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Welcome to the first Friday Feast of autumn 2014.

To celebrate, we have suitably fabulous author sharing her latest release and a delicious recipe that  will have your tastebuds dancing. But first, the news you await every week from Us Heins Weren’t Meant To Play Golf. It rained so hard last weekend that my round was washed out. Naturally, this occurred right when my game was coming together. The Great Golfing God has it in for me, the sod. Hmph.Author photo of Margareta Osborn

But enough of that, let’s get onto the really important stuff: BOOKS and FOOD!

My guest this week is Margareta Osborn, best-selling author of rural-set romances Bella’s Run, Hope’s Road and A Bush Christmas. Not only does Margareta write great heroines, she is one herself as a volunteer fire-fighter, recently helping to fight the choking Hazelwood coal mine fire in Gippsland, among other incidents.

Margareta’s new release is Mountain Ash and the premise will have you hooked!

 

MOUNTAIN ASH

 

Cover of Mountain Ash by Margareta OsbornAfter years of struggling as a single mother, Jodie Ashton has given up on love and passion. What she craves now is security for herself and her beloved daughter Milly. And marriage to widower Alex McGregor, the owner of the prosperous Glenevelyn cattle station in East Gippsland, will certainly offer that. If only he wasn’t so much older and so controlling.

Needing space to decide her future, Jodie reluctantly agrees to a girls-only weekend at the Riverton rodeo …

Meanwhile, cowboy Nate McGregor vows off women, after his latest one-night stand costs him his job in the Northern Territory. Perhaps it’s time to head back to his family home, Glenevelyn, to check out for himself the ‘gold-digger’ his father seems determined to marry.

But first, on his way through Riverton, he plans to stop off at a rodeo.

Two lives are about to collide in one passionate moment – with devastating results…

 

Doesn’t that sound like a riveting read? Which is why you should be clickety-clicking right now on these ‘buy’ links. For the paperback, visit most excellent Australian online bookstore Booktopia. You can also try Bookworld, Angus & Robertson, Dymocks, QBD the Bookshop, your local independent, or your nearest chain store. For the ebook try Amazon for Kindle, Kobo, iTunes, Google Play or your favourite online retailer.

Loaded up? Good. Because you’ll need something delicious to snack on while eating and Margareta has just the thing!

 

Cooling It

 

Hi Cathryn, thanks so much for having me back on your blog. It seems like we’re  making this a yearly event!

Seeing the last few mornings up here in the Gippsland hills have had a snippet of autumn in the air (you can feel it, taste it, smell it), I had thought to give you a yummy autumn cum winter-ish recipe to get us in the mood for all that cool weather with it’s comforting, scrumptious food to come.

BUT … then we hit today.

Outside the temperature is in the mid 30’s and there’s a blistering hot wind blowing itself into frenzy. The dust is spinning into willy-willys and I can see what’s left of our pasture shrivelling before my eyes. So, I can hardly talk about warming casseroles and oozing puddings with all of us sweltering like lizards on a pile of hot rocks. Summer is obviously not done yet. In addition, the fire pager’s doing a dance on my desk requesting change-over crews for tonight, as the people of Gippsland have also been fighting bushfires, yours truly included. In fact it’s a wonder anyone in this part of the world is going to have time to read my latest novel MOUNTAIN ASH (just released on March 1, 2014) until autumn – and relief from the heat – arrives! The tagline of my latest novel, reads, ‘In matters of the heart she’s playing with fire …’. Unfortunately it’s a tad apt at the moment in this part of the world. And that’s before you throw in a devastating love triangle twist.

So maybe it’s time to head back to the kitchen and make the most decadent treat to cool off. I made this stunning looking, deviously simple and delicious ice-cream cake for Christmas lunch. It was a H.I.T. (in capitals!)

 

Ice-Cream Cake

 

Margareta Osborn's Ice-Cream Cake

Ingredients:

3 litres of vanilla ice-cream

400 g of chocolate honey-comb pieces, chopped into chunks

220g bottle of chocolate Ice-Magic

Fresh berries (I used strawberries & would’ve added raspberries if I’d had some) & icing sugar

Put 3 litres of ice-cream into a big bowl. (It needs to be BIG, trust me.) Leave to soften for 10 minutes (don’t let it melt).

Gently fold in the chopped honeycomb. (I did this in two bowls as one wasn’t big enough.)

Grease a 22cm spring-form tin. Line base and sides with 2 layers of baking paper. I suggest you go 2-3cm above the edge of the pan with the paper, creating ‘hungry-boards’, so you can get all that yummy ice-cream into the tin.

Spoon ice-cream and honeycomb mixture into the tin and level with a knife or spatula. Freeze overnight.

Just before serving tip ice-cream cake from tin (I removed sides of tin along with the paper, laid a plate on the ‘top’ and tipped the cake upside down so the bottom became the top.) Drizzle immediately with Ice Magic, allow a minute or so to harden then top with fresh fruit. Sift icing sugar over the fruit to finish.

This cake goes ultra well with plum pudding but it would be terrific with any other desert or just by itself.

Note: You can replace the honey-comb with other lollies or chocolate bar treats. Let your imagination run wild!

 

Thanks, Margareta. My imagination is absolutely running wild. Imagine this with Smarties or broken up Peppermint Crisp. The possibilities! And so stunning too.

Okay, Feasters, what dish do you like to make that is disproportionately impressive to the amount of effort that went into its creation? I have one that I’ve been making for years – meringue towers with berries. They’re basically glorified individual pavlovas, but constructed in such a way to form an impressive tower on the plate. Dead easy. The only tricky part is piping the meringue into circles and stripes.

So what about you? Can you make a stunning soup in a heartbeat? Whip up a colourful salad in moments that looks like it was taken from the pages of Gourmet Traveller? Make our lives easier so we have more time to spend with friends and family – or reading – and share away!

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

 

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On Sale April 23rd 2014

 

Cover of Rocking Horse Hill by Cathryn Hein

Ever since she was a little girl, Emily Wallace-Jones has loved Rocking Horse Hill. The beautiful family property is steeped in history. Everything important in Em’s life has happened there. And even though Em’s brother Digby has inherited the property, he has promised Em it will be her home for as long as she wishes.

When Digby falls in love with sweet Felicity Townsend, a girl from the wrong side of the tracks, Em worries about the future. But she is determined not to treat Felicity with the same teenage snobbery that tore apart her relationship with her first love, Josh Sinclair. A man who has now sauntered sexily back into Em’s life and given her a chance for redemption.

But as Felicity settles in, the once tightly knitted Wallace-Jones family begins to fray. Suspicions are raised, Josh voices his distrust, and even Em’s closest friends question where Felicity’s motives lie. Conflicted but determined to make up for the damage caused by her past prejudices, Em sides with her brother and his fiancée until a near tragedy sets in motion a chain of events that will change the family forever.

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Got your attention? Good, because this is serious stuff!

There was an interesting article that appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers recently about ‘heat’ ratings in romance novels, which prompted me to ponder sex in our home-grown rural romances and what reader expectations might be on that front.

Heartland by Cathryn Hein coverI have no idea, and that bothers me because I’m all for fulfilling my readers’ expectations, but I’ve had no feedback or seen any comment about the sex in my books at all. The explicitness has varied with each release, so what then do readers prefer?

For me it all depends on the characters. Callie and Matt in Heartland, being the people that they are, seemed to suit spontaneous, rompy sex and I had a hell lot of fun writing those scenes.

Matt stumbled his way to the single bed until they fell in a tangle of sweaty arms and legs amid creaking springs and laughter. Callie’s shorts winged across the room, following his cargo pants, the last of her underwear sling-shotting after them. Callie laughed as Matt’s jocks caught on his springy cock, enjoying his hungry, almost pained expression as she levered him out and tugged them over his hips and down his legs. Grinning, she twirled the jocks around her finger before flinging them toward the wardrobe.

I would have felt awkward doing the same for Sophie and Aaron in Promises because they were quite sweet characters, while describing the bedroom antics of my 2014 release Rocking Horse Hill’s privileged heroine would have made me feel like a dirty perv. She’s definitely not the sort of person who would appreciate others being privy to her private life (although, given Rocking Horse Hill’s sexpot hero, I bet she has an amazing time in the bedroom).

So I asked a couple of rural romance buddies how they decide how explicit to be with their sex scenes…

 

Fiona Palmer, best-selling author of The Family Farm, The Sunburnt Country and other great rural reads is of similar opinion to me:

Cathryn, I agree that it is up to the characters. In one of my books it happens on the back of a ute and in another book the sex scene called for a more soft gentle approach.  The Outback Heart by Fiona PalmerSo I go with what I feel, what I think the characters would do and see where it leads. I do love good sexual tension in books and so I like a little sneak peek of when they get to finally act on this tension. I personally enjoy the hot parts, but it doesn’t sway my like or dislike of a book if it has hot sex or not. Just like in Pride and Prejudice, sometimes just the touch of a hand can mean so much more.

I haven’t heard back from any readers saying they didn’t enjoy the sex scenes in my books. (In fact I have the blokes asking for more!) So I will just keep going based on what I think the characters need and want.  Here is a snippet from my latest book The Outback Heart and this paragraph is the raunchiest of the whole sex scene.

‘Amazing.’ Troy’s gaze swept across her breasts as she arched her back, waiting for his touch. A shaky hand caressed her soft skin, his thumb flicking over an already hard nipple. Indi tightened her legs around his waist as he bent to taste one bud, before moving to the next, his tongue flicking and teasing. His hand went down to where she was hot and moist. Indi dug her fingers into his shoulders as a moan fell from her lips.

 

Rachael Johns, best-seller and Australian Romance Reader Award winner expands on the sex depends on character theme:

I consider my rural books very much romance books and therefore exploring the chemistry between the main characters is a must for me. But how heated and graphic that exploration is really does depend on the hero and heroine in each book.

Outback Dreams by Rachael JohnsThings such as whether the characters have just met play a factor and also their previous relationship experiences. In my first book Jilted, Ellie and Flynn were high school sweethearts and the attraction between them was always spicy but at the beginning of the book they are trying to fight it because of the hurt they both carry.  In Man Drought, Imogen and Gibson experience instant attraction but they both have reasons to steer clear of the opposite sex, however each interaction between them gets hotter and hotter till it blows up in his ute on the side of the road. That might be my sauciest rural romance scene.

If I know my characters well, I find the sex scenes almost write themselves. In Outback Dreams, my latest release, Faith and Monty have been best friends forever but have only just realized they also find each other attractive, so their first sex scene had a different tone again.

Her smile gave her consent and within seconds they were tumbling backwards, pausing only to tear up the zip on the tent, before collapsing on top of their waiting swags. She couldn’t tell who hit the ground first but they both reached for each other, tearing at each other’s clothing like hungry beasts. In complete darkness and with no method to their madness they didn’t seem to be getting anywhere, so Faith pulled back and took care of her own clothes. Monty did the same and when he reached for her again, she felt his warm, naked flesh against hers.

A moan of approval slipped from her lips.

Damn the dark. She willed her eyes to adjust so she could look her fill at the specimen beside her.

And then he was touching her. He pulled her towards him, tugged a blanket over the top of them and smoothed her hair. ‘You okay?’

Okay? Words could not do justice to her level of okay-ness. Why had they never gone here before? ‘Yes.’

I like reading about the sex between two people who are in love or at least on the road to falling in love, and so I like to give a glimpse of this to my readers as well. However, I don’t get too graphic with my sex scenes as I believe it is the emotional not the physical side of a love scene that is most important.

 

Karly Lane, best-selling author of North Star, Morgan’s Law and Bridie’s Choice is also mindful of her readers:

I’ve noticed a steady increase in what my editor and publisher expect in my books. In North Star I was asked to trim a lot of the scenes, but in Morgan’s Law I was asked to show the readers more!Bridie's Choice by Karly Lane I think publishers are aware of the whole Fifty Shades of Grey epidemic and that women’s fiction is undergoing a shake up at the moment, and so they’re willing to stretch the boundaries a little more than they may once have.

I personally, write what suits my plot and characters. I won’t write an explicit love scene just to keep up with a current trend. I had a reader who told me she allowed her young teenage daughter to read my books because she knew they weren’t too overly explicit. I’m very conscious of what my readers like which is why I won’t be jumping on the mommy porn band wagon just for the sake of it.

This quote from Bridie’s Choice gives a good example of Karly’s boundaries.

She heard him groan softly next to her ear, and she urged him onto his back, following him down until she straddled him. His surprised chuckle soon faded and was replaced with an intense look as he cupped her face in his hands, holding her gaze silently for a long moment. The depth of feeling in that one shared look made Bridie quiver with a mixture of emotion and lust. Leaning forward, she kissed him, pouring into the kiss the feelings she knew she couldn’t voice.

His hands slipped to her waist, holding her firmly as she began to move slowly against him. The gentle moans of their mutual need drifted away on the breeze above them.

 

Mandy Magro, best-selling author of Rosalee Station, Jacaranda and Flame Tree Hill has a different take:

I like to leave the bedroom door wide open, in ALL my novels. Driftwood 3Actually, I love to take my characters out of the bedroom to make it even steamier 🙂 When two people fall in love, the most intimate way to show this is through love making, be it slow and sensual or hungry, hot and steamy. I love writing these scenes and will endeavour to include them in each and every one of my future novels.

Mandy demonstrates just how steamy with this excerpt from her November 1st release, Driftwood.

Taylor panted as she reached out and gripped the sides of the rock, her hips arching into Jay’s lusciously warm mouth, his tongue and lips seducing her into seventh heaven. Her eyes closed in ecstasy as she teetered on the edge, her entire body quivering. How could a man send her into a sexual trance so beyond the normal realm she felt as though she was floating into an abyss? Finally, succumbing to his enchanting mouth, she toppled over the edge of self-control and screamed out his name, pulsating against his ravishing tongue as she climaxed to the point of breathlessness, every centimetre of her shuddering.

So, dear readers, what do you prefer? Well described sex or more teasing hints? The door open or closed? Do you need sex to complete the romance side of the story? Or does it depend on the characters or plot?

Comment away! Fiona, Rachael, Karly, Mandy and I would love to hear your thoughts.

If you’d like to know more about Fiona, Rachael, Karly, Mandy and their books, or wish to follow them on Facebook, Twitter and other social networks, you’ll find all the links on their websites. Just click a name below to discover more.

Fiona Palmer

Rachael Johns

Karly Lane

Mandy Magro

Cathryn Hein

 

 

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First up, some exciting news. For a very limited time, the ebook of Heart of the Valley will be made available in all formats at the bargain price of $2-99. So if you, your family or friends are after a heart-warming Australian story to read over summer, here’s a great chance to pick one up at a super sharp price.

Don’t have an e-reader, tablet or smartphone? That’s okay. Simply download Kindle or Kobo app for your desktop and away you go.

Now, click, click and be merry!

Amazon (Kindle)

Kobo

iTunes

Google Play

Bookworld

 

Also available at other good ebook retailers.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to wish each and every one of you a truly magic-filled Christmas and a wonderful New Year.  Thank you for all your support through 2012 and I look forward to having more fun with you in 2013.

O

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