Book review and Giveaway: Ellie-May and her Toy Dragon, Ben by Genna Rowbotham

A new arrival on the Enchanted Emporium bookshelf is Ellie-May and her Toy Dragon Ben by Genna Rowbotham, thanks to Rachel’s Random Resources. It instantly caught Amber’s attention as any book containing a hint of dragon always do. Accepting the blog tour invitation, she passed it over to Rosa to review with the help of Alejo.

Scroll down to read their honest and unbiased view.

Book review: Ellie-May and her Toy Dragon, Ben by Genna Rowbotham

Ellie-May and her Toy Dragon, Ben by Genna Rowbotham book cover
a young girl riding a red dragon with a yellow tummy over a city skyline.
Ellie-May and her Toy Dragon, Ben by Genna Rowbotham

Title: Ellie-May and her Toy Dragon, Ben

Author: Genna Rowbotham

Publisher: Adventure Scape Press

Genre: Picture book

Release date: 14th March 2023

Purchase Links

Genna’s website:  

Amazon (Paperback):

Amazon (eBook):   

Google Play: (eBook):


Feeling so excited for a new day ahead, Ellie-May struggles to sleep. So when her toy dragon, Ben

grows into a real-life dragon, they take to the starry skies and embark on a night-time adventure together, where they visit Ben’s castle and enjoy a dragon party.

But as the sun begins to rise and the stars fade, will Ellie-May be able to stay awake?

Thoughts from the Emporium

Before giving it to Rosa, teenager Amber read Ellie-May and Ben’s adventure first with a huge grin, as the simple rhyme immersed her into story and made her younger self happy. Her favourite toy was a dragon, Iggy, making Ellie-May and her Toy dragon Ben the type book she’d have chosen on a bookshop trip as a young child.

Alejo is on the upper end of the recommended age, five but when Rosa read it as a bedtime story, the adorable plot, fun imagery and characters lured him in. You know it’s a good story when a reread is requested. With an easy to follow plot and language he could also join in with some reading himself. He now wants a Ben of his own and more adventures.

Ellie-May and her Toy Dragon Ben is an ideal bedtime story for dragon loving kids and will be a hit on the Emporium’s lending library.

Author Biography

Photo of Genna Rowbotham. Young white woman with light blonde hair, smiling wearing a black jumper
Genna Rowbotham

Genna Rowbotham wrote her first children’s story in 2017, fitting it in around caring for her young family, and is now an author of nine children’s books as well as a short story in a magazine. Rowbotham has a passion to write stories that help entertain, educate and inspire young-ones as the reader can escape the seriousness of life and enter a world of magic.

Her other interests include reading, writing, travelling, astrology, spending time with her family and exploring the great outdoors.

She lives with her lively, imaginative family in Derbyshire in a house full of books, magazines as well as colourful drawings and all sorts of artwork from her children (empty cereal boxes are often taken from the recycle bin to reinvent something wonderful like a spy camera or telescope).

Social Media Links –




You Tube:  


Book Bub:  

Giveaway to Win a bundle of  3 Children’s books by Genna Rowbotham (Open Int)

Giveaway prize of three books.
Ellie-May and her toy dragon Ben
Where is Lamby?
Lottie the Ladybird's Adventure
Giveaway prizes

Prize includes Where is Lamby? (rhyming picture book), Lottie the Ladybird’s Adventure (for ages 7-9) and  Ellie-May & her Toy Dragon, Ben (rhyming picture book)*

Enter here

Good luck!

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.


Book Review: The Last Tree A Seed of Hope by Luke Adam Hawker

When The Last Tree: A Seed of Hope by the talented artist Luke Adam Hawker, arrived on the enchanted bookshelf, Amber and Rosa squealed with delight and appreciation of the beautiful pencil drawn illustration of an old gnarled tree on the cover. This is a book that demands to be read and everyone at the emporium are grateful to Random Things Tours’ invite to this tour and advanced copy to give their honest opinion.

Is this story as beautiful as the cover promises? Scroll down to find out more.

Book Review: The Last Tree A Seed of Hope by Luke Adam Hawker

The Last Tree A Seed of Hope by Luke Adam Hawker

Title: The Last Tree A Seed of Hope

Author: Luke Adam Hawker

Publisher: Ilex

Genre: Picture book for children and adults

Released date: 2nd March 2023


Imagine a world without trees. A world that is in many ways like our world, but where magnificent
canopies, tree climbing and leaves rustling in the breeze are now only distant memories…

Until a young girl comes along, a girl who is brave and spirited and willing to follow where her imagination takes her. Through Olive’s adventures in the world of trees we are reminded of nature’s extraordinary power and beauty, and her actions ultimately sow the seeds of new life in her own world.

From the mind and pen of Luke Adam Hawker, the Sunday Times bestselling author of Together, The
Last Tree is a superbly illustrated narrative that is a powerful evocation of the fragility of our natural world and a magnificent celebration of its beauty

Thoughts from the Emporium

Like many witches, Amber is drawn to nature but particularly trees. The drawing on cover resembled her favourite tree in her garden which was her constant companion during her childhood. It was where she played, climbed, hid and read under. Even without this connection, she’d have wanted to read this book. 

The exquisite illustrations of Olive’s adventure are made more outstanding because of their monochrome simplicity. They urged her to study them rather than skim past which is often the case with picture books. The accompanying words tell the sweet poignant tale of a child climbing into a picture to explore the world of trees. Again the simple adventure adds to the books beauty, tugged at the emotions and made Amber vow to do better at helping the environment and cherish those trees around her.

Rosa read The Last Tree to Alejo as a bedtime story and despite it being a far cry from his usual excessively vibrant, and high adventure books it has become one of his favourites. Olivia’s experiences drew him in, provoked chat and nature walks. 

The Last Tree is a beautiful, subtle story with big message for young and old and would sit proudly on any shelf including the Enchanted Bookshelf. It would make an ideal gift too.

Author Biography

Luke Adam Hawker. Black and white photo of a man sitting in a woodland setting on a log with a large gangly dog. The dog's tongue is hanging out. Like is white with short hair and a closely cropped beard.
Luke Adam Hawker

Luke Adam Hawker worked as an architectural designer before becoming a full-time artist in 2015. He sells his signed and limited-edition prints to fans throughout the UK and the rest of the world.
He has also been commissioned by brands such as the Soho House Hotel Group and has an artwork hanging in the Parliamentary Art collection.
He has over 298k very engaged Instagram followers @lukeadamhawker.
Luke’s first book, Together, was a Sunday Times bestseller. It has sold over 130,000 copies worldwide to date and has been translated into nine languages.
Luke lives with his wife, son and dog Robin in Surrey, England.

Other blogs on this tour

Monday Merry Meet: Kate Baker

We are thrilled to have debut author, Kate Baker visit us to chat about her book, Maid of Steel, writing and ghostly goings on at boarding school. Her Instagram stories, Otis her dog photos, and chats always make us smile especially this week with her book launch. If you don’t follow her, you’re missing a treat.

Grab your favourite beverage and put your feet up for five to catch up with her news.

Monday Merry Meet: Kate Baker

A photo of Otis a black and tan dachshund sitting on a lap

Willow: Welcome Kate and Otis, I hope you found us okay. Pop through to the back and make yourself comfy. Feel free to let Otis on the sofa, Vincent has gone on his daily prowl of the harbour so there will be plenty of room.

Kate: Otis, stop sniffing that door. I’m sure the witches have told their cats to stay away out of sight while you’re here!

Willow: Yes, with Vincent gone Black Cat is doing whatever feline ghosts do when they’re not haunting properties so we’re safe. What can we get you to drink? We have Yorkshire tea, herbal tea, and other blends, coffee or some celebratory Prosecco. We’re so excited about your debut release and have been following the excitement on your social media.

Kate:  May I be greedy and have a glass of Prosecco and a Camomile tea please? I found the latter to be particularly helpful when I was on the radio once.

Pouring prosecco into a glass photo black and white

Amber: I’m so glad you’re finally here as we have cake and Willow refused to let us have any without you. I’ve made Otis some homemade dog biscuits too.

Kate: I think he’s can smell that too – that nose of his will get him into trouble one day. I’d adore some cake, and thank you, Willow, for keeping it safe until I arrived.

Rosa: I’ve just finished reading Maid of Steel and adored the Irish location, and you’ve captured the atmosphere of the time. Emma is strong willed and ready to fight for suffrage. What made you choose this part of history?

Kate:  I was fascinated by the Cobh Heritage Centre, a museum down in the harbour of Cobh, formerly known as Queenstown. Depictions of mass emigration brought home to me how terrible life must have been for people in Ireland after the Potato Famine hit. They left their homes in desperation, and hoping to find a new life overseas. Not everyone made it. That became the backstory to Emma’s tale. Emma is the granddaughter of Ellen, an immigrant to New York who did, in fact, make it. Emma travels back to Ireland to see where her grandmother came from. She finds lots out about her family, and lots out about herself too! It had to be set in 1911 and 1912 because of how the book ends!

Willow: Your book mentions so many historical details we knew nothing about, such as soldier’s homes where soldiers could experience a few hours of normality to help with their mental health. Were you aware of these things before you wrote the story or did they crop up in research?

Kate: No! My dear friend, Hannah, whom travels with me when hubby is too busy to leave the farm, spotted the carved out letters in concrete above a doorway in the harbour. I’d have missed it completely! We returned to our hotel and googled it, and that’s when I discovered Emile Sandes (sometimes she’s known as Elise) and all that she did for the soldiers of Ireland and then when it caught on, England too. Emma wishes something like that had been around in the states for her brother.

Rosa: In essence, Maid of Steel is a forbidden love story. Have you always been attracted to this genre?

Kate: Yes. I love fiction where we can explore the darker side of life.

Amber: This is your debut. What has your publication journey been like? If you did it again, would you change anything?

Kate: Great question, Amber. Do you know something? I wouldn’t. I needed it to take four years for the story to evolve. Over that time, my craft and understanding of character improved and had I released it earlier, I fear it would not be the quality I hope it is today. Having jumped off the Finding-an-Agent path and landing on the Indie Publishing route, I had to learn a whole new approach, but that’s where The Book Guild have come into their own.

A photo of a three-tiered cake stand with cakes, a cup and sandwiches
Afternoon tea

Willow: Emma isn’t the only strong woman in your book. If you could choose one of your female characters to have afternoon tea with, who would you choose and why?

Kate: This is hard to answer! I think Alice is an intriguing devil, but it’s Mrs Walsh who really captures my attention. To seemingly have such an equal relationship with her husband in 1911 seems astonishing, yet he evidently loves her to be in work, and for a good cause, and doesn’t even bat an eyelid when she refused to be counted on the night of the Census! I’d love to know her outlook on life.

Willow: You live on a farm and run your own business, how do you balance writing and your other commitments?

Kate: By being incredibly flexible and not worrying if plans have to change. I can have a rough idea of how I want a day to go, but if one of my commitments becomes more pressing, then it has to come to the forefront and no longer do I let that bother me. I get on with it, get the other side of it and pick up the other stuff after. Chill, chill … whenever possible; that’s my motto!

Notebook open, coffee cup, kindle and pencil

Amber: Many writers visit the Emporium. Do you have any advice for people wanting to write?

Kate: Explore your ideas through free-writing. It’s hugely liberating, especially with a pen and paper. The blank screen of a laptop can be very daunting. A stolen five minutes in a carpark, or at the end of the kitchen table while the peas are simmering, can provide a quick moment of escape and your pen can flow with words as you think them. Not whole sentences; but random thoughts. Get them down, let them out. Often they quickly turn into a scene! And sometimes those scenes can morph into something from your WIP.

Willow: The Enchanted Emporium sells several candles in The Wishing Spell range which promise to help your day go smoothly. Which would you choose?

Kate: (picks up A Good Night’s Sleep candle) THIS ONE! I’m an insomniac so a good night’s sleep is a rare and beautiful thing!

Willow: One candle invokes memories of your perfect holiday or day when lit. Where would it take you?

Kate: Gosh, this is hard. Perhaps the rocky beaches near Padstow in North Cornwall, where we used to go regularly while the children were growing up. But equally can I be boring and say my south-facing patio and describe a ‘holiday’ from work and farm accounts? That’s my special place – and free to get to!

Illustration of a ghost reading a book of ghost stories

Amber: That sounds a perfect special place. Ghosts and paranormal activity plague The Enchanted Emporium. Have had had any spooky experiences – has it influenced your writing?

Kate: Oooh, I have! At boarding school, in Stamford, Lincolnshire. I was about twelve and killing a Saturday afternoon alone in the dormitory, idly playing my recorder. (I wasn’t very good at the recorder, by the way). At one point, a wardrobe door swung slowly open. I stopped playing and watched. The door opened fully. I began to play the same piece (don’t ask; I don’t recall) and one of the school navy tunics began to sway. I stopped playing and got up off the bed. It stopped swaying. I played again; it swayed. I stopped; it stopped. I was spooked by this and told my friends. They wanted me to re-enact it for them a couple of hours later and sadly, one of the girls got behind the wardrobe (unbeknown to me) and pushed it gently as I played. But I swear, that first time, no-one was in the room with me. I haven’t written anything spooky of any length, but have dabbled in a bit of horror writing, and science fiction, following a course last spring.

Willow: If we could blend you a bespoke potion to give you a superpower for 24 hours, what would it be?

Kate: For everything else around me to pause, and for me to be able to type with focus for hours!

Willow: Sounds a good plan. Our Enchanted Emporium bookshelf is a small lending library full of books with either fantastical, horror, witchy or paranormal theme. What would you add to it?

Kate: Have you got the Carlos Ruiz Zafon series? Set in ancient Barcelona? If not, your witches are missing out, as are your readers. They will thank me for this when you add the series!

Rosa: We’ll check. The bookshelf likes hiding books. I have a Box of Romance books I share with friends and customers. What would you add to it?

Kate: Pernille Hughes ‘Ten Years’ is a great one … Lucy Keeling’s series is fun, and I think the Time Travellers Wife is a classic.

Willow: And finally, what are you working on currently? Or is it top secret?

Kate: The Projectionist is an inter-generational friendship story about a 90-year-old man and an eleven-year boy who wants to run away from home before the end of a six-week summer holiday, before he has to go to High School. Frank becomes Toby’s mentor, an unlikely combination which the town frown upon at first, because people always judge books by their covers!

Willow: It sounds fantastic. Thank you and Otis for joining us.

Title: Maid of Steel

Author: Kate Baker

Publisher: The Book Guild

Genre: Historical fiction, romance

Release date: 28th Feb 2023

Purchase Links

Publisher’s link:

Amazon UK:

Amazon US:



It’s 1911 and, against her mother’s wishes, quiet New Yorker Emma dreams of winning the right to vote. She is sent away by her parents in the hope distance will curb her desire to be involved with the growing suffrage movement and told to spend time learning about where her grandparents came from.

Across the Atlantic – Queenstown, southern Ireland – hotelier Thomas dreams of being loved, even noticed, by his actress wife, Alice. On their wedding day, Alice’s father had assured him that adoration comes with time. It’s been eight years. But Alice has plans of her own and they certainly don’t include the fight for equality or her dull husband.

Emma’s arrival in Ireland leads her to discover family secrets and become involved in the Irish Women’s Suffrage Society in Cork. However, Emma’s path to suffrage was never meant to lead to a forbidden love affair…

Author Biography

Kate Baker

Kate Baker wrote terrible holiday diaries as a child, which her husband regularly asks her to read out loud for their entertainment. She has since improved and has written with intent since 2018. Maid of Steel is her second novel; the first is lining drawers in the vegetable rack at their farmhouse.



Book Review: Accidental Magic by Iris Beaglehole

Willow stumbled on this book by accident on social media but was drawn to the promise of a midlife protagonist, humour, tea and of course witchcraft. Within seconds, it was downloaded on to her Kindle.

Scroll down to see if it lived up to her expectations

Book Review: Accidental Magic by Iris Beaglehole

Beautiful cover. Dark background with a selection of purple wtchy items surrounding the title eg cat, crystals, book, potion bottle and flowers
Accidental Magic by Iris Beaglehole

Title: Accidental Magic Book 1 of Myrtlewood Mysteries

Author: Iris Beaglehole

Publisher: Te Rā Aroha Press

Release date: 28th February 2022

Genre: Paranormal women’s fiction


Welcome to Myrtlewood, a quirky town, steeped in magic, tea and mystery…

Life’s a struggle for Rosemary Thorn and her teen daughter, Athena. But their regular troubles are turned upside down after Granny Thorn’s mysterious death.

Despite her cousin’s sinister manoeuvrings, Rosemary returns to Myrtlewood and the sprawling, dilapidated Thorn Manor. But there’s more to the old house than meets the eye, as Rosemary and Athena soon find out — in a whirlwind of magic, adventure, mystical creatures and endless cups of tea.

Life in Myrtlewood would be bliss if Rosemary could only clear her name in a certain murder investigation, solve the mystery and stay out of mortal peril – for at least a little while!

A small town with endless secrets, strange activities, and a house with a mind of its own.

If you love mystery, witches, paranormal women’s fiction with a midlife main character and a big dose of humour, you’re going to love Myrtlewood Mysteries Book 1.

Thoughts From the Emporium

This book delivered on its tagline and gave Willow and then the others (they soon downloaded a copy* after she raved about it) some much needed light-hearted, witchy escapism with self discovery of the magical kind and a murder investigation at its core.

Single mum, Rosemary, and teenage, Athena move into the Grandmother’s home and discover the village, Myrtlewood, is nothing like they expected. With ampful mentions of tea to match Willow’s own addiction, quirky and unusual characters mulling around the pub and locality, there was plenty to latch on to and explore in future books.

Amber enjoyed having a fellow teenage witch to relate to despite Athena’s seemingly lack of powers while Rosa and Willow were drawn to Rosemary herself trying to do her best in bad situations and family disputes.

Like many witchy novels, the setting especially the house are characters in their own right and Thorn House is no exception. For many, witch or not. the idea of a self cleaning home is perfection but it is more than that, it’s quirky, shows the author’s imaginative side and is a foundation for the ongoing magical mysteries.

Accidental Magic is an entertaining read, and full of life. With characters ranging from witches, vampires and shapeshifters, this is the strong start to a cosy paranormal series and more than worthy of being the Enchanted Emporium’s bookshelf when they get a physical copy.

*At the time of posting this the first three books are available as a boxset for a bargain of 99p – here

Author Biography

Iris Beaglehole is many peculiar things, a writer, researcher, analyst, druid, witch, parent, and would-be astrologer. She loves tea, cats, herbs, and writing quirky characters

Social Media





Book Review: The Festival of Cats

Today is the review for the Festival of Cats which is anthology full of the works by Diana Alexander, Amaris Chase, Daphne Denley, J. J. Drover, Harriet Hitchen, Rebecca McDowall, Jane Phillips, Angela Reddaway, Margaret Royall, Stuart Samuel and Penny Wright.

Willow was thrilled to be invited to read this book, after all with her feline familiar, Vincent and resident ghostly Black Cat, how could she resist?

Thank you Crumps Barn for the advanced copy to read and offer our unbiased opinion.

Book Review: The Festival of Cats

Book cover for Festival of Cats. Pastel illustration of a tortoiseshell long haired cat, side view.
Festival of Cats

Title: The Festival of Cats

Author: Diana Alexander, Amaris Chase, Daphne Denley, J. J. Drover, Harriet Hitchen, Rebecca McDowall, Jane Phillips, Angela Reddaway, Margaret Royall, Stuart Samuel and Penny Wright

Publisher: Crumps Barn

Release date: 28th February 2023

Genre: Poetry, memoir, fiction anthology


Heroes and danger, comfort and claws

A black cat dreams of finding a new family, and a vampire is woken by a brush with ancient folklore. Then a cat tests just how far his nine lives run, before a stray moves in, and a kitten discovers a thirst for adventure …

Full of playfulness and wildness, this is a vibrant collection from eleven UK authors about the reality of being owned by a cat

Thoughts From the Emporium

Willow began reading this curled up with Vincent beside her, listening to him purr and fell in love immediately with the tale of Moonlight, a black cat longing for adoption. She knows they are less likely to be adopted thanks to their witchy reputation. It was Vampire Cat which drew Amber’s attention. Who knew these felines could raise the dead in one leap? And living in Whitby with its own vampiric folklore, it made her more wary of Black Cat lurking in the shadows.

While there are many cats immortalised in words, black cats win the day which made those in the Emporium smile (just don’t tell Vincent who believes his ginger mane and coat make him superior to threadbare Black Cat).

This wide ranging collection of short fiction, memories and poetry maybe pocketsize but it has heart, emotion and holds the essence of cat ownership making it a joy to read and an ideal gift for cat lovers.

With its tale of witches, vampires and haunted chessboards it’s a must for the Enchanted Emporium’s bookshelf. And with the inclusion of a matchmaking feline, it also earns a spot in Rosa’s box.


This is a unique collaboration of eleven UK authors featuring original work from: Diana Alexander, Amaris Chase, Daphne Denley, J. J. Drover, Harriet Hitchen, Rebecca McDowall, Jane Phillips, Angela Reddaway, Margaret Royall, Stuart Samuel and Penny Wright. All are cat lovers to the core.

Media links

Cotswold Life magazine:

Book Review: Together Again by Milly Johnson

Milly Johnson books are always popular in Rosa’s Box of Romance. As soon as one is returned another customer nabs it to read so you can imagine Rosa’s and the witches’ excitement of being invited to her blog tour for her newest novel, Together Again.

Scroll down to see whether it reached their high expectations

Book Review: Together Again by Milly Johnson

Together Again By Milly Johnson

Title: Together Again

Author: Milly Johnson

Publisher: Simon and Schuster

Release date: 3rd March 2023


Together again after years apart, can they find a new beginning? The brilliant novel full of laughter, love, tears and hope from the Sunday Times bestselling author Milly Johnson.

‘This masterpiece honestly describes the strength and acceptance required to be a family. 5 STARS’ Adele Parks, Book of the Month, Platinum magazine

Sisters Jolene, Marsha and Annis have convened at their beautiful family home, Fox House, following the death of their mother, the tricky Eleanor Vamplew. Born seven years apart, the women are more strangers than sisters.

Jolene, the eldest, is a successful romantic novelist who writes about beautiful relationships even though her own marriage to the handsome and charming Warren is complicated.

Marsha, the neglected middle child, has put all of her energy into her work, hoping money will plug the gap in her life left by the man who broke her young heart.

Annis is the renegade, who left home aged sixteen and never returned, not even for the death of their beloved father Julian. Until now.

So when the sisters discover that their mother has left everything to Annis in her will, it undermines everything they thought they knew. Can saying their final goodbyes to Eleanor bring them together again?

Together, Again is the story of truths uncovered and lies exposed, of secrets told – and kept. It is a novel about sister helping sister to heal from childhood scars and finding in each other support, forgiveness, courage and love.

Thoughts From the Emporium

Wow! Everyone agreed this book took them on an emotional and unexpected rollercoaster. Many tissues were needed.

None in the Emporium have had easy childhoods but Eleanor Vamplew was something else with her narcissistic traits. As with all Milly Johnson’s characters, the sisters had depth, individuality and were relatable making their journeys more impactful. It was refreshing to see a dysfunctional family dealing with the death of a toxic parent rather than one that is loved and it gave a realistic depiction of the fallout and guilt the grief brings.

Told in the different sister’s point of view, it was easy to see how the sisters’ relationships broke and how they need each other to heal and reconcile. Each member of staff latched on to a different sister dependent on their own life experience, age and personality. Once married Rosa connected to Jolene for more reasons than her doing Rosa’s ideal job, workaholic Willow related to Marsha and Amber felt for the youngest sister. They all agreed they couldn’t put the book down. When Annis’ secret was finally revealed it sent them reeling and showed how siblings can have different childhoods despite the same parents and childhood home.

Milly’s warm humour, quirky observations and ability to offer hope to readers while taking them through some hard hitting storylines shone in this book making it one of their favourite reads.

This powerful, emotional but ultimately uplifting read will resonate with many providing them with feeling of being seen.

It has already triggered many conversations in store and provided a platform for the friends to share their of own childhood scars so they could get support to heal. While this novel has less romance and darker themed* than normal, it’ll still go into Rosa’s box and will be a hit in the small lending library.

*That said Milly Johnson’s never shy away from all types of life experiences women find themselves in so has touched on some hefty topics already in previous novels. Within her twenty books, there is at least one that hits the reader and says this one’s speaking to me.

Author Biography

Milly Johnson

Milly Johnson was born, raised and still lives in Barnsley, South Yorkshire. She is the author of 20 novels, 4 short story ebooks, a book of poetry and a Quick Reads Novella (‘The Little Dreams of Lara Cliffe’) and was an erstwhile leading copywriter for the greetings card industry. She is also a poem and joke-writer, a newspaper columnist and a seasoned after dinner speaker.

She won the RoNA for Best Romantic Comedy Novel of 2014 and 2016, the Yorkshire Society award for Arts and Culture 2015, the Romantic Novelist Association Outstanding Achievement award in 2020 and the Richard Whiteley Award for Inspiration to the County of Yorkshire in 2022.

She writes about love, life, friendships and the importance of community spirit. Her books champion women, their strength and resilience and celebrate her beloved Yorkshire.


Twitter @millyjohnson,

Instagram @themillyjohnson,

TikTok @millyjohnsonauthor

Facebook @MillyJohnsonAuthor

Monday Merry Meet: Linda Corbett

Welcome to another week to celebrate romantic fiction. We’re excited to have a new romantic author visit today, Linda Corbett whose novel. Love You From A to Z is a new addition to Rosa’s Box of Romance and the review can be found here.

Grab a cuppa and sink down into your seat to catch up with the this week’s chat.

Monday Merry Meet: Linda Corbett

Purple drink in a heart shaped mug
Purple Valentine’s Punch

Willow: Hi Linda, welcome to the Enchanted Emporium. Please have a seat. What can we get you to drink? We have different blends of tea including Yorkshire, coffee, hot chocolate or Valentine’s punch? It’s non-alcoholic but between you and me, the spell Amber has added to it makes you feel a tad tipsy. And are you ok with ferrets? Amber has an exam, so we’re looking after Beetle for her. He’s well behaved but I’d make sure any bags are closed as he likes a rummage.

Linda: Hello Willow! I’m afraid I am not a tea drinker, but Valentine’s punch sounds intriguing. I love all animals, although I’ve never encountered a ferret before, so that will be interesting.

Willow: Love You From A to Z is based on some letters being found in a storage container Jenna’s boyfriend, Matt buys. How did you come up with the idea? We never knew you could do such a thing.

Linda: One rainy autumnal afternoon my husband was watching “Storage Wars” on the telly. It must have stirred my imagination even though I wasn’t watching it, as I began to wonder whether people ever found personal items hidden away in these lockers, and what might happen if they did.

Two tan and black and white guinea pigs
Image by Ilona de Lange from Pixabay

Rosa: Your novel is the first I’ve ever read that has Guinea pigs in a starring roles and your love for them shines through. Did you always plan to include these adorable creatures in your debut? My son Alejo has already told me he wants one when he’s older.

Linda: I decided at the outset that the book would have guinea pigs in it somewhere. After all the stress of the 2020 lockdowns, I just wanted to write something that entertained me and not worry about markets or trends, so I created this fictional guinea pig rescue, which is run by the heroine’s sister and her partner. I then had enormous fun writing those scenes. And guinea pigs are like crisps – you can never have just one or two…

Willow: They’re like ferrets then. I’m amazed Amber just has the one. We loved Jenna and the t-shirt she wears. Your book gives an accurate portrayal of her living with a disability, how important was it for you to have a disabled protagonist in a romantic plot?  

Linda: It was my editor who asked if I would consider writing a disabled heroine, although I’d toyed with the idea previously. Disabled characters have often been poorly represented in fiction and on the screen, portrayed either as figures of fun or more often, deserving of pity. I wanted to show that Jenna sometimes finds life challenging, but she isn’t defined by her disability. At the beginning of the story, it’s her past and upbringing that holds her back, rather than her mobility issues. I grew up reading children’s books like Heidi, where disability was shown as a negative, sad thing, but even in recent years some novels still have an emphasis on pity for disabled characters. This is often an able-bodied person’s perception of disability, not the reality of everyday life with a disability. I believe everybody should have the chance to see themselves as the heroine of a romance novel.

And for anyone who hasn’t read the book, Jenna’s T-Shirt reads: “Legs not working efficiently. (Everything else meets or exceeds manufacturers’ specification)

Rosa: Such a good T-shirt. My mother wants one. Love You from A to Z is your debut, what has your publication journey been like? If you did it again, would you change anything?

Linda: My journey to publication has had plenty of ups and downs. My first attempt at a novel was ten years ago, definitely a practice effort and now buried somewhere on my laptop! However, my second attempt garnered some agent interest, and the third got me an agent. Sadly, the book wasn’t taken up and after I submitted novel number four, my agent contract was terminated. My fifth attempt was written on a wave of inspiration after receiving the Katie Fforde bursary in 2020, so Love You From A-Z is technically book six! In total, I clocked up over 220 rejections before I got that one “yes”. If I had to do the last ten years again, one thing I would definitely do is join the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writers’ Scheme much earlier than I did.

Willow: That is some journey and shows determination and perseverance does pay off. Reading your author biography, you’re busy with your charity work. Do you have a writing routine to help you fit it in?

Linda: I don’t have a fixed daily routine, but I’m definitely a morning person, so I’m usually at my laptop by 8:30 a.m. I do most of my writing in the morning unless I’ve reached a really exciting scene and then I just have to carry on! My Shine Surrey work has fitted around the writing, and my fellow committee members are very understanding when I’m knee deep in edits.

Illustration of books, scrolls and ink bottle with quill

Rosa: Many of our customers love the idea of writing a novel. Do you have any advice for novice disabled writers?

Linda: I would definitely recommend reading as widely as possible in your chosen genre, and also books that explain the craft of writing – I have found there are lots of helpful articles online too. Writing a book is a solitary experience, so it is helpful to join a writer’s group where you can have both peer support and some sort of critique of your work. Your mum or your sister may love your novel but won’t give you the honest, critical feedback you need. I know from firsthand experience that professional criticism can feel harsh, even brutal,  at times, but I’ve found out the hard way that you don’t know what you don’t know. Writing involves hours of effort, and having a disability adds another layer of difficulty, so set yourself sensible targets and don’t try to compare your progress to other people’s – that road leads to disappointment.

Willow: The Enchanted Emporium sells several candles in The Wishing Spell range which promise to help your day go smoothly. Which would you choose?

Linda: Ooh, I definitely need to try several of these, but I think I’d choose confidence.

Willow: One candle invokes memories of your perfect holiday or day when lit. Where would it take you?

Linda: I’d love to go back to the day in September 2012 when we visited the California redwoods as part of our road trip down the US west coast. I remember the calm silence of the ancient forest and standing alongside giants that were already fully grown trees at the time of the Norman conquest – it was awe inspiring.

Willow: That sounds amazing. Ghosts and paranormal activity plague The Enchanted Emporium. Have you ever had any spooky experiences – has it influenced your writing?

Linda: I have only once experienced something I couldn’t explain, but I was half asleep at the time so I’m unsure whether it was real or not. However, in Love You From A-Z, Jenna does see a ghost, and she also hears about a legend of doomed lovers cursed by a witch in the wood.

Willow: We often blend different potions beyond the love ones that are flying off the shelves this week. If we could create a spell to give you magical powers for 24 hours, what would it be?

Linda: I’m currently scouting around for story ideas, so I’d love one that gives me a boost of creative inspiration. I’d scribble down all the ideas before the potion wears off!

Rosa: My Box of Romance’s is proving popular thanks to Valentine’s Day. What would you add to it?

Linda: There are too many great stories to choose from – I’d have to visit with a suitcase!

Willow: And finally, what are you working on currently? Or is it top secret?

Linda: My next book is due to be published in the summer. The heroine, Maddy, is a journalist and Jane Austen fan who learns on Valentine’s day that not only has she lost her job, but she’s also inherited a house from a distant relation and black sheep of the family. What she didn’t realise was that the house came with certain obligations as well as an opinionated, romance-sceptic neighbour who also  happens to be a bestselling crime writer.

Rosa: Now that sounds fun. Thank you for coming and hope the punch hasn’t made you too giddy.

Love You From A to Z by Linda Corbett

Title: Love You From A to Z

Author: Linda Corbett

Publisher: One More Chapter

Genre: Romance

Release Date: 24th June 2022

Purchase Link –


Experience has told Jenna Oakhurst that Happy Ever After may happen in all the best stories, but Happy For Now is the best one ought to expect in real life. Yet lately even that isn’t quite enough, so when a strange set of circumstances leads her to discover a mysterious letter in an abandoned storage unit, she takes the chance to embark on a journey into the unknown…just like the heroines from the storybooks.

Reaching out to the letter’s author, Henry Somners, changes Jenna’s world irrevocably and she starts to realise that the magic she believed in as a child might not be such a fanciful notion after all…

Author Biography

Linda Corbett

Linda Corbett lives in Surrey with her husband Andrew and three permanently hungry guinea pigs. As well as being an author, Linda is treasurer for Shine Surrey – a volunteer-led charity that supports individuals and families living with spina bifida and hydrocephalus. For many years she also wrote a regular column for Link, a disability magazine, illustrating the humorous aspects of life with a complex disability, and she is a passionate advocate of disability representation in fiction. When not writing, Linda can be found papercrafting, cross stitching, or cuddling guinea pigs.

Monday Merry Meets: Jessica Redland

Welcome to our next Monday Merry Meet where we celebrate author’s who write romantic fiction. We’re excited to chat to Jessica Redland who has written many bestseller novels based in our beloved North Yorkshire and the Wolds.

Grab a cuppa and relax for five minutes while you discover what she has to say about her books, writing, the romance genre and of course, spells.

Monday Merry Meets: Jessica Redland

Vincent looking grumpy in a pink frame with love is in the air wording
Love from Vincent

Willow: Welcome Jessica, have a seat. We’re thrilled to have you this month to celebrate romance books to coincide with Valentine’s Day. While the Enchanted Bookshelf has oodles of fantasy and paranormal books, Rosa’s Box of Romance is full of romantic novels, including yours. Talking of romance, I apologise if Vincent, our Maine coon, is extra affectionate. The catnip we’ve used in some of our love potions has made him high. Amber has cast a no stick spell to prevent you getting covered in his fur.

Jessica: It’s so lovely to be here and I love cats so am more than happy to have a Vincent snuggle … although my dog, Ella, may be a bit grumpy with me for giving my affections elsewhere when I get home later!

Amber: What would you like to drink? We have umpteen blends of tea, including Yorkshire tea, hot chocolate, coffee or something stronger. We have some mead made from local honey too.

Jessica: Could I have some hot chocolate please? Did somebody say cream and mini marshmallows?

Amber: Hot chocolate isn’t the real deal without those. Won’t be a mo.

Pink mug full of hot chocolate and heart shaped iced biscuits
Hot Chocolate for Valentine’s day

Rosa: I’m so excited to have you here and many of our customers mention how much they love your books because of the local locations. Whitsborough Bay is based on Scarborough and the Hedgehog Hollow series is based in the Wolds. How important are the settings to your books and how do you decide which ones to use?

Jessica: My settings have become such a strong part of my brand but, funnily enough, I didn’t have one when I started writing. I’d relocated back to the north to be closer to my family after living away from home for about 12 years and I knew I wanted to write a book set in the north, but I had no sense of where. A couple of months later, I met my husband who was from Scarborough and, as soon as I visited him, I knew I’d found the inspiration for my setting. I’ve lived in Scarborough for nearly 19 years now and, with the northern tip of the Yorkshire Wolds being just a few miles away, it seemed a logical place to set my hedgehog rescue centre, adding a countryside setting to my coastal one.

Deciding on which setting to use falls naturally with the story I want to tell and whose story that is. I try to keep the two main settings distinctly different so a story involving a shop or café is more likely to be a Whitsborough Bay one with me keeping my Yorkshire Wolds setting for things that are more logically countryside-based like the rescue centre and a farm (Bumblebee Barn).

Willow: You’ve gone from different shopkeepers in Whitsborough Bay to the romantic occurrences in a hedgehog rescue centre and now jumping into reality tv with Healing Hearts at Bumblebee Barn. How easy do you find starting a new series?

Jessica: Scary! There’s always a fear of readers not enjoying a new setting. A lot of readers expressed disappointment when I ended the Hedgehog Hollow, which is incredibly flattering as it means I’ve created a world they love and want to keep visiting, but it’s also a lot of pressure on writing something new. I stand by the decision that it was time for the Hedgehog Hollow series to end, but fans of the series have enjoyed the treat of some glimpses into the rescue centre in Healing Hearts at Bumblebee Barn, so I think I may have appeased them.

When I first shared the blurb for Healing Hearts at Bumblebee Barn, a few readers expressed surprise at reality TV playing a part in the story as that’s very different and typically more of a romcom story line rather than women’s fiction, but I haven’t changed the style of book I write with it. The reality TV setting is simply a different storyline around how this story of love, friendship, family and community unfolds.

Photo of Healing Hearts at Bumblebee Barn book near some lavender

Rosa: I’m an avid romance reader and your books always provide the much needed an uplifting, happy ending. Did you always want to write in this genre?

Jessica: Aw, thanks Rosa. Yes, I did. I was in my early to mid-twenties when I discovered romcoms and, as soon as the idea came to write a book, I knew this was what I’d write because I also love that uplifting, happy ending. As I worked on my first series – Welcome to Whitsborough Bay – my voice and style developed and I moved from romcom to women’s fiction, which, for me, still means the same uplifting, happy ending but more of an emotional journey in getting there.

I do want to write in other genres in the future, but alongside this one. My heart will always remain with the romance genre, and I couldn’t imagine not writing heart-warming stories which help people escape from how tough life can be.

Amber: Healing Hearts on Bumblebee Farm is your eighteenth book. What has your publication journey been like? If you did it again, would you change anything?

Jessica: I can’t believe I’m at 18 already. When I wrote my very first book, I wasn’t even thinking about publication – just wanted to see if I could write one book! I went through the RNA’s NWS (Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writers’ Scheme) between 2012-14 and started submitting my debut in late 2013. I had a stack of rejections but secured a 3-book publishing deal in 2014, which then extended to include a novella. The novella came out in May 2015 with the first novel released in June that year and I really thought I’d made it. Things didn’t work out as hoped. Eighteen months later, the publisher had ceased trading; I had my rights back, and I re-released those four books as an indie author.

Unfortunately, being indie didn’t work for me. I wrote and released another five books and none of them made much impact. I really needed to learn how to advertise properly, but I had a very demanding full-time job and any ‘spare’ time had to be devoted to writing or I’d have had nothing to promote.

In 2018, I realised I was going to need to either find another publisher and hope they could work miracles or accept that it wasn’t going to work for me and walk away. I’d written a new book, so put it out for submission and had a few rejections which completely floored me and massively knocked my confidence. Calling it a day was a very real consideration, but then I saw an advert for Boldwood Books. ‘One last submission,’ I told myself. Fortunately, they loved it and they’ve turned me from a struggling indie into a bestselling author.

Would I change anything? No, because I feel like I’m exactly where I’m meant to be now and I needed to go through the difficult years to get here and to appreciate what I now have. I’d like to have been better equipped with the resilience to deal with some of the tough stuff, but I wouldn’t change the actual journey.

Willow: Thank goodness for that final submission. After talking to several authors now, everyone seems to have different ways to tackle their writing. What is your writing day like?

Jessica: I used to cram writing into evenings and weekends so was really productive because, if I didn’t crack on with it, I’d never achieve anything. I became a full-time author in June 2020 and I still haven’t quite sussed a routine. I could be more productive than I am, but I allow myself to get distracted scrolling through social media and going down research rabbit holes. I’ve recently started writing book 20 and decided to try a different approach of writing first thing and only allowing myself to look at emails or social media once I’d written 2k words. That was going brilliantly for a week, then I got hit by the lurgy so had to have a week off. I now need to get back into it and hope I can sustain it.

Amber: There’s a lot of lurgy going round. Hope you’re feeling better now. Many would be writers come in looking for spells to help their creativity. Do you have any advice for fledgling romance writers?

Jessica: My first bit of advice isn’t specific to a romance writer, and it’s just to get on with it. We can find so many excuses not to write and time is the big one. I say we can all find time if we really want to. I used to watch several of the soaps after work, but I stopped watching them to free up time to write.

For a romance writer, I’d say to really think about the importance of setting. In a romance story, the setting is very much a character in itself which can add warmth and make readers feel so much more involved. I’m running a workshop through RNA Learning across March all about the importance of settings and it’s available to non-members as well as RNA members if anyone wants to find out more about this.

Writing Course with Jessica Redland

Amber: That sounds great. Not quite the fantasy settings I’m attempting to write but anything can be adapted right?

Willow: The Enchanted Emporium sells several candles in The Wishing Spell range which promise to help your day go smoothly. Which would you choose?

Jessica: Can I have them all? 😉 Too greedy? I crave a good night’s sleep, so can I go for that one please? It feels like I haven’t had one of those since I was first pregnant. My daughter turns 17 this year so I’m very tired!

Willow: One candle invokes memories of your perfect holiday or day when lit. Where would it take you?

Jessica: Aw, how lovely. Probably my wedding day. It was such an amazing day from start to finish. I spent a lot of the evening on the dance floor, which was great, but I wish I’d circulated a bit more to speak to some of my relatives, especially as many of them are no longer with us. I kept thinking I’d do a wander but then another great song would come on (we had an 80s disco) and I never quite made it.

An comic illustration of ghosts
Image by GraphicMama-team from Pixabay

Amber: Ghosts and paranormal activity plague The Enchanted Emporium. Have ever had any spooky experiences – has it influenced your writing?

Jessica: I was about to say no, but I’ve just remembered something. When I was at primary school, we went on a week to an activity centre and all stayed in this long dorm which was divided into 4 coloured bays. I was in yellow bay at the end and there was a rumour that the yellow bay was haunted by the grey lady. As the story was being relayed, the fire exit burst open and everyone screamed. It couldn’t have been opened from outside, so it was super spooky at the time.

I haven’t included any ghostly experiences in my books. There are, however, a few spiritual occurrences in my Hedgehog Hollow series at the point where a character dies. I’ve really enjoyed including those.

Rosa: And I enjoyed reading them. Some tissues were needed for some of them.

Willow: We often blend different potions beyond the love ones that are flying off the shelves this week. If we could create a spell to give you magical powers for 24 hours, what would it be?

Jessica: I’m wondering what spell could do the most good in 24 hours. Hmm. Would need to be a powerful spell but it would be amazing if I could send a spell round the world that would clean and heal everywhere that’s hurting – plastic and oil out of the oceans, rain forests growing where they’ve been cleared, war zones repaired and rifts healed, and so on. I can’t watch the news as it makes me cry and I’m so grateful that writing means I can escape into my happy world every day.

Willow: We’d have to increase our powers and spell repertoire to do that one. Our Enchanted Emporium bookshelf is a small lending library full of books with that are either fantastical, witchy or have paranormal theme. What would you add to it?

Jessica: I believe you’ve already got them because she’s had a cuppa with you before, but my best friend is the author Sharon Booth who writes the most amazing series called the Witches of Castle Clair. I’d add those as I love them.

Willow: So do we, though we do need to add her newest one, His Lawful Wedded Witch to the bookshelf. She was our first visitor and her interview can be found here.

Rosa: My Box of Romance’s is proving popular in the run up to Valentine’s Day. What would you add to it?

Jessica: All of Sharon’s non-magical books! I’d also anything by Eliza J. Scott or Jo Bartlett who also write lovely heart-warming stories and always with happy endings.

A scarf next to a notepad, mug of coffee and photo of a red heart declaring love you yesterday, today and tomorrow
Image by Deborah Hudson from Pixabay

Willow: And finally, what are you working on currently? Or is it top secret?

Jessica: I’ve just finished the final proofread on Summer Nights at the Starfish Café, which is out on 28th April. This is the final part of the trilogy, so, in the space of three books, I’ll have ended two of my popular series (Hedgehog Hollow and The Starfish Café). Eek!

I’ve started writing what currently has a working title of ‘Lakes 1’. It’s a brand new series set in the Lake District around Derwent Water, but I don’t have a name for the setting yet which feels a bit weird. I’ve proposed a few ideas to my publisher, but I’m waiting back to see what they like best. I love the Lakes, so I’m very excited about this series. The plan is for it to be the longest of all my series, with a different protagonist fronting each story rather than a consistent narrator plus guests like I’ve done for Hedgehog Hollow and The Starfish Café series. This makes it easier to keep adding stories in and also for readers to dip in partway through the series if they wish.

Lakes 1 needs to be submitted at the start of March, at which point I move on to book 21 which will be my Christmas release and a return to Castle Street.

Willow: You’ve a busy time ahead. Good luck with it and we look forward to visiting the Lakes in the future.

Rosa: A huge thank you for visiting. Please may you sign, the visitor’s book we’ve just started to celebrate the authors and customers who visit?

Jessica: Thank you so much for having me and for the delicious hot chocolate. Can I take Vincent home with me? He’s gorgeous!

The Witches: Do you love our author chats? Why not, subscribe to our blog and they’ll whizz to your inbox so you’ll keep up with the gossip from the Enchanted Emporium. Next week to celebrate diversity in romantic novels, Linda Corbett, author of Love You form A-Z.

Title: Healing Hearts at Bumblebee Barn

Author: Jessica Redland

Genre: Women’s fiction, romance

Publisher: Boldwood books

Release date: 24th January 2023


Welcome to Bumblebee Barn, home to wonderful animals, stunning views and spectacular sunsets – and resident young farmer, Barney.

While Barney loves his life at Bumblebee Barn – a farm that has been in his family for generations – he’s struggling to find someone to share it with. The early mornings quad biking through muddy fields and the long hours looking after the crops and animals are proving to be a deterrent to finding love.

So when his sister, Fizz – desperate for Barney to find his soulmate – sees an advert for Love on the Farm, a new reality TV show to help farmers find love, he has nothing to lose by applying. After all, he isn’t meeting anyone suitable down the traditional route and surely he won’t be picked anyway…?

Thrown into the chaos of reality TV, Barney could never have expected that his whole life would be turned upside down, with buried secrets to be uncovered and his heart on the line. With his family and friends rooting for him, could the magic of Bumblebee Barn heal his broken heart and help him find love on the farm?

Author Biography

Photo of Jessica Redland, white woman, friendly face with smile and light brown straight hair.
Jessica Redland

Jessica Redland is a bestselling author of emotional but uplifting stories of love, friendship, family, and community. Her Whitsborough Bay books transport readers to the stunning North Yorkshire Coast where she lives with her husband, daughter and sprocker spaniel. Her Hedgehog Hollow series, set in a hedgehog rescue centre, takes readers into the beautiful rolling countryside of the Yorkshire Wolds.

All of Jessica’s books are available in a multitude of formats: eBook, paperback, hardback, large print, and audio. Her eBooks are all available for FREE via Kindle Unlimited and six of her audiobooks can be listened to for FREE as part of the Audible Plus programme for Audible subscribers. Libraries internationally also stock Jessica’s titles in a variety of formats.

Links to author landing pages:

Amazon UK:

Amazon USA:

Audible UK:

Healing Hearts at Bumblebee Barn:

Amazon UK:

Amazon USA:

 Audible UK:

Contact details:



Twitter: @JessicaRedland



Redland’s Readers (Facebook group exclusive for fans of Whitsborough Bay and Hedgehog Hollow):

Monday Merry Meet: Anya Bergman

Recently, we reviewed the wonderful atmospheric and dark novel, The Witches of Vardo by Anya Bergman which focuses on the Norwegian witch trials. The review can be found here. It is a thrill to share this week’s Monday Merry Meet where we chat with Anya about her book, writing and of course, spells.

Monday Merry Meet: Anya Bergman

Willow: Welcome Anya, we’re so excited to have you here. Have a seat. We thought we’d sit in the shop rather than the usual backroom. We’ve had an influx of deliveries and you can’t move for boxes.

What would you like to drink? We have Yorkshire tea, herbal tea, and other blends, coffee or something stronger. We have different flavour gins and vodkas as we collected many berries last year.

Anya: Would you have some Bengal Spice tea with a drop of oat milk? It’s my favourite tea spicey with cinnamon.

Amber: We do though I’ve not had it before. Rosa will bring some through. I must say I loved your book, and it triggered lots of conversations in the shop. What made you chose the harrowing Vardo witch trials as a subject to write about?

Anya: Thank you so much! I was living in Norway at the time, and a friend told me about the Norwegian witch trials, most of which took place on the remote arctic island of Vardø. When I discovered that the trial records still existed, and were translated into English, I became hooked. I decided I wanted to write a novel raising the lost voices of these women.

Willow: The characters and place are very real in your book, and we think this is because of the small details of their lives you added into it, including the food they ate, clothes and environment. How much research did you have to do?

Anya: I did a lot of research. I went to the university library in Bergen where I was living and spent hours reading history books, as well as travelling up to Vardø twice – once in winter and once in summer. I consulted with historians, went to museums, and also had a Sami sensitivity reader to make sure I didn’t get anything wrong.

Amber: Your women in the book all have an inner strength but are completely different in personality. If you could sit down with one and chat over a cup of tea. Who would you choose and why?

Anya: I think it has to be Maren. She’s quite an enigma, and I would like to dig a little deeper into who she is. Also, she’s a great storyteller so an evening by a roaring fire with a cup of hot cocoa listening to Maren’s tall tales would be awesome.

Amber: It would be Maren for me too based on her storytelling abilities. This is your first book. What has your publication journey been like? If you did it again, would you change anything?

Anya: So, this is my debut historical fiction as Anya Bergman (it’s a pen name) but I have had 13 other books published under another name. I have been trying to make a living as a professional author for 20 years and it’s been a long journey requiring tenacity and endurance. But I LOVE being a writer. I am living my dream so while it can be challenging in terms of trying to make a living, I wouldn’t change anything. I am the writer I am today because of the journey I have taken as an author. I also teach creative writing, which has brought me so much as a writer, and I love mentoring other writers. Community is important as a writer because we spend so much time alone in our heads and writing.

Illustration of an ink pot, quill and books

Willow: We always love hearing about author’s day. Do you have a strict your writing routine?

Anya: I try my best to write every day in the morning, but sometimes I am teaching or meeting other work deadlines, so I have to be flexible. It might happen that I don’t write for a few days, but I am usually thinking about the book in my head and then I dive in and write for hours on end for several days in a row.

Amber: I’m attempting to write my own witchy based novel. Do you have any advice for novice writers?

Anya: Yes, lots! I am currently mentoring 14 emerging writers and I believe very strongly in the need to create community and support each other. So I would encourage you to be part of a writing community, whether that’s online, with a couple of writing friends, or within a writing group. Since writing is such a solitary occupation, it’s good to have the support of others who write. The other thing I would say is keep writing despite the critical voices in your head. ALL writers, whether published or unpublished, struggle with imposter syndrome and once we realise that feeling isn’t going to go away, we can accept it and write despite it. With a first draft, don’t expect it to be perfect. Just try to get the whole thing down (a vomit draft) and then in your second draft you can begin crafting your story.

Willow: The Enchanted Emporium sells several candles in The Wishing Spell range which promise to help your day go smoothly. Which would you choose?

Anya: I think I would have to be sensible and choose financial security. I am currently working with the affirmation I am abundant, which I find myself coming to again and again. But being a writer is a very financially insecure business and sadly it seems to be getting harder and harder to make a living as a writer, so a little financial security would really help bring me more time for creative work.

Willow: One candle invokes memories of your perfect holiday or day when lit. Where would it take you?

Anya: There have been many wonderful holidays and perfect days, but I think the most memorable day was when I was up on the island of Vardø researching my book. It was midwinter, so the skies were dark, and there was a snow blizzard sweeping across the island. I remember walking out to Steilneset where the memorial for those executed for witchcraft is situated. The ocean was crashing against the shore, and I went inside Louise Bourgeois’ incredible installation where an eternal flame shoots from a chair and I could see myself reflected in the giant mirrors above. It was here I felt the presence of all those women executed for witchcraft and I made a pledge to tell the story in my novel no matter how long it took me. When I came out, the snow had stopped falling, and the skies were filled with the swirling Northern Lights, which to me seemed as if the spirits of these lost women dancing in the sky.

Green Northern lights above a fir woodland

Amber: That sounds amazing. Ghosts and paranormal activity plague The Enchanted Emporium. Have had had any spooky experiences – has it influenced your writing?

Anya: Yes, I’ve had a few spooky experiences, but I am not afraid of ghosts or spirits. However, when I was deeply immersed in writing The Witches of Vardø, I did experience powerful nightmares which transported me to The Witches Hole on the island. I would wake up in terror because it seemed so real. I think there was a moment when I felt almost possessed by the stories of these women clamouring for the truth to be told.

Willow: The Witches Hole is nightmare inducing and powerful imagery. Luckily, we live in a time and place where witchcraft is not persecuted as before. If we could blend a potion to give you the ability to shapeshift into any of your animals and birds mentioned in your novel, what would it be and why?

Anya: Oh, it has to be the lynx. I saw these big cats when I lived in Norway and I was completely bewitched. They are incredibly beautiful, poised, intelligent, lithe, and powerful, completely at home in the snow-laden vistas of the north.

Photo of a Lynx. Big cat with tufted ears, golden coat, black dots
Image by No-longer-here from Pixabay

Willow: Our Enchanted Emporium bookshelf is a small lending library full of books with either fantastical, witchy, or paranormal theme. What would you add to it?

Anya: There are some great witchy reads coming out right now which you might like to add – Kirsty Logan’s She is Witch and Emilia Hart’s Weyward are both fabulous. You might like to also add some non-fiction books on witches such as Mona Chollet’s In Defence of Witches.

Rosa: I have a Box of Romance books I share with friends and customers. What would you add to it?

Anya: My absolute favourite love story is Devotion by Hannah Kent. It is so beautiful and had me in tears. I was so moved. And although you might not think so initially, it is HEA because love is stronger than death!

Willow: And finally, what are you working on currently? Or is it top secret?

Anya: I can tell you that the title is ‘The Tarot Reader of Versailles’ which might give you a little idea of what the novel is about! It’s inspired by a real historical figure who was a tarot reader during the French Revolution. I have been reading Tarot since I was fifteen, and for a time worked as a professional Tarot reader, so it’s an area I have always wanted to write about in fiction. Tarot Cards are powerful tools of self-knowledge, while they possess a magical quality to them as well. They were incredibly popular during the Reign of Terror as people searched for certainty amid the chaos of the French Revolution. 

Willow: That sounds a fascinating read and we can’t wait to hold a copy when published. Good luck with your writing and thanks for popping by.

The Witches of Vardo by Anya Bergman

Title: The Witches of Vardo

Author: Anya Bergman

Publisher: Bonnier

Genre: Fiction, Witchlit, Historical fiction

Release date: 12th Jan 2023


1662. Norway. A dangerous time to be a woman, when even dancing can lead to accusations of witchcraft. When Zigri, a normal fisherman’s wife, desperate and grieving after the loss of her husband and son, embarks on an affair with the married son of a wealthy merchant, it is not long before she is sent to the fortress at Vardø, to be tried and condemned as a witch. Summer is twenty-four hours of light and winter is twenty-four hours of darkness, and night is closing in.
Zigri’s daughter Ingeborg leaves her younger sister and sets off into the wilderness to try to bring her mother back home. Accompanying her on this quest is Maren – herself the daughter of a witch ­– whose wild nature and unconquerable spirit gives Ingeborg the courage to venture into the unknown, and to risk all she has to save her family.
Also captive in the fortress is Anna Rhodius with instructions to extract the confessions from the supposed witches. Once the King of Denmark’s mistress, she has been brought to Vardø in disgrace. What will she do – and who will she betray – to return to her privileged life at court?
These Witches of Vardø are stronger than even the King of Denmark. In an age weighted against them they refuse to be victims. They will have their justice. All they need do is show their power.
The Witches of Vardø is based upon the real events of witch hunts in Norway in 1662. A blend of historical fact with magic realism, retellings of old Nordic folktales, Norse mythology and Sámi mythology, and told from the points of view of Anna and Ingeborg, it will take your breath away.

Author Biography

Photo of Anya Bergman. Petite white woman with dark hair huddled in a snuggly thick fur lined coat.
Anya Bergman

Anya Bergman lives in Ireland. She graduated from Edinburgh Napier with a Master’s in Creative Writing with distinction in 2020. She lived for six years in Norway researching this book extensively. The Witches of Vardø, a passion project, is her debut novel. She says: “My aim is to raise the lost of voices of the women of Vardø with tenderness, to reclaim their agency and to empower the reader with a strong sense of F*** the patriarchy!”

Monday Merry Meet: Ben Peyton

It’s Monday, a new week and a new visitor to the Emporium for this week’s Monday Merry Meet. Amber slipped Ben Peyton’s debut novel, Luke Stevens and the Blood of St George into her bag to read as soon as she saw it. She maybe older than the book’s target audience but if it mentions dragons, she needs to read it. Her review is here.

Grab a cuppa and join us for a chat about his book, spells and of course, writing.

Monday Merry Meet: Ben Peyton

Willow: Welcome Ben, we’re so excited to have you here. Come through to the back but excuse the mess, Vincent and Black Cat saw a ghost mouse and caused havoc. What would you like to drink? Yorkshire tea, herbal tea, coffee or something stronger. Since Christmas, we have a selection of homemade wines left or beer.

Ben: It’s lovely to be here. Those ghost mice are terrible liars. You can see right through them. I’m giving Dry January a go, so as tempting as some wine sounds, I’ll stick with a tea. Milk and one and a half sugars, please.

Black and white image of St George on a horse fighting a dragon
Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay

Amber: I’ve just finished your new book, Luke Stevens and the Blood of St George. In my view, every book should have a dragon in them. Yours is from the legend of St. George and when Luke visits the National Gallery; he sees Tintoretto’s painting. Was this your inspiration behind the novel?

Ben: Yes, it was. I was at the gallery with my family and noticed Tintoretto’s painting. For some reason, it really stood out to me. As I was looking at it, an idea began to take shape. I read a lot of books (mainly thrillers) and struggled to think of one that had featured St George. I bought a postcard size copy of the painting, took it home and began to jot down some ideas.

Rosa: It is action packed with inventions to escape from the baddies and obviously you had fun writing those scenes. When my son, Alejo, is older, I know he’ll love reading them. Did you always want to be a children’s author?

Ben: No, I was originally going to be a teacher. I was very sporty (I went to a school called Millfield which is renowned for its sporting achievements) and got into university to study PE. At the last minute, I auditioned for drama school on the advice of my drama teacher, won a place at Guildford School of Acting and had a fairly successful career as an actor until I retired at the grand old age of 30 to work full-time. Writing a book was something that came to me much later in life. I was about 42 when I began, Covid hit and things took a back-seat and I picked it up again at the end of 2021.

Amber: This is your debut book. What has your publication journey been like? If you did it again, would you change anything?

Ben: I would certainly change things. In my eagerness to try and get a literary agent, I sent Luke out to potential agents before I was 100% happy with it. I rushed the process, which was daft. For example, I sent the first 10,000 words to one agent and immediately after, I noticed a spelling mistake in it that I hadn’t seen before. Must’ve read that part a thousand times but “author blindness” had its claws into me.

A good friend of mine has been hugely successful as an Indie author. Carl Ashmore (do check out his wonderful series “The Time Hunters”) has guided me along my journey with patience and kindness. He recommended particular software for the best formatting , helped me through the Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing process as well as offering advice on my story. Very grateful to him.

Trying to get an agent has been incredibly frustrating. It’s similar to when I was an actor auditioning for roles. You do your thing and then don’t hear anything back, so you’re often left in limbo. So many agents have different submission policies. Some want 5,000 words, others 15,000, others a synopsis with the opening three chapters, so you’re constantly having to adapt to their requirements. And the standard rejection email is always disappointing to receive. Just once, I would have liked something personal from one of them. I know how busy they are and how many submissions they receive, but a tiny bit of human interaction featuring a comment on plot or character would soften the blow.

I paid for the brilliant team at House of Editors to help proof-read and edit my book too, and they did a magnificent job. They raised a question about the plot, which blew it wide open and made nearly all of it pointless! It was hilarious. All I needed to fix it was one additional line of dialogue, but again, I hadn’t picked up on it. Thank goodness for them.

Image by Edar from Pixabay

Willow: That was lucky. We always love hearing about how authors write. Are you a plotter or a pantser? Do you have a strict writing routine?

Ben: I have a desk in my living room that I like to sit at and write whilst listening to film scores. John Williams, Hans Zimmer, Patrick Doyle or Craig Armstrong are favourites. Alternatively, ambient music such as Kinobe or U137 help me concentrate. If I can write about 1,000 words on a writing day, I’m happy. I usually write down ideas as they come to me on a Word document and develop the story around them. When I started LSATBOSG, I didn’t have an ending. That came during the writing process.

Amber: We have many would be writers coming into the shop. Do you have any advice for novice writers?

Ben: Firstly, don’t send your work to agents without checking it a gazillion times! And then check it again!

Keep writing. Have a pen and paper with you at all times or use notes on your phone to write down an idea when it comes to you. Read and listen to other authors. Reach out to them as well. Another brilliant author (Rick Jones – he writes thrillers for adults) has also been incredibly helpful to me and shared his advice and experience. Don’t take rejection personally and only let trusted friends read your drafts.

Finally, pay for a good cover. Tim at Dissect Designs absolutely nailed mine. I never met him, but we emailed regularly. He was professional, efficient and used his expertise to design what I envisaged. He pointed out why certain things might not work and was never patronising or rude. I will unquestionably be using him for my next book.

Willow: The Enchanted Emporium sells several candles in The Wishing Spell range which promise to help your day go smoothly. Which would you choose?

Ben: A good night’s sleep, please. I have two kids (12 & 9) so it’s been a while since I had one of those!

Willow: One candle invokes memories of your perfect holiday or day when lit. Where would it take you?

Ben: Either my wedding day, back in St Ives in 2009 or Christmas 2021. It was the last time my whole family were together as my dad died the following May.

Amber: Ghosts and paranormal activity plague The Enchanted Emporium. Have had had any spooky experiences – has it influenced your writing?

Ben: I can’t say that it’s influenced my writing, but one possibly unusual thing springs to mind. Back in 1996 when I was 19, I had Bacterial Meningitis. Thankfully, I don’t remember much about it. I was unconscious for about two days in hospital, but I remember seeing / dreaming my grandfather with cigarette smoke surrounding his face (he was a smoker and had died about 10 years before) and smiling. I felt an absolute, serene peace. That’s it. Some spiritual friends of mine tell me that he was watching over me. Who knows?

Willow: If we could blend a potion to give you a superpower or special ability for 24 hours what would it be and what would you do with it?

Ben: Flight. Can you imagine? That sensation would be magical. And it would save time and cut down on pollution.

Willow: It truly would. What book would you add to The Enchanted Emporium bookshelf?

Ben: Unquestionably book one of Carl Ashmore’s The Time Hunters. They are full of charm, adventure, and love.

Rosa: Amber will add them to the list. I have a Box of Romance books I share with friends and customers. What would you add to it?

Ben: I’ve only read one romance novel in my life. Sorry. But I enjoyed it! One Last Letter From Greece by Emma Cowell. Lovely story of grief and love. Incidentally, she was my girlfriend back in 1996 and undoubtedly saved my life by rushing me to the doctor when I had meningitis!

Willow: We’ll have to source that one then. Without her we wouldn’t have Luke Stevens on our bookshelf. And finally, what are you working on currently? Or is it top secret?

Ben: I’m beavering away with a sequel to Luke Stevens and the Blood of St George, which is provisionally titled, Luke Stevens and the Quest for Excalibur. Hopefully coming later this year.

Willow: We look forward to seeing it on our shelf. Thank you for visiting. Good luck with your writing and Dry January.

Book cover for Luke Stevens and the blood of St George
Teenage boy with blue hoodie and arms crossed with a SS man, Big Ben, Stonehenge and dragon in the background. A motorbike and rider is in the foreground.

Title: Luke Stevens and the Blood of St George

Author: Ben Peyton

Genre: Children’s fiction

Release date: 1st April 2022

Publisher: Neilson UK



And signed and dedicated copies are available here:


With a great central concept, this is a fast-paced imaginative romp for the younger reader.” Carl Ashmore – Best-selling author of The Time Hunters series

Ben Peyton’s debut novel is chock-full of action and suspense that will keep readers on the edge of their seats. Luke Stevens and the Blood of St George hits all the marks that a blockbuster should.” Rick Jones – Best-selling author of The Vatican Knights series

On his 13th birthday and presented with an unusual gift, Luke Stevens suddenly finds himself thrust into a battle between good and evil, with him right at the heart of it. For within Luke flows the blood of a legend, and there are those that will stop at nothing to get their hands on what Luke now has in his possession.

With a group of Guardians to help him, Luke has no choice but to step up and fulfil an ancient prophecy where mankind’s way of life is threatened by a ruthless enemy seeking global domination. What follows is a race against time where one thing is certain: Luke’s life will never be the same again.

Full to the brim with action, humour, crazy gadgets and history, prepare yourself for an exciting adventure that will keep you turning pages long into the night.

Welcome to Luke Stevens and the Blood of St George…

Author Biography

Photo of Ben Peyton. White middle aged man, greying short hair wearing a dark blue shirt
Ben Peyton

Ben Peyton is a former actor (a regular in ITV1’s The Bill) and now a full-time dad and writer. He has written reviews and articles for Filmhounds Magazine, Time & Leisure Magazine and several online blogs. Luke Stevens and the Blood of St George is his debut novel.

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