A happy dance for the Welcome to Whitsborough Bay series

I’m delighted to say that all four books in the Welcome to Whitsborough Bay series have now passed the 1,000 reviews/ratings milestone on Amazon and want to thank every single reader who has taken the time to leave a review or rating, especially if it’s a positive one!

Book 1 – Making Wishes at Bay Viewwas the first to get there quite a few months ago and has already passed the 1,500 milestone, next stop 2,000. This made sense to me as the first book in a series is often the most widely read.

Book 4 got there next – Coming Home to Seashell Cottageand is well on its way to the 1,500 milestone now. Again, this made sense to me as, reading the reviews, quite a lot of readers have referred to the whole series as though they have perhaps just rated the final one.

It was therefore a battle between New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms (book 2) and Finding Hope at Lighthouse Cove (book 3) as to which would get to 1,000 first. Seaside Blooms took that crown nearly a fortnight ago on 16th September and, at the time, Lighthouse Cove only needed seven more reviews to reach the milestone. But there were none the next day… or the day after.

Finally, today, book 3 was jubilant and hit the big 1,000.

Between the four books and the box set, there are well over 5,000 reviews/ratings on Amazon and 92% of those are a positive 4- or 5-star rating. I’m thrilled that readers have taken this series to their hearts and shown such love for Callie, Sarah, Elise and Clare’s stories.

No matter how many books I write, this will always remain an exceptionally special series for me as it’s where my writing journey started. I often get asked which my favourite book is and I love them all for different reasons.

Seaside Blooms, although book 2 in the series, is the first book I wrote so that will always hold a very special place in my heart. Seashell Cottage is probably my favourite story as I felt something shift in my author voice when I wrote that story, moving from a lighter romcom style into the deeper emotional women’s fiction category. Clare fascinated me as she arrived on the pages of Seaside Blooms all feisty, spiky and guarded and I didn’t know why. It was a wonderful thing unwrapping her story in book 4.

But I love Making Wishes because octogenarian Ruby is one of the most fun and fabulous characters I’ve ever created, and Lighthouse Cove has one of my favourite romances in it. So, yes, I love them all and I’m thrilled that readers do too. Thank you again.

A huge thank you also to my amazing publishers, Boldwood Books, and my brilliant editor Nia Beynon without whom I wouldn’t be celebrating milestones like this.

What a lovely start to the week. If you haven’t yet taken a trip to Whitsborough Bay, I hope you’ll be tempted to dive in.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

Discover 6 of my books on Audible Plus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy listening!

Big hugs
Jessica xx

Three amazing offers on my eBooks

A much shorter post today (I promise!) to announce three amazing offers that have just come on this week for my eBooks on all platforms. So whether you’re an Apple, Kindle, Kobo or Nook user, you can bag yourself these bargains.

MAKING WISHES AT BAY VIEW

If you haven’t already read the first book in the ‘Welcome to Whitsborough Bay’ series, now’s your chance to grab it for just 99p in the UK. This is part of Amazon’s ‘first in a series’ promotion for this month only.

Never give up on a wish for a happy ever after…

Callie Derbyshire has it all: her dream job as a carer at Bay View, finally she has found the love of her life. Everything is perfect.

Well, almost.

Ex-partners are insistent on stirring up trouble, and Callie’s favourite resident, Ruby, hasn’t been her usual self. 

But after discovering the truth about Ruby’s lost love, Callie is determined to give Ruby’s romantic story the happy ending it deserves. After all, it’s never too late to let love in again. Or is it?

You can get it on Kindle UK here.

ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE

This book, set in Whitsborough Bay, can be read as a standalone story. There are cameo appearances from a few characters in earlier books but you don’t need to have read those books first to enjoy this story.

I’m delighted to say that All You Need Is Love has just entered the UK’s Prime Reading programme so, if you’re a subscriber, you’ll be able to read it for FREE!

For those not in Prime, it’s on offer too. At the time of writing, it hasn’t quite dipped to the 99p offer on Kindle UK but it should do soon (hopefully overnight) so keep a watch. It is 99p on Apple and Kobo and the prices indicated overseas too.

When you’ve loved and lost, how do you find the strength to let love in again?

Jemma thinks she’s found the love of her life. Scott is everything she ever dreamed of and she can’t wait to begin the next stage of their life together. But just as she is heading for her happy ever after, a shock revelation shatters Jemma’s life as she knows it. Left to pick up the pieces, Jemma’s friends and family rally round to help her find the courage to move on.

Sam think he has his future all worked out. A thriving career, lovely home and an amazing fiancée. But when tragedy strikes, he finds himself alone, far from everyone he cares about. Did he do the right thing by running away and trying to rebuild the tatters of his life alone?

This is the story of Jemma and Sam. Two lost souls, desperately trying to find closure and happiness. When a chance meeting brings them together a friendship is formed, but the guards are up. 

Will it finally be their turn for a happy ever after? Or will the secrets from their pasts prevent them from moving on?

You can get it on Kindle UK here.

FAMILY SECRETS AT HEDGEHOG HOLLOW

The third book in the Hedgehog Hollow series has been reduced for the first time but, unlike All You Need is Love, I would not encourage reading this if you haven’t read the earlier books i.e. the first two in the series.

Although each book does tell a complete story (with a sneaky cliffhanger at the end of books 2 and 3), the books are a proper series following on from each other in the same setting with the same main characters.

There is a ‘story so far’ catch-up at the start and readers have dipped in at book 2 or 3 and caught up through this but have tended to acknowledge that, while they loved the book, they think they’d have loved it even more if they’d started from the beginning. I really do urge readers to do that for a much richer reading experience. You’ll understand the relationships between the characters, the past history, and the motivations.

As book 3 is on offer now, why not grab it and also get the other two? Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow (book 1) and New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow (book 2) are only £1.99 each at the moment so you can get the whole series so far for less than a fiver!

Book 4 – A Wedding at Hedgehog Hollow – is out on 6th January 2022 and available for pre-order now. I’ve just seen a first cover concept and, oh my goodness, it is absolutely stunning! I can’t wait to be able to share it with you soon. I can categorically say right now that it is my favourite so far and that’s only on the basis of a draft cover!

Every family has its secrets, and at Hedgehog Hollow there is no exception…

It was always Samantha’s dream to run her beautiful rescue centre, Hedgehog Hollow, full-time. But just as her wish comes true, she becomes a victim of her own kindness when she finds herself with a house full of guests – all with their own problems and secrets – looking to her for support.

When her self-absorbed cousin, Chloe, unexpectedly turns up at the farm – swiftly handing over her baby to Samantha to care for – trouble is definitely brewing. Especially as Chloe won’t tell anyone why she’s left her husband, James…

As Samantha juggles new hedgehog arrivals, family dramas and her own health challenges, it soon becomes clear that she needs to start putting herself first for once. Little does she know that life-changing secrets from the past are about to unravel and turn their lives upside down…

You can get it on Kindle UK here.

If you’re a Kindle Unlimited subscriber, all my books are available there for free and, if you’re not an eBook user, they’re available as paperbacks, large print editions, some are in hardback (but all will be in due course), physical audio, audio download and on Spotify. So many options!

Big wishes, bear hugs & hedge-hugs
Jessica xx

Celebrating 6 years as a published author

Six years ago today on 23rd May 2015, my debut book was published. Happy anniversary to me!

I’ve written a few posts in the past celebrating all the amazing things that have happened since joining Boldwood Books in 2019 and my challenging journey prior to joining Boldwood. I’m therefore not looking to repeat that. Instead, I’m going to look back at what happened when I first became published as it was one of the most exciting but also one of the most stressful periods of time as one door opened but another closed.

My anniversary would originally have been 3rd June as that’s when my debut full-length novel Searching for Steven was released (now available under the revised title of New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms) but my publisher at the time had asked if I could write a short story to give away for free before publication day. It needed to be linked to the series (Searching for Steven was originally the start of a trilogy).

Short. Hmm.

Well, I tried, but I’m not so good at thinking ‘small’ and ended up writing a novella!

We weren’t going to just give that away so it went up for sale as a 99p eBook on 23rd May 2015. It was called Raving About Rhys and, a few years later, I wrote a follow-up short novel called Callie’s Christmas Wish. These two have since joined together and are now available as Making Wishes at Bay View, the first book in the four-strong ‘Welcome to Whitsborough Bay’ series.

I remembered staying up late the evening before both releases to watch them appearing on my Kindle at midnight which was a very surreal and magical experience. I know I barely slept at all after Searching for Steven was published as that was the big one: my proper, real, full-length debut novel.

These two publication days saw the start of a new era for me as I became a published author. Eek! But late May/early June that year also saw unexpected change.

I was a Learning & Development Advisor for a large food manufacturer at the time and the company had been going through some major restructuring so it had been quite a difficult period. The HR function was already slimmed down to the bones and a couple of job vacancies on the structure chart were removed so the remaining HR staff were given repeated reassurances that there would be no HR redundancies.

Guess who got made redundant?

It was a hell of a shock and the timing of it pretty much took the shine off the release of Raving About Rhys. I’d been out of the office for the week prior to Rhy’s release – which I’ve just realised makes it sound like he was coming out of prison! – running a special community event I’d organised for the apprentices I supported. It had been a huge piece of work which I’d planned to run with a colleague and good friend of mine who did the same role as me but for the more southerly factories. Last minute, she got pulled off it and I was told I had to run it on my own which was a disaster because the whole programme had been planned around two of us so I had to put copious extra hours in – including evenings and the weekend before the event – re-working everything we’d so carefully put together.

Thanks to all that additional hard work, the week with the apprentices went fairly smoothly but it was exhausting. I was so relieved that I’d tagged an extra day’s holiday on after Spring Bank Holiday Monday so I had four days to recover before returning to work.

I got back into the office on the Wednesday – four days after Raving About Rhys was published – and my manager asked if she could see me. She was working in a different building to me so I walked across the site thinking we were meeting for a debrief about the week. As soon her manager came into the room, my stomach sank and I knew something bad was about to happen. I frantically tried to think what it was that I might have done wrong as their sombre faces suggested I was in trouble. Job loss never entered my head.

I cried when they told me I’d been made redundant, but mainly because it was such a shock after the reassurances that nobody in HR would lose their job.

Even worse, I was the only one.

And even worse than that, the decision had been made several weeks previously but they’d wanted me to run the brilliant high-profile event I’d masterminded first!

That was a bit of a punch in the stomach. I did understand from a business perspective why they’d done that, but I was a little insulted that they might think I’d be so unprofessional to run a sub-standard event just because I’d lost my job. If they knew me at all, they’d have known that’s not how I work and, if anything, I’d have pulled out all the stops to make it even bigger and better in order to leave an impressive legacy behind.

What also hurt was that they’d taken my support away from me, meaning I had re-work the entire thing and have the most stressful week ever, when they could have softened the blow of redundancy by letting that week run as planned.

Fortunately, I’d put feelers out with a local recruitment agency during the apprentices week as, although I definitely hadn’t foreseen redundancy, I wasn’t happy with the way things had been heading lately. The apprentice week incident had been the last of many uncomfortable situations.

The day before I was made redundant, while I was on holiday, I’d coincidentally had a conversation with the recruitment agency to explore my CV and consider if there may be an opportunity to join the team, but I had no idea if that would come to anything. I had years of recruitment experience in big and small companies but never in an agency role and I wasn’t sure if my skills would be a good fit.

On Wednesday 3rd June when Searching for Steven was released, I was out of work. I had been invited back to the recruitment agency for a conversation the following week and I had to keep focusing on the hope that it would be a positive outcome otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy my special moment for worry about the future.

I had a launch party for my friends and family on Saturday 6th June and still had no idea whether I had a job. My dream was to write full-time but I was under no illusion about how unlikely this was. I knew the statistics. The vast majority of published authors make less than £10k a year from their writing and most make nowhere near that. I wasn’t with a big publisher. I wasn’t even with an established publisher. If I made £100 in the year, I’d probably be doing well! So it was essential that I found myself another HR job.

The problem with where I live is that HR roles are few and far between. Those that exist tend to be more generalist (dealing with contracts, grievance and discipline, ill health and so on) and that’s not where my expertise (or interest) lay. I was a recruitment and training specialist; roles usually associated with large companies in their head offices and not many companies had HQs in Scarborough. I’d just been made redundant from the biggest!

My launch party was emotional and I remember being in floods of tears a couple of days before when I had it confirmed that the printer had made a mistake and I wouldn’t have any books. A launch party with no books? Well, that was certainly going to be interesting. My publisher had a couple of sample copies that they could send to me so I could at least show what the book looked like and, bless them, they sent me a gorgeous teddy bear to say sorry, but it did mean the day I’d dreamed of for years wasn’t going to be quite as I’d hoped.

Despite the lack of books, the party went reasonably well but it was a boiling hot day and there was no air-con so everyone was melting, especially me.

Hubby was going to take photographs but got so distracted talking to people that he didn’t get a chance so I have very few photos of the event.

My sister in law made an amazing cake and I completely forgot to cut it. I didn’t get to speak to half the guests and I didn’t manage to get any buffet to eat so I was starving and my celebratory wine went straight to my head.

But it was still lovely and I’m so appreciative of everyone who came, some of whom had travelled quite some distance, and all the lovely and unexpected gifts.

The following week, I did get a job offer to join the recruitment consultancy and, after serving my notice on gardening leave (lovely), I started in early July.

Just to close the loop on that, it didn’t work out in the end. Eek!

It was a learning experience on both parts. I might have skills and experience at recruitment but what the role needed was a salesperson and I’m not that. I shed so many tears knowing I was a square peg in a round hole, loving the company and the team, but hating the role itself, knowing that I’d be found out at any moment.

The first few months were a fluke because I was able to secure business with a large manufacturer the agency had been desperate to work with for ages. I’d worked there many years before and one of the managers had rated me highly and was delighted to work with me again. On the back of that, I filled several vacancies, secured bonuses, and was crowned ’employee of the month’.

But once those vacancies were filled, the reality was I couldn’t do the job and that was a horrible position to be in as I’ve always been good at roles I’ve previously held.

There were no other roles around so I couldn’t jump ship, even though I wanted to. The day my manager called me into a room and said ‘this isn’t working’, I also cried. Shock? Yes. Relief? Oh, yes! Time to pack up my desk again…

Fortunately, I’d put feelers out once more. I’d held a very part-time job for several years as an internal verifier for a company who offered the HR professional qualification by distance learning. I’d been scheduled to verify a tutor on a workshop but, when his wife took ill, I was asked if I could train the workshop instead and had the opportunity to meet the manager who managed the tutors as he was tutoring on a workshop that same weekend. I explained my predicament and asked him if they might be looking for any more tutors. It so happened that they would be as the company had expansion plans for later in the year. Yay!

I got straight onto the phone to him while I was waiting for hubby to pick me up after losing my job at the recruitment agency and, within a couple of weeks, I’d secured a tutoring role alongside the verifying role and did that for the next five years.

Last June – roughly five years on from first being published – I marked my final assignment and became a full-time author. This was always my dream although the struggles I had in the first five years as a published author meant I never expected to achieve it. I never gave up hope, though.

To all the readers and bloggers/reviewers who have been with me since the beginning or those who’ve discovered my writing more recently, I cannot thank you enough for putting this square peg firmly in a matching square hole. I’ve finally found my place.

And to my editor Nia and the team at Boldwood Books, you know how grateful I am for being selected as one of the first twenty authors when you first set up and for everything you have done to take my books to an international audience and achieve so many dreams. Thank you doesn’t seem enough.

So I’ll raise a glass (of water – it is only lunchtime after all) and toast a happy sixth anniversary. And it truly is a happy one now that I’ve found the place I was always meant to be.

To quote Mark Twain: “The two most important days in your life are they day you are born and the day you find out why”. The day I became an author was the day I found out why, but this last year or so has been the year I’ve experienced why. The gorgeous reviews, social media posts, and messages from readers about how much my books have meant to them have meant so much to me.

My hubby had canvases made for me on the publication day for Searching for Steven with Rhys’s and Steven’s covers on them and the Mark Twain quote. It hangs above my desk and I look at it several times each day and am so grateful to have found my purpose in life.

Thank you for all the support.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

Making Wishes at Bay View makes wishes come true

The first book in my ‘Welcome to Whitsborough Bay’ series, Making Wishes at Bay View, has reached a huge ratings/reviews milestone on Amazon today, passing the 1,000 point. Woo hoo!

This is the sixth of my books to pass the 1k milestone, joining Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow, New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow, The Secret to Happiness, Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes and Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café. and I still have to pinch myself that this has happened.

Before I joined Boldwood Books, this particular book had somewhere in the region of 30-40 reviews on it and none of my books had reached the 100 point, never mind 1,000!

I’m so chuffed that they’re mainly positive too. Thank you to all the readers and bloggers who have taken the time to share the book love and to pass on their recommendations to friends and family. It makes such a difference.

I’m now watching the remaining books in the series. They’re all way past the 700 point with which I’m delighted.

It looks as though Coming Home to Seashell Cottage – the final book in the series – will make it to 1,000 first. I love all the books for different reasons but this is my personal favourite as I love the many twists and turns in the story. I’m not sure whether it has the most reviews out of the remaining three because more readers loved it or because not all readers have reviewed the previous books, instead rating book 4 with their thoughts on the whole series. Whatever the case, this is a very happy sight…

Thank you again for helping Making Wishes at Bay View achieve this amazing milestone today.

Have a fabulous week.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

Amazing Kindle Deals in Australia TODAY ONLY

Happy Easter everyone!

Down in Australia, the Easter bunny is delivering a fabulous basket of treats for Kindle readers because a whopping eight of my ebooks … yes, EIGHT of them … are on a very special offer for ONE DAY ONLY.

The four titles in the Welcome to Whitsborough Bay Series, one of my Hedgehog Hollow books, and three more of my Whitsborough Bay books are all reduced to the ridiculously low price of $0.99 for SUNDAY 4th APRIL ONLY:

  • Making Wishes at Bay View (Welcome to Whitsborough Bay book 1)
  • New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms (Welcome to Whitsborough Bay book 2)
  • Finding Hope at Lighthouse Cove (Welcome to Whitsborough Bay book 3)
  • Coming Home to Seashell Cottage (Welcome to Whitsborough Bay book 4)
  • The Secret to Happiness
  • Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes
  • Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café
  • New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow (Hedgehog Hollow book 2)

And All You Need Is Love and Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow (book 1 in the Hedgehog Hollow series) are both only $1.89 on offer at the moment too.

So you can get all ten of my Boldwood Books releases for only $11.70!!!

You can find my Amazon Australia books here.

The only book not on offer is Charlee and the Chocolate Shop because that’s due an edit and re-release from Boldwood Books in July so I’d encourage waiting until then to read the fresh version.

Happy Easter and happy reading! Please tell your friends and family and I wish you a fabulous Easter weekend.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

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

Thinking of the book industry during a tough year

A memory came up on my Facebook feed from a year ago: an announcement from The Bookseller about Boldwood Books launching their traditional print programme with The Works. This was so exciting as it was an opportunity to see our paperbacks out in the world and every author who’d signed with Boldwood at the time was guaranteed at least one book going into this programme. Woo hoo!

But at the time of that announcement, as I celebrated the great news and looked forward to visiting my first book in The Works, none of us had no idea what was about to hit us. None of us had any idea how much our world was about to change.

The Secret to Happiness – my Boldwood debut book – was scheduled to go into The Works around Easter which would coincide with the start of the tourist season in Scarborough. I had visions of my local store quickly selling out of the book before I’d even seen it as locals and tourists recognised the Scarborough scene on the front cover. But my book didn’t go into The Works at Easter because we went into a national lockdown. Stores closed and we retreated indoors. The programme was on hold.

The Secret to Happiness went into The Works in June instead when restrictions were lifted and I was both delighted and surprised when they took another two of mine – Making Wishes at Bay View and Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow – before stores closed once more in late 2020.

I felt a mix of emotions as that announcement from a year ago popped up on my feed today. So many amazing things have happened for me as an author during the past twelve months yet so many tragic, shocking and heartbreaking things have happened around the world, changing life as we know it both now and for the future.

Today I’m thinking of all book sellers in the UK and around the world whose doors are currently closed or who have been closed at points during 2020 and 2021. Some of them for good.

I’m thinking of all book sellers whether high street chains, small independents, market stalls or those for whom books are part of a bigger product offering. I’m thinking of how they lost their valuable Christmas season and how 2020 barely existed and 2021 hasn’t even started.

I’m thinking of the indies who don’t have an online presence or a way of operating a click and collect process so no way of making sales.

I’m thinking of all the owners of these businesses, particularly indies, and the staff they employ. 

I’m thinking of all the businesses connected with book retailing like printers and distributors who may have been furloughed/lost jobs/ceased trading. And perhaps less obvious connections like the arts. My husband is a freelance typesetter and everything he was working on was put on hold during the first lockdown. One of his clients produces plays. With theatres closed, there were no plays to typeset.

I’m thinking therefore of all the freelancers in the business whose work may have slowed down or dried up: typesetters, editors, cover designers and so on. There will be exceptions and some may have been busier than ever but not in our household.

I’m praying the industry is able to ride the storm and, despite the hardest year ever to face retailers, I’m hoping they’re back when some sort of normality returns. I’m hoping they all remain part of our ‘new normal’.

It’s been tough for authors too. At the ever-innovative Boldwood Books where all our books are available in a stack of formats with a big emphasis on the digital offering (ebook, audio or streamed), we’ve still been able to reach our readers. Authors with the bigger traditional publishers derive much (most?) of their income from the sales of hardbacks and paperbacks and have had to rely on sales through online retailers. With Amazon needing to prioritise warehouse space for ‘essentials’ like medical supplies, even that route became a challenge.

Last year, launches were pushed back with one crazy day in September where hundreds of new titles were released. Debut authors who might have waited years for this to happen may have been lost in the masses. Even successful authors might have experienced limited impact. Book signings, launches, festivals, fairs and conferences would normally generate income and provide an invaluable opportunity to meet and engage with existing readers and find new ones. And, of course, the organisers of these events and the venues where they’d have been held have also missed out.

Some of my fellow Boldwood authors didn’t get their opportunity to go into The Works, perhaps because they’d written a Christmas book and the shifting schedule would have made it out of season or simply because the moving schedule didn’t have the space to fit them in. And some authors had their books instore but couldn’t visit them because that would involve unnecessary travel. I was very fortunate that my local branch stocked all three of my books and I was able to visit them all. I also tried to get photos of other Boldwood Books like this fabulous romance collection in the Beverley branch of The Works last September when travel was permitted.

And finally my thoughts are with our amazing libraries and the passionate, book-loving knowledgeable staff who work for them, whether employed or as a volunteer. Such a valuable resource, libraries have struggled for many years for funding and support and this past year has provided new and unexpected challenges but it’s been amazing seeing how libraries around the country have worked hard to engage with users and bring them new content, even when the library doors have had to close.

Of course, the book industry isn’t the only industry to have had a tough year. Hospitality, travel and tourism, leisure, retailing as a whole, the creative arts … I could go on and on as I doubt there are many (if any) industries not touched by the pandemic and that’s before we even think about healthcare. But this is a post prompted by Boldwood’s The Works Programme announcement so the focus of the post is purely on the book industry.

Spring is approaching as is the one-year anniversary of the UK lockdown. Let’s hope year two is kinder.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

The one where I was Top 3 in Australia

I had a lovely moment a week ago when one of my Christmas books – Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café – secured a pretty fabulous chart position in Australia.

Last Thursday (5th November) it climbed to number 3! Eek! That’s number 3 in the overall kindle chart.

This is the highest chart position that any of my books have achieved anywhere in the world in overall rather than category charts, the previous highest being #9 in the Canada Kindle Chart for The Secret to Happiness last year.

Prior to that, my highest position in Australia was #11 with Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow so it was really exciting to break the Top 10 and even more exciting to get into the Top 3 down under.

I’d be lying if I said it didn’t enter my head how incredible it would be to achieve the #1 position but I knew there was no chance and that wasn’t me being negative. The latest Jack Reacher outing written by Lee Child and his brother Andrew had just been released and was #2. I was never going to outsell Jack Reacher! The top slot was held by Imogen Clark’s The Last Piece. It was certainly a proud moment to be sharing chart space with them both.

Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café is currently on a monthly Kindle deal in Australia which will have helped propel it up the chart and I’m thrilled that, a week later, it’s still in the Top 50.

The first and third books in my Welcome to Whitsborough Bay series – Making Wishes at Bay View and Finding Hope at Lighthouse Cove – are also in Kindle monthly deals in Australia so are on offer there. (Making Wishes at Bay View) is also on a UK monthly deal just now. These deals are throughout November so still plenty of time to bag bargains.

Thank you to all those readers in Australia who made another writing dream come true for me. It’s certainly something I could never have imagined happening this time last year!

Big hugs

Jessica xx

The one where Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow is available from The Works

I absolutely love my Kindle and read most books as ebooks but there’s a special feeling that comes with holding (and stroking) a paperback I’ve written that I don’t quite get from seeing it on my Kindle. And the one thing that beats that is seeing a book I’ve written in a book shop.

I’ve been so grateful and honoured this year to have had two of my books go into The Works. The Secret to Happiness appeared in June shortly after we came out of the first lockdown and Making Wishes at Bay View appeared in September. I thought that would be it until 2021 so I was both surprised and delighted to get an email from Boldwood’s lovely CEO, Amanda, advising me that The Works had taken delivery of Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow last month, making it three books in The Works in the space of five months. Eek!

Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow appeared on The Works’ website about a week ago. For the other two books, it took about a fortnight from appearing online to the books appearing in stores. With the announcement at the weekend that England would be entering a 4-week lockdown from Thursday, I suspected I wouldn’t see the hedgehogs in my local branch of The Works until we were the other side of lockdown but I’m delighted to say I was wrong!

I met my daughter off the school bus in town yesterday so she could get a copy of the book she’s studying in English – A Christmas Carol – and pick up a few other bits and bobs. We took a trip to The Works.

I didn’t actually spot the hedgehogs at first because there was a fresh batch of Making Wishes at Bay View on the shelves smiling at me. They’d sold out of them very quickly – perhaps helped by them being signed – so it was lovely to see them re-stocked. Then the munchkin pointed out that Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow was on the shelves too, right next to Making Wishes... How could I have missed it?

So out came the pen and I signed them all. Several copies of Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow had obviously sold already as there were only six left out of the ten that they’d been sent. That was quick! The munchkin had been in with her grandparents at the weekend and the hedgehogs hadn’t arrived then and I know from asking before that book deliveries come on Tuesdays! So those hedgehogs definitely proved popular on their first day on the shelves.

Both books are available on the website which you can access here but The Secret to Happiness sold out online a few months ago. There may still be some copies loitering in some stores.

There are lots of amazing books available from Boldwood authors (and lots of other authors too, of course) so why not treat yourself to some lockdown reading and perhaps some Christmas shopping (so you don’t have any postage to pay)? They’re £2 each or 3 for £5.

If you do see a copy of any of my books out in the wild, I’d love to see a photo shared on any of my social media – a shelfie – telling me which store you found it in. Equally, photos of books bought online are fabulous to see.

It’s still a bit surreal imagining that there are people out there reading or listening to my stories, making friends with my characters, snarling at a couple of them, and immersing themselves in Whitsborough Bay or the Yorkshire Wolds.

Thank you to Boldwood Books for making this possible and to the lovely staff in The Works for being so welcoming each time I pop in.

And a final thank you to everyone who has shared their love for the hedgehogs so far. At the time of writing, Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow is still in the Top 300 on Amazon and has a whopping 595 reviews/ratings, 93% of which are 5-star or 4-star. Seriously delighted author here!

Big hugs

Jessica xx