Christmas Wishes at the Chocolate Shop is going on a blog tour

Although Christmas Wishes at the Chocolate Shop (previously independently released as Charlee and the Chocolate Shop) was published by Boldwood Books on 3rd August, we decided that the height of summer probably wasn’t the ideal timing for a blog tour of a Christmas book so we held back.

With the arrival of the colder weather, the darker nights creeping in, and the shops stocking their Christmas goodies, the blog tour starts today (12th October 2021) and runs until 27th October.

Across sixteen days, there’ll be a whopping 48 stops (3 a day). Looking at the schedule, it’s lovely to see so many regulars – really flattering as it means they love my books enough to keep coming back for more – but also a delight to see some newbies. Hopefully they’ll love Charlee’s story and become converts!

A huge thank you to Boldwood Books for enabling the tour, to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for organising it, and the wonderful 48 bloggers/reviewers taking part.

And, on the subject of Rachel, congratulations to her for being a finalist in the Media Star of the Year category in the RNA (Romantic Novelists’ Association) 2021 Industry Awards. You can read the RNA’s announcement here.

Christmas Wishes at the Chocolate Shop is book 1 in the Christmas at Castle Street series. Books 2 and 3 – Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes and Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café were released last year.

All three books are complete standalone stories but books 2 and 3 are closely connected as the two businesses are next-door to each other and the two business owners, Carly and Tara, are good friends. They follow on chronologically and there are therefore a couple of spoilers for Carly’s story if reading Starry Skies first although plenty of readers have read them the other way round and still loved them.

Although Christmas Wishes is the first book in the series, it can be read before or after the others. The heroine – Charlee Chambers – and her shop do appear in the other two but there aren’t any spoilers for her story.

Big chocolatey hugs
Jessica xx

Christmas Wishes at the Chocolate Shop

Sometimes you just need a little Christmas magic to make your wishes come true…

When master chocolatier, Charlee, takes the leap to move to the picturesque seaside town of Whitsborough Bay, she is determined to follow in her grandfather’s footsteps and set up a chocolate shop.

Luckily, she finds the perfect location for Charlee’s Chocolates on beautiful Castle Street… Now she just has to refurbish it in time for Christmas!

With a useless boyfriend and countless DIY disasters, Charlee doesn’t know if she’ll make it in time. With no ‘traditional’ family to support her, she feels lost in her new surroundings and the secrets of the past are weighing her down.

But the warmth and festive spirit of the Whitsborough Bay community will surprise her, and when plumber, Matt, comes to the rescue, it might be that all of Charlee’s dreams could come true this Christmas, and she could learn what family really means…

Escape to Castle Street for the perfect uplifting, festive read from top 10 bestseller Jessica Redland.

Thank you to everyone who joined the blog tour for Snowflakes Over The Starfish Café

It has been the biggest blog tour one of my books has ever been on, the biggest blog tour my amazing publishers Boldwood have hosted, and I believe it may be the biggest our fabulous tour organiser, Rachel Gilbey, has arranged.

It wasn’t that we set out to organise an epic-sized tour for the release of Snowflakes Over The Starfish Café – simply that an unprecedented number of reviewers stepped forward wanting to take part. How flattering is that?

The stats:

  • 18 days
  • 54 scheduled stops
  • 52 posts (it’s possible that an Insta one from yesterday may come in late but I didn’t want to delay my thank you)
  • 50 reviews and 1 promotion post
  • 3 additional bloggers not on the tour sharing their reviews

When a tour schedule is released, it’s always exciting to spot reviewers with whom I’m familiar, ranging from those who’ve loved and championed my books from the start to those who’ve discovered my writing more recently and have clearly loved it enough to come back for more. And it’s always a little nerve-wracking seeing new names. Will they like my work or discover it’s not really for them? There were several new names on this tour.

I was also a little nervous about this book. I absolutely love this story but it’s by far the most emotional one I’ve written. I had to remortgage the house to pay for all the tissues I needed when writing it so I was fairly sure many reviewers would shed some tears. And they did. Some readers love books which make them cry but others don’t and I do understand that. I’m not going to say anything more about this for now as I feel a separate future blog post on the subject coming up.

So, back to the blog tour. Of the 41 reviewers who gave a star rating with their review (or who posted it on Amazon or NetGalley with one which some sleuthing revealed), 33 gave it 5 stars, 2 gave it 4.5 and 7 gave it 4-stars. Wow! This made me and my mum (who loves to read all my reviews) very, very happy.

Some of the reviews said such wonderful things not only about this book but about my ability as a writer that I was close to tears reading them. I’ve also found some new readers who loved the story so much, they want to check out my backlist, which is amazing.

Alongside this, I’ve received direct messages from readers and been tagged into posts on social media with such lovely comments about Hollie and Jake’s emotional story and am delighted it has touched so many readers.

THANK YOU to everyone who has taken part in the blog tour, reviewed the book outside the tour, sent me a message, posted about it on social media and/or recommended the story to friends and family. I am so appreciative of all the love and support.

THANK YOU to the amazing Rachel Gilbey from Rachel’s Random Resources for organising the tour and sharing all the reviews on Twitter.

THANK YOU to Boldwood Books for making all of this possible, especially my editor Nia Beynon without whose editorial insights and encouragement, the story wouldn’t be what it is today and it wouldn’t have had such phenomenal comments.

I’ll be returning in October on a blog tour for Christmas Wishes at the Chocolate Shop. Although it was published at the start of August, it’s very much a Christmas read (Starfish Café being more of a seasonal read than specifically Christmas) so we thought it made more sense to have the tour nearer to Christmas.

In the meantime, thank you once more. I’ve read, loved and appreciated every word.

Finally, if you haven’t read Snowflakes Over The Starfish Café yet but like the sound of this story, I’ve put Amazon links in this post and pasted the blurb below. Hope you take a trip to The Starfish Café… but make sure you have the tissues hand.! Probably best remove the mascara too!

Big hugs
Jessica xx

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…

Join top 10 bestseller Jessica Redland for a magical winter at the seaside, where love blossoms and lifelong friendships are made.

Hedge-hugs for the bloggers on the tour

Eleven days on from the publication day for Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow and the blog tour has drawn to an end.

An enormous thank you to Rachel Gilbey from Rachel’s Random Resources for organising the tour and to the amazing thirty-three bloggers/reviewers who took part.

I was a little apprehensive about this tour. I love this book but, as I wrote on a recent blog post (which you can read here), I knew it was a risk writing a book where one of two main characters was someone readers had (justifiably) disliked from the previous two books. It was fascinating reading the thoughts from those who’d done a massive about-turn on that particular character and now love her to those who now understand her but still don’t like her which, as I stated in my blog post, was what I expected. The great thing is they all seemed to love the story and I am so grateful for that feedback.

The cliffhanger at the end of the book was mentioned in nearly all reviews. Mostly it generated excitement (phew!), a lot of urging me to hurry up and release book 4 (sorry – not written yet!), although there were a couple of reviewers who hate cliffhangers which is something I’d never even considered until I’d finished writing this and read some of the early reviews on NetGalley. Every day is a school day, as they say!

HOT TIP! For anyone who is thinking of reading this book, don’t read the epilogue if you don’t like cliffhangers as it is purely there as a tease for the next book. The story being told in Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow does finish at the end of the book so it’s not a case of the book not properly ending so please don’t worry you’ll be left hanging with an incomplete story.

Anyway, back to the blog tour, not everyone gives ratings. Some sleuthing means I can track some down on NetGalley or Amazon but I’ve been a little less successful (or rather had a little less time to do it) so I have 11 ratings I’m unsure about but, of the remaining 22, there are 15 x 5-stars, 2 x 4.5, 4 x 4-star and 1 x 3-star, the latter being given because of the cliffhanger. The hedgehogs and I are very happy with that.

Some reviews made me laugh out loud for their humorous observations or verdicts on characters, and others were so lovely and touching, I was close to tears.

It’s especially wonderful reading about when readers have read the full series, are loving seeing the characters grow, and talk fondly about wishing they could be at Hedgehog Hollow right now. You and me both!

I also had a couple of reviews from bloggers not on the tour and really appreciate the 5 and 4.5 star ratings from them (Echoes in an Empty Room and Carla Loves to Read).

It’s so kind of all these bloggers to take the time to read the book and share their views with their followers on their blog/Insta/Twitter/all or any combination of these. Reviews and recommendations can make such a difference to the success of a book and the hedgehogs and I are fully appreciate of all the book love we’ve received over the past eleven days.

Watch out for a thank you video on Twitter really soon.

Big hedge-hugs
Jessica xx

Thank you to all the reviewers who showed the love for All You Need is Love

Yesterday saw the final stop on my 12-day 36-stop blog tour for my latest release All You Need Is Love and I’m delighted that it was another really successful tour.

Blog tours are such a great way to celebrate the launch of a book. They create a buzz as well as gathering valuable early reviews and, several tours down the line, I still get excited when a new review appears and I can read the verdict (with fingers crossed that it’s a positive one).

I’m delighted to say that the verdict for All You Need Is Love was overwhelmingly positive. Yay! Not all reviewers put a rating on their posts but as a rating is necessary for an Amazon or NetGalley review, I was able to do a little detective work and suss some out. There were only 2 out of the 36 I couldn’t track down. For the remaining 34, there were:

  • 26 x 5-star
  • 1 x 4.5 star
  • 6 x 4-star
  • 1 x 3-star

I think I’d definitely call that a success!

A huge thank you to my amazing publisher Boldwood Books for enabling the tours, particularly Nia and Ellie, and to the fabulous Rachel Gilbey from Rachel’s Random Resources who does such an incredible job of organising and managing the tours.

All You Need Is Love was previously available under the title Bear With Me and had been on a blog tour organised through Rachel when I was an indie author. Therefore, a few bloggers/reviewers who have always been hugely supportive of my writing didn’t participate as this was not a new book to them. It was great to see several familiar faces who’ve discovered my writing since joining Boldwood and a few who were new to my stories.

And thank you too to all of those who’ve spread the word on social media. It’s really appreciated.

This is a story about two people who have loved and lost in very different circumstances and it’s also about a life-changing illness diagnosis. It is emotional and the blurb doesn’t hide that. But, as with all of my stories, it is uplifting and full of hope. Only one reviewer found it too emotional but, thankfully, all the others loved it.

Here’s a handful of my favourite quotes. I could have easily included something from every review as there were so many lovely, kind comments. The bears and I were certainly feeling the love:

“I couldn’t get enough of this beautiful story.  Jessica Redland managed to create a story which accurately reflects the title.  After reading, I genuinely believe that love could be all you need” (Book Escapes With Babs W67)

“This is a powerfully emotive story that tackles some series deep issues, and as much as i love a light hearted seaside read this is so much more because of the nature of it… This was a wonderful read that really packs a punch” (AfternoonBookery)

“What Jessica Redland has achieved with this book is extremely clever, she has taken some really heavy and devastating themes but treated them with such care and respect that this is still a feel good novel that gives you a warm and fuzzy feeling. I don’t think that contemporary women’s romance writers (aka “Chick Lit”) get anywhere near enough credit for being able to pull off books like this” (Louise’s Reading Corner)

“Oh my! What a beautiful emotional love story. I love Jessica Redland stories but this one totally blew me away” (Wendy Reads Books)

“All You Need is Love is a heartbreaking tale of loss and love, of letting go and starting again, and I was totally here for every minute of this enchanting story, even if it did make me cry buckets” (Cara’s Book Boudoir)

“There are plenty of twists and turns… Some moments and experiences will make you tear up, but bear with the book as there is a happy ending… Hope you pick up this book and get a wonderful escape from reality into this gripping story, full of love and hope” (Reading Tonic)

“My Kindle wasn’t glued to my hand but it might as well have been because it went everywhere with me.  I couldn’t bear to miss a single second of this adorable story…. ‘All You Need Is Love’ is superbly written but then to be fair all of Jessica’s books are superbly written… I love the way in which Jessica grabs your attention and draws you into the story. She makes the characters seem so realistic that they seem just as real as you and I and I begin to think of them as friends. Jessica tackles some difficult subjects but she does it in a knid and compassionate way. I kept wanting to leap inside the pages of the book to give various characters a hug. In fact I felt as though I was part of the story and that’s thanks to Jessica’s very vivid and realistic storytelling” (Ginger Book Geek)

“This was such a beautiful, moving story that really captivated me to the very end. The storyline was wonderfully unique, and certainly took us on an emotional rollercoaster as we learn more about the characters and the struggles they have had to face… I have always found Jessica Redland’s writing style completely immersive, and she certainly never fails to make me feel as though I am living the events alongside the characters. A truly engrossing read that I couldn’t recommend highly enough!” (Victoria Wilks Writes)

“I have read and reviewed several books by Jessica Redland but this is my favourite one yet. Not only does it have Jessica Redland’s classic warmth and depth, it has bears… It is one for my forever shelf, and when I get a physical copy, it will be well thumbed with rereads. This emotional romance deals with grief and heartbreak surrounded by bears and is a joy to read. It provided a wonderful relief from lockdown’s loneliness, is highly visual with plenty going on to keep you turning the page. It would make a great film. So, grab your favourite bear to cuddle, a cup of tea and escape to the coast. Just keep your tissues handy” (From Under The Duvet)

“Every feeling the characters go through, was so gripping, honest and real… so many emotional, beautiful moments, that made me forget the hardest bits and I found myself smiling with tears rolling down my face… And the bears added an extra layer of adorability!… I found it an inspirational book about how to dare to look at the future again” (Tizzy’s Book Review)

And I had a couple of gorgeous reviews from reviewers not on the tour so thank you to you too:

“As much as I have really enjoyed reading Jessica’s previous novels, this has to be my favourite by far… I loved how the story develops, there are lots of turns that I never saw coming, I just didn’t want the story to end. I couldn’t and wouldn’t put this book down… This is a story that is relatable and will stay with me for a long time. It is sad and I did cry quite a bit, it made me feel really emotional finishing it which I have never had with a book before. It makes me want to hug my loved ones tighter as you never know what is around the corner” (Echoes in an Empty Room)

“There is something contagiously cosy, welcoming and heartwarming about Redland’s writing. It’s the sort that makes you want to slip into fluffy socks and sip creamy hot chocolate. The sort to entice you into wrapping yourself up in a thick blanket and holding it tight around yourself, feeling comforted in the same way the words comfort the reader. It’s exactly the sort of storytelling I admire and am so very fond of. It washes away the stresses of the day and allows the reader to escape to an entirely different place, a place where the characters feel like friends and the places feel like home” (Becca’s Books)

I’m so delighted with the response and touched by the reaction. This is one of my favourite stories of all the ones I’ve written so it feels extra special knowing it has found a way into readers’ hearts too.

All You Need Is Love entered the Top 500 on the UK Kindle Chart a couple of days ago which was a thrill too. Because a lot of readers had already bought and read this as Bear With Me, I wasn’t sure it would make it inside the Top 1,000 so to get to #417 was quite unexpected. It will be interesting to see if those bears can climb a bit higher!

Thank you again to everyone who has shown the love for All You Need Is Love. I’m so very grateful.

If you’d like to discover this story for yourself, it is available as an eBook for Apple, Kindle and Kobo, paperback, hard back, large print, audio download, physical audio, audio via uLibrary if your library subscribes to that service, and should appear on streaming services soon.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

All You Need Is Love

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.

Thank you to everyone who joined the blog tour for New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow

Yesterday saw the final day of the blog tour for New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow. With 36 stops over 12 days, it was epic and I certainly felt a lot of love for those hedgehogs.

I must start by thanking my publisher, Boldwood Books, for sending each new release on a blog tour and to the fabulous Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for organising it. You are a star, Rachel.

Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow – the first book in the series – had been on a tour in July 2020 and had been extremely well received. I was a little nervous … okay, make that extremely nervous … as to whether book two would have the same positive response. There were several familiar bloggers on the tour but also some newbies to my books. They were offered the opportunity to read book 1 as well if they wanted to catch up. Some did but most didn’t although thankfully it didn’t appear to harm the review. I personally would recommend reading the full series in order but there is a catch-up and a cast of characters at the start of book 2 to get the reader up to speed or to remind them if there’s been a gap between reading both books. This went down very well.

I’ve posted below the names of the review sites and linked each to their review if anyone (mum) wants to read some of them but I thought I’d pick out a handful of quotes which stood out to me. This doesn’t mean I didn’t love so much of what other bloggers said because I absolutely did. All the reviews gave me a warm and fuzzy glow and I could easily have included a quote from everyone who took part.

Some bloggers give a rating out of 5 and others don’t. Of those who don’t, some post a review on Amazon which has to be accompanied by a rating so I’ve been able to fill in some. I was delighted to have 20 x 5-star reviews and 6 x 4-star ones. There was only one 3-star where the reviewer wrote about loving my writing but marked it down because she drew two messages from the book which she personally disagreed with. They are themes but they aren’t actually the messages in the book – exactly the opposite in fact – but everyone takes something different away from a read based on their own personal circumstances and principles and one of my New Year’s writing resolutions is not to let negative reviews upset me. Still got quite a bit of work to do on that one!

Anyway, here are a selection of gorgeous comments. I emphasise again that I could easily have had one from every single review so, if you did take part and a quote from your review isn’t below, please don’t read anything into it!

Being Anne: “The author always creates the most wonderful living and breathing characters. The exchanges between them – the nice and the not-so-nice – are so excellent, with that quality of conversations you’re allowed to overhear and be part of, always something I particularly enjoy about the author’s books”

Wendy Reads Books: “Drama, family relationships and love are intertwined with the hedgehog rescue in this brilliant, charming story. I can’t wait for the next instalment”

Ginger Book Geek: “To say that I enjoyed this book is a massive understatement.  I ADORED reading ‘New Arrivals At Hedgehog Hollow… superbly written … reading one of Jessica’s books is more like a chat between friends rather than reading an actual book. … Jessica has a way of making me feel as though I am part of the story and that’s all thanks to her very realistic and vivid storytelling”

This Hannah Reads: “Jessica Redland is fast becoming a top author for me and an automatic buy when I see a new book by her! … I absolutely loved this book and it left with me a warm fuzzy feeling”

Mama Bear’s Book Hour: “As with the previous books of Jessica’s that I have read, this one was well written, easy to digest and knows how to tug your heartstrings. And I mean, mine got tugged so hard, it’s going to take a week of rom com binging to fix them. All the characters, and I mean every single character you meet, feels like a real person or reminds you of your neighbour down the street. I would move to Whitsborough or its surrounding areas if I could. It sounds delightful”

Ceri’s Little Blog: “This author seems to be an expert in showcasing realism, romance and domestic drama… My only regret after reading this book is that I finished it so quickly and it’s taken me so long to read something by this author! … I have absolutely loved this one and would recommend it to all women’s fiction fans. I would rate this author up there with some of my all time faves, including Milly Johnson, Holly Martin, Mary Jayne Baker and Lucy Diamond”

Breakfast at Shelby’s: “Jessica Redland really does not disappoint with her stories, they are absolutely phenomenal and she really does have the power and talent within her writing to have you feeling every type of emotion. Her characters are always wonderfully developed and the settings, especially Hedgehog Hollow, are an absolute comfort to be in”

Reading Girl Reviews: “Heartwarming, cozy, and downright realistic when it comes to family drama, this truly is one of the best series I have read in a very long time. I laughed, I got angry, I cried, and my heart melted all while reading this book”

Tizi’s Book Review: “I adored the first part, so I kind of feared that this story wouldn’t fulfil my expectations, but the author managed again to break my heart, healed it again, made me swoon, made me smile, made my cry, made me angry and in the end, just made me utterly happy… oh yes, and made me love hedgehogs even a little bit more!”

Little Miss Book Lover 87: “I adore Jess Redland, this is an author that you absolutely know will not disappoint. This book has been no different… The story itself is also absolutely gorgeous and has left me with a huge smile. I have devoured this book in just one sitting… this book might possibly be my new favourite favourite”

Love the Smell of a Book: “This series is a true masterpiece it is full of love and forgiveness as well as being a hive of information about hedgehogs… I picked up this book just a couple of days ago and I flew through it as Sammie & Josh are such great characters it’s like the book is constantly calling for me to pick it up and keep reading. I love the books that leave you missing them as you weren’t ready to finish them and this story is definitely one of those”

An absolutely enormous THANK YOU to everyone who took the time to read New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow and to share their views. I’m so delighted that so many of you have expressed excitement for book 3 – Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow – which will be out on 4th May.

All three books are/will be available on eBook for Kindle, Kobo and Apple, as paperbacks, physical audio, audio download, large print format and via streaming services. Here’s the links on Amazon if you’re interested:

Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow
New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow
Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow

Big hugs
Jessica xx

The book bloggers with links to their review:

Day 1 – Being Anne / Me and My Books / Karenandherbooks (Instagram)
Day 2 – Wendyreadsbooks (Instagram) / Books, Life and Everything / Ginger Book Geek
Day 3 – This Hannah Reads / Emma’s Things to Read / Mama Bear’s Book Hour
Day 4 – Reading Tonic / Ceri’s Little Blog / Lisa’s Reading
Day 5 – Lis Carey’s Library / Mrs Brown’s Books / Bookish Jottings
Day 6 – The Cozy Pages / Nicki’s Book Blog / Karen Reads and Recommends
Day 7 – Book Escapes with BabsW67 / Breakfast at Shelby’s / JenJenReviews
Day 8 – Jane Hunt Writer / Reading Girl Reviews / Audio Killed the Bookmark
Day 9 – Damsel in the Bookland / The Review Crew / Eatwell2015
Day 10 – Coffee and Kindle Book Reviews / Two Ladies and a Book (Instagram) / Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers
Day 11 – Tizi’s Book Review / From Under the Duvet / Donnasbookblog
Day 12 – Little Miss Book Lover 87 / Splashes Into Books / Love the Smell of a Book

The one where I thank all the bookbloggers who joined Hedgehog Hollow’s blog tour

Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow Full Tour Banner

The blog tour for the publication of Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow has just finished and what an epic tour it has been. Across 13 days, there have been a whopping 37 stops.  36 of the bloggers gave reviews and one provided an extract only. What fabulous exposure!

 

Those damn nerves…

dog-4906676_1920
Image by Mirko Sajkov from Pixabay

It’s exciting but also a little nerve-wracking when one of my books goes on a blog tour. The dream is that every single participant has loved it, waxes lyrical about how amazing it is and insists that everyone simply must read it. The reality is that there will be mixed opinion because we don’t all like the same things. I just have to hope that those who don’t love it don’t hate it either.

When I see the names of familiar bloggers on the schedule, there’s a momentary feeling of relief – they’ve loved my other books so they’re bound to love this one – followed by panic – what if they think this is the one where I’ve lost my touch and they say it’s okay but not a patch on xxxxx?

When I see the names of new-to-my-books bloggers on the schedule, there’s a mixture of hope – they could become a new ‘fan’ with a huge following who highly recommends my book and reads my back catalogue – followed by that panic once more – what if they regret trying a different author and they don’t like my voice or what I write?

So there I am with this fission of nerves, waiting for the first review to come in. Please let the first one be a nice one! With all this turmoil, who’d be an author, eh?

 

Did they like it?

balloon-991680_1920
Image by autumnsgoddess0 from Pixabay

Overwhelmingly yes. Phew!

Not all bloggers give ratings. On this tour, 21 (60%) of the 36 reviews included one and they were all positive with the majority at the top end:

  • 14 x 5-star (66.5%)
  • 1 x 4.5 star (5%)
  • 6 x 4-star (28.5%)

 

What did they think of the main character?

A consensus was that everyone loved the main character, Samantha, and were rooting for her right from the start of the book. I love Samantha. She’s a genuinely kind and caring person but she is taken advantage of for this. I worked hard on developing a rounded, realistic character and was conscious that I didn’t want her to come across as a complete pushover who could not stand up for herself. I was thrilled that nobody saw her that way and understood that the problems lay with those around her rather than Samantha being weak. If they wanted to shout at someone, it was those who used her rather than Samantha.

Another common thread was the love for Samantha’s relationship with Thomas, the owner of dilapidated farm Hedgehog Hollow. I love creating inter-generational relationships. I first did this with Callie and Ruby in Making Wishes at Bay View and it was such a pleasure to create a very different relationship between Sam and Thomas but with a similar age gap.

 

What did they think of the antagonist(s) (baddies)?

Most books will have one or more antagonists – the person(s) who make the hero’s journey difficult. This could be a deceitful partner, an ex, a sibling, a parent, a bully, a friend, their boss, a neighbour…. the possibilities go on and on. This is reflective of real life where we simply cannot get on with everyone but some relationships affect us more negatively or hinder our growth more than others.

rage-1564031_1920
Image by Tom und Nicki Löschner from Pixabay

I loved how passionate some of the bloggers became about Samantha’s family – specifically the female members – and my absolute favourite quote ever comes from Ginger Book Geek who called them ‘numpties’ (one of my favourite words) and said she wanted to give them ‘a darn good slap with a wet flip flop’. I actually laughed out loud when I read that.

I was particularly nervous about how bloggers would react to how Sam’s family treated her because I had a couple of scathing comments about this over on NetGalley including a reviewer who gave the book 3-stars and wrote, ‘I devoured this book but honestly the relationship between Sam and her mum was so painful to read about that I cannot recommend this as an escapist read… I would remove [that plot line]… disgusted me… can’t rate higher due to the nastiness’. Eek and ouch! Hence my nerves ahead of the blog tour.

The thing is, Sam couldn’t have gone on the journey she went on without those ‘baddies’. The story wouldn’t have been the story. And then I’d have received criticism for it being bland or nothing happening.

Also, fiction is based on reality and, sadly, the reality is that there are people out there who behave like Sam’s family. I know we would all love the world to be a happy place where everyone is kind and tolerant and considerate. But they aren’t. Family feuds and toxic relationships exist and a couple of bloggers proved this by sharing personal insights into how they could relate to Sam’s plight based on difficult relationships with their own families. For those in this situation, I send you my best wishes.

Despite a couple of other negative comments about the toxic relationships on NetGalley, the bloggers on the tour seemed to understand the whole premise of the story: that sometimes blood is not thicker than water, that the real meaning of ‘family’ can be found in unexpected places, and that sometimes there are people in your life who don’t deserve to be and being kind can mean being kind to yourself by walking away from those who continually bring you down.

 

What about the romance?

heart-700141_1920
Image by Ben Kerckx from Pixabay

The title of the book ‘Finding Love…’ relates to so many aspects of this story and it’s not just about a romantic love; it’s about loving your family, your friends, and yourself.

I like to mix up the way I tell my stories. Some of them are very much driven by the romance such as New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms whereas other stories are much more about friendships and/or family such as The Secret to Happiness and Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow. There will always be a romance story but it’s not always the main premise.

On the tour, one blogger thought the romance was ‘a little shoehorned in’ and the book could have done without it but thankfully most loved the romance and felt it rightly took a back seat while the other themes had the opportunity to shine.

 

Were they reaching for the tissues?

minimalism-4846000_1920
Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay

It was fascinating to read how emotional bloggers found the book. I sobbed my heart out while writing a few of the scenes but I confess that I’m a sobber. Everything makes me cry! Would others have the same reaction to Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow?

It seems it certainly did draw on the emotions from bringing a tear to the reader’s eye to them crying rivers with comments such as ‘this book just hit me hard in the feelings’ (Books and Bookends), ‘I laughed, I cried, I felt like I was there’ (Reading Girl Reviews) and the most gorgeous accolade from Book Reviews by Shalini who called me the ‘queen of hearts’ – ‘the story unfolded so brilliantly that at times my heart shattered into a million pieces where each piece was laden with so many emotions that I didn’t know where one began and the other ended’. Hugs to you, Shalini ❤

 

And did they love the hedgehogs?

Yes, overwhelmingly the hedgehogs were a hit. Which is just as well because the next two books in the series will have LOADS of hogs in them.

 

thank-you-362164_1920
Image by Ryan McGuire from Pixabay

Thank you so much…

Thank you to everyone who participated in the tour. It goes without saying that I love reading the reviews where it’s the dream I described earlier – you’ve loved my work, you wax lyrical about how amazing it is and recommend it to all your followers. Anyone who has described it as a ‘page-turner’ and/or stated ‘I couldn’t put it down’ – including the fabulous anecdote from Yvonne at Me and My Books who wrote ‘I started it as I got in the bath, 2 hours later I decided I really need to get out the bath! I then got dry, warmed up in PJs and finished reading the book, it was that good!’ – has filled my heart with joy.

As I said at the start, we don’t all like the same things and I equally value the opinion of those who have liked but not loved my work. I find it most helpful when there’s a reason given for this because I don’t think writers ever stop learning. If something is raised by one blogger on a 37-stop tour, I’m going to put it down to personal tastes. If something is raised by several bloggers, then this gives me something to think about in future books.

In my previous job as a trainer and coach, there was a saying, ‘feedback is a gift.’ That might sound a bit cheesy but I do agree with the sentiment. The gift is one of learning and, as a writer, I can only continue to improve if I continue to learn.

gift-444519_1920
Image by Michael Schwarzenberger from Pixabay

Here’s the rub…

The thing about gifts is that some are thoughtfully packaged in shiny paper with a pretty bow and presented to the recipient with care and, even if the gift inside may not be exactly what the recipient might have hoped for, the recipient still feels the kindness and the overall experience is positive.

Other gifts are poorly-wrapped in barely-stuck-together newspaper or not wrapped at all and are tossed towards the recipient like a hand grenade.

I’m fortunate that I’ve received 37 beautifully-packaged gifts on the blog tour for Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow for which I am ever so grateful. And very relieved!

Thank you to everyone who has shared their reviews on Twitter, Insta and/or Facebook and RT’d those that others have shared, helping spread the word.

And my final thank you goes to my amazing publisher Boldwood Books and Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for organising and executing such an amazing tour. I’ve worked with Rachel on several blog tours as an indie writer and was absolutely delighted when Boldwood engaged with her to deliver all the BW author tours. She is brilliant at it!

I look forward to seeing what my next (now full) blog tour brings – a joint one for the refreshed re-released Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes and Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Cafe starting 8th September when Starry Skies is released.

Big hugs

Jessica xx

You can buy Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow on Amazon here. It’s also available via AppleBooks and Kobo and is out in audio, paperback, eBook and large print formats.

THANK YOU:
Rachel’s Random Resources – find her website here
Boldwood Books – find their website here

And all these bloggers who participated in the tour (hyperlinked to their review):
Being Anne
Portobello Book Blog
Books and Bookends
Brmaycock’s Book Blog
From Under the Duvet
Donna’s Book Blog
Two Ladies and a Book
Shalini’s Book & Reviews
Bookish Jottings
Books, Life and Everything
Tizzy’s Book Review
Love the Smell of a Book
Jane Hunt Writer
The Cozy Pages
Emma’s Things to Read
Lu Reviews Books
Afternoon Bookery
Reviews in Heels
Carla Loves to Read
Jess Bookish Life
Lilac Mills
Coffee and Kindle Book Reviews
Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers
Audio Killed the Bookmark
On the Shelf Reviews
Ana’s Column
JenJen Reviews
Book Reviews by Satabdi
Kraftireader
Splashes Into Books
Just Katherine
Ginger Book Geek
Books Are Cool
Me and My Books
Reading Girl Reviews
Dash Fan Book Reviews
Jessica Belmont