Well, not quite. But I’ve just uploaded my first, rather silly video to YouTube.
Enjoy… or not.
Well, not quite. But I’ve just uploaded my first, rather silly video to YouTube.
Enjoy… or not.
Hello, my lovelies, and welcome to this Romance Writers of Australia annual conference edition of Friday Feast. Yes, I’m at Romance Rocks which is indeed totally rockin’. Hope to have lots of photos and fun news to share about it over the next few weeks, once I’ve recovered. RWA conferences are brilliant but exhausting.
In footy news, my darling Sydney Swans had another win last Friday night. It wasn’t the prettiest but a win is a win, and we’re streaking gallantly toward the end of the season and finals. Gallant streaking is not something that’s happening in Us Heins Weren’t Meant To Play Golf news, however. It was ugly last week, very ugly. Balls in the water. Balls out of bounds. Every ball seemed to have a death wish, which is nearly the way I felt by the end of my round. But with this week dedicated to all things romance writing, maybe the time off will do me good. I can only hope…
And now to this week’s guest: Me!
With so many of our talented authors busy at the conference, I’m taking over the Feast. Which means I get to talk about my upcoming release, The French Prize, because I’m REALLY SUPER-DUPER EXCITED ABOUT IT! And all the pre-order links are now live, which means you can book your copy now. Wheeee!
Take a looksie. It’s faaaaaaabulous!
Australian-born Dr. Olivia Walker is an Oxford academic with a reputation as one of the world’s leading Crusade historians and she’s risked everything on finding one of the most famous swords in history – Durendal. Shrouded in myth and mystery, the sword is fabled to have belonged to the warrior Roland, a champion of Charlemagne’s court, and Olivia is determined to prove to her detractors that the legend is real. Her dream is almost within reach when she discovers the long-lost key to its location in Provence, but her benefactor – Raimund Blancard – has other ideas.
For more than a millennium, the Blancard family have protected the sword. When his brother is tortured and killed by a man who believes he is Roland’s rightful heir, Raimund vows to end the bloodshed forever. He will find Durendal and destroy it, but to do that he needs Olivia’s help.
Now Olivia is torn between finding the treasure for which she has hunted all her life and helping the man she has fallen in love with destroy her dream. And all the while, Raimund’s murderous nemesis is on their trail, and he will stop at nothing to claim his birthright.
Doesn’t that sound rollicking? Rollicking AND romantic and you can pre-order the print version right now from Booktopia, Bookworld, Angus & Roberston, QBD The Bookshop, Abbey’s Bookshop, Fishpond.com.au, or the ebook from Amazon, Google Play and iBooks.
Right, now you’re all sorted, let have a scrumpy French recipe.
Besides our sexy, stoic hero Raimund and gutsy heroine Olivia, there are some fun secondary characters in The French Prize. Christiane and Edouard, Raimund’s godparents were a hoot to write.
Edouard adores a drink, and is always thrusting a glass of something alcoholic at Olivia. His wife, Christiane, rules her kitchen like a haughty queen, and god help you if you’re late for a meal. She’s a wonderful cook and takes great joy in making Raimund’s favourite meals for him. There’s hachis parmentier, salade de chevre chaud, petit farcis, moules, and tarte de chevre – all classic French dishes.
When we lived in Provence, I was lucky enough to attend a cooking school at a local lady’s house south of Aix-en-Provence. For two days, myself and two friends were picked up from Aix and carted off to the markets. Laden with beautiful produce and wine, we’d then head to her kitchen to cook ourselves silly before sitting out in the sunshine to savour our lunch and drinks. I enjoyed one of the best meals I’ve ever eaten during this time, a dish called petit farcis – stuffed Provencal vegetables – served with a fresh tomato sauce.
It’s weird, but as much as I loved that meal I haven’t made it again, although I’ve thought about doing so many times. I think I’m too scared it won’t taste the same. That it will taint that special memory. Every time I think of those two days I’m struck by how amazing they were. How bright the sun, how lovely the company, how incredible the food and wine tasted.
One French dish I have made many times since our return home is this onion tart. I first tried this in Strasbourg and fell completely in love with the creamy filling and flavours of caramelised onion and lardons. It’s really rich and bad for you but phht. So what? It’s not like you’re going to be eating it on a daily basis, is it?
Pâte brisée or shortcrust pastry – bought or your favourite recipe – rolled to fit a 27cm tart tin with removable base
1 tablespoon olive oil
700g brown onions, peeled
200g good quality, thick smoked bacon (rind removed), flat pancetta or speck, chopped into 5mm x 2cm long pieces (or thereabouts – don’t get too fussy, it’s a simple dish)
Salt, pepper, nutmeg
6 egg yolks
Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
Line the tart tin with pastry. Place a sheet of baking paper on top and fill with beans, rice, or ceramic baking weights and blind bake for 10 minutes. Remove rice/beans and bake another 5 minutes. The pastry should be lightly golden.
Meanwhile, halve the onions and then slice very finely into half moons. In a large saucepan, melt butter and oil over low heat and add onions. Cook, stirring regularly, with lid on for an hour or more, or until the onions are very soft and only slightly golden. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
Heat a small pan over medium heat and lightly fry the bacon. Add to onions.
Season onions and bacon with salt and pepper and a few scrapes of freshly grated nutmeg.
Whisk the egg yolks with the cream and then mix in the onions and bacon. Pour into the baked pastry case and pop into the oven for half an hour, or until set.
Serve warm with salad and a nice glass of white wine.
Now, because I’m feeling all nostalgic and convivial, I think we should have a…
Who would like to score a signed copy of The French Prize? Well, here’s your chance to snag one. And it’s an easy giveaway too. All you have to do is share the best dish or meal you’ve eaten while on holidays.
Maybe it’s… fish and chips with a special someone on the beach, or that unreal curry you sampled on your last trip to Thailand. Perhaps the meal you ate at a famous restaurant or the barbecue you had in a mate’s backyard. Simple or flash, it doesn’t matter as long as you share you’ll be in the random draw!
And because I’ll be away all weekend and too knackered when I return home to promote it widely, I’ll leave this one open a little longer. So…
Giveaway closes midnight THURSDAY 14th August 2014, AEST. Australian postal addresses only.
If you’d like to learn more about me and my books, just keep tooling around the website. There’s funstuff like The Story Behind, where I reveal the inspiration behind my books, and plenty to explore on the blog and elsewhere. Why not sign up to my newsletter while you’re here? (Scroll down to the bottom of the Home page) Subscribers get all the news plus exclusive giveaways and my undying affection.
This giveaway has now closed. Congratulations to Astrid, who has won herself a copy of The French Prize. A big warm thank you to everyone who joined in the Feasty fun and shared their best holiday meals. You all made me jealous!
Hello Feasters! Yes, it’s ME on Friday Feast today, all ready to spoil you with something deliciously bad for you but perfect for winter. However, I know you’re itching to hear the latest Us Heins Weren’t Meant To Play Golf news. Much to our shock, after combining well last week Jim and I headed into the second round our club’s foursomes championships as the nett score leaders. Alas, the curse struck. We were poo. Collapsed in screaming heap of three putts and duffed shots. My darling Swannies, however, did not, beating Richmond by 11 points and leaving them in third behind the Hawks only on percentage. Rah! Now, the second half of this year is rather exciting for me. Not only will The French Prize release in September, my debut rural romance Promises is re-releasing at the end of August in the smaller and cheaper ‘B’ format with a new cover (which I can’t show you just yet). This is a lovely book with a gorgeous story, a courageous heroine and a hero torn by his past. Truly sigh-worthy (if I do say so myself!). Plus lots of funny horses. Take a look.
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. You can buy Promises right now with just a few clicks. Try Booktopia, Bookworld, Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, JB Hi-Fi, Google Play, QBD The Bookshop, Angus & Robertson, or direct from the publisher Penguin.
Ah, comfort food. From thick, vege laden soups through to slow-cooked casseroles and fantastically fattening desserts, there is nothing quite like loading up on rich food in the winter. There’s something so warm and homely about a house that smells of good food when it’s miserable outside. We call it “nesting” in the Hein house. Kind of like date night but without going out. Usually there’ll be some sort of casserole, tagine or curry burbling away in the oven or on the stovetop. Something that requires a long, slow cook like spicy lamb shanks, beef in beer, our awesome goat tagine recipe, or even one of our favourite curries (of which we have many). While that’s cooking, we’ll have the stereo going, maybe a Guinness will be cracked, and I’ll be working on some sort of tasty dessert that we won’t need but we’ll eat anyway. The house will smell wonderful and feel cosy and we’ll be all snug and happy. Seriously, if it weren’t for the cold, winter would be my favourite season simply because of the food. It’s 11 degrees and raining as I write this. Last Friday I finished the 2nd draft of The Falls, my 2015 rural romance, which means I’m having a little holiday before knuckling down to my next romantic adventure. Time to indulge in recipes like the one I’m about to share. Something that has winter and nesting written all over it. It’s luscious, beautiful tasting and not terribly healthy. But who cares? You can exercise it off in the spring.
2 tablespoons duck fat 1 onion, finely diced 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped 150 g mild pancetta, finely diced 2 celery stalks, finely diced 1 small carrot, finely diced 150 ml dry white wine 185 g French green lentils 3 sprigs thyme 2 bay leaves 1 litre beef stock 6 Toulouse sausages (or any other good quality pork sausage) Melt the duck fat over a medium heat in a heavy casserole. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until soft. Add pancetta, celery and carrot and cook for 5 minutes or so. Add wine, lentils, thyme, bay leaves and stock. Bring to the boil then lower to a simmer. Cover and cook for approximately 1 hour or until lentils are tender. Taste and season with salt and pepper as necessary. When lentils are ready, grill the sausages. When they’re nicely done, spoon lentils onto plates and top with sausages. Enjoy! Okay, my Feasty lovelies, what’s your favourite naughty winter indulgence? Is it super-fattening chocolate pudding? Maybe pints of Guinness are more your go. Perhaps you like nestling down in your local pub or club or booking yourself into a day spa for some pampering. Or maybe, most excellent and discerning person that you are, you hang around bookshops, stocking up on goodies. Share and give us all ideas on how to make our winter special. Want to find out more about me than my love of naughty wintery comfort food? Check out my website. You can also find me playing around on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. And while you’re exploring, take a minute to sign up to my newsletter. All the news and releases and special things direct to your inbox. Sign up at the bottom of my Home page or via my Contact page.
It’s here! It’s here!
The gorgeous cover of my shiny new romantic adventure, The French Prize. Coming September 1st to a book store near you. I’m so excited!
Australian born medieval historian Dr Olivia Walker believes she’s found her Holy Grail when she levers La Tasse du Chevalier Gris from the harsh Provencal dirt. For it is this pottery cup, with its ancient riddle, that could lead her to the resting place of one of the most famous swords in history — the warrior Roland’s legendary Durendal. But she soon discovers the man who employed her to find La Tasse, starched but sexy Frenchman Raimund Blancard, has other ideas.
For more than a millennium, the Blancards have protected the sword. When his brother is tortured and killed by a man who believes he is Roland’s rightful heir, Raimund vows to end the bloodshed forever. He will find Durendal and destroy it, but to do that he needs Olivia’s help.
Now Olivia is torn between finding the treasure for which she has hunted all her life and helping the man she has fallen in love with destroy her dream. All the while, Raimund’s murderous nemesis is on their trail — and will stop at nothing to claim his birthright.
Stay tuned for pre-order links and more!
I am absolutely delighted to announce that I will have TWO books out this year.
My latest rural romance, Rocking Horse Hill, hits the shelves in less than a month, but come September I’ll have another release in a brand new genre.
The French Prize is the first in what I hope will be a long line of romantic adventure novels. The French Prize features gutsy Australian heroine Dr Olivia Walker and her quest to discover an ancient sword called Durendal. There’s drama and history, gorgeous Provencal scenery, and even a touch of French food. And because I write romance, there’ll also be plenty of passion and sexy good sorts to get all gooey over.
I’m ridiculously excited about this news. With these books we’ll be able to experience all sorts of thrilling adventures in colourful foreign lands while in pursuit of historical and legendary artefacts. A fine excuse for a research trip or two if ever there was one. Not to mention long couch sessions spent watching Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones. Sigh.
The French Prize will be released under Harlequin Australia’s MIRA imprint. Harlequin, as you probably know, is a leading global publisher of romantic fiction. A second book, as yet untitled, has already been scheduled for 2015.
And rural romance fans, never fear, there are still more of those in the pipeline!