Dunstanburgh but from the other direction, starting at Embleton.

There were two lovely book libraries along the road where we parked, although no books inside by me or any author friends. I love seeing these little book libraries.

Hubby spotted a couple of hares chasing each other across a field and we stopped to watch them and were thrilled to see they were boxing hares. I’ve seen this on TV before but never in real life. My word, do they punch each other brutally! It was amazing to watch and, every so often, they’d pause to have a breather and something to eat, then be up on their hind legs thumping each other! They were too far away for me to get any photos, though.

A little later, we spotted a mouse scurrying down the path towards us and, when we hit the coast, we saw several flying fish. So much amazing nature in one place.

The weather was much better on Tuesday and we had a busy day planned starting in a place we’d never visited before: Alnmouth. The beach was beautiful and reasonably deserted when we arrived…

We had a walk along there (it’s dog friendly) and beside the river then into the village where there are some lovely gift shops.

The sand by the river was covered in worm casts. As a child, these absolutely terrified me and I’d have to be carried screaming off any beaches we visited which had casts on them. Urgh! Thankfully, I now know they’re not actual worms and just the sand left behind by them but I didn’t realise that at the time. Still gives me the shudders!

In the village there was another mini library, this time in an old red telephone box.

After the village, we took a different walk back through the sand dunes by the beach and I took some lovely pics of the walk to the beach and the lifebuoy but hubby’s were better so these are his!

Our final plan of the day was a circular walk from Amble via Warkworth Castle which we’d found in a guide book in the holiday apartment. The first part of the walk was through Amble town centre, through a new housing estate where there were some lovely distant views of the castle, but then we were just on a country road for quite a long time. It was really hot and there wasn’t much to see but I still enjoyed it. The others moaned!

When we got to Warkworth Castle, we were looking forward to a sit in the sun and a spot of lunch. Typically, the skies had started to cloud over at this point. There was an event on and, being the summer holidays anyway, the castle was quite busy.

We had a walk into Warkworth itself which is a really pretty village. There’s a Medieval bridge out the other side so we grabbed a couple of pics of that. There was a heron in the water, stood so still that I had to do a double-take to make sure it was actually real. You can just see it at the left side of the right arch in the first pic. It was great to spot another mini library opposite the bridge too.

As we walked back beside the River Aln, the weather picked up again and the view was prettier. This took us out by the harbour where there was a wrecked boat and a really interesting sculpture which you could step into for taking photos.

I’d hoped we’d make it back to Amble in time to explore the lovely huts on the harbour which sell crafts and lovely gifts, but it seemed they mainly closed between 3-3.30pm so we’d missed them all. However, there was still plenty to look at. A yacht had got grounded when the tide went out and the RNLI’s ILB (inshore lifeboat) was attempting to tow it out. There was no chance of freeing it but the next step had been to turn it to place it in the best possible position for release once the tide came out again. That was exciting to watch.

There was a big crowd watching the rescue and several members of the coastguard service on the pier in communication with the ILB. Presumably the yacht did survive and make it out safely when the tide rose again.

I’m going to leave this post for now and start on a part 2 as it’s getting pretty long so do watch out for another post later today. Hope you’re enjoying the photos.

Big hugs
Jessica xx