I am so very excited to introduce this week’s special Friday Feast guest, Anna Campbell. I discovered Anna when I won Tempt The Devil in a blog contest and from that first read she’s been one of my favourite authors. Her historical romances are big, sexy and lushly written, and hold a special place on my bookshelf.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Anna, here’s a quick bio.

Photograph (c) Robyn Hills www.robyngraphs.com.au

Queenslander ANNA CAMPBELL has written six historical romances for Avon HarperCollins and her work is published internationally, including in the United States, Germany, Russia, Turkey and Japan. Anna has won numerous awards for her sweeping, emotional stories set in the first quarter of the 19th century. These awards include Romantic Times Reviewers Choice, the Booksellers Best, the Golden Quill (twice), the Heart of Excellence, the Aspen Gold (twice) and the Australian Romance Readers Association’s most popular historical romance (three times). The Australian Romance Readers Association voted Anna their favourite Australian romance author of 2009 and 2010. Anna’s latest release is MIDNIGHT’S WILD PASSION recently nominated as best sensual historical romance of 2011 in the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Awards. For Australian and New Zealand readers, you can buy CLAIMING THE COURTESAN, TEMPT THE DEVIL and MY RECKLESS SURRENDER under the title THE COURTESAN COLLECTION as a special e-book bundle at a bargain price from 13th December.

And now without further delay, here’s Anna!

Whatever Takes My Fancy

Hi Cathryn! So pleased to be here. Thank you for asking me. As you know from our various meetings at Romance Writers of Australia conferences, food and drink are among my favourite things. Throw in a great romance novel or two and basically I’d be happy to while at least six months away on a desert island. Or perhaps I should say DESSERT island.

I write historical romances set in the United Kingdom in the 1820s. I think of my stories as adult fairytales so of course the hero is a prince (well, usually a duke or an earl but pretty close to a prince!). And because he’s a prince with endless wealth (hey, I did say it was a fairytale!), he very kindly allows the author access to all the things the author wishes she had access to every day.

That means my heroines can wear silks and satins and velvets and sport beautiful jewels. And I do have fun with the lingerie! And so do my heroes. Snicker. I let my imagination play in beautiful mansions, often based on houses I’ve visited in England but decorated to my taste. Again with no expense spared. I think it’s no coincidence that all my heroes own magnificent libraries. I’ve ALWAYS wanted to own a magnificent library with ceiling-high bookcases and leather couches and gilded globes on gold stands and huge desks.

My fantasy can also go wild with food and wine. And the even better fantasy of a household full of servants to prepare the meals and clean up afterwards. In fact, I think that’s the best fantasy of all!

The Regency was actually one of the great culinary eras so there’s plenty of inspiration. It was an age of luxury and elegance and indulgence of the senses at exorbitant cost. The world-famous Marie-Antoine Carême was the world’s first celebrity chef, cooking for the crowned heads of Europe, including the Prince Regent, and credited with the invention of haute cuisine. Here’s a fascinating Wikipedia article about his life. Pretty impressive to go from streetkid during the French Revolution to the toast (pun intended!) of Europe.

A lot of these elaborate creations required a huge number of man hours and I doubt if they’re practical today. These dishes come from an era where manpower was cheap so even without labour-saving devices, you could turn meals into complex works of art.

Do any of you watch the fascinating ROYAL UPSTAIRS DOWNSTAIRS on the History Channel? The hosts visit stately homes where Queen Victoria stayed and create a dish she ate while there. Even for professionals, it’s pretty obvious that these dishes require mind-boggling skill and time and patience. I remember one dish where they made 500 tiny beautifully detailed pastry leaves to decorate a game pie. And that was only one dish in a banquet that could feature over 100 choices. Those days are gone – unless you’re reading a historical romance!

So what has been my latest imaginative indulgence? The glories of ancient Greece and the contemporary Greek struggle to cast off Turkish occupation captured the imagination of Regency England. Lord Byron the poet died in 1824 fighting in the Greek War of Independence. In the book I’ve just handed in (title to be confirmed but out late in 2012), my plutocrat hero Jonas spends much of his youth traveling in Greece. It seemed quite possible that he’d develop a taste for Greek cooking which he’d carry back to England. My lucky heroine undergoes seduction by baklava!

The first time I ever tried this delicious Greek pastry was when I was a very miserable inmate of a rather Dickensian boarding school. I was friendly with a Greek girl whose mother would send me care packages of traditional homemade Greek delicacies. I was immediately hooked. And my favourite of the lot was wonderful filo pastry and nut baklava. I’ve found a recipe on the SBS site which decadently substitutes mixed nuts for pistachios. Because of copyright issues, I won’t copy it out, but here’s the link:

http://www.sbs.com.au/food/recipe/661/Baklava

Actually I’m surprised that it’s not more complicated to make. I, the world’s worst cook, might even have a go at this. Although I must say fantasy baklava doesn’t linger on the hips quite the way the real stuff does!

Hmm, why am I suddenly hungry?

So do you like Greek food? Are you a baklava aficionado? If a gorgeous Regency hero set out to seduce you, what should he pack in the picnic basket? I’ve got a copy of my most recent book MIDNIGHT’S WILD PASSION to give away to a commenter (open internationally). I think that counts as a sensual indulgence seeing that’s what we’re talking about today!

What a fantastic post. Thanks, Anna. That baklava recipe looks divine! Definitely one for the test recipe file. And speaking of divine, how gorgeous is that Midnight’s Wild Passion cover? Excerpts from this and Anna’s other books, plus loads of other information and extras, can be found on her website.

Okay, everyone, get commenting. Entries in the MIDNIGHT’S WILD PASSION contest close Monday, 28th November at midnight (Australian time).

Congratulations to RIYA, who has won a signed copy of Anna’s Midnight’s Wild Passion.

Happy reading, Riya. I’m certain you’ll love this book.  And many thanks to all you lovely people who dropped by and turned Anna’s Friday Feast guest appearance into a real party.

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