I had the real pleasure of meeting Jessica Redland at the York RNA AfternoonTea, and it gave me the push I needed to finally get round to reading one of her books. I’ve really wanted to try her writing for some time – and Charlee and the Chocolate Shop: A Tale of two Christmases was everything I hoped and wanted it to be.
Charlee and the Chocolate Shop is a heart-warming tale of family and friendship.
Master chocolatier, Charlee Chambers, has plenty to be excited about as Christmas approaches. She’s moved in with her boyfriend, Darren, and she’s about to open a chocolate shop, following in her late granddad’s footsteps. If only Darren would show more interest in helping her refurbish Charlee’s Chocolates ready for a December opening.
When water starts pouring through the shop ceiling, and Darren can’t be contacted to help, emergency plumber Matt comes to the rescue. From that moment on, Matt does more to support Charlee in achieving her dreams than Darren ever has, and she finds herself drawn to him. But Matt’s engaged and Charlee loves Darren… doesn’t she? And Darren loves her… or at least, she thinks he does, but he’s been behaving a little strangely recently.
Then Charlee discovers that Darren has a secret. But so does Matt. And so, it seems, does the woman who abandoned her at birth…
The perfect setting of the twinkling shop windows of Castle Street in Whitsborough, a heroine you immediately take to your heart, a gorgeous love story, a story about moving on and finding happiness, and lots and lots of chocolate. How could it not be a perfect Christmas read?
And if the story is just wonderful, it’s also quite beautifully told. I really enjoyed Jessica’s writing – vivid descriptions that sweep you away into Charlee’s world (the turning on of the Christmas lights brought a tear to my eye…), the detail around setting up the business and the making of the chocolate, the little exchanges in the shop, perfectly written dialogue, and characters that quickly became my friends too. And despite all that wonderful chocolate, the story wasn’t too sweet for my taste – the ups and downs of the relationship with Darren and the family issues were so well done, and some of the characters have complications in their backgrounds that might surprise you.
A thoroughly lovely read, and one that most definitely warmed my heart and gave me a Christmas glow. I’ve never visited Whitsborough before, but I think it’s a destination I’d really like to visit again… I bet it’s lovely in the summer too…
I’m delighted to welcome author Jessica Redland as my guest today…
Jessica, it’s such a pleasure to welcome you to Being Anne – would you like to introduce yourself to everyone?
Thank you so much, Anne. I’m really pleased to be here. I’m Jessica and I write contemporary romance set on the stunning North Yorkshire Coast.
As you’ll see, I thoroughly enjoyed Charlee and the Chocolate Shop – and I just wish I could fit in Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes too, because it looks equally gorgeous. Tell me about the inspiration behind the books – and particularly behind Castle Street in Whitsborough, because I’d like to visit please…
Aw, I’m so thrilled that you enjoyed it. It was so kind of you to squeeze Charlee in as I know how busy you are.
All my books are set in the fictional North Yorkshire coastal town of Whitsborough Bay. It’s inspired by Scarborough where I live, plus Whitby and Robin Hood’s Bay further up the coast.
Castle Street where Charlee’s (and Carly’s) businesses are based is a blend of a few places: a street in Scarborough called Bar Street, the beautiful cobbled streets of Whitby, and the stunning Shambles area of York. These streets are all home to gorgeous independent businesses and are full of character. I’ve now written about four businesses in Castle Street and have ideas for many more stories connected with those who own or work in businesses there.
You’ve obviously done a lot of research around chocolate – my own research is limited to enjoying eating it. How did you set about it?
Ha ha! I eat a ridiculous amount of chocolate so there’s always research going on there! For the book, though, I wanted to understand what it’s like to run a chocolaterie. Through GirlGuiding (I’m a Brown Owl), I’d met the owner of a chocolate shop in Scarborough who is also a Guide Leader. I’d taken my Brownies to Amelia’s Chocolate for chocolate-making workshops so I had some insight into that side of the business but I wanted to get behind the scenes. Amelia very kindly let me be her apprentice for the day and I actually had the chance to help her make her own wedding favours, which was exciting. I have to say, it was such a hardship sampling the products!
Tell me more about you and your writing. Did you always want to write? How did you finally make it a reality?
I always loved English at school but never considered taking it any further until a manager told me that my business reports read more like stories and I should write a book. Nice thought, but what would I write about? Then something happened in my personal life which I realised would make a great premise for a book. Once that idea popped into my head, so did several others, so I put fingers to keyboard and my first novel, Searching for Steven, was born.
It took me a decade, on and off, to write Steven. Then it went through the RNA’s New Writer’s Scheme for two years in a row before I felt it was ready to seek a publisher. In 2014, I was thrilled to secure a three-book publishing deal as, by this point, Steven had grown into a trilogy. Last year I chose to part company with my publisher and continue writing as an independent author instead. So far, I’ve released four full-length novels, two shorter ones (the two Christmas ones) and a novella.
I’ve noticed you have a really full and busy life – how on earth do you fit in the writing?
Sometimes I don’t! In fact, very often I don’t!
My day job is in Human Resources. I’m a tutor, marking assignments and running workshops which sees me working away from home some weekends. It’s extremely demanding and I frequently work 12-14 hour days. I started a Masters in Creative Writing in October, I run a Brownie Pack, I’m taking piano lessons again after a 30-year break, and I’m a mum. All of these things take priority over writing and, with the Masters added in, writing time is virtually non-existent.
I came to the conclusion that something was going to have to give and made the difficult decision to step off my perch at Brownies. I leave at Christmas, after 7.5 years as Brown Owl. I’m sad to be leaving but I’m looking forward to having the time back.
I’ve just put a timetable together to segment my days into work, study and writing slots which I need to rigidly stick to or I’ll never get another book written!
And I know you’re one of that lovely group, the Write Romantics – what does being part of the group mean to you?
I am indeed. I was the co-founder with the very talented Jo Bartlett. We set up a blog and soon realised that we would struggle for content as an unpublished pair so we put an appeal out through the RNA for more members and were quite astonished at the response. Our two grew to ten. The group will be celebrating five years together next April and an incredible 60-70 books between us.
For me, the support the group gives is invaluable. We celebrate successes and are there for each other during tough times. It’s inspiring to see how phenomenally well some members of the group are doing and I hope that, one day, I’ll achieve that amazing level of success.
What writers do you particularly admire? If someone said “your writing reminds me of…”, who would you like them to mention?
Great question! The first books I read in my genre were by Jill Mansell and Marian Keyes and I still love their work. I also love Lisa Jewell, Lucy Diamond, Paige Toon and Sophie Kinsella. Being compared to any of them would be amazing. Incredibly, I’ve had reviews on Amazon where my books have been compared to these wonderful writers. Cue happy dance and excited squeals but also lots of shaking of the head and declarations of “I wish!”
Those comparisons certainly work for me, Jessica. You must love Christmas or you wouldn’t be able to write about it so beautifully – what will your own Christmas look like this year?
What a lovely thing to say! Thank you so much. It’s actually the build-up to Christmas that I love more than the actual day itself. At home, putting the tree up is my absolute favourite activity. I’m a bit greedy and have two trees. Our lounge is at the back of the house so I have a large tree in the lounge, but I like a tree to be seen from outside the house so I have one in the dining room bay window too. I’ll spend a whole day decorating the trees and putting out other Christmassy items, whilst watching seasonal films. My two favourites are the Richard Attenborough version of Miracle on 34th Street and romcom The Holiday.
Knowing I’m a fan of bears, it probably won’t be a surprise to hear that I have Christmas-themed bears everywhere. I love Christmas craft fairs and will be going to ones in local stately homes over the next couple of weekends. For the past seven years, I’ve been to a Christingle service with Brownies on Christmas Eve but this year I will be letting my successor do that instead so I’m looking forward to a relaxing one at home with a glass or two of wine. Christmas Day is then all about my daughter. She’ll turn 11 a week before Christmas and is in her final year of primary school. She still believes in Father Christmas but we suspect this may be the last year so we want to make the most of it.
And your ideal present – another bear maybe?
There’s always room for another bear in the hug! My perfect gift would be what I ask for every year but never get: time. I would love to have time to write. My dream would be to be able to write full-time but I’m a very long way off from being able to make that a reality. So I think I’ll have to settle for a Chris Hemsworth calendar and a box of Lindt chocolates!
So what’s next? Back to Whitsborough?
I’m having a bit of a dilemma as to what to do next because I have five works-in-progress and one idea that’s nudging at me! All but one of them are set in Whitsborough Bay. The one that isn’t is still in Yorkshire, though. This is an unusual situation for me as I don’t normally have more than one project on the go at a time as I usually start one story and see it through to completion. I hope to have something new out in spring but, at the moment, I can’t say what it’s going to be or when. It’s definitely a heart v head thing as to what to write next. Mind you, unless I get that gift of time, it could be nothing!
Whatever direction the writing takes, Jessica, I’d love to try one of your books again some time soon. Wishing you the happiest of Christmases, and every success with everything you’re up to. And a Merry Christmas!
Let’s take a look at Jessica’s other books. Like the idea of the teddy bears? Then you might like to try this one…
When you’ve loved and lost, can you bear to let love in again?
Jemma has the job of her dreams as curator for the children’s section of a museum in London. She spends each day surrounded by the one thing she’s absolutely passionate about: teddy bears. When boyfriend, Scott, shows a genuine interest in her passion instead of laughing at her for “playing with teddies all day”, she knows he’s a keeper.
Returning home to the North Yorkshire seaside town of Whitsborough Bay to celebrate her birthday, Jemma thinks she’s heading for her happy-ever-after when Scott unexpectedly proposes. So, a few days later, why isn’t he retuning her calls or responding to her texts?
Julie has always been a wonderful single mother to Jemma and her little brother, Sean. As owner of specialist teddy bear shop, Bear With Me, and the creative genius behind the successful range of Ju-Sea Bears, she inspires Jemma with her ability to balance a demanding career with home life. So why is the shop now in disarray and why is Sean so upset?
Sam thought he had his future all worked out. With a promising career, a home, and a devoted fiancée, life was looking good. But now he’s all alone in a strange city, far from everyone and everything he cares about, struggling to rebuild the tatters of his life. Did he do the right thing by running away? What does the future hold and is he strong enough to face it?
Sometimes love finds us when we least expect it. But sometimes love leaves us, just as unexpectedly. When you’ve loved and lost, can you bear to let love in again?
Bear With Me, as all will be revealed …
Doesn’t that look lovely? And a closer look at Jessica’s other Christmas book:
Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes is a cosy heartwarming tale of friendship, family, putting the past behind, and embracing the future.
It’s Christmas in Whitsborough Bay. With fairy lights connecting the shops and cafés on either side of the cobbles, Castle Street seems magical. And in such a magical place, surely Christmas wishes can come true.
Carly Travis, owner of Carly’s Cupcakes, has two Christmas wishes this year. Her first is for her younger sister, Bethany, to focus on the positives in her life, including her Christmas wedding, instead of writing herself off as a failure. Bethany’s attempts at cake-decorating aren’t going to win any awards, but she’s certainly great with customers. Carly’s second wish is for her best friend, Liam, to come home for Christmas.
When Liam calls to say he’s been granted leave from the army, Carly makes a third Christmas wish. It’s the one she’s made every year since she was a teenager and, if she’s really brave, could this be the year when it finally comes true?
With Liam coming home, the shop having its best year yet, and a wedding to look forward to, it’s shaping up to be the best Christmas ever for Carly. But for Bethany, things are starting to unravel …
And there are more! Just click the names for the buying links:
About the author
Jessica lives on the stunning North Yorkshire Coast – the inspiration for the settings in her books – with her husband, daughter, cat, Sprocker Spaniel, and an ever-growing collection of collectible teddy bears. Although if the dog has her way, the collection will be reduced to a pile of stuffing and chewed limbs!
She tries to balance her time — often unsuccessfully — between being an HR tutor, running a Brownie pack, trying to re-learn how to play the piano, studying towards a Masters in Creative Writing, and writing itself. Who needs sleep?