All You Need Is Love started life with my dream job…
by Jessica Redland
Today is the publication day for my latest Boldwood release, All You Need Is Love. Publication days are always special but this one is extra special. It’s my husband’s birthday, it’s my sprocker spaniel Ella’s fifth birthday AND this is my tenth book to be released through Boldwood Books. Ten! Eek!
All You Need Is Love is the story of Jemma and Sam who, at the beginning of the book are unconnected strangers with everything they ever wanted and a happy future planned out. For very different reasons, their future is snatched away and they both find themselves alone, confused and unable to imagine taking a chance on love again.
Jemma, like me, is an arctophile. ‘A what?’ I hear you cry. An arctophile is a collector/lover of bears and I became one in my late twenties when my boyfriend at the time took me to a specialist teddy bear shop in his hometown. What a revelation that shop was! I loved bears and owned loads but, when I thought of bears, I thought of Forever Friends, Tatty Teddy, Winnie the Pooh and soft plush teddies. I’d never seen jointed mohair collectible bears before.
I was drawn to a 10” limited edition bear called Scruff, manufactured by Dean’s (who I later discovered was Britain’s oldest teddy bear manufacturer). And then I looked at his price tag and my eyes started watering. The boyfriend told me I should buy Scruff but no way could I part with that sort of money. £70 for a bear? And Scruff wasn’t close to being the most expensive. We left the shop and wandered around Lincoln but I couldn’t stop thinking about Scruff. He’d captured my heart in a way no plush teddy ever had. No way was I leaving Lincoln without him. And so began my collection.
In 2003, I took my love of bears to a new level when I split up with the boyfriend, took voluntary redundancy from a well-paid HR job and risked everything to move back to the north and open up my own specialist teddy bear shop. For me, sourcing stock and being surrounded by bears all day was the perfect job and an absolute dream come true.
Bear’s Pad in Richmond, North Yorkshire, sold a wide variety of products with a teddy bear or Pooh Bear theme. I had cards and gift wrap, stationery, cross stitch kits, keyrings and bags as well as plush and collectible bears. Winnie the Pooh and Paddington Bear were extremely popular and I even sold two four-feet giant Paddingtons!
My favourite days were when I sold collectible bears. I had them displayed in glass cabinets and could always tell when a bear had captured someone’s heart the way Scruff captured mine. Quite often, a customer would leave the shop empty-handed but return later that day to make their purchase, just like I’d done.
I ran Bear’s Pad for two years and was thrilled to win Best New Retailer in 2004. It ticked over but being an independent retailer is tough and I needed to accept I wasn’t going to make a decent living out of it. I met my husband a couple of months after opening the shop and we lived two hours apart. I had an opportunity to break my ten-year lease at the two-year point so I gave notice and closed down. I never made back the money I’d invested in the business but I’ve never regretted opening it because that shop brought me so much. I’d never have met my husband without it and I’m not sure I’d have become an author without meeting him. I’d started writing my debut novel on quiet days and he was the one who suggested enrolling in a course to study my craft.
When I closed Bear’s Pad, I knew that I’d use a bear shop as a setting in a future book and I have. In All You Need Is Love, Jemma’s mum, Julie, is also an arctophile. She runs Bear With Me, a specialist teddy bear shop on Castle Street in Whitsborough Bay. Jemma and Julie make jointed bears – known as artist bears – which is a skill I learned when I had my shop.
All You Need Is Love has lots of nods to my former career as ‘Head Bear-Keeper’. Julie’s home is named Bear’s Pad after my shop and the artist bears she makes are called Ju-Sea Bears which is the brand I used for the bears I made because my real name is Julie and I live by the sea!
I hope you enjoy Jemma and Sam’s story and the visits to Bear With Me. We all need to feel uplifted right now and, believe me, a hug with a teddy bear can do exactly that. Fun fact: a collection of teddies is called a hug. Could that be more perfect?
Big bear hugs
All You Need Is Love is now available in ebook, audiobook and paperback. Click on the banner below to see more from Jessica Redland.