Tag Archives: Hunter Valley

Teaser Tuesday!

Teaser TuesdayWelcome to another Teaser Tuesday, the blog series where I tantalise you with snippets from works-in-progress, past and upcoming releases, and occasionally let writing buddies play around too.

This week we’re going back in time to Heart of the Valley.

Some of you may be aware of the terrible crush I developed on Lachie, the hero of this book. Sigh. WHAT a man. Honestly, it’s a toss-up between Lachie from Heart of the Valley and Tristan from April’s Rainbow who I’d marry, should either be real and I wasn’t, you know, attached and very much in love with my Jim.

But what some of you may not know is that I once bumped into a real life Lachie in a pub in Newcastle. We’d ventured down for lunch and there, at the bar, was this enormous, fit-looking bloke with long legs and broad shoulders and brown hair. Immediately my brain went ‘OhmyGodit’sLachie!’ which was impossible because my Lachie isn’t real and this bloke clearly was. Very, very nicely real. Of course, this meant some subtle stalking investigation was in order. Yup, there in the pub was Lachie in the flesh and he didn’t even know it.

No, I did not go up to Lachielookalike and tell him he was a fantasy man from one of my rural romances. That would have been just a touch too weird.

But I wanted to.

Anyway, without further ado, here’s a little teaser from one of my favourite books, Heart of the Valley.

 

Heart of the Valley by Cathryn Hein‘Don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine. I’ve lost jobs before. There are others around.’ He smiled and leaned in close. ‘The most important thing is you.’

She stared at him. He wore that expression again, the one that made her wonder, made her heart do that excited dance and set her tongue sticking in her mouth. For a few seconds he held her stare before breaking away to shove his hands in his pockets and look back at the paddock, leaving Brooke overwhelmed and electrified by that intangible something she thought had passed between them.

©Cathryn Hein

 

Heart of the Valley is a book that will make you barrack madly for the hero and heroine, reach for the tissues in parts, and sigh and smile with satisfaction at the end, and it can be yours right now from Amazon, iBooks, Kobo or Google Play. For print copies, visit Booktopia or Bookdepository.com.

Want to learn more about Heart of the Valley? You’ll find story behind the book, reviews, and more excerpts on its book page on this website.

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FRIDAY FEAST with Michelle Douglas

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Greetings dumplings, and welcome to another delectable edition of Friday Feast. This week we have wine, babies, and beef. Although not in the same recipe, as I’m sure you’ll be pleased to know.

First, the frustration that is Us Heins Weren’t Meant To Play Golf. Bad. Very, very bad is all I can say about my game at the moment. I even tried marking my balls with bright blue love hearts in the faint hope it might amuse Oh, Great Golfing God, but no. Recent form has proven that it only made him crankypants. However the weather has been glorious and the company enjoyable, and, really, when one is playing this atrociously the only way is up!

Michelle Douglas authorAs much as I would like to move on to the wine bit of this week’s Feast, the baby must come first. My guest is the ever-delightful Michelle Douglas, who received her first rejection letter at the age of eight for Keri the Koala Baby.

Michelle has since moved on from koalas but not necessarily babies, and is now a multi-published author writing for Harlequin’s Romance line. Her latest is Reunited By A Baby Secret, part of the Vineyards of Calanetti continuity and a guaranteed heart-tugger. Check it out.

REUNITED BY A BABY SECRET

Reunited By A Baby Secret coverShe’s back in Calanetti…

After a vacation in paradise, Marianna Amatucci returned to her family vineyard determined to make a fresh start. But her plans changed in an instant when two blue lines on a pregnancy test reveal she’d returned home with a souvenir!

When she finds the father, Ryan White, he’s nothing like the laid-back surfer she met on the beach. In a tailored suit, he oozes masculine authority, and he’s staying in the penthouse! What will walking into his high-flying corporate world mean for their baby…?

Did you hear that, my lovelies? Vineyards! A baby! A sexy hero! Just what you need to give a smile, a sigh and maybe even a little tear. And Reunited By A Baby Secret can be yours right now with a mere click. Buy from Booktopia, BookdepositoryAmazon, iBooks, Kobo, Google Play or your favourite book retailer.

All set? Good. Now feel free to get beefy!

Fine Vines

To be visiting Cathryn today and talking about wine does seem rather appropriate. Not that I mean to be telling tales outside of school or anything, but Cathryn and I do seem to find ourselves in the bar together on a rather regular basis at RWAust and ARRA conferences. 🙂

Authors enjoying a tipple

Wine has been on my mind quite a bit recently because my latest release REUNITED BY A BABY SECRET is set in the rolling green hills of Tuscan wine country, and my heroine is a viticulturist. Mind you, Marianna is pregnant so wine tasting is out for her, but it wasn’t for me. And, naturally, a girl has to provide due diligence and perform appropriate research. So off to the Hunter Valley I went to look at vineyards and taste wines. I discovered two things:

  1. Wine country is gloriously beautiful regardless of what part of the world you’re in.
  2. One shouldn’t wine taste at 11 o’clock in the morning if they haven’t had breakfast. 😉

So, in honour of all things wine-related, I thought I’d share one of my favourite recipes with you. This, amazingly enough for me, is ludicrously healthy. It’s also incredibly simple. And despite what the photo looks like (I’m terrible at taking pretty pictures of food) it’s utterly delish.

Beef in Red Wine

Beef and red wine casserole

Place the following ingredients into a nice big pot: ½ kilo of diced beef, two diced onions, two large sliced carrots, 2 sliced sticks of celery, a diced green capsicum, 200g sliced mushrooms, a clove or two of crushed garlic, a can of tomato puree (415ml), a teaspoon of Italian herbs, a tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce, and ½ cup of red wine.

Bring it all to the boil and then cook on low, covered for 90 mins.

My favourite way to eat this is with mashed potatoes and green beans. But crusty bread is perfect with it too. Pasta would work as well. Also, it’s a forgiving recipe. I’ve made it with one onion rather than two, and when I haven’t had a green capsicum on hand I’ve used a zucchini to fine effect, so feel free to mess about with the ingredients. Enjoy!

Thanks for having me to visit, Cathryn! I always love hanging out with you (whether wine is involved or not).

*

A pleasure to host you, Michelle! Your casserole sounds beautiful and just the thing to enjoy with a glass (or two) of Hunter shiraz. Then a nice relax with Reunited By A Baby Secret and a very pleasant evening is to be had.

Okay, food lovers, what would you serve with Michelle’s casserole, or a casserole like it?

I love the idea of crunchy green beans but we do adore our bread and would probably have a nice crusty loaf on the side to mop up all that tasty gravy. What about you? Share away!

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

Friday Feast recipe index link.

FRIDAY FEAST with S.E. Gilchrist

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Phew! What a week. Despite having been home from the RWA conference and our mini holiday for a while now I still feel like I’m catching up. But that’s okay. It was worth every minute.S.E. Gilchrist author photo

Speaking of worth every minute (oh, what a segue!), I have a fabulous guest for you today, who’ll be sharing the perfect recipe for warm weather lovers and the time poor. After several years travelling around Australia, S.E. Gilchrist now resides in one of my favourite places, the NSW Hunter Valley, and writes across a range of genres, including fantasy, sci-fi/futuristic, ancient history and post-apocalyptic. I also hear she has a most excellent rural romance in the works – as she should coming from the Hunter! – so keep your eye out for Dance In The Outback.

S.E.’s single title release is a full length sci-fi Legend Beyond The Stars. Check it out…

 

LEGEND BEYOND THE STARS

 

Legend Beyond The Stars by S.E. Gilchrist coverSeeking redemption from a mission gone terribly wrong, Captain Alana Knight volunteers to aid a dangerous operation to transport colonists between Earth and alien traders. But on board the spaceship, she learns of a galactic war raging for power. A power that can be transformed into a terrible weapon.

When the colonists are betrayed and sold, Alana’s mission is re-defined. Nothing will stop her from keeping those in her care safe and finding a passage home. But her new captor is nothing like she expects…

Commander Tarak El Rajan is human, male and equally determined to retain his payload. With his race on the brink of extinction he is under strict orders to transport all females to the planet Isla for research purposes.

In a world of uncertainty, where the wrong decision could mean the death of an entire race, the last thing either of these two soldiers expects or needs is to fall in love.

 

Doesn’t that sound fun? With so much at stake this is guaranteed to be a rollicking read and you can own your copy now with just a few clickety-clicks. You can buy direct from Escape Publishing or try Kobo, iTunes, Amazon (Kindle), Amazon UK, Google Play, JB Hi-Fi, All Romance eBooks, Nook, or most excellent Aussie bookseller Booktopia. In other words, from all you favourite booksellers.

Ereader loaded up? Excellent. Now you can play with S.E. Gilchrist!

 

My Kitchen Disasters

 

Where do I start? If you ask my three children (now in their twenties) they could probably write a book on the disasters that occur in my kitchen. Thankfully, none of them are into writing, so I’m safe. Until now that is, as the talented writer Cathryn Hein has hit me with an invitation to her blog post Friday Feast.

Since I’m such a hit and miss cook and often stick a pile of food stuff on the stove and wander back to my desk and keyboard, the list of meals I bring to the table in an edible state is pitifully small. I’m lucky in that I can eat just about anything and don’t really care what the meal looks like ie a dog’s dinner or cordon bleu is all the same to me. Alas, my family is a bit more picky. And this (thank the stars) has culminated in everyone cooking for themselves except on the rare occasions when I stir myself to visit the stove. I excuse myself with: (a) I’ve been doing the house-mum thing for too long and it’s your turn and (b) I need to squeeze in my writing time after doing the full time work thing all day.

When I do cook, there will be a book propped up on the sink which I will read will pretending to supervise the cooking process.

In the spirit of bearing all, I’ll like to share with you a few of my disasters:

  • the usual burnt offerings which have been reduced to blobs of carbon and the baking dish has to be thrown out since it was impossible to scrape the mess off the bottom. Needless to say this also includes the copious times when the smoke detector blares into life which sends the dogs into a frenzy of barking.S.E. Gilchrist's dog Rex looking innocent
  • a dozen raw eggs dropped onto the kitchen tiles. Seriously, has anyone tried to mop up raw egg from the floor? Slimy and slippery it makes my skin crawl to remember.
  • the substitution of plain flour for self-raising floor in the mistaken belief that the sponge would still rise and be fluffy. Think leather boots and an insane dash to the shops to buy a last minute birthday cake.
  • the tray of frozen meat shoved out the kitchen window onto the carport roof to defrost. In Summer. And totally forgotten about until the next day. The steak had cooked and provided a pretty decent meals for the flies.
  • the day the dog made off with the chicken (again defrosting but this time on the kitchen bench) and the humans ate vegetables for dinner.

Really I could continue but in case you’re thinking I’m a total loss in the kitchen, I can cook a mean roast dinner, a hearty and tasty green pea and bacon hock soup, fluffy quiches and wow, you should see me toss up a salad. The last two are favourites in summer. Oh, and I can really lay out a cheese platter.

 

Quiche

A delicious looking quiche

1 sheet ready made short-crust pastry

3 eggs (beaten)

1 cup cheese (I usually use light tasty cheese)

1 cup chopped fresh spinach (if I have any)

One layer of thinly sliced tomatoes over the base or

1/2 to 1 cup chopped cooked BBQ chicken.

1 tablespoon french mustard (which gives it a nice tang)

1 chopped cooked onion

1/2 cup light milk (or soy milk)

Method: Throw everything in a bowl and mix together (after you’ve cooked the onion that is). Lightly grease quiche dish and place one sheet of the pastry over. Cook pastry in hot oven for about 10 or 15 minutes then pile the ingredients on top and bake for about another 20 to 30 minutes depending on your oven.

Serve with salad of your choice.

That’s enough baring of souls for me. I had hoped to have my next indie published book up and out there but alas it’s been delayed. But please look out for my forthcoming Aussie rural contemporary romance, Dance in the Outback.

Thank you so much, Cathryn, for hosting me here today. It’s been a blast.

 

My pleasure, S.E. and thanks so much for that quiche recipe. Delicious, easy, portable and a definite crowd pleaser. There aren’t too many people who’ll say no to a piece of quiche and, as you say, it makes a perfect meal for warmer weather.

Okay, lovely Feasters, what’s your favourite spring recipe? Besides lots of seafood I can’t wait to get into my repertoire of hot, sour and spicy Asian salads. All those fresh ingredients are perfect for warm evenings and lazy weekends, and they’re super easy to whip up. But perhaps you love a good old barbeque, or maybe lightly grilled Mediterranean inspired dishes? Share away and make our mouths water!

If you’d like to learn more about S.E. and her books please visit her website. You can also connect via Facebook, Twitter and the Hunter Romance Writers blog.

 

FRIDAY FEAST with Annie West

Good morning, Feasters, and what a gorgeous one it is too, not least because we have one of my favourite guests returning to Friday Feast.

How lovely it is to have Annie West back. Not only is Annie an excellent cook, she writes intensely romantic and emotional best-selling novels and lives in a gorgeous part of the world – Lake Macquarie, right near and all those magnificent New South Wales beaches and the wine growing heaven that is the Hunter Valley. I tell you, if Annie weren’t so nice I’d be horribly jealous.

Annie’s new release is the delicious sounding and sensually covered Defying Her Desert Duty. Check it out.

 

DEFYING HER DESERT DUTY

 

Chained by silk and jewels

Across the bustling nightclub, bodyguard Zahir El Hashem watches his latest charge swaying temptingly on the dance floor, his pulse quickening. Returning the Princess to her bridegroom might not be such a simple operation after all…

Soraya Karim has always known one day she must resume her royal obligations-just not so soon! Clinging to the last shreds of her freedom, Soraya insists they take the long way back to Bakhara – and their attraction reaches a dangerous fever pitch…

Once they reach the gates of the palace such a liaison will be utterly forbidden. From then duty must reign…

 

Oooooh, that sounds sexy! I feel the need to fan myself just reading the blurb. Defying Her Desert Duty is out now in the UK and Australia. UK readers, try Amazon and Bookdepository. For Australian readers, you can also use Bookdepository, look it up on the Australian Mills & Boon site, or rush to your local book or chainstore. For US readers, keep your eye on Annie’s website for release dates and buy links.

And now here’s Annie!

 

Biscuit Blessings!

 

Hi Cathryn and Feasters. Thanks for having me back again to chat. I love visiting here, though it always results in me salivating over food I don’t really need, but want.

I told myself I was going to blog about the joys of French food. I know you’d appreciate that, Cathryn. Not that I’m a cordon bleu cook, but time spent in France last year inspired my current book ‘Defying Her Desert Duty’. I know, I know, it sounds like it’s set in an Arabian Desert, doesn’t it? The truth is there’s a fair bit of France in that story.

So there I was, all set to discuss the wonders of French garlic potatoes and cherry ice cream (not together) and delicious sauces, not to mention soufflés, when something happened. Something in the nature of a pantry crisis. We’d run out of biscuits! Or to those from North America – cookies.

How it happened I don’t know, but I was faced with a lanky son in study mode (ie. distracted and in dire need of refuelling) and he’d already has his fill of fruit and cheese on toast. Briefly I thought about a cake but it seemed like too much time and effort. As for slices – I was missing some ingredients. It was biscuits that saved the day.

Biscuits are an integral part of our lives – at least in this neck of the woods. Now we tend to graze on savoury crackers more than sweet biscuits. Nothing quite like a triple cream brie with a little fig paste on a lovely rosemary and salt cracker. Or five… But biscuits, of one sort or another are always in the pantry. They’re a lifesaver when someone stops in for a cuppa, or when inspiration is lacking and a sugar hit at morning tea time is needed to stir the brain.

My mum cooked everything from cakes to pickles, from roasts to jam, even toffees for the school fete, but for some reason never biscuits. I remember Rich Tea biscuits and shortbreads and especially Iced Vovos (yes, they HAVE got smaller over the years).

When I got a place of my own, biscuits soon overtook cakes in the baking department. They were the perfect size and portable for hungry adults or kids. Said kids could take a hand in making them – whether rolling the dough or pressing it down or mixing. They were easy to pack and I could convince myself they were healthy if I added fruit or nuts.

A Canadian friend introduced me to home made Chocolate Chip Cookies. Sigh. And Sugar Cookies for Christmas. Another friend made Banana in Pyjamas biscuits for all the children at birthday time – plain biscuits iced in blue, white and yellow. I understand her 21 year old still insists on them for his birthday.

After living in Germany I started making Lebkuchen (gingerbread) at Christmas. The picture of the Christmas plate includes Gingerdead Men (gingerbread but stamped to show the men’s skeletons) and some truly, truly delicious little Cinnamon Stars. Never let anyone tell you the Germans can’t cook sweet things! There are also little Christmas trees – made of shortbread stars with cachous for extra sparkle. For me making biscuits is a chance for a little family bonding. For some reason making the Christmas biccies is still seen as a treat by the family – long may it last!

So in the spirit of sharing, here’s a recipe I snaffled from a magazine years ago. It’s the one I cooked just a couple of days ago to feed my starving lad. It’s quick and dead easy. Let’s not talk about the calories.

 

Lemon Shortbread Biscuits

250g butter

grated rind of one lemon

1 cup icing sugar, sifted

2 cups plain flour, sifted.

Beat the butter and rind until creamy. Add the icing sugar and beat well. With a metal spoon stir in the sifted flour.

Take level teaspoons of the mixture (I know it’s tempting to take more but in this case small really is best) and roll lightly into balls. Place on ungreased baking trays and press down with a fork dipped in cold water to prevent sticking.

Bake in a modern oven (180C or 350F) for 10-12 mins or until only very slightly coloured. Cool and store in an airtight tin. Makes about 4 dozen.

Do you have favourite biscuits/cookies? Are they home made or bought? Do you crave Tim Tams or go for something plain? What’s the most unusual biscuit you’ve come across?

 

Thanks, Annie! Those biscuits sound divine. I’m a terrible sucker for anything lemon and anything shortbread.

I must admit I’m not much of a Tim Tam craver, although I’ll happily scoff one when offered. Plain biscuits are more my go but tease me with a home-made ANZAC biscuit and I’m yours. My mother in law makes some beauties.

So what about you, Feasters? Share your biscuity tale and you could win a copy of Annie’s delicious new release, Defying Her Desert Duty!

Giveaway closes midnight, Tuesday 6th November 2012, AEST. Open internationally. Rah!

If you’d like to learn more about Annie and her sexy books, please visit her website. You can also connect via Facebook and keep up to date through her newsletter.

This giveaway has now closed. Congratulations to fitzroylou who has now won a copy of Annie’s wonderful Defying Her Desert Duty. Thanks to everyone who joined in the Friday Feast fun. Hope to see you here again!

FRIDAY FEAST with me…again!

Greetings, Feasters, from (sort of) sunny South Australia. I’ve been on a library tour all week around the south east of the state, chatting about Heart of the Valley and my journey to publication, plus whatever else I go off on a tangent about. And it’s been huge fun! Delightful crowds who ask lots of questions, and the hospitality of the library staff has been wonderful. There are links on my Facebook page to photos if you want to take a look, and a radio interview I did which was rather fun.

Heart of the Valley has been earning some amazing reviews, which is really heart-warming. How about this one from Shelleyrae at Book’d Out.

Heart of the Valley is a novel about letting go and moving forward that mixes tender romance with heartfelt drama. I finished Heart of the Valley with a contented sigh for a story well told and a longing for a horse of my own. Cathryn Hein has joined my ever growing list of must read Australian women writers.

And this from 1 girl… 2 many books!

Heart Of The Valley is an excellent addition to the ever-growing rural lit genre – it showcases a beautiful area, contains wonderful, well thought out characters that I really, really enjoyed and I felt the story was rounded and well paced.

And the Facebook comments keep coming too. So on the off chance you haven’t seen Heart’s cover or read the blurb, and to keep the Friday Feast posts consistent and me from getting twitchy about them not matching, here it is again!

 

HEART OF THE VALLEY

 

Brooke Kingston is smart, capable and strongwilled ­ some might even say stubborn ­ and lives in the beautiful Hunter Valley on her family property. More at home on horseback than in heels, her life revolves around her beloved ‘boys’ ­ showjumpers Poddy, Oddy and Sod.

Then a tragic accident leaves Brooke a mess. Newcomer Lachie Cambridge is hired to manage the farm, and Brooke finds herself out of a job and out of luck. But she won’t go without a fight.

What she doesn’t expect is Lachie himself ­ a handsome, gentle giant with a will to match her own. But with every day that Lachie stays, Brooke’s future on the farm is more uncertain. Will she be forced to choose between her home and the man she’s falling for?

A vivid, moving and passionate story of love and redemption from the author of Promises.

 

Right, enough promo, it’s FOOD TIME!

I had planned to write another Heart of the Valley themed post, maybe sharing another Nancy Burrows-style, hearty country recipe, but then I realised that Sunday was Mother’s Day. Given Jim and I move around quite a bit, and sometimes reside long distances from our families, we don’t get to see our mums as often as we’d like and it’s rare for us to spend Mother’s Day with them. Things are easier for me now we’re in Melbourne because that makes Mount Gambier only a 4 ½ (give or take a bit) hour drive away, but it’s still not pop-around-the-corner easy.

So this will be the first Mother’s Day I’ve been able to spend with Mum for donkey’s. To celebrate, we’re planning a nice family brunch on Sunday morning at Mum and Dad’s. There’ll be fresh eggs from my brother’s chooks, maybe a bit of bacon or some chipolatas if I can track some tasty ones down, fruit, cereal, toast and whatever else we can think of. Simple, but good. Anyway, like most celebrations the food won’t really matter. It’s the company that counts.

If I was home, though, and had all my cooking toys at hand, I’d probably try something a bit fancier. In fact, I’d probably make it a Mother’s Day lunch instead of a brunch because then I’d have an excuse to crack a bottle of fizz. Always feels a bit naughty to drink fizz in the mornings, even for a champagne breakfast on Melbourne Cup day, but lunch is another matter. There’s something deliciously indulgent about it, and let’s face it, Mother’s Day is all about indulging Mum.

But if you’re considering lunch for your mum and have a bit of time to prepare, here’s a recipe that might appeal. Serve with a nice green salad, and a glass of crisp white wine, rosé or even fizz, throw in good company, and you have yourself the makings of a perfect afternoon.

 

LEEK, FETTA AND TOMATO TART

 

Serves 4

Pastry

This will make much more than you need, but it’s very hard to measure half an egg. Refrigerate or freeze the rest for another time.

225g (1 ½ cups) plain flour

90g butter, chopped

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 tablespoon cold water (you may need more)

Place flour and butter in a food processor and whizz until crumbly (or use the tips of your fingers to rub butter into flour). Add egg and water and pulse until a ball forms. You may need to add extra water. Tip out onto a floured surface and knead lightly. When smooth, wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 180°C

Take a 35cm by 13cm loose bottomed tart tin and line it with pastry. Rolling out the pastry can be extremely painful so just use your fingers to press balls into the tin until a nice shell forms. Bake for 15 minutes, or until lightly golden.

Filling

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 leek, halved, washed and white part very thinly sliced

200g pancetta or good smoky bacon, cut into small fine batons

1 clove garlic, crushed

A few good handfuls of baby spinach

100g fetta, crumbled

6-8 cherry tomatoes, halved

3 eggs

180ml cream

3 or so tablespoons of finely grated Parmesan cheese

Heat oil in a non-stick pan. Add leek, garlic and pancetta and cook over medium heat until the leek is nice and soft and starting to caramelise a little. Add spinach and wilt.

Spread leek mixture over the cooked pastry case. Top with fetta.

Whisk eggs with Parmesan cheese and then stir in cream until well-combined. Pour over leek mixture. Dot surface with halved cherry tomatoes.

Bake 30 minutes or until set. Serve warm.

 

I’d love to hear what would make a perfect Mother’s Day for you, or even how you plan to celebrate with your mum. Maybe you get to flop around in your PJs all day with people waiting on you hand and foot. Perhaps you’ll be picnicking or adventuring or doing something completely indulgent. Maybe Sunday will find you whipping up your favourite recipe for your mum. I bet there are some wonderful ideas out there we could all gain inspiration from.

FRIDAY FEAST with Annie West

Happy Friday, Feasters. And what a most joyous day it is too. After yesterday’s freezing misery the sun is once more shining on Melbourne, and mornings like this make me feel happy and bright. But today I’d feel that way even if

photo © Fiona Vaughan 2006

conditions were Arctic. Why? Because I have the loveliest guest on Friday Feast this week, multi-published Mills and Boon author Annie West.

Annie hails from Lake Macquarie way, north of Sydney and nestled at the edge of the Hunter Valley and the glorious coastline of the Lake and the surrounding beaches. A beautiful part of the world and the perfect environment for writing the intense, sensual romances so adored by Annie’s many fans.

Annie’s latest release is the sexily titled Undone By His Touch. Makes you want to read the book for the title alone, doesn’t it? Well, check out this cover and blurb, and I promise you’ll be even more sucked-in and saying, as I did, “Thank you, world, for one-click book-buying!”

 

UNDONE BY HIS TOUCH

 

Cast into a world of black, Declan Carstairs is a man in torment. Consumed by guilt, he sees no way out of the darkness his world has become. Only one thing drives him – finding the woman who caused his brother’s death, and the accident that took his sight.

Housekeeper Chloe Daniels refuses to pity her devastatingly gorgeous boss, but treating him as the strong, capable man he is soon proves dangerous. As Chloe falls deeper under Declan’s spell, awakened by his touch, she forgets all about the secret she keeps that may destroy them both…

 

You can read about the inspiration for the book (including some pictures) and an excerpt of it on Annie’s website here. To read the whole first chapter, visit Mills and Boon UK here.

 

Ha! Told you it’d grab. Now, off clickety-clicking with that mouse you go.

Right. Reading and bookbuying done? Excellent. Now it’s time to get your fingers sticky with Annie’s luscious Friday Feast post.

 

THE COMFORTS OF CHILDHOOD FOOD

 

Hi Cathryn! Thanks so much for inviting me along to join your feasters. I love talking about food as much as I enjoy talking books. Congratulations too on your new release.

I toyed with the idea of featuring some exotic meal I’d attempted, but in the end nostalgia won out and I’m chatting about a favourite childhood comfort food.

Not so long ago I came across plums – lots of them and very cheap. They sat there tempting me with their lush roundness and that lovely straight-from-the-orchard cloudiness on the skin. I was very busy at the time, shopping in a rush while adding to a mental list of things to do when I got home, yet I heard their siren call. I circled, trying to tell myself I wasn’t interested but I could still hear it – those wonderful words – home made plum jam. And I was lost. I’ll tell you why.

I grew up in what’s now a pretty ordinary suburban street. When I was young though, it wasn’t so built up. We had over an acre of land and most of it was remnant rainforest gully. We ran wild outside almost every day and it was a brilliant place to play, despite the venomous snakes who also shared the place. Closer to the house was a very, very old garden with a couple of apple trees two storeys high, all sorts of flowering shrubs and bulbs as well as what seemed to me enormous plum trees.

I’m not sure how many plum trees we had but they covered a lot of ground. When the fruit was ripe our neighbours would gather then leave laden with multiple buckets of plums. Narabeen Plums, Blood Plums, Santa Rosa Plums and others whose names I never knew. Despite the neighbourhood feeding frenzy there was always an abundance left for us. And, being the housekeeper she was, mum made jam. Lots and lots of jam.

Mum made so much jam we never ran out. I remember the first time I tasted store bought jam – on an interstate caravanning holiday when I was around 10.  I didn’t know jam could taste so….nothing. I’d grown up assuming all jam was flavourful and downright delicious.

When I recently cooked up my batch of plums it had been a while since I’d made jam. Tasting the end product transported me in a flash to my childhood. The taste and scent, even the consistency of it, was pure nostalgia. And, though I’m biased, I can report it was delicious. Others say so too! I know it wasn’t my jam making skills but the taste of the fruit.

We all know that smells can evoke powerful memories of the past yet t I hadn’t realised taste had the same power. The sensation was quite incredible and brought back so many things I’d half forgotten.

That got me thinking about comfort foods from childhood and how they make you feel so much better, whether you’re feeling sick, or just ready for a little boost. Apart from ‘real’ plum jam my childhood comfort eats include Christmas pudding, corned beef with veges and white sauce on the onions, and old fashioned chocolate cake. And how could I forget…potatoes cooked in the coals of an outdoor fire (Dad did a lot of burning off at our place). Shove the potatoes in the coals and cover them. Haul them out when they’re black on the outside. Cut them in half, add salt and pepper and scoop out the insides with a teaspoon. Yum!

If you’re interested in trying your hand at jam, try this (and the recipe can easily be halved). It makes a sweet yet slightly tart jam.

 

PLUM JAM

2kg dark plums

4 cups water

1/3 cup lemon juice (but have extra just in case)

1 ½ kg sugar

Quarter plums and remove stones. Add with water to large saucepan. Bring to boil then cover and simmer for an hour.

Add juice and sugar to the saucepan. Stir over heat without boiling until the sugar is dissolved. Then boil, uncovered without stirring for around 20 mins or till jam sets when tests. (Depending on the type of plums it can take longer or you could add a little more juice if it’s not setting).

Pour into hot sterilised jars and when cold, seal.

 

Do you have favourite comfort foods? Ones that remind you of your childhood, or perhaps of some other place or time that you like to revisit? Is there some food that instantly takes you back and makes you feel good?

I’ll be giving away a signed copy of UNDONE BY HIS TOUCH, (my Mills and Boon May release in Australia and New Zealand) to someone who comments. As I write this I’m smiling as I’ve been shopping today and saw it on the shelves. Such a good feeling.

 

A good feeling indeed, Annie, especially with that title and cover, and the reviews have been fantastic too.

So, Feasters, you heard Annie. Start delighting us with your childhood comfort foods. I’m voting for caramel tart, the boiled tin of condensed milk kind. World War Three would almost break out in our house over who was going to lick those tins clean! I’ll also always have a soft spot for my grandmother’s rabbit stew. It wasn’t anything special, just a bunny cooked up with vegies, but one of those simple, delicious and satisfying dishes that sticks with you. Or maybe it was just the pain of crunching on a shotgun pellet that’s stuck with me…

Get those comments in quick because Annie’s giveaway closes midnight, Tuesday 8th May, 2012 AEST. Open internationally.

If you’d like to learn more about Annie and her sexy books, please visit her website. You can also keep up to date by signing up to her newsletter.

This giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to Juanita who has won a signed copy of Annie’s gorgeous Undone By His Touch. Thanks to all who commented – great convo on jam! – and who helped make Annie’s Friday Feast such fun.

 

FRIDAY FEAST with me!

This week on Friday Feast we have a very special guest… me!

Heart of the Valley released yesterday and as I want as many people as possible to buy and read it, I’m taking over this week’s Friday Feast to mercilessly plug my book. Well, not mercilessly – I’m not that enamoured with self promo – but I’m going to make sure you know aaaaall about this wonderful, emotional read.

Yes, emotional. I have it on good authority that people have been so moved by Heart of the Valley and the fate of its characters that they’ve cried. As Michelle, book editor of online magazine Beauty and Lace warns in her recent review, “…regardless of how tough you think you are you are going to need the tissues.” I also shed many tears during its writing, although not always for the same reason. As any (normal) author will tell you, writing can be bloody stressful!

So in keeping with the established Friday Feast format, and because I’m painfully pedantic and like to keep things ordered, here’s the cover and blurb. You can also read the opening chapter at my website.

 

HEART OF THE VALLEY

 

Brooke Kingston is smart, capable and strongwilled ­ some might even say stubborn ­ and lives in the beautiful Hunter Valley on her family property. More at home on horseback than in heels, her life revolves around her beloved ‘boys’ ­ showjumpers Poddy, Oddy and Sod.

Then a tragic accident leaves Brooke a mess. Newcomer Lachie Cambridge is hired to manage the farm, and Brooke finds herself out of a job and out of luck. But she won¹t go without a fight.

What she doesn’t expect is Lachie himself ­ a handsome, gentle giant with a will to match her own. But with every day that Lachie stays, Brooke’s future on the farm is more uncertain. Will she be forced to choose between her home and the man she’s falling for?

A vivid, moving and passionate story of love and redemption from the author of Promises.

 

Vivid, moving and passionate… yup, that about sums it up. But I should also mention that the hero, Lachie, is a complete and utter babe. There’s this bit where he… Oh, just go and buy the book and you’ll soon see what I mean.

Right, enough of that. Let’s talk FOOD!

 

There’s a sweet character in Heart of the Valley named Nancy Burrows who’s a gun country cook and one of those wonderfully generous souls who loves nothing more than to spoil those she holds dear with her delicious food.

Nancy doesn’t do fancy food. Nope, Nancy makes hearty country fare like beef casseroles, chicken and vegetable soup, and Lancashire hot pot. And she bakes. Oh, does she bake. There are ginger biscuits, apple and rhubarb crumble, and Lachie’s favourite, bread and butter pudding.

So I thought I’d dedicate this Friday Feast to Nancy Burrows and share the sort of recipe that she’d make. Which is rather fitting now that fickle Melbourne has finally abandoned its Indian summeriness and instead decided to blast us with cold and rain. I don’t know about you, but when the weather turns horrid, my stomach craves old-fashioned winter comfort food, and what better warming food is there than a rib-sticking soup?

My mum, bless her, isn’t the most enthusiastic of cooks, although she can whip up a damn fine pavlova. My grandmother taught me how to bake but, overall, I’d call myself a self-taught cook. However, one of the recipes I did learn from Mum growing up was her pea and ham soup. There was no recipe as such; Mum just knew how to make it. I assume she learned from watching her mum, which is exactly how I learned too.

This is perfect winter fare. Thick, delicious, warming and satisfying. I loved coming in from the freezing cold, soaked and mud-smeared after a game of hockey or hair-covered and reeking of horse after a morning spent riding, and being served a great bowl of this soup with buttery toast. It was so damn homely. Nearly as good as a hot shower or a loving cuddle.

Mum always made her soup with bacon bones, but I use a smoked ham hock because I enjoy having all that gooey meat to chew on. Just make sure you allow plenty of cooking time so the meat completely falls away from the bone. I also occasionally substitute some of the soup mix for plain barley simply because I love the stuff.

Oh, and all quantities are variable. Adjust to however you prefer or to the ingredients you have on hand. As for how much this recipe makes… um, a lot. Enough at least to feed a ravenous family with some left over.

There you have it. A recipe even Heart of the Valley’s Nancy Burrows would be proud of.

So what are you waiting for? Go grab that stock pot and start simmering!

 

MUM’S PEA & HAM SOUP

1 smoked ham hock

6 stalks celery, finely chopped

3 large carrots, diced

5 onions, peeled, halved and each half cut into thirds

Enough water to cover

300g soup mix (McKenzies)

Salt

Place ham hock, onions, carrots and celery into a stock pot and pour in enough water so the hock is covered. Place on the stove and simmer, lid on, for three hours or until the meat is falling off the bone and a good stock has developed, adding more water if necessary to ensure the hock is always covered.

Remove ham, peel off the skin and discard. Shred the meat, then return meat and bones to the pan. Test the soup for salt – usually quite a bit is required.

Add soup mix, and simmer with the lid on for another two hours or until the pulses are soft.

Serve piping hot with good crusty bread or hot buttered toast.

 

Now, my feasty lovelies, it’s giveaway time and what a prize I have on offer. Oh yes indeedy! One lucky commenter has the chance to win a signed copy of my brand spanking new release, Heart of the Valley, that vivid, moving and passionate book you see above, which is already earning rave reviews (I have proof!).

Winter is just around the corner (or already here if you live in Melbourne) and I’m on the hunt for some comfort food inspiration. Winter-perfect meals are what I’m after. Casseroles, puddings, soups – whatever makes your mouth water. Just share your favourite winter dish and you’ll be in the running to win a copy of Heart of the Valley. So get commenting!

 

I’m going to use my blog owner’s prerogative and add a few more days to the normal giveaway closing time so I can pimp this post and my book for longer. Hey, a girl has to do what she can! Anyway, this time you have until midnight, Thursday 3rd May, 2012 to leave your comment. Australian addresses only, sorry.

Now, in case you haven’t interacted enough with me yet, besides this blog I also play around on Twitter and Facebook, but only when I’m not hard at work daydreaming of bestsellerdom.

 

This giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to our lucky winner, Beck! Your copy of Heart of the Valley will be winging it’s way to you very soon. Thanks to all who entered. Some great comments as always.

THIS WRITING LIFE: Release Day Approacheth!

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Can you believe it? There’s only ONE sleep until my new rural romance, Heart of the Valley, releases.

I’m always amazed how quickly release date comes around. When the last edits are handed in you think it’s forever until release day, but then suddenly it’s racing toward you, bringing with it all the nerves and bubbly excitement that comes with knowing people will soon be buying, reading and commenting on your book.

I’m far more excited than nervous about Heart of the Valley because, quite frankly, I love this book. I love the characters, the emotion, the drama and the complex family relationships. I love how the animals are so integral to the story they’re almost characters in their own right. I adore the landscape of the Hunter Valley, viewed so passionately through the heroine, Brooke’s, eyes. I admire Brooke’s strength, her devotion to her friends, to her animals, to the property she loves. And I still have an embarrassingly monster-sized crush on the hero, Lachie. Sigh. I’m not sure I’ll ever recover from that man. He is one hell of a babe. Good thing he’s fictional or there might be trouble in the Hein household!

There have already been a few reviews.

The West Weekend Magazine’s Amanda Keenan had this to say:

Brooke Kingston is a pure-bred horsey girl soaring to great heights in the saddle. But a tragic twist of fate robs the agile rider of her confidence, and life as she knows it. Cue a love triangle including an old friend and a brooding man with a complicated history who will seek to salve her wounded soul and get her back in the saddle – so to speak. This sounds like the master stock for a rural romance recipe because it is. But that’s not a criticism – there’s something wonderfully absorbing about a rough and ready country yarn heavy with heartache, which weaves in complex family relationships, our gorgeous environment and a bit of raunchy rainstorm sex. Yee ha!

The Age and Sydney Morning Herald also had a large spread on rural lit, with Heart of the Valley reviewed alongside Fiona Palmer’s fabulous The Road Home, Fleur McDonald’s Purple Roads and Margareta Osborn’s Bella’s Run. In other words, pretty illustrious company!

Heart of the Valley is shown in great glory in this week’s BigW catalogue alongside Karly Lane’s Morgan’s Law, which also releases this week. Okay, so that’s not exactly a review but it still gives me a complete attack of the warm fuzzies.

Much to my surprise, I also received a gorgeous review for Promises this week which appeared in the Ipswich Advertiser.

Australian author Cathryn Hein had me from the first page and I’m sure anyone who likes romance novels without bodice ripping or cliché phrases will also love this story.

Lastly, I have a lot of blog visits coming up, some with giveaways, so make sure you keep your eyes peeled for those. You can currently find me at Booktopia, answering their Nine Naughty Questions and on Mandy Magro’s Awesome Aussie Authors segment. Friday I’ll be here for Friday Feast sharing a favourite winter-perfect soup recipe I nicked from my mum and giving away a copy of Heart of the Valley to one lucky commenter.

Yup, it’s all happening!

Before I go I’d like to leave you with a few photos from our time in France. Jim and I were fortunate enough to attend two ANZAC Days on the Somme, as well as the Service of Reinterment of four Australian soldiers whose remains were found near Merris in 2003 and reburied in an incredibly moving ceremony at Outtersteene Communal Cemetery Extension, Bailleul, near the Belgian border.

Dawn service at Villers-Bretonneux is one of the most moving experiences I’ve ever had and one I will never forget.

View from the tower

Australian National Memorial, Villers Bretonneux, France

An unknown soldier of the Great War

Australian National Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux, France

Tyne Cot Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery

Passchendaele, Belguim.

Tyne Cot is the largest Commonwealth war cemetery in the world.  There are now 11,956 soldiers buried here, 8,369 are unidentified.  This photo doesn’t do any justice to the heart-breaking scale of the place.

Reinterment for the four Australian soldiers whose remains were found near Merris in 2003

Outtersteen Communal Cemetery Extension, Bailleul, France

Lest we forget

What’s on this week

We had a long weekend here last week. Unfortunately Mother Nature wasn’t playing nice and it absolutely poured from Saturday afternoon onwards. But on Monday the weather cleared a little, so Jim and I slipped up the Hunter Valley to sneak in a round of golf. Somehow, we also managed to return home with 3 cases of wine in the car. What can I say? We were in the Hunter. All those wineries are hard to resist!

It was lovely to see the vines in leaf after winter, adding vibrancy to the landscape. If you’ve never been to the Hunter then put it on your bucket list. It’s a gorgeous place to visit and, as Brooke, the horse loving heroine of my next book Heart of the Valley will tell you, a wonderful place to live.

This week I’m featured on bestselling Australian author Nicole Alexander’s website, talking about what makes a good romantic story and what made me want to become a writer. Please drop by and say hello and if you haven’t already done so, take a look at Nicole’s books, The Barkcutters and A Changing Land, both great stories.

I’m also officially a cover girl, having made the front of last Saturday’s Newcastle Herald Weekender magazine. Sadly, I have yet to find link to the article on the Herald’s website but if one appears I’ll post it. But you can still catch the short Q&A I did for the Adelaide Advertiser’s Adelaide Now insert. Fun!

Lastly, keep an eye out for this week’s Friday Feast. My special guest Rachael Johns is promising me something sweet and irresistable. Can’t wait!