The one where something special happened a year ago today

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I opened up Facebook this morning and was presented with a memory from one year ago which momentarily confused me. It was stunning bouquet of flowers but why? My birthday is in May, Mother’s Day is before that, and my wedding anniversary is in September. So what was significant about 18th June 2019 that warranted flowers? Hmm.

IMG_6343Then I scrolled down the memories a little further and all was revealed. One year ago today was the day Boldwood Books officially announced their first twenty authors. I’d been sitting on the news about my 9-book publishing deal for three months so it was so thrilling to see the full announcement go out and to be able to finally share the amazing news with the world. Woo hoo! You can read about the announcement here.

A year on, what a difference Boldwood have made to my writing career. After years spent languishing in the lower echelons of the Amazon charts, I have officially become an international bestseller with a Top 10 in the Kindle Canada charts, Top 20 in the Kindle UK and Australia charts, and Top 3 on AppleBooks UK. Eek! I never, ever imagined chart success like that.

My 9-book deal with Boldwood extended to a 12-book deal when I signed contract addendums this year for the rest of my back catalogue to be re-edited and re-released through them. When I first submitted to Boldwood in February last year, I was drawn to their promise to work with the author on developing their career and they have absolutely delivered on that. Earlier this year, for the first time ever, I felt like a real author.

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And, thanks to Boldwood, this month I achieved a long-held dream of becoming a full-time author. A year ago, I hoped it might be possible one day. Six months before that, it seemed like an unreachable goal.

If anyone reading this is an aspiring writer and struggling, hang on in there and keep believing as you never know when it might happen for you. I wrote about my journey to publication here and it certainly had many dips in the road before I found my home with Boldwood.

My gratitude to the team at Boldwood Books is enormous, for believing in my stories in the first place and for delivering everything they promised – and so much more. They have ‘reimagined publishing’ in so many ways: by bringing out all books for all authors IMG_7016in all formats (eBook on all platforms, audio, paperback and now large print), by treating all authors equally whether debut or with a huge back-catalogue, and by having an individual brand and marketing strategy for each author. Everyone is friendly, supportive, passionate about what they do, and I’m so lucky to be part of the team. #TeamBoldwood which has now grown to 38 announced authors (may well be others lined up for a future announcement) is a pretty special place to be. My editor, Nia Beynon, is an absolute delight to work with and I have learned so much from her expertise in editing my work.

Happy announcement-anniversary to Boldwood and thank you. It took a lot of years and some major disappointments but I am so glad I found my home with you. The first year has been amazing beyond my wildest expectations and I look forward to a long and happy relationship.

Big hugs

Jessica xx

The one where I remember the Top 40 singles chart

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Image by Pexels from Pixabay

When I was young, Sunday was ‘visiting day’; the day where we had our Sunday lunch then bundled into the car and visited my mum and/or dad’s family who lived about 35 miles away. It wasn’t every week but it was regular.

IMG_6892We’d stay for tea at my grandma and granda’s house or occasionally dine with or visit other relatives. Tea was always afternoon tea-style food with sandwiches and scones and cakes. Lovely. Ooh, I could just fancy a bit of cake right now. Nom nom.

On the way home in the car, we’d catch part of the UK Top 40 Singles Chart on BBC Radio 1. We’re talking the late 1970s and most of the 1980s here and this was way before the days of digital downloads. In fact, most of that time was before CDs, with the charts compiled purely on the sale of vinyl records. Showing my age here!

In those days, singles would typically enter the charts and gradually climb up week on week, sometimes only one or two chart positions at a time. It would be exciting listening out for whether our favourite records would have gone up that week and, if so, how far and it would be so disappointing if they’d dropped, especially as that would typically mean the song wasn’t played.

What was even more exciting was predicting who’d be in the Top 3. One of the DJs – can’t remember which one now – used to get listeners to phone in with their predictions.

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Image by Martin Ludlam from Pixabay

Many amazing records didn’t make it to number 1 but still sold in significant quantities and the ones that did make it to that coveted position often stuck around at the top slot for weeks. Anyone remember Bryan Adams being at number 1 for eight years with ‘(Everything I do) I do it for you’? from the film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves? Okay, so it was 16 consecutive weeks really but it felt like eight years although I never fell out of love with that song despite it being played constantly. This was 1991 and Bryan Adams still holds the record (literally) these days for having the longest number of consecutive weeks at number 1 in the UK.

You might be wondering where I’m going with this on a blog predominantly about writing and I promise there’s a link!

Over the past month or so, the four books in my Welcome to Whitsborough Bay series have been steadily climbing up the Kindle charts and, over Easter, I blogged about how excited I was that they’d all received a best seller tag for at least one of their categories and that they’d all broken into the Top 1000 with Book 2, New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms, storming ahead at #352 on the morning of 10th April. You can read that blog post here.

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Breaking the Top 1000 was so exciting for me. All the books had previously been released under different titles across 2015-2016 and, after my publisher ceased trading, I re-released them as an indie author. They had never got anywhere near this type of chart position so this was an absolute dream come true. But it kept getting better. By late April, they’d all cracked the Top 500 and, a week into May, they’d all cracked the Top 400 with the trailblazer, Seaside Blooms, making it into the Top 100 at #91 on 5th May. Wow!

Screenshot 2020-05-05 at 23.14.38It didn’t end there and this is where the chart connection comes in. Once a book makes it into the Top 100 on Amazon in any chart – including category charts – then you can see all the books in that Top 100 displayed beautifully in a chart showing the covers rather than just a number at the bottom of the book details.

It’s a lovely visual representation of how your book is performing and which authors have the books out either side of yours.

Screenshot 2020-05-10 at 20.08.24New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms made it to #51 in the overall Kindle chart a couple of days later on 7th May and suddenly a new milestone of Top 50 seemed realistic. The next day, it got to #42. Was the Top 40 possible? Yes, the following day, it reached #32. But that meant another potential milestone of Top 30. Could it? Would it? The day after – Sunday 10th May, it did. And, not only that, it also reached the Top 25 on the same day. Eek!!!!!

I will admit that, by this point, chart-position-watching had become a bit of an obsession. I think all ‘firsts’ are for writers. I remember staying up until midnight on the day of my first release to watch it arrive on my Kindle. I don’t do that now.

The charts are meant to get refreshed hourly but my experience is they don’t seem to – more like bi-hourly or even every three hours. I couldn’t sleep at night, waking up every couple of hours, wondering if I’d have made it even higher. I am still shattered from several days of doing this. I have, thankfully, got it out of my system now. I wasn’t setting an alarm or anything like that – I’m not that desperate – but it was like my body clock would go, “Right, you, a couple of hours have passed so it’s time to get up and check the charts”. So up I got and padded into my office across the landing to see where I was.

In the very early hours of the Monday morning, I hit #20. Top 20!!! Yay!!!!

But, of course, I wanted more. That’s the problem with achieving a goal; you instantly make a new one! Could I actually get inside the Top 20 into the teens?

It didn’t look like it. On Monday 11th May, Seaside Blooms began to drop to the mid-twenties. Boo. But 20 was absolutely amazing and when it first dipped inside the Top 1000, I’d never have dreamed of reaching that sort of number.

Like the UK singles chart where records go up and down, Seaside Blooms did the same. A good friend of mine tagged me on Facebook on Wednesday 13th May with a screenshot to show #19. I’d done it! I’d made it inside the Top 20 and figured that surely it would end there, especially when it began dropping again.

Up and down, up and down, it gradually moved towards the Top 10 with the highest position to date – #14 – being secured on Sunday 17th May. At some point over the past few weeks, it has held every single position from 14 to 30!

My mum and husband were convinced I’d make it into the Top 10 still but, with a few days having now passed since hitting #14, I think Seaside Blooms has definitely peaked. Although I thought that at #20 and, a few days later, it hit #19 so you never know.

Meanwhile the other three books are all doing me proud:

  • Making Wishes at Bay View (Book 1 in the series) is currently at a personal best of #157. Top 150 next?
  • Finding Hope at Lighthouse Cove (Book 3) has a PB of #182 from Monday but has mainly hovered around #200 since then. I’m hoping it will follow Book 1 and 2 nearer the top of the charts as readers steadily work through the series
  • Coming Home to Seashell Cottage (Book 4) achieved a PB of #214 earlier today so I’m hoping it will break the Top 200 soon. It would be so amazing to have the entire series in the Top 200 together. Even better if they were in the Top 100 together! I achieved that on AppleBooks UK back in March with all of them being in the Top 75 at the same time which was another really thrilling moment.

I am absolutely delighted and so very grateful to my amazing publishers, Boldwood Books, for giving me this opportunity and to all the readers who have helped the series rise. I will admit, though, that it doesn’t feel real. When I was at #14, it didn’t feel possible that only 13 books in the UK out of the millions of eBooks on Amazon were higher in the charts than mine. As I’m typing this, it feels like something that must be happening to someone else; not to me.

Without wishing to sound pessimistic, I don’t think this is something that will happen to me again unless one of my books is on something like a BookBub promotion. I think a combination of factors have all come together at the same time to lead to the current positions enjoyed by Seaside Blooms:

  • Lockdown Time – people have the time to read a lot more and sales of eBooks have rocketed
  • Lockdown Comfort – readers want escapism and they want books that will uplift and hug them, which is what I write
  • Whole Series – because these are re-issues, the whole series are out at the same time, creating an appetite for binge-reading and more so during lockdown
  • Prime Deal – Seaside Blooms is currently on a Prime deal so lots of Prime members are downloading it too

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I don’t have another whole series in my back catalogue to re-issue and I hope we are never, ever in a scenario of lockdown ever, ever again so the above set of circumstances won’t happen again. Or at least I hope the lockdown scenario doesn’t happen again.

Going forwards, I will never forget the moment I broke every goal I dreamed of and those I hadn’t even dared to imagine.

I’ll never forget that unreal moment at 4am, lying back down in bed thinking, ‘I’m at number 14 in the charts!’ and having to fight the urge to wake up hubby to tell him.

I’ll never forget watching my books steadily moving up the charts, just like when I listened to my favourite songs moving up the charts on ‘visiting day’ as a child.

And I’ll never forget those who I’ve been unable to visit for many years. RIP, Granda Wiseman, Grandma and Granda Williams, Uncle Stan, Uncle George and Auntie Olive. Sending love and I hope I’ve done you proud.

Jessica xx

The one where I took a big step in building the tomorrow I’ve always dreamed of

Boldwood Books posted this meme on their Facebook site yesterday and it could not have been more appropriate for me because, yesterday, I grabbed my opportunity to build the tomorrow I want. Yesterday, I resigned from my day job!

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I’ve always needed to fit writing around a full-time day job which has not been easy. Over the years, I’ve held some very demanding roles where I’ve barely written because extremely long hours and/or business travel has prevented it. And it didn’t really matter at first because, when I was writing my debut novel, it felt a more like a hobby. Could I learn how to write a book? Could I get to the end? Would it be readable? I never actually thought beyond that but, once I’d joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) and received positive feedback from readers on the New Writers’ Scheme (NWS), I began to imagine that there could be something beyond a finished manuscript loitering on my computer.

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Image by Welcome to all and thank you for your visit ! ツ from Pixabay 

And there was.

Five years ago, I became a home-based HR Tutor.

Five years ago, my first book was published.

Five years ago, it was no longer a hobby.

Five years ago, I dreamed that I would one day be able to write full-time.

And five years later, it’s happening. Or at least it will be when I’ve served my four weeks’ notice.

And then I’m going to lie on a chaise while a scantily-clad Adonis drops grapes into my mouth while dictating my amazing new novels to a harassed secretary. Oh, wait, have I stolen a Little Britain sketch there?

What I’ll actually be doing is writing but I’ll be able to do it every day. And I’ll be able to do it during the day instead of late on evenings or across weekends like I’ve had to since I started writing. Which means I may actually have some time to spend with my immediate (household) family, extended family (post lockdown) and actually find time to exercise the lard off my rather enormous writer’s bottom!

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Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay 

I am so very grateful to the brilliant Boldwood Books and particularly my editor, Nia. Without my publishing deal with them, my dream would have remained just a dream. Their passion and enthusiasm has taken me from ticking over in the charts with a small number of sales each week to being an international bestseller who has sold 30,000 books (eBook, paperback or audio) through them since my first release in September last year. Wow!

I can’t help but smile at the words ‘international bestseller’ because, in my mind, that conjures up the likes of J K Rowling, Dan Brown, Catherine Cookson, Jackie Collins and Stephen King (picking from a mix of genres here). It’s not me! However, you are officially classed as a ‘bestseller’ if you get into the Top 100 on the Amazon charts and I’ve managed that:

Screenshot 2020-05-11 at 02.20.52The Secret to Happiness – #9 in Canada

The Secret to Happiness – #20 in Australia

New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms – #20 in the UK

Eeeeeekkkkkk!!!!!!!!

Leaving my day job is scary. I’m walking away from a decent monthly income. I’m leaving behind a career choice I made when I was eighteen (a loooong time ago!) My income from writing will be a small fraction of what I earn normally but that drop in income will be worth it for the joy of being able to spend time every day ‘making stuff up’ and finally getting a work:life balance.

To anyone with a dream like mine, keep holding onto it. It might not come to fruition quickly or easily. I’ve certainly had my fair share of rejection, disappointment, self-doubt, and more disappointment along the way. About eighteen months ago, I felt so down about things that I even wondered whether to give up completely. But I couldn’t not write. It’s part of who I am and I’d be lost without it. So I took a deep breath, tried not to cry too much about the many days with zero sales and the low chart positions despite the great reviews and keep believing that, one day, it would happen to me.

And it has.

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Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay 

Roll on Friday 5th June – my very last day. Each webinar run, each assignment marked, and each query answered will take me a step closer to living my dream.

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Image by Gerhard Gellinger from Pixabay 

Thank you to everyone who has supported me and believed in me along the way, especially my amazing husband, Mark, and our daughter, Ashleigh, who have always accepted that I have two full-time jobs and not a lot of time.

Thanks to my mum – my biggest supporter who tells everyone she meets about her daughter, the author.

Thanks to all those who have ever beta read my work (in alphabetical order) – Clare, Liz, Debbie, Jo, Mum, Nicola, Sharon, Sue and Susan with an extra huge shout-out to Sharon who has been my shoulder to cry on, my champion and an inspiration. Can’t wait to meet up and eat (lots of) cake when we’re through the other side. Yes, I know that defeats the bottom-reducing plan but needs must!

And, of course, a huge thanks to so many amazing bloggers and readers, some of whom have been around since the start, through my indie years, and are still with me now and others who’ve just recently discovered my work and have been so lovely and supportive.

Every single one of you have made my dream come true and I can’t thank you enough.

Big hugs

Jessica xx

If you want to read my uplifting stories of love and friendship set on the stunning North Yorkshire Coast, or find out more:

My books are available on Amazon, AppleBooks, Kobo in eBook, paperback and audio formats. You can find my Amazon page here.

You can find my Boldwood Books on Audible here.

You can sign up to my newsletter here.

 

The one where it’s cover reveal time for Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow

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I am very excited to be able to reveal the stunningly gorgeous cover to my new book. Isn’t it sooooo pretty. I think it might just have become my favourite of all my covers. Those hedgehogs. That farmhouse. The flowers. The sky. All so delicious.

I hope you love it as much as I do.

Hedgehog Hollow Facebook Cover Reveal

Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow is out on 2nd July but is available for pre-order right now. Here’s the Amazon link but it’s available on AppleBooks and Kobo too. On release day, it will be available on audio format, paperback, via the uLibrary App if your library subscribes to that and, for the first time for any of my books, large print format. Something for everyone!

Here’s the blurb:

Can love really be found when you stop looking for it…?

As Samantha Wishaw watches the love of her life marry another woman, she’s ready to give up hope of finding her happy ever after.

But when a chance encounter leads Sam to find friendship in Thomas – a lonely, grumpy elderly widower living at derelict Hedgehog Hollow – her life is about to change forever.

Glad to have a distraction from family feuds and match-making, Sam vows to fulfill Thomas and his wife, Gwendoline’s, dreams of restoring Hedgehog Hollow to its former glory, and to open a hedgehog rescue centre.

Throwing herself into the task at hand, little does Sam realise that the keys to love and happiness may also be found at Hedgehog Hollow, when she least expects it…

Escape to Hedgehog Hollow this summer with top 10 bestseller Jessica Redland for the perfect uplifting, feel-good read.

 

This is the first book in a trilogy. Book 2 and 3 don’t currently have titles … mainly because I haven’t written them yet! I’ll be taking a break from my day job next week and should make good progress with book 2 then and we hope to have a title reveal by the time Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow is released.

Big hugs

Jessica xx

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The one where I think about the kindness and cruelty of strangers

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Image by Linus Schütz from Pixabay

How are you holding up? Do you ever have to remind yourself that this really is happening and not just a strange dream from eating too much cheese?

In the UK, we’re entering month 2 of lockdown. For those who work, it’s business as usual for some, immense additional volume and/or pressure for others, and there are those who find themselves furloughed or redundant and perhaps at a loose end. And many of those are turning to books.

In life before pandemic (concentrate hard and you’ll remember it), different people read at different times: before bedtime, on a commute to work, during breaks, all day (if they’re able) or perhaps only when on holiday.  Before pandemic, people read for different reasons: to learn, to be challenged, to switch off, to escape. In our reality now, the latter two have never been more important.

In a survey conducted by The Reading Agency, the people responsible for World Book Night, it was revealed that over 31% of people were reading more since lockdown began. They reported a 35% week-on-week boost for paperback fiction yet a drop of 13% in adult non-fiction sales. Bookstores with an online presence are reporting phenomenal increases in online sales (Waterstones, for example, reporting a 400% week-on-week increase) and the rise in new readers in digital format has been unprecedented.

This isn’t really surprising. In a world where we are staying home to stay safe, entertainment is needed, particularly for those who aren’t working, and books are an obvious place to turn, providing hours and hours of entertainment for a small financial outlay, or even for free. I’m not surprised that it’s fiction that has seen the surge either, based on that need to switch-off and escape.

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Image by Dariusz Sankowski from Pixabay

I write uplifting stories of love and friendship and, via my chart positions in AppleBooks and Amazon, I have seen a surge in readers escaping to the world of Whitsborough Bay. My amazing publishers, Boldwood Books, have massively raised my profile as an author through some wonderful recent promotions on Apple, Amazon and Kobo. The coincidental timing of these with lockdown has seen readers binge-reading the Welcome to Whitsborough Bay series and then turning to my other books to continue their fix. I’ve received messages on Facebook, Twitter and by email from readers thanking me for writing these books which have lifted them and given them a much-needed escape during difficult times. I feel so humbled to think that my words – written in a time when a worldwide pandemic was the domain of a Stephen King novel rather than reality – have given someone a much-needed hug.

I have been quite astonished by the reaction. By the kind words from strangers. By the virtual hugs I’ve received to thank me for the hug my book gave them. I wanted to share some of them here, received recently on Twitter and Facebook:

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There are many gorgeous reviews on Amazon and Apple too for which I am so appreciative. The kindness of strangers has been touching, heartwarming and, as I say, humbling.

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I come from the school of “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything”. However, as an HR Professional specialising in recruitment, coaching, learning & development, I know this is an ideal and not necessarily practical. In my current role as a tutor, I constantly need to give feedback about the assignments I’ve marked and I can’t say “that was amazing” when it clearly wasn’t and hasn’t met a single one of the criteria needed to pass. However, there’s a massive difference between writing something like “this is dire and clearly you will never secure an HR role” and writing “xxx was a good start but you may have misinterpreted the next point and what I’m looking for is xxxx” The difference is constructive feedback; feedback that doesn’t destroy the student and from which they can learn.

Which brings me to the other point of the title of this blog post: the cruelty of strangers. Oh my goodness, some people can be nasty. I’ve seen some reviews of books that can only be described as vicious and it makes me wonder whether the person writing them even pauses to think that there’s a human being at whom they’re directing their venom.

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Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

I have been really lucky with most of my reviews. I confess that I do like a spreadsheet and I will admit to being a geek in keeping a reviews one for Amazon, which tells me that, at the time of writing this post, I have 518 reviews across my nine titles combined and 500 of those (96.5%) are at 5- or 4-star (416/84 respectively). Thirteen (2.5%) are at 3-star, 3 at 2-star and only 2 at 1-star (1% combined). I’m thrilled with this and it does help me think, in my insecure moments, that I might not be too shabby at this making up stories lark. But some of my lower ratings are a little cruel.

I must start with my all-time favourite insult for The Secret to Happiness. “Absolute pish” apparently. If I remember correctly, this reviewer also reviewed a book from a very big name writer and a charger for their car, all of which got the 1-star treatment. Obviously a tough customer to please. On first reading this, I’ll admit that my heart slipped down my body, ran out the office screaming and hurled itself down the stairs. And then I thought of them sitting there, so livid about their car charger and my book that they had to have such a rant yet they haven’t reviewed anything else. Nothing from Amazon has brought them 3-, 4- or even 5-star rating joy. I began to feel sorry for them. And I reminded myself that 55 x 5-star reviewers disagreed, although I can’t comment on what those lovely people might have said about the car charger 😉

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Then there was this very unfair one for New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms. The blurb said it has previously been released as a different title and it’s been all over social media. All the person needed to do was return it for their money back for a purchase made in error:

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Also in New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms, a reader took a strong dislike to my protagonist, Sarah. Yes, Sarah makes some questionable decisions but she learns from them. It’s known in writing as a character arc 🙂 Sarah is actually predominantly modelled on me and the book is inspired by a true-life story about me. That’s me told, then!

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I have a scathing review on Goodreads for Christmas at the Chocolate Pot Cafe. It’s not scathing because the person didn’t enjoy the book but because I hadn’t released it in the format of their choosing. Ouch! Okay, I admit it, the rise of eBooks as the chosen (and sometimes only) format for indie and trad-publisher releases is all my fault. I’ll take one for the team on that!

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Another reader didn’t like me having cancer in my books and went to pains to point out that there are other ways that people die and listed them. The book on which she placed this review had somebody who was in remission from cancer and, across all my books, I have many other forms of death where a death is required for the plot line. Another gave me a low review because she prefers erotica and my book was a bit tame. Had she looked at my covers and read my blurbs? I have no idea what about them would possibly suggest they could appeal to someone who only reads erotica!

But I have to save my ‘favourite’ review till the end. This is actually a 3-star review for the final part in the series, Coming Home to Seashell Cottage so, rating-wise, not so bad. It’s from someone who appears to have read the whole series… and hated it – and me. I’m ‘Redland’ – the one whose voice and characters are disliked:

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Why read the whole series when you “never enjoy them”. And what’s that about Ireland? It was read by an Irish proofreader and copy editor who Irish-ised it for me.

Confused by the review? Yes, I was too! And so was this reader whose comment made my day. Nice to have someone in my corner there:

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I don’t think negative reviews will ever not upset me but how long they upset me for has certainly diminished over time. Everyone has different tastes and my books aren’t going to appeal to everyone who picks them up, even if my genre is usually the one they enjoy. But it would be nice if people could be a little kinder if they haven’t enjoyed what they’ve read.

In fairness, all the negative reviews I’ve placed above with the exception of one were pre-lockdown and some are a few years old. We’re all facing challenges right now and a little bit of kindness – even if the message is 1- or 2-star rating – can go such a long way.

So I’ll leave this post with a big thank you to all those strangers who are kind, who have reached out, who have picked me up at a time when I am physically, mentally and emotionally drained because my day job has doubled in volume and I’m working 12-14 hours a day 7 days a week. Your kind words have meant the world to me and I look forward to creating more characters and stories to provide you all with further comfort and escapism.

Stay home, stay safe, stay kind.

Big (safely distanced) hugs

Jessica xx

PS All the messages and reviews are in the public domain but, in the interests of kindness, I have removed the name from the Amazon reviews. I therefore thought it only fair to remove the names from the kind comments too as this is a post about observing the differences between two approaches and not about popping anyone on the spot and making them feel uncomfortable

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Image by reneebigelow from Pixabay

The one where my series does me proud and my publisher has a fabulous offer

Screenshot 2020-04-09 at 22.46.22Yesterday started with disappointing but very expected news. Our family holiday to Portugal over May half term was officially cancelled. But the day ended with two bits of excellent news. Firstly, the UK’s Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, came out of intensive care which is wonderful news and also a beacon of hope to show that people do recover from this horrific virus. That doesn’t mean it’s okay to invade parks, beaches, villages and beauty spots this bank holiday weekend, though, people. Stay safe. Stay at home!

Secondly, something really exciting happened for my ‘Welcome to Whitsborough Bay’ series of books. During the week, three of them had gained the little orange Bestseller tags over on Amazon but the final book in the series, Coming Home to Seashell Cottage, did me proud and obtained its own little flag meaning all books in the series became Bestsellers at the same time. Woo hoo! And another two of my books – Bear With Me and Christmas at the Chocolate Pot Cafe – also had orange tags bringing that up to six bestsellers at one time. Such a dream come true.

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And they’re not in random categories either – all of the categories do have a direct link to a key theme in the book e.g. Making Wishes at Bay View is set in a care home and is about family relationships across generations so ‘aging’ and ‘aging parents’ [USA spelling on Amazon] is the category. New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms is set in a florists so ‘floral crafts’ is appropriate.

All four books have broken through the Top 1000 on Amazon at some point this week with New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms reaching #352 this morning which was a lovely Easter gift. Better than chocolate any day. Or is it? Mmm. Chocolate…. Is it too early to crack my Easter egg open?

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I know there are many people around the world who are understandably struggling right now and many have turned to books for comfort and escapism. It’s been so heartwarming to receive messages and reviews to say that the stories I’ve created have helped readers through lockdown. When I wrote the series, I always hoped that readers would find the stories uplifting but I never, ever dreamed it would be in an unprecedented scenario like this. When the world needs warmth and comfort, I feel so honoured to play a very small part in that.

South Bay from Esplanade
Scarborough – the main inspiration for Whitsborough Bay

If you would like to take a trip to the stunning North Yorkshire Coast this weekend, then please do it through the written or spoken word. You can visit the world of Whitsborough Bay on Kindle, Kindle Unlimited and audio formats here. Some of the eBooks are 99p just now and they are, of course, free if you’re in KU.

You can find me on Apple and Kobo too. Apple are running an Easter promotion on The Secret to Happiness for 99p and Kobo are featuring the first two books in the series in their Easter sale. If you have access to the uLibrary App through your library, The Secret to Happiness is available on there.

Finally, if you are or know someone who is a hero right now, whether in the NHS or other key worker roles, then my amazing publisher, Boldwood Books, are running an offer over on Twitter to gift a book by me or any of their other fabulous authors to a #NHShero or #Localhero. You need to DM Boldwood on Twitter by midnight tonight (10th April 2020). Don’t worry if you miss tonight’s deadline as it will be running weekly and there’ll be other amazing offers to thank all those amazing heroes for what they’re doing. You can follow Boldwood on @BoldwoodBooks

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Wishing you all the best, with love and virtual hugs

Jessica xx

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The one where I’ve nearly topped the AppleBooks chart

Apple BOTW Making WishesHave you ever achieved something that wasn’t even a goal of yours because it seemed so out of reach that having it as a goal would have been too unachievable? I’ve done that this month and it’s been the gift that keeps on giving.

Making Wishes - Apple Promo BannerFor week commencing 9th March, book 1 in my ‘Welcome to Whitsborough Bay’ series, Making Wishes at Bay View, was the AppleBooks Free Book of the Week. This meant that it appeared on a scrolling banner on the AppleBooks home page and immediately topped the free book chart. Exciting!

What was more exciting was the impact this had on the rest of the series. Books 2 and 3, New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms and Finding Hope at Lighthouse Cove were placed on a 99p promotion on AppleBooks and, on the Thursday of that week, the final instalment, Coming Home to Seashell Cottage, was released for £1.99. So a reader could buy the entire 4-book series for less than £4. Super duper bargain!

Jessica Redland Series Pricing

All books on Amazon show the chart position for the whole chart and the specific category charts. On AppleBooks, you can only see your chart position when you enter the top 200. I eagerly watched the chart, hoping the rest of the series might break the top 200 and was so excited when they did. But across the course of the week, they gradually crept up that chart and did things I never dreamed they’d do.

I was beside myself with excitement when New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms made it inside the Top 10 in the Romance Chart and reached number 37 in the overall chart by the Friday of that first week. But it didn’t stop there…

Last week saw books 2-4 all reach the Top 10 on the Romance chart … and then the Top 5! Wow! New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms peaked at #2, Finding Hope at Lighthouse Cove reached #3 and Coming Home to Seashell Cottage made it to #5.

Books 2-4 - No 2, 3 & 5 in Paid Romance Chart

But they weren’t finished there. I couldn’t believe it when my editor emailed to say that New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms had made it to #6 on the overall chart i.e. all categories joined together. Then it crept up to #5. Then #4. At the time of writing, it’s still at #4 although that does change from day to day. Finding Hope at Lighthouse Cove made it as high as #13 just today and Coming Home to Seashell Cottage made it to its highest overall chart position of #24.

You can click onto ‘Top Authors’ in the AppleBookstore and I actually appear on there. But look who I appear alongside! Oh. My. God!!!! Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined this.

Top Authors Visual - Showing all R Authors

Screenshot 2020-03-27 at 19.40.29Apple don’t hold anywhere near the share of the marked that Amazon have with Kindle but it’s a growing market and I am beyond thrilled that my series is right at the top of the charts just behind or ahead of huge household names like James Patterson, Dean Koontz and Hilary Mantel, including some of my absolute favourite authors – Paige Toon and Lisa Jewell. Feels like some sort of surreal dream to see one of my books right next to Lisa’s when I’ve been a huge fan of her writing for years.

Making Wishes - No 131 in Paid Apple ChartAnd it doesn’t even end there. Despite thousands of readers downloading Making Wishes at Bay View, it has still charted, making it to #131 at the highest so far in the whole chart. And my first Boldwood release, The Secret to Happiness, has also charted again with #160 in the overall chart and as high as #30 in the Romance chart. Eek!

So, in the last few weeks, dreams that weren’t even dreams for me have been achieved and, in these strange and troubled times, I’m so grateful to my amazing publishers, Boldwood Books, who gave me this opportunity to stand out. This gift that keeps on giving has been such an amazing tonic, making me smile instead of cry, and I hope that these books have brought some comfort to those needing and welcoming an escape.

Will they ever make it to the #1 slot. I don’t think they will. You’d probably hear me screaming if they did! Thank you everyone who has made this possible.

Sending much love to you and your families to stay safe.

Jessica xxx

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The one where two of my books get a fresh look and a new identity

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Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay

When the idea for my debut novel,  Searching for Steven, came to me, I had no idea whether I had the ability to turn it into an actual book. I enjoyed writing but writing a book was a bit different from writing the questions for a job interview, a case study for a role play or a training course; all part of my day job as an HR Professional. With a lot of false starts, many hours poring over self-help books with my highlighter poised (shh – don’t tell anyone I do that!) and thousands of abandoned words, I made it. And not only had I got to the end of a book but I’d developed a trilogy. Woo hoo! Highly unexpected and very exciting.

A publishing deal followed (after many rejections in case that sounds like it was really easy to secure) and a home for the trilogy was found. My publisher asked if I could pen a short story as a sample of my writing, introducing potential readers to the fictional world of Whitsborough Bay. An idea came to me for the perfect prequel to the series, but I tend to think big when it comes to plot ideas and it became a novella instead of a short story.

Raving About Rhys was released in May 2015, a couple of weeks before Searching for Steven but it was deliberately written as a standalone novella and could be read before or after Steven.  The other two books from the original trilogy – Getting Over Gary and Dreaming About Daran were released in March and August 2016 respectively but, not long after, it all went a bit wrong. My publisher ceased trading and I needed to quickly re-release them as an indie writer, each with a speedily-designed new cover. Once we had more time, each had another new cover designed. Hubby and I never really liked the cover for Raving About Rhys but I was a bit stuck for ideas so we decided to live with it. Within 18 months of being released, Raving About Rhys had had three identities!

Raving About Rhys tells the story of Callie Derbyshire who works in Bay View Care Home, and loves her job, mainly because she adores the residents. Her favourite resident – even though she knows she shouldn’t have favourites – is Ruby, a woman in her mid-eighties with a colourful past and a grandson who may or may not be a figment of her imagination. Out of the many characters I’ve created across my books, Ruby has remained my very favourite (don’t tell the others in case they stop speaking to me!) She’s funny, mischievous and has a fascinating dynamic with fellow-resident, Iris, who she swears is not her friend.

8. Callies Christmas Wish COVERAlthough Raving About Rhys was a complete story in novella format, Ruby stayed with me over the next couple of years so, last year, I decided to write a follow-up. Callie’s Christmas Wish picked up a few months after Raving About Rhys ended and, as well as letting the reader find out whether Callie’s happy ending stayed happy, it revealed the secrets to Ruby’s past. But Rhys was about to get his fourth identity and, this time, it would be more than a change of cover…

Half of my amazing nine-book publishing deal with the fabulous Boldwood Books comes from my back catalogue. Across 2020, the original trilogy will be re-edited, re-titled and re-released but as a four-book series starting with Raving About Rhys and Callie’s Christmas Wish combined into one story.

The brand new title for this combined book is … drum roll please …

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I absolutely love the new title which combines the name of the care home where Callie works with the strong theme of wishes that I originally had. Funnily enough, I toyed with changing the titles of each book in the series last year, wondering if I should go for something a bit more commercial. I came up with a couple of reasonable(ish) titles but kept trying to incorporate ‘care home’ into the replacement title here which just didn’t work. It never entered my head to simply use ‘Bay View’ even though I frequently refer to Bay View Care Home as Bay View throughout the book! I think you can be too close to your own work and it’s lovely to have the objectivity of an editor who can stand back and see different things.

Raving About Rhys is temporarily still available on Amazon but, once that has been linked with Making Wishes at Bay View, he will disappear from sale and only the combined version will be available. Callie’s Christmas Wish has already been unpublished in preparation for this change.

Business Card FRONTAs for the story, what’s changed? Very little. When I wrote Callie’s Christmas Wish,  I needed to incorporate some backstory from Raving About Rhys for the benefit of anyone who hadn’t read Rhys first. Combining the two books meant all of that needed removing because it wasn’t needed anymore. The story itself hasn’t changed at all and we still have the same fabulous cast of characters, including a real treat of a couple more scenes between Ruby and Iris which I loved writing. There’s a bit more detail around the friendship between Callie and her colleague, Maria, and a couple of tweaks to Maria’s storyline but it’s otherwise the same two stories and characters brought together under one book.

So do you need to read Making Wishes at Bay View if you’ve already read Raving About Rhys and Callie’s Christmas Wish?  It’s entirely up to you. If it’s been a while since you’ve read them or you loved the stories so much that you were going to revisit them anyway, you might want to read the fresh version. I know my mum will and so will my sister-in-law, Sue, who has read the whole series several times!

As soon as the cover is finalised, Boldwood will do a reveal and the ARC version of Making Wishes at Bay View will be made available through NetGalley.

Screenshot 2019-06-18 at 09.41.35It’s currently available on pre-order on Amazon here. It’s going to be £1.99 for eBooks across all platforms but Amazon have priced it a little under that at the moment at £1.59 and will adjust this to £1.99 when the other platforms have it up for pre-order and Amazon’s systems price-match. Therefore, if you want to bag a bargain and grab the new version at a slightly cheaper price, zip on over to Amazon right now! As well as other eBook platforms, it will be available on audio and paperback again. I’m thrilled that the same narrator from The Secret to Happiness, Lucy Brownhill, will be recording the whole of the new series so, if you enjoyed that, you’re in for an absolute treat as she’s sticking around. Yay!

The other three books in the series all have brand new names and we’re in the process of editing them too so, if you’re new to my writing and are thinking of buying the series, you might like to hold fire until 2020 when they’ll all be edited and re-released through Boldwood Books. Title reveals coming later.

Hugs and good wishes.

Jessica xx

Here’s the blurb:

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, <i>finally</i> 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?

A heartwarming and uplifting novel of finding love and friendship in the least expected places from top 10 bestselling author, Jessica Redland.

This book was previously published as two novellas – Raving About Rhys and Callie’s Christmas Wish.

 

The one where I get my first ever 1-star review on Amazon

I’ve done it! After nearly 4.5 years as a published writer with ten books out there, it has finally happened. Today, I received my first ever 1-star review on Amazon for my latest novel The Secret to Happiness.

Screenshot 2019-10-10 at 13.35.14In the writing community, the first 1-star review is often joked about as being the ‘rite of passage’ or it’s said that you’re ‘not a real author’ until you’ve received one. That might all sound very flippant but it’s a way of dealing with the blow of someone telling us that they thought that the novel that we spent months or even years creating with blood, sweat and tears is, quite frankly, a turd. Ouch. It hurts. But it happens.

Every big name from classics like Austen and Dickens to multi-billion contemporary best-sellers like J K Rowling, Stephen King and Dan Brown has 1-star reviews. So that puts me in pretty good company.

I am quite astonished that I’ve ‘survived’ this long without the lowest rating but I will admit that I smarted when I received it today and not for the reason you’d expect…

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Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

One-star reviews happen and, as authors, we need to accept that not everyone is going to love our story (would be a boring world if we all loved the same things). Some readers will come from the “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything” school of thought and keep it to themselves whereas others will happily voice their negative opinions and some of those will do it with venom! Which is absolutely their right. Maybe not the venom part but it’s certainly their right to share their opinion.

No, what irked me was that Amazon have changed their rules around reviews. I obviously missed the memo about this and I still believed that it was not possible to just give a rating; words had to accompany it. Not anymore. Now a reader can simply give a rating with no explanation whatsoever and this is difficult to swallow.

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I still have a day job in Human Resources. As an HR Professional, one of my two specialisms is learning and development. I’m therefore all for a bit of (preferably constructive) feedback and I will happily learn from this in my writing career and action it where possible e.g. if a reader has spotted an error. What I can’t do is learn from a 1-star rating with no explanation. And neither can potential readers. I personally don’t make a buying decision based on reviews but there are plenty of readers out there who do and having low ratings without explanations doesn’t help them or the author.

I’ve seen 1-star reviews for other authors along these lines:

Book didn’t appear on my Kindle

Formatting seemed to go funny

Paperback didn’t arrive on time

Not read it yet so can’t rate it

It’s possible that the formatting is down to the author or publisher but not necessarily. The other scenarios above are definitely out of the author’s control and, if a prospective reader is looking at the reviews for a buying decision and the reason for the low-rating is explained as one of the above (or similar), then they can effectively discount that review as it’s not about the story itself.

I’ve also seen 1-star reviews for other authors that state something like:

Absolutely loved it. One of the best books I’ve ever read. Can’t wait for the next

In this case, the reader has clearly misunderstood and clicked on the wrong end of the rating scale. Oops. But, again, a prospective reader looking at reviews as part of their decision-making will see this and be able to discount that 1-star rating too.

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Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

But when a 1-star rating simply appears without a review, who does this help?

  • It doesn’t help the author because it brings down their ratings and gives them nothing to work with
  • It doesn’t help prospective readers because there’s no information to support the rating and factor into their buying decision
  • And, actually, it doesn’t help the person who left the rating because they haven’t had their rant!
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Image by an_photos from Pixabay

I therefore find myself mystified as to why this system would be introduced by Amazon.

Maybe there is a case for just leaving a rating on certain products. For example, if you ordered a pack of 12 x Bic biros, does that really warrant you having to write a review? They’re mass-produced pens. What more can be said? Either you can write with it or you can’t. But for books, is this really an improvement? I’d suggest not but I’d very much welcome your thoughts.

I’m concerned that it opens the system up for abuse. When someone places a review, their Amazon identifier comes up. Sometimes this is their real name but, more often than not, this is an identity they’ve created for their reviews like glitterunicorn or loves2read. Either way, we have no idea who these people are and the unspoken rule is that we don’t communicate with reviewers, even to thank them, but they do have some form of identity on the system and, if curious, we can see what else they’ve reviewed and maybe take comfort that they never give high ratings for books or they clearly don’t enjoy a certain type of book. However, when they just leave a rating, they’re completely anonymous – we just know the rating and nothing about the source – and this surely opens up the opportunity for an individual with an axe to grind to randomly give a low rating to an author they dislike or even of whom they’re jealous whilst appearing completely invisible on the system.

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On Tuesday, I shared the above tweet to say that 35 of the 36 reviews on Amazon were 5-star. Is it a coincidence that, within two days, an anonymous 1-star rating appeared (bearing in mind it usually takes a couple of days for ratings/reviews to materialise)? Yes, quite possibly. In fact, I hope it is. But I wouldn’t be an author if my mind didn’t work overtime and constantly ask ‘what if…?’ What if someone decided to take me down a peg or two after that tweet? What if someone was sitting there saying, ‘Nearly all 5-star? Well, not anymore. Ha ha ha ha ha!’ I just don’t know. I’d like to think that nobody could be so cruel but we live in a world full of hatred and unkindness exacerbated by keyboard warriors and trolls who don’t think about the impact their words might have on others. Or don’t care.

Can I just emphasise that I’m not upset at receiving a 1-star rating (she writes through the blur of tears before ripping open her second box of tissues for the day). After all, 36 readers disagree. I’m just a bit bewildered by Amazon’s change to allow ratings instead of reviews. Please do pop a comment below and let me know what you think.

Edit: I meant to say something which I put on my FB post about this earlier and that there may well be a whole pile of positives to this change that I’m simply not thinking of because I’m too blinkered by the 1-star review. Huge thanks to Shalini, a prolific reader and reviewer who has been so supportive of my writing for giving another perspective on this. It’s well worth reading her comments for an alternative take (click on the option at the top of this post to see comments).

Jessica xx

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Image by Ka Young Seo from Pixabay

The one where I anxiously await tomorrow’s book launch day

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Tomorrow will signal launch day for The Secret to Happiness. The final changes to the manuscript were made a couple of months ago so I’ve been building up to this for a while now although the last few days seem to have whizzed by.

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Image by Felix Lichtenfeld from Pixabay

This is my tenth release but the first with my fabulous new publisher, Boldwood Books. So far, The Secret to Happiness has been available for pre-order on Kindle, but it will be available in a multitude of formats from launch day:

  • eBook on all platforms
  • Audio – physical and streamed
  • Large print
  • Print on demand paperback
  • Available through all libraries

This is all very exciting because my other books are currently only available on Kindle so I’m hoping that a wider readership will be able to tap into them.

I haven’t received my physical author copies yet but look forward to that box arriving very soon and being able to sniff and stroke my book baby (I know, authors are weird!) I’m not sure there’ll be much to sniff about my audio copies but I will give them a gentle stroke.

In my fantasy life, I’m a super-successful author who’ll spend launch day spent relaxing on a chaise-longe, sipping on white or pink wine (not a fan of champagne or prosecco) and being fed cake and chocolates (grapes being far too healthy!)

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Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

In reality, I’m taking a day off from the day job of marking assignments, my drink of choice will be water and Diet Pepsi or Ribena Light and I’ll be dreaming about cake, whilst frantically refreshing Amazon every hour. My husband has already joked that I’m going to be an obsessive nightmare,  repeatedly panicking that I’m a huge failure and a massive disappointment to my publishers if my book doesn’t set the charts on fire. He’s right. I can feel the panic welling already!

Hubby and I are going out for lunch, which will be lovely, but that will be via the phone repair shop because I dropped my phone this morning and, although there’s not a scratch on it, I appear to have dislodged the screen and it no longer responds to touch. I suspect that this will be expensive.

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Image by annca from Pixabay

How am I feeling about tomorrow? I am what my 12-year-old daughter would call nervo-cited which is a mixture of nervous and excited. Despite amazing reviews on my other books, I’ve floundered in making an impact on the Amazon charts. It seems that those who find my work love it … but not that many find it.

Thirty-two NetGalley advance copy reviews would indicate that readers are loving The Secret to Happiness too which I’m thrilled about … but will that translate into sales and chart positions and take me one step closer to my dream of doing what I love and writing full-time? Desperately hoping that it will. I’m therefore probably more on the nervous side of nervo-cited as I have high hopes for this release.

There’s still time to pre-order The Secret to Happiness for Kindle for the bargain price of £1 by clicking here. A huge thank you to those wonderful reviewers who have warmed my heart with their amazing comments so far. It’s helped ease the nerves … a little bit, anyway.

Jessica xx

 

Everyone deserves a chance at happiness…

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

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

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

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