Celebrating three review milestones in two days

Some authors steer clear of their reviews and I can completely understand why. A negative review can be so hurtful and destructive that it can leave them unable to write for the rest of the day and sometimes even longer. I know that to be true as it’s happened to me.

But not all reviews are negative and it seems a shame not to read the lovely comments shared by readers who’ve loved a story. I feel they’re so special and something to celebrate. I therefore read every single review posted on Amazon, including the negative ones. The latter do still hurt but they are massively outweighed by the positives and I’ve been working hard to keep the negative few in perspective.

This week, I’ve been thrilled to reach review/ratings milestones for three of my books. Woo hoo!

Just under a month ago, I announced in my Facebook readers group that three books were heading for the 1,000 milestone and asked members which they thought would get there first:

New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms at 980

Finding Hope at Lighthouse Cove at 957

All You Need Is Love at 949

As the first two have been out a year longer and the rate of reviews had massively slowed, I did wonder if All You Need Is Love might just race ahead. It came very close but Seaside Blooms pipped it to the post. Just.

I logged on yesterday morning and New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms had hit the 1,000 mark.

And then, this morning, there was a surprise. A book not even previously in the race – The Secret to Happiness – had stormed ahead hitting the bigger target of 2,000!

Not to be outdone, All You Need Is Love also hit the 1,000 mark this morning. I knew the bears could do it!

Finding Lighthouse Cove isn’t far off the target either with 993 reviews/ratings at the time of writing this so hopefully we’ll be celebrating that milestone by the start of next week. Come on Lighthouse Cove. You can do it!

To all those lovely readers who have taken the time to share a review – whether detailed, a couple of sentences, a few words or even just a rating – I am so grateful. I get such a buzz out of reading all the gorgeous comments and it drives me to keep writing and wanting to bring you loads more books.

Please keep sharing the book love for all your favourite authors as you never know when a few kind words might be the lift they need at a time when they’re struggling with edits or deadlines, feeling disillusioned by lower sales or weaker chart positions, have been wounded by a negative comment, and may be questioning whether it’s all worth it. You really can make a difference. No pressure!

Big squidgy grateful hugs to you all
Jessica xx

An amazing holiday in the stunning Lake District

We’ve been back from our holiday for exactly a week now and it already seems like a distant memory. Although the suitcases on the landing waiting to go back into the attic and the pile of walking trousers/thick socks/breathable T-shirts I’d bought for the trip and don’t have a home for in my wardrobes do keep reminding me it wasn’t that long ago.

The Lake District is one of my favourite places in the UK. I remember family caravanning holidays as a child, paddling in the lakes in flip flops or wellies, and visiting the gorgeous towns and villages around the national park. As an adult, I’ve visited many times.

I often dreamed of living there and, in my late 20s, I actually had an interview to be a trainer at an outdoor activity centre on the shores of Lake Windermere. I was gutted when I didn’t get the job. I’m a firm believer in everything happening for a reason and there were other plans in place for me. If I’d got the job there, I’d probably never have become an author.

My husband and I have visited many times with our daughter and we also went on our own for a weekend to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary in 2015 so we have many fond memories. Usually, we stick to the towns but this time we were determined to get walking. After 18 months of hibernating thanks to a certain pandemic, even the low fells were perhaps a bit ambitious but there was nothing to stop us walking round the lakes and what a treat that turned out to be.

Our holiday cottage was a gorgeous building in a small hamlet on the southern tip of Thirlmere which is a reservoir serving Manchester. We couldn’t see the water from the cottage because of the woods but it was very close by. The views out of the lounge window were stunning.

DAY 1 – GRASMERE & RYDAL WATER

The weather was stunning for our first full day so we had a wander round the pretty village of Grasmere then set off towards the lake. It’s quite a walk from the village to get to the edge of the lake but it’s absolutely worth it. At every turn, there was a new photo to take.

I’m proud to say that all of these are mine taken on my phone and the only one my talented photographer husband took is the bottom one in this batch.

We continued from the northern part of Grasmere towards Rydal Water where we’d heard there were some caves in hills which we’d never visited before. It was a bit people-y around the cave but I was keen to have a go crossing the stepping stones, praying I wouldn’t be the one person who went splat in the water. (Thanks to hubby for the batch of pics below):

It was worth making the crossing as the cave was fabulous although I was too embarrassed on my own to do what I normally would – a deep ‘mwah ha ha ha ha!’

Outside the view was gorgeous and there were loads of amazing stacks of stones. We were pretty hot at this point so didn’t stop to create our own.

We’d covered a lot of miles in the heat by this point and stupidly weren’t prepared as we hadn’t packed any lunch or brought enough water with us. Thankfully, the pathway at the northern tip of Rydal Water opened out onto the road immediately opposite The Badger Bar so that was us sorted for lunch and drinks. It didn’t take much (any) persuading to get the bus back to Grasmere instead of walking!

From there we drove onto Ambleside for something a little more leisurely – a game of crazy golf. Hubby sat on a bench with Ella (the dog) while the munchkin and I played a round. She would claim she won, but she cheats!!!

DAY 2 – FERRY TRIP TO BOWNESS-ON-WINDERMERE

We decided to take a catch the big steam ferry from Ambleside to Windermere on the Sunday which, with hindsight, was a bit of a mistake because Bowness on a bank holiday weekend was crazy busy. I’ve seen it busy many times but this was something else. It was so calm before we boarded the ferry, and the boat itself was fairly empty but we disembarked in Bowness and there was a sea of people everywhere and a wall of noise. Eek!

It was a grey day but still really warm (although a bit chilly on the ferry itself). We had lunch followed by a wander round a lovely market and the town, but we were keen to get back on the ferry and return to some peace and quiet (and an ice cream) in Ambleside.

DAY 3 – BUTTERMERE

Bank Holiday Monday was another grey day but there was no rain forecast so we decided to drive up to Buttermere. We’d heard it was a lovely walk around it. At 4.5 miles, that seemed do-able. And we were prepared with a packed lunch this time!

The sat nav directed us on the terrifying route via Honister Pass or, as the munchkin kept calling it, Hoisin Pass. OMG! If you’ve not done it, it takes you high – very high – past a slate mine with sheer drops and extremely narrow roads. My knuckles were white as I clung onto the door handle! (I will point out that hubby was driving!)

The photo opportunities were very different from our previous lake walk and I even turned on the black and white filter (get me using the tech!) to catch some moody shots!

The walk was lovely and I certainly brightened up a dull day in my red fleece!

We had a lovely treat on the route back up the other side with a few cows lying down by the side of the footpath, taking it all in. Aren’t they gorgeous? And there was an amazing waterfall too which hubby scrambled up to it while the munchkin and I had a little rest. The single cow and waterfall pic are courtesy of hubby.


DAY 4 – LAKESIDE, HAWKSHEAD & BROCKHOLE

It was publication day for me for Snowflakes Over The Starfish Café but we had no WiFi at the cottage so I drove out to a lay-by near Grasmere first thing to pick up 4G and do some sharing of social media posts! After that, we all headed down to Lakeside at the southern tip of Lake Windermere and hubby and munchkin took Ella for a walk while I met my fellow Write Romantic and fabulously talented crime writer Helen Phifer. Helen lives in Cumbria so it was such a great opportunity to catch up with her. We were so busy chatting, we completely forgot to take a photo. Oops!

The family and I then headed up to Hawkshead which is one of my favourite villages and had a wander round and a delicious publication day lunch outside a pub called The King’s Arms.

Although we’ve visited HillTop before, I thought it would be fitting to visit Beatrix Potter’s former home on the day one of my books was released but they were taking bookings only which had never even crossed our mind so that was a no-go.

We caught the car ferry from Hawkshead and headed to Brockhole on the shores of Windermere instead. The munchkin had a freezing cold paddle with Ella (as you might be able to tell from her facial expression on the first pic) and a go-cart ride so she was a happy bunny.

DAY 5 – THIRLMERE

Our plans to do the walk around Derwentwater were a bit scuppered today when munchkin woke up complaining of stomach ache and feeling sick. We stayed at the cottage for the morning hoping it might wear off but she was sick and definitely couldn’t go out and about.

I read and hubby went off for a walk with the dog but I was going a bit stir crazy after lunch so, with munchkin being at an age she can be left alone, we left her sleeping and walked to Thirlmere.

The reservoir was very low after a lengthy dry season and we came close to a stuck-in-the-mud disaster, fooled by the crusty surface! (Top 3 pics are hubby’s).


DAY 6 – KESWICK & DERWENTWATER

It had obviously just been a 24-hour bug as the munchkin woke up feeling much better and, although we decided it would be pushing it to walk the full perimeter of Derwentwater as planned, we reckoned she could manage partway.

We’ve always loved the walk past the theatre and down to the lake shore but have never done the walk round the lake and we can’t believe what we’ve been missing out on because it is stunning. It helped that we had the same gorgeous weather from the start of the week. Just like our walk round Grasmere, there was a photo opportunity with every few paces.

We were so sad to have to say goodbye to our cottage and head back home. We all agreed that, even with the munchkin being ill one day, it was the best UK holiday we’d ever had. I think that was for a combination of reasons – the gorgeous weather, the stunning scenery, properly switching off from work (no WiFi certainly helped) and a break for the first time in nearly two years. Perfect.

I can’t wait to start writing my new series set in the Lake District which does, of course, mean lots more trips there are needed. No hardship whatsoever!

I hope you’ve enjoyed looking at the pictures. I’d love to hear from you if you’ve been to any of these places or you have recommendations for others. Our holiday cottage was gorgeous but it had a few shall we say ‘interesting’ decorative touches. I leave you with the fish vase, the squirrel bin (which weighed a ton), the frankly terrifying ‘Catbells’ artwork (Catbells being a famous fell overlooking Derwentwater which features in the top photos on the above section), the scary rabbit dish thing and the disproportionate squirrel acorn situation.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

The blurb for A Wedding at Hedgehog Hollow is OUT NOW!

Exciting news! We’ve just confirmed the blurb for book 4 in the Hedgehog Hollow series – A Wedding at Hedgehog Hollow – and it has gone up on Amazon with the pre-order link. Woo hoo!

Here it is although you may not want to read this if you haven’t read the rest of the series yet because it contains a HUGE SPOILER.

If you’ve read book 3 – Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow – you’ll know this from the cliff hanger so read on to find out what to expect from book 4…

It’s time for the wedding we’ve all been waiting for…

Life at Hedgehog Hollow is never dull, although Samantha hopes that the new year ahead will be a little less chaotic as she prepares to marry the love of her life, Josh. But disaster strikes when she checks the rescue centre’s bank account after the festive season and discovers it has been emptied. Who would do such a thing, and why? With the future of Hedgehog Hollow now in jeopardy, planning a wedding has lost its shine.

Phoebe is desperate to escape the shadow of her family, infamously known for their attacks on Samantha’s beloved rescue centre. Could the kindness of the Hedgehog Hollow team be the chance she needs for a fresh start, or will her family’s secrets continue to drag her back?

Top 10 bestseller Jessica Redland welcomes you back to glorious Hedgehog Hollow; full of love, family, friendship – and hedgehogs of course!

I’ve had my first round of edits back and am currently working through them at the moment. I’m really excited about this story and can’t wait to bring you the fourth instalment from Hedgehog Hollow on 6th January next year and to crack on with books five and six.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

Happy Book Birthday to Starry Skies

I’m celebrating another book birthday today with Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café hitting its first birthday since the re-release through Boldwood Books.

Originally independently published in 2018 as Christmas at The Chocolate Pot Café, I do tend to think of my Boldwood birthdays as the official birthdays as so few readers discovered my work before I joined them.

I love this story and, with over 1700 reviews/ratings on Amazon – 94% positive – and more than 35,000 copies sold in a year, it seems readers do too. Thank you to everyone who has bought/borrowed/listened and left a review/recommended this story. I appreciate that so much.

Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café is best read after Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes as the two books feature friends Carly and Tara with businesses next door to each other and follow on chronologically.

Officially, Christmas Wishes at the Chocolate Shop is the 1st book in the Christmas on Castle Street Series as it’s set chronologically before the other two but it isn’t as closely connected as they are.

Happy book birthday Starry Skies xxx

Big hugs
Jessica xx

Here’s the blurb…

Cosy up with a mug of hot chocolate for some festive sparkle from bestseller Jessica Redland.

Everyone is getting into the festive spirit on Castle Street – snow is falling, fairy lights are glistening and Christmas shopping is underway.

But for Tara Porter, owner of thriving cafe, The Chocolate Pot, this is the most difficult time of the year. From the outside, Tara is a successful businesswoman and pillar of the community. Behind closed doors, she is lonely. 

With a lifetime of secrets weighing on her shoulders, she has retreated from all friends, family and romance, and shut her real self away from the world. Afterall, if you don’t let them in, they can’t hurt you. She’s learnt that the hard way.

But as the weight of her past becomes heavier and an unexpected new neighbour moves onto the street – threatening the future of her cafe – Tara begins to realise that maybe it’s time to finally let people back in and confront her history. It could just change her life forever…

What’s next for Hedgehog Hollow?

While I was on holiday last week, the Hedgehog Hollow series hit a major milestone. Book 1 in the series – Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow – passed the 2,500 reviews/ratings milestone on Amazon.

The other two books had already passed this with the second book – New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow – passing the 3,000 mark earlier this month!

Book 3 – Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow – has only been out for just over four months so I remain completely astonished at the phenomenal number of reviews/ratings it has gathered in such a short space of time.

I keep having to pinch myself that what started off as an exercise on my MA in Creative Writing grew into such a beloved series. Thank you to everyone who has taken Hedgehog Hollow into their hearts and shared the love.

I’ve just had the edits back on book 4 – A Wedding at Hedgehog Hollow – and I’m thrilled that my editor, Nia, loved the story and there aren’t that many changes to be made. I need to add in a few scenes and develop a couple of the secondary characters a little further but it shouldn’t be a hefty task to do that.

Did you see the cover reveal? It’s my favourite of all the Hedgehog Hollow books and possibly my favourite of all my books, although I’ve got so many gorgeous ones that it is a tough competition between them.

Book 4 is out on 6th January 2022 and available for pre-order now on Amazon here. It will go up for pre-order on Kobo and Apple too but it can’t go up this early on those sites. And if you’re an audio listener, it will be out on audio from publication day as well as in paperback, hardback, and large print.

Amazon shows that each book is number 1/2/3/4 out of 4 but don’t let that fool you. It’s not possible to set it up to show that a series will be longer than the books already out or up for pre-order. There’s still more to come from Hedgehog Hollow after book 4…

I’m planning two more books in the series. Book 5 (unnamed so far) is provisionally planned for summer 2022 and book 6 will be my Christmas release the same year. Yes, we’re having Christmas at Hedgehog Hollow which I know will please lots of readers!

Then that’s it. Or at least for now anyway. It feels like six brings me to a natural end with the stories I want to tell and the amazing journey Samantha goes on. I’d never want to drag a series on just for the sake of it.

Having said that, I still intend to write a prequel book telling Thomas and Gwendoline’s story but that’s a future project and definitely won’t be out in 2022. I’m also planning a spin-off story which will be strongly connected to Hedgehog Hollow and will still feature the rescue centre and many of the characters readers love but it will not be based at Hedgehog Hollow or narrated by Samantha. That’s all I’m saying on that one! It will probably be out in 2023.

Thank you once more for all the amazing reviews. If you’ve read and loved the series, please do tell your friends and family. Recommendations are invaluable in keeping your favourite authors writing.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

Publication Day for Snowflakes Over The Starfish Café and belated Happy Birthday to The Secret to Happiness

Ooh, I’m so late with these! I’ve returned from a wonderful week in the Lake District (post and pics to follow soon) and I meant to write and schedule three posts before I went away – one to celebrate publication day, one to reflect on August, and one to celebrate a book birthday – but time escaped me and none of them got written.

With no WiFi at our holiday cottage, I had to leave it so I’ve combined two of them and decided not to do the reflections posts anymore. Instead, I’ll post more regularly but shorter posts. Me? Short posts? Well, I’ll try!

Firstly, publication day. My 13th novel, Snowflakes Over The Starfish Café, came out on Tuesday 31st August and gathered a category bestseller flag on day one which was lovely. Less than a week after release, it has 69 reviews (at the time of writing this), 85% of which are 5-star which is amazing.

It’s on a super-lengthy amazing blog tour and the feedback so far has been so touching with a mix of regular reviewers and newbies reading my work for the first time. Thank you to everyone taking part.

I may have caused a tissue shortage in the country (and possibly other countries – Belgium has been cited!) as this book is a weepie. It is NOT a light Christmassy rom-com and it doesn’t claim anywhere to be one as you’ll be able to tell from reading the blurb (see below).

I never intentionally set out to write a story that will make readers cry but this was the story that these characters needed to tell and, while there will always be a few critics who call it ‘depressing’, I am blessed with so many amazing readers who completely get the story, who love the light that appears among the tragedy, and who feel the hopeful and uplifting message.

“With courage, nothing is impossible” (Sir William Hillary, RNLI Founder) is a theme throughout. Hollie and Jake have had tragic pasts, but the beauty of this story is how they find their way forward … with the help of the most gorgeous dog who readers have fallen in love with.

Hot on the heels of publication day, I’m celebrating a book birthday.

Friday 3rd September was TWO YEARS since The Secret to Happiness was published by Boldwood Books. And what an amazing two years that has been! (Blurb below too)

This was a book I submitted when I knew I was failing to make an impact as an indie author. I did have some regular readers but I only sold a handful of eBooks a week and there was no way I’d was ever even going to come close to being able to write full-time; my absolute dream.

A few rejections of the manuscript floored me and I had to as myself some tough questions about whether I really was good enough to make it as an author. I could have easily given up at that point but writing is part of who I am and I couldn’t let go.

Around that time, I saw an advert for a newly-formed company called Boldwood Books and thought, “maybe one last try”. Thankfully they loved it and took me on. Boldwood found me my readers and my readers have loved Whitsborough Bay and Hedgehog Hollow and have made my dreams come true. I’m so incredibly grateful to you all.

It’s particularly appropriate that I’ve ended up posting about these two events together because, almost exactly a year from publication of my first Boldwood release, Snowflakes Over The Starfish Café is not only my 13th release but also the start of a brand new 12-book publishing deal with Boldwood Books.

The books in my first contract were a mix of new books (The Secret to Happiness and the three books so far in Hedgehog Hollow series) and re-edited versions of my backlist. Starting with Snowflakes Over The Starfish Café, everything I release from now on will be brand new, never been released before, which is really exciting for me and my readers.

Thank you to everyone who has bought/downloaded/borrowed either of these stories – and any of my others – and shared lovely feedback about them. I cannot thank Boldwood Books enough for taking me on and my amazing editor Nia Beynon for her continued enthusiasm, belief and expertise which help shape each of these stories into the final versions the readers/listeners fall in love with.

Wishing you an amazing start to September.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

Snowflakes Over The Starfish Café is available as an eBook on all platforms, a paperback, a large print, a hardback, as a physical audio, for audio download and audio streaming. Please contact me if you’d like a signed copy of the paperback.

Here’s the blurb:

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

Two broken hearts.

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

An unexpected meeting.

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

The chance to love again.

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

The Secret to Happiness is available as an eBook on all platforms, a paperback, a large print, as a physical audio, for audio download and audio streaming. Please contact me if you’d like a signed copy of the paperback.

Here’s the blurb:

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…

Some fabulous offers on my books right now

Hello there and I hope August is treating you well. I should be taking advantage of my daughter staying with my parents at the moment and starting on book 15 but Word disappeared off my computer this morning (it had apparently run out of space to sustain it) and that has thrown my whole day out so I’m not in the mood for writing. I’m therefore having a bitty day trying to catch up on a load of admin as well as tidy my tip of an office.

I thought I’d therefore pull a quick blog post together highlighting some of the offers on my books right now…

KINDLE USERS

All of my books are FREE if you’re a Kindle Unlimited subscriber. There are 12 titles out there already and a 13th will be out on 31st August – Snowflakes Over The Starfish Café – so that’s a lot of hours of pure escapism to dive into.

If you’re in Prime Reading, All You Need Is Love is still in the Prime Reading programme and will be until at least the end of September. This is available globally.

And for anyone not in either of those programmes, there are still some bargains to be had:

  • 99p for All You Need is Love ($1.99 in USA)
  • 99p for Making Wishes at Bay View (book 1 in the Welcome to Whitsborough Bay series) (99c in USA)
  • 99p for Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow and Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow (books 1 and 3 in the Hedgehog Hollow series) ($1.99 and 99c in USA respectively)
  • £1.39 for Christmas Wishes at the Chocolate Shop

APPLE USERS

  • 99p for All You Need is Love ($1.99 in USA)
  • 99p for Making Wishes at Bay View (book 1 in the Welcome to Whitsborough Bay series) ($1.99 in USA)
  • 99p for Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow and Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow (books 1 and 3 in the Hedgehog Hollow series) ($1.99 in USA respectively)

KOBO USERS

I’m the Author of the Month until the end of August and they’re running a Buy One Get One Free offer on nearly all of my titles with Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow not in the deal but only being 99p anyway. The prices range from 99p to £2.99 per eBook and you can find a summary of the offer in a previous blog post here.

AUDIOBOOK LISTENERS

If you’re an Audible subscriber, you can listen to six of my titles for FREE as part of your subscription:

  • Making Wishes at Bay View
  • New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms
  • The Secret to Happiness
  • Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes
  • Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café
  • Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow

There’s a 10% off offer on Audiobooks purchases from or downloaded from The Reading House You need to use the discount code of BOLDWOOD10 which will give you a 10% reduction on mine or any other Boldwood titles during August in celebration of Boldwood’s 2nd birthday.

You can also stream my audiobooks on Spotify and via several other streaming services.

LARGE PRINT READERS

All of my books are available as large print editions through The Reading House using the same code above.

PAPERBACK READERS

If you would like a signed paperback, please contact me. I send signed/dedicated paperbacks out to UK readers for the book’s retail price plus postage. The RRP of most of my books is £8.99 and postage will be £2 or £3 depending on the size of the book.

Four of my titles retail at £12.99 – Making Wishes at Bay View, New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms, Finding Hope at Lighthouse Cove and The Secret to Happiness and I can offer these slightly cheaper than that plus postage. I can also offer deals on bundles. Just email me at jessicaredlandwriter@yahoo.co.uk or drop me a DM on my Facebook Page – Jessica Redland Author – on Twitter or Instagram.


Happy reading/listening!

Big hugs
Jessica xx

A visit from North Yorkshire to North Yorkshire

The hubby and I have just returned from a lovely few days away and we never even left our home county of North Yorkshire. It’s such a huge area that, if you live at the edges, you can travel over two hours and still be in the same county! The reason for a few days away was that our daughter is having a summer break staying with my parents and hubby suggested that, instead of dropping her off and driving back home, we could make a mini-break of it. We even arranged for Ella, our sprocker spaniel, to go to hubby’s parents’ for a couple of days so we’d have no restrictions on where we could go.

We were hoping to stay in Richmond which is where I had my teddy bear shop many years ago and hubby searched for a nice hotel or B&B figuring we could have a couple of drinks and a meal in the town on the evening. No chance. Even though we decided on this about six or maybe even eight weeks ago, we’d left it far too late and the only rooms available were extortionate prices like £500 for two nights. Eek! So we ended up at the Premier Inn in nearby Catterick Garrison which is on a retail park close to the army barracks. Yep. Not exactly a romantic location but at least it was a chance to get away and you can always rely on a Premier Inn.

We dropped the munchkin off at lunchtime on Wednesday and headed to the market town of Leyburn. It was heaving and it took a few circuits before we finally found somewhere to park but we had a delicious meal in the beer garden of The Bolton Arms at the top of town, watching the world go by, followed by a wander around the gift shops. It was a shame to see one of my favourite shops had closed down. I wondered if that was as a result of lockdown or from before. I do remember my mum mentioning it to me but can’t for the life of me remember how recently we had that conversation. The concept of time seems very fluid at the moment! A couple of other shops were closed. A notice on one said this was due to a funeral and we didn’t wander down to the other as we could clearly see it was in darkness. Maybe for the same reason? I do like to treat myself to a little something while away and I found this gorgeous Steiff hoglet called Joggi in another gift shop, although hubby bought me a Steiff hedgehog for Christmas who is also called Joggi. I wondered if that meant anything in German but Google translate says not. I have, however, discovered that a hedgehog in German is called an ‘igel’ and a hoglet (baby hedgehog) is a ‘babyigel’. Awww!

We moved onto Masham from there but caught it just as the final market stalls were packing away. I remembered there being several nice gift shops last time we visited and could only see one this time. There were still Covid restrictions on social distancing and a queue to get in so we wandered round intending to return … and forgot!

Checking in at the Premier Inn a little later, we were advised that there was no TV reception in the room thanks to the recent fire at the Bilsdale mast TV transmitter affecting TVs in the Yorkshire Dales, northern parts of North Yorkshire and Teesside. Hubby had intentionally left all tech behind and kicked himself for this as it meant we couldn’t relax in front of the TV but we weren’t in a location with lovely pubs to walk to and we didn’t really fancy driving anywhere after so much driving already that day. So we sat in the hotel room watching old episodes of Gogglebox on his phone. We so know how to party!

On Thursday, we went into Richmond. It wasn’t forecast to rain but it rained while we visited Richmond Castle, although not too heavily or for too long and we were prepared with waterproofs. Please therefore forgive the very dull-looking photos!

As I said earlier, I used to have a teddy bear shop in Richmond on the top corner of Finkle Street. This has been the Lucy Pittaway Gallery for several years now and I absolutely adore Lucy’s artwork. If you haven’t discovered it before, do check out her website here. I already have more of her amazing prints than we have space for but there’s always room for another notebook in the collection! I had to pose outside – just like I’d done when it was my shop – and also take a photo of one of her gorgeous hedgehog prints in the window. Lucy’s prints are the inspiration behind one of the storylines in Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Cafe.

We had a wander round some more of the shops and I loved spotting this sign on the back of a car down a side street and this wall art on the side of a building.

There’s a fabulous circular walk from The Station – the former train station which is converted into a cinema, cafe, arts/gifts centre – via Easby Abbey so we set off on that walk on the afternoon. We hadn’t gone very far when I recognised a group of people heading towards us. My cousin, her husband, younger son and their dog were coming to the end of the circular walk, having completed the loop the other way to us. How spooky is that? They don’t live in Richmond. It’s about 40 mins away for them so what an amazing coincidence and lovely to catch up with them.

We continued on our walk and I put my new FitBit to the test, racking up nearly 22k steps across the day which isn’t too shabby as a starting point. It’s not going to be happy with me today as, back home, I’m lucky if I’ll manage 500! Ssh, don’t tell it! And as it’s on my desk and not my wrist, it won’t even register any of them!

The walk was lovely, through trees, alongside the river and past Easby Abbey which is an English Heritage site with free access. We did the walk once before several years ago when we were camping in the area with hubby’s sisters but I don’t think we must have explored much of the abbey as I definitely didn’t remember it being quite so big.

Back to my 22k steps, I haven’t walked anything resembling that far since pre-lockdown and had actually only left the house on a dozen or so occasions since March 2020 so being out and about for me was a pretty big thing and it completely wiped me out being in the fresh air for a full day. It was so good to be out, though.

Even though we’d have loved a relax in front of the TV that evening, resting our feet after the walk, the mast problem prevented that. We returned to the retail park, grabbed a quick drink in one of the chain pubs there, then I had a relaxing bath before going out to the cinema 2 minutes’ walk from the hotel to see The Last Letter From Your Lover. Hubby hadn’t been too keen as it looked more like my sort of film from the trailer but he enjoyed it and I loved it. I’ve read a few of JoJo Moyes’s books but not that particular one. An added bonus was that we had the cinema – Empire Cinemas – completely to ourselves and could upgrade to recliner chairs which were amazing. I say upgrade but it was only £3.99 each in the first place so £5.99 each seemed a very reasonable price.

On Sunday morning, I met a friend for a hot chocolate in The Station while hubby went for a walk with his camera and then we headed to Fountain’s Abbey. We knew it would be busy but we must have timed it horrendously wrong by arriving around lunchtime. The queue for the cafe stretched across the courtyard in one direction and the queue for tickets to get in stretched the entire width in the other direction. So we left. I know, I know, that’s super impatient but we just couldn’t face standing for maybe an hour queuing after a long walk the day before.

Newby Hall isn’t too far away so we drove there instead and the thankfully wasn’t a queue to get in although it was pretty expensive to get in. It’s a lovely place, the gardens are gorgeous, and there’s loads for kids to do but be warned that the child entry fee is not a lot less than the adult fee (the family of 4 in front of us paid a whopping £62 to get in) and there are additional fees required for the train and boat trips once inside. And you’re going to buy food, drinks, ice creams too. Definitely somewhere you need to spend a full day to get your money’s worth.

I had the most delicious warm scones with jam clotted cream for my lunch although we had to move tables twice, eventually retreating indoors, as the wasps were out and after the jam! Ooh, I hate them so much.

I’d been hoping that The Bear House might have had some new displays – perhaps a project someone might have undertaken during lockdown – but they were the same as when we visited a couple of years ago. Disappointingly, quite a few bears had fallen over at some point, especially in the picnic scene. There’s meant to be a bear on a wooden swing but the wooden plank had slipped out and the bear had tumbled into the others so it looked a little unloved in there, poor bears.

I had to take a picture of Barbara Cartland’s bear. The plaque accompanying him states: “This very special German bear was given to Barbara Cartland, the romance novelist, in 1904 when she was three years old. When Dame Barbara gave him to Gyles Brandreth [whose enormous collection of bears is partly housed in The Bear House] she explained that she had adorned him with the fabulous jewels, and named him The Prince of Love’ because she had discovered that he believed himself to be an Indian Prince”. How fabulous is that?

The traffic was grim all the way home – one of the challenges of heading to the coast (albeit back home for us) among holiday-makers coming for the weekend or the week – and it took us about 2.5 hours to get back from Newby Hall. For context, this is a 60 mile journey! Eek! So we were pretty shattered by the time we got back.

Despite quite a few hitches to our plans, it was lovely to be away, especially when I finished writing A Wedding at Hedgehog Hollow the day before I left so it came after a big milestone. My mind definitely needed the rest! It was good for me to be out and about and doing some exercise after pretty much hibernating for the past 18 months. Already looking forward to my next trip.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

Happy book birthday to Carly’s Cupcakes

I’m celebrating a first book birthday for my first Boldwood Books Christmas release, Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes.

Originally an indie release in October 2017 (under the same title), Carly’s Cupcakes is a little older than one but I think of today as the official one-year book birthday because that’s when the new, longer, improved version was released; the version which has been enjoyed by way more readers than had been discovered when I was an indie author.

At just under 60k words, it’s my shortest novel. To put this into context, the average length of a novel is 60-100k and most of mine are at the higher end of that between 90k-105k words.

The reason my novels usually come in at the top end is that I usually have several sub plots running in the story which add additional layers. Some have a second person perspective so the story is seen from two sides, naturally lending itself to more word count.

In Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes, there is intentionally a less intricate plot for several reasons:

  • It was originally planned as a novella (although I failed abysmally to stick within the 40k word count required for that!)
  • It was always intended as a lighter Christmas read
  • It covers a shorter span of time, all the action unfolding across December
  • It’s a single perspective story

Just because it’s a shorter, lighter read, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t address some deeper issues. Bullying and mental health are covered in this story but, while some of my books have readers reaching for the tissues, I’d say this will tug at the heartstrings but is less likely to bring on the tears than some of my other reads.

It’s the story of the relationship between two sisters, Carly and Bethany, in the run-up to Christmas. It’s the busiest time of year for Carly but Bethany, who works with her in Carly’s Cupcakes, has zero talent when it comes to cake decorating and a big talent for courting disaster. She’s more of a hindrance than a help but, as the story unfolds, we discover the reasons why Carly can’t and won’t dismiss her sister even though each Bethany-shaped problem causes more and more problems for the business.

It’s also a love story. While Bethany is preparing for her Christmassy wedding (also not without disaster), Carly is wondering whether she can be courageous enough to tell her long-term best friend, Liam, how she really feels about him when he comes home on leave from the army.

I loved writing this story and am delighted that (most) readers have loved reading it too. At the time of writing, it has a whopping 2,239 reviews/ratings on Amazon so I’m hoping it will make it to 2,500 as we get into the festive season. They have a 90% positive rating (5 or 4 stars) which is amazing. I’ve posted a selection of the comments from 5-star reviews across this post and am so grateful for the book-love.

I say most readers have loved reading it because you’ll never please all the people all of the time. “One star is more than it deserves” reads a review from last October. Ouch! There are also the two hilarious two-star reviews given because “it’s too early for Christmas”. Tip: So don’t download a Christmas book with the word Christmas in the title in August if you don’t like reading about Christmas in the summer!

It isn’t meant to be a book full of twists and turns. It isn’t meant to be a literary masterpiece designed to change world-thinking. It’s meant to be lovely, warm and fuzzy, Christmassy-infused escapism and I will always be proud of this tale of love, family and friendship. A huge thank you to all those amazing readers who have loved it for exactly what it is.

Happy book birthday Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes. You’ve done me proud. The eBook is available for Kindle here and on Apple and Kobo. It’s currently in a buy one get one free deal on Kobo as I’m the Author of the Month there. You can also listen to it on audio download and streaming services, buy a large print or paperback version, or get in touch with me if you’d like a signed paperback.

I recommend then going on to Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Cafe to find out what happens next for Carly when we pick up the story of Tara Porter, the owner of The Chocolate Pot next door to Carly’s Cupcakes. This is a longer, deeper and more emotional read set across a whole year.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

It’s December on Castle Street; the fairy lights are twinkling, snow has settled and the festive season is in full swing.

For Carly, the owner of Carly’s Cupcakes, it’s the busiest time of year getting everyone’s Christmas treats ready on time. However with her clumsy sister, Bethany, as a co-worker, it’s proving a difficult task. They say you shouldn’t mix work with family. Maybe they have a point…

As Christmas approaches, Carly is also eagerly awaiting the return of her best friend to Whitsborough Bay. Liam has no idea he’s been the object of her affection since their schooldays. After years of pining after him, can Carly pluck up the courage to finally tell him how she really feels by 25th December?

Could a little festive magic make all of Carly’s wishes come true this Christmas…?

Discover 6 of my books on Audible Plus

At the end of July, Audible launched a new programme for their UK subscribers called Audible Plus. This programme was rolled out in the USA previously and is all about giving subscribers additional free unlimited content so, if you’re an Audible user, do check it out.

The Audible Plus catalogue consists of thousands of carefully selected audiobooks, podcasts and Audible originals which subscribers can listen to as many times as they want for no additional charge.

Audible say: “The new Plus Catalogue offers an exciting opportunity to introduce more audiobooks, podcasts and Audible Originals to members, on top of their credits. New and existing members will be able to discover more titles for the first time at no extra cost, which we believe will increase member listening and allow them to discover new authors or similar genres and themes. The Plus Catalogue provides extra content our members will love, and forms part of our ongoing commitment to present value-added offerings to consumers.”

I’m really excited to have a whopping SIX out of my twelve titles included in this special programme from day 1:

  • Making Wishes at Bay View (book 1 in the Welcome to Whitsborough Bay series)
  • New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms (book 2 in the Welcome to Whitsborough Bay series)
  • The Secret to Happiness
  • Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes
  • Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café
  • Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow (book 1 in the Hedgehog Hollow series)

I hope that this will introduce new listeners to my worlds of Whitsborough Bay and Hedgehog Hollow who will perhaps go on to use their usual credits to explore my other titles.

Let me know if you’ve discovered any fabulous new listens through this programme.

Happy listening!

Big hugs
Jessica xx