A particularly special treat today – well it certainly was for me! – as I’m joining the Christmas on Castle Street blog tour and reviewing TWO lovely books by Jessica Redland. Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes – a prequel to the main event, but it also works perfectly as a standalone – was published by Boldwood Books on 13th August and is available as an e-book, paperback, and as an audiobook. This gorgeous shorter read was available free for a short time – it’s not free any more (sorry if you missed it!) but the e-book is available for just 99p. And then there’s Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café – published on 8th September, also available in all formats (and free through Kindle Unlimited). My thanks (as always) to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for the invitation to the party, and to publishers Boldwood for my advance reading copies (both provided via netgalley).
Do you know, I was so delighted when I heard which of Jessica’s Christmas books were being re-released this year – and not just re-released of course, but revised and improved on too. For two years running, I’ve had to choose between two of her Christmas books because – however much I wanted to – I just couldn’t manage to read both. In 2017, I chose Charlee and the Chocolate Shop (review here) and had to “pass” on Carly and her cupcakes: then in 2018 I decided to read Callie’s Christmas Wish (now included in Making Wishes at Bay View) and never did manage to drop in at the Chocolate Pot Café to meet Tara. It couldn’t have worked out better really, could it?
So let’s see if Castle Street still has that special touch of Christmas magic… oh, I do SO hope I’ll be in Whitsborough Bay when they turn the lights on again…
It’s the most wonderful time of the year…
It’s December on Castle Street; the fairy lights are twinkling, snow has settled and the festive season is in full swing.
For Carly, the owner of Carly’s Cupcakes, it’s the busiest time of year getting everyone’s Christmas treats ready on time. However with her clumsy sister, Bethany, as a co-worker, it’s proving a difficult task. They say you shouldn’t mix work with family. Maybe they have a point…
As Christmas approaches, Carly is also eagerly awaiting the return of her best friend to Whitborough Bay. Liam has no idea he’s been the object of her affection since their schooldays. After years of pining after him, can Carly pluck up the courage to finally tell him how she really feels by 25th December?
Could a little festive magic make all of Carly’s wishes come true this Christmas…?
A heartwarming, short festive story of friendship and family from bestseller Jessica Redland. You can find out what happens to Carly next through exploring her best friend Tara’s story in Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café.
This is a new and updated version of Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes which has been previously published.
The night the lights are turned on in Castle Street has to be one of my favourite moments in any of the many Christmas books I’ve ever read, and I’m delighted to report that this book gave me another chance to be there on that rather special night. And “special” is a word I think I really must use again about this really gorgeous read.
I loved Carly from the moment I met her – her sister Bethany maybe a little less, as her ham-fisted efforts put Carly’s chances of a successful and profitable Christmas severely at risk. But she’s a character with real issues and problems, much loved by her sister who’s trying really hard to give her a reason to believe in herself again. The story is just wonderful – a lovely little community that pull together when things become really difficult, a supportive friendship with Tara at the Chocolate Pot Cafe, plenty of tension and drama. And then there’s that remote possibility of romance – if Carly’s willing to be brave and risk her long friendship with Liam by telling him how she really feels about him.
I just loved everything about this book – the beautiful cakes, the teddy bears, the snow angels in the farmer’s field, the friendships, the focus on family, the darker moments from the past, the tentative romance and the sheer joy that follows. And, do you know, I think there are times that a review doesn’t have to be very long at all – this is the perfect small Christmassy package, beautifully written, an excellent story, an emotional and thoroughly entertaining read. Put it on your pre-Christmas reading list without delay – you’ll love it too.
Cosy up with a mug of hot chocolate for some festive sparkle from bestseller Jessica Redland.
Everyone is getting into the festive spirit on Castle Street – snow is falling, fairy lights are glistening and Christmas shopping is underway.
But for Tara Porter, owner of thriving cafe, The Chocolate Pot, this is the most difficult time of the year. From the outside, Tara is a successful businesswoman and pillar of the community. Behind closed doors, she is lonely.
With a lifetime of secrets weighing on her shoulders, she has retreated from all friends, family and romance, and shut her real self away from the world. After all, if you don’t let them in, they can’t hurt you. She’s learnt that the hard way.
But as the weight of her past becomes heavier and an unexpected new neighbour moves onto the street – threatening the future of her cafe – Tara begins to realise that maybe it’s time to finally let people back in and confront her history. It could just change her life forever…
Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café was originally released as Christmas at The Chocolate Pot Café. Now re-released with a new title and new cover, this version has been freshly edited and features several new chapters.
This is the story of Tara at the Chocolate Pot Cafe – we met her briefly in the other Whitsborough Bay books, and experienced the warmth of her friendship and support in Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes. You really don’t have to read any of the other books to enjoy it – it’s complete in itself, entirely standalone – but if there was ever a series I’d urge you to catch up on, I think this just has to be the one.
This book goes right back to Tara’s arrival in Whitsborough Bay, randomly chosen as her destination by placing her finger on a map, needing somewhere she can call “home”. And it goes back further than that, into her sad childhood and the reasons why she fled and left her former life behind – and it’s dark, it’s a bit disturbing, and unusual to find in the light Christmassy read you might have been expecting. I’ll even admit I wasn’t too sure I liked some of its twists and turns, but the author handles it exceptionally well and it gives a real depth to the story that helps you understand why Tara has chosen her solitary and secretive life. But she’s lonely too – and the fact that she tells her story to Carly is just the start of her gradual unfolding, caring for others showing her that what she gets in return can be something really special and improve her life beyond recognition.
It’s impossible not to take Tara to your heart – her loneliness really hurts, as she settles down for Christmas Day alone (well, other than her giant house rabbit) to watch a Friends series and to try not to let her memories of happier times overwhelm her. I loved the story of how she found the cafe and made the place her own – but rather less the man who sold it to her, making things difficult by forcing her to pay over the odds to get her dream in place. The heart of the story is really Tara’s transformation – all the little steps as she lets people come a little closer, as she interests herself in their lives and slowly learns to share her own. But there’s a threat too – the cafe’s previous owner is back in town, and it looks as if he’s going to open up a cafe across the road, threatening her happiness and everything she’s worked so hard to achieve.
I loved the small details and touches in Tara’s story – the snow globe, the photograph album, the motif of the lighthouse, the pot that gave the cafe its name, the memories of the fairground on a really special day (and the way it becomes a recurring image). Then there’s her Etsy business and the detail around the crafting process, the swimming, the pilates classes, the rather special art – and I really loved Tara’s home (and refuge) above the shop, Hercules the rabbit, the decorative touches in the cafe. The descriptions are so excellent, and the book’s setting – the cafe and Tara’s home, the street, the town that surrounds it – are vividly brought to life.
I liked the supporting characters – the other traders on Castle Street, the team at the Chocolate Pot cafe that we get to know better at the same time that she’s getting to know them too. And I particularly loved the romance – in many ways, it’s a fairly classic enemies-to-lovers story, but I really enjoyed the way it progressed from its unpromising start, filled with misunderstandings and mistrust, into a relationship that entirely filled my heart.
This is a Christmas story in many ways, but in many ways it isn’t – it starts that way, and it finishes that way too (oh, those gifts – and all that emotion as family comes to the fore) but the story encompasses the whole year in between, as well as dipping back into the past. Emotionally, it’s all just so perfect – I was totally enchanted, cheering every little advance that Tara achieved, seeing her blossom, sometimes shedding a tear, but more often smiling.
I just loved everything about this book – a wonderful story, a heroine I loved, a romance I really believed in, and the very best of writing. Go on, add it to your list now… I promise you won’t be disappointed.
About the author
Jessica Redland is the author of nine novels, including The Secret to Happiness, which are all set around the fictional location of Whitsborough Bay. Inspired by her hometown of Scarborough she writes uplifting women’s fiction which has garnered many devoted fans.