Monday Merry Meet: Jeevani Charika

Romance is in the air in Whitby, with many shops getting into the loved up atmosphere by decorating their windows. The Enchanted Emporium is no different and Rosa’s Box of Romance books is overflowing. This month we are celebrating romance fiction, libraries and book shop with book reviews, photos of Instagram and chats with some of our favourite romance authors. Today, we’re thrilled to chat to Jeevani Charika aka Rhoda Baxter today for our Monday Merry Meet. Jeevani is the author of five books under her real name, including Playing For Love which has been shortlisted for the RNA awards and at least nine books as Rhoda Baxter.

Grab a drink and a plateful of biscuits to discover more about her books, writing and spells.

Monday Merry Meet: Jeevani Charika

Cup of tea and saucer

Willow: Welcome Jeevani, it’s lovely that you’ve made down Black Cat Alley to see us. Please have a seat. I must apologise if you end up covered in pink confetti and paper hearts. Amber was supposed to cut some paper hearts out for our Valentine’s window display, but she created a spell to do it instead. The reversal spell hasn’t quite worked, so a cloud randomly appears to rain confetti.

Amber: Ignore her. No one has seen it today and the concurrent lightning no longer occurs, so the fire hazard has gone. Spell casting paper hearts was much more time efficient than scissors.

Willow: But cost us several fire extinguishers. What would you like to drink, Jeevani? We have several tea blends including Yorkshire tea, herbal tisanes, coffee or we have a cauldron of some Valentine inspired punch? It’s non-alcoholic.

Jeevani: Tea please! Are the biscuits … erm … safe? They are? Oh fab. I’ll have one of those too, then please.

Just leave the plate there. Thank you.

Love heart biscuits

Rosa: The biscuits are safe. My mother bakes them herself, help yourself.  I adore romcoms especially your novel The Convenient Marriage with the complex relationships and family expectations. While Chaya and Gimhana fake their marriage, your current book Picture Perfect focuses on faking dating. What comes first in your writing, the plot or the characters?

Jeevani: It’s most often character first. Even if I get a plot idea first, it doesn’t get developed into a story until the characters are in place. With A Convenient Marriage, Gimhana just showed up, glass of whiskey and ice in hand, and started telling me his story. With Picture Perfect, I already knew Niro from the earlier book in the set (Playing For Love). I loved her so much that I wanted to give her her own story. All my books can be read as standalones, but sometimes I’ll write a series of books where one of the secondary characters from one book goes on to be the main character in the next. In my head, they’re a community and anyone who reads all the stories becomes part of that community too.

Rosa: I love series like that you feel connected to the characters the more you read. Your multicultural novels offer a refreshing insight into the Sri Lankan culture, but you have also written under the pen name Rhoda Baxter, is there a difference in the themes or style of the books?

Jeevani: *Clears throat* Do you want the long version? Or the short version?

Short version – not much difference in themes now. The Rhoda Baxter books are indie published (I got my rights back from the older trad books and them re-published them myself).

Long version – I started off writing multicultural women’s fiction, but it was really hard to place that in traditional publishing back then (Over 15 years ago!). The earlier Rhoda books were not multicultural at all. When my first publisher asked if I was going to use a pen name, I cast about a bit and decided to use the name of the bacteria I used to work on Rhodobacter sphearoides. So, I went with Rhoda Baxter. Over time, I really really wanted to write books with Sri Lankan diaspora characters, so I started writing novellas with multicultural casts and self-publishing them. Eventually, I got offers to publish books with Sri Lankan protagonists, so I started using my real name. I had intended to write women’s fiction as Jeevani and romcoms as Rhoda, but it’s all got a bit muddled now. *shrug*

I love that self-publishing novellas as Rhoda allows me to ‘play’ a bit more. I got to write a secret millionaire book where the heroine was a tech millionaire. That was so much fun.

Willow: That sounds it. This Stolen Life is a more serious and emotional read to your other books. Which genre do you prefer writing?

Jeevani: I like both. I find the more emotional books take more out of me. I have to dig deeper for longer, I guess. So, I often need to write something light, just to recover. I’m proud of both types of book though. They are aimed at different audiences (or the same audience in a different mood), so they are quite different. I find it really strange that my voice changes subtly in the more emotional women’s fiction books compared to the lighter romcoms.

Willow: We are nosy and fascinated by author’s publishing journeys. What was yours like and is there anything you’d have changed?

Jeevani: I wrote my first book in the evenings after work. It took me three years. Then I spent a year or so collecting rejections for it (we had to send it out in the post back then! It cost a fortune). Then I spotted the RNA’s NWS scheme and thought, ‘aha! Someone who can read my manuscript and tell me where I’m going wrong’. I got my first NWS critique back, and it told me helpful things like, ‘you need to learn more about plot’ (and also nice things like ‘you’re good at writing dialogue’, which were almost as helpful as the critical things … because confidence is a delicate thing). Right at the end, there was a throwaway comment of ‘you have a comedy writing voice just crying to get out, have you considered writing a romcom just for fun?’. So, I tried it. That was the first book of mine to get published.

Remember that very first book? I tinkered with it and kept sending it out. It eventually got published thirteen years or so later, as A Convenient Marriage. In 2020, it was shortlisted for a RoNA award. It’s my favourite book (shh! Don’t tell the others).

Recently, I was listening to a podcast about mindset and they said ‘the past is exactly how it had to have been in order to get to where you are right now’ … which struck me as a good point. So, I don’t think I’d change anything. It would have unintended consequences. I’m a writer with anxiety, so I’m assuming the worst possible consequences. I think I’ll stick with what I’ve got.

A Convenient Marriage

Willow: That is a good point and I’ll need to remember it. We always love hearing about author’s routines and rituals. Do you have a particular writing schedule you stick to?

Jeevani: Sorry. Sorry. I’ve just spluttered crumbs all over your nice cushions.

Writing schedule, you say… I should pretend to be super organised at this point, but I’d be lying. I write when I can. Mostly, this means sitting in bed at night after the kids have gone to bed. Certainly, when the kids were younger, and I was working almost full time, this was the only time I had in which to write, and I think my brain has just got used to 8pm to 10pm being ‘writing time’. I get slightly annoyed if I have to go out. Thankfully, I have no social life. Phew.

I have weeks (at one scary point, two whole months) where I don’t write anything. Once I start a book, though, I try to write every weekday. On a good week, I’ll write at the weekend as well, if I can. I’m always thinking about it though. Thinking about the book is also part of writing. That’s my theory and I’m sticking with it.

Amber: Several customers dream of being published authors. Do you have any advice for novice writers apart from reading, How to Write a Romantic Comedy which you penned with the lovely Jane Lovering? I read it and it made me eat a tin of biscuits.

Jeevani: You have no idea how many biscuits and cakes we got through writing it! It’s a book fuelled by good intentions and biscuits.

Other advice – the most basic one of all. The only way you can write a book is by actually writing. Sit down and write. If you can only do 100 words that day, do that. In two years, you’ll have a completed 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?

Jeevani: I’d love any of them, really. But if you forced me at candlepoint to choose … I’d got for A Good Night’s Sleep. Restful sleep is almost a mythical creature. I know I had a good nights’ sleep once. I think it was in 2009. It was wonderful. Sigh.

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

Jeevani: My husband and I met as graduate students and we used to always take a day off in December and go somewhere. One year, he took me to Blenheim palace (on the bus). It was a freezing cold day and everything was edged with frost. He took me to the small walking entrance (rather than the grand one with the carpark). I’d never been to Blenheim before and was a bit puzzled as to where we were going. He said, ‘trust me’ and ushered me through to what I thought was going to be a smallish garden. Suddenly, there was this incredible vista – twinkling in the crisp winter sunshine like a Christmas card. It was astonishing; especially as I wasn’t expecting it. That’s where I’d go. To that precise moment, with him holding my hand. It was a lovely day. We wandered around the gardens, looked at the fancy house, had tea and cake in the tea shop and went back to the student hostel to have an enormous bowl of stew with crusty bread.

Amber: That’s so romantic and a lovely memory to have. Ghosts and paranormal activity plague The Enchanted Emporium. Have had had any spooky experiences –if so, has it ever influenced your writing?

Jeevani: I have not had any spooky experiences as such, but I believe that places have a feeling about them. Some places feel loved, others feel like something terrible happened in them. I wrote a book called Please Release Me, which has a ghost bride in it. When I wrote that I spent a lot of time working out the ‘rules’ of being a ghost. That’s the closest I’ve come to the paranormal.

Willow: We’ll be looking for that to add to our bookshelf. We love blending bespoke potions. if we could give you a superpower or special ability for 24 hours, what would it be and what would you do with it?

Jeevani: Teleportation please. But only if I could take stuff (like my clothes!) with me. I would use it to visit people and places without having to drive or take a train, or worse, a plane. I like trains, but changing trains and lugging bags up and down platforms is exhausting.

Willow: We are always on the lookout for more books. What book would you add to The Enchanted Emporium bookshelf?

Jeevani: One of the best books I’ve read recently is Hex Appeal by Kate Johnson. It’s a hilarious witchy romcom. It would do well in your shop, I think.

Once again, I’m sorry for all the crumbs. You missed a bit – just there.

Rosa: we love Hex Appeal and Kate Johnson popped into see us recently as well.  I have a Box of Romance books I share with friends and customers. What would you add to it?

Jeevani: Obviously, my books. Apart from that, anything by Milly Johnson.

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

Jeevani: I am currently mulling over a new book. The book for October 2023 (provisionally titled ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’) has gone off to the editor and I haven’t started the next book yet. I usually have to take a small break between books because my brain is all out of words. I think the next book will have an enemies to friends to lovers trope, maybe something to do with baking.

Rosa: Baking with enemies sounds fun. Thanks for popping in and eating all the biscuits. Good luck with you writing and your upcoming RNA award nomination. Willow has slipped in a good luck candle in your pocket.

Book cover for Picture Perfect by Jeevani Charika Bright pink background with one woman with black long hair holding a camera up to her eye standing next to a man. A pink and blue mountain in the background.
Picture Perfect by Jeevani Charika

Book Title: Picture Perfect

Author: Jeevani Charika

Publisher: HQ Digital

Release date: 11th Feb 2023

Genre: Romance


Niro is a photographer who’s lost the joy of taking photos. Burned by a bad break-up, she’s in desperate need of inspiration.

Vimal is determined to win back his ex-girlfriend. When he hears she’s bringing her new boyfriend on a group holiday, he impulsively declares that he’s bringing a plus one too.

Their mutual friends have the perfect solution: Niro can pretend to be Vimal’s new girlfriend and join the holiday. Imagine the incredible photographs she could take in the Swiss alps…

She’s not thinking about love. He’s thinking about someone else. Can they fake a picture-perfect relationship – or will real feelings get in the way?

Don’t miss this funny and uplifting fake-dating romance for fans of The Kiss Quotient and The Love Hypothesis!

Author Biography

Photo of Jeevani Charika /Rhoda Baxter 
Sri Lankan woman with dark wavy hair, brown eyes smiling
Jeevani Charika /Rhoda Baxter

Jeevani (pronounced ‘Jeev-uh-nee’) writes multicultural women’s fiction and romantic comedies. She spent much of her childhood in Sri Lanka, with short forays to Nigeria and Micronesia, before returning to England to settle in Yorkshire. All of this, it turned out, was excellent preparation for becoming a novelist.

She also writes under the name Rhoda Baxter. Her books have been shortlisted for multiple awards.

A microbiologist by training, Jeevani loves all things science geeky. She also loves cake, crochet and playing with Lego. You can find out more about her (and get a free book) on her website



Book Review: The Dead Romantics by Ashley Poston

Rosa couldn’t hide her delight when this appeared on the Enchanted Emporium bookshelf thanks to the publishers, HQ. She began reading it in her tea break and couldn’t wait for Alejo to go to bed to continue it; she perched it on the work surface so she could read while preparing dinner.

Scroll down to see why she was so captivated.

Book Review: The Dead Romantics by Ashley Poston

The Dead Romantics by Ashley Poston

Title: The Dead Romantics

Author: Ashley Poston

Publisher: HQ

Genre: Women’s fiction, romance

Release Date: 29th September 2022


Florence Day is a ghost-writer with one big problem. She’s supposed to be penning swoon-worthy novels for a famous romance author but, after a bad break-up, Florence no longer believes in love. And when her strict (but undeniably hot) new editor, Benji Andor, won’t give her an extension on her book deadline, Florence prepares to kiss her career goodbye.

Although when tragedy strikes and Florence has to head home, the last thing she expects to see is a ghost at her front door. Not just any ghost, however, but the stern form of her still very hot – yet now unquestionably dead – new editor.

As sparks start to fly between them, Florence tells herself she can’t be falling for a ghost – even an infuriatingly sexy one. But can Benji help Florence to realise love isn’t dead, after all?

If you fell in love with Beach ReadThe Love Hypothesis and The Hating Game, this laugh-out-loud romance packed with sizzling chemistry will give you all the feels!

Thoughts from the Emporium

What a fab book! Everyone loved it and Rosa has devoured it twice. It will be a well-loved and battered book on the Enchanted Emporium bookshelf and Rosa’s Box of Romance. Why?

 It hits the spot in many ways. The romance element made forever romantic Rosa happy, and the witches loved the paranormal edge but the story has depth and many well formed characters. There are many books where the protagonist returns home after long periods of time, triggering a retrospective look of their past and a reconciliation but this novel is different. While the Day family are dysfunctional to some on the outside, they are quirky, loving and supportive.

 Florence’s father’s death made Florence recall the happier times, the loving connections between family and community which balances out the tear jerking and accurate observations of grief. As does the funny and delightful relationship between Benji and Florence. The chemistry between them across the ethereal plane was a joy to read.

The Dead Romantics is an uplifting, emotional and humorous read which perfect for the spooky season. The topics covered sparked many conversations in the emporium about their own experiences of grief, but they also shared happier memories of those they’ve lost, tapping into the Day’s belief that death is a celebration of life.

This unique special book is a contender for the emporium’s top book of 2022 and will be gifted to family and friends.

Author Biography

Photo of Ashley Poston. White woman looking thoughtful with brown hair in a rough top knot and sunglasses perched on her head.
Ashley Poston

Ashley Poston loves dread pirates, moving castles, and starry night skies. Ashley graduated from the University of South Carolina with a BA in English. She has worked at Kodansha USA and Bloomsbury Publishing as a social media coordinator and marketing designer respectively. Currently, she offers her work to freelance clients and writes full-time Her books have appeared on the Indie Next List multiple times, and have been featured in Teen Vogue, Seventeen, Entertainment Weekly, Hypable, Buzzfeed, and in the Goodreads Choice Awards. Her critically-acclaimed sci-fi duology, Heart of Iron, was named on 2019’s Rainbow List. When not writing, she plays Dungeons and Dragons and reads fanfic. She lives in South Carolina with her bossy cat, and they are firm believers that we’re all a bunch of weirdos looking at other weirdos, asking for their username.

Twitter @ashposton

Instagram @heyashposton

Tiktok @thatashposton

Website: http://www.ashposton