A little while ago I was thrilled to help reveal the debut novel Wedding Bells at the Signal Box Café by my lovely friend Annette Hannah and I’m even more delighted that Annette has agreed to stay in with me on publication day to tell me more about it. Normally we get together for a drink in a pub or for afternoon tea in person so it seems slightly odd to be meeting virtually today!
As well as staying in with Annette, I’m delighted to share my review of her debut too!
Staying in with Annette Hannah
Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Annette. Thank you for agreeing to stay in with me. I’m so excited you’re here.
Hi Linda! Thank you so much for having me on your lovely blog, it seems very apt that we should be staying in at the moment seeing as we aren’t allowed to go anywhere and I can’t think of anyone nicer to be staying in with.
That’s lovely of you Annette. I’ve really missed seeing you in person of late. Now, I’m sure I know, but tell readers which book you’ve decided to bring with you this evening.
I’ve decided to bring along my debut novel, Wedding Bells at the Signal Box Café which is being published today, I have written three other books, one of which you’ve already read but this is the one I’m leading with.
Happy publication day! I love your writing Annette. I’m thrilled for you and huge congratulations on Wedding Bells at the Signal Box Café. What can we expect from an evening in with Wedding Bells at the Signal Box Café?
The book is set in the fictional market town of Bramblewood and was inspired by the dilapidated old signal box near where I live. I remember the days when a man would work in there and I’ve always had a fascination with it. About fifteen years ago it became automated and they boarded the building up. Ever since then as I’ve watched it fall into disrepair, I’ve often thought it would make a wonderfully unique café. Strangely enough I painted the signal box grey in my book and not long after that the real one was painted grey after years of not being touched. Yet nobody could have possibly known. Maybe it could sense something was coming up and wanted to look its best.
Oh, that’s a co-incidence.
So that’s where the idea came from, my main character Lucy came to me as a wedding planner and I thought the signal box would make a perfect wedding venue. Jackson, Lucy’s eight-year-old son and his dog Baxter get up to quite a bit of mischief much to the dismay of Dominic, the gorgeous hunk that Lucy had a childhood crush on many years before.
In the book Lucy has a wonderful close relationship with her grandad and they have lots of laughs together, for this I drew on my own relationship with my Grandad as he was a great friend to me. I received my contract on what would have been my Grandad’s 100th birthday so that makes this book extra special.
My goodness. There are several spooky co-incidences here! I know your Grandad would be so proud of you.
I think my readers so far have enjoyed the different generations that are represented in the book, I have some friends who are much older than me and I think sometimes the older generation are written off but they still have the same feelings and sense of humour as they’ve always had and are great company. There are two love stories in the book, but I don’t want to give too much away so I’ll leave it there.
Having read Wedding Bells at the Signal Box Café, being one of those ‘older’ readers, I can vouch for what you’ve just said. I’ll be sharing my thoughts in my review in a while!
What else have you brought and why have you brought it?
The other thing I’ve decided to bring along, which should come as no surprise to you Linda, is a delicious Bramblewood afternoon tea.
Ha! I’d have been disappointed if you hadn’t. I think it’s my turn to treat you next time we meet in person…
Firstly we will have delicious sandwiches made by Lucy at the Signal Box Café, then we will move onto mouth watering homemade sausage rolls in golden flaky pastry and cranberry and raisin scones both made by Rosie who is the owner of Serendipity, the long boat café. These will be followed by a selection of cupcake kisses, which are tiny cupcakes in a whole variety of wonderful flavours, made by Lucy’s friend Camilla. I will also be bringing some peppermint tea which is my favourite tipple at the moment.
You always choose peppermint tea. As usual I’ll have builders tea with mine! Thank you so much for staying in with me Annette and congratulations again on Wedding Bells at the Signal Box Café.
Thank you so much for inviting me to stay in with you Linda. It’s been such a pleasure and I’m really looking forward to when we can meet up again in real life. I hope you enjoy your trip back to Bramblewood.
I’m looking forward to seeing you again in real life very soon too hopefully. In the mean time, I’ll tell readers a little bit about Wedding Bells at the Signal Box Café, before sharing my review:
Wedding Bells at the Signal Box Cafe
Here comes the bride…
Lucy Woods has always dreamed of running her very own wedding venue. After moving her eight-year-old son to the countryside she’s surprised to find the perfect location and her best friend, Abbie, eager to help make that dream a reality! Too bad Abbie’s older brother Dominic isn’t keen on Lucy or their big idea!
As a divorce lawyer Dominic doesn’t believe in love at first sight or wedding vows, he’s seen them broken more times than he can count. But when Lucy arrives back in town, his hardened heart begins to crack.
Making her dream come true is a huge undertaking, but Lucy knows that The Signal Box Café is her chance to finally make something of her life. If only the irritating (and oh-so-gorgeous) Dom didn’t make her imagine wearing a white dress and walking down the aisle…
Can Lucy and Dominic find a way to each other this summer or will the wedding bells chime for another couple?
My Review of Wedding Bells at The Signal Box Cafe
With her grandfather Dougie temporarily in a care home, Lucy steps in to look after his railway cottage and cat.
Wedding Bells at the Signal Box Cafe is an absolute belter of a book and a perfect example of its genre. I loved it. I was apprehensive about reading it, but I needn’t have worried because I thought it was wonderful – heart-warming, funny, sensitive and touching. Annette Hannah has somehow managed to blend all the elements I would expect in romantic comedy and somehow come up with something greater than the sum of its parts, so that it was a joy to read.
The setting is delightful with just enough detail to bring it alive without burdening the reader. I could picture the signal box cafe so clearly in my mind’s eye and I thought the descriptions of wedding related items like flowers and dresses were so evocative and romantic. Never mind Lucy being a wedding planner, I think Annette Hannah could easily turn her hand to arranging weddings too! Her descriptions meant I was there at the Signal Box Cafe as events unfolded and I frequently felt hungry after the wonderfully realistic images of food.
The plot in Wedding Bells at the Signal Box Cafe is fast paced and enormously entertaining. The balance between more emotional and serious or romantic aspects, alongside the more comic passages involving Dougie and Violet, is so well attuned and had the effect of making me shed a tear and laugh aloud. I loved the inclusion of older characters who are given equal status with the younger Lucy, Dom and Jackson et al because all too frequently older people are sidelined in romantic fiction. Here they add depth and texture to the story in a really satisfying manner. I loved meeting every one of them.
I thought the themes were so skilfully included in Wedding Bells at the Signal Box Cafe. Family and love, identity and belonging, independence and loyalty, marriage and relationships, jealousy and duplicity all bring the narrative alive so that I cared about what happened to the characters here.
And what characters they are. I’m not fond of children in general, never mind in fiction, but Jackson is a delight and utterly believable. Indeed, every character is vivid and real so that I would love to hear more about them in future books. It’s such a treat when I read a book and feel I’m dipping into the real lives of other people and that’s exactly what Annette Hannah has achieved here. Who wouldn’t be attracted to Dominic? I thought Lucy was a superb example of a modern woman; insecure and vulnerable at times and yet strong and determined to make her own way in the world. I was desperate for her to have a happy ending but you’ll need to read Wedding Bells at the Signal Box Cafe for yourself to see if she gets one!
I thought Wedding Bells at the Signal Box Cafe was glorious and I loved it. I put the entire day on hold to read it and finished the book with a contented sigh and a slight moistness in my eye. Annette Hannah had transported me away from the cares of a world in pandemic to one of love, family, happiness and understanding. Wedding Bells at the Signal Box Cafe was an absolute tonic to read and I really recommend it. It’s gorgeous.
About Annette Hannah
Annette Hannah is a Liver Bird who relocated to leafy Hertfordshire in the 80’s and now lives near a river with her husband, two of their three grown up children and a crazy black cocker spaniel. She writes romantic comedies in settings inspired by the beautiful countryside around her and always with a nod to her hometown. As an avid reader she became a book blogger and eventually realised her dream to become an author in 2020.
She loves long walks along the river, travelling to far flung places, the odd glass of Pinot Blush and spending time with her friends and family.
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