Monday Merry Meet: Jennifer Page

Hello June! Warm weather has arrived and so have the tourists. Visiting witches, tea connoisseurs and those stumbling down Black Cat Alley because fate has intervened are making the small shop busy. Rosa is in her element socialising, Willow is hiding (creating) in the workshop and Amber is plotting hexes to make the annoying customers disappear.

One visitor she isn’t planning on turning into a toad is today’s author for Monday Merry Meet, Jennifer Page. She’s her to chat about her debut novel The Little Board Game Café, board games and of course, spells.

So grab a cuppa and enjoy!

Monday Merry Meet: Jennifer Page

Willow: Welcome to our shop, Jennifer. Ever since we knew you were coming, we’ve been chatting about our favourite board games and even played a few during our lunch hour after we discovered Amber had never played any. Ouija boards didn’t count.

Ouija board

It wasn’t as relaxing as expected as we are all quite competitive. And Vincent discovered a new delight in swiping pieces to the floor when we weren’t looking. Cats and chess don’t mix.

Rosa: Nor do teenage witches, as they have a tendency of setting fire to things in a temper when they lose.

Amber: Ignore them, Jennifer. It was only once. What can I get you to drink? We have many bespoke tea blends, including Yorkshire tea, coffee, a cosy hot chocolate or something chilled.

Jennifer: Tricky decision. Yorkshire tea is my usual choice but a hot chocolate is tempting. Would there be marshmallows and whipped cream with that? If so, I’ll go for the hot chocolate please.

Amber: Hot chocolate isn’t hot chocolate without those.

Mug of hot chocolate with marshmallows
Luxury hot chocolate

Rosa: Your book, The Little Board Game Café is in my favourite genre, romance and is set in the best location, Yorkshire. Why did you choose Yorkshire as your setting, and did you always plan to write a romantic novel?

Jennifer: Initially I planned to write a dating memoir, rather than a novel. I did internet dating for over 12 years after getting divorced when I was 35 – I just couldn’t meet the right person. I could have done with one of your spells! I met and married my husband, Hermi in 2017, and a literary agent advised me to write a novel, rather than a memoir. Romance was the obvious choice, as I’d just found the love of my life. Sorry if that sounds a bit cheesy!

And we live in Yorkshire, near the quirky town of Hebden Bridge. I’ve loved Hebden Bridge for years and always wanted to move here so it felt natural to base my novel here – although I’ve given the places fictitious names and changed them quite a lot. It’s inspired by this area, rather than actually set here. Also Hebden Bridge has a strong sense of community and I really wanted The Little Board Game Café to have that too.

Chess pieces on a board in front of an open ifre

Amber: Board games play a wonderful role in your story. Are you an avid fan of them? Are there any board games you’d recommend for us to try?

Jennifer: I’m a huge fan of board games. When I first met Hermi, he asked me for a second date but said he couldn’t meet me for a week because he was too busy. It turned out he was playing board games every evening and at the weekend, too. He has a huge collection of them. Fortunately I discovered that I loved playing them almost as much as he does and barely a day goes by when we don’t play a game or two.

And as for games that you might like, well, since the cats didn’t like chess, how about trying The Isle of Cats? It’s got lots of colourful cats in it and it’s such a fun game. There’s rats in it too – they’ll like that. Or Cat in the Box which is a really great card game, and there’s a new game out called Boop which features cats and kittens – I haven’t tried it yet but it’s really cute.

And how about two games about making potions? Quacks of Quedlinburg is a brilliant game and suitable for children too, and Potion Explosion – another fun one and it comes with its own marble dispenser.

 Willow: They sound fantastic, thanks. If we could conjure up your ideal accompanying players, who would they be? Since magic is involved, they could be people from the past, present or fictional.

Jennifer: I wish you could conjure up my dad. He died two weeks before Hermi and I got married. He really enjoyed board games like draughts, chess and Scrabble, and I’m sure he’d have loved the games we play.

Willow: This novel is your debut. Congratulations. We keep seeing rave reviews for it on social media. What has your publication journey been like? If you did it again, would you change anything?

Jennifer: My publication journey was a bit unusual. In March last year, I was thinking about submitting my book to agents – that was my book Love Letters on Hazel Lane which is not coming out till next year – and I saw a tweet about the Books for Ukraine auction where a professional editor was offering a feedback session on the first three chapters of an unpublished novel. I thought that was an ideal opportunity to get some feedback on my work before submitting it, so I bid in the auction and won. The editor asked what else I was writing and I told her about The Little Board Game Café and she asked to see the full manuscripts of both books and offered me a two-book deal a few weeks later.

The only thing I’d change is I wish I’d started writing fiction sooner. I was lonely in those years of being single, even though I had friends. Through writing the books and being published, I’ve discovered a wonderful online community of readers and other authors, and everyone has been so supportive. I really feel I have found my tribe and I wish I had found them sooner.

Rosa: We hear that a lot from visiting authors. Writing and book tribes seem to be a supportive bunch. We’re nosy and love to hear about writer’s routines. Are you a plotter and do you have specific rituals to get you into the zone to write?

Jennifer: I usually wake early – about 6 am. I make a huge mug of strong tea, and sit on the sofa in my dressing gown for a couple of hours before Hermi wakes up. Those early mornings are my most productive time. I am a mixture of plotter and pantser; I can’t plot without writing at least some of the novel because I need to get to know the characters. If that makes sense – they kind of reveal themselves through the writing.

Amber: Most people who regularly catch up with our Monday Merry Meets know I’m a secret writer. Do you have any advice for new writers?

Jennifer: My biggest piece of advice is to be persistent, with both the writing and the whole submission process. It’s really hard to keep going because there’s that little voice in your head – well, I have one in my head anyway – that tells you you’re not good enough and then you get rejected by agents or you read a bad review, and that voice gets even louder. So my second piece of advice is, don’t listen to the voice!

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

Jennifer: Please, could I choose confidence? I’m not a very confident person – although I know I sometimes appear confident, but that isn’t the same thing at all. It would be nice to have a little more confidence and not worry so much that things might go wrong.

Rosa: When lit one candle invokes memories of your perfect holiday or day? Where would it take you?

Jennifer: That’s too hard. I feel very lucky as I try to come up with an answer to that question as I realise I’ve had a lot of lovely holidays and a lot of lovely days too. I think I might have to go with the day I met Hermi. It wasn’t a perfect first date by any means – he’s shy so initially it was a bit awkward. I got a migraine partway through and felt very nauseous at one point. But we looked round a fantastic exhibition at the V&A and then another one next door at the Natural History Museum, and then we had a coffee together and we talked and talked and talked.

Illustrated comic style ghosts with purple and blue background

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

Jennifer: I’ve never seen anything but I’ve certainly felt things, and, as a child, I never liked being alone in my grandparents’ house – or even going upstairs on my own – because I always thought it was haunted. And after my grandma’s funeral, the lights went on and off a few times, and even my mum was freaked out and she doesn’t believe in things like that. Has it influenced my writing? Not yet, but it’s about to! It’s top secret though, so I can’t say any more than that at this stage.

Rosa: That sounds intriguing. If the witches 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?

Jennifer: What I’d most like to be able to do is talk to my dad. To tell him how happy I am with Hermi – I know he’d have been relieved about that as he always worried about me after my first marriage ended – and to show him the novel. He’d have been really proud.

Willow: Our enchanted bookshelf is dedicated to books with magical, paranormal or fantastical elements to them, either fiction or non-fiction. What book would you add to it?

Jennifer: Perhaps you already have one, but I’d love there to be a book about angels. I used to work on the TV programme Songs of Praise and I made an episode about angels once; I heard some amazing stories. There was an angel story on the Uncanny podcast recently too. I’d love to think that there really are angels out there and would like to read about people’s real-life experiences of them.

Amber: A new podcast for me to follow thanks. On the Enchanted bookshelf we have some fictional angel related books including Angelology by Danielle Trussoni, The Indigo Chronicles by NJ Simmonds and Regan: Snatcher of Souls by Rebecca McDowall. If it has a reshuffle and finds more I’ll let you know. Many books are hidden from view.

Rosa: Your book is already in my box of romance. What other book would you add to it?

Jennifer: Is The Book Lover’s Retreat by Heidi Swain in there already? I read that last week and I really loved it. Becoming Ted by Matt Cain is another favourite, not least because it features a Polish man; Hermi is from a Polish family as, of course, is the character Ludek in The Little Board Game Café.

Rosa: The Book Lover’s Retreat is fab isn’t it? Heidi Swain popped in to chat to us previously so we had to pre-order. I’ve just downloaded Becoming Ted, thanks.

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

Jennifer: I’ve just finished editing my second novel, Love Letters on Hazel Lane, which comes out on 4th January. It’s about a woman who is obsessed with Scrabble.

Willow: Thank you for popping in and good luck with your writing.

Bright book cover for The Little Board Game Cafe by Jennifer Page. Small cafe with people sitting outside playing games.
The Little Board Game Café by Jennifer Page

Book Title: The Little Board Game Cafe

Author: Jennifer Page

Publisher: Aria

Genre: Romance

Release date: 13th April 2023


‘An absolute delight from the very first page to the delicious end!’ Faith Hogan
An irresistible story of love, friendship and the power of games night, perfect for fans of Holly Martin and Christie Barlow.

When Emily loses her job, house and boyfriend all within a matter of days, she’s determined to turn a negative into a positive and follow her dream of running a small cafe in the gorgeous Yorkshire village of Essendale.

But she quickly finds she’s bitten off more than she can chew when the ‘popular’ cafe she takes over turns out to secretly be a failing business. Emily desperately needs a way to turn things around, and help comes from the unlikeliest of places when she meets local board game-obsessed GP Ludek. But when a major chain coffee shop opens on the high street, Emily is forced to question if she’ll ever be able to compete.

Has she risked everything on something destined to fail? Or can a playful twist, a homely welcome, and a sprinkle of love make Emily’s cafe the destination she’s always dreamed of?

‘A heart-warming romance perfect for curling up with. I absolutely loved it’ – Kitty Wilson

Author Biography

Photo of Jennifer Page
White woman, dark brown long hair. Green top.
Jennifer Page

I’m Jennifer Page, I live in the beautiful West Yorkshire countryside and I write cosy romance novels.

I was 8 when I wrote my first novel. It was called Natureland and was about ponies, because I was obsessed with ponies until I discovered boys. I wrote Natureland in a school exercise book, covered it with sticky back plastic in true Blue Peter style and gave it to my mum to send to Puffin Books. (She didn’t – she thought it was too special to part with!)

45 years later, and my first ‘proper’ novel, The Little Board Game Café, is finally being published.

During those 45 years, I learnt to speak Dutch, taught music in various primary schools, directed a few operas, produced several episodes of BBC Songs of Praise and lived on a narrowboat.

I live in an old Yorkshire farmhouse near Hebden Bridge with my husband Hermi and his very large collection of board games. When I’m not writing and playing board games, I love cooking and caravan holidays.

Social media links:


Facebook: author page –

Facebook group:

Twitter: @jenpagewrites

Instagram: @jenniferpagewrites

TikTok: @jenniferpagewrites

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Monday Merry Meet: Victoria Bennett

Hasn’t the weekend weather been glorious? The small private yard in the back of the Enchanted Emporium nurtured by Willow is coming into bloom, preparing itself for the best months of the year. Each plant has been chosen with care for the properties they give so they are used in the Enchanted Emporium’s products. With this is in mind, the witches and Rosa are thrilled to have Victoria Bennett visit for today’s Monday Merry Meet. Victoria’s book All My Wild Mothers is a joy to read and hold, and follows her journey through grief and motherhood with the creation of her own apothecary garden.

So grab yourself a cuppa, relax and catch up with the chat. You’re in for a treat.

A huge shout out to her website’s apothecary kitchen section it made the witches’ heart sing – it can be found here

Monday Merry Meet: Victoria Bennett

Willow: Welcome Victoria. We’re so excited to have you here. I thought maybe instead of chatting in the shop’s back room, you’d like to sit in the Emporium’s yard – our own apothecary garden. It’s small but bountiful, unlike when I first moved in.

Victoria: How wonderful. It doesn’t matter what space you have – you can create an apothecary garden on your windowsill or in the cracks between the paving slabs.

Amber: What can I get you to drink? We have our own blends of tea, Yorkshire tea, coffee, or maybe something cold. There are some homemade cordials or I can conjure up a cocktail now I’ve had practise from Isabella May visiting.

Victoria: I love creating teas from my apothecary garden. It is one of my favourite daily practices, to go out and intuitively choose which plants to work with each day. I particularly love lemon balm, spearmint and blackcurrant leaves. Speedwell and a slice of lemon are nice for a cool cocktail too!

An example of the interior illustrations – dandelion

Willow: We all fell in love with your book, All My Wild Mothers, the moment we saw it. The illustrator did you proud. What was your publication journey like?

Victoria: That is great that you love the illustrations. I love them too. The cover is by Lydia Blagden. I got to work with my editor to create a mood board of how I saw the book, and Lydia read the book and worked on ideas, and I was so happy when I saw that she had chosen the dandelion motif for the cover. It really does encapsulate the nature of the book – a dandelion seed of hope blowing and setting seed between the cracks.

The internal illustrations are absolutely beautiful. I was so incredibly happy with them, and they are even more special because they are created by my husband, so he knew the book really well and knew exactly how the plants work with the memoir. It hadn’t been planned for him to do the illustrations but when the opportunity arose, it made perfect sense. I love that his artwork is sown through the memoir.

I started writing the words that began the book in 2012, the year we moved to our home and started to grow the garden. It was slow-written between the hours of care and grief, and evolved into the book you have now in a very organic and gentle way. In 2019, I entered a version of it into the Nan Shepherd Nature Prize for Underrepresented Voices in Nature Writing. I hadn’t perceived it as nature writing but I wanted to enter the prize because I believed in it. I kept trying to write something else, something that would fit ‘nature writing’ but then I realised that the weeds under my feet and the garden my young son and I grew from rubble was the nature I lived in, so right at the last minute, I entered All My Wild Mothers, and was blown away when I was long listed. That really made a lot of difference to how I saw the writing. The next year, I was long listed for the Penguin WriteNow programme, and won a Northern Debut Award for All My Wild Mothers, and received a Society of Authors Grant to finish it.

The support I received from all these organisations and awards was so important, both in terms of financial support, but also in enabling me to access mentoring and meetings with agents and editors. I sent the MS out on a first round and received interest but no representation. However, I was lucky enough to get some amazing feedback from the agents who had requested a full read, and that was incredibly useful in helping me edit and focus both the overall book, and also the proposal. The next round, I received 6 offers of representation – which was completely crazy to experience. They were all amazing too, so it was incredibly hard to choose, but I went with Jenny Hewson at Lutyens and Rubinstein. Jenny and I worked on the proposal a bit more and then in 2021, it went out on submission, and into a 5-way auction, which is where more than one publisher wants the book so they have to go to auction. Again, all the publishers and acquiring editors were amazing and it was so hard to choose, but in the end I went with Two Roads Books because it felt the right home for All My Wild Mothers, alongside other human beings I have such respect for, like David Attenborough and Chris Packham.

After that, it was just short of 2 years of working with my editors, agent, publicity  and marketing team, as well as the team behind the design and the audio, to bring the book into being. I like to think of all these amazing women as my book midwives, along with the wonderful mentors I have had with Wendy Pratt, Cal Flyn and Catherine Simpson.

Rosa: What an amazing journey and shows what goes on behind the scenes to produce the book we see. Your book is exquisite and blends nature with your experiences of motherhood and grief. How hard was it to write such a personal memoir?

Victoria: Thank you. There is a certain kind of quiet that comes from finding the right words and creating something whole out of what was broken apart. It was always very important to me to write as close to the truth of any experience as I could. I began writing it so that I could hold a space for what was both lost in my life – the loved ones who had died, the losses of earlier life, the selves I had lost – but also to hold a space for the moments of this precious life I was sharing with my son as he grew up. It felt very important to enter into those moments and be present in them. So, although there is grief, there is also a lot of joy and often I would begin writing something very hard and after digging around a bit I would find myself discovering something beautiful and joyful growing there.

Amber: I loved reading about the evolution of the garden you created from nothing but rubble but also the detailed botanical information of apt plants at each chapter. Were you a herbalist before you began the garden?

Victoria: The plants in the book are the plants that eventually grew in the garden, with the exception of the final plant. This conversation between plant and memory became important to how the book came to be. I have always had an interest in magic and medicine held in wildflowers and weeds, though I am not a formal gardener nor a trained herbalist. I think it is part of our inherent wisdom, and one that we have largely lost because of the patriarchal structure of society we live in. I like to think that the plants are sown throughout the words, pushing up and revealing themselves, and reminding us that we have access to that wisdom and healing within our daily lives.

Rosa:. What is your favourite flower? And which plant you grew surprised you the most?

Victoria: It is difficult to choose a favourite flower because each one brings a different gift, although I do love borage. It is a beautiful flower and packed with beneficial medicine, and great for wildlife. I love the common name of starflower. I also love seeing it turn from blue to pink when the pollinators have feasted on it. As for surprised by – I think the year that Fox and Cubs arrived in the micro meadow, we were cultivating outside the front of our house. It was just a few square feet really, and in the middle of immaculately mown, mono-species lawn, but it was so exciting to see it slowly transform from blank grass to a wild meadow with so many flowers and grasses, and full of insects and birds. But there was something really special when that first bright orange double-flowered head arrived – so perfect and bold and beautiful. I love that its folklore says that Fox and Cubs can help us to see beyond the veil, which is what I think wild gardens can do.

Fox and cubs

Amber: Your prose in your book is beautiful. Each word is considered and used to its full potential, evoking emotion and imagery. What advice would you give new writers?

Victoria: Thank you so much. I think coming from a background of poetry meant that I was very conscious of each word and the space around and within it. My advice would be to write your story in your own voice. Push into your writing and be bold in letting it surprise you and speak back to you. Your story is unique and can only be told in your voice. It’s a strange one – this concept of voice – but it is there. The more you write, the closer you push into your story, the more authentic that voice will become. And when you read it back, cut out anything that you’ve heard before – the phrases, the metaphors and similes. Find your own. Savour your words and taste their flavours. Surprise yourself and then catch your words unaware. The other thing is – there is no magic ingredient to it all. Just write – in the small moments, whenever you can, however you can. And if there are times that you can’t write, because maybe you are, like me, a carer and living with chronic illness – then just be present in the experience, allow yourself to immerse yourself in your life, commit it to memory – you will be surprised just how much you can access at a later time.

A photo of four candles
Photo by Hanna Balan on Unsplash

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

Victoria: Interestingly, when I was writing the chapters in All My Wild Mothers, I created space within my life by lighting a candle and using that to focus into a moment, memory or experience. I could write for as long as I had, and when I had to return to life and care, I would blow the candle out. So, I already have the focus spell! I am actually going to say Financial Security. Not because I place wealth at the top of my list of priorities, but because I know from experience, the exhaustion that comes from constantly feeling insecure financially, of not knowing whether there will be enough to meet the bills, or having to fill in form after form for essential benefits. It isn’t the same as just not having enough for a treat, it is the day to day wearing down that creates a chronic stress. It doesn’t mean there isn’t joy without money, or that we need to chase money as the first goal. But it does mean that I could go about the rest of my life without the energy being spent on that worry!

Rosa: When lit one candle invokes memories of your perfect holiday or day? Where would it take you?

Victoria: Grief has given me deep roots in joy, but I think that my day would be September 2007. When I was pregnant with my son, it was hard to trust that he would be born, having experienced pregnancy loss before. My husband and I took a short holiday to Brittany in late September, and it was there that I started to trust things would be okay. We took a walk in a woods. It was so hot, and I was heavily pregnant but the trees were cool and green, and we sat by a stream and paddled our feet and there was a moment where everything felt perfect. I think that was the first time I’d truly experienced a deep, pure happiness. It was only a moment, but it is a precious memory. And although very soon after this day, my sister died and everything changed in our lives, I still hold that moment close to my heart and it reminds me, as many things have done since, that we do not hold onto happiness as some reward for effort, but find it in the small moments of our lives. Those moments remain, and change us, just as the moments of sorrow do.

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

Victoria: I’ve certainly felt something beyond the visible on a number of times in my life – from the early teen ghost stories around the fire, to occasionally entering a place where trauma has happened and sensing it strongly in a way that made me want to leave very quickly. I wouldn’t say it has influenced my writing as such, although I think that when I write I do sense that we exist in more than one time, and space.

Ornate potion bottle with red liquid swirling inside
Photo by FLY:D on Unsplash

Rosa: If the witches 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?

Victoria: If I was using it for the world, I would use it to open up and bring joy and healing into the hearts of all those who have closed them down, so that they can stop being afraid and replace fear with compassion and love for themselves, for others, and for all living things.

If I was using it for myself, then I would ask for the power to sit with those who have died and gone from my life, long enough to hug them, to tell them how incredibly special they always were, how they made the world a better place just by being in it, and to show them how much they are loved, always.

Willow: We have a bookcase full of fantasy, paranormal and magical books. It also includes books like your that deal with topics that will attract our witchy customers thanks to its links to nature. One of the most powerful magic there is. What book would you add to it?

Victoria: I love using apothecary and herb oracle decks alongside my writing and plant practice. One of my favourite is the Herbcrafter’s Tarot – by Latisha Guthrie.

Willow: More to add to our collection. I adore my Maia Toll Herbiary cards.

Rosa: I’m a huge fan of romantic novels and have a box of books I recommend to customers. What would you add to my Rosa’s box of Romance?

Victoria: Although not specifically romance, I would add any novel by Isabel Allende because she writes beautifully and creates wonderful epic stories of love and loss. The most recent I read was A Long Petal of the Sea.

Amber: And finally, because we are nosy, what are you working on currently? Or is it top secret?

Victoria: I moved to Orkney in late November 2022, so right now, I am digging and starting to seed a new garden. I have to be patient, though, to see what it wants to be and what grows here. I am also growing something new creatively but like the garden, I am having to wait to see what shape it wants to be.

Willow: Thank you for visiting all the way from Orkney and we wish you you joy in your new home and look forward to hearing more from you.

Book cover for All my wild mothers by Victoria Bennett. Dark blue background with illustrations of dandelions. Stunning.
All my wild mothers by Victoria Bennett

Title: All My Wild Mothers

Author: Victoria Bennett

Publisher: Two Roads

Genre: Nature, memoir

Release date: 2nd February 2023


An intimate weaving of memoir and herbal folklore, All My Wild Mothers is a story of rewilding our wastelands and the transformation that can happen when we do.

At seven months pregnant, Victoria Bennett was looking forward to new motherhood and all that was to come. But when the telephone rang, the news she received changed everything. Her eldest sister had died in a canoeing accident.

Five years later, struggling with grief, the demands of being a parent-carer for her young son, and the impact of deeper austerity, life feels very different to the future she had imagined. A move to a new social housing estate in rural Cumbria offers Victoria and her family a chance to rebuild their lives. Constructed over an industrial site, at first the barren ground seems an unlikely place to sow the seeds of a new life.

She and her son set about transforming the rubble around them into a wild apothecary garden. Daisy, for resilience. Dandelion, for strength against adversity. Red campion, to ward off loneliness. Sow thistle, to lift melancholy. Borage, to bring hope in dark and difficult times.

Stone by stone, seed by seed, All My Wild Mothers is the story of how sometimes life grows, not in spite of what is broken, but because of it.

Author Biography:

Victoria Bennett

Victoria Bennett was born in 1971, the youngest of six children. She lived in various places before moving to Cumbria in 1997, where she lived until very recently. After leaving school at 16, she returned to education as a mature student and gained her Masters in Creative Writing from Lancaster University in 2002. She is a recipient of the Northern Debut Award, the Mother’s Milk Writing Prize for non-fiction, and the Andrew Waterhouse Award and the Northern Promise Award for poetry. Her writing was longlisted for the Penguin WriteNow programme and the inaugural Nan Shepherd Prize for underrepresented voices.

Her most recent poetry pamphlet, To Start The Year From Its Quiet Centre, was published by Indigo Dreams in 2020. 

In 1999, she founded Wild Women Press, to provide a creative platform for women in her community, and is the curator of the #Wild WomanWeb project, an inclusive online project focusing on nature, connection and creativity featuring wild women from around the world. 

She lives with genetic illness, diagnosed in later life, including Haemochromatosis, a genetic metabolic disorder which leads to a toxic accumulation of iron in the body, and one of the Ehlers Danlos Syndromes (EDS), a hereditary connective tissue disorder. Her unruly genes continue to rebel and she is well on her way to completing her genetic illness bingo card. 

When not juggling genetic illness, writing and full-time care, she can be found where the wild weeds grow. 

All My Wild Mothers is her debut memoir.

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Monday Merry Meet: Isabella May

Beltane blessings to you all! Not only are we on a high because we now have a newsletter you can subscribe to if you want book and Emporium gossip arriving sporadically into you inbox by clicking here, it’s time for today’s Monday Merry Meet.

We are thrilled to have author, Isabella May visit us all the way from Spain. Isabella writes romance novels with more than a hint of cuisine about them. They are impossible to read without the taste buds tingling and craving the book’s chosen delicacy from chocolate, custard tarts to ice cream. Reading them requires a prepared banquet which adds to the experience.

So grab a cup of your favourite drink and enjoy the chat.

Monday Merry Meet: Isabella May

Rosa: Welcome Isabella. I’m so excited you’re here. As a huge fan of romance and food I adore your books. Come through to the back. Hopefully you’re ok with cats. Vincent is refusing to move from the sofa as a patch of sunlight is warming it.

Isabella: Hi Rosa, Willow and Amber! Thanks very much for the invite and lovely intro, and no worries… I ADORE cats. Vincent is a cutie 🙂

Amber: Hi Isabella. What can I get you to drink? We have a selection of blended teas, Yorkshire tea, coffee, hot chocolate but as soon as I knew you were coming, I mixed up some cocktails including one created for May Day, Beltane Berry Bliss.

Isabella: Well, how can I refuse a cocktail with that name? And my birth month is May too, so even more perfect!

Rosa: My mum has made a selection of bakes too including Portuguese pastel de nata and a pavlova so help yourself.

Isabella: You do realise I might now move in…

cake stand full of cakes

Willow: You’ve written ten books and about to release your newest one Spin the Bottle shortly. You describe them and foodie romance journeys. Did you always intend to write these or was it serendipity?

Isabella: Writing a series was never part of the plan! I only ever saw myself penning a single book when I started out. I had a burning desire to turn a personal situation from the past into a fictional story that hopefully highlighted the red flags of a toxic relationship to others who might be facing similar circumstances, or who might suspect a friend, or a family member was suffering in similar circumstances. It was always a bit of a risk because it was an unconventional romance novel with a dark side, but I am proud of the debate it unearthed, albeit on a small scale.

So, Oh! What a Pavlova was my first novel, and food only came into the equation because it kind of sums up the female protagonist’s private life – plus she has a very sweet tooth and uses baking as an escape. But it took me 7 years to put the book together! It felt like a giant sewing project, as if I was stitching together a patchwork quilt. However, once my debut was published, I soon got the writing bug and my then publisher asked me ‘what next?’ I had a good think and decided to use the ‘what if’ question that writers are often encouraged to pull out of their toolbox.

‘Pavlova’ was part set in Glastonbury, but it was written from the point of view of a woman who was trying to flee the place (and a bad relationship). Having spent 27 years of my life in the town, that felt one-sided and unfair. It’s an amazing place with such a unique energy! It’s also home to family and friends. So, I decided to flip book 1 on its head and write The Cocktail Bar (not strictly a foodie title but the series strapline ‘foodie and drinkie romance journeys’ is a bit of a mouthful!). The question that enabled all of that to happen was ‘what if a cocktail bar opened in Glastonbury High Street?’ Glastonbury has two very distinct sets of people: the hippies with their alternative pursuits and the locals with their cider and skittles. Aka. there is no place for fancy and expensive cocktails! Ex-rockstar turned mixologist, River Jackson was born, and the story wrote itself very quickly. In fact, it was this book that showed me I could write a romcom in 6 months, and this book which quickly inspired myriad mouth-watering titles to form a very long queue.

Looking back, I think you are right. It was serendipity. Often, we can’t see any more than the next step on the path before us, but we keep following our intuition and gradually a picture starts to take shape.

Silhouette of woman typing at a desk

Willow: We love hearing about author’s writing journeys. How has your been and would you change anything in hindsight?

Isabella: Like The Big Dipper rollercoaster at Blackpool. There are many elements I would change if I had the power to re-create my story but I have had to choose to believe that despite the heartache, everything has happened the way it should. Oh, my goodness, though. Where to start?

I have always been obsessed with books. As a toddler I would sit on the potty for hours with a massive pile of picture books at my side, earning me an equally massive red ring mark on my podgy bottom! I was a huge fan of the Richard Scarry books when I was little. I loved all their fascinating and funny sub-layers and could gaze at those illustrations for hours, inventing stories of my own for the anthropomorphic characters in his world. Some of that has definitely seeped into my storytelling. Then during my teens, sadly I went off books big time. Too many exams, too much fun to be had with friends… and, erm, boys.

My university course saw me spending half a year working in the dictionary department for a prestigious German publisher in Stuttgart. I didn’t know it at the time, but this window of work experience would open a massive door for me upon graduation when I applied for a job as European Sales Manager for a novelty and board book publisher… and, amazingly, got it! I stayed in the industry selling foreign rights for children’s books for over a decade – in every language from Icelandic to Korean and Bahasa Indonesian to Papiamento. I attended many worldwide book fairs and travelled all over the place to visit my publishing clients. It was a dream career.

In my early twenties, I developed a passion for Mind Body Spirit books and travel books. With all those hours spent on planes and at airports, prior to the days of social media, I needed something to do besides duty free shopping! Occasionally, I would indulge in a little fiction and I loved all of Marian Keyes and Joanne Harris’s offerings. Then friends began to lend me books and bit by bit my hunger for great stories reappeared. Yay!

Next, I escaped a terrible relationship, met my wonderful husband, and had babies. Sadly, our second baby was stillborn 😦 It was, as you can imagine, a hideously dark time in our lives. The publisher I worked for at that time treated me abysmally. I took them to tribunal and won but things were never quite the same after that and it all seemed to coincide with the big publishers buying out the small publishers so the heyday of foreign rights was over and I didn’t want to go back. I dabbled with a small foreign rights agency of my own but my heart wasn’t in it. I wanted to write my own stories. I’d sold other peoples’ for so long!

When we moved from Gloucestershire to Spain because my husband got a job offer in Gibraltar, I started to scribble down dialogue and ideas for my debut, in-between feeding my rainbow baby. And then, as if by magic, I heard about two writers’ groups that were taking place near my house. But I only plucked up the courage to go to them after a chance meeting with E.C Wilson, who just happened to be at an ex-pat mums and babies group I attended, where I just happened to quickly but quietly announce that I was in the process of writing a book… and lo and behold, Emma-Claire’s eyes were on stalks (but not in the usual you-utter-weirdo-we-should-be-talking-about-nappies-and-baby-puree way that I’d become accustomed to on the scant few occasions when I dared share this) because it turned out she was doing the very same thing! How we laughed. We couldn’t believe our luck to have found one another.

That was in February of 2015, I think. It took until September for us to walk through the door of the venue of our first writers’ meeting together! I am so glad we did because that’s where we met Lorraine Mace, the crime and thriller author whose brilliant creative writing course we both went on… where Natali Simmonds/N.J Simmonds was waiting for us! As the youngest members of Lorraine’s tutelage, we became instant friends, and, not long after the course wrapped up, Emma-Claire invited us to join her in setting up an online women’s magazine called The Glass House, where we wrote blogs as three very different avatars, whose personalities have definitely shaped our very distinctive books…

Fast forward another couple of years and ‘Pavlova’ was complete, getting me a deal with a small independent publisher. I wrote them another two books… and then said publisher decided to focus on crime and thrillers. I got my rights back and assumed since I had great reviews and a loyal and wonderful readership, that I was now a catch for the bigger traditional companies. I subbed book number 4, The Ice Cream Parlour, and ate many tubs of ice cream myself as the rejections piled up. It was so disheartening! The agents and editors were all so lovely. But they all said the same things ‘you write beautifully but we’re not sure how to market you/your storylines are just a bit too busy.’ My mental health took such a hit. I couldn’t contemplate changing my voice to that extent. It felt like selling my soul and I wasn’t prepared to do it, especially when readers enjoyed my stories. It made no sense. I wanted to shake the industry. It felt deeply unfair too. I had sold millions of books via trad in my former career… and this was how it repaid me? To say I had a chip on my shoulder at that time was a bit of an understatement!

But I picked myself up, dusted myself down and decided to self-publish, taking my destiny in my own hands. Many of my former book buddies from my time with the small publishing house had started to do well with indie publishing and they were super encouraging and full of advice, so I knew it was a viable path. Every second book that I wrote though, I would (gahhhhhhh!) find myself following the carrot dangle of traditional publishing… again. Let’s face it, when trad works out, it works out beautifully. Most of us write our debuts with that monumental dream in our hearts: 1 x top agent, 1 x big 5 publishing house, 1 x three book deal and advance, a shiny badge of honour emblazoned across our super sleek trade covers, and a heart-stoppingly exciting option for a film or TV deal, not to forget that little cherry on the cake: translation into a gazillion languages. Set for life.

The reality is, this rarely happens… and even when it does, the success can be short lived.

I wish I had fully embraced self-publishing sooner but I suppose I had to have the wobbles and second thoughts and one last attempts in order to do just that. Now I can stand tall(ish) – I am only 5ft 2 – and proud as an indie, because it turns out that the path of self-publishing can be just as, or even more, lucrative. This is an arm of publishing where six and seven figure authors abound; an arm of the industry where authors have enough money to live on, and their pay cheques mean they can leave their day jobs and make a decent living through their backlists. And all of this can happen on an author’s own terms, with no compromise on creativity. For me, it’s win-win and I have stopped looking back.

The group of people that has truly made all the difference to me is 20Books. This is an indie-publishing Facebook group run by the most generous, supportive and inclusive people, and full of the most generous, supportive and inclusive people. I have worked in the publishing industry for 24 years and I mean that wholeheartedly. There is no competition, we all root for one another. It’s like coming home. Family. My involvement in this group has been a complete gamechanger. 

Last year they brought a self-publishing conference to Madrid. That certainly felt like serendipity! This year it came even closer to me and was held in Seville. I was very blessed to attend both. The friendships made and leading-edge knowledge learned has been invaluable, reconfirming I am on the best path for me and that the potential for great things to happen with my books is limited only by my imagination. There is literally nothing that can’t be achieved. Indies have the world at their feet and I am so excited to call myself one.

Rosa: Your Cake Fairies has a fantastic premise.  Do you enjoy baking yourself or do you leave that to your characters? What is your favourite go to bake?

Isabella: I am never happier than when baking. For me it’s meditation in action and I love whipping up new treats, however, I have a very flavour-fussy family and I live in a country where its often difficult to source ingredients from one shop! But once I have got my head around those obstacles, I go through phases of cake creation. That said, yes, my favourite bake is a classic Victoria sponge. It’s just unbeatable and pairs beautifully with a cup of tea.

Black and gold teacup and sponge cake

Amber: I’m not allowed to ask the question I wanted to ask so I’ll ask this instead. Your new release is based on the game Spin the Bottle. If you played this with your characters, who would you want it to land on?

Isabella: Ha ha! That is a GREAT question. Love it. Well, I might once have said River Jackson from The Cocktail Bar… but I am currently halfway through writing my winter romcom, Christmas at the Keanu Kindness Café, and I have fallen head over heels for the luscious Joe, who we meet in chapter two when he is dressed as a Nutcracker at a bierkeller birthday party. Sadly, River is now history!

Rosa: You live in Spain which must have some wonderful places to sit and write. Do you have a favourite place to write and set routine?

Isabella: There are so many beautiful places to write here but I have had to be very disciplined and realistic with my craft as an indie author. If I can’t get the words down at my desk on a day-to-day basis, then I am going to be spending a lot of money on retreats! Occasionally I will reward myself with a cafe writing session though.

Willow: From curses, hexes and time travel your books have always have a mystical twist. So we need to ask you a question we always ask, have you had any paranormal experiences and have they influenced your writing?

Isabella: I grew up in Glastonbury so I am sure the leylines have had a huge influence on my stories. I did once experience a ghost at Dunster Castle in Minehead, Somerset – via my friend who has been seeing them all her life. Let’s just say I got my Scooby Doo legs on and I haven’t been back since!

Amber: I was a secret writer but since starting Monday Merry Meets, most people know. Do you have any advice for new writers?  

Isabella: That’s so exciting! I am brimming with advice for new writers (and always happy to be contacted). In terms of getting the story down, don’t beat yourself up on a slow day when the words won’t pour onto the page. We all have them and you can’t force the story out. Sometimes it needs time to marinate in your mind and it almost always turns out the better for that.

In terms of the publishing process once your book is ready, educate yourself big time on the merits of indie publishing and traditional publishing, then make your choice. Both have advantages and disadvantages, but the good news is, we have so many more options open to us now as writers and when one door closes, an even bigger one can open…

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

Isabella: These sound fabulous and I bet they smell fabulous too. Could I have A Good Night’s Sleep, please?

Rosa:  When lit one candle invokes memories of your perfect holiday or day? Where would it take you?

Isabella: The gorgeous Tuscan countryside, feet dipped in a pool, gelato in hand!

Amber: If Willow or I 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?

Isabella: Ooh… how to choose? Although I have been a Pranic Healer since I turned 40, and it has been the privilege of my life to help others with physical and psychological conditions over the past 6 years, how wonderful it would be to have 24 hours to teleport myself to as many people in need as possible with a magic wand containing an immediate cure. I’d do this with my PH friends and we’d cover as much of the world as possible.

Willow: That would be amazing and what a fantastic thing to do. Our enchanted bookcase holds books with mystical or fantastical elements. Both non-fiction and fiction. What book would you add to it?

Isabella: The Nothing Girl by Jodi Taylor. It’s utterly enchanting.

illustrated row of books

Rosa: What book would you add to my Rosa’s box of Romance?

Isabella: I can highly recommend The Three Great Loves of Victoria Turnbull trilogy, written by my indie author friend, Isabella Wiles – A Flame Unburned, A Promise Unmade and A Star Unborn. Sorry, that’s more than one book, I know, but really it is one giant story and, oh, my goodness, it is book club-style romantic fiction at its very best! I have devoured every word in the past couple of months and when I was in Seville with Isabella at the 20Books self-publishing conference in April, she gifted me a signed copy of the prequel novella too, so I am currently immersed in that. PS. the female lead used to be a dancer so there are frequent refs to ballet and theatre. I have a hunch you would enjoy it!

Amber: Finally, now we’ve demolished all the food, what are you working on currently? Or is it top secret?

Isabella: So… I have mentioned the Christmas book, and I’ll do a cover reveal for that soon. I am also writing a spin-off trilogy featuring three of the female characters from Oh! What a Pavlova. I would love to get one of those out by the end of the year but I’m moving house in September. Still, all the covers are done and a third of book 1 is written, so hopefully I’ll pull it off. I have also pre-designed my covers for 2024’s summer and winter romcoms, and I have decided on the titles and storylines. I am trying to be much more organised, although I doubt I will ever convert myself to plotter as opposed to pantser once I am in front of the keyboard!

Willow: Good luck in your writing and have a lovely birthday, Isabella. It was lovely to meet you.

Book cover for Spin the Bottle. Green background with yellow font saying Spin the bottle. An illustrated pink heart with a yellow arrow through it. A glass bottle with lid to the right hand side
Spin the Bottle by Isabella May


CELESTE thought she had long forgotten the sweet, citrusy kiss she shared with TRAVIS during a game of spin the bottle. Splitting her time between her accounts office in super Instagrammable Notting Hill, and her tiny apartment in quirky Exmouth Market, modern-day life is simply too busy for men. Besides, whenever she tries to find The One, it always ends in disaster. From Tinder tragedies to trampolining tribulations, Celeste is starting to think that she’s cursed.

But then Travis begins to pop up wherever she goes, and Celeste knows with stomach-sinking clarity that fate has finally caught up with them. Inspired by the idea of fake dating, Celeste is convinced the only way out of this mess is to call the curse’s bluff. But will Travis agree to it? And how can she manage not to fall in love?

Pour yourself a lemonade and escape with this gorgeous will-they-won’t-they rom-com set between London and Gibraltar!

Author Biography

Photo of Isabella May. White woman brown eyes smiling. Long light brown hair wearing several chunky bracelets
Isabella May

Isabella May lives in (mostly) sunny Andalusia, Spain with her husband, daughter and son, creatively inspired by the mountains and the sea. She grew up in Somerset on Glastonbury’s ley lines and loves to feature her quirky English hometown in her stories.

After a degree in Modern Languages and European Studies at UWE, Bristol (and a year working abroad in Bordeaux and Stuttgart), Isabella bagged an extremely jammy and fascinating job in children’s publishing… selling foreign rights for novelty, board, pop-up and non-fiction books all over the world; in every language from Icelandic to Korean, Bahasa Indonesian to Papiamento!

All of which has fuelled her curiosity and love of international food and travel – both feature extensively in her romcoms.

Isabella is also a Level 4 Pranic Healer and a stillbirth mum.

You can follow her Foodie Romance Journey series at the following hang-outs:

Twitter – @IsabellaMayBks

Instagram – @isabella_may_author

Facebook –

Monday Merry Meet: Amanda James

After covid struck all the staff at the emporium bar the ghosts, Monday Merry Meets were put on hold but now everyone has recovered and the ghosts have stopped giving unasked for advice on curing illness, they are back.

We’re excited to chat to Amanda James, a Cornish based author who writes the Nancy Cornish series which are investigation based novels with a paranormal twist.

Monday Merry Meet: Amanda James

Willow: Hi Amanda, welcome to the Enchanted Emporium. I hope you found us ok. We recently had a covid scare, and the shop has reacted by hiding Black Cat Alley so no one could visit. Despite our reassurances, all is well, it is becoming picky about who can enter. It’s causing chaos for our customers and post.

What would you like to drink? We have a collection of fresh teas, including Yorkshire tea, coffee, hot chocolate or something stronger?

Amanda: A hot chocolate would be lovely, ta. I should have said Yorkshire tea, being a Yorkshire lass, but the hot chocolate took my fancy.

Hot chocolate with whipped cream in a pink mug with hearts on it

Amber: Some days are just made for hot chocolate with all the works, including marshmallows. Your new book, Back on the Case, is part of the Nancy Cornish series and blends criminal investigations with psychic ability of psychometry. Where did you get the idea, and do you have fun writing them?

Amanda: I’m not exactly sure where the idea for Nancy came from, but I have always been fascinated with the psychic phenomenon. My grandma told me stories when I was little about her good friend Annie, who was psychic, and it went from there. When I was older, I saw a few psychic/Mediums and some of what they told me just blew me away. There was no way they could have known what they told me beforehand. I’m fascinated as to why some people have the gift and others don’t. The first time I included this phenomenon in my writing was – Summer in Tintagel, now republished as The Secret Keeper. Funnily enough, the main character is called Rosa!

Rosa: Ooh, I’ll need to track that book down if it has my namesake in it. Your series is set in the beautiful Cornish coast. What made you use this location?

Amanda: I moved to Cornwall almost 10 years ago and adore the place. I feel it’s always been my home, even though I was born in Sheffield and spent many years in Bristol where I was a secondary school teacher. I’m inspired by the rugged beauty of the north coast near to where I live, and it just feels right to set all my books here.

Perranporth beach. Cornwall. Damp sandy beach with rugged cliff on the left hand side with a hole carved into it.
Cornish coast

Willow: It’s a stunning place. We love hearing about writer’s publication journeys. What has yours been like and if you did it again, would you change anything?

Amanda: Unless you’re very lucky, the publication journey is long and rocky. It’s extremely difficult to find any kind of publisher and a good one is rarer than hen’s teeth. I have had six! But I’m pleased to say my current one is a keeper. I self-publish the Nancy Cornish series because publishers tend to think the psychic element won’t sell. They are wrong. Would I do anything different? It’s easy to make a list with hindsight, but I think my determination and refusal to give up has got me this far. Yes, you have to have talent, and be willing to learn, but tenacity is the biggest thing, I think. Also, anyone thinking that you write a few books and make a mint will be sadly disappointed. Again, unless you are very lucky, you won’t make much money. I have been published since 2012 and I’m still dreaming of owning a house nearer the beach! I love writing – it’s part of me. I also love hearing from readers who have enjoyed my books. That’s what it’s all about in the end.

Rosa: Since there are many books based on psychic phenomena on our enchanted bookshelf and are always looking for more, we agree paranormal books sell. Do you have a particular writing routine or place to write?

Amanda: I normally write on the bed propped up by pillows. My back complains if I sit at a desk. And I have no routine. Sometimes I might binge write – so every day for a few weeks. Other times, I might have a few days or even weeks off. It depends on what else is happening in my life and how I feel.

Illustration of books, quill in an ink pot and scrolls of paper

Amber: As a not-so-secret writer, do you have any advice for those who want to be published authors?

Amanda: Yes. Be prepared to take criticism, learn your craft and never ever give up.

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

The first three, I think 😊 which are financial security, luck and a good night’s sleep.

Willow: When lit, one candle invokes memories of your perfect holiday or day. Where would it take you?

Amanda: There have been so many. But I think Oceanside, California and Monument Valley, Utah.

Amber: Great places.

Rosa: If the witches could blend a bespoke potion to give you a superpower or special ability for 24 hours, what would it be and what would you do with it?

Amanda: I have always wanted to fly, so I’m tempted by that. But I’d have to choose the ability to bring world peace and end poverty. I know it sounds corny, but that’s what I’d do.

Amber: It’d be lovely to be able to do that, but even with the ancient grimoires Willow locks away, I doubt it would be possible. We have a small lending library full of paranormal, fantasy and magic related books, fiction and non-fiction.  What book would you add to The Enchanted Emporium bookshelf?

Amanda: All my Nancy Cornish books and all my Harper Collins books – The Secret Gift, The Forgotten Beach, The Secret Keeper, The Garden by the Sea, and my new one out on May 5th – Wish Upon a Cornish Moon.

Notebook with lined paper open with some pages rolled over into a heart shape. Pink background and a red and pink paper heart in the foreground

Rosa: I adore romantic fiction with a happy ever after. What would you add to my box of romance books?

Amanda: All the above.

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

Amanda: It’s top secret. But it’s set here in Cornwall!

Willow: Sounds intriguing and good luck with it. We look forward to finding out more soon.

Book cover for Nancy Cornish PI Back on the case. Bright blue sky, with Cornish coastline at the bottom with tagline Where extraordinary things happen ... you'll find Nancy Cornish
Nancy Cornish PI Back on the Case by Amanda James

Title: Nancy Cornish PI Back on the Case

Author: Amanda James

Publisher: Indie

Genre: paranormal

Release date: 2nd April 2023


Nancy Cornish has been running her own PI business in Padstow, Cornwall for a few years now. Seemingly an ordinary member of her community, Nancy has an extraordinary gift. She is able to make psychic connections with those who have passed, and objects belonging to those still living. The PI denotes Psychic Investigator, not Private Investigator. Her husband Charlie is a DI in the Truro police, and a down to earth Cornishman. In the past, he’s dismissed Nancy’s gift as ‘mumbo jumbo’, but now he accepts that she’s a very good detective. He’s over the moon that she’s been able to help him solve some important crimes, and is keen for her to keep up this good work.

The couple have just returned from holiday, and Nancy is ready to resume work and get back on the case. As well as helping her husband solve serious crimes, Nancy’s main mission in life is to use her gift to help others. In the grand scheme of things, the cases she solves within her community might not seem very important. However, they mean the world to those who come to Nancy for help. Some of her successes to date has been to reunite long lost lovers, track down a war hero’s missing medals, rescue a beloved pet, and find the mystery ingredient in the local butcher’s prize-winning sausages!

In this third book in the Nancy Cornish series, we see people come to Nancy for all sorts of reasons. Some are new clients, some are old friends, and she often discovers that what they say they need help with, is only the beginning of their story. Nancy’s investigations and discoveries help them to see what’s most important to them in life, and how to achieve it. And as we all know, that thing is happiness.

Wish Upon a Star is also out on 5th May 2023.

Book cover of Wish Upon a Star by Amanda James
Pink sky with a seaside landscape. A message in a glass bottle is lying on the beach
Wish upon a Star by Amanda James

Author Biography

Photo of Amanda James standing in front of a library bookcase signing a book. White woman dressed in a denim jacket. White wavy shoulder length hair and thick dark glasses
Amanda James

Amanda James/A.K. James has written since she was a child, and as an eight-year-old, she asked her parents for a typewriter for Christmas. She never imagined her words would ever be published however. Then in 2010, after many twists and turns, the dream of becoming a writer came true when she had her first short story published for a Born Free anthology. She left teaching in 2013 to pursue her dream full-time.

Originally from Sheffield, Amanda now lives in Cornwall and is inspired every day by the wild and beautiful coastline near her home. She loves writing uplifting books with a twist of magic, as she thinks the world needs more joy in it right now. Amanda can usually be found playing on the beach with her family, or walking the cliff paths planning her next book.

Amanda writes more suspenseful novels also set in Cornwall, under the name A.K. James. 

Twitter: @amandajames61

Facebook: mandy.james.33

Amazon page:

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.



Monday Merry Meet: Wendy Sheffield

Welcome to another week! Today we’re excited to host our first ever spirit writer to the Enchanted Emporium, Wendy Sheffield, to discuss her writing, life and of course, spells.

The review for her book Spirit Writer can be found here but why not grab a cuppa and take a break to discover more.

Monday Merry Meet: Wendy Sheffield

Willow: Welcome to our small shop. We’re excited to have you visit. The Marleys and Old Percy, our resident ghosts are under strict instructions not to badger you with information while you’re here but as the first medium we’ve had visit, I can’t guarantee they’ll behave. Mrs Marley likes to talk.

Amber: Hi, I’m on tea and drink duty today as Rosa’s at a Parent’s association meeting. What can I get you? Tea including Yorkshire tea, coffee or I do an excellent hot chocolate or something stronger or cold.

Wendy: One of your hot choccies would go down nicely!!!! Thanks

Hot chocolate in a pink mug and heart shaped biscuits
Hot chocolate and biscuit time

Willow: We always ask our guests whether they’ve had paranormal experiences and how it affects their writing, but as your book is all about connecting with spirits, we know the answer but can you tell us a bit about how you began?

Amber: And what a spirit writer is? I’ve only ever heard of spirit artists who draw those who have passed.

Wendy: 12 years ago, I did not know that I was a medium and I certainly didn’t know that I had a spirit guide and a host of family ancestors in spirit who would have been only too happy to stop me messing up my life!  Because I did not know I had spirit guidance I made mistakes. I can hear you all saying, we all make mistakes, and in answer to this I would answer…we all do! 

I will not go into my life mistakes because they are not much different to most people’s mistakes!

Basically, I couldn’t understand why I was not happy, and the more I pondered on my past, the more I wanted to change my life. In effect I was asking spirit for help, without even realising the same!

One fateful night, 12 years ago, I went to bed and awoke a different person…a person more confident, a person who believed in the impossible!  A person who wanted to help the world with her gifts, which she was now aware of.

I went to bed not even knowing what spirit was, no mind what spirit writing was! Sorry I am taking a long time to answer the question!

In days of old, people used to spirit write using a pen and paper. I was a lady of the 21st century, I was not going to use pen and paper!  I woke up that night…I grabbed a pen and paper and spirit encouraged me to scribble, letting go of the pain. Even though I did not know about spirit and spirit writing before this time… grandmother told me I was spirit writing! This was the first spiritual gift that she showed me that I possessed. It took me many years thereafter, but I learnt to control my spirit writing. Spirit knew I was a trained legal secretary and could type at least as fast as someone can talk, so they encouraged me to use a keyboard to use the skill that I had. Shortly thereafter, I felt the ned to help others with my newfound skills, and for a time was giving online reading using my spirit writing and my trusted keyboard.

To cut a long story short….spirit writing…..I connect to spirit as a medium and let my fingers fly!

Amber: Your book is based on your life, how difficult did you find writing it?

Wendy: To be honest, it was a great relief, because I knew as soon as I had let go of the past, I knew I would be able to move forwards!

Amber: Spirit Writer is your debut, what has your publication journey been like? If you did it again, would you change anything?

Wendy: I have found my publication journey painful and expensive! As to whether I would change anything, as I have progressed with my books, I have learnt new skills. I have now written Book 2, Pure Spirit and almost finished Book 3, Spirit Healer, and I can now do everything myself and now only have to pay for advertising, which is very expensive in itself!

Rosa: Many of our customers love the idea of writing a book, including memoirs. Do you have any advice for novice memoir writers?

Wendy: Writing the book is the easy bit! Make sure that you are happy with your publisher and be careful with advertising costs!

A lit candle

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

Wendy: A good night’s sleep, as my mind always whirrs around 100 miles an hour, and the spirits don’t help!

Focus and concentration is also an issue for me!

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

Wendy: Back into the past to put right wrongs!

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?

Wendy: To go into the future to see where my journey is taking me!

An illustrated row of battered books

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

Wendy: My 3 books, of course!

Rosa: I have a Box of Romance books to share my love of the romance genre to the world. What would you add to it?

Wendy: Nowadays, I don’t read such books, but in my younger days I used to like Catherine Cookson’s romance books – No one book in particular!

Willow: I don’t think we have any Catherine Cookson books yet. And finally, what are you working on currently? Or is it top secret?

Wendy: I am now using my ability as a spiritualist healer to help everyone that comes to me for healing. I want people to understand themselves inside and outside and out and to not be afraid to seek healing from whoever they are drawn to!

Willow: That sounds fantastic. We wish you well and thank you for visiting.

Book cover for Spirit Writer by Wendy Sheffield. Black background with an illustrated open book with magic swirls coming out of it
Spirit Writer by Wendy Sheffield

Title: Spirit Writer

Author: Wendy Sheffield

Publisher: Grosvenor House Publishing

Release date: 13th October 2022

Genre: Non-fiction, spirituality



‘Spirit Writer’ is a book written by Wendy Sheffield, a psychic medium, who channels messages from the spirit world. In her book, Sheffield explores the art of spiritual writing and shares her insights on how to connect with spirit guides, develop intuition, and communicate with loved ones who have passed on. The book also delves into the practice of mindfulness and its role in writing as a spiritual practice.

‘Spirit Writer’ is a memoir that reflects on Sheffield’s own spiritual awakening and experiences with mediumship and afterlife communication.

Overall, ‘Spirit Writer’ provides readers with a unique perspective on the power of writing and its potential for connecting with the spiritual realm.

‘A wonderful insight into how the world of spirit can communicate with us’

More about the author:

Wendy Sheffield. A white woman with dark bobbed hair and thick dark rimmed glasses

12 years ago, or thereabouts, my grandmother stood me before a very large old mirror in my old living room and said THIS IS WHO YOU ARE!! 

At the time I had doubts that I would ever reach the level to which she was telling me I was capable of. 

TODAY is that day that I know that I am capable of so much, all i needed to do was allow my love to shine through and BELIEVE. 

It is through my books I hope that I share my LOVE and BELIEF!

SPIRIT WRITER the start of my journey
PURE SPIRIT my refined connection with spirit

My final message is that this is not the end, IT IS the beginning…

Social media:


Twitter: @spiritwriteruk

Facebook: Spiritwriterspeaks

Instagram: Spiritwriteruk7965

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: 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


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!”