Charlee and the Chocolate Shop by Jessica Redland

It’s impossible not to be drawn to this book, just by the title and the gorgeous cover. It’s Christmas, and it’s chocolate! Win-win.

When we first meet Charlee, the heroine of this story, she’s at a low ebb, having recently lost her beloved nanna – the woman who raised her after her mother left her. Charlee has inherited Nanna’s house, but she feels uncomfortable living there, especially with amorous boyfriend Darren. Darren’s got a new job, and is heading off to Whitsborough Bay, and he wants Charlee to sell up and come with him. But Charlee has her best friend, Jodie, to think about, and her job working with master chocolatier Pierre.

As events take an unexpected turn, Charlee finds herself heading to Whitsborough Bay after all, and is soon on the hunt for premises. Because Charlee has decided to open her own chocolate shop, and she soon finds the perfect location – Castle Street, home of many of the little businesses readers of Jessica Redland’s previous books will already have become acquainted with, such as Flowers and Gifts, Bear with Me and Carly’s Cupcakes.

As Charlee settles in to her new life, she throws herself into preparing her chocolate shop, ready for business, and tries not to dwell on the fact that Darren is about as useful as a chocolate teapot. When a catastrophe occurs, it’s lucky for Charlee that Matt the plumber is on hand to rescue her. Not that Charlee’s interested in him. Of course not. She’s happy with Darren. Isn’t she?

Suffice it to say, Christmas for Charlee that year is hardly something to celebrate, despite her new home and new business. Charlee can hardly imagine being happy again.

As Christmas comes around again, the following year, can Charlee make it the time when all her dreams finally come true, or will it be another lonely Christmas?

This is a lovely story of two Christmases, and what can happen in one year. It’s a tale of friendship, love, and hope. With a subplot involving Charlee’s errant mother, and the truth about her birth and childhood, it’s also more than just a frothy seasonal story.

Sometimes, we don’t realise who really matters to us, even when the truth is sitting right in front of our eyes, and this story reminds us that families come in all different shapes and sizes, but it’s the love at the core of them that makes them real, not blood or birth certificates.

As the year comes to a close, Charlee discovers that she’s not so alone, after all, and she never has been …

This is a really gorgeous festive novel, full of Christmas spirit and lots of chocolate. You will get hungry though. The chocolate is so well described and the images the author creates are enough to make your mouth water. If you’re on a diet, you may need to save some extra calories for when you read this!  5/5

You can buy Charlee and the Chocolate Shop here

 

Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes by Jessica Redland

Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes is a lovely, heartwarming story, centred around a cake shop in Castle Street, Whitsborough Bay. Carly is a kind-hearted and patient woman, who loves her younger sister Bethany so much that she is prepared to overlook Bethany’s disastrous inability to produce a decent cupcake. This is problematic, since Bethany works at Carly’s Cupcakes – having been employed by Carly after a string of previous jobs failed to work out.
Bethany’s confidence is at a low ebb, in spite of the love and devotion of her fiance, and she’s feeling so low that even the excitement of their imminent wedding can’t seem to lift her mood. Carly keeps giving her sister further chances, in spite of warnings from various friends that she should sack her, as Bethany is costing the business money. When Bethany realises what a liability she is to her sister, it’s the final straw. This revelation, combined with the obvious disapproval of her soon-to-be mother-in-law and the stress of organising a wedding, proves too much for her.
Carly must somehow find a way to restore Bethany’s faith in herself, without bankrupting her own business. But how?
And Carly has enough of her own problems to deal with. On top of trying to rectify Bethany’s mistakes, she is trying to pluck up the courage to tell her best friend Liam how she really feels about him. Liam was her staunch ally against the dreaded Biscuit Bunch, back in the days when the two of them were at the mercy of the school bullies. Both Carly and Liam have blossomed, and have good careers, but the insecurities are still there. Carly is too afraid of rejection to tell Liam the truth.
With Christmas fast approaching, Carly has to face up to her own past, in order to build the future she really craves. Is she strong enough to do it?
Cupcakes, love, a romantic wedding, and the beauty of a white Christmas. The perfect recipe for a delicious festive treat. 5/5

You can buy Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes here.

Bear With Me by Jessica Redland

Sometimes love finds us when we least expect it. But sometimes love leaves us, just as unexpectedly.

Everything changes for Jemma on the weekend of her 28th birthday. An unexpected proposal from boyfriend, Scott, is overshadowed by her mum’s diagnosis with a life-changing condition. After the weekend, she needs Scott’s support more than ever. So why isn’t he returning her calls?

Everything was meant to be changing for Sam that same weekend. He should have been walking down the aisle with Nikki. But she’s not around anymore and Sam’s struggling to face the future. Did he do the right thing by moving to London to escape the memories of their life together?

When they’ve loved and lost, can they bear to let love in again?

Bear With Me, and all will be revealed …

Bear With Me takes us back to the familiar setting of Whitsborough Bay – the location of Jessica Redland’s previous books. However, this time, we meet a whole host of new characters.

Jemma thinks she’s found her happy-ever-after with Scott, but just days after receiving a proposal of marriage from him, something changes. Why isn’t he answering her calls?

Julie has been a wonderful single mother to Jemma and Sean, but lately she’s been behaving strangely, and her happy home, Bear’s Pad, is becoming a place of tension. What’s happening to her?

Sam’s future looked bright. He had a promising career and he’d found the woman of his dreams. Now he’s in a strange city, far from everyone he loves, and his life is in tatters. What went wrong?

This is a gorgeous story of love, faith, and new beginnings. Told with the author’s characteristic warmth and humour, it drew me in from the first few pages, as I got to know the main characters at crucial points in their lives. As the novel progressed, I found myself enthralled by the twists and turns in their stories – and boy, there were plenty of them! The author really puts her poor protagonists through the mill.

After suffering so badly, it’s not surprising that Sam and Jemma find they have lots in common, and can understand what the other has been through, and before long a warm friendship blossoms, but Jessica Redland shows how emotional wounds can make moving on a real challenge, and explores the courage it takes to let go of the past and start again.

There is a lovely supporting cast in this novel, including some walk-on parts by characters from the author’s Whitsborough Bay trilogy, which will delight fans of those books. The writer’s gift for creating appealing and relatable characters will, I’m certain, win her a whole host of new fans.

Bear With Me is a real page-turner that made me desperate to find out what would happen next, yet reluctant to reach the end and leave Sam and Jemma behind. Funny, intriguing and thought-provoking, Bear With Me is a genuine five-star book, and I’m eager to find out what’s next from Jessica Redland. 5/5

You can buy Bear With Me here.

Dreaming About Daran by Jessica Redland

I’ll be honest and say that I tend to take longer and longer to read books these days. I used to fly through them, but there are so many distractions in life, and calls on my time, not to mention the annoyance of eyes that get tired much quicker than they used to, that I find it can take a week or two to work my way through a novel – even a novel that I’m really enjoying. I read this book, Dreaming About Daran, in one day, which, to me, says it all.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Jessica Redland’s Whitsborough Bay series. Searching for Steven was good, and had an interesting premise, a lovely setting, and warm, believable characters. I was delighted when its sequel, Getting Over Gary, proved to be an even better read. For me, though, the series hits its pinnacle with Dreaming About Daran.

Clare was always the odd one out in the trio of friends. Not as warm or “cosy” as Sarah and Elise, not as romantic, nor as family-oriented, she always seemed on the outside, somehow. In Getting Over Gary, we saw her soften a little in her attitude to Elise, and without wishing to give anything away, she emerged as more likeable. I always felt, though, that there was something buried deep within Clare that, one day, would make an explosive story. I was right.

Dreaming About Daran is much deeper than its predecessors. I think each book in this series has grown progressively darker, tackling more serious issues, but in this final instalment, Jessica Redland has created a really gripping and quite gut-wrenching story.

I can’t go into any details, as I don’t want to risk spoiling it for new readers, but suffice it to say, Clare has to make a journey away from the life she has built for herself, into the world she left behind – a world so painful that she has managed to bury it. Or so she thinks.

There is humour, of course, and warmth, and friendship, and all the usual Jessica Redland trademarks that ensure a joyous read, but there is so much more to it than that. Secrets and lies, shock and fear, pain and grief, all combine to lead the reader through a most unexpected path into the darkness of Clare’s past. There is a great deal to be uncovered before we can walk safely out into the sunshine again.

For me, personally, this is by far my favourite of the three books, and I felt quite sorry to reach the end of the trilogy. The good news is that, with a writer this talented, I’m sure I’ll have new stories to read by Jessica Redland before long. I can’t wait to see where she takes us next! 5/5

You can buy Dreaming About Daran here

13592819_10154397769704073_6499394717184494023_n

Getting Over Gary by Jessica Redland

I greatly enjoyed Searching for Steven, Jessica Redland’s previous full-length novel in the Whitsborough Bay series, and I also loved her novella, Raving About Rhys, so I was wondering if she would be able to come up with something that I enjoyed as much. In the event, I discovered that Getting Over Gary is my favourite of her books, so far.
The story revolves around Elise, best friend of Sarah, who featured in Searching for Steven. Elise is a lovely heroine, and I really felt her shock and pain as she makes a discovery that will change the course of her life. Her grief is compounded by the events in her sister’s and Sarah’s lives. Surrounded by happy couples and expectant parents, Elise is struggling to cope with her pain. Everything in her world has changed. Everything she thought she knew has been proven to be a lie. How can she start to put her life back together again?
Elise goes on a journey of discovery. Having been half of a couple since she was a teenager, she now has to learn who she is, and what she wants from life, now that her husband is out of the equation. Sometimes, she makes mistakes. Her judgement is a little off-balance occasionally – but how can it not be? She’s lonely, sad, confused and angry. The future she had mapped out for herself no longer exists. She has to grieve not only for what she had and lost, but for what she might have had and never will. So, of course, she’s going to make mistakes and plot a haphazard course for a while.
The great thing about Elise is that she doesn’t give up. Even with her dreams in tatters, she picks herself up and tries to mend herself, her way. Trying to put a brave face on things for the sake of her friend and sister shows what a kind and caring person she is. I really felt for her when she confronted her own mother – an awful old bat of a woman who was enough to crush the confidence of anyone, let alone someone as vulnerable as Elise. As for her mother-in-law! Words fail me.
I loved following Elise’s journey as she battled to get over Gary. I was rooting for her all the way through the book, and I really hoped she would get her happy ending. I won’t say what happens, but suffice it to say I had a big smile on my face when I came to the end.
Lovely, warm writing, great setting, characters you can really relate to, and a satisfactory conclusion. I’m now looking forward to reading the last in the Whitsborough Bay series, although I will be very sad to say goodbye. 5/5
You can buy Getting Over Gary here.
12799268_839027679541079_1610991709676919465_n

Searching for Steven by Jessica Redland

This is a fabulous debut novel from Jessica Redland. Sarah, the protagonist, is truly delightful, and feels like someone you’d want to hang out with in real life. The book has a very original premise – Sarah finds an old tape recording of a clairvoyant she once visited. It turns out that the clairvoyant was accurate about a lot of things, but her final prediction sends Sarah’s world into a spin. She is about to meet the man of her dreams – and his name is Steven. So begins Sarah’s search for her very own Steven, but where can he be? As she embarks on a series of dates with various Stevens, is Sarah blind to the possibility of finding love with the ideal man, who just happens to have the wrong name? Was the clairvoyant wrong after all? Or does fate have one last twist in store for her? Searching for Steven is a lovely novel, full of warm and realistic characters and a beautiful setting – Whitsborough Bay, based on the real life town of Scarborough. I also loved the prequel to this novel, Raving about Rhys, and am eagerly awaiting the second book in the Whitsborough Bay trilogy, published by So Vain Books. Well written and thoroughly enjoyable. 5/5 Buy Searching for Steven here51x2DOeWfVL._AA160_

Raving About Rhys by Jessica Redland

I really enjoyed this novella, which is short enough to read in under two hours but packs plenty in! I loved the character of Callie, and she really made me laugh out loud in places. Tony was … well, I won’t give anything away. Suffice it to say that I’m a huge fan of Rhys! 🙂 I loved Ruby and I enjoyed the care home scenes, which were really well done and handled very sensitively. The She-Devil’s story was told really well, too. All in all, this is a really enjoyable story that I would recommend to anyone. Funny, romantic and altogether lovely. Jessica Redland writes so beautifully. I’m really looking forward to reading her forthcoming novel, Searching for Steven. 5/5

Buy Raving about Rhys here:

raving about rhys