Book Review: Promise Me by Jill Mansell

With Valentine’s Day only a couple of weeks away and the Enchanted Emporium gearing up for love potions and heart decorations galore, Rosa was ecstatic to discover an ARC of Promise Me by Jill Mansell, one of her go to authors in her Box of Romance. Thank you Random Things Tour and the invite to this blog tour.

Scroll down to see of Rosa’s happiness was well earned or short lived once she’d finished reading.

Book Review: Promise Me by Jill Mansell

Book cover for Jill Mansell's Promise Me. A predominantly teal cover with gold lettering. An illustrated painted tree with red and yellow, green leaves. A swing hangs from a branch and a white and black dog is standing nearby
Promise Me by Jill Mansell

Title: Promise Me

Author: Jill Mansell

Publisher: Headline Review

Genre: Romance

Release date: 19th Jan 2023

Blurb

Fate’s about to make mischief…

One minute Lou is happily employed, with a perfect flat. The next, her home and job have gone. Suddenly she has
to start over.
The last thing Lou wants is to move to a tiny Cotswolds village. She certainly doesn’t intend to work for curmudgeonly eighty-year-old Edgar Allsopp. But Edgar is about to make her the kind of promise nobody could ignore. In
return, she secretly vows to help him fall in love with life again.
Foxwell is also home to Remy, whose charm and charisma are proving hard to ignore. But Lou hasn’t recovered
from the last time she fell for a charmer. She needs a distraction – and luckily one’s about to turn up.
Secrets never stay hidden for long in Foxwell, nor are promises always kept. And no one could guess what lies ahead.

Thoughts from the Emporium

This was Rosa’s first book she read this year and what a joy it was. From the moment she was introduced to caring Lou and grumpy, and manipulative Edgar, she knew she was reading a book she could to escape into and enjoy the ride, away from the cold weather and hectic home life. What a ride it was. With Edgar’s unique offer, and complex past loves and future ones, there were plenty of twists and unexpected turns to keep Rosa on her toes before the much needed happy ever after. 

Written with warmth, there was a cast of characters to adore and hate, and each had depth and a relatable backstory that made it easy to invest in their happiness or downfall. Whether it was the friendly banter or deeper love, the dialogue felt natural immersing Rosa further into the characters’ lives and zipping through the pages. Lou with a big heart was easily liked and Rosa’s initial dislike for curmudgeon (such a good word) Edgar mellowed the more she knew him, but it was Captain Oates who stole the show. He made Rosa laugh with his standoffish attitude and unwavering sense of self, reminding her of a beloved childhood pet. 

This book is a heart-warming, thought provoking and uplifting read about lost loves, second chance relationships and starting over which makes it an ideal read for the beginning of the year and run up to to Valentine’s Day. Pure fun and escapism. It’ll be well loved by many who visit her Box of Romance.

Author Biography

Photo of Jill Mansell. White woman with should length, layered very blonde hair, pink lipstick. Smiling and wearing a blue patterned blouse.
Jill Mansell

Jill Mansell has been writing Sunday Times bestsellers for over twenty years, most recently
Should I Tell You? Her hobbies include exploring the Cotswolds and the south west of
England, scouting for locations for future books, and discovering brilliant new restaurants
along the way. She lives in Bristol with her family.


Twitter @Jill Mansell
Facebook /OfficialJillMansell
Instagram @JillMansell

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Monday Merry Meet: Ben Peyton

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

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

Monday Merry Meet: Ben Peyton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image by Edar from Pixabay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Title: Luke Stevens and the Blood of St George

Author: Ben Peyton

Genre: Children’s fiction

Release date: 1st April 2022

Publisher: Neilson UK

Purchase:

Amazon

And signed and dedicated copies are available here: https://benpeyton.co.uk/buy-2/

Blurb

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

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

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

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

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

Welcome to Luke Stevens and the Blood of St George…

Author Biography

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

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

Social Media

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/ben_peyton007/

Twitter https://twitter.com/benpeyton007

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/benpeytonauthor

Book Review: The Witches of Vardo by Anya Bergman

From the whimsical adventures searching for Norwegian fae, in Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries, today’s review remains in the North but it ventures back to the dark times of the witch trials. The Emporium’s attraction to The Witches of Vardo by Anya Bergman is clear -put witch is the title and the bookshelf will covet it but scroll down to see if this novel deserves a place on the shelf on merit alone.

Book Review: 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

Blurb

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.

Thoughts from the Emporium

After reading, this novel’s worthiness for being on the enchanted shelf is beyond doubt. Spellbound, Amber and Willow have also bought copies to keep for themselves for the knowledge it contains and the compelling storytelling they know they will return to. 

Beyond the witch trials in the UK and Salem, the Emporium’s witches’ knowledge of them is sketchy, so both were intrigued by this book’s basis in fact. What followed horrified and enthralled them in equal measure and triggered heated debates between customers about the role of misogyny, fear and spite in the persecution of so-called witches.

Told in two voices, the reader sees the story from the viewpoint of the accused and   those against them, gave a full experience of the events. The smattering of mythology and folk tales  blended in added depth and context to the magical side to the novel. 

Daughter of a physician, Anna is outspoken, and intelligent and used to the finer things in life and in exile to Vardo. Like many characters in this book, she is complex and multifaceted. Willow and Amber wanted to dislike her; she made their blood curdle with rage at her support for tracking down the witches but when her life story was revealed their stance wavered. Was she a  woman with good intentions trapped by circumstance? Like Willow suggested. Or pure evil which was Amber’s more rigid stance. Book clubs will have fun unpicking their thoughts.

Ingeborg’s chapters highlighted the harsh realities of the fishing village she lives in where poverty is rife, women vulnerable and superstition thrives. Young, she has grown up too fast to care for her younger sister Kirsten while battling her own grief with the loss of her brother. Loss and grief are consistent themes in the book, exploring how its power can  lead to unwise decisions with far reaching consequences. Her loyalty, level headedness and love for family shone on the page making everyone eager for her to succeed on her mission to rescue her mother when she became entangled with a frenzy of hate, fuelled by misogyny and ability to use the accusation of witch as punishment for any misdemeanor or perceived fault.

Maren, daughter of a feared and infamous witch provided the mystical elements to the novel with her fantastical stories, unreliable narration and unwavering strength. She added to the are they or aren’t they witches thread that cleverly ran throughout.

The Emporium witches were completely immersed in the 17th century world Anya Bergman created thanks to the small details in character, location, dress and experience. They could taste the sugar almonds and feel the pleasure of seeing the Northern lights. The research must have been immense and they were thrilled to discover a reading list at the back of the book so they could explore things more for themselves.

The Witches of Vardo is a compelling, dark and emotional historical tale of loyalty, female strength, magic and betrayal. Its impactful and the unexpected ending showcased its strength in storytelling.

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!”

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Book Review: Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett

There are no fae in the Emporium’s secret garden but Willow is sure she saw one in Grandma Jax’s garden as a child and she was warned about those roaming the Yorkshire Moors the cottage backed on to. When this beauty, Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries, arrived on the enchanted bookshelf*, she knew she had to read it. Amber saw the cover and immediately thought of her own painted pages in her Book of Shadows so lay claim on it too.

The cover could easily have been designed by the fae itself and promised to hold an exquisite read. Scroll down to see if it hit everyone’s high expectations.

Book Review: Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett

Book Cover for Emily Wilde's Encyclopaedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett. Cream parchment style background with an open book at the bottom. Framed by exquisite water colour illustration of flowers and toadstools
Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries

Title: Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries

Author: Heather Fawcett

Publisher: Orbit

Genre: Adult fantasy, folklore

Release Date: 19th January 2023

Blurb

Enter the world of the hidden folk – and discover the most whimsical, enchanting and heart-warming tale you’ll read this year, featuring the intrepid Emily Wilde. . .

Emily Wilde is good at many things: she is the foremost expert on the study of faeries; she is a genius scholar and a meticulous researcher who is writing the world’s first encylopaedia of faerie lore. But Emily Wilde is not good at people

So when she arrives in the hardscrabble village of Hrafnsvik, Emily has no intention of befriending the gruff townsfolk. Nor does she care to spend time with another new arrival: her dashing and insufferably handsome academic rival Wendell Bambleby

But as Emily gets closer to uncovering the secrets of the Hidden Ones – the most elusive of all faeries –  she also finds herself on the trail of another mystery: who is Wendell Bambleby, and what does he really want? To find the answer, she’ll have to unlock the greatest mystery of all – her own heart.

Filled with enchanting magic, heart-warming romance and a heroine you can’t help but love, Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries is the perfect read for fans of The Ten Thousand Doors of January and Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.

Thoughts From the Emporium

Both witches decided this novel tapped into their adoration of Brian Froud’s Faeries books and could easily imagine once Emily had corelated all her findings, it would be just as an outstanding to read, with intricately detailed descriptions and illustrations of each faery. With this in mind, they were invested from the start for her to succeed in her mission.

Brian Froud and Alan Lee books

Written as a journal, the adventure slowly unfolded as she travels to the cold depths of Norway to study the elusive Hidden Ones for her project. This gave them the opportunity to find out about her as a character through her actions and thoughts. Highly focused, scholarly and straightforward, it was fun to read a strong personality with such dedication to her field who thinks differently with surprising results. Amber related to her attraction to books, journaling and nature, solitude over social interaction, her in-depth curiosity and she understood why studying the fae became priority. The more Amber read, the more Emily Wilde became her literary hero. She had worked hard and nothing would get in her way. In Emily’s journals, her reasonings, flaws and social floundering were in full display. And her hatred for Wendell.

Wendell Bambleby was Emily’s opposite, and seen through her eyes it took a while to warm to him but with a flamboyant attitude, charisma and love of homely decor and fashion, he became a character to love and root for whatever his secrets. His unrequited love for her provides humour, chemistry and clashes. It was a joy to watch this slow, subtle romance and attraction grow.

Every character was well-developed, including side ones from the village, so was easy to be immersed in the comings and goings of the village, the horror of fae abductions and attacks. The Faeries themselves have personality, depth and a darkness seen in fairy tales of old, not the sanitised Disney versions.

Highly imaginative in characterisation, plot and setting, the small details gave this story heart. The wintery Norwegian location was an ideal place for the investigations for its landscape and otherworldly atmosphere. The freezing temperature emanated from the page the further Emily’s investigations took her, so lots of hot beverages were required while drinking. No one wanted this book to end and excited to see its part of a series. 

This beautiful, heart-warming fantasy has everything needed for a magical tale exploring the dark world of the faeries and self-discovery; immersive worldbuilding, humour, mystery, drama and soul. More, please!

Author Biography

Heather Fawcett is the author of the middle grade novels Ember and the Ice Dragons and The Language of Ghosts, as well as the young adult series Even the Darkest Stars. She has a master’s degree in English literature and has worked as an archaeologist, photographer, technical writer, and backstage assistant for a Shakespearean theater festival. She lives on Vancouver Island, Canada.

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*Thank you Compulsive Readers for supplying a copy to review.

Book Review: A Season for Love by Ally Sinclair

We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to be on this blog tour for Ally Sinclair’s novel, A Season for Love. A huge thank you to Rachel’s Random Resources for the invite and book arriving in Rosa’s Box of Romance so they could give an honest opinion. Everyone is still recovering from her ear shattering squeal when she read the blurb – Regency dating in our modern world, what more could she ask for?

Scroll down to see if A Season for Love hit her high expectations.

Book Review: A Season for Love by Ally Sinclair

Book cover for  A Season for Love by Ally Sinclair. Dark blue background, white title with tagline Can old-fashioned courtship flourish in today's dating world?
Heavily stylised illustration of a woman with long brown hair next to man in a blue shirt (for some reason they have no facial features except for her lips???)
A Season for Love by Ally Sinclair

Book title: A Season for Love

Author: Ally Sinclair

Publisher: Hera

Genre: Romance

Release date: 12th January 2023

Purchase Links

AMZ: https://amzn.to/3CZyknz

Apple: https://apple.co/3Txu7ys

Hive: https://bit.ly/3z9y8Ry

Blurb

Can old-fashioned courtship survive in today’s dating world?

When Emma Love’s mother retires, it is time for her to take the reins of the family dating agency and build on its success. And she has a fresh new idea: to host a Jane Austen-style Regency Season of glamourous events where potential lovers can actually take the time to get to know each other in person, with no apps in between.

Emma has no intention of becoming romantically involved herself, of course; she is a matchmaker on the hunt for the perfect partner for ladies like Annie (who thought she had missed her chance at love a long time ago), Jane (recently divorced and nervously stepping into her new life) and wild child Lydia (more interested in hooking up than finding Mr Darcy).

As the Season unfolds, there is only one fly in Emma’s ointment – the irritating Mr Knight, with his casual attitude and gentle cynicism. Why is she allowing him to ruffle her calm, ordered life and why can’t she stop thinking about him? She is far too sensible to take a chance on love – isn’t she?

Jane Austen meets Sophie Kinsella in this laugh-out-loud, captivating romantic comedy.

Thoughts from the Emporium

During those lockdown years, Bridgerton mania swept through the Emporium encouraged by the over excited Rosa, high on romance, the sexy Duke and the promise of a HEA with dancing and jewels. Willow watched it under duress but was sucked into its escapism and the allure of the Duke while Amber refused to admit she’d even watched it, never mind twice, and even then she was only watching for the costumes and creative inspiration for her art. This brings us to the reaction of the Emporium surrounding A Season for Love.

It was a hit and met the high expectations Rosa set. Matchmaker Emma drew them in with her Regency styled scheme for people to find love, after all everyone secretly longed to attend a ball with its glamour and then the other characters carried the plot with its surprises, warmth and underlying chemistry.

With multiple protagonists there was at least one each the staff could relate to whether it was because of their view on love or backstory. Each character was fully formed and realistic, giving the reader a snapshot into their often complex lives and making them root for their happy ever after ending.

Like the characters, each potential love match and chemistry between suiters was different from Annie with her lost childhood love to wild and fiercely independent Lydia and her hot barman. All share the realistic emotions, sensitivity to issues the characters face and sexual chemistry despite it being close door.  

The events Emma organised to promote love were inspired and only wish they were real and could come to Yorkshire.

A Season for Love is a warm romantic novel about connections, friendship and love blended with Regency ethics and humour. And like the Netflix Regency series, has left the Emporium eager to read the next one.* It will be a well-loved book in Rosa’s Box of Romance and on Rosa’s own physical forever shelf.

*Even Amber who only tends to enjoy romances if they’re dripping with vampiric chemistry or spellbound with magic or spookiness and horror.

Author Biography

Photo of Ally Sinclair. A white woman very smiley with brown shoulder length hair, wearing a black and white striped shirt
Ally Sinclair

Ally grew up on the North Yorkshire coast and now lives with her husband in Worcestershire, at least until she can persuade him to give into her yearning to live somewhere nearer the sea. No kids, no pets. She sometimes manages to keep a pot plant alive. Briefly. She has been writing professionally since 2013, and is also published as Alison May and, in collaboration, as Juliet Bell. Ally is a former Chair of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, and currently works as an associate lecturer for the Open University.

Social Media Links –

@MsAllySinclair – https://twitter.com/MsAllySinclair

@MsAlisonMay – https://twitter.com/MsAlisonMay

https://www.facebook.com/allysinclairauthor/

https://www.facebook.com/AlisonMayAuthor

Instagram @MsAllySinclair and @MsAlisonMay

TikTok https://www.tiktok.com/@msallysinclair

YouTube https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCihOmLXaNIqXKqdnekC4wJQ

12th Jan
Being Anne
Tizi's Book review
Beckie Writes
13th Jan
Just Katherine
Books, life and everything
Sharon beyond the books
14th Jan
@webreakforbooks
Pickled thoughts and pinot
A little book problem
15th Jan
The Enchanred Emporium bookshelf
Sarah K reads
Jojo's Over the rainbow blog
15th Jan
insomniabookwormbookreviews
it girl world
brpbookclub
17th Jan
Bookish jottings
Zooloo's book diary
Splashes into books
18th Jan
Inspiredbypmdd
The eclectic review
@nlcraigwrites
Other blogs on this tour

Monday Merry Meet: Jane Lovering

Now the chaos of Yule and the New Year is over, we are delighted to share our first Monday Merry Meet of 2023. Today Jane Lovering, author of 25 books has popped in for a chat about her books, writing and of course magic. We all fell in love with her The Forgotten House on the Moor, a romance with a ghost hunting twist last year and can’t wait to read her new release, There’s No Place Like Home.

Grab yourself a cuppa and join us to discover more about this author.

Monday Merry Meet: Jane Lovering

Willow: Welcome Jane, we’re so excited to have you here. I hope you’re not allergic to cats. Vincent, our lumbering Maine Coon, has taken to sleeping on the sofa in the staffroom. Amber will move him out of the way so you can sit down.

Jane: I love Whitby! It’s not that far from where I live, so I can call it research, wandering down the little old streets and popping into the wonderful crooked little shops in the Old Town. Oh, and I’m not at all allergic to cats – in fact I’ve had them all my life. I don’t have one now because Current Dog is a Patterdale Terrier and the only response to hearing that someone owns a Patterdale is ‘oh dear, I am sorry.’ She’s a fiend. Vincent can sit on my lap if he likes.

Photo of a ginger Maine Coon
Vincent

Willow: Be prepared to be squashed by him then. He loves attention. What would you like to drink? We have Yorkshire tea, herbal tea, coffee or something stronger. Since Christmas we have some homemade sloe gin left or wine.

Jane: I can’t drink alcohol at all, so I’ll have a big mug of Yorkshire Tea, please. Very strong, no sugar, hardly any milk. I have the tea palate of a jobbing builder. Oh, and if you’ve got any biscuits…

Amber: One mug of builder’s tea coming up and we always have biscuits.  

Photo of biscuits and a mug of tea
Image by Benjamin Nelan from Pixabay

Rosa: I’ve just finished your new book, There’s No Place like Home. It is set on the Yorkshire moors and, like your other books, has a wonderful sense of place. Do you spend a lot of time in potential locations to capture their atmosphere? Where is your favourite spot?

Jane: Most of my books are set around where I live, or within a few minutes’ walk/drive. I spend a LOT of time walking and running locally (see under ‘Patterdale terrier owner’) and it all serves to help me absorb atmosphere and scenery. Although when I’m running, I’m mostly sweating and swearing, to be honest. I don’t really have a favourite place, I love all the moors and fields and becks and dales and woods around me. It depends on my mood. Sometimes the exposed bleakness of the moors is best, and sometimes I just want some rustling woodland with leaves, and squirrels to chase. Er, for the dog, not me.

Willow: Your new protagonist, Izzy, joins a reality show to track down big cats wild in the British countryside. What was your inspiration for this idea?

Jane: A friend is fascinated by Bigfoot and watches a lot of those ‘Hunting Bigfoot’ programmes. He suggested that I wrote about a British Bigfoot hunt, but I’m just a wee bit more sceptical than he is. However, I know people who’ve seen what they have sworn are big cats out in the countryside, and I thought that finding one of these might make a good story. Then I needed to work out the how and the why – and came up with a reality TV show. They always seem to feature people doing ridiculous things that nobody would ever want to do in the normal course of events, and people will seemingly do anything for money…

Rosa: Among other things, this novel tackles homelessness. Was it something you planned to cover to raise awareness of the situation people find themselves in, or did it develop while writing about Izzy?

Jane: My characters tend to come to me fully formed, so I already knew that Izzy was homeless. The only thing I had to work out was how it came about, and come up with a way that was plausible – a way which would make many readers think ‘that could have been me’.

Amber: You’ve written 25 books. What has your publication journey been like? If you did it again, would you change anything?

Jane: D’you know, I don’t think I would? I’ve been very very lucky, and I’ve met such wonderful people and made such good friends along the way, that I don’t think I’d have anything any different – other than maybe have it happen twenty years earlier!

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

Jane: Well, it’s not ‘strict’ because I don’t believe in beating myself up over it, but I tend to wake up, make a big mug of tea and then go back to bed with the dog and my laptop. I try to write 1000 words a day, and then I’m up and out for a run with the dog and then off to work (I don’t start work until 3pm before you think I’m one of these ‘early risers’ whom I swear are a myth).

A pile of books
Image by Rick Stefanie from Pixabay

Amber: I dabble in writing. Do you have any advice for novice writers?

Jane: Read read read. Not just in the genre you want to write, but anything and everything. Biographies, ‘How To’ books, novels, poetry – every word you read informs the writer you become. Oh, and don’t ask for feedback on your writing from family, or anyone who might die at your hand if they criticise you. Find a beta reader or writing partner who is not emotionally invested in you – they are the only people who will be honest. Joining a writers’ group can be helpful, but it depends on the group – avoid any with loud, dominant characters who are only there to read their work and be told how wonderful they are.

Willow: Great advice and an ideal excuse to visit bookshops guilt free. Whitby has a delightful one. The Enchanted Emporium sells several candles in The Wishing Spell range which promise to help your day go smoothly. Which would you choose?

Jane: I live alone in a tiny little cottage (well, I’ve got the dog…) so I’m fine for peace and tranquillity, I sleep very well (because it’s so quiet), and I believe in making my own luck and security. I think it would have to be focus and concentration because I can be – how shall we put it politely? – a wee bit scatty and disorganised.

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

Jane: I’m not sure. I think my life is pretty perfect at the moment, actually! Possibly it would remind me of Christmases, spent with all my children around me, eating food, playing games and laughing. If it could blank out the hours of cooking, the arguing, the mess and the washing up, that would be nice too.

Amber: Ghosts and paranormal activity plague The Enchanted Emporium. Have had had any spooky experiences – did it influence your writing The Forgotten House on the Moor and other books?

Jane: A few minor happenings that I couldn’t explain – this is a very old cottage and I’ve had the usual amount of strange window and door openings, knockings and clonks. Over the years, I’ve seen things which might have been supernatural, and I have a belief that we don’t understand everything about the world beyond us. That sense of mystery, of enquiry and the ‘maybe’ runs through a lot of my books.

Willow: Your cottage sounds delightful. Unlike your character, Holly Grey in Hubble Bubble, we don’t dabble with magic, it’s in our blood. Bearing that in mind, if we could blend a potion to give you a superpower or special ability for 24 hours what would it be and what would you do with it?

Jane: I would like to be able to see the world through the eyes of animals. To experience what they do and understand how they see us. I think it might help me to understand why they seem to be such irrational creatures – I’d love to sit up trees with squirrels and stomp along with badgers and skitter about with the ponies!

Willow: I think I’d have to join you with that superpower, experiencing Whitby through the eyes of Vincent or some of the wild birds would be eye opening. What book would you add to The Enchanted Emporium bookshelf?

Jane: You’ve probably got them all! But I’m reading a book at the moment called ‘Mythology of the British Isles’ by Geoffrey Ashe, about the history of folklore in Britain and the origin of myths, which is fascinating.

Willow: That’s one we don’t have but it sounds like it’s a need.

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

Jane: That’s too hard! That’s like asking me to choose my favourite child! I have so many friends who write amazing romances, that I couldn’t possibly select just a few, it wouldn’t be fair.

Willow: It can be a cruel question. And finally, what are you working on currently? Or is it top secret?

Jane: My next book is with my editor and awaiting edits, but I’m actually currently writing a book set on Orkney, about a witch’s cottage, the person who inherits it and what happens when she does. It might be right up your street!

Willow: It truly does and we can’t wait to read it. I hope the writing goes well and you’ll have to pop back and tell us all about it.

Book cover for There's No Place Like Home.
Blue to lilac gradient sky, snowy moorland with small white cottage. One man in a green coat and red bobble hat sits on a bench with a woman on pink coat, hat and red wellies.
There’s No Place Like Home by Jane Lovering

Title: There’s No Place Like Home

Author: Jane Lovering

Publisher: Boldwood books

Genre: Woman’s fiction, romance

Release date: 10th January 2023

Purchase Link – https://amzn.to/3FsnZU2 

Blurb:

Isabel, Izzy to her friends, has got nothing left to lose when she makes the bravest decision of her life.

A month living under canvas on the Yorkshire Moors with five strangers wouldn’t normally be her idea of a good time, even if there is prize money to be won at the end of it, but she’s all out of options.

Joining her in this wild goose chase, being filmed for a TV show, are farmer Seb, whose marriage is creaking but who is desperate not to lose his family. Sheltered Ruth who needs an opportunity to show she can make her own decisions. Glamorous socialite Kanga, who has been living a lie. American Junior who has his own secret that has led him there. And last but not least, mysterious and brooding Mac, who Izzy can’t help but be drawn to.

As the fickleness of nature tests them all to their limits, this disparate group come together to face the challenge. But when Izzy finally tells them the truth that has brought her out on the Moors, will that be the end of their adventure, or the beginning of her future? Because what Izzy really needs is a place to call home, and someone to share it with could be even better…

Author Biography

Photo of Jane Lovering.  White woman with red dotty bandana cuddling a black and white Patterdale Terrier in a autumn background
Jane Lovering

Jane Lovering is the author of 25 novels and novellas, which she calls ‘dark psychological romance, with jokes’. She lives in North Yorkshire, where many of her books are set, in a creaky old cottage with an obsessive Patterdale Terrier and a lot of cobwebs. She has won four Romantic Novel of the Year awards, likes biscuits and running (cause and effect) and Tony Robinson. Jane is actually a very nice person, despite her tendency to snarl ‘what do you want?’ out of open windows whilst holding back a growling dog with one hand. Honestly.

Social Media Links   

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Jane-Lovering-Author-106404969412833

Twitter https://twitter.com/janelovering

Newsletter Sign Up: https://bit.ly/JaneLoveringNews

Bookbub profile: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/jane-lovering

Best Books of 2022 and chat of things to come

Happy New Year from all at The Enchanted Emporium and we wish you a magical 2023 with plenty of happiness, good health and laughter. And books, lots of books and tea. If the current influx of books arriving on the enchanted bookshelf and in Rosa’s Box of Romance is anything to go by we’re in for a treat.

Have you seen the recent Guardian newspaper articles regarding the rise of witch lit or witcherature? We’ll link them here and here. We agree 2022 been the year of the witch as our favourite books will show and it looks like the trend will continue. Aren’t we lucky? Willow needs to conjure a pause time to read spell to read them all. Maybe, just maybe we will have exciting news to tell about our own story based in our shop written by writer, Kate Kenzie later this year but you know what some writers are like with deadlines and self doubt, it could be delayed again. You can follow her progress and give her a kick up the bum – sorry encouragement here.

Our blog is in its infancy, toddling about but we’ve had a ball chatting to authors in our Monday Merry Meets. They’ve brightened up our weeks and you can catch up with those you may have missed below. This year we’ll continue to fling our staff room doors and provide tea while we gossip with more writers and customers who stumble down Black Cat Alley. Our first guest is Yorkshire romance author, Jane Lovering. Why not press subscribe so you don’t miss any future chat?

Monday Merry Meets in 2022

Jeanna Louise Skinner

Alys West

Christina Courtenay

Kiley Dunbar

Kate Johnson

Kat Chant

J C Clarke

Elisabeth Hobbes

Lilian Brooks

Stephanie Hansen

Rachel Burge

Sharon Booth

Heidi Swain

Jessica Thorne

Emma Bradley

Photo of a floral cup and saucer

Enough rambling before our first cup of tea and the sun has risen over Whitby, here are our favourite books of 2022 from the bookshelf and Rosa’s Box of Romance in no particular order (that really is a ask too far). Are you ready?

Here goes

The Best Books of 2022 on the Enchanted Emporium’s Bookshelf

The Change by Kirsten Miller – One of the finest examples of witcherature and feminist writing we’ve seen. It kicks ass, has superb powerful characterisation and is unforgettable for its humour, darkness and immersive plot.

The Gifts by Liz Hyder – This was another immersive, breath stopping novel. Not witches this time but angels in the nineteenth century when misogyny and greed is rife. The cover is beautiful and with this unforgettable storyline, it deserves to sit on everyone’s bookshelf

The Hex Appeal by Kate Johnson – Full of humour, and with plenty of highly imaginative mayhem this witchy romcom made us chuckle out loud.

The Witches of Moonshyne Manor by Bianca Marias – with a cast of six octogenarian witches, this novel captivated us and it highlights how commercial witch lit can be. The Moonshyne witches will be forever in out hearts.

Widdershins by Helen Steadman – Historical fiction based on the Newcastle witch trials in 1649. The detail and knowledge portrayed on the page brought the era and danger to live.

Demon by Matt Wesolowski. – From witches to a demon haunting a village in Yorkshire. The podcast format worked well for this horror novel and sent shivers down our spines.

The Ghost of Ivy Barn by Mark Stay – Another fun and immersive witchy novel in the Witches of Woodville series. It has humour, action and highly memorable, quirky characters. Once read you have to keep reading the series over and over.

The Witch and the Tsar by Olesya Salnikova Gilmore – The last book reviewed last year and with impressive world building, this retelling of the Baba Yaga folk tale is a must for witcherature fans.

What were your favourite reads last year? Drop us a line or comment we’d love to know.

Happy reading!

Book Review: The Witch and the Tsar by Olesya Salnikova Gilmore

This is the last review of the year unless another book sneaks in from the Enchanted Emporium bookshelf. A stunning copy of The Witch and the Tsar by Olesya Salnikova Gilmore arrived on the bookshelf courtesy of Random Things Tours. As usual, when a witchy book arrives there was a scrabble between the staff to see who would read it first. Willow won.

Scroll down to see her unbiased and honest review.

Book Review: The Witch and the Tsar by Olesya Salnikova Gilmore

Book cover for The Witch and the Tsar by Olesya Salnikova Gilmore Jade coloured background with gold lettering, gold stats and white snowflakes. A black stylisied crow flies in the sky and a nordic black house is at the bottom with white fir trees.

Title: The Witch and the Tsar

Author: Olesya Salnikova Gilmore

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Genre: Historical fantasy, folklore

Release Date: 8th December 2023

Blurb

As a half-goddess possessing magic, Yaga is used to living on her own, her prior entanglements with mortals having led to heartbreak. She mostly keeps to her hut in the woods, where those in need of healing seek her out, even as they spread rumors about her supposed cruelty and wicked spells. But when her old friend Anastasia—now the wife of the tsar and suffering from a mysterious illness—arrives in her forest desperate for her protection, Yaga realizes the fate of all of Russia is tied to Anastasia’s. Yaga must step out of the shadows to protect the land she loves.

As she travels to Moscow, Yaga witnesses a sixteenth century Russia on the brink of chaos. Tsar Ivan—soon to become Ivan the Terrible—grows more volatile and tyrannical by the day, and Yaga believes the tsaritsa is being poisoned by an unknown enemy. But what Yaga cannot know is that Ivan is being manipulated by powers far older and more fearsome than anyone can imagine.

Thoughts from the Emporium

The stunning illustrated cover with its golden gilt reflects the majestic tale inside. This reimagined tale of Baba Yaga is a beautifully written and captivating novel. Willow was gripped by the extensive world building, the depth of all the characters and dramatic plot. As someone who was unaware of the folklore connected to Baba Yaga this was a refreshing read. The language and vivid descriptions brought the colourful Russian cities, the horror of war and the scheming gods to life.

This version of the immortal witch, Yaga was far removed from the hateful, child eating witch she’s famous for. Instead, she was portrayed as a caring and reluctant hero. Her strength, chemistry between those she loves, including the animals she can charm, and her desire to protect the Motherland at all costs, makes her unforgettable. In the uncertain times we live, the politics of the sixteenth century and the war it fuelled felt oddly relevant and made the story more impactful.

Everyone at the Emporium adored Little Hen, her house on chicken legs despite the initial reaction being disgust. As a background character, she stole everyone’s hearts.

Olesya Salnikova Gilmore has successfully blended an inverted Yaga legend with the history surrounding Ivan the Terrible to create an immersive, dark and enlightening treat that will be well loved by those visiting the Enchanted Emporium bookshelf. It is a strong contender to be one of the bookshelf’s favourite novels of 2022.

Author Biography

Photo of Olesya Salnikova Gilmore White woman sitting on some steps, wearing black. Dark hair, smiling
Olesya Salnikova Gilmore

Olesya Salnikova Gilmore was born in Moscow, Russia, raised in the United States, and graduated from Pepperdine University with a BA in English /political science, and from North western University School of Law with a JD.
She practiced litigation at a large law firm for several years before pursuing her dream of becoming an author. She is happiest writing historical fiction and fantasy inspired by Eastern European folklore. She lives in a wooded lakeside suburb of Chicago with her husband and daughter. The Witch and the Tsar is her debut novel.

Other blogs on this tour

Monday Merry Meet: Jeanna Louise Skinner

It’s the last Monday before Christmas and the Enchanted Emporium is hectic with customers wanting last minute presents, candles for calm and lotions to help have a happy day. We’re delighted to have a tea break to chat to paranormal romance author, Jeanna Louise Skinner. Her debut novel, The Book Boyfriend was recommended by Kiley Dunbar in her Monday Merry Meet so we’re looking forward to knowing more.

Monday Merry Meet: Jeanna Louise Skinner

Mug with a reindeer on it next to some teabags
Image by Luisella Planeta LOVE PEACE 💛💙 from Pixabay

Willow: Hi Jeanna, come in. Can we get you a drink? We have our own blends of tea, Yorkshire tea, as no one can beat that for a proper cuppa, coffee or something different?

Jeanna: Thank you so much for that lovely warm welcome, Willow. I’m delighted to be here. I adore your magical emporium and regularly find myself getting lost in all the mysterious nooks and crannies as a visitor, so it’s lovely to drop in with my author hat on. I’d kill for a decent cuppa but decaf if you possibly have it. Milk, no sugar, please.

Willow: Your debut novel, The Book Boyfriend, is a paranormal romance. What drew you to that genre?

Jeanna: I’ve always loved all things magical and mysterious. Some of my favourite movies growing up were Mannequin, Splash and Big. You know, the kind of film where the fantastical happens, but it’s within the real world. I love high fantasy too, but I feel like there’s something whimsical about grounded fantasy or paranormal. Something about the “What If” nature of the supernatural that resonates in my soul. I used to enjoy the spookier side of the supernatural more when I was younger and ate up shows like The X Files, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more chicken and I can’t do the scary stuff anymore. I still want all those Will-They-Won’t-They Mulder and Scully feels though, and Paranormal Romance gives me the hit of magic that I’m looking for with the HEA endings I crave. My sweet spot is Cosy Paranormal/Fantasy Romance and my personal brand is that but featuring plus-size and neurodiverse characters.

Willow: I loved those films and watched all of them on repeat as a teenager.

Amber: The Book Boyfriend contains our favourite things, bookshops, magic and romance. And to top it off, it has a map. Can you tell us a bit more about it?

Jeanna: The Book Boyfriend is the book of my heart.

It’s very meta in that it’s about a romance-loving bookworm who wants to write but who struggles to put her messy thoughts on to paper. There’s a throwback swoon-worthy, brooding historical hero who literally, magically appears out of the book the heroine is reading, plus a grumpy bookshop cat. The idea came from a conversation with an old friend years ago where she was lamenting the fact that the real life men she knew couldn’t match up to her fantasy heroes and that her book boyfriends just couldn’t be real. It was literally a lightbulb moment in my head. And I set it in a bookshop because there’s no place which feels more magical to me (except for possibly a library).

The map was kind of a happy accident. The Book Boyfriend is set in Exeter where I live. It’s a beautiful old city with so much history but I feel it’s often overlooked in literature, so I mined Exeter’s very rich historical seam for titbits and plot bunnies. The cathedral plays an important role in the story, as do the centuries old underground passages, both of which are major tourist attractions here today. And of course, I had to delve into Exeter and Devon’s abundance of ghost stories and folklore.

My husband is born and bred here and even though he’s not an illustrator by trade, I know he’s talented at drawing. I mentioned to him one day that I’d love to put a map of Exeter in the book; one which shows the then and now of Exeter in the 16th century and how it’s changed today. Well, let’s just say he rose to the challenge in true book boyfriend fashion. I’m thrilled with how it turned out and all the little details he included. If you look closely, you can even see a tiny horse and cart figure near the cathedral.

I wrote this book to be a love letter to Romance and included loads of Easter eggs for book lovers to find. And there’s even a choice of covers because I know how some Romance fans love a clinch cover with a real-life couple, but others prefer the cartoon Illustrated style.

Open book in candlelight. The pages are bent to form a heart

Willow: It sounds fabulous and everything a magic loving romantic bookworm desires. Unlike many romance books,  Emmeline isn’t your petite and neurotypical heroine. How important do you think representation of everyone is in fiction?

Jeanna: In many ways Emmeline is me. I tried very hard not to make her a self insert, but she’s the me I always wanted to read in books. Of course, there are lots of ways where we’re not alike, but she means a lot to me as a character. It’s my hope that others will read her story and see themselves in her, especially in her strength, because she’s unbelievably resilient and resourceful.

Emmeline has schizophrenia, a mental illness which is still very highly stigmatised and misunderstood. I’ve already mentioned my brand being plus-size and neurodiverse paranormal romance, and I stand by this. I’m privileged in lots of ways but I’m also marginalised in others. Namely, being plus-size, neurodiverse and disabled. If my stories can make just one person feel seen or represented in a positive light, it will all be worth it. We need diverse books isn’t just a throwaway slogan. It truly matters. I’m proud of the work that myself and others – especially indie authors – are doing to bring positive representation to publishing, but I feel that traditional publishing still has a way to go.

Willow: Yule has arrived here in the Emporium and Whitby is full of Christmas cheer. Are you someone who enjoys the festivities or more bah humbug?

Jeanna: I adore Christmas! I’m a big traditionalist and I used to go all out making my own mince pies, Christmas cakes and having the perfectly decorated tree etc, but I’ve had to take a step back these days because of my health. So now I try to take joy from the smaller things. My very favourite part of Christmas is that feeling when you find the perfect present for someone, the anticipation of them opening it and their eyes lighting up when they do. It feels magical to me. Very much like when you know someone is The One or that moment when I strike gold whilst writing – which doesn’t happen often enough, unfortunately.

Willow: There are so many different ways to be published nowadays. What has your journey been like? If you did it again, would you change anything?

Jeanna: Oh goodness, that’s a long and complicated story so I’ll try to keep it brief. I started out like many aspiring authors in that I went down the querying route. I spent a lot of getting down and dirty in those trenches and I still have the scars to prove it. I thought I’d made it when a small indie publisher showed interest in The Book Boyfriend. It was so exciting. I was finally a real published author, but months after my dream came true, my publisher closed. I got my rights back relatively quickly and easily and I’m so grateful for that. I know so many authors who’ve had nightmares where returning rights are concerned. So, in March I became a self published author. It was never on my radar to self publish. My health issues mean I have limited spoons and time to devote to pretty much everything and I knew self publishing would mean a LOT of hard work, so it wasn’t really what I wanted. But I’m here now and I wouldn’t say I’m thriving as an indie author. Surviving, maybe? So I’m taking each day as it comes and I’m truly grateful for all my readers, followers, friends and family who are cheering me on.

Willow: That is some journey, and we wish you all the luck in your indie career. I am very ritualistic in my day. Do you have writing rituals to help you write?

Jeanna: Absolutely none. The only thing I do need is relative peace and quiet to write otherwise I’m as scattergun as it comes with my writing process.

Amber: We’ve spoken to many would be authors this year. Do you have any advice for new writers?

Jeanna: The best bit of advice I’ve ever been given and something that’s much easier to say than do:

WTFB – Write The F##king Book.

It’s a cliché but you can’t edit, polish, query or publish a blank page.

I just wish I would listen to my own advice more!

Amber: I need to remember that one.

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

Jeanna: Anything that keeps my ADHD brain occupied on the task in hand so “Focus while the candle is burning” would be wonderful, please!

Willow:  One of candles when lit invokes memories of your perfect day? Where would it take you?

Jeanna: To Blackbury Camp in Devon, the site of an old Iron Age hillfort and an enchanting bluebell wood. We used to visit every year before I got sick. I remember spending one particularly magical early summer’s day there with a picnic and the sun beating down on us, while the boys went off looking for faeries and wisps in the trees.

Amber: The Enchanted Emporium is plagued by ghosts and paranormal activity all year round. Have had had any spooky experiences – has it influenced your writing?

Jeanna: I don’t know if it’s influenced my writing but I swear I heard (heard not saw) a werewolf once. The sound gave me the shivers. Even now it’s making the hairs on the back of my neck stand up just thinking about it.

Dark blue background. A silhouette of a wolf howling against a full moon
Image by Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

Willow:A werewolf experience is something we’ve not heard of in the Emporium but there have been several sightings in East Yorkshire. If we could blend a potion to give you a superpower or special ability for 24 hours, what would it be and what would you do with it?

Jeanna: Probably something to do with focus again because my combination of ADHD and CRPS is huge energy-sucking bummer of a cocktail. Either that or I’d like to do something amazing like time-travel.

Amber: What book would you add to The Enchanted Emporium bookshelf?

Jeanna: Probably the Gormenghast series by Mervyn Peake. I first read it as a gothy teenager and I fell completely in love with Peake’s gothic-laced fantasy world. It’s Dracula meets Game of Thrones but better than both, imho. There was a beautifully detailed BBC adaptation years ago, but I think it’s the perfect time for a new version.

Amber: I need to search for those. Thanks.

Willow: Our assistant Rosa says hi. She couldn’t be here today because she’s at her son’s Nativity, but she has a box full of romance novels for people to borrow. What would you add to Rosa’s box of Romance?

Jeanna: Oh gosh, so many. Can I choose two recent favourites?

Willow: Of course. It’s Christmas, so the more the merrier.

Jeanna: Holding on To Bluebell Lodge by Rachel Bowdler. A gorgeous enemies to lovers sapphic romance by the sea.

Just Fake Married by Marty Vee. As the title implies, it’s a fake relationship romance, but this one has all the feels, mutual pining, a New Year’s Eve kiss, only one bed and doggos. LOTS of cute doggos.

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

Jeanna: I’m (not) very busy writing the first book in my new series. It’s called Pumpkin Spice and it’s book one in The Bluebloodsuckers series, which is about a modern-day European royal family who also happen to be vampires. Pumpkin Spice is a Cinderella-inspired steamy plus-size romcom with a fat, witchy, sword-forging heroine and a handsome Prince Charming who becomes a vampire when the clock strikes midnight. It’s human sunshine meets grumpy immortal and so much fun to write. I’m hoping to release it next Autumn.

I’m also writing a short story in the same series which will be published first in Hexes and Ohs, a witchy paranormal romance charity anthology from The New Romance Cafe. It’s available to preorder now and ALL the proceeds will be going to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

Willow: Vampires and witches will make a great combination. Good luck with your writing and we’ll be pre-ordering Hexes and Oh’s from here. Have a lovely Christmas.  

Photo of walnuts, iced star cookies and cones.
Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

Author Biography

Photo of Jeanna Louise Skinner. White woman, long curly hair wearing an orange jumper
Jeanna Louise Skinner

Jeanna Louise Skinner writes plus-size romance with a sprinkling of magic. She has CRPS and ADHD and she is passionate about writing people underrepresented in Romance, especially those with disabilities and neurodiverse conditions. She lives in Devon with her husband, their two children and a cat who sounds like a goat. Her debut plus-size paranormal romance The Book Boyfriend is out now in ebook, paperback and audio. 

Blurb:

If your fictional boyfriend came to life, could you write your own Happily Ever After?

Emmeline always dreamed of being an author, finding comfort in words and between the pages of her beloved romance novels, but a mental health diagnosis leaves her blocked and unable to write. Then she inherits a crumbling, second-hand bookshop from a mysterious old friend and Emmy discovers that magic is real. Maybe her fantasies about the heroes in her favourite historical romances aren’t so far-fetched after all?

Lord Jonathan Dalgliesh is the handsome stranger – wielding a sword as dangerous as his Tudor past – who appears in Emmy’s bookshop asking for help. Together they must race against time itself to lift the curse imprisoning him inside an ancient book. But when growing threats to Emmy’s safety are proved real and not another symptom of her illness, she must learn to trust her own voice again. Can she find the words to save Jonathan and her shop before tragedy strikes on the fateful final page? Romance-addict Emmy may be, but this damsel is about to kick distress into the Ever After.

Featuring a fierce, body-positive, fat and tall heroine; a morally-grey, swoonworthy Tudor hero; mental health rep; romance novel references galore; a dusty Devon bookshop setting; history, mystery, magic; and the grumpiest, chonkiest bookshop cat, “The Book Boyfriend” is the perfect witchy, slow burn, time-travel romance for fans of Outlander, A Discovery of Witches, Practical Magic and many more!

Social media links: 

Tiktok: https://www.tiktok.com/@jeannalouiseskinner

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jeannalstars/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jeannalouiseskinner/

Book Review: Spirit Writer by Wendy Sheffield

Today’s review is something different to the usual fiction, Amber makes a beeline for. Spirit Writer by Wendy Sheffield drew her attention when it arrived on the bookshelf courtesy of Literally PR for this blog tour – thank you. While Amber believes in life after death, she’d never considered the idea communication could occur via writing. She needed to know more. The book was then passed to Willow allowing much discussion in the shop.

Scroll down to see their honest and unbiased opinions.

Book Review: Spirit Writer by Wendy Sheffield

Book cover for Spirit Writer; spiritwriterspeaks by Wendy Sheffield
Black cover with white typeface
An open book and quill with vibrant blue illustrated swirls and stars coming out of it to indicate magic/spirit
Spirit Writer by Wendy Sheffield

Title: Spirit Writer

Author: Wendy Sheffield

Publisher: Grosvenor House Publishing

Release date: 13th October 2022

Genre: Non-fiction, spirituality

Blurb:

Spirit Writer is a journey of self-discovery for the author – Wendy Sheffield – from when she first became aware that her grandmother was communicating with her, following an unusual dream that created awareness of her myriad spiritual gifts. These gifts include spirit or automatic writing, whereupon Wendy channels spirit messages to help people understand their higher self. It took a long time, however, before she realised that spirit was encouraging her to remember and understand her journey so that she could help others with theirs. On her quest for answers to her many questions, Wendy became desperate to understand her gifts, how spirit communicated with her, and what her spiritual journey was.  

Wendy considered the views of well-known people in the spiritual world including Eckhart Tolle and the Arthur Findlay College, to name a few, and recognised a definite sequence of events that appears to be happening around the world leading up to spiritual unfoldment. She also recognised that more people around the world are looking for answers, feeling dissatisfied with their religions and beliefs, desperate to overcome their fear of dying, and to discover whether the afterlife exists. To tackle this age-old question of ‘Is there an afterlife?’ the author examines various accounts of people (religious or otherwise) who have experienced near-death experiences to consider similarities between their accounts.  

In her quest to understand spirit and the spirit world, the author also discovered Leslie Flint, a well-recognised medium with a unique gift in that his spirit messages came through a voice box above his head. After studying several recorded spirit messages, the author was drawn to a detailed message from Harry Price, who is well known for his exposure of fraudulent mediums, who came through to talk on the subject of ghosts and spirits, as he believed they were not understood.  

The author hopes that Spirit Writer will help readers consider subjects that are not widely discussed so that they can come to their own conclusions. This book is as much about the author’s understanding of her own journey as it is about helping others to understand theirs. 

Thoughts from the Emporium:

Spirit Writer is a highly accessible, an enjoyable insight into Wendy’s spiritual journey to becoming a medium using writing to channel the spirit. It covers her life experiences as well as an overview of spiritualism, providing a simple foundation to build knowledge from. Written with confidence and passion, it led both Willow and Amber to want to know more.

 Everyone in the Emporium believes in the spirit world, thanks to working in a haunted building, but neither witches
practise mediumship in the conventional sense. Amber came into the book unaware of spirit writing or spiritualism while Willow had visited mediums and spiritualist church soon after her mum’s death. This resulted in her witnessing some fascinating readings, including a talented spirit artist so she could relate to some of Wendy’s experiences. Both found something in the book and the love and non-judgemental aspects of the church was explained well. Though
 spiritualism is a religion, its belief system can slot alongside other mainstream ones including the individual paths Willow and Amber follow.

Beyond Wendy’s journey, Spirit Writer gives a background and advice on spiritual matters, including a transcript from Harry Price, famed for his investigations into fraudulent hauntings. From the spirit world, he shared his views on ghosts
and manifestations. This was a fascinating nice touch. Both witches proceeded to analyse the Emporium’s ghosts, Percy, Marleys and the unknown on the stairs, to see where they fitted in.

Author biography

White woman, dark short bob hair with thick dark small glasses. Wearing red and black checked top
Wendy Sheffield

Social Media

Website: https://spiritwriterspeaks.com

Twitter: @spiritwriteruk

Facebook: Spiritwriterspeaks

Instagram: Spiritwriteruk7965