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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big hugs
Jessica xx

Everyone deserves a chance at happiness…

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

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

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

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

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

The one where my publisher celebrates their 3rd birthday

Boldwood Books are celebrating their 3rd birthday today and I have no idea where those three years have gone but I can say they have been absolutely amazing.

What have they achieved during their first three years? So very much. Here are some of the stats:

  • Independent publisher of the year
  • 8 million books sold
  • 90+ authors
  • 70 global top 10 bestsellers
  • 300+ titles

And here’s how many books they’ve published from me during this time – sixteen titles plus two foreign translations published so far with book 17 out in September and a second Swedish translation in October:

Do you like my motivational sign? I bought that pre-Boldwood to give me inspiration. It really was a perfect day to start living my dreams the day I submitted to Boldwood in February 2019 when they first opened for submissions because they have completely changed my life.

So if Boldwood opened for submissions in February, why is it today they celebrate their birthday? It’s because today was the day the first Boldwood Books book was released. Nina Manning’s The Daughter in Law was out three years ago today, followed by Honeymoon for One by Portia MacIntosh on 6th August and Villa of Sun and Secrets by Jennifer Bohnet on 8th August. I was sure there’d been four books out in August and mine was the fifth – The Secret to Happiness – out on 3rd September but I can’t work out who the other August release could have been from. My memory didn’t serve me well but I’ve just been through the rest of the list of first twenty authors and they were all after me so maybe it really was three releases in August and I was book four.

We were invited to bake a cake to celebrate the birthday but I’m rubbish in the kitchen. Hubby says it’s a case of can cook won’t cook rather than can’t cook won’t cook. Whichever it is, the kitchen is not my happy place and my strongest relationship is with the toaster so I didn’t attempt a cake. Why try to bake when Mr Kipling already makes exceedingly good cakes? So here’s me with a lemon fancy. Mmm. Great excuse to scoff the rest of the box!

If you follow @BoldwoodBooks over on Twitter, there are some fabulous cakes being shared by other Boldwood authors. And a few cheats like me!

We were also invited to take pics of our pets wearing party hats and I’m really looking forward to seeing those later in the week. There’s absolutely no way my sprocker spaniel Ella would let me put a hat on her. It’s hard enough to get her to stay still for anything more than a blurred photo as it is! But my rather large hedgehog collection was willing to oblige.

First the larger hedgehogs raided Tesco for a chocolate cake…

But the little hedgehogs weren’t going to be outdone by that so they raided my box of lemon fancies and joined in with their own celebration…

And then they all got together for a chorus of happy birthday…

There are competitions and various other activities across social media this week so do keep your eye out for everything happening. You could be a winner!

I’m so very grateful to Boldwood for everything they’ve done for me as an author and so grateful to the readers, listeners, bloggers and reviewers who’ve shared the love for my books and any from my Boldwood buddies as you have helped us be the success we are. Here’s to the next three years…

Big birthday hugs
Jessica xx

The one where it’s 2 years since Hedgehog Hollow first appeared

I’m celebrating an extremely special book birthday today. It’s two years since the first book in the Hedgehog Hollow series – Finding Love at a Hedgehog Hollow – was published (2nd July 2020).

What started as an idea for a standalone story has grown into a six-book series:

  • Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow (2nd July 2020)
  • New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow (7th January 2021)
  • Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow (4th May 2021)
  • A Wedding at Hedgehog Hollow (6th January 2022)
  • Chasing Dreams at Hedgehog Hollow (28th June 2022)
  • Christmas Miracles at Hedgehog Hollow (6th September 2022)

It’s been an amazing two years. I had no idea that there’d be so much love for the hedgehogs and that this series would grow into something that so many readers and listeners have taken to their hearts.

I’ve been christened ‘hedgehog lady’, ‘mother of hedgehogs’ and ‘queen of cliffhangers’ thanks to a little cliffhanger at the end of book 2 and a whopping great one at the end of book 3. I often get sent photos of hedgehog-themed items in shops or in readers’ homes which I love and I’ve been honoured and touched by messages from readers who’ve taken hedgehogs to their local rescue centre when they would never have known they were in danger if they hadn’t read my books.

I’ve befriended the amazing team at my local hedgehog rescue centre – Wolds Hedgehog Rescue Centre – which is the ‘real’ Hedgehog Hollow set in the Yorkshire Wolds. I’ve pumped the team for information, have welcomed Ann and Angela on a Facebook Live and have even fed a hoglet this year which was such a privilege.

The first of books in the series have been stocked by The Works. It’s such a thrill to see them on the shelves and to sign copies in my local branch in Scarborough. I’ve also seen them in garden centres locally.

The first three books have also been translated into Swedish. The first one was out at the end of May this year and book 2 is out in October. I love how the covers are different to the UK ones but have kept the colour and theme. I can’t wait to see what they come up with for book 3, which I suspect will be out early next year. There were only three books out at the time the foreign rights deal was made so I’m hoping they’ll be well received and they’ll take on the remaining three.

My own collection of hedgehog-related items is huge. I have ornaments, a door stop, soft toys, cushions, stationery, dresses, T-shirts, Christmas decorations and even a chair upholstered by Ann at Wolds Hedgehog Rescue. I’ve definitely run out of room now! Here’s just a small selection….

There’ve been some incredible chart achievements:

  • All five books released so far have made it into the Kindle Top 100 with all but New Arrivals achieving Top 40 positions
  • Chasing Dreams made it to #23 on publication day – my 2nd highest charting of all my books
  • Finding Love has been Top 20 in Kindle Australia
  • Finding Love was #1 in the Apple Free chart in the UK and Ireland and, while that was on promotion, New Arrivals hit the #2 slot in the overall Apple chart and Family Secrets hit #5
  • Chasing Dreams soared up to #26 in the overall Audible UK chart this week
  • The first four books combined, as at the end of April this year, have sold over 200,000 copies across all formats
  • At at the time of writing, the first five books combined have over 15,000 ratings on Amazon, over 14,000 of which are 4 or 5-star rated. They’ve also gathered well over 3,000 ratings on Audible, most of which are positive

It’s most apt that the title of the current release is Chasing Dreams as the Hedgehog Hollow series has made so many of my writing dreams come true. Will Christmas Miracles bring the miracle of a TV series? Hee hee hee! That would be the stuff beyond dreams!

Thank you to everyone who has bought/borrowed/downloaded/streamed any of the Hedgehog Hollow books. I’m so very grateful.

Big hedge-hugs
Jessica xx

The one with all the birthdays

We’re celebrating three birthdays in our house today – 11th March 2022 – and another one tomorrow. Today it’s my husband’s birthday, our dog’s, and I have a book birthday today and tomorrow.

A huge happy birthday to my amazing husband, Mark, who is impossible to buy for so has chosen his own gift today. He is such an amazing supporter of my writing and I’m so exceptionally grateful and lucky to have him.

Happy 6th birthday to our sprocker spaniel, Ella, who may now be 42 in human years but still believes she’s a puppy.

And happy 1st book birthday to All You Need Is Love.

Many of my books have two birthdays – like the Queen! That’s because they were originally released by me as an indie writer or through my original publishing deal but, as they barely made any impact pre-Boldwood, I count their re-release through the amazing Boldwood Books as their official birthday.

All You Need Is Love is one of my personal favourites. I absolutely love Jemma and Sam’s emotional story intertwined with the challenges Jemma’s mum is facing and the backdrop of a specialist teddy bear shop on Whitsborough Bay’s Castle Street. A few lovely achievements during its first year include:

  • 40,000 copies sold across all formats
  • Over 1,600 reviews/ratings on Amazon
  • Over 300 reviews/ratings on Audible
  • Kindle UK Top 100 (highest position #81)
  • Kindle Australia Top 50
  • Audible UK Top 50
  • Several #1 Best Seller category tags

I have another book birthday to celebrate tomorrow so I’m including that here too rather than doing a separate blog post. Coming Home to Seashell Cottage is two tomorrow (12th March).

This is another personal favourite of mine. It’s the fourth (and final) book in the first series I penned – ‘Welcome to Whitsborough Bay’ – and it’s the book where I found my voice and the type of book I really wanted to write. Full of twists and turns and packing an emotional punch, it was a game-changer for me and I’ll always be immensely proud of it. Across two years, it has also had some lovely achievements:

  • 43,000 copies sold across all formats
  • Over 1,800 reviews/ratings on Amazon
  • Nearly 325 reviews/ratings on Audible
  • Kindle UK Top 200 (highest position #165)
  • Kindle Australia Top 100
  • Audible UK Top 50
  • Apple UK Top 25 (and #5 in the Romance category)
  • Several #1 Best Seller category tags

Coming Home to Seashell Cottage is currently on a 2 for 1 Audible Credit Deal which ENDS TOMORROW at 11.59pm (Saturday 12th March) so it’s the final chance to get this on a deal.

I’m so thrilled to see it in the overall Audible Top 50 as I write this! THANK YOU xxx

So a HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my man, my dog and two of the books in my life!

It’s funny looking at the sales figures for the two because All You Need is Love got off to a bit of a slow start and it looked like it was going to be my least-sold book but that has changed and it is only just behind Coming Home to Seashell Cottage in sales figures but in half the time. Which then makes me feel sorry for Coming Home to Seashell Cottage. I wonder if it’s because All You Need is Love can be read as a standalone book so new readers are more likely to pick that up than a four-book series. Hmm.

I can tie yourself into knots wondering why some books sell better than others so it’s best not to think about it too much and just focus on how incredibly grateful I am that they sell at all!

If you’re celebrating a birthday today, tomorrow or any time this month, I wish you all the best. Thank you as always to everyone who has bought/borrowed/downloaded these two books (or any others) in any format, and/or has spread the word. It’s so much appreciated.

Big birthday hugs
Jessica xx

The one with two audiobooks in the Audible UK £3 sale and a double book birthday

Hi there and happy Sunday to you! Hope you’re having a fabulous weekend.

I’m on the penultimate day of writing my 5th Hedgehog Hollow book – Chasing Dreams at Hedgehog Hollow – ahead of submission to my editor so am only briefly emerging from the story to bring you the exciting news of two audiobooks in the Audible UK £3 sale this week.

The first title included is book 3 in the Hedgehog Hollow series – Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow – is included. Book 1 – Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow – is free with AudioPlus anyway and book 2 – New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow – has previously been in the £3 sale.

The second title is Snowflakes Over The Starfish Café, currently a finalist in the RNA’s Christmas/Festive Romantic Novel of the Year.

Even though I’m frantically writing to meet my deadline, I know I’ll find it impossible to resist checking the Audible chart. All the other audiobooks I’ve had in the £3 offer have made it into the Top 100 which is very exciting.

Don’t forget the offer only lasts one week. There’s a helpful countdown on Audible’s sale page…

If you’re an eBook reader instead, Snowflakes Over The Starfish Café is still on a 99p offer on all eBook formats.

I’m also celebrating a double book birthday today.

Books 2 and 3 in the ‘Welcome to Whitsborough Bay’ series – New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms and Finding Hope at Lighthouse Cove – were re-issued through Boldwood Books two years ago today on 20th February 2020.

The re-launch of this series in quick succession across a 2-month period heralded a big change for my writing and, after years of struggling, I finally started to sell more than a handful of books each week. A few months later, I was able to realise my dream of writing full time.

Birthday book New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms is still on a Kindle Monthly Deal for 99p in the UK and an equivalent price in Australia.

Coinciding with its birthday celebration, I’m thrilled to have had the news this week that New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms has passed an amazing sales milestone of 50,000 units so far with Finding Hope at Lighthouse Cove only 7,000 units behind so hopefully that will reach the 50k mark very soon too.

Thank you, as ever, to anyone who has bought/borrowed/downloaded any of my books and, to the Audible UK subscribers, I hope you enjoy these two audiobooks on offer. If you’ve already listened to them, do please spread the word to any friends/family members who might be interested.

Happy listening!

Big hugs
Jessica xx

The one where Making Wishes at Bay View makes a 2nd birthday wish

I’m celebrating a book birthday today! Making Wishes at Bay View – book 1 in the Welcome to Whitsborough Bay series – is celebrating its second book birthday today. Woo hoo!

14th January 2020 was the start of a quick-release schedule for the four books in the series aimed to create an appetite for my writing and build my readership. Book 2 and 3 – New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms and Finding Hope at Lighthouse Cove were released in mid-February with the final book, Coming Home to Seashell Cottage out in mid-March.

It’s so strange to think that two years ago today, we were merrily going about our business, aware of the news of some flu-like bug that had taken hold in China, but with absolutely no idea of what was about to hit the world. A few days after book 4 was released, the UK went under restrictions around travel and working from home. Lockdown.

But we’re not here to talk about that! We’re here to celebrate!

Making Wishes at Bay View was the second title of mine to go into The Works and the first one I signed there which was a fabulous moment. In fact, so lovely that I got to do it twice as they had a second batch in when I went in to sign Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow stocked a little later (which is why I have 2 different masks on in the pics below).

I’ve seen it in two of my local garden centres too – Irton Garden Centre (British Garden Centres) and Dean’s Garden Centre – although I was too chicken to alert staff to me being the author and ask if they’d like me to sign them. Actually, that’s not true. When I first spotted it in one of the garden centres (won’t say which), I mentioned in a nervous garble that I’d written it and the sales assistant couldn’t have been less interested. I walked out mortified and really wished I hadn’t been brave and spoken up.

Looking back, it’s very possible she didn’t actually pick up what I’d said as we were all getting used to the world of mask-wearing and how muffled it makes the voice. Yes, that definitely could have been it. I’ll go with that!

I had the exciting news this week that the Welcome to Whitsborough Bay series hit the New Year with more than 185k sales. Each individual book has sold over 40k copies with Making Wishes at Bay View out int he front with 53k copies. My wish is for the other books to make it over that 50k hurdle and to reach the 200k mark for the series. What a special moment that will be.

It was interesting looking at my sales figures as my best selling individual book is Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow. I’d never totted up sales figures across each series but I always imagined that the Hedgehog Hollow series had sold the most because it seems to be the one most readers talk about. I was therefore surprised to see that the Welcome to Whitsborough Bay series was significantly further ahead. Granted, all the books in the W2WB series have been out longer and book 4 in the Hedgehog Hollow series has only just been released so it’s not quite a level playing field but, as I say, it was a surprise. A pleasant one. I sometimes feel sorry for these books because the hedgehogs get so much love and I’m so proud of them and love the stories. Great to see that they’re holding their own!

So happy birthday to Making Wishes at Bay View and thank you to anyone who has bought/borrowed one or more book in this series. As ever, I’m so very grateful.

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…

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…

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…?

Celebrating a very special book birthday

It’s a busy end to the week as I was celebrating the publication day for All You Need Is Love yesterday and, today, I’m celebrating a special book birthday.

Today is one year since the final part of the ‘Welcome to Whitsborough Bay’ series was released through Boldwood Books. Woo hoo! Happy book birthday to the series!

The four-book series had previously been published under different titles and the rights were acquired by Boldwood as part of my original publishing deal. They all had a fresh edit and were updated for a quick-succession re-release between January and March 2020. My writing was largely undiscovered before joining Boldwood and the idea of four novels being released so close together was to build my name and create an appetite for the next part in the series.

This plan absolutely worked and I still can’t quite believe how well my debut series (which is also available as a boxset with additional exclusive content) has done during this year after five years of struggling to get noticed:

  • More than 130k copies of the books combined (across all formats) since being re-released by Boldwood
  • Nearly 3000 reviews/ratings on Amazon, 93% of which are 4 or 5-star
  • Making Wishes at Bay View (book 1) going into The Works
  • Making Wishes at Bay View being free book of the week on Apple UK and USA and reaching #1 on the free UK chart/#16 in the USA
  • Making Wishes at Bay View breaking the Top 100 in Australia and Canada
  • New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms (book 2) going into Prime Reading and reaching #14 in the overall UK Kindle chart
  • All the books making it into the UK Kindle Top 200 and staying there for the whole of the summer
  • Books 2-4 making it into the Apple Romance Chart Top 5 at the same time and the overall Top 25
  • Best seller tags for all books at the same time

I often get asked which of these books is my favourite and I love them all for a different reason:

  • Making Wishes at Bay View (book 1) was such a fun story to write and Ruby is one of my favourite characters. She was fascinating to create and I love the banter she has with Iris
  • New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms (book 2) was the first book I ever wrote. The main character, Sarah, is predominantly based on me and the premise of the story is a true-life event. As this was where it all started, this book will always have a special place in my heart
  • Finding Hope at Lighthouse Cove (book 3) is a lovely story of how to pick yourself up after everything in your life falls apart. I love Elise’s journey and I also love the way the friendship dynamics between the main characters in this series begin to shift. The relationships with friends and family are a very important aspect of my stories and often take centre-stage over the romance
  • Coming Home to Seashell Cottage (book 4) is Clare’s story and I have to confess it is my favourite as I love the plot. Clare arrived in book 2 as a spiky character with a mysterious past and here we discover why she’s the way she is. It’s a story full of twists and turns and I’m so proud of this book

I have amazing reviews for all the stories which makes me so very happy but New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms does have a few more negative reviews than the others. In some quite angry ranty 1 and 2-star reviews, Sarah is accused of being silly and her actions childish or selfish. While I completely accept that everyone likes different things and not everyone is going to love my work, I do feel sad that those readers have missed the point of a character arc. Sarah does make some some questionable decisions early on but her journey is one of learning from those and she experiences major character development over the course of the book.

At the start of the book, Sarah has stayed in a relationship for a year too long (not an abusive relationship; just one that isn’t right) and there are also reviews commenting on how ridiculous that is and that she should have just left him/nobody stays in a rubbish relationship for that long. Who are these people as I’d like to congratulate them? I am in huge admiration of anyone who can be in a long-term relationship and walk away just like that but I would suggest that the reality of most relationships is that walking away is not that easy. The person may be very aware that the relationship is not right for them but there can be a million reasons why they don’t walk away including fear of being alone, financial challenges, where to live, children, self-esteem, mental health and so on. Sometimes what lies on the other side doesn’t seem more appealing than what they already have. I know this because I was in a relationship like that. I knew it was wrong all along but I wasn’t in a place where I could deal with walking away. I know so many men and women who would admit to the same. Thankfully hundreds of readers do relate to Sarah, find her scenario very realistic, and are rooting for her all the way.

One of my aims for 2021 was not to be hurt by negative reviews and to remain focused on the positive ones and I’ve made great progress with this but I have to admit that I was a bit (a lot) wounded by a particular scathing 2-star review I spotted on Audible for New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms a couple of days ago. I’ve pasted it below as it’s quite a long review:

Ouch! There are so many interesting things about this review. Firstly, book 1 of the series is not the chocolate pot cafe (Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café). That particular story is set in Whitsborough Bay but is not part of the ‘Welcome to Whitsborough Bay’ series. It was written several years later. Therefore the last paragraph all about the links is inaccurate because there aren’t meant to be links. The Chocolate Pot is mentioned a couple of times in New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms because it’s on the same street as Seaside Blooms but, at the time the book was written, Tara and her story from Starry Skies… did not exist.

So if we remove the comments about the two books not following on from each other, we have that the story was ‘flat’ and ‘like the writer had a multi book deal and had to bang out something else.’ Wow! That’s a bit harsh! Every author starts somewhere and, although New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms is book 2 in the series, it is the first book I wrote as book 1 was written afterwards as a prequel/introduction to the world of Whitsborough Bay. Seaside Blooms is my debut – my first book baby delivered into the world and I am immensely proud of it. It does have twists and turns in it. They may not have the same shock/surprise as a couple of the revelations in Starry Skies… but they’re still there. When I started out writing, I intended to write romantic comedies but my ideas developed and my writing style developed and I now write contemporary women’s fiction. My later books are more emotional than my early ones and some of the plots are more intricate. It’s common and natural for a writer to adjust their style the more books they write. Their voice will develop and their confidence will grow and they may well experiment with style and genre. That’s not to say romcoms don’t have complex plots – they absolutely do – but my natural style moved away from the comedy and more into the angst although all my books are warm and uplifting and do still contain humour which balances the more emotional moments.

The real shame about this is that I have lost a reader/listener who clearly has some gripes about the story but, given a significant focus of the review is the lack of link to a story it’s not meant to be linked to, I can’t help feeling that this misunderstanding on the reader’s part has heavily influenced their contempt for this story. I’m trying to put myself in their shoes and, if I wrongly believed this was a follow-on from Starry Skies… I’d be confused too. The thing is, Audible clearly does show which books are in the series (see below), as do Kindle, Apple, Kobo, Fantastic Fiction…

Stung by this review – and thinking of the small number of negative ones for New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms – I decided to conduct a poll in my Facebook readers’ group asking members who’d read the full series to let me know which was their favourite. We’re talking a small sample here but the results were interesting:

  • New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms – 53%
  • Coming Home to Seashell Cottage – 32%
  • Making Wishes at Bay View and Finding Hope at Lighthouse Cove tied – 7%

Many of those who voted did add a comment that they absolutely loved all of them but I had pushed them to pick one as I was curious as to the results and it was both surprising and reassuring that more than half the vote went to the book that has generated the most negative comments. I’m going to focus on the hundreds who love it and thank them so much for sharing that love.

So happy birthday to the Welcome to Whitsborough Bay series and thank you to everyone who has bought/ borrowed/ downloaded any of the stories, loved them, and reviewed/ rated/ recommended them. You are absolute superstars. Callie, Sarah, Elise, Clare and the rest of the cast of characters in Whitsborough Bay send you hugs of appreciation.

And thank you to Boldwood Books and my amazing editor Nia for breathing fresh life into these stories and taking them to such a wide readership. I’m forever grateful.

Big hugs
Jessica xx