Well, are we in for a treat today on Friday Feast. This post is a hoot!

I am absolutely thrilled to host Helene Young this week. Helene is not only an award-winning romantic suspense winner, with two Australian Romance Reader Awards and a prestigious Romance Writers of Australia Romantic Book of the Year to her name, she’s also an accomplished pilot and senior Check and Training Captain with Australia’s largest regional airline.

Yeah, I know. Over achiever. I’d rather like to hate her but I can’t. She’s far too talented and nice.

Helene’s new book, Burning Lies, the third novel in her Border Watch series, releases in July and we don’t have a cover to tempt you with yet, but if you watch her website it’ll be appearing soon. In the meantime, here’s a taste of Shattered Sky, the ebook of which Helene has very generously offered to give away to one super-lucky commenter. But not until you’ve read her wonderful post!

 

SHATTERED SKY

Surviving a missile strike on her aircraft suddenly seems like the easy part for Lauren Bennett. A year after being attacked mid flight, Lauren is sure she’s overcome her guilt at losing a friend in the ensuing crash. Her brittle, glossy veneer doesn’t fool Callam Granger, though. But the naval patrol boat captain knows he’s got no right to an opinion. He wasn’t there when she needed him most and she’s not going to let him forget it.

On a routine surveillance assignment Lauren uncovers an operation trafficking sex slaves. Pursuing the women – and their captors – will take her deep into the Australian outback and a reluctant Callam knows this time he can’t let her go alone. Is it possible for Lauren and Callam to put aside old enmities to outwit, outrun and ultimately out-fly the traffickers? Or will the frantic race to free the women simply ignite their emotions, endangering yet more lives?

 

Excitement, danger, romance. Oh, I’m swooning right now, but before I wander off to pour a jug of water over myself Flashdance style, please let me welcome Helene Young!

 

Put a little bounce in your life.

Thanks for inviting me to ramble on your Friday Feast, Cathryn. Your blog is a must read for me every week!

Today I’m admitting to an eclectic employment history.  Before I was a writer, I was pilot (or still am, I suppose…) Before I was a pilot I was an Adventure Sports instructor. Before that I was a cook (although I was never qualified except in my imagination…).  I’ve been a gardener, a junk mail deliverer, a waitress (several times), and a McDonald’s chick – fries were my specialty. I enjoyed all them while I was gainfully employed, but the cooking gigs were right up there with flying and writing.

I love to cook. My passion for food originally grew out of need. Mum was an unadventurous, albeit healthy, cook who clearly looked on meal prep as her duty. It was never going to be her first love. She was happy to surrender her place in the kitchen and let me experiment. Predictably I had some disasters – blood rare lamb, fallen pavlovas, fiery hot curries, chewy bread, and tastes that really, really should never appear on the same plate. But I had fun!

At the end of school a girlfriend and I got a summer job instead of indulging in the madness of schoolies week. Kev’s Diner at Coolangatta was not the height of culinary excellence, but we were dab hands at hamburgers, anything that could be deep-fried, and smoothies.  The local surfers called it Chew and Spew as it was the only place open after midnight so the inevitable outcome of too much alcohol and greasy food was a deposit in the gutter… Not necessarily a comment on our cooking… We were probably the straightest chics the place had ever hired in our white uniforms and no dating policy. Ah the lost opportunities… sigh…

Sorry, I digress.

After a stint at Uni, and a close encounter with a lawn mower, I moved up the summer employment ladder to Jo Jo’s restaurant at Southport where desserts, dips and quiches were my domain. That was a fairly tumultuous but highly educational stint. Most importantly it looked great on a resume.

One thing led to another and after a couple of detours (including meeting my husband to be) I pitched up in North Wales at Llandudno working as a cook in a nursing home – with a difference. It was a psychiatric nursing home for dementia patients in a rambling 1800’s manor house with three floors of locked doors and a cavernous kitchen. My job was to do lunch, and prep dinner for the night cook.

Being a lover of all things fresh I decided I could make huge savings by swapping the frozen veg for something a little more gourmet. I sailed along for a couple of weeks with empty plates returning to the kitchen and the nurses even eating my food. I was on a roll!

Then the boss deposited a sack of brussel sprouts on my bench. They’d been on special, apparently. Hmmm. I hated them as a kid, over cooked, mushy baby cabbages. But then I’d eaten them more recently – lightly boiled, tossed in butter and garlic with a scattering of crispy bacon. Yum. They’d love it. I just knew it.

I peeled and scored, sautéed garlic and butter, baked wafer thin bacon to a crispy crunch. The smell was divine. Lunch was served and I leant against the bench with a smug smile. Five minutes later even I could hear the peels of laughter from the dining room. In came one of the nurses laughing too hard to speak. It was so entertaining they unlocked the doors and dragged me in to watch.

Turns out lightly boiled brussel sprouts bounce very well off ceilings and floors… Off tables and chairs even… No one complained about the mess because everyone was laughing too hard. Except me, initially… Hard to be offended in the face of real honest-to-god belly laughter.

The mere mention of sprouts or brussel sent the staff into fits for weeks to come. And it’s amazing how many conversations can give those two words a home…

Brussel sprouts still have a place in my heart, but twenty-five years later I make darn sure there’s no bounce left in the little suckers!

 

Brussels Sprouts with Balsamic Vinegar

500 gms fresh Brussels Sprouts

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced

1 medium onion, peeled and thinly sliced

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons butter

Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

Trim off the stems and remove any limp leaves from the brussels sprouts. Blanch the sprouts in boiling water to cover for 5 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking. Heat a large frying pan and add the olive oil, garlic and onion. Sauté a few minutes until the onion just becomes tender. Add the blanched, drained brussels sprouts. Sauté a few minutes. Add the vinegar and toss so that all the brussels sprouts are coated with the vinegar. Add the butter and salt and pepper to taste and toss again.

So, over to you. Time to ‘fess up. What culinary disasters have you had??

 

Oh, Helene, far too many to mention in the Hein household! One of these days I’ll get over my embarrassment and blog about my flambéing adventures. Still figuring out how we survived the Great Cognac Fire of ‘05…

So it’s up to you, dear Feasters. Start typing your disaster stories because one super fortunate commenter will win an ebook copy of Helene’s RuBY and ARR Award winning romantic suspense, Shattered Sky.

Giveaway closes midnight AEST, Tuesday 20th March, 2012. Open internationally.

Right, I’m off to test out Helene’s delicious-sounding sprout recipe and remind my other half that not all vegetables taste like they did at boarding school!

If you’d like to learn more about Helene and her wonderful books please visit her website. You can also connect via www.australianromanticsuspense.com, on Twitter and Facebook.

 

Helene’s giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to Rob H, who has won an ebook copy of Shattered Sky, and thanks to everyone who took the time to pop by and say hello. I hope to see you again. And don’t forget to keep an eye out for Helene’s next book, Burning Lies, which hits the shelves in July.

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