Posts Tagged ‘Heartland’

First up, I’m a very proud Australian Romance Reader Award finalist in two categories. Such a thrill!

My rural romance Heartland is up for Favourite Contemporary Romance and, much to my great honour, I’m up for Favourite Australian Romance Author. Winners will be announced at the awards dinner at Cello’s Restaurant, Castlereagh Hotel, Sydney on 22nd March. Tickets to this glittery, star-studded night can be booked through ARRA. Go on, you know you want to be there!

Sitting on the hall table, ready for posting, is a package containing the proof-read pages of Rocking Horse Hill. Which means the next time I see this manuscript, it won’t be looking like this:

Rocking Horse Hill by Cathryn Hein first page proofs

It’ll be in book form with a shiny cover for me to stroke and feel gooey over. Rah!

Which brings me to a release date. Mark your calendars, cos Rocking Horse Hill is coming soon.

Release date for Rocking Horse Hill 23rd April 2014

Speaking of covers, it won’t be long and I’ll have one to show off. Newsletter subscribers score a look before anyone else. So if you want to be the first to see the cover and blurb, as well as catch up on other news, take a trip to my website and sign up.

Currently I’m well into my 2015 book, The Falls, which stars Teagan Bliss, a character from Rocking Horse Hill. This one is set in a gorgeous valley in New South Wales and features some “interesting” villagers, as well as a super sexy farrier hero and an evil cat. Great fun!

For those in the Mildura and Red Cliffs area, I’m coming your way. Just in time for Valentine’s Day too.

Promo for Mildura and Red Cliffs library talk

For more information, please visit the Mildura Rural City Council website.

My new website is nearing completion and should go live mid next month. I can’t wait. It’s so pretty!

Friday Feast is still on holidays but I’ve lined up some fantastic authors to kick the year off. Stay tuned for more on that. But if you’re looking for some recipes to try then don’t forget the recipe index is there for you to salivate over. Toblerone brownies, anyone?

And finally, a quick Us Heins Weren’t Meant To Play Golf update. I dropped another stroke off my handicap. I have no idea how or why, but it happened. The Great Golfing God is toying with me…

Till next time, stay cool (or warm!) and enjoy your Australia Day weekend. I know I will!


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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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By the time this post goes live I’ll be whooping it up in Fremantle with my fellow Romance Writers of Australia members at our annual conference. I can’t express how much I enjoy these conferences. Not only are they a great learning Cathryn Hein author photoexperience and incredibly inspirational, I get to catch up with all my writing friends and make new ones.

RWA conferences are LOUD. Hundreds of (mainly) women talking and laughing non-stop, squealing and hugging one another. There are times for serious discussion about craft and business, and times for pure silliness, like the Friday night cocktail party where people dress up. But all of them are good times. I can’t wait!

Because so many of us are busy with book deadlines or conferencing, I’m taking over Friday Feast today, which means I get to excite you once again with my latest release, Heartland!


Heartland by Cathryn Hein coverWhen Callie Reynolds arrives at Glenmore, the property she’s recently inherited, the last thing she wants is to be saddled with a warty horse, an injured neighbour and a mad goose. Haunted by her sister’s death and her fractured family, all she wants is freedom.

But Callie hasn’t counted on falling for Matt Hawkins, an ex-soldier determined to fulfil his own dream of land and family. Nor could she predict the way the land, animals and people of Glenmore will capture her heart.

Callie is faced with impossible choices. But she must find the courage to decide where her future lies, even if it costs her everything she holds dear.

Heartland is available now in paperback from your favourite bookseller or chain store, or you can order online from most excellent Australian book retailer Booktopia. If ebooks are your thing, try Kobo, JB Hi-Fi Books, Amazon Kindle, iTunes or Google Play. For a full list of retailers check out my website.

And now I bring you… ME!


I have summer on the brain. Skies so vivid and bright they make your eyes squint. Shimmery, heat-hazed air. The chirrup of crickets and almost screamingly loud song of cicadas calling in chorus. Condensation on cold wine glasses. Dining on the patio in shorts, t-shirts and thongs. Seafood.

There’s just something about summer and seafood that blends perfectly for me. Maybe it was all those blazing hot days spend at our beach shack at Nene Valley, on the far southern coast of South Australia. Days where draining crayfish, their shells bright tomato red, hogged the bathtub. When we ate so much crayfish we were sick of it. When my Uncle Phil flash fried thin slices of fresh caught abalone on the barbecue. When it was a thrill to have sausages instead of whiting or snapper or bream.

I can’t wait for summer to blister its way back. As soon as it does, seafood will be on the menu.

I have quite a few favourite seafood dishes, almost all of them dead simple to make.Cathryn at Vieux Port, Marseille I’m a great believer that seafood should be left to shine on its own and not overdosed with other flavours or coated in complicated sauces. One of the best recipes I have is one that I pretty much copied from a restaurant on the Vieux Port in Marseille, France, which, for the sake of covering my bum, I’ll call Le Red Fish.

Le Red Fish was like the Fawlty Towers of the Vieux Port, and massively entertaining. I think we took every visitor who came over to France there for lunch. The waiters would argue between themselves, eye-rolling, yelling and waving arms. Abuse would be shouted at potential guests who perused the menu display but chose to walk on. The toilets were located up the top of a narrow, slippery and filthy staircase, opposite the kitchen. Once, I found the kitchen door open and managed a glimpse inside, and wished to hell I hadn’t.

Notre Dame de la Garde, MarseilleBut the view was brilliant. We’d sit at the outdoor tables, watching tourists and stylish locals promenade. The harbour sprawled in front, laden with expensive yachts, fishing boats, and lined with gorgeous old buildings. Look up and there stood Notre Dame de la Garde, Marseille’s famous Byzantine style basilica, topped with a magnificently gilded statue of Our Lady gazing benevolently over the sea, protecting sailors as she’s done since the 1860s. To the right, facing one other across the port entrance, were the old twin forts of Saint Jean and Saint Nicolas. Look left, down toward the Quay des Belges, and there was Marseille’s main thoroughfare, La Canabière.

As for the food? Wonderfully simple. Le Red Fish didn’t do flash or complicated. It boasted dishes like soupe de poisson (fish soup), salade de chevre chaud (grilled goat cheese salad), entrecôte grillée (steak) and plat de fruit de mer (seafood platter). My favourite was their prawns in pastis, that famous liquorice flavoured liqueur so beloved in the region. And after much experimentation and consultation of Provencale cookbooks, I managed to invent a pretty good version of La Red Fish’s dish, perfect for a lazy summer lunch washed down with a bottle of pale pink dry rosé.

Prawns In Pastis

Prawns in pastis

1 kg fat green unpeeled prawns

5 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

1 bunch of parsley, finely chopped

1/2 cup of Ricard Pastis de Marseille

Olive oil – a nice hefty slug

Heat oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and prawns and toss well.

When the prawns are almost cooked, ignite the pastis and pour over the prawns. Make sure you have a lid handy to cover the fire before you burn your kitchen down (as we once nearly did). Toss through parsley and serve.

I’ve also tried this with cognac and had tasty results.

What dish will you be making this summer? Looking forward to a plain old barbie? What about a crisp salad, or cold Asian noodle dish tossed with hot and sour flavours? Maybe you have fresh seafood on your mind too or a hankering for ice-cold desserts and icecreams that drip. I’d love to hear what tempts you!

If you’d like to learn more about me and my books, please visit my website. You can also connect via Facebook, Twitter and this blog!

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Keep your eyes out for some fantastic events happening now and soon…

Heartland Review Fun

A wonderful review of my latest rural romance Heartland on the Australian Romance Readers Association blog.

“I’m missing the people in this story. I didn’t realise until I read the last page and shut the book. When I walked away, from it, I realised I felt bereft.” Rosalie for the ARRA blog.

Isn’t that a lovely thing to say? I’m so delighted.

If you’re an ARRA member, leave a comment and you’ll go into the draw to win a copy of Heartland. Giveaway closes 17th July.

You can read more about Heartland, including an excerpt and the story of how the book came into being, on my website.


Booktopia’s Australian Romance Month, Featuring Fabulous Giveaways

Join most excellent Australian online bookseller Booktopia for their Australian Romance month, where I, and a fine line-up of Australian romance authors, will be entertaining you with our witty answers to questions like: Who do you swoon over? and Tell us something very few people know about you, and the ever so tricky, Finish this sentence: I would do anything for love, but I won’t do  ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­____


You can read my answers to those questions and more on July 12th.

There are plenty of other rural-set fiction authors joining me across the month, including Rachael Johns, Fiona Palmer, Rachael Treasure, Barbara Hannay, Jennifer Scoullar, Loretta Hill, Mandy Magro, Bronwyn Parry, Margareta Osborn, Helene Young, Nicole Alexander, Jenn J McLeod and others!

Plus all month there’ll be competitions to win great books, and if you order an Aussie Romance Author book from Booktopia in July, you’ll go into the draw to win a fantastic book pack. For more details, click on the banner above or visit Booktopia.


Romance Writers of Australia Conference, August 16th-18th 2013

It’s only 6 weeks until the RWA Conference in Fremantle, W.A. and I can’t wait. This is THE event of the year for romance authors, published and aspiring. A chance to catch up with old friends and make new ones, plus learn more about our business and craft. There are also opportunities for authors to pitch their work to leading Australian and international editors and agents.

I have a great deal to thank the RWA for and can’t recommend the organisation and its conference highly enough.

For more information on the RWA and the conference, visit the website.


Australian Romance Readers Association Booksigning Event, Saturday 17th August 2013

I’m signing and so are 55 others local and international authors. These events are a hoot! Register now at the ARRA blog.

BSE3 I'll be signing 500



J’aimee Brooker’s Spotlight On Aussie Rural Novelists

Last week I answered a series of fun questions on contemporary romance author J’aimee Brooker’s blog as part of her week-long spotlight on Aussie Rural Novelists. Find out the one author I’d spend my last $20 on, who I’d be if I was a character from a novel and more!

Also featured were Rachael Johns, Karly Lane, and Jennie Jones. Check it out!


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Things are looking fishy on Friday Feast this week. But what else can one expect when the guest is multi award-winning romantic suspense author Helene Young? Helene Young - romantic suspense authorNot that Helene is dodgy. Or on the nose. Oh no, no, no! Everyone who knows Helene understands what a gorgeous person she is. No, we’re talking fishy in piscatorial terms, but more on that later…

Helene’s new release is Half Moon Bay, and what a beauty this book is, both inside and out. The cover is simply gorgeous but the story is so brilliant (as all Helene’s stories are) it’s the June book of the month for Get Reading!, Australia’s largest celebration of books and reading.

Take a look at Half Moon Bay.




Half Moon Bay by Helene Young book coverEllie Wilding has been running from her past, but when the residents of Half Moon Bay call for help she knows it’s finally time to return home.  As an international photojournalist, she’s used to violence in war zones, but she’s shocked when it erupts in the sleepy hamlet on the north coast of New South Wales, threatening all she holds dear.

Battle-weary Nicholas Lawson walked away from his military career leaving unfinished business. In a coastal backwater, that decision returns to haunt him. He remembers all too vividly his last lethal assignment in Afghanistan when Ellie’s sister, Nina, was shot and killed. Ellie’s been in his dreams ever since, even if she doesn’t remember him…

As a storm rages and floodwaters rise, Ellie struggles to save her community. But who can she trust? Nick Lawson, the dangerously attractive stranger with secrets, or an old friend who’s never let her down?


Enticing, isn’t it? And exciting. Well, Half Moon Bay is in stock everywhere now, so you know what that means, don’t you? Buy time! Visit your local bookstore or favourite chainstore to pick up a paper copy, or try that most excellent of online booksellers, Booktopia. You can also purchase from Bookworld, Angus & Robertson, QBD The Bookshop,  Collins Booksellers, and many others. For the ebook try Kobo, Google Play, JB Hi-Fi, Amazon (for Kindle), and iTunes.

All set? Fabulous. And now I hand you over to the always entertaining Helene. Enjoy!




I’m very honoured to be visiting again as Cathryn’s Friday Feast is a post I never miss, even though I seem to be a lurker of late…

As Capt G, Zeus and I have turned into grotty yachties aboard our beautiful catamaran, Roo Bin Esque, I thought a fishy post was in order.

Helene Young's beautiful catamaran, Roo Bin Esque

I was in awe of Callie’s fishing skills in Heartland – clearly, Cathryn, you too must know a thing or two about hooking the right fish!

But the first difficulty we encountered aboard the good ship Roo Bin Esque? I don’t fish and Capt G, being a Pom, is not necessarily skilled in the art of open ocean fishing. For twenty-four long days we trawled a line behind us. We lost count of the lures and baits that were ‘taken by razor sharp teeth in the mouths of great monsters from the deep.’ (Even my imagination couldn’t quite keep up with the proffered theories as to why we continued to eat anything but fish night after long night…)

I quietly hid the cookbooks with titles like ‘One Hundred and One Ways to Barbeque Seafood’ and  ‘Fresh Fish Fetish.’ Clearly they were only causing disharmony and angst upon the high seas… Zeus seemed to find the whole thing amusing and used to wander out, stand on the back deck and sniff the air, before resuming navigator’s station on his beanbag. I swear he was chuckling…

Helene Young's dog Zeus aboard the catamaran Roo Bin Esque, looking back at Hinchinbrook Island

Finally, on our last day at sea, we’d just had a discussion about hoisting the sails when Capt G went quite red in the face (being a copper top he does tend to blush rather spectacularly) and lost his power of speech. It took me several seconds to work out that there behind us, being dragged along by the hand line, was a great big ‘monster from the deep with razor sharp teeth!’ Who would have believed it!!

I was most impressed when my very own hunter-gatherer hauled this thing in hand over hand, muscles straining.  Capt G looked even more heroic than usual. Finally, he landed it on the back transom. And then we looked at each other… Somehow we had to slay the monster…

‘Alcohol,’ I shouted.

‘What? You want to drink? Now?’ Capt G didn’t look impressed.

‘No, to kill it!’

‘Of course!’

Luckily for us Hettie Ashwin, a writer we caught up with in Airlie Beach, had given us some wonderful advice. ‘Squirt straight alcohol into their gills and voila, the fish will die a quick and painless death.’

With a wriggle and a squirm, and half a bottle of Bundy Rum, our monster from the deep succumbed.  The next thing was to get photographic proof of Capt G’s success. And here he is looking very chuffed with himself.

Helene Young's husband Capt G's with his first fish of the trip, an impressive Spanish mackerel

Once he’d managed to gut and clean it the hunt was on for the perfect recipe for Spanish mackerel, bearing in mind that by now supplies were running low. I even Face Booked it – social media does have its uses!

The general consensus was barbeque thick steaks and finish with a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime. Sounded good to me since it was my turn to cook! So that’s what we did with the first round of steaks. They were perfect!

To add a little class to the steamed vegetables I made a quick hollandaise sauce in the blender. This one’s fool proof!


Easy Blender Hollandaise Sauce Recipe



3 egg yolks (see how to separate eggs)

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/8 teaspoon cayenne or ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard (optional)

10 tablespoons unsalted butter


1 Melt the butter slowly in a small pot. Try not to let it boil – you want the moisture in the butter to remain there and not steam away.

2 Add the egg yolks, lemon juice, salt and cayenne (if using) into your blender. Blend the egg yolk mixture at a medium to medium high speed until it lightens in color, about 20-30 seconds. The friction generated by the blender blades will heat the yolks a bit. The blending action will also introduce a little air into them, making your hollandaise a bit lighter.

3 Once the yolks have lightened in color, turn the blender down to its lowest setting (if you only have one speed on your blender it will still work), and drizzle in the melted butter slowly, while the blender is going. Continue to buzz for another couple seconds after the butter is all incorporated.

4 Turn off the blender and taste the sauce. It should be buttery, lemony and just lightly salty. If it is not salty or lemony enough, you can add a little lemon juice or salt to taste. If you want a thinner consistency, add a little warm water. Pulse briefly to incorporate the ingredients one more time.

We landed at Cairns the next day and decided an impromptu dinner party was in order so we could share the rest of the steaks. (The boasting opportunities were too good to pass up.)

Something more sophisticated than a squeeze of lemon and hollandaise sauce was called for, but I couldn’t bring myself to spoil the fish in my efforts to impress. Instead I made a spicy Thai carrot salad – those lovely crisp vegetables keep for weeks in a small fridge.


Spicy Thai Carrot Salad


4 cups grated carrot

Half a cup raw unsalted cashews

3 – 4 teaspoons fish sauce

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 fresh chilli, chopped (optional)

Half a teaspoon brown sugar


Place the carrot and cashews into a large bowl.

Put the fish sauce, lemon juice, garlic, chilli (if using) and sugar into a screw top jar and shake until well combined.

Pour the dressing over the carrot salad and toss the ingredients together.

As my basil plant had survived I shredded a few leaves over the top as well.

To finish the dish we had boiled new kipfler potatoes sprinkled with parsley and rolled in butter, along with fresh cherry tomatoes tossed together with avocado and a basic French vinaigrette dressing.

After almost four weeks at sea it was wonderful to share great food and good wine with some wonderful friends.

Life doesn’t get any better!


I bet it doesn’t, Helene! What a wonderful tale and delicious recipes, but then I expect nothing less from you. Ahh, Hollandaise, I am such a sucker for that stuff even though it’s pretty up there in the naughty sauce stakes. But, like so many things, it’s the naughty bits that make it taste so good. As for that carrot salad, I am soooo trying that. Easy and delicious: my kind of recipe.

Ok, Feasters, do you have any fishy tales? They could be foody, piscatorial or of the dodgy fishy or sharkish business kind. We’re never fussy here on Friday Feast.

I don’t have any exciting ones but I still remember the absolute thrill of standing as a little girl on the reef at Nene Valley, a tiny South Australian fishing village where my family had a beach shack, and reeling in a hefty sized King George whiting with my tiny kid’s rod. Poor fish must have been lost because the only things that used to hang around that part of the beach were wobbegongs, crabs, the occasional crayfish, and slimy rock cod. I also managed to hook a cray once by dropping a handline over the side of the boat, while my dad and brother hunted (unsuccessfully) for snapper. And it was legal size. Best catch of the day!

We’d love to hear your tales, so comment away.

If you’d like to follow more of Helene’s, Capt. G’s and Zeus’s adventures afloat, as well as more about Helene and her wonderful books, please visit her website. You can also keep up with all the fun and news on Helene’s Facebook page and via Twitter.


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Ooh, I love a road trip and when it’s combined with a library talk and room filled with enthusiastic readers, even better!482602_642703789077435_366752084_n

Last Wednesday, myself, paranormal and fantasy romance author Kylie Griffin, and rural romance and romantic suspense author Karly Lane met up in Taree, on the NSW mid-north coast, for our Queens of Heart panel at the town library. And what a wonderful time we had! I always knew it was going to be fun. Kylie and Karly are old mates from Romance Writers of Australia conferences, hugely talented authors and lovely people. As were our hosts. Danielle and Debbie from the library put on a wonderful evening with nibbles and local wines, excellent displays and a cosy stage. Manning Valley Books were on hand to sell our books, and Shelleyrae from book review site Book’d Out helped with all the arrangements.

Best of all were the audience, who braved a wet and chilly night to come out and listen to Karly, Kylie and me. What an engaged and interested bunch of people. We had a great time talking about writing, how we came to be published, the industry and the influence that erotica is having on the face of romance. They threw a few curly questions at us, too. Nothing like being kept on our toes!

Kylie Griffin, me and Karly Lane.

Kylie Griffin, me and Karly Lane.

On stage and having a chat. Kylie, Karly and me.

On stage and having a chat. Kylie, Karly and me.

Great fan Brenda and myself with my new release Heartland. I just love meeting readers!

Great fan Brenda and myself with my new release Heartland. I just love meeting readers!

Afterward, we were treated to a very enjoyable meal at local restaurant The Sicilian (where I spent an impolite amount of time admiring the restaurant’s beautiful pepper grinders), passing by Manning Valley Books as we walked. Naturally we all had to stop and take a photo of the display.

Queens of Heart window display at Manning Valley Books.

Queens of Heart window display at Manning Valley Books.

It looks like we were harbingers of rain because it bucketed down overnight and on Thursday, which made for a slow drive home. But that’s okay. It was worth it. I love connecting with readers and thank everyone involved for another fabulous library talk. Can’t wait to do it again!


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Their verdict: A racy rural love story. Rah!


You have no idea how excited I am about this. So amazing to see my book in a major newspaper. There may be champagne tonight.

And today, in the Sunday Age and the Sunday Sun-Herald, I have a Books That Changed Me article. If you don’t buy the Sunday papers or live elsewhere, that’s okay. The newspapers have conveniently posted it to their websites.

Wishing all mums out there a wonderful Mother’s Day!

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I was thinking yesterday, as I was working on my next book, how little scraps of  personal memory can seep into a story. As much as I try to make each story and character individual, leakage from my own life seems to always occur. In my current work-in-progress, it’s cooking (hardly a surprise for anyone that knows me) and the heroine’s gorgeous fluffy-coated collie, who is a reincarnation of my beautiful dog Cooch. In Heartland, there were many things, but what struck me most yesterday was the inclusion of the sewing machine my grandparents bought me when I was very young. So young that this is the machine on which Nanny taught me how to make trousers for my teddy bear – pink and purple tartan ones from left over fabric she’d used to make a pair for me (hey, it was the 70s and I LOVED those tartan duds).

I still have that sewing machine. It’s followed me all over Australia and it still works. Even though I have a modern Janome I don’t think I’ll ever get rid of the Singer. It’s too pretty for starters, and as Callie muses in Heartland, it’ll sew anything. But I guess it’s the memories. Papa passed away when I was very young but Nanny’s still kicking along in her nursing home at age 97. Kicking along so well in fact, that just the other week she staged an escape on her walker and frightened the hell out of everyone, including, I suspect, herself.

It’s nice these little things survive outside my mind. I think there’s some sort of peace in that.





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Well, Heartland has now been out a week and what a week it’s been. So much going on, with interviews and blog posts and all sorts of fun things, including another stint on Friday Feast.

Rather pleased to be here too, because I have suffered for this post. Oh, yes. For this Friday Feast I spent an entire week with HUGH.

Hah! I bet that has you intrigued. But first, another look at my splendiferous new rural romance, Heartland.




Heartland_cvr_640x480When Callie Reynolds arrives at Glenmore, the property she’s recently inherited, the last thing she wants is to be saddled with a warty horse, an injured neighbour and a mad goose. Haunted by her sister’s death and her fractured family, all she wants is freedom.

But Callie hasn’t counted on falling for Matt Hawkins, an ex-soldier determined to fulfil his own dream of land and family. Nor could she predict the way the land, animals and people of Glenmore will capture her heart.

Callie is faced with impossible choices. But she must find the courage to decide where her future lies, even if it costs her everything she holds dear.


Heartland is available now from your favourite book retailer, including Booktopia (which, as Platinum sponsor of ARRC201, I like to support). You can also buy the ebook from Kobo (a Gold ARRC2013 sponsor and most excellent e-reader maker), Amazon (Kindle), Google Play and iTunes. For a longer list of retailers please visit the Heartland page on my website.

Now here’s me and Hugh!


My Week With Hugh

(And A One Night Stand With Neil)


Yes, it’s true. I spent an entire week with Hugh. No, not all-singing, all-dancing, all-looking-verra-sexy-in-a-pair-of-moleskins Hugh. The other, earnest ‘real food’ campaigning cook one, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall of River??????????????????????????????? Cottage fame.

Back in December of last year, thanks to the wonderful folks at The Essential Ingredient (marvellous shop for foodie types and mad home cooks) I won a copy of Hugh’s new cookbook, Hugh’s Three Good Things. Thanks to house moving mayhem, I didn’t get to play with it much before we left Melbourne but now we’re settled in our new house with its brilliant new kitchen, it’s time to test Hugh out. And test I did!

The whole idea behind Three Good Things is that you take three ingredients, mainly fresh, seasonal produce, and turn them into something special with minimum additions. Not a bad idea in theory. In practice? Well let’s find out…


Day One: Chicken, Plums, Soy


Okay, so it’s not very pretty – blame the photographer – but this was a winner in the flavour stakes. Dead easy, really tasty, with a sweet, sour and spicy syrupy sauce to liven up the chicken, and I got to spend most of my usual cooking time reading the latest Romance Writers of Australia Hearts Talk newsletter instead of mucking about. I’d definitely make this again. And Hugh says that if plums are out of season, you can substitute prunes or dried apricots.


Day Two: New Potatoes, Herbs, Olive Oil


Another nice one. And I was able to use herbs from my recently planted garden. I love that. Anything with home-grown produce seems to taste better. I used rosemary, mint, thyme and chives but Hugh reckons you can use pretty much whatever you like. I served this as a side with grilled pork cutlets and a rocket salad. An easy weeknight meal.


Day Three: Oh, look, there’s Neil!


I can’t help it. I’m a total Neil Perry fangirl. His recipes are awesome, especially the Asian ones, and his restaurants are amazing. So when I spied his recipe for  Veal Involtini with Herbed Orzo and Roast Tomato and Oregano Sauce I was seduced. Sorry, Hugh, Neil has it all.

I’m a shocking food photographer and these don’t look anywhere near as attractive as I’d hoped, but boy, oh, boy did they taste good.  Veal escalopes, flattened out and layered with a mixture of pecorino, breadcrumbs, herbs, pine nuts and currants, then rolled up, browned and served with a roast tomato and oregano sauce. Yum. Just… yum.


Day Four: Back to Hugh and Beef, Shallots, Tomato


Thanks to the addition of star anise, Hugh has taken a basic casserole and turned it into something really delicious. I used chuck steak, which was a mistake. Shin would have been better but it didn’t matter. A great hunk of crusty bread and we were happy.

So far, so good for Hugh’s Three Good Things


Day Five: Chocolate, Prunes, Brandy



Okay, these were a disappointment. The prunes, despite being well soaked in cognac, didn’t impart any of the lusciousness I thought they would. The first fondant wasn’t cooked enough and then the others were  overcooked. Yes, my fault and I realise ovens differ, but the stated timing didn’t work for me.

What we did discover though, is that these things are gobsmackingly good cold! I tipped them all out, cut them in half and froze them for morning tea treats. Naughty, but absolutely delicious.


Day Six: Bacon, Beans, Tomato


Bottom line is that I have much, much better recipes than this for baked beans. I wouldn’t make these again.


Day Seven: Stuff it. Let’s go out.

And that ended the week!

So what do I think of Hugh’s Three Good Things? Hit and miss, but that can be said for most cookbooks. I’m currently working my way through Gordon Ramsay’s Ultimate Cookery Course and have so far had one total dud and one excellent recipe. All the recipes I’ve tried out of Two Greedy Italians Eat Italy have been brilliant. I’ve yet to try a single one out of Heston Blumenthal At Home but I will… one day. The way I look at it, if a cookbook has one keeper recipe then it’s a winner. If it’s a book I like to pluck it off the shelves and do nothing more than goggle at the pictures and recipes because they’re so fascinating or entertaining, then that makes it a winner too (although my other half tends to think otherwise).

Hugh wins on both counts. The funny thing is, this isn’t a book I would have normally bought or even picked up in a bookstore, despite having enjoyed his TV shows, but I’m glad it’s now a part of the collection. I can’t help it. I just like cookbooks and cooking magazines. A girl’s allowed her hobbies!

Because Hugh’s beans weren’t up to snuff (in our humble opinion), here’s our favourite recipe. Perfect for that indulgent weekend lazy breakfast, or for serving on toasted crusty bread as an easy lunch.


Simple Baked Beans


2 tins cannellini beans, drained

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 red onions, finely chopped

120g speck, pancetta or good quality bacon, chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 tin chopped tomatoes (you can use puree if you prefer a smoother texture)

100 ml espresso coffee (or good, strong instant)

1/2 tablespoon brown sugar (taste during cooking and add more if needed)

1 tablespoon cider vinegar (taste during cooking and add more if extra sharpness required)

Heat oil over medium heat, add onion, speck and garlic and cook, stirring, until nicely softened and coloured. Add remaining ingredients along with 400 ml water and cook over a low heat for a few hours until the beans have a rich thick sauce, tasting and adjusting sugar and vinegar  if necessary throughout.

Taste, season and enjoy.


Now, Feasty lovelies, what’s your favourite cookbook? I have about a dozen, with Rick Stein’s Mediterranean Escapes pretty high on the list. A couple of CWA cookbooks make it on too (how could they not?), as does Delia Smith’s Winter Collection and Gordon Ramsay’s Just Desserts (fantastic cookbook although all the timings are up the spout – not everyone cooks in a commercial kitchen, Gordon!). But the ultimate is the household “bible”, the special folder containing all our favourite recipes, typed-out and adjusted to our tastes, food stained and with extra scribbled notes. ‘Tis a precious thing, that! So what’s yours?


If you’d like to learn more about me or my books, including the story behind Heartland, please visit my website. You can also find me chattering away on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.


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I’m really looking forward to this evening. Expect a lot of insight and many laughs. Kylie Griffin (author of the amazing Light Blade fantasy romance series) and Karly Lane (Bridies Choice, Morgan’s Law, Burnt and other awesome Australian-set stories) are lovely people as well as being fantastic authors, and I think we’ll have a fine time. So will you!

In other news…

I’m Cooking the Books with Australian romance author Louise Reynolds. Come on over for a slice of delicious date and walnut loaf, a snippet from Heartland and more!

Heartland has scored another wonderful review, this time from Lauren Murphy at The Australian Bookshelf.

Heartland is the kind of book that draws you in and makes you not want to put it down and if you do, then the characters will haunt you until you pick it up again. Hein knows how to create characters with depth in communities that come alive on the page. This one’s definitely a keep among my rural lit shelves.”

Tomorrow I’ll be here again with Friday Feast, revealing some secrets from my week with Hugh (ahh, I see your mind boggling already).  I’ll also be over on Alissa Callen’s blog answering 10 Teaser Questions.

And in case you missed my non-stop squeaking elsewhere, yesterday I discovered that my rural romance Heart of the Valley hit number one on Google Play’s paid ebook store. And it’s still there this morning. Good thing no one was here to video me doing the muppet-flail when I saw that. Could’ve have been rather embarrassing!

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