Cooking The Books – Carolyn Wren + Giveaways!

Chef with cookbookIT’S beginning to feel a lot like Christmas, as they say in the classics. The third week of November and I’ve already acquired an annoying Christmas carol earworm. But what I don’t object to at this time of year is curling up with a good Christmas romance, something that takes me to the far side of the world and treats me to a traditional Christmas complete with yule logs, snow-laden fir trees and wassail. And if there’s a ghost involved, so much the better. This week I’m joined by award-winning author, Carolyn Wren, who has a fabulous Christmas novella, Ghosts of Grace Cottage, out now. She’ll be giving away two e-copies of her novella to commenters but first, here’s Carolyn!


My parents immigrated to Australia from England in 1966 when I was 3 years old.

They brought all of their Christmas traditions with them. I still have warm memories, literally, of roasted turkey and steaming hot vegetables, consumed on scorching hot Perth Christmas days in the dining room of our non-air-conditioned house. Mum was also a stickler for dressing up in ‘Sunday best’ on the day, adding to the perspiration factor.  My own Christmas day cooking is considerably different.  I’m a big fan of crisp salads, cold turkey and seafood platters, served outside on the patio, with everyone dressed in t-shirt and shorts.  In 1995 I purchased the attached book, for the lowly price of $4.95 and not a year passes when I don’t use it.  I love this book, it’s so simple and straightforward, from the traditional turkey roast – I do mine on the bbq – to the icy cold fruit punches, and the most delicious, super easy choc fudge recipe, which I have adapted and tweaked over the years.  I have included my version here, and I encourage everyone to try it.  Trust me, it’s a real winner.DSCF1045

Carolyn’s Choc-nut fudge.

1 x 200g block of dark cooking chocolate – a good quality brand is worth the extra cost.

200g of dark choc buttons

65g butter

1 x 400ml can skim condensed milk

50g chopped/flaked nuts of your choice – I always use flaked almonds, but chopped pistachios work great.

Melt butter in a large bowl in the microwave.

Add broken up chocolate and chocolate buttons

Add condensed milk

Microwave until everything melts – check and stir every one minute as the mixture continues to cook as you stir. It should take only 2-3 minutes to fully melt, depending on your microwave.

Add nuts and stir

Pour into a shallow baking pan lined with baking paper – mine is 8” x 10” and 1” deep.

Refrigerate and cut into squares when firm.

This is a wonderful easy dish to take to Christmas parties.

GhostsofGraceCottage_LRGGhosts of Grace Cottage

I always wanted to write a Christmas story.  An idea popped into my head one day and I found myself falling in love with two sexy, Regency ghosts, living under a curse in a quaint English country cottage, and a woman who has lost her Christmas spirit.

Released 15th November as an e-book.

Here’s an Excerpt:

“Are you sure?”

Elly grinned at her friend. “Sal, I think you’re doing this wrong. You’re a realtor. I’m looking for a house. Your job is to talk me into buying, not out of it.”

Sally, her lifelong buddy and trainee real estate agent, looked dubious. “It’s old.”

Elly let her gaze wander over the deep red bricks of the cottage almost obscured by the climbing white rose. She saw the faded paint on the window frames and doors, the cracked tiles on the roof. None of that mattered. Something about this place called to her, tugged at her. “Imagine it with snow on the roof.”

“I’m imagining the roof collapsing.”

“Just look at those flowers. Who ever heard of roses blooming so close to Christmas?”

“It’s a freaky property. The climbing white roses bloom all year round. The bushes in the front garden don’t bloom at all, ever.”

“Imagine lying in bed and letting the fragrance waft over you.”

“Imagine lying in bed and letting the freezing cold wind waft over you from the cracks in the wall caused by the climbing roses penetrating the mortar between the bricks.”

“You do realize, Sal, you have no romance in your life.”

“I have plenty of romance in my life. It’s six inches long and comes with batteries.” Sally turned to her. “Are you sure you want to rush into something now? So close to Christmas?”

“Yes. I spent the last twelve months travelling. It’s time to come home.”

“But…” Sally’s words trailed off.

Elly put an arm around her shoulder. “I know it’s the first Christmas without my parents. Life goes on.”

“You’re so brave.”

“No, I’m not, even after a year. Maybe it’s because I know I’ll see them again one day. You can’t avoid bringing up the subject of Christmas with me. It’s everywhere I look.” She gestured to the fairy lights in the trees and the snowman in the garden next door. “Just because I’m not up to all the festivities this year, doesn’t mean everyone else has to suffer.”

“I don’t know why you don’t buy a lovely new place with the life insurance money.”

“My folks always wanted a country cottage. Maybe in some ways I’m fulfilling their dream.”

Sally yanked the collar of her coat higher as a chill breeze flew along the quiet country lane. “You know she died there,” she whispered. “The previous owner, I mean.”

“Miss Hardy was ninety-two years old. She had to die somewhere.”

“Doesn’t it freak you out?”

“Nope, from what I hear she had a long and happy life.”

“Really?” Sally shivered. “I don’t know where you get that idea. She was a recluse who wouldn’t let anyone inside the house to do repairs and renovations.  That’s why it’s so cheap. Did you hear the rumors? Some people say she used to talk to herself, and strange noises came from inside late at night.” Her voice dropped back to a whisper. “Maybe it’s haunted. I heard another rumor too.  They say a witch might have lived here a couple of hundred years ago.”

Elly laughed. “Sal, honey I think you have to go back to realtor school. Your selling method leaves a lot to be desired.” Her eyes turned once again to the faded beauty of the old home, and her voice was determined. “I want it.”

So what about you? Do you love a traditional Christmas, no matter how hot it gets downunder? Or are you a seafood and sandals type?

Available from.  Secret Cravings PublishingAmazon,  Amazon Australia,  Barnes and Noble,  All Romance Ebooks,  Bookstrand and Smashwords.

You can find Carolyn at:

Cooking The Books – Nicole Hurley-Moore

Chef with cookbookToday’s guest has hit on the perfect recipe for the cold, wet weather we’re having in Melbourne. When it rains like this I just want to fire up the oven and start baking. So welcome to Nicole Hurley-Moore, an Australian writer of historical romance and the only person I know brave enough to work her way through Larousse Gastronomique! Now there’s a challenge. Here’s Nicole.

Hi and thanks for having me today on Cooking the Books!!nicole hurley-moore
My latest novel, Dancing on Air is a sweet Victorian era romance with a little spice. In a way, it reminds me of my great, great Aunt Ethel’s gingerbread cake recipe. Not only is it sweet with a touch of spice but it almost fits into the right time period.

bigstock-Ginger-Cake-paidforThis recipe doesn’t make a huge deep cake and the mixture is a little thin (so don’t worry!).

¾ cup sugar
¾ cup butter
¾ cup Golden Syrup
2 cups of plain flour
1 tablespoon of ground ginger
1 tablespoon of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of baking soda (bi-carb)
1 cup of hot water
2 beaten eggs

Mix sugar, butter and golden syrup together.
Then add flour and spices.
Mix the baking soda and water together and then add it to the mixture.
Finally add the two eggs and mix well.

Bake in a 180 degree oven for about 30-50 minutes.

Dancing on Air official imageBlurb:

Cinderella meets Swan Lake in a cross-class, Victorian novel about a ballerina, an aristocrat, and the space in between them.

Lisette yearns for freedom, security and love, but none are offered on the run-down stage of The Imperial Theatre. Instead she has hard work, a tyrannical aunt, and the hope of one day becoming a prima ballerina. Dancing on the stage she catches the attention of two powerful men: Lord Gainswith and Lord De Vale.

Lord Evander Gainswith never expected to fall in love, let alone with a woman so wholly unacceptable to his family and his peers. The sinister Lord De Vale covets Lisette’s youth and strength, and is willing to pay well for it. Lisette may dance roles in fairy tales and fantasies, but the real world is about to intrude, bringing with it the harsh realities of life for a young girl with dreams of rising above the demimonde.


London, 1884

Lisette was weightless as she leapt into a grand jeté across the stage. She was free and in that moment her heart soared past the walls of The Imperial Theatre. She landed lightly and began the fouetté en tournant, whipping her leg from fourth position to behind her knee; she created impetus to spin on pointe. After the eight revolutions, she planted her feet and lifted her hand in the air, stopping in front of her aunt. There was a slight wobble in her legs and she tried not to wince. Fixing a smile on her face she prayed that her aunt had not noticed. Lisette had wanted perfection but had fallen short. A trickle of sweat slid its way down the middle of her back, her heart beat rapidly and she tried to catch her breath as her aunt stepped forward.

Marie Devoré regarded her niece for a second. Her eyes bore into Lisette’s before she raised her hand and slapped her across the face.

Lisette’s head jerked to the side as the burning sting radiated over her cheek.

‘What was that? A farce…? A comedy perhaps?’

‘No, Aunt Marie, I am sorry that I wobbled,’ she said as she looked at the well-worn wooden floor and resisted the urge to cradle her cheek.

‘When you finish, the movement must be sleek, clean and set in stone, without any trace of a tremble.’

‘Yes, Aunt.’

‘Go, out of my sight. Prepare the costumes for tonight’s performance,’ Marie said with a wave of her thin hand. ‘You will practice again tomorrow. Without the wobble.’

Lisette bowed her head before running off into the wings of the stage. She ran as fast as she could past the burgundy velvet curtains, beneath the scenery fly and the rigging, down the narrow flight of stairs that ran beneath the stage, until she was in the cool and narrow corridor, which led deeper into the bowels of the theatre.

Her cheek burned but it was the sting of failure that hurt all the more.

Thanks for being my guest today, Nicole. You can find Nicole and her books here:





Escape Publishing


Cooking The Books – Louise Reynolds + Giveaway

Chef with cookbook

Cooking breakfast for someone you love must be one of the most romantic things you can do. The hot, sweet part of the night is over and now one of you needs to provide fuel. I always like the idea of a man cooking breakfast. It’s sexy, capable and in the hands of the right person, can be very expressive.

So when Jake, my hero in Outback Bride, makes breakfast for Lara the morning after they’ve made love, I wanted it to be special. But he’s an outback guy so he doesn’t have smoked salmon, croissants or bircher muesli. He’s got bread, bacon and eggs – and his goddaughter sitting at the kitchen table. Here’s what he does with them: OutbackBride_cover

Damn, but it was a great morning. Jake took a knife and cut a ragged heart shape in the centre of a thick slice of stale bread and slipped it into the hot fat in the pan, admiring his handiwork. Today called for something beyond the usual biscuit-cutter circle, and an egg would run as easily to the edges of a heart shape.

Jessie sat at the table spooning cereal into her mouth. Every minute or so she grabbed a soggy cornflake and tried to feed it to her doll. Usually the milk dribbled across the table annoyed him, and personally he expected Barbie would rather have a double-shot skinny latte but this morning he just smiled.

The old pipes hammered with the sound of water heading to the bathroom where Lara was no doubt slicked with hot soapy water. Jake closed his eyes and offered a prayer of thanks then slid a guilty look across at Jessie.

They’d been quiet. Real quiet. It had been like fooling around as a teenager, trying not to make any noise. But that had only served to intensify the emotion. Moans had been smothered with deep kisses that had led to a lot of groaning. He’d slapped a playful hand over her mouth and she’d licked it softly then taken his fingers into her mouth one by one until she’d melted, her eyes going hazy and unfocussed. Then, when she’d started to move and the bedsprings creaked, he’d stilled her and pulled her closer. Their first time had been slow and intense. Deep.

Should he even be thinking about this stuff with a child in the room?

He’d fix those bloody springs. Soon. Better still, he’d jump on the net right after breakfast and order a new bed. King size. Well-sprung. He flipped the bread and cracked a fresh egg into the heart shape. He was an artist.

Footsteps sounded in the hall. He wanted to turn and take Lara into his arms but he kept his eyes on the pan, not wanting to look too eager.

‘Well, hey, my two favourite people.’

As good mornings went it suited Jake just fine and now he turned. Lara stood in the doorway wearing tracksuit pants and a T-shirt and towelling her hair dry before twisting the thick length into a loose coil and letting it fall over one shoulder. Her face was scrubbed and pink, her eyes sparkling.

‘Just in time. I made breakfast.’

Heart-shaped toastAnd he can cook.’ The private look she sent him ricocheted straight to his loins. Jake grabbed a plate and slid the fried toast and egg on to it, draping a little crispy bacon to the side.

Lara dropped a kiss on the top of Jessie’s head and sat in the chair next to her. Feeling slightly embarrassed, he placed the plate on the table. She looked at it, then rotated it and cocked her head to the side. Okay, so the egg white had spilled over the edges and the heart shape was a bit blurry. Finally she blushed as a small smile crept to her lips.

So what about you? What’s your favourite breakfast to serve your beloved? Or is there something you’d love to try? I have a kindle copy of Outback Bride OR a print copy of  Her Italian Aristocrat to give one commenter.

You can find me at:




Outback Bride can be purchased here:


Kobo Books



Destiny Romance