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A Taste of The French Prize

Only one week until The French Prize officially hits the shops and I’m suuuuper excited. I adore this story and can’t wait for people to start reading it.

My author copies arrived last week and I’ve spent a rather silly amount of time caressing the cover. The text embossing is beautiful, like glossy white enamel, and I so adore the image of the woman walking through an ancient stone arch.

The publishers, Harlequin, have made the full first chapter available for you to read and enjoy. So if you’d like to taste The French Prize, simply click on the image below and you’ll be whisked away to Olivia’s and Raimund’s world of drama, secrets, danger and legend.

The French Prize chapter sampler

The French Prize is ready for pre-order now from Booktopia, Bookworld, Amazon, Google Play, iBooks, Angus & Robertson, QBD The Bookshop and Fishpond.

If you’d like to learn how I came to write The French Prize then check out The Story Behind page on my website.

And don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter while you’re nosing around to receive notice of all my releases as well as exclusive treats and giveaways.

 

New Cover For PROMISES

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On August 27th, the smaller (and cheaper) ‘B’ format paperback edition of my debut rural romance PROMISES will hit the shelves, complete with a swanky new cover.

Isn’t it lovely? I adored the original with the couple gazing into each other’s eyes, but this one’s gorgeous. Then again, I’m a terrible sucker for a noble headed horse!

Don’t yet own a copy of Promises? Pre-order this new edition from Booktopia or Bookworld. The ebooks are also available right now from Amazon, iBooks, Kobo, Google Play, JB Hi-Fi or your favourite ebook retailer.

 

Promises by Cathryn Hein

A father with something to hide, a jockey with a taste for blackmail, a man with an agonising secret… and a young woman in love, defying them all.

Sophie Dixon is determined to leave her tragic past behind and forge a bright future on her beloved farm. While looking to buy a new horse, she is drawn into her neighbour Aaron Laidlaw’s orbit, despite the bad blood between their families. As the racing season unfolds, Sophie and Aaron’s feelings for each other deepen. But Aaron is torn, haunted by a dark secret he fears can never be forgiven – especially by Sophie.

Sophie believes herself strong, but the truth behind her mother’s death will test her strength, and her love, to the limit. She’s been broken once. No one wants to see her broken again. Least of all the man who has grown to love her.

FRIDAY FEAST with Fiona McArthur

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Hello, lovely readers! I’m very excited about today’s Friday Feast. Always the way when we go a-rural romancing.

But first, news from Us Heins Weren’t Meant To Play Golf. I’ve been on a little holiday to SA and Victoria, and managed to sneak in games at a couple of top 100 rated courses, both of which defeated me. Sigh. I blame the cold. Playing in sideways sleeting rain and single digit temperatures doesn’t do much for one’s temper. However, my darling Sydney Swans have been a light, continuing their winning streak with a victory against the GWS Giants. If this keeps up, I’ll really start developing Premiership hopes!

Now to today’s guest, multi-published author Fiona McArthur. Fiona has published 30 novels, been nominated for some of romance writing’s most prestigious awards and sold over two million copies world-wide. She’s also a highly experienced midwife, the author of two ‘Don’t Panic’ guides on birth and writes for Mother and Baby magazine. Impressed? I am! But what I’m really excited by is that she’s now turned her formidable talent to rural romance. The result is a book that’s been garnering amazing reviews and one I very much look forward to reading, Red Sand Sunrise.

Take a look…

RED SAND SUNRISE

CoverCan three sisters save the outback town they’ve grown to love?

When the father she barely knew dies suddenly, midwife Eve Wilson decides she owes it to him to go to the funeral and meet her stepfamily in Red Sand. She doesn’t expect to be so completely charmed by the beautiful remote township in far west Queensland – or by local station owner, Lex McKay. After disappointment and heartbreak in Sydney, Dr Callie Wilson doesn’t hesitate to move home and spend some time with her grieving mother.

When she is approached to oversee the establishment of the area’s first medical clinic, it seems the perfect opportunity. And Callie is keen to involve Eve, the sister she’s just getting to know. Melbourne-based obstetrician Sienna Wilson can’t understand why anyone would want to bury themselves in the outback, but when her hospital sends her north to research the medical mystery affecting women in Red Sand, it seems fate is intent on bringing the three sisters together. And when disaster strikes, they must each decide if being true to themselves means being there for each other…

Red Sand Sunrise is a heartfelt story from an internationally bestselling author. It celebrates the strength of family ties, the renewing power of love, and the passion of ordinary people achieving extraordinary things.

Doesn’t that sound fab? Red Sand Sunrise is on my reading pile and it could be on yours too. Simply zoom down to your favourite bookseller or chain store. Or stay right where you are and purchase with a few clicks. Try Booktopia, Bookworld, Angus & Robertson, QBD The Bookshop, Fishpond, Boomerang Books. For the ebook, visit Amazon, Kobo, Google Play, iBooks, and JB Hi-Fi.

Picnic in Red Sand Sunrise

Thanks for asking me Cathryn. To think there was a whole book to be written a year ago and here it is. Very exciting stuff to come out in Trade paperback, last week. Thought I’d share a little more about the background of the research trip for those interested.

The last time I blogged on Cathryn’s page I talked about the experience of our overnight adventure on the Spirit Of The Outback – back from Longreach to Brisbane.

This time I thought I’d share the stop out past Windorah, (that would be the last place with a pub out towards Birdsville), and the glorious red sand hills out of town.

The gateway to the outback town of WindorahIt was the impact of climbing and soaking in these windblown pyramids of sand that played such a major part of the background of the book. Those sand hills are part of an amazing landscape that truly grabs you. If you get a chance it’s well worth the trip, especially at sunrise and sunset.

The red sand hills near WindorahI rave about them a bit in the book so here’s an excerpt from RED SAND SUNRISE and the sand hills.

Eve heard the swish of the sand for the first few steps as he began the descent and then there was silence again with just the wind gently blowing and the birds cawing overhead.

She sat down with her knees under her chin. Dug her hands into the sand again and twisted them so that the warm particles massaged her fingers as she let the peace envelop her. Out in the distance a windmill was turning. She could imagine the creaking noise she’d come to recognise of the shaft moving as the blades turned but she couldn’t hear it.

Up above the flat world on her little red castle she could feel the magic soak into her like chalk soaking up red ink. She’d missed her quiet times and vowed to make the time to renew each day before she was caught up in the slower but relentless pace of Red Sand township.

Peace. Strangely, unexpectedly, she didn’t want to leave this spot, didn’t want to walk back down the hill, wanted to stay in the embrace of the red sandhills she’d fallen in tune with today.

But she was thirsty and hungry and Lex waited. All good reasons to come down off the hill.

Windorah also has a fab rustic pub, The Western Star, where we stayed overnight and enjoyed scrumptious pub food. There’s a genuine country hospitality and atmosphere with the roaring fire outside in a big ex-farm drum under the stars.  There are some quirky fun characters and amusing signs on the walls, plus important information if you don’t want to miss the next yabbie races. Will try and coincide my next visit with the yabbies and love that some of the proceeds go to the RFDS.

Funny notice about the rural recession at the Windorah PubSign about the annual International Yabbie Races at WindorahThough it has a big heart, Windorah is not a big town, so I walked over to meet the current very accommodating local nurse and check out the ambulance she has to drive if required. It wasn’t hard to see her passion for being there to help people in need,  ‘anytime’, knowing she was it. I loved the ‘I can do the best for people I can and the RFDS help is a phone call away if I’m out of my depth’. I’m used to a little more back up so was very impressed with the generosity and diversity of skills. I guess she’d need them because you’d never know who was going to pull up at the health centre in crisis and if it was closed, the sign says ring on her phone at home. That’s a true hero as far as I’m concerned.

Ambulance at WindorahSo here was fabulous research material and the pleasure of meeting amazing people. Then you could throw in a bit of midwifery, some gorgeous station owners and I guess you’re beginning to see where some of the ideas gelled for the book.

To food. Seeing as this Cathryn’s FRDAY FEAST blog I thought I’d share a cooking scene from the book. Well, not really a cooking scene, more of a picnic, I do love picnics, and have favourite picnic food that makes my mouth water. What’s your favourite thing to add to a picnic basket?

For me it’s different types of quiche and thick bacon and egg pie with lots of crispy pastry and a big dish of green salad – though must have mayonnaise and salt and pepper in the basket. A big thermos of hot water and tea and coffee is a must and especially the fresh date scones with real butter to sit back with afterwards.

Here’s a scene from Eve and Lex’s picnic at the sand hills.

Lex had set up the food under the shade of the lone spotted gum about fifty metres away from the helicopter. Some time in the past someone had rolled a couple of logs under the branches to sit on and the scene was peaceful as well as promising to settle the embarrassing rumbling from Eve’s stomach.

She eased down on the log and sighed as she glanced around. Bare paddocks, galahs in the distance, a few white Brahman cattle grazing.

Lex put a tin mug in front of her and poured a tea from the thermos. He passed across a huge slice of thick-crusted spinach quiche on a metal plate and one of two small bowls of salad and some cutlery.

Eve fell on it with passion. ‘This is very good.’ She spied a tea towel semi-unwrapped exposing date scones and a small round plastic tub of butter.

He laughed as she unwrapped it and put one at the side of her plate.

‘You love your food. I like that in a woman.’

‘Lucky.’ She rolled her eyes and groaned as the last of the quiche went down.

GIVEAWAY!

So would anyone like to share a favourite surprise they like to add to their picnic basket? Everyone who posts a comment goes into the draw and Cathryn will draw a name out of the Akubra next week. I’ll send you a copy of Red Sand Sunrise as soon as I have your postal address.

Have fun at your next picnic. Xx Fi McArthur

A pile of Red Sand Sunrise booksDid you read that, folks? We have a giveaway! As Fiona said above, all you have to do is share your favourite surprise to add to a picnic basket and you’ll go into the draw.

Perhaps you like to sneak in some toffees? Maybe a pre-mixed summery cocktail is more your go, or marinated chicken legs roasted to sticky goodness? I like a bit of terrine or pate and some nice crusty bread. Although I could get equally excited by a bowl of plump, glossy cherries. LOVE those babies!

Giveaway closes midnight Tuesday AEST, 8th July 2014. Australian postal addresses only.

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

This giveaway has now closed. Congratulations to Delores who has won a copy of Red Sand Sunrise. Lots of reading pleasure ahead! Thanks to everyone who played along. You were all great sports with some wonderful picnic suggestions. Hope to see you again soon.

FRIDAY FEAST with Kate Belle

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Hello Feasters! I’m super excited because today we have the author of one of the best reads of the year on the blog.

But before I get into rave-land, let’s have some Sydney Swans news. Oh, my darling boys are really giving it to them now. Last Saturday we shorted out ladder leaders Port Power in a magnificent display of footy wizardry, leaving us still nicely perched at third. Rah! Speaking of nicely perched, in Us Heins Weren’t Meant To Play Golf news, Jim and I combined well inAuthor Kate Belle the first round of our club’s Foursomes Championships to be sitting as the nett leaders. Can we hang on to win? Stay tuned!

Now on to today’s guest.

Kate Belle took many of us on a trip down memory lane with her debut novel, The Yearning, a read I enjoyed immensely. So when her publicist contacted me with an offer of a review copy of her second novel, Being Jade, I leapt at it. What a story! What writing! From the opening page I was mesmerised. Being Jade was fascinating and heartbreaking and so much more.

Seriously, you have to read it.

BEING JADE

Being Jade by Kate BelleA tragic death. A family divided. One truth can set them free.

Banjo Murphy is killed on the night he finally musters the courage to walk away from his wife Jade after twenty five years of repeated infidelities. In the aftermath, Banjo is bewildered to discover he still exists, but death has placed an invisible wall between him and his beloved family. In despair he watches Jade collapse into deep depression and his daughters, Lissy and Cassandra, struggle with their unexpected loss.

Lissy is tortured by guilt and the mysteries surrounding her father’s death. What compelled Banjo to leave the night he died? Why won’t Jade speak about what happened? In spite of their volatile relationship, Lissy believes her parents’ love to be enduring, but sensible Cassandra sees things differently. When Cassy discovers a sketch book chronicling Jade’s extra-marital affairs, the truth of their parents’ relationship begins to unfold and Lissy’s loyalties are divided.

Searching for answers, Lissy contacts Jade’s ex-lovers, unaware her father’s spirit watches as they visit. Unable to let go of his one true love, he aches to know that Jade loved him above all others. Banjo is taken on a journey of discovery through Jade’s memories as the lovers unveil long hidden secrets about her affairs. But the mystery remains, frustrating Banjo and Lissy, until Lissy’s questioning leads her to an explosive truth. One that will finally set her family free.

Did I mention you should read this book? You should. Like, really. Which means you’ll need to buy it and you can do that right now with a quick trip to your favourite book store or a few clickety-clicks of your mouse.

For the paperback try Booktopia, Bookworld, Dymocks, Angus & Robertson, QBD The Bookshop, Boomerang Books, Fishpond, Collins Booksellers or your local independent. For the ebook, try Amazon, iBooks, Google Play, Kobo, or JB Hi-Fi.

Still not sure? Read the opening chapter. You’ll be hooked I promise!

Now please give Kate a big Feasty welcome and enjoy!

Instant Human – Just Add Coffee…

Hi Cathryn and readers – thanks for having me back on Friday Feast.

When I visited last year I gave you the Big Effort High Reward Heirloom Recipe – Great Auntiecoffee meme 1 - resized Flo’s Christmas Pudding. This required significant time, a fair bit of alcohol (both in the recipe and cook) and sticky hands. I thought I’d take it a bit easier on you this time around by sharing one of my FAVOURITE combinations in the whole world – caffeine and cake.

I’m a bona fide coffee addict. If I don’t have my coffee by about 11am I find it difficult to speak. I’m dependent on that early morning caffiene shot to function. I also have a penchant for desserts. Cakes, pastries, puddings, tarts – I’m not too fussed as long as it’s full of carbohydrate and sugar. But the very, very best in life is when the two are combined.

coffe meme 2I used to work in Melbourne CBD, at the Paris end, and discovered the Treasury Cafe nestled beneath the treasury building near Parliament. When I first walked in I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. A loooong glass counter laden with every kind of cake, tart, pudding, pastry you could imagine. Glazed apricot and cherry Danishes shone under the light of the counter, clouds of cream topped jam lamingtons the size of a man’s palm, summer yellow custard tarts, glorious wedges of dark chocolate mud cake and butterscotch fudge dripped over fluffy sticky date puddings. My mouth waters at the memory.

More often than not I left empty handed only because I couldn’t choose which sweet morsel to indulge in.coffee meme 3

Inspired by Treasury Cafe’s dessert cabinet, I went through a period of frenzied baking and rediscovered a promotional Nescafe coffee table recipe book I’d won years ago featuring – yep, you guessed it – coffee desserts. I have a few favourites in this book but nothing quite beats the cappuccino cheesecake. The recipe calls for instant coffee but I say Pfft to that! Brewed coffee is the only coffee worthy of a good dessert, so I amended the recipe to make sure the end result had the kick I looked for in this gorgeous cappuccino cheesecake.

Cappuccino Cheesecake

Cappuccino Cheesecake

Before you begin, brew yourself some fresh coffee, pour a cup and leave the rest to cool while you read your copy of Being Jade (like how I slipped that in??). Oh, and leave 500g of cream cheese on the bench to come to room temperature. If you’re able to stop after a couple of chapters you’ll need to head to the kitchen and find ingredients for the cheesecake crust:

•             100g mild-coffee biscuits

•             75g dark chocolate, coarsely chopped

•             ¼ cup (70g) packed dark brown sugar

•             A pinch of nutmeg

•             40g hot, melted unsalted butter

To make the crust finely grind the biscuits (I use my mother’s method – chuck them in an empty cereal bag and beat them to death with a rolling pin). Mix in the chopped chocolate, brown sugar and nutmeg then bind it all together with the melted butter until the crumbs stick together. Press the mixture into the base of a 19cm springform pan, flattening it with the bottom of a glass. Put the pan in the fridge for 20 -30 minutes.

Pick up your book and read just a couple more pages…

Preheat the oven to 175 degrees then get to phase 1 of the filling:

•             500g low fat cream cheese (or be brave and go full fat if you want the full flavour!)

•             ½ cup sugar

•             1 tablespoon plain flour

•             ¼ cup strong brewed coffee (for real caffeine addicts you can also add 1 tablespoon of finely ground coffee – YEAH!)

•             1 teaspoon vanilla extract

•             2 large eggs

Blend cream cheese and sugar in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer. Beat in flour, then add brewed coffee, ground coffee (if you dare), and vanilla until combined. Beat in eggs one at a time, make sure you scrape down the sides of the bowl, until the mixture is smooth.

Pour filling over the cooled crust, place the cheesecake on a tray covered with a baking sheet and put in the middle of the oven to cook 45 minutes until the top is browning, puffed and cracking at the edges. Take it out to cool for 15 minutes, but leave the oven on while you make the frothy cappuccino topping.

Topping:Cappuccino Cheesecake

•             ¾ cup light sour cream (I reckon full fat’s better)

•             1 tablespoon sugar

•             1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whisk the ingredients together in a medium bowl and pour over warm cheesecake, spreading to cover it completely. Bake until the topping is set, about 10 minutes.

You could probably squeeze in a few more pages here.

Cover the baked cheesecake with gladwrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. Before serving (with brewed coffee, of course!) shave a little dark chocolate over the top to decorate. Devour as you finish off Being Jade –  or, if you’re feeling more generous, share it with friends over afternoon tea or dinner and watch how animated your guests become after they’ve eaten it!

GIVEAWAY! 

Oh, Kate, that sounds divine! Hard to go past good cheesecake. Hard to go past good coffee too. And this combines them in one. Bliss!

Okay, my Feasty lovelies, for your chance to win a signed copy of Being Jade, what’s your favourite bit of cheesiness? I’m going to get a bit “out there” and suggest this song from the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest. Teo from Belarus singing… Cheesecake. Ha!

But perhaps you’ll be more traditional and suggest a slice of brie, the tv show Happy Days or even a spot of dad dancing. Whatever your fancy, cheese away and you could WIN!

Giveaway closes midnight Tuesday, AEST 24th June 2014. Australian postal addresses only.

If you’d like to learn more about Kate and her fabulous books, please visit her website. You can also connect via Facebook, Twitter using the handle @ecstasyfiles, Goodreads and The Reading Room.

This giveaway has now closed. Congratulations to Sue who has won a copy of Kate’s brilliant new novel, Being Jade. Thanks to everyone for getting cheesy with us. Hope to see you again soon!

 

FRIDAY FEAST with Jennifer Scoullar

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Tra-la-la! Another excellent Friday is here and what fun we’ll have with it too. But first, one must gloat!

Did you see my darling Swannies? They were magnificent last week against Geelong. Magnificent! It’s taken a while but my boys have really hit their footy straps now. Which leads me nicely into Us Heins Weren’t Meant To Play Golf news. Last week I didn’t just play to my Australian author Jennifer Scoullarnew handicap, I beat it. By TWO WHOLE STROKES. Imagine! ‘Tis a miracle, but for some very strange reason the Great Golfing God loves me at the moment. It will pass, of course. That is the Hein fate, but for now I’m loving it!

Speaking of loving (hee!), today’s Friday Feast guest has been receiving rave reviews for her latest release. Jennifer Scoullar broke into the rural romance genre with the hugely successful Brumby’s Run, followed by Currawong Creek. Now her latest, Billabong Bend, is out and it’s being praised by readers and bloggers everywhere.

Check it out…

BILLABONG BEND

Cover pf Billabong Bend by Jennifer ScoullarFor riverine farmer Nina Moore, the rare marshland flanking the beautiful Bunyip River is the most precious place on Earth. Her dream is to buy Billabong Bend and protect it forever, but she’s not the only one with designs on the land. When her childhood sweetheart Ric Bonelli returns home, old feelings are rekindled and Nina dares to hope of a future for them both on the river. But a tragic death divides loyalties, tears apart their fledgling romance and turns her dream into a nightmare. Will Nina win the battle for Billabong Bend? Or will the man she once loved destroy the wild wetlands she holds so close to her heart?

Billabong Bend is a star-crossed love story which sets Nina, a floodplains grazier, and Ric, a traditional cotton farmer, on a heart-rending collision course amid the beauty of New South Wales’ northern riverlands.

A star-crossed love story! Now, how could anyone refuse that? And you don’t have to because Billabong Bend is available right now from your favourite book shop or chainstore. Or you can order instantly online from Booktopia, Bookworld, Angus & Robertson, Dymocks, Fishpond, Boomerang Books, and QBD The Bookshop. For the ebook, try Amazon for Kindle, iBooks, JB Hi-Fi, Google Play, Kobo or your favourite ebook retailer.

All stocked up? Fabulous. Now it’s time to get native with Jennifer!

Cooking With Native Mint

‘Two moons, one in the sky and its dimpled twin in the river, cast a soft glow over the bush. The velvet night was fragrant with eucalyptus and wild river mint.’ Billabong Bend

Thanks so much for asking me over for a Friday feast Cathryn. As you already know, I’m a fan of bush tucker. To celebrate the release of Billabong Bend I’m sharing a recipe using the rambling River Mint bush Mentha australisis – a subtle Australian native herb with the taste and aroma of spearmint. It thrives along waterways after flood, particularly in the beautiful Murray Darling riverlands. Indigenous people used River Mint to flavor food, and also medicinally for coughs and colds. Early settlers embraced this perennial herb, commonly teaming it with roast lamb. It can be easily grown and is great for boggy places. Although not as invasive as common mint it does spread, so may be best in pots for small gardens. Dry it, or use it fresh in savoury sauces, salads, fruit drinks and desserts. You can buy dried River Mint online very reasonably from The Bush Food Shop. They also sell River Mint and Pepperleaf Jelly and a delightfully refreshing Wild Spearmint Cordial!

Here’s a delicious no-bake slice that takes hardly any time at all to prepare, and will impress people with your bush tucker skills!

Native Mint and Macadamia Slice

Jennifer Scoullar's macadamia slice

200gm chocolate (I like dark best)

175gm Shortbread (Butterfingers shortbread made by the Old Colonial Cookie Company in Victoria’s Yarra Valley is yum and Aussie made. I’m not much of a shortbread cook!)

I/2 cup chopped macadamia nuts

40gm butter

2 tablespoons of Australian honey

2 tablespoons dried River Mint

– Line a pan with baking paper

– Place the dried native mint in a saucer and add 2 tablespoons of hot water. Leave to cool.

– Combine 200gm chocolate with 40gm butter and 2 tablespoons of Australian honey in a

stainless steel bowl over a saucepan of boiling water until the chocolate just melts, and the

ingredients are combined.

– Remove from heat and stir in the native mint. Then fold in the packet of shortbread broken

into chunky pieces.

– Pour mixture into lined pan.

– Press macadamia halves on top and chill for 2 hours.

– Sprinkle icing sugar on top

– Slice and serve

 

Jenn, this sounds a lovely slice! And so easy. Like hedgehog slice but with a minty hint. I’ll have to give this one a try.

GIVEAWAY

We adore a good giveaway on Friday Feast and Jennifer has very generously offered one. This is your chance to win a paperback copy of her brand new, raved about release, Billabong Bend. Star-crossed lovers, Feasters! Star-crossed lovers! And yours to be had with just a teensy bit of effort.

To be in the draw, tell us your favourite slice. Maybe it’s lovely gooey caramel. Or perhaps you love nothing better than a savoury slice made with zucchini and fetta. Or even a bakery made apricot or apple slice that oozes luscious fruit the moment you bite into it.

Simply share your tastiest slice and we’ll pop you in the draw.

Giveaway closes midnight Tuesday, 10th June 2014. Australian postal addresses only.

If you’d like to learn more about Jennifer and her books, please visit her website. You can also connect via Facebook and Twitter using @JenScoullar.

This giveaway has now closed. Congratulations to Andrea, who has won a copy of Jennifer’s Billabong Bend. Great reading ahead. Thanks to all who joined in the Friday Feast fun. Hope to see you again soon!

FRIDAY FEAST with Fiona Palmer

One Reply

Greetings from Mount Gambier, the Blue Lake city! Well, for a few minutes more anyway. I’m flying out shortly after a whirlwind three days spent chatting to wonderful readers here, and at Hamilton and Balmoral in western Victoria. What fun!

Speaking of fun, my Sydney Swans were awesome last week, with an excellent win over Essendon leaving us sitting 3rd on the AFL ladder. Rah! Sadly, the Us Heins Weren’t Meant To Author Fiona PalmerPlay Golf news isn’t as positive. I appear to have lost all putting ability. Probably because I can’t stop thinking about The Falls, my next rural romance, and its hero Lucas in the pool. Deep sigh. That man…

Speaking of great characters, best-selling Australian rural romance author Fiona Palmer is spreading her wings with a wonderful new young adult series and it sounds a cracker. The first book in the MTG Agency series is The Recruit and features Jasmine Thomas who is definitely not your average teenager.

This is so cool! Take a look…

THE RECRUIT

Cover of The Recruit by Fiona PalmerFrom one of Australia’s Queens of Romance comes the debut in a brand new YA series about secrets, strengths, and what lies beneath the surface.

Jasmine Thomas may not be completely normal, but she’s a pretty typical seventeen-year-old girl. She hates the rich mean kids, loves her best friends, and can’t wait to get out of school each day. Her spare time is spent at The Ring — a boxing gym where she practically grew up — learning karate, boxing and street fighting. So, yeah, Jaz can kick some major butt.

Life seems pretty normal until the day Ryan Fletcher enters her gym…mysterious and hot with heaps of bad boy charm. Sure, she checks him out. Who wouldn’t? But what doesn’t show on his gorgeous abs are secrets and lies that dominate his very grown-up world. Now Jaz has to figure out just how far she is willing to go to know more. Could Ryan really be offering the life-fulfilling life path she’s always dreamed of?

The first in the MTG Agencies series.

Doesn’t that sound a ripping read? You can own it right now with just a few clickety-clicks. Buy the ebook from Amazon for your Kindle, iBooks, Google Play, Kobo, JB Hi-Fi, BigW ebooks, Barnes & Noble Nook, ebooks.com, All Romance eBooks or your favourite ebook retailer.

Loaded up? Wonderful. Now here’s Fiona.

Easing Into Winter

Oh I love the Friday Feast, thanks Cathryn for having me! It’s always great to be here and also a little scary. :/ I love eating food, I’m just not big on preparing/cooking it!!!  So as usual I’m going to share with you one of my foolproof recipes. (These are the only recipes I keep and tend to make over and over again.)

At the moment we are moving towards winter, I have already lit my fire and love sitting by it as it crackles away. So I’ve picked a meal my family loves to eat during winter. It’s a vegetable risotto with a twist.

Even my fussy child eats this, even with those awful vegies in it because the chicken stock makes it all taste the same.

So here it is: My Vegetable Risotto with Chicken Stock instead of Vegetable Stock

VEGETABLE RISOTTO

Fiona's vegetable risotto

2 cups sliced mushrooms (dice small if need to hide it from kids)

1 cup frozen beans (once again I cut these up into smaller bits)

1 cup frozen corn

1 cup diced red capsicum

1 onion finely diced

2 cups raw Arborio rice

6 cups (1 ½  litres) ready made chicken stock liquid

2 level teaspoons reduced fat margarine

1 level teaspoon crushed garlic   (when I’m cooking, nothing is ever precise. The

amount of ingredients that goes in depends on my mood.)

1/3 cup white wine (now I never seem to have wine when I cook this so I never put it in.)

3 level tablespoons parmesan cheese

2 chicken stock cubes

Salt and pepper to taste

Cook this in a large non-stick saucepan. (Also have vegetables cut and ready before you start.) Melt margarine, add onion and garlic, cook 2 minutes. Add in rice and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add 2 cups of stock liquid and stock cubes, bring to boil then simmer stirring frequently until liquid has been absorbed by rice.

Add in wine, once absorbed pour in 2 cups of liquid, bring back to boil.

Add mushrooms, beans, corn and capsicum, reduce to a simmer stirring frequently until stock water is absorbed. Add final 2 cups of stock liquid, when almost all liquid has been absorbed (rice should be cooked by this stage) stir in parmesan cheese, salt and pepper to taste.

I had never made a risotto before making this one but every time I’ve made it, it’s been a hit. (If you know me, then you know that’s pretty amazing!!) So what I’m trying to say is if you follow the recipe you can’t go wrong.

We are big parmesan fans in this house so we like a bit extra on top. 🙂

 

Thanks, Fiona. LOVE risotto and even better when it’s super easy to make and tasty like this one. And healthy with the veg too, not to mention comforting. There’s something really warming about risotto. Perfect for these cooler months. Ah, those Italians, they really know how to please a stomach.

What about you, Feasters? What’s your favourite winter warmer?

I adore steamy rich casseroles but also anything with pulses in it. We have an amazing baked bean with meatballs recipe that is a huge favourite. I tested out a new Italian beef and cannellini bean recipe last week that’s going straight into the favourites pile too. Pulses are just so hearty and lovely!

Must share that bean and meatball recipe on Friday Feast one day… In the meantime, how about sharing your favourite winter tucker?

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

 

FRIDAY FEAST with Alison Stuart

22 Replies

Thank goodness for another weekend! Between Eurovision Song Contest awesomeness, my darling Sydney Swans soaring to a magnificent victory, and me playing (mostly) excellent golf, last weekend was exhausting.

Have you seen where my beautiful boys are on the AFL ladder? Fourth. FOURTH! And this after a terrible start to the year. Us Heins Weren’t Meant To Play Golf news is equally upbeat. Alison Stuart author photoI’m on fire. Fire, I tell you! Not a single ball lost last week; not duffed into a dam, not pinched by a crow. It’s an omen!

Now, to this week’s guest. Australian author Alison Stuart wrote one of my absolute favourite reads of last year, Gather The Bones, a beautifully written story set after the Great War and a book I can’t recommend highly enough. With her latest release, Alison has dipped her toe into the hugely popular Regency period and it sounds wonderful.

Take a look…

LORD SOMERTON’S HEIR

Cover of Lord Somerton's Heir by Alison StuartCan the love of an honourable man save her from the memory of a desolate marriage?

From the battlefield of Waterloo to the drawing rooms of Brantstone Hall, Sebastian Alder’s elevation from penniless army captain to Viscount Somerton is the stuff of dreams. But the cold reality of an inherited estate in wretched condition, and the suspicious circumstances surrounding his cousin’s death, provide Sebastian with no time for dreams, only a mystery to solve and a murderer to bring to justice.

Isabel, widow of the late Lord Somerton, is desperate to bury the memory of her unhappy marriage by founding the charity school she has always dreamed of. But, her dreams are shattered, as she is taunted from the grave, discovering not only has she been left penniless, but she is once more bound to the whims of a Somerton.

But this Somerton is unlike any man she has met. Can the love of an honourable man heal her broken heart or will suspicion tear them apart?

Knowing how beautifully Alison writes, this will be another amazing story. You can own a copy right now with just a few clicks of your mouse. Try Amazon for the Kindle version, Barnes & Noble for Nook, Kobo, iBooks, Google Play, JB Hi-Fi or your favourite ebook retailer.

All stocked up with another great read? Good. Now have fun with this foodie treat.

Take A Stag’s Heart…

It’s wonderful to be back on Friday Feast talking about food. Thank you for the invite, Cathryn.

I have finally stretched my historical wings and ventured into the magical world of the Regency with my May release of LORD SOMERTON’S HEIR. I say magical because I think one of the reasons Regency is such a perennial favourite with readers is because it is a fantasy world inhabited by the men and women of the mystical “ton”. Gracious manners, beautiful clothes and a world that is a little more accessible to the modern reader than the earlier periods of history (such as my own particular passion, the English Civil War).

I have to say it was a wonderful period to write about. In my own version of “Cinderella”, the battle scarred professional army officer of parlous means, wakes to find he is now Lord Image of The Housekeeper's InstructorSomerton, owner of a London town house and an elegant estate in Lincolnshire so as I wrote I discovered the world through his eyes.

Food paid a huge part in Regency life and I am fortunate to have an original 1808 (14th) edition of “The Housekeepers Instructor; or universal Family Cook” by W.A Henderson “Many years eminent in the culinary profession”.  You can buy a reproduction of this book on AMAZON for $27.98 but I love the yellowing pages and the leather bindings of my own copy William Augustus Henderson was the Mrs. Beeton his day and his book remained in print well into the Victorian era.

While I can recall my son and I spending a couple of evenings in fits of laughter as we read Sample of hand notes in The Housekeepers Instructorthrough the household instructions for feeding cows and trussing Woodcocks and Snipes, a previous owner (not my grandmother’s handwriting – although there are a few notes of hers in the book) had obviously studied it in detail and scattered through the book are scraps of paper, written in a confident hand in blue fountain pen with comments on them that are almost as amusing as some of the recipes. Against the recipe for “Surfeit Water” he/she has written “What a terrible brew. I wonder why they called it water? Much understatement makes the sufferer game to try it… I’ve got all the ingredients. If scurvy grass is lemon grass should I try?” I wonder if she did. On making icings for cakes my unknown commentator says “Whisk them well for TWO or THREE HOURS” followed by an enormous exclamation mark. For the recipe for “Stag’s Heart Water” which includes the instruction “Take a stag’s heart, and cut off the fat…”, my commenter drily notes “I’m glad you cut the fat off the Stag’s heart”.

More sobering, in among the instructions for managing the dairy, the author of the book notes “The practice of keeping milk in leaden vessel, and of salting butter in stone jars, is Example of ball supper for 20 peoplevery detrimental; the well known effector of the poison of lead are bodily debility, palsy, death…” So interestingly lead poisoning was in fact well known by the end of the eighteenth century.

We may laugh at the quaintness of it all but in fact the advice is generally sound and the recipes sensible and on the whole, edible. Henderson also includes wonderful suggestions of seasonal menus for suppers and small courses… of up to 10 dishes per course! The first course, we are advised, should consist of soups, boiled poultry, fish and boiled meats; the second course of different kinds of game, high seasoned dishes, tarts, jellies etc and the third course, to be considered dessert comprises fruits and “various kinds of ornamental pastries.”

In LORD SOMERTON’S HEIR, food does not play a huge part, although at one stage, poor Sebastian is forced into eating three breakfasts by a populace determined to “feed him up”. William Augustus Henderson’s book doesn’t really touch on the subject of breakfasts but one of the great favourites of a “proper” English breakfast was “Devilled kidneys”, a dish popular since the 18th century when a thrifty housewife invented a spicy sauce to add some interest to an otherwise bland dish. Devilled Kidneys are not as horrible as you might think and I had a housemate who did rather good devilled kidneys (until the day he cooked kidneys that had gone off… but that’s a whole other story).

This recipe comes from my own copy of “The Cookery Year” by Readers Digest”.

DEVILLED KIDNEYS

Devilled kidneysFor four portions, clean and halve 8 lamb kidneys.

Prepare a devil sauce by mixing 2 teaspoons Worcestershire Sauce, 2 teaspoons ketchup and 1 level tablespoon dry mustard with 60g melted butter. Season with salt, white pepper and cayenne.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil or butter in a pan and fry the kidneys for 3 minutes on each side.

Arrange them in a flameproof serving dish, spread the devil sauce evenly on top of the kidneys and put under a hot grill for 1 minute.

 

Now how’s that for a bit of English breakfast goodness, Feasters? Not my favourite thing, kidneys, but the devil sauce certainly sounds delicious. Perhaps over a few pork sausages instead for a breaky to really get your heart started. Hmm. Maybe I need a kick like this before golf…

GIVEAWAY

For the month of May Alison is running a Rafflecopter giveaway to win an author’s goody bag worth over $50. Details of what it contains can be found on Alison’s website but it includes a copy of Alison’s collected short stories, Tower of Tales, a Mesopotamia bracelet, a notebook, a book voucher, and other goodies. To enter, simply use the Rafflecopter widget below using your Facebook log-in or your name and email address. Easy.

The giveaway is open worldwide, so have a go and good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

If you’d like to learn more about Alison and her books, please visit her website. You can also connect via her blog, Facebook and Twitter using @AlisonStuart14.

FRIDAY FEAST with Helene Young

26 Replies

Hello Feasters, and welcome to another truly excellent Friday filled with food and fabulous authors.

But first…. DID YOU SEE MY SWANNIES? At last, we have scrambled our way into the eight. Now, if we can just do the righty and give Hawthorn the spanking they deserve tonight all will be well in Swanfan world. Which reminds me, all is rather well with Us Heins Weren’t Meant To Play Golf news too. No, I don’t have my new 3 wood yet, it’s on order, but I did play well enough last week to win a golf ball.

Go ahead and laugh, but remember: From little things, big things grow!

Speaking of growing, how about the superstar growth of our guest today! Helene Young ishelene-young-2-0 not only a multi-award winning author, with Australian Romance Reader Awards and RWA Romantic Book of the Year honours galore, she’s also one of Australia’s best-selling authors. And a lovely lady to go with it.

An airline pilot now living on a catamaran in Queensland (I know, I know), Helene continues to write romantic suspense novels that capture the Australian landscape beautifully, as well as keeping you on the edge of your seat.

Her latest release is Safe Harbour. Take a look…

SAFE HARBOUR

Cover of Safe Harbour by Helene YoungWhen Darcy Fletcher drags a handsome sailor from a stricken yacht, she finds herself drawn into his mysterious world.  Having saved his life can she now rescue him from his dark past? Or will that endanger all she holds most dear?

Noah, keeper of the peace and guardian of the Banskia Cove secrets, can’t tell Darcy the real reason this man has washed up on their shores. If she knew the links between the stranger and her own dysfunctional family, she’d flee the Cove and he’d lose her love for good.

As they take refuge in an old whaling station, only one thing is certain – by morning, no one will be the same again. Lies will surface, hearts will break, and not all will find safe harbour.

Doesn’t that sound exciting? This is one book you won’t want to miss and it can be yours now with just a quick trip to the shops or a few clickety-clicks of your mouse (or finger taps for you tablet and phone users). Buy Safe Harbour now from Booktopia, Bookworld, Collins Booksellers, Dymocks, QBD the Bookshop, Angus & Robertson, Fishpond, or your local independent. For immediate download of the ebook, why not try Amazon, iTunes, Kobo, Google Play, JB Hi-Fi or your favourite ebook retailer.

Now kick back and be comforted by Helene!

Fresh Is Best

Thanks to Cathryn for allowing me to visit Friday Feast one more time – I’m very honoured 🙂 I’ve discovered so many wonderful recipes on this amazing blog and it goes from strength to strength.

So, Feasters, let me start with a question. How do plan your meals? Do you begin with a recipe or do you source the ingredients first? I have to admit that I was someone who would decide on the menu, usually by drooling over glossy photos in magazines and recipe books. Then I’d head out to scour the shops for the ingredients. Sometimes I’d be beside myself scene from manly marketbecause pomegranates weren’t in season or the tender asparagus shoots looked more like stakes I’d use to prop up a wilting tomato plant that something that would grace the smoked salmon ravioli. Or rhubarb was only to be found in the frozen section and the new potatoes were decidedly last season…

And then I had an epiphany. How about I check out what’s in season and then build the menu around that? You can stop laughing right now… For a girl who spent a lot of time in restaurants – both working and eating – you might assume it would be basic stuff, but clearly I’m a slow learner. Now we’re living aboard a boat with limited storage it’s even more important. We choose the fresh, glossy produce and then decide what to cook. Simple food takes on a new flavour when it’s market-day fresh.

The Goat Pie Guy's stallLucky for us there are markets every Sunday in the local park at Manly. Once a month there’s a fantastic Farmers Market with everything from Goat Meat Pies (which are delicious!) to hot smoked salmon and stalls full of fresh produce. You can chat to the stall owner about the best way to cook something new – or new to Capt G in the case of custard apples – and you can sample their wares before you buy.

In Safe Harbour, Darcy Fletcher is a chef and she’s come home to Banksia Cove to open a restaurant in an old whaling station. In her words – ‘There’s unlikely to be any truffle oil on the menu or wagyu beef, but there will be melt in your mouth beef from west of Rockhampton, luscious Scene from Manly marketsseafood hauled from the Pacific, beetroots and sweet potatoes straight from the ground, asparagus spears whose tips have basked in the same morning sun as my patrons. Don’t think you can ask for anything better than fresh food, simply prepared with love.’

So, I’d love to hear how you go about deciding what to cook? Are you a ‘once a week shopper’ or a ‘shop as you go’ kind of cook? Do plan or go with the flow? Join in the discussion to go into the draw for a copy of Safe Harbour. 🙂

And I thought I’d share one of my favourite potato dishes because, for me, winter is all about comfort food and there is nothing more comforting than a well-dressed potato.

Here’s our never fail recipe for stuffed jacket potatoes.

Stuffed jacket potatoes

Choose a potato variety that is good for mashing and baking – Coliban, Desiree or Golden Delight all work well. Select one per person and choose good oval shapes of medium size.

Wash well, pat dry, stab with a fork on top and bottom and then microwave until cooked. Timing will depend on your microwave, but around 3-5 minutes should be sufficient for one potato. Allow to cool enough to handle, place on the bench so it rests easily – usually that will be length ways – then slice a ‘lid’ off the top and put to one side. Using a dessert spoon carefully scoop out the soft flesh, making sure not to break the potato skin, and put into a large mixing dish (depending on how many potatoes you’re cooking).

Add a good dollop of butter, a slurp of milk or cream, a small handful of chives, parsley or any fresh herbs you may have left over. Stir well to make a smooth potato mash (firm not sloppy works best). Then add a small handful of grated Parmesan cheese and season to taste.

You can vary the type of cheese or herbs, add crispy bacon, chopped hard-boiled eggs, or salami, so go to town and experiment.

Once you’re happy with the taste and texture of your filling spoon it carefully back into the shell so that it sits mounded higher than the original size of the potato. Place the lid on top, brush the top and sides with oil and grind a scatter of sea salt over it.

Pop on a baking tray and cook in a preheated 180 deg oven for no more than 30 minutes. They will be fluffy on the inside and delicious and crispy on the outside.

Bon appetit!

I am drooling here. DROOLING I tell you! Helene, that stuffed spud sounds absolutely divine. And perfect for the cooler months when we’re allowed to load up on carbs and buttery things to keep out the chill.

GIVEAWAY!

Now, my delicious little Feasty dumplings, time to join in the fun with another giveaway. This time a copy of Helene’s wonderful new release, Safe Harbour.

As Helene has already described above, simply reveal how you go about deciding what to cook. Are you a planner or a spur of the moment cook? Or do you leave it to the whim of someone else? Share and you’ll go into the draw.

Me, I’m a combination. Sometimes I plan, sometimes I get carried away when I spot something delicious. On Tuesday I discovered a tub of duck fat at my local IGA. Yes, yes, I KNOW it’s super bad for me and cooking duck fatty food on a weeknight goes against my house rules, but it just so happens I have this fantastic recipe for braised Puy lentils…

Giveaway closes midnight Tuesday AEST, 13th May 2014. Australian postal addresses only.

If you’d like to learn more about Helene, please visit her website. You can also connect via Facebook and Twitter as @heleneyoung.

And while you’re here, why not check out Helene’s exciting booktrailer for Safe Harbour. It’s a cracker!

FRIDAY FEAST with Alissa Callen

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Hello, my Friday-loving lovelies, and welcome to another mouth-watering edition of everyone’s favourite food series, Friday Feast!

Things have calmed down a little at Chez Hein now that the initial flurry of Rocking Horse Hill release run-around has passed, which means I can now concentrate better on other things, like my darling Sydney Swans and golf. My boys had a most excellent win last week in the footy. I, in golf, did not. Well, not when it counted. Whupped butt ANZAC day when I went out for a practice hit and then it all fell apart in the comp on Sunday. Sigh.

However, all going well this afternoon I’ll become the proud owner of a new 3 wood…

Speaking of afternoon delights, this week’s guest has some beautiful afternoon tea recipes to Author Alissa Callenshare. A born and bred country girl living in the central west of NSW, Alissa Callen’s books are a wonderful addition to the rural romance genre. It’s in the sweeping Australian countryside and small rural towns that she knows so well that Alissa sets her stories. What Love Sounds Like is out in ebook right now, while the first book in her Red Dust Outback series, Beneath Outback Skies, has just hit the shelves in paperback.

The second in the Red Dust Outback series released this week. Check out Down Outback Roads.

DOWN OUTBACK ROADS

Cover of Down Outback Roads by Alissa CallenSometimes you need to give yourself permission to fall in love.

Kree Garrett’s younger brother Seth is all the family she has left, so when he goes missing in the Australian outback, she doesn’t think twice about leaving her American home to find him. When Seth is rescued Kree vows to find a way to thank the small town of Glenalla. It isn’t long before she falls in love with the tight-knit rural community. But is it really the town she’s falling for?

Ewan Mackenzie has given up everything for his brother’s family, but he can never give enough to assuage his guilt at what happened one dark night, years ago . . . Ewan knows he doesn’t deserve a second chance at happiness, but when beautiful, open-hearted Kree stays to fight to save his home town, he finds it hard to keep his distance.

Can Kree and Ewan leave their pasts behind for long enough to find a future together?

Doesn’t that sound romantic? Ahh. Makes my heart all a-flutter reading that. You can own a copy right now with just a few clickety-clicks. Purchase your ebook copy of Down Outback Roads from Amazon for Kindle, Kobo, iBooks, Google Play, JB Hi-Fi or your favourite ebook retailer.

Now settle back with cuppa and munch on this!

Afternoon Tea Treats with Alissa Callen

In my new release, Down Outback Roads, I had so much fun using food as a way to integrate the two different worlds of my main characters. Kree Garrett is from the Rocky Mountains in America while Ewan Mackenzie is from the small rural town of Glenalla, Australia.

Kree quickly develops a liking for iconic Aussie lamingtons while Ewan, who initially can’t bring himself to eat peanut butter with chocolate, crosses to the dark side and tries American peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies. Much to the delight of his small twin nephews, quietly-spoken Darby and mischievous Braye, he finds the cookies not only edible but also delicious and goes back for seconds.

Lamingtons

Lamingtons

1 plain and unfilled sponge or vanilla cake cut into squares. Can be made from scratch, a packet mix or purchased.

Chocolate icing:

2 ½ cups icing sugar/mixture

¼ cup cocoa powder

2/3 cup warm water

Sift together dry ingredients, whisk in water until smooth.

Tip 2 cups desiccated coconut into a wide-mouthed bowl.

Roll chocolate-covered cake in coconut until evenly coated.

Lamingtons can also be sliced and filled with whipped cream or jam before being rolled in the chocolate icing and coconut.

Allow to set and then enjoy 🙂

 

 Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Cookies

Peanut butter and choc chip cookies

1 cup of peanut butter (crunchy or smooth)

1 cup brown sugar

1 large egg

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1/2 cup chocolate chips

Mix first four ingredients. Drop small spoonfuls of mixture onto a lined biscuit tray, keeping in mind the cookies will spread. Press in the chocolate chips onto the cookie tops. Bake in a moderate oven until golden.

For the batch in the photo my kids substituted small chocolate m and m’s instead of chocolate chips.

 

Deeeeelicious, Alissa! As one would expect from a country gal. And who can go past lamingtons? My other half turns into the Cookie Monster whenever he spies a plate. They are the perfect morning or afternoon tea treat.

Now, speaking of treats…

GIVEAWAY!

Alissa has very generously offered one lucky reader the chance to win a Kindle copy of her charming and heart-warming book What Love Sounds Like, featuring a an outback based Cover of What Love Sounds Like by Alissa Callenspeech pathologist, a man who believes money is as important as breathing, and a little girl who will bring them together.

To be in the giveaway, simply reveal what sweet treat you enjoy from another country.

That’s an easy one for me. Baklava! This Greek treat is such a favourite, with its sticky syrup, nutty layers and beautiful pastry. Gawd, I really want a piece now!

What about you? Maybe a traditional Devonshire tea is your go. Perhaps pecan pie from the US or an Italian canoli. There’s a whole world of sweet treats out there. Share your favourite and you’ll go into the draw.

Giveaway closes midnight Tuesday AEST, 6th May 2014. Open internationally. Rah!

If you’d like to learn more about Alissa and her books, please visit her website. You can also connect via Facebook.

Rocking Horse Hill Release Day!

21 Replies

Rah! It’s here at last. My latest rural romance Rocking Horse Hill has now officially hit the shelves.

Have you spotted it out and about yet? Let me know if you have. Even better, maybe take a pic and share it on my Facebook page, Google+ or Twitter via @CathrynHein.

Now, to celebrate release day (in addition to the bottle of pink fizz awaiting me in the fridge) here are…

TEN SECRET THINGS ABOUT ROCKING HORSE HILL

1/. Josh was originally called Nick.

2/. Originally I wanted to name Em Cashmere. Seriously. Cashmere Wallace-Jones. She then became Emelia before finally settling as Emily.

3/. Rocking Horse Hill is based on Mount Schank, a volcano south of Mount Gambier in South Australia’s lower south-east.

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4/. Sliding on you bum down the side of a volcano is the best fun ever. I’ve done it!

5/. The inspiration for Rocking Horse Hill’s quarry scar came from Mount Elephant near Derinallum in western Victoria. The quarry was for scoria.

Western quarry scar on Mount Elephant

6/. The book took 7 months to write. Yikes!

7/. Muffy is based on my darling late dog Cooch.

8/. Chelsea was inspired by an Indian runner duck that my brother once kept. That duck could really motor!

9/. Josh bares more than a passing resemblance to Rex in Rome actor Ettore Bassi. I spent a lot of time studying pictures of him for research… as you do.

10/. Donkeys are sweet but can be sneaky little buggers. There are some amazing videos of them around the net, getting up to mischief. Watching them gave me a lot of laughs. Check this too-clever donkey out.

I hope you enjoyed these ten secret things. But most of all I really hope you enjoy the drama and romance of Rocking Horse Hill!

Feeling that itchy urge to buy right now? Then canter on down to your local book shop or chain store, or simply clickety-click on any of these retailers.

Happy reading!

Cathryn