The one where Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Cafe has a cover reveal and I talk about changes from the original version

Chocolate Pot Tagline Twitter

I’m excited to be able to reveal the cover for Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café. Isn’t it simply stunning? I absolutely love both the title of this book and the cover. Dreamy.


It’s out on 8th September but available for pre-order now. It will be released on eBook for AppleBooks, Kindle and Kobo, paperback, large print and audio formats as well as being available via the uLibrary App if your library subscribes. Something for everyone!

Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café was previously available under the title of Christmas at The Chocolate Pot Café. Just like my ‘Welcome to Whitsborough Bay’ series which got refreshed and re-released under new titles earlier this year, it’s one of my back catalogue books that my fabulous publishers, Boldwood Books, have acquired and breathed fresh life into.

Christmas at The Chocolate Pot Cafe COVER
The original cover

So what has changed?

Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café has changed more significantly than any of the books in the ‘Welcome to Whitsborough Bay’ series in that it is substantially longer.

25k words longer, in fact. That’s a lot of extra story!

Christmas at The Chocolate Pot Café went on a blog tour when it was released in 2018 and was extremely well received. Not all bloggers gave a rating but those who did mainly awarded 5-stars. The reviews started coming in from readers which, at the point of writing this, are all 5-star (88%) or 4-star (12%). I was thrilled with the positive reaction.

But there was something niggling at me. A blogger who I adore loved the book and awarded it 4.5 stars. I love reading her reviews because, if it’s not a full 5-stars, she tends to give a constructive reason why. I don’t want to give any spoilers but there’s a scene near the end where Tara engages with someone from her past and this particular blogger said she’d have loved to see more of that. When I thanked her for the review, this was my comment:

Screenshot 2020-07-07 at 09.58.44

As per my comments above, I decided that I would maybe work on some additional chapters and re-release Christmas at The Chocolate Pot Café the following Christmas including these. Then I secured my amazing publishing deal with Boldwood Books for new books and some of my back catalogue. This included Christmas at The Chocolate Pot Café so this plan was put on hold ready for a 2020 re-release.

The revised version as Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café has a longer ending. I loved the original story but think it’s even better now and I’ve already had a lovely comment on Facebook from a reviewer who has read both versions and echos my thoughts – loved it before but loves it even more now.

Both versions start on Christmas Eve one year and finish in December the following one. The original version ended close to Christmas but didn’t go quite as far as Christmas Day. The revised version now ends on Christmas Day with a lot more action happening across that second December.

In the original version, there are chapters that span between the two Christmases but some of the events are summarised. In Starry Skies, there are more chapters spread across the year so the reader can be right there alongside Tara as she progresses on her journey rather than have the key events presented in summary form.

Chocolate Pot Tagline 2 FB

Are the characters different?

No. We have exactly the same characters as before but we get some more insight into some of them than we had previously. However, there is a character who is mentioned in the original version who actually puts in an appearance this time. And there’s another new character who appears near the end. Both of these provide a link to a sequel (more on that later).

Is the plot different?

No. The overall plot remains the same but some aspects of the story switch around to allow for the longer ending. There are more scenes from Tara’s past, both as a child and as an adult. There’s some lovely detail about her finding and setting up The Chocolate Pot which didn’t appear before. There’s a lot more about Jed. Basically, with 25k additional words, there’s just a lot more throughout which I think helps readers engage with and cheer on Tara even more than before.

Do you need to read the new version if you’ve already read the original?

That’s entirely up to you. If you loved it and would like to revisit it anyway, then here’s the perfect opportunity to do so. The original version is no longer available to buy so, if anyone hasn’t already visited The Chocolate Pot but wants to do so, then Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café is the version you’ll be reading anyway.

My little brother made a good point this week when I was talking about this revised release. He said it’s like a Director’s Cut of a film being released or a Deluxe version of an album. Spot on! In both those situations, the essence is still there but you get a whole lot more.

Is Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café part of a series?

Christmas at Carly's Cupcakes Cover (Amazon)
This is the original cover & will change on 13th August

Tara’s story chronologically follows on from Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes as Carly and Tara are friends and their businesses are next door to each other on Castle Street so, for maximum enjoyment, I would encourage readers to read Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes first (and perhaps wait until 13th August when a freshly-edited longer version of this book will be released with the same title but a new cover).

Did somebody mention sequel?

Yes! Although Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café is completely wrapped up with a satisfying ending, I mentioned two characters earlier, one of whom puts in a physical appearance now and one of whom is new. These threads lend themselves to being explored further and I hope to write a follow-up next year after I’ve finished writing the remaining two books in the Hedgehog Hollow trilogy. These threads only appear in the revised version of Tara’s story, though, and not in the original version.

Hope this helps explain everything! Blurb and buying links below.

Big hugs

Jessica xx

You can pre-order Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café on Amazon here.

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…

Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café was originally released as Christmas at The Chocolate Pot Café. Now re-released with a new title and new cover, this version has been freshly edited and features several new chapters.

The one where I celebrate National Teddy Bear Day


Today is National Teddy Bear Day; a day that celebrates the history behind the teddy bear. Do you know the history? It’s quite a fascinating story.

Stuffed animals had been around for some time and this even included stuffed bears with Steiff including a bear toy in its 1894 catalogue although it was more reminiscent of a grizzly bear than the cute and cuddly teddy bears we think of today. So how did a stuffed grizzly bear – possibly a bit scary-looking – morph into what we more commonly know as the teddy bear today. It was actually the result of a bit of clever marketing in the early twentieth century…

My Steiff Paddington – a wedding gift from hubby – and a gorgeous reading artist bear

The president of the USA at the time was President Theodore Roosevelt (in office from 1901-1909). In November 1902, Roosevelt visited Mississippi to work on a tricky political situation around boundaries between Louisiana and Mississippi. Roosevelt had a reputation as a rugged hunting/shooting/fishing type so, to help him relax between difficult negotiations, a bear-hunting trip was organised on 14th November (yeah, I know, but do bear in mind [excuse the pun] that we’re talking nearly 117 years ago and these things were viewed very differently back then). Anyway, it was all going a bit wrong and, as the day drew to a close, the President hadn’t been successful. Keen to end the day on a high, the hunters chased and stunned a small black bear and tied it to a tree so that the President could shoot it. Argh! But don’t panic. It does end well because, even though it obviously didn’t bother him to shoot one of these beautiful animals in the wild, he refused to shoot a captive animal and demanded they, “Spare the bear!” So the bear was cut loose. Hurrah!

One of my many bear-related ornaments

News of fair play was all over the papers and a cartoon by Clifford K Berryman appeared in the Washington Post with the clever caption “Drawing the Line in Mississippi” which linked to his political reasons for being there as well as drawing the line against killing a captive animal.

A Brooklyn-based Russian couple, Morris and Rose Michtom, were shop-owners and fans of stuffed bears. Delighted by the story, Rose made a jointed bear from soft fabric and put it in the shop window alongside the newspaper cartoon. It sold immediately and so did many replicas. Rose called the bear ‘Teddy’s Bear’ and it’s alleged that Morris wrote to the President asking permission to use the name, receiving a hand-written note giving his permission. Aww. I love that.

IMG_6868The story goes that Roosevelt wasn’t a very sentimental person (possibly not surprising given the “rugged man” image) and didn’t actually like teddy bears, but the publicity did him no harm and the teddy bear as we know it now went from strength to strength.

I could go on and on about the history of the teddy bear because I personally find it interesting about how any product gets developed and has such amazing longevity, but I’ll stop there for now. If you want to read a little more about National Teddy Bear day and see Berryman’s cartoon, click here.

As followers of this blog will know, I’m an arctophile which means I’m a friend/lover (collector) of teddy bears. I love real bears just as much and I hope to go and see polar bears in the wild for my fiftieth birthday in a few years’ time.

IMG_6866As a young child, I had a teddy bear: the aptly named Big Bluey because he’s big and he’s blue. He was a Christening gift and he sits in my office watching me write. His fur is a bit squashed and he’s been repaired at the seams a few times but he’s not doing too badly for a 47-year-old.

I was probably in my mid to late-teens when I really started to really like teddy bears. I don’t know what specifically prompted it but suspect that it was Forever Friends bears being everywhere at the time. I absolutely adored them (and still do).

Bear Coasters

Over the years, I’ve had all sorts of bears and bear-related gifts from friends and family: stationery, ornaments, tea-towels and pretty much anything you can think of. The scariest gift was an upright vacuum cleaner cover my mum once bought from a craft fair. It was a bear in a dress (the dress covered the upright part of the cleaner and the head rested on the handle) and I’m afraid I don’t have photographic evidence of it but it was definitely scary although it gave all the family a good laugh.

My fascination with proper collectible bears didn’t come until I was in my late-twenties. I’d heard of Steiff but had never seen one. My boyfriend of the time took me into a specialist teddy bear shop in his hometown of Lincoln and it changed my life. At first I was astonished at the price tags. Used to paying £10-20 for a plush teddy bear, prices started at an eye-watering £50 and that was for a small, cheap one. I left the shop muttering that I wouldn’t pay that sort of money for a bear … but returned to it later because I couldn’t stop thinking about a Dean’s bear called Scruff who’d caught my eye. I winced as I handed over £70 but that little bear has bought me so much joy and has lasted way longer than a pair of shoes or a handbag of that price might have done.

IMG_6498My collection grew and then I took my interest to the extreme when I packed in a well-paid job as a Graduate Recruitment and Development Manager, moved from Reading to my roots in North Yorkshire, and opened a specialist teddy-bear shop of my own. (The boyfriend was no more at this point).

I ran Bear’s Pad in Richmond, North Yorkshire (not the one in London) for nearly 2 years and it was such a joy to be surrounded by teddy bears and bear-related products every day. I had some wonderful regular customers who shared my passion, but also had some shockers:

  • The woman who allowed her daughter to urinate on my carpeted floor instead of taking her to the public toilets then made out it was all my fault because I hadn’t let her use my staff toilet (which I had no insurance to let customers use and would have meant clambering over my stock and past my safe so that wasn’t going to happen)
  • The many occasions where I arrived on a weekend to find somebody had vomited in my doorway so I had that to swill away before opening up
  • The seemingly lovely man who distracted me by asking me to get a large bear down from the top of the display shelves, saying he’d return later with the cash. In the meantime, his accomplice slipped behind the till and tried to empty it. Fortunately I’d locked it but that didn’t stop him stealing my mobile which was on a hidden shelf below the till
  • The local woman who made it her mission to go around all the independent shops and tell them they were going to fail because all independents did sooner or later
  • The parents who’d send their kids to “play in the bear shop while mummy goes on the tanning beds” in the shop opposite
  • The various others who’d damage or shoplift

Ooh! I just had an unexpected rant there! Back to National Teddy Bear Day…

I met my husband a couple of months after opening Bear’s Pad. We met online and, as we lived a couple of hours away from each other, our first date was in the small market town of Helmsley. I took a small jointed teddy bear with me and decided that, if I liked my date, I’d give him the bear to remember me by. Yeah, soppy. I did like him and I did give him the bear although I was gutted to discover recently that he’d completely forgotten this! Rude! The bear – Hermann (named after the German manufacturers) – became our holiday bear, going away with us on all our holidays with a little backpack we got off a cheap doll. Hubby knew Hermann was our holiday bear but had completely forgotten how he came to be in his possession. Men, eh?

When we married, we had a Cherished Teddies bride and groom on the top of our cake and plush bears on the top table.

Searching for Steven (New Cover Design 3)Bears have remained a strong theme and influence for me. My book, Bear With Me, is inspired by my experiences of having a teddy bear shop and learning how to make artist bears, although you don’t have to like teddy bears at all to enjoy it as the teddy bear shop (called Bear With Me) just happens to be the setting; bears aren’t the main theme.

In every book I write, I ‘plant’ a bear. It is usually there to give the protagonist comfort and is often a reminder of the past. Sarah in Searching for Steven turns to her childhood bear, Mr Pink, for comfort. Elise in Getting Over Gary hurls her bear, Marmite, across the room because he was a gift from her husband who has just betrayed her. In Callie’s Christmas Wish, a musical bear is a valuable link to the past for octogenarian, Ruby, and, in Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes, Carly gives her sister a bear purchased from Bear With Me to convey a special message. A picture I bought of a bear and the words ‘Be Brave’ inspired part of the storyline for Christmas at the Chocolate Pot Cafe. These teddies and collectible bears certainly have some power!

IMG_6881Some people don’t get why a grown adult would love teddy bears but I can’t see my interest ever waning. I don’t buy many plush bears anymore, tempted though I might be, as I don’t have the room. Over the years, I’ve given about 20 binbags full of teddy bears to charity. I find it so hard to say goodbye but I tell myself that they’ll go to loving homes! I have a cabinet in the office full of collectible bears and a few others spread around the room. It’s not possible to feel down when surrounded by their pudgy faces and outstretched arms, waiting for a cuddle.

IMG_6876My plush bears have certainly given me comfort over the years and, as I say, they’ve changed my life. If I hadn’t bought that first collectible one, I wouldn’t have opened a bear shop, I wouldn’t have met my husband, and I probably would never have finished writing my first book.

Happy National Teddy Bear Day. Why not give your teddy a cuddle and thank him or her for being there for you over the years?

Jessica xx