The one with the Summer Nights offers and some RNLI news

Tuesday next week (6th June) will be the two-month anniversary of the release of Summer Nights at The Starfish Café – the final book in the three-book series. This morning, I’ve just spotted that it has passed the 1,500 reviews/ratings milestone on Amazon which I’m absolutely delighted with so thank you so much to everyone who has read and shared the book love already. Leaving a review/rating makes such a difference for authors as moving up the chart works on algorithms. Amazon’s algorithms are triggered by activity and therefore sales (or borrows via the Prime Reading or Kindle Unlimited programmes) aren’t the only thing that have an impact on movement – a reader leaving a review or rating does too. The more a book then moves up the chart, the more Amazon’s other algorithms kick in to make it visible and, the more that happens, the more successful a book is. The more successful a book is, the more books an author can keep writing. So please, please do leave reviews – even really short ones – or ratings for your favourite books.

That wasn’t actually the purpose of this post, though!

On 1st June 2023, Summer Nights at The Starfish Café went into Global Prime Reading so anyone with a Prime Reading subscription can access it for free for at least the next 12 weeks. The eBook has also had a price drop to 99p. This is unlikely to last for that long so, if you haven’t already grabbed yourself a copy, this is a great time to do so.

It was also on a Kindle Daily Deal on Thursday (the day it went into Prime Reading) which gave it a lovely little boost back into the Top 100 to #68. Sadly, it didn’t stay in the Top 100 for long and has already dipped out, but I have the evidence to prove it was there! Thanks to everyone who helped that happen. The highest position so far was publication day where it climbed a tiny bit higher to #62.

For anyone in Kindle Unlimited, it has always been in there so can be borrowed for free. This applies to all my titles.

In honour of the completion of The Starfish Café series, my fabulous publishers, Boldwood Books, have made the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) their charity of the year. The official wording, approved by the RNLI is: Boldwood Books are proud to support the RNLI. Boldwood Books have pledged a donation to the RNLI in 2023 as part of our support for the work they do saving lives at sea.

For complicated reasons, we can’t directly say that if you purchase or borrow Summer Nights at The Starfish Café, you’ll be helping the amazing work of the RNLI because Boldwood will directly donate the the RNLI a percentage of the profits from the sale of each book in all formats for a whole year since April’s release (including pre-orders). Definitely not saying anything like that anywhere. You haven’t heard it from me. The statement in bold says it all 😉

If anyone has read the series, you’ll have come across mentions of Stormy Stan, the giant mascot of the RNLI. I haven’t made him up – he’s completely real and I intentionally didn’t change his name. He features in book 1 – Snowflakes Over The Starfish Café, doesn’t get mentioned in book 2 – Spring Tides at The Starfish Café, but does return for a starring role in book 3 – Summer Nights at The Starfish Café.

I therefore asked my friends at Scarborough Lifeboat Station whether I could meet Stormy Stan so I went for a photo shoot a few weeks ago. I’d have loved to stay longer and perhaps get Stan to do some more poses (I’m imagining a karate kick, a dab or a Saturday Night Fever pose here) but the crew member wearing the outfit had donned it for the first time for us and was clearly a bit embarrassed (as well as hot) so we only took a few very quick pics and then spared him from further humiliation, bless him.

If there’s an event on at your local lifeboat station, you may get to meet Stormy Stan. He’s apparently highly in demand so it’s a big thing if he makes an appearance. I was looking back through my photo album and I found this pic from when he met my daughter at an event in Scarborough. She must have been about six. She’s sixteen now! Excuse Stan’s blurry hand as he waved which is lovely but doesn’t work in a photo!

Have you ever met Stormy Stan? Would love to hear if you have.

Speaking of reviews – which we were earlier – the first book, Snowflakes Over The Starfish Café, is currently my most reviewed book at 6,982 reviews/ratings on Amazon. Would be amazing to get to that 7,000 milestone. If you’ve read it and loved it and haven’t yet left a review/rating, it would be fabulous if you could. Only 18 to go at the time of writing!

Thank you to everyone who has bought or borrowed a copy of Summer Nights at The Starfish Café so far. If you’ve loved these books, please do recommend them to friends and family as recommendations are invaluable. I hope you’ve enjoyed the series. Don’t tell the hedgehogs – shhh – but it’s actually my personal favourite series so far.

Wishing you a fabulous weekend.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

Welcome back to The Starfish Café for a glorious summer, but with a few dark clouds on the horizon…

A new beginning…

As her summer wedding to Jake approaches, Hollie is excited for their new beginning as a family. But when some unexpected news threatens the future she and Jake had hoped for, Hollie will need to find the strength to overcome heartache once more.

A fragile heart….

Single mum, Kerry, loves her job at The Starfish Café, but behind the brave smiles and laughter with customers there is a sadness deep within. So when someone from her past re-appears in her life, Kerry can either hide away or face her demons and try to finally move on from her heartbreak.

A summer to remember…

For Hollie and Kerry it promises to be an emotional rollercoaster of a summer, but the community at The Starfish Café will always be there to help them through – after all, with courage nothing is impossible…

Join top 10 bestseller Jessica Redland for a wonderful summer at the seaside, full of love, friendship and community spirit

The one with THREE festival appearances this year

It has been a dream of mine for several years to speak at a book festival. As a former recruiter and trainer, public speaking is well within my comfort zone although it is a little different talking about yourself rather than from an HR agenda.

I was thrilled last year to secure a slot on the Walking and Books Festival in Richmond, North Yorkshire and was getting all geared up for it when Queen Elizabeth II passed away. Her funeral clashed with my session so it was cancelled. The lovely organisers invited me back this year so I’m very excited that I’ll still have that opportunity.

The Richmond Walking and Book Festival runs between 15th-24th September and, as the name suggests, provides a mixture of walks and literary events. You can catch me here:

  • Thursday 21st September 2023
  • 11am – 12 noon
  • The Station, Richmond, North Yorkshire (not London!)
  • £8

You can find out more about what to expect and see what else is happening that day here. Tickets go on sale on 28th June so I will put out a reminder then. If you’d like to see the full festival programme, you can find it here. So many fabulous events planned.

Richmond is a very special place to me because it’s where I started to write my debut book, New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms. I opened a specialist teddy bear shop in Richmond called Bear’s Pad in May 2003 and, on quiet days, I’d write. Running the bear shop also gave me the inspiration for All You Need is Love which is one of my favourites of all my stories. It therefore feels very fitting to be speaking at a festival in the year I hit one million sales in the town where I wrote my very first words.

As it happens, this won’t end up being my first festival appearance. Stockton Libraries very kindly invited me to speak at Norton Library last September and asked if I’d be interested in participating in a panel discussion at the 2023 Crossing the Tees Book Festival. Absolutely yes!

The Crossing the Tees Book Festival is a collaboration between Stockton, Middlesbrough, Hartlepool, Darlington and Redcar & Cleveland Library Services and runs between 10th-18th June. Tickets are available to all events now and you can find the full programme here.

I’m involved in two very different events so here’s the details of each…

  • Interactive Workshop – How to Create a Memorable Setting
  • Saturday 10th June
  • 10am – 12noon
  • Guisborough Library
  • £5

You can find out more and book here. I recorded a short video about what to expect which you can find on the Crossing the Tees Book Festival Facebook page here (the link should take you directly to the video). (Please note that the photo below is a screen shot, not a link).

I’m particularly looking forward to being at Guisborough Library for this event because it used to be my local library! I was born in Middlesbrough and my family moved to Guisborough when I was three so I was raised there, attending primary and senior school in the town. I loved visits to the library to get my fiction fix as a child and, when I was at senior school, did a lot of homework research there.

I believe the library as I knew it was tragically destroyed in an arson attack so it isn’t going to be familiar to me but it will be great to see how it has been rebuilt.

And onto my second event for this festival…

  • Panel discussion & questions – A Romantic Sunday Afternoon with Jessica Redland, Lisa Hobman and Jane Lovering
  • Sunday 11th June
  • 2pm – 3.30pm
  • Ormesby Library & Community Hub, Middlesbrough
  • £5

I’m really looking forward to appearing at this session with Lisa and Jane. We all write romance books/contemporary women’s fiction for Boldwood Books and will be answering questions from our host and the audience so I hope you can come along for what should be a lovely afternoon of bookish chat.

BSL interpreters will be joining us for this event.

As I mentioned earlier, I was born in Middlesbrough so this is also a special venue for me, returning to my roots.

You can find out more about this event and book here. I also recorded a short video about what to expect. It hasn’t appeared on the Facebook page just yet but it is on Twitter here. (Please note that the photo below is a screen shot, not a link).

It would be amazing to see you at one (or all!) of the events. Please do let me know in the comments if you can. I’ll have paperbacks for sale at all events and can sign and dedicate those for you. If you have books of mine already that you’d like signing, I’m more than happy to pop my paw print on them.

Big festival hugs
Jessica xx

The one with the milestone, the book deal, and the bargain

If you follow me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, you may have already spotted my news today but, in case you don’t, it has been a BIG NEWS day so let me tell you more…


I’m thrilled to announce that, as of the end of March 2023, I reached a milestone of ONE MILLION copies sold through Boldwood Books. Eek!

This is worldwide sales across all formats – digital, print and audio – for my first eighteen books. My first Boldwood release, The Secret to Happiness, came out in early September 2019 and my eighteenth was Healing Hearts at Bumblebee Barn which came out in late January this year. Summer Nights at The Starfish Café was released in April so is not included in this milestone, but is already helping me work towards the next one.

For any aspiring writers or struggling authors reading this and thinking, “A million? That could never happen to me,” stop right there because it could! I’ve been looking back over my sales from my pre-Boldwood days. If you don’t know my journey already, a quick recap is that I secured a publishing contract in 2014 and my publisher released three books and a novella between May 2015 and August 2016… then ceased trading. With my rights back as an indie author, I found it almost impossible to make any impact and that was my life for several years, hoping the next book would be the one to make the difference, despairing at the lack of sales.

During my time with my original publisher, I sold 2,467 copies. In my indie years from November 2016 – August 2019, I sold 4,079 copies so that’s 6,546 in 4 years and 4 months across 9 titles. My Christmas releases did reasonably well, but I had days on end where I’d sell no copies at all. Here’s an example of my sales dashboard from July 2019 – the month before my first Boldwood release. This was a common sight for me.

For full disclosure, I did have an additional income stream from books borrowed as part of the Kindle Unlimited programme but the reporting on that is by pages read so it’s not so easy to equate into book sales. I did far better on KU than I did with eBook sales but wasn’t setting the world alight with those either. I’m sure you can imagine how disheartening it was looking at 23 sales over 9 titles, 4+ years into my publishing journey.

When I joined Boldwood, they gradually acquired, edited and re-released my backlist and, as they started to find me a readership, my indie sales did increase, as you can see on the right of that graph where the bar chart is rising.

Going back to the sales struggles as an indie, it’s hard to keep going when you know you’re barely drawing any income and hardly anybody is reading your stories. What’s the point? Why keep going? Why spend every spare moment creating when nobody will get to enjoy the story? I know the answer to this! It’s because it doesn’t have to always be like that. Things can change. It takes a considerable amount of courage to hang on and keep going, but wonderful things can happen if you do. Like they did to me.

When I saw an advert on social media to say that Boldwood Books were forming and would be open for submissions from the start of February 2019, I was reeling from a small round of rejections and so close to giving up. “Just one more submission,” I told myself. If that was unsuccessful, I had some very serious thinking to do.

But it was successful. The Secret to Happiness was a slow-burner at first but things really kicked off in spring 2020 when my Welcome to Whitsborough Bay series was rapid-released across a two-month period. Making Wishes at Bay View was picked up for Apple’s Free Book of the Month and New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms went into Amazon’s Prime Reading and shot up the charts to my highest UK position to date – #14. I’d made it!

And a few years later, I’m celebrating a million sales. It doesn’t feel real! It’s as though it’s happening to someone else and I think that’s because hitting a million sales was never on my bucket list. It was the thing that other incredibly successful authors did and way out of reach. Someone pinch me! Although not too hard because I bruise like a peach.

Boldwood invited for afternoon tea at Fortnum and Mason to celebrate this milestone and my second piece of news. We’d hoped we might hit the million by the end of February but were a little short, but it was the best timing for celebrating anyway as I was away over the Easter fortnight and Boldwood were at London Book Fair last week so April wasn’t an option.

I’ve never been to Fortnum and Mason before so that was a very special treat and how amazing was afternoon tea? Mmm. I could eat it all again right now! I was joined by Amanda (Founder and CEO), Claire (Head of Marketing) and Nia (Publishing / Sales & Marketing Director but also my editor) for celebrations and a strategy discussion for the years ahead.

I was given my own special celebration cake and also a beautiful commemorative glass plaque which now has pride of place on my desk. Because I hadn’t quite hit the million, it has been sitting in boxes in my office for over a month so it has been wonderful to get it out and displayed. Isn’t it lovely?

Boldwood run something called the 100k Club. When a book sells 100k copies, the author is sent a card welcoming them to the club and a celebratory gift, which is so nice. I’ve been celebrating several of my Boldwood colleagues joining the club, some with two or even three books, and I thought I was going to join them a couple of years back when sales of Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow were doing brilliantly, but then it really slowed down. I can’t believe I’ve hit a million sales first – that was never on the radar.

I’m really hoping the hedgehogs will make it into the 100k Club by the end of the year as it’s still my bestselling book. And how close is it at 95,000!!!!

Here’s my top three bestsellers, which is actually four books because two are tied. It’s a battle between Whitsborough Bay and Hedgehog Hollow!

If you’d like to listen to my video announcement earlier today, you can catch it on Book and Tonic’s Facebook page here.


One million sales wasn’t the only thing we were celebrating during our afternoon tea. We were also celebrating the signing of my third contract with Boldwood Books – for SIXTEEN NEW BOOKS!


Yes, that’s pretty much the reaction I had when I was offered it!

I joined Boldwood in March 2019 with a nine-book publishing deal made up of five backlist titles and four new books but this had a couple of addendums to it to cover my entire backlist, making it a twelve-book deal. The backlist titles were released fairly quickly so it wasn’t long before I approached the end of that first contract and signed a second twelve-book deal in October 2020.

I’m still working through that deal. The Start of Something Wonderful – the first book in the Escape to the Lakes series – will be book 20, and my Christmas release (which I’m writing now) will be book 21 so I have another three books outstanding after that, taking me to my summer 2024 release. It’s therefore quite early for us to have had discussions about another contract but it was triggered by my Escape to the Lakes series. We anticipate this being a long series – maybe 10, 12, 15 books (assuming there’s reader love for it) – but I could only fit in two of them into my current contract and it felt a little strange to be writing a series with longevity without a contract to cover it. So we had a discussion about it earlier this year.

My husband was convinced I’d be offered another twelve-book deal but I didn’t think I would, having already had two of those. I was thinking maybe six or eight although, secretly, I’d have been a little disappointed. When my amazing editor Nia offered sixteen, I nearly fell off the chair! I got really emotional on the phone that Boldwood believed in me so much to offer such a big contract. Sixteen might sound scary to some but, as I write four books a year, it’s only a four-year contract which doesn’t sound quite so daunting as it would if I wrote one or two books a year.

You can catch my video announcement about this on Book and Tonic’s Facebook page here.

What can you expect from the rest of this contract? Things can change, but this is the current plan:

  • The Start of Something Wonderful – Escape to the Lakes book 1 – July 2023
  • A return to Castle Street at Christmas time – September 2023
  • Escape to the Lakes book 2 – January 2024
  • Bumblebee Barn sequel 2 – April 2024
  • Long awaited (and overdue!) sequel to Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café

What can you expect from the next contract?

  • Plenty more from the Escape to the Lakes series
  • Another Bumblebee Barn sequel
  • More books set on Castle Street
  • More books in Whitsborough Bay
  • The start of a cosy crime series (anticipated for spring 2025 (and not 2015 as I say in the video!)) but, if it’s a disaster, this might not happen! I’m hoping all will come together, though

I’ve got a couple of part-started books which I’m excited to return to and really look forward to bringing you more from the Yorkshire Coast, the Yorkshire Wolds and the Lake District.


And, finally, there’s a limited time offer on Healing Hearts at Bumblebee Barn. If you’re a Prime reader (globally), you can read it for FREE and, like all my books, it’s in Kindle Unlimited, but for eBook users, it’s 99p right now and equivalent in some other territories so do check your eBook provider if you’re overseas as you might be able to bag yourself a bargain.

I love this book and readers seem to love the setting and characters, which is why we have sequels planned when this was meant to be a standalone!

While I’m on the subject of deals, just a heads up if you’re an Audible UK subscriber, you can pick up four of my audiobooks for £2.99 each right now, but do act fast as the deal ends just before midnight tonight (Saturday 22nd April). They ones on offer are:

  • A Wedding at Hedgehog Hollow
  • Chasing Dreams at Hedgehog Hollow
  • Snowflakes Over The Starfish Café
  • Coming Home to Seashell Cottage

Happy listening!

Wow! Big blog post! To finish, I want to say a HUGE THANK YOU to everyone who has supported my writing. None of the news I’m sharing today would be possible without you, the readers, who have bought/borrowed/downloaded/streamed my books in whatever format. I’m so appreciative to you for helping keep me as a full-time author, able to share all the stories and characters with you who are buzzing round my mind.

And, of course, thank you to the amazing team at Boldwood Books for saying ‘yes’ to that submission and completely changing my life.

Big squishy extremely grateful hugs
Jessica xx

The one where Summer Nights at The Starfish Café is published and I have loads more to tell you

Today is the day when the third and final part of The Starfish Café series – Summer Nights at The Starfish Café – goes out into the world. It’s available on all formats – eBook on all platforms, paperback, hardback, large print, physical audio, audio download and audio streaming.

Book 2 – Spring Tides at The Starfish Café – celebrated its first book birthday yesterday so it’s almost exactly a year since readers visited this gorgeous café on a clifftop outside Whitsborough Bay above a seal haven, spending time with Hollie, Jake, Pickle the dog and the lovely café regulars. I certainly enjoyed writing about them again and hope readers love being back with them.

Running alongside Hollie and Jake’s story is that of Kerry, a single mum of four primary school aged children, who works in the café. She did appear in book 2 but her part was deliberately brief, ready for her big storyline in book 3. Kerry’s is a story of a difficult summer when a letter arrives from someone she never expected to see again, throwing her plans for the summer into disarray. Hollie and Jake’s story is an emotional one so do have those tissues ready as their summer is going to be bumpy.

It’s always interesting seeing comments from early reviewers who haven’t read the first two books and, while some will say that they managed to follow the story, several comment that they didn’t feel they knew the characters that well or that they feel they’d have enjoyed it more if they’d read the previous books. We know! This is why we did specifically put guidance with the blurb for early reviewers not to read the book if they hadn’t read the others but I guess not everyone reads this important information which is put there to help them with their reading decisions.

Anyway, I personally do not recommend this book be read as a standalone. Why would anyone want to dive in at book three of three? It’s a much richer reading experience to have been there at the start with book 1- Snowflakes Over The Starfish Café – when Hollie and Jake (and Pickle) first meet and to go with them on their journey than to join them at the conclusion. If you haven’t already read this first book and are put off thinking that it’s April and you don’t fancy reading a Christmas book, please don’t be. Although Christmas features in the story, it is not a Christmas book which is why the word ‘Christmas’ deliberately doesn’t appear in the title. It’s a book set in winter i.e. a seasonal book and can be enjoyed at any time of the year.

Spring Tides is on a 99p eBook offer so do take advantage of that. You can get all three for less than £7 which is sooooo cheap for hours and hours and hours of entertainment.

Summer Nights at The Starfish Café is embarking on a blog tour as usual and I’m excited about reading all the reviews across a whopping 16 days with 48 stops. An enormous thank you to Rachel Gilbey from Rachel’s Random Resources for setting it up and to all the amazing bloggers/reviewers who give their time so generously in sharing their thoughts.

If you go over onto Book and Tonic’s Facebook page, there’s lots of special content today. You can enter a competition for a signed paperback copy here. You can also listen to an exclusive audio extract here, see a very short video of me introducing the book here and see my short bloopers reel here.

I also have some amazing news. My fantastic publisher, Boldwood Books, have made the RNLI their charity of the year and will be pledging a donation to help them with their amazing work in saving lives at sea. We can only use specific wording for this which you’ll find in the blurb on Amazon (and at the end of this post) but if I was to say that anyone who has bought or does buy this book in the next calendar year will help influence the size of that donation, you can probably read between the lines as to how this works! So thank you xxx

I’m not in Whitsborough Bay for publication day. I’m actually spending it in the Lake District where my next book – book 20 – is set. We exclusively revealed the name of the first book and the series name to my newsletter subscribers this morning and I’m excited to share that information here today. The first book is called The Start of Something Wonderful and the series is called ‘Escape to the Lakes’.

Format-wise, it’s going to be a little different to my Hedgehog Hollow series and The Starfish Café series, both of which had one consistent protagonist telling her story across all the books, alongside a guest narrator. The Escape to the Lakes series will have a different protagonist each time. There were be lots of connections, for example the best friend of the main character in book 1 will step forward in book 2 to tell her story, but not having a consistent protagonist means it will be easier for readers to dip in as the series develops rather and they will not lose out on any of the story like they would if they dipped in later in the Hedgehog Hollow and The Starfish Café series.

There’s no blurb or cover yet but it’s up for pre-order on Kindle here. It’ll go up on the other platforms nearer the release date of 17th July.

I’m not going to say exactly where I’ve spent today just yet as it’s very relevant to The Start of Something Wonderful so I’ll bring you that detail in later blog posts.

For now, a thank you to everyone for the well wishes and for pre-ordering/buying/downloading/borrowing Summer Nights at The Starfish Café and for helping to make publication day another really special one. Thank you also to the amazing bloggers on the tour.

Big starfish-shaped hugs
Jessica xx

Welcome back to The Starfish Café for a glorious summer, but with a few dark clouds on the horizon…

A new beginning…

As her summer wedding to Jake approaches, Hollie is excited for their new beginning as a family. But when some unexpected news threatens the future she and Jake had hoped for, Hollie will need to find the strength to overcome heartache once more.

A fragile heart….

Single mum, Kerry, loves her job at The Starfish Café, but behind the brave smiles and laughter with customers there is a sadness deep within. So when someone from her past re-appears in her life, Kerry can either hide away or face her demons and try to finally move on from her heartbreak.

A summer to remember…

For Hollie and Kerry it promises to be an emotional rollercoaster of a summer, but the community at The Starfish Café will always be there to help them through – after all, with courage nothing is impossible…

Join top 10 bestseller Jessica Redland for a wonderful summer at the seaside, full of love, friendship and community spirit.

Boldwood Books are proud to support the RNLI. Boldwood Books have pledged a donation to the RNLI in 2023 as part of our support for the work they do saving lives at sea.

Happy 10 Year Anniversary to The Write Romantics

One of the most important pieces of advice I’d give to any aspiring writer is to find your tribe – other aspiring writers with whom you can go on this journey. It may be a cliché to talk about journeys but that’s exactly what becoming a writer is. It’s exciting, frustrating, confusing, liberating, scary, cathartic, rewarding, upsetting and full of highs and lows. Throughout all that, it’s such a gift to be part of a group who understand and are there for you to offer congratulations or commiserations as appropriate.

I found my tribe – a group of women called The Write Romantics. Today – 1st April 2023 – marks our ten-year anniversary as a group of ten so I wanted to share a celebratory post looking at our origins and how far we’ve all come in a decade.

In the beginning…

The Write Romantics were originally formed in late 2012 but there were just two of us at the time – Jo Bartlett and me. I’d joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) through their New Writer’s Scheme (NWS) and it had taken me the best part of a year lurking on a group email system called Romna, in awe of so many accomplished authors, before I stepped forward to introduce myself. I was warmly welcomed to the group but I had a private message from Jo. She was also on the NWS and keen to connect as it sounded like we might have a lot in common, including the type of books we wanted to write.

Jo lived in Kent and I lived in North Yorkshire so meeting up wasn’t an option but we exchanged stacks of emails and started blogging together under the name The Write Romantics. Neither of us had ever blogged before so we stumbled our way through it together, but soon realised that we were going to quickly run out of things to say. We weren’t published writers. We weren’t even ready to start the submissions rounds. So we made a decision to expand and Jo put a call-out on Romna. We thought we might get a couple of takers and were stunned to receive eight positive responses, officially expanding from two to ten on 1st April 2013.

We were spread all over the UK from North Yorkshire to Cumbria to Wales to Kent and even had a member in Australia at the time – Helen Rolfe – although she moved across to the UK several years ago making meeting up with her a possibility. With a twenty-six year age gap from oldest to youngest, we also came from a mix of backgrounds. Some wrote alongside full or part-time jobs, one wrote full-time and a couple wrote around retirement. What we all had in common was being members of the NWS hoping one day to have a novel published. At the point we formed, one of the group – Helen Phifer – had secured her first publishing deal, but her first novel wouldn’t be out until October that year so we had no publishing experience yet.

We had a small line-up change after roughly a year together when one of the original members stepped away from writing for a while and decided to dip out. NWS member Sharon Booth had been incredibly supportive of the group so we invited her to join us and that line-up has remained the same ever since. The photo above is presented in alphabetical order, as per the list below giving our genre:

Our starting point was to blog together – ten of us having a lot more to talk about than just two of us – and to promote each other as and when we were published. What could be better than having nine other authors/aspiring authors championing your work? What I don’t think any of us fully appreciated at the time was that we’d actually found something even better – an invaluable support network.

We still have a joint Facebook page which you can find here but we closed down our blog several years ago when many of the group were struggling to find time to contribute to the WR’s blog alongside writing and their own individual marketing activities.

From virtual friendship to real friendship…

Being so spread around the country has made it difficult to meet up regularly face to face, but we’ve managed it several times. Everyone has met everyone, although the whole group has never been together at the same time. The most we’ve managed in the same place at the same time is six of us. We’ve met at conferences and other events run by the RNA and have organised get-togethers over the years in Derby, Stratford-Upon-Avon and most recently in York. Two members or small groups have met up when working or holidaying near others, which has been lovely.

I’m very fortunate because there are three of us in Yorkshire. Sharon, Alys and I all attend the same RNA Chapter Meeting in East Yorkshire which meets monthly on an evening. Sharon and I meet up for lunch first and an afternoon full of chat and we also meet the fortnight in between where we can.

We’ve come so far…

From one publishing deal and no books published, we’ve come a heck of a long way in ten years:

  • 17 publishing deals accepted (with different publishers)
  • 8 more publishing deals offered but not accepted
  • 1 agent secured
  • 162 novels published
  • 74 audiobooks published
  • 6 novellas, 9 short stories and a charity anthology called Winter Tales (you can find it here) to which we all contributed at least one short story
  • 22 large print books contracted under separate publishing deals
  • Umpteen foreign rights translations including Italian, Swedish, Serbian and Japanese Manga
  • 2 x Masters in Creative Writing
  • 10 lasting friendships made
  • Oodles of celebrations, a gazillion virtual hugs (and lots of in-person ones too!)

Not bad eh?

We’re a mix of indie, hybrid and traditionally published authors but every single one of us has had at least one book out as an independent author. If anyone ever tells you indie is a lesser route, don’t listen to them!

And if anyone tells you you’re too old to start writing, don’t listen to them either. Deirdre is 75 (she said it was okay for me to say that!) and has recently secured a publishing deal with Storm Publishing. Never, ever too late!

I asked the group four questions about their writing experiences so far and their hopes for the future. Here are some of the responses..

The best bits…

Jo Bartlett: “I’ve had so many wonderful messages from readers and recently I had one from a lovely lady to say that reading my books helped her to cope after losing her daughter. I’m just sitting here, making things up, but to know those stories can make a difference to people, even for a little while, is something I never even dreamt was possible.”

Sharon Booth: “I came so close to giving up writing all together when, after releasing my first two books, I wasn’t making anywhere near enough to cover the cost of editing, never mind making a profit. I didn’t feel I could justify taking money from our household budget to indulge a stupid dream. My husband wouldn’t let me give up, and insisted it would all come right eventually. The very next month, after I’d released my third book, my royalties leapt to a completely new level, and it all started to take off from there. I’m not talking mega bucks, but it was almost as much as my monthly salary from the day job, and meant my husband’s faith in me had been justified. I’ll never forget that sense of relief, mingled with joy and disbelief!”

Jackie Ladbury: “An Arvon residential course with writers, Mike Gayle and Chrissie Manby. We all had such a lot of fun and learned loads, even if it wasn’t all writing related. We drank, and ate, and chatted the whole week away. Mike and Chrissie were terrific tutors and I’ll freely admit that I fell just a little bit in love with Mike (and his books, of course)”

Deirdre Palmer: “Coming 4th in two separate years in the Mail on Sunday novel competition and attending the prizewinners’ lunches with Fay Weldon, Deborah Moggach and other top authors. More recently: Being signed by Storm”

Helen Phifer: “Attending a Black and White Ball at the Waldorf Astoria in New York after my debut book The Ghost House was published that was hosted by Harlequin Books who originally published it but were bought out by Harper Collins. The most wonderful experience of my life and the memories will stay with me forever.”

Jessica Redland: “I have to cheat and say two although, without the first, the second wouldn’t have happened. My first was securing a publishing deal with Boldwood Books. They have been absolutely phenomenal and completely changed my life. The second is receiving messages from readers for whom a storyline has resonated and helped them or for whom the books have simply offered valuable escapism at a difficult time. This is so touching and it’s why I keep writing. I’d never have achieved this without Boldwood.”

Helen Rolfe: “Seeing one of my books in a shop for the first time. It was The Little Café at the End of the Pier and the wonderful Clare Hey who worked for Orion at the time had got the book into Sainsbury’s and Waterstones. I went into London and found my book on a table in Waterstones Piccadilly and I cried!”

Rachael Thomas: “Signing books in New York.”

Alys West: “Publication day for Storm Witch. I’d worked so hard on that book for so long and it was wonderful to see it finally launched into the world.”

The worst bits…

Jo Bartlett: “I’ve had a few broken promises and disappointments, but they’ve each led to the next thing, which has always been better than the last. Thinking back, most instances of disappointment seem to stem with me feeling like I should be achieving more than I am, which in turn often stems from me comparing myself to other writers. So my biggest disappointment is probably in myself!”

Sharon Booth: “Realising that the pandemic boom in sales wasn’t going to last!”

Jackie Ladbury: “I haven’t written much these last couple of years due to sad circumstances in my life, but I am raring to go again and looking forward to a productive future of writing. It’s a horrible feeling not being able to write, and for me, ‘writers block’ was not so much being unable to write on cue, (put your bum on the seat and write) as not being able to write down what was happening in my head, because the emotional wiring wasn’t working. It was the worst thing ever, believing that I had lost the ability to form a coherent sentence. Sad, but true that my writing defines me and if I’m not  a writer, what am I? Well I’m happy to say that I am a writer, I am, I am I am!”

Deirdre Palmer: “Contracted to a publisher with no budget for promotion.”

Helen Phifer: “Being unable to secure an agent despite trying many over the years before I joined Bookouture.”

Jessica Redland: “The first five years were particularly tough for me. My first publisher ceased trading and, with my rights back, I self-published and it didn’t go well for me. Hardly anyone discovered by books and I had to seriously challenge myself about whether it was worth keeping going.”

Helen Rolfe: “The lack of transparency in the publishing world can be really disappointing and de-motivating. This is where other writers and their experiences are so important. Authors are great at sharing information and advice! And bad reviews that get personal or reviews that give the plot away!”

Rachael Thomas: “No longer being contracted to Mills & Boon, but that didn’t mean I was giving up on my dream job of being a writer.”

Alys West: “The initial sales of Beltane weren’t great which I found very disappointing. I wish I’d had a crystal ball to know that I had to be patient as in a few years time it would be selling far better than I’d ever hoped.”

Our writing-related hopes for the future…

Jo Bartlett: “Having given up teaching to write full time, my single biggest hope is to keep writing books that people want to read. I’d love to connect more with readers outside the UK and I really want to write a children’s book for my grandchildren, so I’m currently doing some research on working with illustrators to get that project off the ground.”

Sharon Booth: “Now that I’ve signed with Storm Publishing I’m really hoping that my books will gain more visibility. It’s hard, as an indie author, to get noticed. Fingers crossed more readers will find my stories and enjoy them.”

Jackie Ladbury: “I enjoy writing romance/rom com and am also drawn to historical writing, where I try not to go down the rabbit hole that is research, for too many hours a day. I am currently writing a series of airline romances but can’t resist tinkering with my ongoing Victorian novel set in the time of Jack The Ripper  – it just calls to me!”

Deirdre Palmer: “To continue with Storm as long as I have ideas!”

Helen Phifer: “Seeing one of my books in The Sunday Times Bestseller list. It’s been a dream of mine for many years and I’m quietly working away on making it happen. It’s what keeps me striving to keep writing on the days it all seems too hard.”

Jessica Redland: “To keep writing books which resonate with readers and provide escapism, but a particular goal for me this year is a UK Kindle Top 10. I’ve had it in Canada and Australia but the UK has remained elusive so far. Here’s hoping!”

Helen Rolfe: “I want to keep getting books to my readers, I want to keep seeing writing friends, keep learning, keep sharing advice and above all keep writing what I love. “

Rachael Thomas: “To release more books.”

Alys West: “To keep writing, to tell the stories that excite me and to keep meeting lovely people through writing.”

Best bit of writing-related advice…

Jo Bartlett: “Just write the book already! Don’t overthink it and block yourself before you even start, or by editing the first chapter eight thousand times and never getting any further. And the advice I keep giving myself is not to let comparison be the thief of joy.”

Sharon Booth: “Find a writing tribe. Writing is so hard at the best of times, and it’s a very solitary profession. I can’t imagine that I’d have got as far as I have without the support and friendship of the Write Romantics, and other writing friends. By and large, the writing community is an extremely friendly one, so don’t be afraid to reach out for advice, or just to chat. If you write romance join the RNA and go to your local chapter meetings or join an online chapter. Find writing groups on Facebook. Follow authors on social media and if you find one who seems friendly and approachable reach out to them. That’s what I did, and I got a lovely reply which started a great friendship (thank you, Lizzie Lamb). Just don’t be alone.”

Deirdre Palmer: “Find your own voice, don’t emulate others.”

Helen Phifer: “I can’t remember where this came from but before I was published someone said that a published writer is only an unpublished writer who kept going. It might have been Stephen King actually, but it’s true you just have to keep on submitting until your novel lands on the desk of the right editor who will love it as much as you.”

Jessica Redland: “If you have stories that are burning inside you to be told, then write them. You may feel like you don’t have the time. Most authors didn’t have the time, but they made it happen. You’d be amazed at how much time you can find if you look for it!”

Helen Rolfe: “Best writing advice I heard was at the Romance Writers of Australia conference back in 2014. Cherry Adair was speaking and she was talking about ‘bums on seats’ or words to that effect. I still remind myself of this – in fact only yesterday I was procrastinating and said out loud to myself “for goodness sake Helen get your butt in the chair”! The only way to get the book done is to sit down and write – and it’s advice I’d give others starting out too. It doesn’t have to be for hours and hours, it doesn’t have to be at a desk in an office, but get those words down whenever you can. The words will soon add up!

Other advice in the same realm is on the mug I picked up at that same conference with quotes such as ‘you can’t edit a blank page’. I use that mug often – it helps!”

Rachael Thomas: “Believe in yourself and your dreams.”

Alys West: “There’s no one right way to write a novel. Everyone has a different process. You need to find the way that suits you. There’s masses of writing advice out there. Listen to the bits which are helpful and discard what doesn’t work for you. And if that doesn’t work then come on one of my courses!”

So on April Fool’s Day, we were anything but fools when we came together. Ten years of support, encouragement and friendship have helped us all achieve so many writing goals. I’m not sure if I’d still be writing if it hadn’t been for this inspiring, amazing, wonderful group of women keeping me going.

Early on in our formation, Helen Phifer shared her favourite saying: “She believed she could, so she did”. Most of us hadn’t heard of it at the time but now this phrase is everywhere. It’s true, though. We were ten unpublished authors who had a dream. We believed we could achieve it and we did.

Congratulations to us all! Looking forward to seeing where the next ten years takes us. Number ones? Movie and film deals? Why not? It happens to someone – why not to us?

Big hugs
Jessica xx

The one where I celebrate a book birthday for Seashell Cottage and All You Need is Love

This month, I’m celebrating two book birthdays.

Today – 12th March – is three years since the final book in the Welcome to Whitsborough Bay series came out, freshly edited and re-released by Boldwood Books. As all the books in this series were released in quick succession over a two-month period, it’s really a celebration for all of them.

This rapid release was a game-changer for me as it helped build a readership with a thirst for the next part which was quickly satisfied. Making Wishes at Bay View was released on 14th January 2020 with both New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms and Finding Hope at Lighthouse Cove out on 20th February, concluding with Coming Home to Seashell Cottage on 12th March.

Less than two weeks later, the UK went into the first Covid lockdown. I don’t know about you, but it still feels like some strange dream looking back at that time. I find myself thinking, “Did that really happen?” Such peculiar times.

I’m convinced that going into lockdown massively helped the sale of this series because readers were seeking escapism and non-readers were turning to books for the same reason. New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms went into Prime reading in the May and shot up the Kindle chart, peaking at #14 and staying in the Top 100 for roughly four months. To this day, this remains my highest position in the UK chart across all my books. Still hoping one day for a UK Top 10. Pretty please!

Three years on, the four books continue to sell steadily. All of them have exceeded 50k of sales with the bestseller, as you’d probably expect, being the first in the series although there are only 5,000 sales separating book 1 and book 4 which makes me so happy as it means that readers have typically gone on to read all four books rather than reading one and not going any further.

I have to pinch myself that the books I’ve written have managed to hit sales levels like this, especially after such a tricky start. I was originally with a publisher who struggled to make an impact and ceased trading after book 4 was released. The sales figures I had with them were:

  • Book 1 – 379 in 18 months (was a novella at the time but is now a full-length novel)
  • Book 2 – 1,316 in 18 months
  • Book 3 – 699 in 6 months
  • Book 4 – 72 in 3 months

Bit different, eh? I then released them as an indie author and sold very few so I still do a double take and count my blessings big time every time I get my sales figures. I’m eternally grateful to my amazing publisher, Boldwood Books, for completely turning things around for me.

The reviews/ratings never cease to amaze me and I am so thankful for readers who take the time to share the book love, whether that’s in review format or just a rating. It makes a massive difference to authors in making a book more visible, and the written reviews can be such a boost of encouragement when self-doubt sets in … which it frequently does for all authors I know!

Across Amazon and Audible, reviews/ratings have passed 21,000 (16.5k on Amazon and approaching 5k on Audible).

New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms will always be a very special book to me because it’s the first book I wrote. It was inspired by something that happened in my personal life which I thought would make a great premise for a story and got me writing. The main character, Sarah, needed two friends and as soon as they started to develop, I realised they had stories of their own to tell and a trilogy was born. Then my original publisher asked me to write a short story to give away for free before we released the first book. I’m not good at writing ‘short’ so a prequel novella came out. When I was an indie author, I felt there was more story to tell and wrote a sequel. The two were then combined to make one full-length novel.

Although Seaside Blooms is really special to me, my favourite book in the series is Coming Home to Seashell Cottage. It’s full of twists and turns and is also more emotional than the others in the series. While writing that book, I felt as though I’d truly found my voice and the type of author I wanted to be. I’m very proud of that book.

And, of course, the setting of Whitsborough Bay opened a flood of ideas and my twelfth book set in this fictional coastal town is out next month with plenty more still to come.

The first book after the Welcome to Whitsborough Bay series celebrated a birthday yesterday too but I actually forgot about it because it was also my husband’s and dog’s birthdays so it had slipped my mind that there was also a book birthday. And, as I’ve mentioned the dog, here she is yesterday with one of her birthday gifts.

All You Need is Love was my first brand new indie release and, after a fresh edit through Boldwood, came out on 11th March 2021 so happy 2nd birthday to that story.

Although these books (using different titles) are officially older than this, I made a decision to use the Boldwood re-release dates for book birthday celebrations rather than the original release dates because those are the ones that had the impact. All the books floundered before Boldwood came along.

This is also a really special book to me and remains one of my favourites of all the books I’ve written. It was the first time I wrote a dual perspective story and I really loved the challenge of that. I’ve written another eight dual perspective stories since then and even one with three points of view – The Secret to Happiness.

If you’ve read any of these books, I hope you’ve enjoyed them. Do you have a personal favourite?

Thank you and enormous grateful hugs to Boldwood and all the amazing readers and listeners who have supported these books.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

The one where a decision 4 years ago changed my life

Today is a special day because it’s the four-year anniversary of the first day of business for Boldwood Books, marked by them opening up for submissions.

Back in early 2019, my dream of being able to write full-time wasn’t looking good. My original publisher had ceased trading eighteen months after the release of my first book through them. Four books had sold less than 2,500 during that time and, with my rights back, I’d been even less successful as an indie author. Each new book released failed to have the impact I’d hoped and I wondered if it was time to call it a day. I’d written a new story – at the time called Wish I Could Tell You Goodbye – and I thought it might be my best yet … but the small number of publishers I’d already submitted it to didn’t agree and had passed on it.

I remember seeing the adverts for Boldwood Books in January and wondering whether I should submit. The idea of joining a brand new publisher made me a little nervous as doing that hadn’t served me well before but, as soon as I clicked onto Boldwood’s website, I could see a massive difference. This was a forward-thinking company with impressive credentials who were looking to do things differently and they immediately felt like home.

So I stayed up until midnight to be the first with a submission in their inbox on 1st February 2019 … then panicked later that morning when I saw a message on Twitter that they were now officially open for business and accepting submissions. Might mine have been too early and disappeared into the tech underworld? So I submitted again just to be sure.

Best decision I ever made.

I was so thrilled to be taken on as one of Boldwood’s first twenty authors, offered a nine-book deal for five of my backlist and four new titles (later extended to twelve books to add in the rest of my backlist). Wish I Could Tell You Goodbye was renamed as The Secret to Happiness and released in September 2019.

On the four-year anniversary of submitting this manuscript, I’m thrilled to announce that it has sold 75,000 copies across all formats. Woo hoo!

This was my second bestselling title behind Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow for quite a long time but Snowflakes Over The Starfish Café has now passed it and pushed it into third place.

It remains one of my favourite stories and is the only one told with three perspectives and the only one written in third person.

Four years on from first submitting to Boldwood, I’m more than halfway through my second twelve-book contract and couldn’t imagine ever wanting to leave the fabulous Boldwood family.

Happy anniversary, Boldwood Books. Without you, I’m not sure I’d still be writing. Thanks to you, that dream of writing full-time has happened… with interest.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

The one where it’s publication day for Healing Hearts at Bumblebee Barn

Happy publication day to me, happy publication day to me… Yay! I’m so thrilled that my first of four releases in 2023 is OUT NOW.

Healing Hearts at Bumblebee Barn is a brand new standalone story but, for fans of Hedgehog Hollow – and particularly those who were so disappointed about the series ending with book six last year – there’s are some special treats in store. The main character in this story is young farmer Barney Kinsella who is the brother of Fizz – one of the Hedgehog Hollow team. We therefore get to see Fizz again and a couple of the other characters from the rescue centre. It’s set a year later so readers get some insights into how things at Hedgehog Hollow have moved along since Christmas Miracles at Hedgehog Hollow. However, please do NOT be put off if you haven’t read the Hedgehog Hollow series because you don’t need to have for this book to make sense.

I say it’s a standalone book but there have been so many lovely comments in early reviews about how much readers would love it to be the start of a series. Yesterday, I pitched an idea to my editor for a sequel and she loved it. My releases for 2023 are already planned so it wouldn’t be out until 2024 if I do write one, but it’s looking good for a sequel at the moment. I’m not going to give any spoilers for what it would be about other than to reassure those who prefer standalone books that Healing Hearts at Bumblebee Barn is a complete story with no cliffhangers and any sequel will also be a complete story which could be read as a standalone too.

In my acknowledgements at the back of Healing Hearts at Bumblebee Barn, I talk about this being a difficult book to write. There were a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, I’ve been living with the concept of the story – a farmer entering a reality TV show to find love – for a couple of years, ever since Fizz first mentioned her brother in the Hedgehog Hollow books. I don’t like ‘brewing’ my stories for this long because my writing style is pantser, meaning I ‘fly by the seat of my pants’, letting the story unfold as it goes. Having a story develop in my head for so long goes against this and, when I started writing, the characters didn’t want to do what I’d planned for them so my first draft was a bit of a mess!

Secondly – and actually a much bigger issue – was the immense pressure I felt after the success of the Hedgehog Hollow series. I absolutely love this series and I’m so touched by the way readers have taken it to their hearts. It was incredibly flattering that readers didn’t want the series to end. Some readers expressed disappointment but also excitement for what was to come next, which was a huge relief, but others seemed genuinely annoyed with me and I feared losing them as readers. It would probably have been ‘safer’ to make my next book a Whitsborough Bay one as, even though there isn’t the same buzz about the Whitsborough Bay books as there is about the Hedgehog Hollow ones, they have been really popular too. In fact, although my best-seller so far is Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow, the next two best are Whitsborough Bay books – Snowflakes Over The Starfish Café followed by The Secret to Happiness. Barney’s story burned to be told, though, so I took that risk and I think it might have paid off. I’ve even had comments from early readers saying they didn’t think I could surpass Hedgehog Hollow… until they read Healing Hearts at Bumblebee Barn.

It’s actually one of my favourite stories out of the nineteen books I’ve written so far. (This is book eighteen but I’ve already finished the nineteenth one). I love the setting and the characters so much and writing it just gave me the warm and fuzzies.

When I first announced that it was included a reality TV show, some readers expressed surprise as that was a very different subject matter for me, but I’d like to think that all my books have something different about them. I’d say that my “thing” is my setting and this book has an amazing setting in Bumblebee Barn, but I need to mix it up as to how a story comes together and reality TV gave me another different scenario to explore. I know there’ll be readers out there who aren’t fans of reality TV, but please don’t let it put you off because that’s merely the scenario which brings the story together. I haven’t changed genre and written a romcom. This is still the type of book readers would expect from me – emotional but uplifting with a strong setting and relatable characters.

Healing Hearts at Bumblebee Barn embarks on a whopping blog tour this morning. With 16 days at 3 stops a day, this 48-review strong blog tour must be my biggest yet. A huge thank you to Rachel Gilbey from Rachel’s Random Resources for organising it on behalf of Boldwood Books and to all the wonderful bloggers/reviewers who have signed up. Thank you also to those who aren’t on the tour but will share their reviews independently. I’m excited to hear your thoughts and thank you so much for taking the time to read and review Healing Hearts at Bumblebee Barn.

It’s out in ALL formats today – large print, hardback, paperback, audio, and all eBook formats. It was exciting to see it at #3 in the Apple Fiction & Literature chart first thing this morning (#17 in the overall paid chart).

The impact of pre-orders and on-the-day purchases on the Amazon and Audible charts won’t kick in until later today but Kindle Australia, being way ahead of us time-wise, is showing #143 in the overall chart already which is amazing. I don’t know if that will be the peak or if there’s one more rise in there. Go Australia! Thank you for your support!

Right, that’s enough from me for now. Thank you to everyone who has pre-ordered Healing Hearts at Bumblebee Barn in any format and to those who get their copy today. I hope you love your visit to the farm.

If you haven’t already dived in, here’s the blurb to hopefully whet your appetite and you can get it from Kindle UK here:

A brand new standalone novel from the bestselling author of the Hedgehog Hollow and Starfish Cafe series!

Welcome to Bumblebee Barn, home to wonderful animals, stunning views and spectacular sunsets – and resident young farmer, Barney.

While Barney loves his life at Bumblebee Barn – a farm that has been in his family for generations – he’s struggling to find someone to share it with. The early mornings quad biking through muddy fields and the long hours looking after the crops and animals are proving to be a deterrent to finding love.

So when his sister, Fizz – desperate for Barney to find his soulmate – sees an advert for Love on the Farm, a new reality TV show to help farmers find love, he has nothing to lose by applying. After all, he isn’t meeting anyone suitable down the traditional route and surely he won’t be picked anyway…?

Thrown into the chaos of reality TV, Barney could never have expected that his whole life would be turned upside down, with buried secrets to be uncovered and his heart on the line. With his family and friends rooting for him, could the magic of Bumblebee Barn heal his broken heart and help him find love on the farm?

Join top 10 bestseller Jessica Redland for a brand new standalone novel of love, family and second chances.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

The one where I look back on 2022

It’s Christmas Eve! We’ve been up to Whitby for a wander around this morning. I predicted quiet, hubby predicted packed and I was right although it was getting busier as we left at about 1pm. Perhaps everyone had been braving the food shopping this morning and had ventured out for a wander this afternoon. Look at that gorgeous blue sky! I’d wrapped up warmly in a blanket scarf and my new coat, affectionately nicknamed ‘the duvet’ because it is quilted and just like wearing a duvet. It’s just from Sainsbury’s but it’s probably the warmest, most gorgeous coat I’ve ever owned. Anyway, it was welcome in the shadows but I was a tad on the warm side in the sun.

How adorable is that whale in the bottom photo? It’s made out of recycled plastic bottles and is for depositing your plastic drinks bottles. He looks very happy.

This is my last post of the year and I’m going to have a little look back over some of the extra special moments across 2022. If you’re a subscriber to my newsletter, you’ll have had some insight into this already with a special Merry Christmas newsletter this morning. If you’re not a subscriber, you can sign up here.

I’m going to do my reflection mainly in photo format.


In 2022, I’ve had four brand new releases out and completed the six-book Hedgehog Hollow series…


Three of my books have gone into The Works, bringing the total up to eight books going into branches of The Works and online. What an honour! A huge thank you to the staff in all branches of The Works who are always exceptionally friendly and in particular the manager Jamie and the staff at the Scarborough branch who love me going in to sign copies.

It’s always a thrill to see my books when out and about. This year, I’ve spotted them in other branches of The Works, Irton Garden Centre near Scarborough, the Helmsley Bookshop, Beverley Bookshop, Barter Books in Hawes, Good Reads Discount Bookshop in Whitby, Slightly Foxed in Berwick-Upon-Tweed and the Scarborough and York branches of Waterstones (not all shown here).


I was thrilled have Snowflakes Over The Starfish Café shortlisted as a finalist in the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s Romantic Novel of the Year Christmas/Festive category. I went down to the Awards ceremony in London in March and, although I didn’t win, it was a fabulous event.

In the summer, I celebrated a sales milestone of 750,000 units sold since joining Boldwood Books – a number I never thought I’d have a hope of reaching.

Also in the summer, Boldwood Books celebrated their third birthday and I hit the third anniversary of my debut release – The Secret to Happiness.

There’ve been some amazing milestones with reviews/ratings, all of my books currently having at least 1,500 reviews/ratings on Amazon alone, including the most recent release. Several of my audiobooks have stormed the Top 20 of the Audible chart but my absolute highlight was this month when Christmas Wishes at the Chocolate Shop made it to #4 in the overall Audible chart.

I didn’t think that could be topped but, this week, I discovered that the Hedgehog Hollow series is in Audible’s Top 20 of the best trending series of 2022 and Christmas Miracles at Hedgehog Hollow is in the Romantic Comedy Top 20 too. Wow! I was not expecting that and the company those hedgehogs are keeping is phenomenal. I can’t get over those big names we’re alongside!

If you want to check out the full listing, you can find it here.


Two of my books – Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow and New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow – have been translated into Swedish through Lavender Lit. The third one – Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow – has also been acquired by them and will be out in spring 2023. I’m hoping they’ll take the final three too but they hadn’t been written at the time the deal was made.

It’s lovely seeing foreign translations and I adore the covers from Lavender Lit. I love the way they have kept the colours and themes of the English versions but put their own spin on them.

I also had an offer from Serbia to take two Hedgehog Hollow books which was really exciting, but I had to decline it because the offer was actually for book one and six and, although each book is a complete story, the characters are consistent and there are themes that build across the series. I didn’t feel right agreeing to a deal where book six wouldn’t make sense read after book one. Hopefully 2023 will bring other offers.


I trained on a one-month workshop in March through RNA Learning which I loved and for which I had incredible feedback and was invited back again for 2023.

Boldwood held their first face-to-face party in May which was a lovely event and I attended the RNA’s summer conference which I really enjoyed.

Stockton Libraries invited me to speak at Norton Library and it was wonderful to have such a big audience. I had been looking forward to speaking at the Richmond Walking & Book Festival too – my very first festival – but my slot clashed with our Queen’s funeral so had to be cancelled. Fingers crossed for next year.

I’ve had lots of get togethers with my bestie, talented author Sharon Booth who I’m thrilled to say has secured a publishing deal with Storm Publishing with a new series out through them starting next year, and with author Eliza J Scott.

Sharon and I both met up with Lizzie Lamb when she was on holiday in the area, I met four of the amazing five admins of The Friendly Book Community on Facebook when they came to Whitsborough Bay (aka Scarborough) for a weekend, and Sharon and I had a few days in York with our writing friend Jackie Ladbury. I do love spending time with book people as there’s never a shortage of things to talk about!

I spoke at a meeting of the Scarborough Soroptimists and spent some time with my friends at Wolds Hedgehog rescue – the real Hedgehog Hollow – with an amazing chance to feed a hoglet. I also went on a needlefelting workshop to make a robin in honour of the Hedgehog Hollow series (if you know, you know).


I celebrated turning fifty in May. I don’t feel anywhere near my age, although my creaking knees do!

As a family, we’ve had a few holidays, making up for the pandemic years. We spent Easter in the Lake District which was partly a research trip as I’m, setting a new series in the Lakes next year. We had a week in Hawes in Northumberland in August, deferred from February half term when the hubby and I both came down with Covid. And we had a week in Lanzarote over the October half term break which was our first trip abroad since the start of the pandemic. It was lovely to be away again.

It’s been a busy old year but a lovely one too.

If you’re thinking it all sounds very rosy, there have been some tough moments too. I’ve had Covid twice – although thankfully not too seriously – and the downside of the first time was missing a gig and a holiday. My mum was poorly earlier this year which was a worrying time. I’ve struggled with some deadlines and suffered with conjunctivitis on a couple of occasions, making deadlines even harder. There’ve been other challenges too but I’d rather end the year focusing on all the positives and hope you can too for your 2022 as, even in the darkest years, there’ll always be chinks of light.

Wishing you and yours an amazing Christmas. I hope the final week of the year brings you happiness, hope and positivity. Thank you to all the readers/ listeners/ authors/ bloggers/ friends and family members who have championed my work this year and the amazing Team Boldwood. Your support means the world to me and gives me the motivation to keep doing what I’m doing, especially in those dark moments where I think I lack the talent/am incapable of writing another book.

Big festive hugs to you all
Jessica xx 

The one where the past two months have been crazy busy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There’ve been writing events…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There was a publication day…

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

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

And some special offers on my Hedgehog Hollow series…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big hugs
Jessica xx