FRIDAY FEAST with Fiona McArthur

Feeling pretty chuffed this week. My beloved Sydney Swans are still perched very nicely near the top of the AFL ladder, my book is finished (at least until edits come), and I’m playing decent golf for a change, but I’m also super thrilled to introduce a new Friday Feast guest, lovely Australian author Fiona McArthur.

Fiona’s a country midwife who knows all about babies, which is why she writes gorgeous Medical Romances for Harlequin Mills & Boon. And they’re popular. Like over two million copies worldwide style popular. Yup, this is a lady who knows her stuff!

Fiona’s next release is Two Tiny Heartbeats (isn’t that a beautiful title?) and it sounds wonderful. Check it out.




Two Tiny Heartbeats by Fiona McArthurGold Coast City Hospital

First-day baby bombshell!

Discovering she’s pregnant—with twins!—is not how midwife Lucy Palmer imagined her first day in her new job. Worse is that it took her gorgeous new colleague Nikolai Kefes to suggest a pregnancy test and scan. As they watch those tiny heartbeats on the monitor, Lucy knows instantly that her two little babies are the only things she can focus on. And that her highly inconvenient attraction to the hunky Greek obstetrician—with his legendary reputation for short, sweet, emotionally unavailable relationships—definitely has to be ignored…!


Doesn’t that sound fun? I bet it’s gorgeous. Keep your eye out for the release of Two Tiny Heartbeats in October. In the meantime, Fiona has many other novels to warm your heart.

Speaking of warming hearts, try this fantastic post on for size!


Train Journeys and Falling In Love With Them


Thank you Cathryn, for asking me to join you on your Friday Feast. Not known for my culinary skills but I do like eating so thought I’d share a food journey with a difference.

Early start at the station on the Spirit of the Outback trainFancy a Trip on the Spirit Of the Outback? Longreach to Brisbane. Ever wondered about the cost, the time it takes, the sleepers and the meals?

You have to love being a writer because research trips are definitely perks of the trade. Not often I can drag my husband on trips so we went the whole hog. I thought it was worth saving up for, sleeper class, which included all meals in the Tuckerbox Dining car, and we put the car on the train (ours was the only one on there – it looked so cute) and it meant I could be back at work a day earlier if we drove home from Brisbane – so more time out west. Vote one. Queensland Rail. Seriously. They do it right.Fiona's car on the train

This was the final stage of our recent ten day trip around the amazing red earth of western Queensland, an absolute joy, and more of that coming on my new webpage soon, and a whole lot more in my next book, but I know Cathryn loves to hear about something in the food department.

The good thing is you can’t talk about the Spirit Of The Outback without talking about the meals. A skillful chef, a huge kitchen and a unique and fabulous setting makes the cuisine as tasty and elegant as any restaurant. But in the beginning…

Longreach station

Longreach at sunrise is a little chilly in June while the excitement of looking for your carriage makes up for it. When you leave Longreach, you’ve got half an hour to settle in and admire the glorious colours of those first Fiona enjoying the view on the Spirit of the Outbackgolden rays on the plains and the contents of your little hessian comfort bags – sigh for the days airlines used to give you half what was in these little packs – with eye masks, washers, organic lip balm, plus the usual’s. I love stuff like this as my friends will laughingly tell you. Sniff. Anyway, the views are magic as you peer out the windows, and wave at the traffic when we run alongside the road.

Then your delightful hostess, in our case, Raylene of the endless goodwill – will encourage you to make your way to the dining car and take a seat at the beautifully set alcoves complete with white linen tablecloths, wildflowers and silverware, and best of all, lovely big windows that showcase the reds, browns and orange of outback Queensland.  Truly we are blessed by our beautiful country. Especially arid and sparse it takes my breath away.Fiona's husband Ian at the table

But back to food. Breakfast was all hubby could wish for, (because I had fruit and water – NOT!)  crisp bacon, soft eggs, buttery mushrooms and sausage, grilled tomato, fresh juice and hot, freshly brewed coffee. Groan. And no gym to work it off, still, probably wouldn’t have used it if they had one. But leisurely, and fun.

Then it’s back to your private cabin or into the spacious lounge car. Next time, I’d spend more time in the lounge car because a carriage full of windows give the best view of the surrounding countryside and it’s too easy to stay comfortably antisocial in your own little lounge cabin although the windows are lovely there too.The Tree of Knowledge

Rattle, rattle, rattle for a couple of hours and then a leisurely meander off at Barcaldine to admire the cleverly created replacement Tree of Knowledge, didn’t notice Kevin or Julia poking around up there just outside the station, and a walk along the platform and cheeky peer in the window by my DH. Then back on board where we took the chance for us to go through the hundreds of photos we’d taken over the last week and a half, a joke about the fact that I’d been keen to visit the Qantas Museum in Longreach when hubby decided I’d seen more planes than he’d had breakfasts, and a few more notes on my computer.

Before we knew it lunch was on, must admit I had a wee glass of Sav Blanc to go with my Barramundi Fillet with citrus butter and garden salad. Divine. Ian had Backstrap Lamb and we both daintily nibbled at the Pavlova. Actually not dainty at all. There was also Haloumi salad and Chicken terrine so lots of choices.

It was nice to go for a wander when we paused at Emerald, one of my boys had spent a bit of time working at the feed lot up here for Australian Ag, and I’d heard a lot about Emerald and wanted to see it. Looks like a great town. Love the way the station steps are in the middle of town. Couldn’t believe the agricultural equipment for sale. Must have been millions of dollars worth which illustrates the amount of food produced in this area.Fiona enjoying bubbles in the lounge car

Back for a quick freshen as the afternoon sun was casting long shadows away to the mountains and then I was sipping bubbles in the lounge car chatting to fellow travellers. It wasn’t quite as formal as the Orient Express, God Bless Australia,  but we’d all spruced up and the sun was casting  golden halo around Blackwater. We flew through Comet, but I hear (from that son) it had a good pub, but I digress.

Sunset out of Blackwater (apparently the creek ran black – from the tree roots but now it’s coal miners heaven – and as evening and dark arrived we went through to dinner to find tender grain fed pepper steak and sticky date pudding. Amongst others, and seriously I think I’ve eaten enough.Sunset from the train

When we came back, after a desultory discussion with our fellow travellers,  our lounge had been made into two surprisingly wide and comfortable bunk beds with crisp white sheets and bottled water. Did they know about that second glass of bubbles? After the early start (my car climbed on the train earlier than we did) we were well ready for bed. Loved snuggling down to the peaceful rattle of the rails – apparently it’s better to get a middle cabin as it’s quieter not perched above the wheels but –  zzzzzzzzzz.

And in the morning, (sounds like one of my books) by the time we’d washed and changed (and yes there is a shower with wonderful hot water), captured a great pic of one of the ?Glasshouse Mountains, and it was time to disembark in Brisbane.One of the Glasshouse Mountains

To retrieve our own car we simply walked to the end of the train, were escorted to a driveway, and within twenty minutes it appeared beside us. A little meander through only a couple of Brisbane streets and we popped out on the freeway to Gold Coast. Easy Peasy for this country bumpkin. So twenty four hours flew and I adored it all.

Have you any train stories? Been on any scenic train journeys?  I’d love to hear because I fear I am now addicted. Xx Fi

Spirit of The Outback leaves Longreach 0715 Monday (and Thursday) Arrives Brisbane 0710 Tuesday (or Friday) So 1325 kms in 24 hours.

Cost from Longreach:

Economy non-sleeper between $152-235 depending when you buy the ticket – purchase food from the snack bar

Economy with sleeper – $244-315 depending when you buy the ticket – purchase food from snack bar

First class with sleeper-$427-529 depending when you buy your ticket – all meals but purchase wine and beer

Car -$299 and unaccompanied $499.

There are good discounts for seniors and concession and unlike lots of other telephone booking services Queensland rail sales people are awesome.

Ph 1800 872 467       And no, I didn’t get this journey compliments of QRS. 🙂


Thanks so much for sharing your journey, Fiona. It sounds absolutely wonderful. I’m a sucker for train travel after living overseas. It’s such a great way to explore a country and an easy way to cross long distances in comfort. A bit of bubbly while watching the world pass by? That’s my kind of travelling!

So, Feasters, enjoyed any iconic or scenic train rides that you’d like to tease us with? Or maybe your relaxing foodie adventure was on a cruise. Maybe you flew to an exotic tropical island for a picnic (in which case I shall hate you a little bit). We’d love to hear.

Given my last trip anywhere was on the Blue Mountains train into Sydney Harbour to meet up with faaaabulous authors Christine Stinson and Jaye Ford for lunch, I need a bit of armchair travel!

If you’d like to learn more about Fiona and her books, please visit her website. You can also connect via Twitter and Facebook. You can also write to Fiona direct at


0 thoughts on “FRIDAY FEAST with Fiona McArthur

  1. AvatarTrish Morey

    What a fabulous trip, Fi, I feel like I was there with you. I haven’t done many overnight train trips – well, only one, and that was on the Overland from Adelaide to Melbourne and I was in the cheap seats and hardly slept a wink. Not quite as much fun as the way you travel:-)

    1. AvatarFi

      I learnt from the red eye flight home from Perth. A hundred times worse than a night shift on a ward. Lying down to sleep is the answer. 🙂 xx Fi

  2. Avatarchristinestinson

    I am not a lover of train journeys. Three months as a TCS girl (Train Catering Services) in my uni days was enough to turn me off for life. Then I married a train lover. We haven’t done the Spirit of the Outback trip yet, but it’s on his list. From his train travel partner’s perspective, the Rocky Mountaineer was a highlight for me. Fabulous scenery, great food – and I wasn’t preparing any of it. Thanks for a great post, Cathryn and Fiona.

    1. AvatarCathryn Hein

      My in-laws did the Rocky Mountaineer, Christine, and said it was spectacular. Must put that on the bucket list. Beats the Blue Mountains train!!!

    2. AvatarFi

      The TCS ladies were awesome on the The Spirit Of The Outback. We were running a little late and they couldn’t do enough for everyone – there was no way you could be anything but happy to spend more time with them. Love the sound of the Rocky Mountaineer.
      thanks for posting, Christine xxFi

      1. Avatarchristinestinson

        I’m glad they helped make your trip such a memorable one, Fi. I’m fairly sure conditions have improved for the TCS girls in the last 40 odd years – they could hardly get any worse than they were way back then. Slop pails under the kitchen benches that tipped up every time the train went round a bend, so we were slipping and sliding in spilt gravy, squashed peas and leftover Proto instant mashed potato. Don’t get me started on the industrial strength dishwashing detergent – that stuff could have stripped paint. But they were a great bunch of girls to work with.

      2. AvatarFi

        Yep , that doesn’t sound like fun. It’s the smile that makes the difference isn’t it – along with not having the graphic gravy – I could seriously see that, Christine. wow. cheers Fi

  3. AvatarKeziah Hill

    I used to commute to Sydney from the upper Blue Mountains for 5.5 years so train travel is a mixed bag for me. I think the best trip I did was from Boston to New York. Very comfortable and great scenery. That trip sounds great Fiona.

    1. AvatarCathryn Hein

      I can imagine that would make you a little bit over it, Keziah. But the tourist trains are something special, especially when you can drink bubbly! Now that’s civilised.

      Best one I did was the Flam railway in Norway. That was AMAZING.

    2. AvatarFi

      Thanks, Keziah. We had fun and the thought of my car scooting along behind all on its own in the back made me smile.
      thanks for posting xxFi

    1. AvatarFi

      Shamefully addictive, though, Lillian. I wonder if horses like trains:) I could see them glancing around in the back carriages on their way to an event, too.
      xx Fi

  4. AvatarAnne Gracie

    Gorgeous post, Fiona and Cathryn — makes me want to book it straight away.
    I’ve done lots of fabulous train journeys – I used to train regularly from Melbourne to Brisbane when I was a kid. I’ve trained from Vancouver to Prince Rupert in Canada — spectacular scenery! — and the first time I backpacked around Europe I had a Eurail pass, and planned my trip to include as many of the most scenic train trips(as defined by the Thos. Cook guidebook) as possible and that was truly brilliant. I would love to take the train across the Nullabor, and then there’s the Orient Express.

  5. AvatarFi

    Hand up to do the Nullabor with you, Anne.:) I reckon we could do a series of short stories, everyone who travels has to submit a 3000 word train story by Perth. Sound tax deductible? Don’t know – but it sounds fun. xx Fi

  6. Avatar1girl2manybooks

    Last big train trip I did was Melb-Syd on CountryLink, the overnighter so not much opportunity for scenery! It arrived at Strathfield at about 7am only for me to discover my connecting train back to Richmond had departed 5m before. I was stuck there on the platform for an hour on a Sunday morning with nothing open. Good times!

    Have also traveled the trip from either Sydney or Broadmeadow to Wauchope many times on Countrylink, which is a rather nice trip up through Gloucester etc. If I had the money, I’d love to do the Ghan and the Indian-Pacific (probably one way and fly back).

    1. AvatarFiona McArthur

      Wauchope is a great town. When I was doing my nurses training I used to catch the North Coast Mail from Sydney to Macksville where my parent’s farm was out the back of Taylors Arm. It was a long trip over night. 🙂

      I’d be flying back from Perth, too, I think. Apart from the fact it’s pretty expensive on the Ghan, as you say. One day. Its on the list Thanks for your post, 1G2MB 🙂 xx Fi

      1. AvatarCathryn Hein

        Didn’t there used to be a Big Cow near Wauchope? I used to sell pasture seed there… LOVED doing the drive up to Comboyne and then down the other side on the logging track. Beautiful scenery.

        I sympathise with being stuck waiting for a train, Bree. Almost always happens when there are limited facilities open. Thank goodness for good books!

        The Ghan is expensive, which I why I’m so keen on your Spirit of the Outback, Fi. A nice taste without the expense.

  7. AvatarLouise Reynolds

    Great post, Fiona!!! I adore train travel although haven’t done any in many a year. Covered Europe top to tail on the Eurail pass. We always stopped at a little traiteur or market to buy provisions for the trip and NEVER travelled without a corkscrew, knife and plastic cups. Sighing now about the many feasts of meats, cheeses, crusty rolls and red wine we devoured en-route. And how civilised that European trains didn’t frown on a bottle of plonk being produced at lunchtime. Pull into the Italian stations and grab an espresso served from a cart right at your window. Your trip sounds wonderful and I just may need to add that to the list!

    1. AvatarFiona McArthur

      Oh wow, Louise, loving the sound of the cheeses and rolls and plonk at lunchtime while passing the Italian countryside. I can see I need to revisit Eurorail. Rosie and I travelled from Rome down to Matera and didn’t think to do that but do remember the gorgeous coffee at Rome and Venice Stations.

      1. AvatarCathryn Hein

        Oh, stop it, Louise, you big tease. Now I want to go hooning around Europe just for bread, cheese, wine and charcuterie. Sigh. REALLY must organise the man better…