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 talk about my very own Christmas miracle

SPOILER ALERT – This post relates to the real-life inspiration behind one of the key storylines in Christmas Miracles at Hedgehog Hollow so you might not want to read this if you haven’t read that book just yet…

Do you read the acknowledgements at the back of the book? I do. They’re mainly about the author thanking various people who have provided advice, support and encouragement in that particular book’s journey to publication, but they sometimes give details of the real-life inspiration behind elements of the storyline. I find that touching and fascinating so it’s something I always try to include in mine. If you’ve read the acknowledgements at the back of Christmas Miracles at Hedgehog Hollow, you’ll know that the story of Samantha’s baby coming into the world is my own. 

I met my husband Mark in 2003 and we married in September 2005. I was 33 and he was 35 at that point and we knew that our ages meant it was probably best not to delay starting a family, especially when we wanted three children, both being one of three ourselves.

Our baby was due on 4th January 2007 but a routine consultation with my midwife in early December 2006 saw me being referred straight to hospital with hypertension (high blood pressure) and suspected pre-eclampsia. I had an overnight stay for monitoring and was released only to be sent straight back as my BP soared even higher. The pre-eclampsia remained mild but the BP was cause for concern and I spent December in hospital on constant monitoring. It was awful. I was worried about what might happen to the baby, especially as I’d had a miscarriage prior to this pregnancy, and being stuck in hospital on your own for weeks is a lot of time to think and to fret.

There was a lot of talk about inducing the baby but I experienced several cancellations due to lack of staff or a full delivery suite. Each day was another opportunity for my baby to grow and gain strength, but also another day to fear something bad. Eventually it was my turn. I was taken to a separate ward, just like Samantha, and given a pessary but the first one didn’t work. Other mums came onto the ward after me and headed off to give birth before. When my editor Nia read the book, she made a comment that it was just like when Rachel in Friends is waiting to give birth and it really was like that. When would it be my turn?

The second pessary worked and, on the afternoon of 19th December, I was whisked off to the delivery suite with my husband, Mark, and labour started. Everything I describe in the book is what happened to me including the very scary moments… Ashleigh arrived into the world at 11.45pm at such speed that she shot across the bed and had to be caught. The heart monitor was tangled in her mass of dark hair. She wasn’t breathing. She was blue.

Mark and I felt so helpless, desperate to hear that first cry, fearful for the worst as our baby was rushed to the side (clip now free) and medical staff rubbed her with towels. We didn’t even know if we had a boy or girl at this point! Thankfully a cry filled the room and our daughter was handed over to us, wrapped in a towel, but it wasn’t over yet. She was unexpectedly tiny at 4lb 11oz. Nobody had picked up on that in the scans I’d had in hospital so it took them – and us – by surprise. She was only a fortnight early and they’d thought she’d be bigger. Although not premature, she needed to spend some time on the Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU) as she might need some additional help feeding. We’d have been discharged later that morning if she’d been 5lb or more.

I had a massive panic about our baby being taken away from us. All sorts of scary possibilities like her being switched, stolen, or falling ill filled my mind and I asked if Mark could go with her. That wasn’t a problem so I sent him off, begging him to make sure she was properly identified as ours. Mark returned assuring me that Ashleigh was fine and, after I’d finished with all the post-birth aspects, I was wheelchaired round to see her. It broke my heart to see our tiny little girl in a crib hooked up to wires with a tube up her nose. I’d wanted to breastfeed but it wasn’t possible. She was too small/tired/weak to latch on so she had to be fed by the tube up her nose which went direct into her stomach.

The days that followed were so difficult. I moved into a small private room along the corridor from the unit so I could be buzzed from the SCBU when Ashleigh woke up. I kept trying to her myself but it didn’t work. Some midwives helped. Some made me feel completely useless and inadequate. I spend a lot of the days that followed in tears, not able to pick up my baby, not able to feed her, not able to do anything I’d expected to do. I knew I was fortunate – there were premature babies in incubators on the ward who had more of a battle ahead of them than mine – but it was still really hard.

Christmas was rapidly approaching and I hadn’t expected to spend December in hospital. I hadn’t put the tree up, hadn’t done my Christmas shopping, wasn’t prepared at all. One of the kinder midwives suggested I take a day off – 23rd December I think it was – to go home for the day and do some Christmas prep and she’d do the tube feeds for me. I was so grateful for that but I didn’t enjoy my day, worried about Ashleigh. Like Samantha, my feet had swollen and only my flip-flops fit. It was winter and cold so my priority was to get into town and buy some bigger footwear. After a huge amount of effort, I managed to get my feet into some lace-up boots two sizes bigger than normal. I was drained and emotional. When I went to the shoe shop till wearing them, the assistant insisted I removed them so she could make sure I’d picked up a pair of the same size. I burst into tears. Thankfully the manager was nearby and she understood my emotional gibberish about just giving birth/swollen feet/exhaustion and she gently led me to a nearby chair and removed my shoes, checked them, then put them back on and laced them as though I was a toddler. I was so grateful for her kindness.

Back at hospital, all I wanted to do was get Ashleigh home for Christmas but nobody ever seemed to be around to give me an answer. There was a midwife who scared me – the ‘Brenda’ character in my story. She’d been extremely unhelpful when I asked her for some support breastfeeding and she was all about the snide comments and sneers. But that evening she was the only person available to ask whether there was any chance Ashleigh would be home for Christmas Day. She laughed at me. Who does that? So I cried again and can honestly say I’ve never felt so alone or vulnerable in my whole life.

We didn’t get our Christmas miracle. I woke up on Christmas morning in my single room and padded along the corridor to the SCBU where I dressed Ashleigh in a reindeer onesie and booties, like Samantha does in the book. They were too big but they were adorable, even if I didn’t feel very Christmassy at all.

I was ‘released’ on Christmas Day to go home for Christmas dinner. My parents had come to stay as we’d anticipated a lovely first Christmas at home with our baby. I don’t remember much about that day other than not being able to enjoy a moment of it, knowing I needed to get back to the hospital.

When we returned to the ward later that day, we finally had some good news. Ashleigh had woken up and demanded a feed so, if that continued during the night, we could take her home on Boxing Day. I was allowed to move into a special room on the SCBU with Ashleigh that night and I prayed it would be our last one. It was. She came home at lunchtime on Boxing Day but the difficulties didn’t end there. I still wanted to feed her myself but, with it being Christmas, there was no support available. The midwife from my local surgery did visit but she terrified me too. Each time I’d seen her before my hospital admission, she’d made comments about how old I was and how fat I was. When she’d first called the hospital to have me admitted, I was in the room with her at the surgery and she described me as ‘enormous’ over the phone, looking me up and down with disgust. I actually wasn’t enormous. Already a size 18 before expecting Ashleigh, I barely gained any weight during pregnancy, my body shape simply changing. She therefore wasn’t the empathetic carer I needed.

The next couple of years were the hardest of my life. I’m convinced I had post-natal depression but I was too afraid to open up to the scary midwife about what I was feeling for fear of judgement from her – old, fat mum can’t cope – so I battled it alone. The whole experience drained and traumatised me so much that I couldn’t face going through any of it again. Ashleigh doesn’t have siblings.

When I wrote Samantha’s story, I hadn’t intended to mirror my own experiences but it made sense to do so. They say write what you know. This was what I knew and I had directly felt every exhausting and heartbreaking moment of it. But, being fiction, I could also change a few things. Samantha was able to take her baby home on Christmas Day, and she got the support she needed to breastfeed Thomas in the end. As for whether baby Thomas gets any siblings, you’ll have to read Christmas Miracles at Hedgehog Hollow to find out.

It was Ashleigh’s sixteenth birthday at the start of the week so I’ve inevitably been reflecting on that difficult time sixteen years ago and it still hurts. I’ve blanked so much of it out but parts of it such as my local midwife calling me ‘enormous’ and the ‘Brenda’ I encountered on SCBU have definitely scarred me for life. If anyone else has experienced anything like this, I sent you hugs because it’s horrible.

To finish on a happy note and a spooky coincidence, when I was expecting Ashleigh my mum was going through a phase of knitting toys to raise funds for charity and she asked which one I’d like her to knit to celebrate Ashleigh’s birth. I was particularly drawn to a town crier so she knit that and my dad printed off Ashleigh’s birth announcement for the town crier carry. What’s the town crier? He’s a hedgehog!

I hadn’t finished writing my first book at this point and Hedgehog Hollow wasn’t even a twinkle in my eye but it was as though I knew! I’d actually forgotten about the town crier being a hedgehog until after I’d finished Christmas Miracles at Hedgehog Hollow. How wonderful that I’d incorporated Ashleigh’s birth story into my final hedgehog book and her birth announcement had been a hedgehog!


Wishing you a fabulous Christmas and hope some Christmas miracles come your way.


Big festive hugs
Jessica xx

The one with some Black Friday & Cyber Monday offers on my books

Hi everyone, how was your weekend? Have you been bagging yourself some bargains in the Black Friday sales? There wasn’t anything I particularly needed but I have enjoyed some of the reductions applied across the board like 20% off all TU Clothing at Sainsbury’s, 30% (or 3 for 2 instore) at Paperchase and 20% off Accessorise. When you want to get some Christmas gifts or need to stock up on some office supplies, those discounts to everything are most welcome.

Anyway, I have some discounts on my books to bring to you.

Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes is on a 99p Kindle deal for TODAY ONLY (Monday 28th November). This is part of a Black Friday Goldbox so there’ll be lots of other great offers on other books running alongside it.

You can get it here. To find out more, the blurb is at the bottom of this post.

Staying with the Christmas titles, Christmas Wishes at the Chocolate Shop is in Audible UK’s Cyber Monday sale which starts today and ends tomorrow. They’re offering it for the bargain price of £1.99 across these two days.

You can find it on Audible UK here. The blurb is also at the end of this post.

If you’re not an Audible subscriber already and are thinking of giving it a try, now’s a great time to do so as they’re currently offering the first 4 months at a 60% reduction. Bargain! It’s one of those auto renewals so do watch out for that if you only want to participate in the trial.

You can also find Christmas Wishes at the Chocolate Shop for 99p on Kindle UK at the moment – find it here – and it’s in the Kindle Australia monthly deal, ending on Wednesday. You can find it in Australia for only $1.29 here.

And a reminder that the first and final books in the Hedgehog Hollow series – Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow and Christmas Miracles at Hedgehog Hollow are free in Prime Reading at the moment and also 99p for Kindle so there are several great offers available.

And if you’re a Kindle Unlimited subscriber, ALL my books are FREE on KU. Woo hoo!

Big hugs and happy reading/listening
Jessica xx

CHRISTMAS AT CARLY’S CUPCAKES:

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…?

A heartwarming, short festive story of friendship and family from bestseller Jessica Redland. You can find out what happens to Carly next through exploring her best friend Tara’s story in 
Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café


CHRISTMAS WISHES AT THE CHOCOLATE SHOP:

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

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

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

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

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

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

The one where the hedgehogs live next door to Matthew Perry

I’m a huge fan of the US TV show Friends. I’ve talked about it before on the blog and, even if you hadn’t read any posts mentioning it, you could probably guess from the structure of my blog headings as “The one where/when…” is the structure of the title of each Friends episode.

Chandler Bing played by Matthew Perry is my favourite ‘friend’ and something very special happened yesterday in the Amazon UK charts and I hadn’t even noticed it. My lovely editor, Nia, sent me an email with a screenshot pointing it out.

Yes, that’s the hedgehogs – Christmas Miracles at Hedgehog Hollow – right beside Matthew Perry’s autobiography Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing. What a privilege to be living next door to Matthew Perry in the overall UK Kindle chart. Could I be any more excited?

Thank you to everyone who has bought Christmas Miracles at Hedgehog Hollow on the 99p offer this week, helping push it into the UK and Canada Kindle Top 50, Australia Kindle top 100 and just outside the Top 50 on Apple UK. This offer will probably continue until Christmas so plenty of time to grab the final book at the bargain price if you haven’t already done so.

Big hedge-hugs
Jessica xx

The one where (nearly) all my Christmases come together

It’s November and even though we still have an autumnal event approaching with Bonfire Night on Saturday, it’s officially the approach to Christmas in my mind.

I love Christmas books. I love writing them. I love reading them. I love gazing at their gorgeousness on bookshelves and having that warm and fuzzy moment seeing all the snow, trees, gifts, and hugs in those white, blue and red covers. Awwww.

My Christmas on Castle Street series has just been released as an eBook Boxset which you can download for Kindle UK here. This contains all three of the books in the series:

  • Christmas Wishes at the Chocolate Shop
  • Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes
  • Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café

There’s also some bonus content of book club questions/wonderings for each book and various blog posts I prepared picking up on something relevant to each book, and a couple about the overall series which give some additional insight into my inspiration, research and thoughts on Christmas on Castle Street.

The Boxset retails at £7.99 which is a small saving on buying the books individually at £2.99 each.

There is one Christmas book which isn’t included in the Boxset because it doesn’t belong to that series and that is my Christmas 2022 release: Christmas Miracles at Hedgehog Hollow. This is the final book in the six-book series and has just been reduced to 99p on eBook.

Christmas Miracles at Hedgehog Hollow is also available in Prime Reading, as is the first book – Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow – so you can get them both for free if you’re a Prime Reading subscriber. And, if you’re a Kindle Unlimited subscriber, you can get ALL my books for free via that service.

Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow is also 99p at the moment for anyone not in Prime or KU.

Happy Christmas reading.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

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

This boxset contains all 3 books in the Christmas on Castle Street series:
1. Christmas Wishes at the Chocolate Shop
2. Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes
3. Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café

★ Also Bonus content included ★
– Book club questions for each book
– Blog posts for each book
– Christmas Lights on Castle Street blog post
– Hot Chocolate and Cake on Castle Street blog post

—–

Christmas Wishes at the Chocolate Shop

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


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

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

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

Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes

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?

Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café

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…

The one where the hedgehogs pass an amazing reviews milestone on Amazon

Me again with two posts in one day! Aren’t you lucky?!

Just a quickie to say a huge thank you to everyone who has left me a review or rating on Amazon because the six Hedgehog Hollow books combined have today just passed 20,000 reviews/ratings (20,023 at the time of taking the screen shots below). Oh my gosh! Go hedgehogs go!

I can’t quite believe this figure. Back during my five-year struggle, I longed for my eight books to get 200 reviews between them so to have six books getting 20,000 in the space of a little over two years is beyond my wildest dreams.

There are reviews elsewhere, including a large number on Audible, so thank anyone who has left a review anywhere, but it is particularly this whopper of a milestone on Amazon that I wanted to celebrate today. Eek!

I cannot thank you enough for the hedgehog love.

Big hedge-hugs
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

The one where the hedgehogs start and end in Prime Reading and I talk about reading a series in full and in order

I recently announced that the first book in the Hedgehog Hollow series – Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow – had gone into global Prime Reading meaning that Prime members can access it for free and find out how it all begins.

I’m excited to announce that the final book in the series – Christmas Miracles at Hedgehog Hollow – has also gone into Prime Reading this week so we now have the start and end of the six-book series in there.

You know that weird feeling you get when you see a police officer and you instantly feel guilty, even when you’ve done nothing wrong, or when the boss asks to see you and you instantly feel like you’re going to be in trouble? This is how I feel when I ask readers to read a full series.

It feels ridiculously uncomfortable and I don’t fully know why. Perhaps it’s because I feel bad asking them to buy six books, but it’s not like I’m asking them to shell out for six up-front. Try one and, if you like it, go for the others. Perhaps it’s because I’ve had a few readers telling me they don’t like series and wish I’d write standalone stories and I feel guilty that, each time I try to do that, I think too big and it typically ends up being a series or at least with a connected book.

Whatever the reason, I shouldn’t feel that way. I should be proud to say that I write in series and not feel embarrassed to state the truth: that some series should be read in full and in order. You’ll notice a specifically used the words ‘some series’ because this is not necessarily true of every series. There are some that you can dip in and out of or join in on later books but the Hedgehog Hollow series is not that type of series and here’s why:

  1. There is one consistent narrator – Samantha Wishaw – throughout all six books. It is her story and, running alongside that, we meet her family, friends and members of the local community, some of whom also have stories to be explored alongside Samantha’s, resulting in a guest narrator from book 2 onwards
  2. Samantha grows and develops across the six books and so do some of the characters. Joining the series partway through misses out on their journey and it’s the journey that makes them three-dimensional flawed characters, just like you and me. It’s why we’re rooting for the heroine and hissing at the villain(s)
  3. There are some recurring storylines and themes handled across the series such as the difficult relationship Samantha has with a couple of family members, mental health and forgiveness. Joining the series late misses out on these
  4. I come full circle on a couple of things. I can’t say much more as I’ll give away spoilers but there are some things that happen at the start and end which are poignant but would be missed by anyone who hasn’t followed the full series
  5. There are a lot of characters introduced across the series. They cast grows gradually with each book but, if anyone starts at book 6 when they’re all there, they’ll be lost. There are way too many characters to meet at once
  6. I didn’t design this as six standalone books. I wrote a series set in a hedgehog rescue centre and the full story is roughly 600,000 words long and being told across six books

I do provide a ‘story so far’ section at the start of book 2 onwards, alongside a cast of characters, but these were written to act as a reminder for readers who want a quick refresh on what happened in the previous book before they settle down with the next instalment. They weren’t designed to cover everything that happened in the previous book(s) to negate the point of reading the previous books.

Before Christmas Miracles at Hedgehog Hollow came out, it was available for early reviews to bloggers and influencers and pretty much everyone who had read the other books give it a 4 or 5 star rating (mainly 5). All the negative reviews were from those who’d picked up book 6 as their starting point and they didn’t follow what was going on, thought there were too many characters, didn’t understand the connections between characters, believed there were too many issues covered (despite many of those mentioned being ones from previous books which were coming to a conclusion). Basically, they hated it and that was so upsetting.

I felt like I’d scream if I saw one more review open with the immortal words “I didn’t realise this was book six in a series…” What doesn’t make sense to me is why those reviewers continued to read it and leave a negative review. If it was me, my reaction would have been: Oops, better not continue as I’m probably not going to follow this. But maybe that’s just me.

Anyway, the whole point of this is to explain why this particular series really needs reading as a series. Readers will get so much more enjoyment by doing this, seeing Samantha grow and develop and the world of Hedgehog Hollow change so, if you’re new to the series, absolutely do grab yourself book 1 from Prime Reading and maybe book 6 too but do read the four in the middle for a richer, fulfilling story. After all, they’ll both be in Prime right up until the end of the year and probably a little past that so there’s plenty of time to fit them all in:

  1. Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow
  2. New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow
  3. Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow
  4. A Wedding at Hedgehog Hollow
  5. Chasing Dreams at Hedgehog Hollow
  6. Christmas Miracles at Hedgehog Hollow

And for those not in Prime Reading, all six are free via Kindle Unlimited, can be borrowed from your library in a range of formats, and book 1 is available on Audible Plus for free if you’re an Audible subscriber.

What are your thoughts on series, as a reader, author or both? Are you very particular about series being read in order or perhaps you don’t mind flitting in and out? Maybe you never start a series until you know the last book has been written or published and then you binge it. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

In other news, just a quick heads-up to say that the first book in another series – Snowflakes Over The Starfish Café – is currently part of Audible UK’s 2 for 1 credit deal but it ends at 11.50pm on Saturday (8th October) so do grab it quick.

Happy reading!

Big hedge-hugs
Jessica xx

The one where I appreciate all the hedgehog love

The final book in the Hedgehog Hollow series – Christmas Miracles at Hedgehog Hollow – was released on 6th September and I’ve been stunned at the speed it has gathered reviews on Amazon because a book set partly at Christmas, with the word ‘Christmas’ in the title and a cover featuring a hedgehog in a Santa hat is something I know that many readers won’t buy/read this far from Christmas.

When book 2, New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow, was released in January 2021, I recorded on a blog post my astonishment at it receiving 100 reviews in a week, 400 reviews by day 19 and 1,000 within 2 months. Book 3, Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow, eclipsed this. At a fortnight it had 300 reviews but it reached a whopping 1,000 on it’s 3-week anniversary. They just kept coming – 700 reviews in the space of one week! I wondered whether any of the other books in the series would top this or had that been the pinnacle?

Christmas Miracles hit 400 reviews on day 12 so it was looking surprisingly good to steal the crown from book 3 but, by day 20, it was at 600 and there was no way another 400 would come in within the space of one day to match the 1,000 at three weeks. And they didn’t. It was another 50, though, which is still phenomenal and something I still can’t believe I’m writing when it used to take months to gather a handful of reviews pre-Boldwood.

So the award for getting to 1,000 reviews in the most unbelievably quick time remains with Family Secrets but I suspect Christmas Miracles is going to get there sooner than New Arrivals did, perhaps in 5 or 6 weeks rather than 2 months.

The quality of reviews has been phenomenal too. As at the three-week anniversary yesterday, a whopping 88% of my reviews were at 5-star and only 3% were 3-star or below. I’m so grateful to everyone who has shown so much love for the hedgehogs. Of course, now that I’ve said that, I’ll get a stack of negative reviews to redress the balance!!!

I’ve had gorgeous messages on my reader Facebook group – Redland’s Readers – and lots of DMs with lovely feedback for this book and the series as a whole which have been so touching.

I had such an enjoyable chat with my editor, Nia Beynon, on Monday in a Facebook Live. We talked all about the series and I did a reading from Christmas Miracles. If you missed it, you can catch up on it here. I couldn’t resist wearing my autumnal hedgehog dress from Popsy Clothing. I also had a hedgehog necklace on and hedgehog earrings (and socks!) but you probably can’t see them on the video. Got to be done!

Please keep that hedgehog love coming. The hedgehogs and I are so very grateful for all your kind words and recommendations. Quick reminder that Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow (book 1) and Chasing Dreams at Hedgehog Hollow (book 5) are on a 99p eBook offer in the UK and one or both are on an equivalent discount in other territories so please spread the word. Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow is also FREE in Prime Reading globally and the audio version is FREE to Audible subscribers as part of the Audible Plus programme. And, finally, ALL my books are FREE on Kindle Unlimited or to borrow via most libraries.

Big hedge-hugs
Jessica xx

The one where it’s audio publication day for Christmas Miracles at Hedgehog Hollow

It’s publication day! Yay! This time it’s still the hedgehogs returning for their sixth instalment but with the audio version.

There isn’t normally a delay between publication formats – releasing a book simultaneously globally in all formats is one of the many amazing things my publisher Boldwood Books do so well. However we needed to have a delay this time around. The fabulous voice actor Emma Swan who has narrated the part of Samantha throughout the series wasn’t available to record the audiobook in time for the 6th September release date due to other commitments. I was given a choice of using a different voice actor or delaying and it was a no-brainer for me. Emma is fantastic and it would be very wrong to change the voice of Samantha on the final book, disorientating listeners and likely getting negative feedback so I held off.

I’m not sure why Audible had a further two-day delay this week to bring out the audio version today instead of Tuesday as planned but the great news is it’s out there now and you can find it on Audible here. I’m delighted to see that it’s already in the Top 500 first thing this morning and should rise higher later today.

Thank you so much to everyone who has been patiently (or perhaps not so patiently!) waiting for the final instalment. I really hope you enjoy listening to Samantha’s final story alongside Fizz’s whose chapters are narrated by Lesley Harcourt.

The Audible Narration add-on for Kindle purchases is also available from today.

Christmas Miracles at Hedgehog Hollow

It’s the countdown to Christmas at Hedgehog Hollow Wildlife Rescue Centre, and everyone is gearing up for a festive season to remember…

It should be the most wonderful time of the year for Samantha and Josh as they prepare for the arrival of their first baby. But life at Hedgehog Hollow rarely goes to plan and the pair are faced with adversaries, old and new, and unexpected challenges to overcome.

Fizz’s job at the heart of the rescue centre is a dream come true but her personal life is more like a nightmare. With her love life a disaster and her past about to dramatically catch up with her, she needs the love and support of her Hedgehog Hollow family more than ever.

As the snow falls over Hedgehog Hollow, will Samantha and Fizz find the Christmas miracle they need to overcome their heartache and find happiness?

Top 10 bestseller Jessica Redland welcomes you back to Hedgehog Hollow this Christmas for the final time in this series for a heartfelt story of love, family, friendship—and hedgehogs of course!

Big hedge-hugs
Jessica xx