Cooking The Books – Mary Costello

Chef with cookbook

Fάilte! I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to have Destiny Romance author Mary Costello visiting this week. Mary writes wonderful, heartfelt and witty romances. She’s also a charming Irishwoman with a touch of whimsy, a bit of blarney and she’s not averse to an hour or two of craic. Mary has a new release with Destiny this month, Irresistible Enemy. Here’s Mary!

The heroine and hero of my latest Romance, Irresistible Enemy, are as different as chalk and a very fine Camembert.Costello

 The handsome and charming Hart is a wealth property developer and bon vivant. He lives in beautiful homes, drives expensive cars, has his suits made in Milan and eats well – usually at one of Melbourne’s trendiest restaurants.

Cassie, however, is plain girl with frizzy hair and a flat chest, and she’s living on the breadline. She runs a wildlife sanctuary and spends most of her money on the animals. Her old weatherboard cottage is falling down around her, her rusty ute is in desperate need of a service, and she buys her clothes at op-shops; and Cassie’s also a vegetarian. Yet at a critical point in the story, it’s the magic of good food that brings this improbable pair together.

They have an unexpected encounter on Christmas Eve, when they’re faced with a very tricky and potentially dangerous challenge. Afterwards, it emerges that they’ll both be spending Christmas alone, and in Cassie’s case, with very little food of interest in the pantry, although she does offer to cook, ‘I have an interesting recipe for cheese on toast. You toast the bread lightly, drizzle it with balsamic vinegar, then melt the cheese on top. It’s a bit different.’

But Hart isn’t tempted, and with his many contacts and deep pockets he manages to quickly command the delivery of a ready-made Christmas feast, complete with waiters, Irish linen, crystal and silver flatware.



Irresistible Enemy“She walked slowly towards the long table covered with a white linen cloth and decorated with three elaborate candelabra, each bearing red, green and gold candles. Scented candles, she noted as she reached the table and detected the distinctly Christmassy tang of pine. Remarkably, the table was set out with her own Polish pottery Christmas crockery. It was a mix of the three seasonal designs – Christmas trees, snowflakes and reindeer, and they were accompanied by an array of fine-cut crystal and gleaming flatware.


At intervals along the table there were small, crystal-covered silver dishes piled with nuts, truffles, stuffed dates, candied fruits and other sweetmeats. Two chairs, also covered in white linen and tied with huge gold bows, had been set together at one end of the table, and in front of each there was a gilt-edged menu card bearing the name D’Agosto.”


They sit down on Cassie’s sagging verandah to a smorgasbord of gourmet délices. I used to write about food, so I had a spot of fun concocting the menu. I decided to offer the couple a quinoa-crusted pie-base with caramelised plantains and smoky pinto puree. Cassie takes her vegetarianism from me, and I have a sentimental fondness for quinoa which dates back to the birth of my first daughter.

She was already a week overdue and still showed no signs of putting in an appearance. Friends came to dinner bearing gifts which included a quinoa hot-pot. It was the first time I’d ever tasted this intriguing little seed and I loved the flavour. I also appreciated the effect, because at 2.15 in the morning I finally went into labour. The quinoa did it. It also does something for Cassie and Hart, but I can’t divulge any more on that head. You’ll just have to read the book.

The impromptu Christmas menu also includes: pumpkin-habanero papazul, sea-salt and sesame seed-dredged baby carrots, and buffle truffle schnitzels with hazelnut shards and sweated marron sour cream. I think I may have made part of that last one up, which is half the fun when writing Romance – you can let your imagination wander.

For Hart, gourmet fare is fairly standard, but it’s a new and delightful experience for Cassie, who’s more used to her friend’s “rock-hard scones” and horrible homemade herbal brews. She enjoys being spoilt for a change.


“Hart nodded at the waiter, who quickly produced two crystal glasses of fine champagne, and they began to feast.

“It was a long, leisurely meal, with one delicacy after another set before them.”


After the entertainment of a dazzling meal, Cassie reciprocates by taking Hart on a nocturnal tour of her land, showing him all the fascination of night-life in the bush. Their Christmas Eve adventure seals their mutual attraction, but their closeness is short-lived when the issues that keep them apart flare again.

But at least they’ve enjoyed one magical Christmas feast together, and nostalgia for their perfect evening stays with both, even during the crises to come.


Mary Costello is an Irish-Australian freelance writer, and despite living most of her life in Australia, she hasn’t lost her accent, or the sense of being somewhere exotic. She lives in Melbourne’s bushburbs with her husband of many years, who, oddly, bears no resemblance whatsoever to a romantic hero. They live with a flock of recovering battery hens and their two daughters, for whom Mary aspires to arrange advantageous matches to men of large property.

Mary’s first book, Titanic Town, Memoirs of a Belfast Girlhood, was published twenty years ago, but she only recently turned her pen to Romance, inspired by the heroics of the men of Aussie Rules football. The result was The Reluctant Wag.

Her new release, Irresistible Enemy, is a very different book. Set in the bushy fringes of Melbourne, it brings into collision a dedicated wildlife warrior and a high-powered property developer for whom ‘habitat’ means luxury houses.

Cassie Bowtell is a plain, no-nonsense girl, and Hart Huntingdon is a man surrounded by glamorous women, but Cassie attracts Hart with her courage, honesty and her dedication to the injured animals in her care. Hart stands for everything Cassie despises, and having been badly hurt in love, she’s determined to repress any emotional impulses that go against her better judgement.

You can purchase Irresistible Enemy here:

Amazon US

Amazon Australia

Destiny Romance


You can find Mary here:



Cooking The Books – Leisl Leighton + GIVEAWAY

Chef with cookbook

Oh happy day! Today’s guest, Destiny Romance author Leisl Leighton, is talking about something I enjoy as much as beautiful food – good (and let’s face it, sometimes not so good) wine. The characters in my own books spend an inordinate amount of time drinking wine which leads me to think they may need a 12 step program! But in Dark Moon, Leisl’s hero takes it a step further and turns wine-drinking into a seduction technique.

Leisl is giving away a kindle copy of Dark Moon, so don’t forget to leave a comment to go into the draw!

Thanks for having me here again, Louise. It’s fantastic to be back to share my new paranormal romance, Dark Moon, and food. Or in my case, wine.

I am not a big wine drinker – primarily because the sulphites give me headaches. But that doesn’t mean I don’t Leisl Headshot tweetappreciate wine. My Dad loves a good bottle of wine and loves to share his appreciation with others. He’s even converted my previously ‘only beer thanks’ brother-in-law into a wine appreciating fellow who can talk about bouquets and viscosity if pressed. So, I was brought up understanding that wine was more than just something to chug down and get pissed on; it is something to appreciate on many different levels.

Then years ago when I owned and ran my theatre restaurant, my business partner was a bit of a wine coinnosseur, and while our clientele was made up of a lot of beer and spirit drinkers, there were many who liked wine and they appreciated the fact that we had a good selection of wines to choose from, and not the usual swill you might find at theatre restaurants and cabaret venues. My business partner took me through wine appreciation lessons and while, for me, it mostly goes unused, I still remember it. And if I didn’t, my Dad and husband (who I bought a wine appreciation course for a few years ago so he could keep up with Dad) are able to remind me.

So, when I came to deciding what profession my new hero, Jason McVale, in Dark Moon, would do, it seemed only right that he be a wine maker. With his extra sensory nose (he is a werewolf), it means that he really gets into the many and varied bouquets of wine, the grape varietals, the flowers and plants that are grown nearby that affect the overall flavour stamp. His family has made wine for centuries – it being a natural use for their talents to play with flavours and scents. I suppose he could have been a perfumier, but that just didn’t seem quite masculine enough. Especially when it comes to scenes like this:

 ‘You smell so good.’

‘It’s the wine,’ she choked as muscles clenched and curled between her legs.

His lips curved at the corner, but she wouldn’t really call it a smile; it was more the look of a hunter before he brought down his prey. The smile made her shudder. He breathed in again, deeply, closing his eyes, his thumb rubbing against the pulse thumping in her wrist. All of a sudden, he jerked. His fingers loosened on her wrist as if he’d been shocked.

‘Are you okay?’

He glanced up at her, frowning. His fingers tightened on her wrist, firm, possessive, sending a hot spurt of worry tinged with desire chasing through her nerves. Astonishment flared in his eyes. Then, just as suddenly, it disappeared. His frown fell away and his eyes filled with a warm excitement that caressed her core. He sighed, took in a deep breath, nose brushing against her skin. ‘I’m more than okay. I got my wish.’

He closed his eyes, releasing her from his mesmerising lightning-shot blue gaze. Not that he needed his gaze to hold her in place. His voice, his touch, his breath tickling along her skin like a warm summer breeze, did the work for him.

‘Skye … A perfect name. You smell fresh and clean, like a summer’s day leading into autumn; wide blue skies with a hint of thunder cloud on the horizon.’ His eyes opened. ‘So many hidden layers. That hint of secrets and mystery – it has tantalised me all afternoon.’

He moved closer, his leg brushing against hers under the table. ‘To a wine maker, a scent connoisseur, you are a gift waiting to be unwrapped.’ His lips touched the inside of her wrist.

9781743484968I’ll leave that scene there and get back to the wine. It is a very special bottle of wine he shares with her. One that an Alpha wolf makes to secure the bond between him and a Pack Witch, but one, in this case, that does far more than that. This scene, based around the wine, is one of the sexiest scenes I think I’ve ever written (well, at least the reviewers think so). When Jason pours my heroine, Skye Collins, a glass of this special wine, she first appreciates it’s rich, plummy colour and the way it clings to the glass. It is almost a meal in itself. And when she tastes it, it’s like a sip of personal heaven, the full bodied flavours exploding in her mouth of passionfruit and raspberries and chilli-chocolate, the bouquet tantalising with something hidden and secret and spicy, that fill her up with sensations she’s never experienced before. The effect on her has an even more dramatic effect on Jason – and not because either of them are drunk, but because the wine is special for both of them.

I have had the privilege of tasting some extraordinary wines over the years, not to mention the amazing foods I’ve had the luck to eat along with these wines, the whole creating a little bit of sensory heaven, so this scene was not hard to write. All I had to do was close my eyes and remember back to tasting and smelling something extraordinary and how it had made me feel so wonderful in that moment that I have never forgotten it.

If you want to read this scene in full, I’m afraid you’re going to have to buy the book, because I’ve given away enough of a spoiler here. But I do have a Kindle copy to give away today. Just answer this simple question in the comments section below and you can go into the draw to win a copy and see what I’m talking about.


Have you ever had a moment that was a sensory slice of heaven? It can be about food, or wine/spirits or some scent you discovered in a garden/place. I’d love to hear all about it.

Dark Moon Blurb:

Lately, Skye Collins has been unable to shake the feeling that she’s being watched. After a lifetime spent hiding her true nature, she knows that any unusual attention is something to be wary of.  And the only attention she’s been receiving lately is from the intense and attractive Jason McVale.

Jason claims to know things about Skye that can’t be true, and it’s obvious he’s hiding secrets of his own. Yet despite herself, Skye can’t resist the attraction between them, and her surrender will set in motion a chain of events that will have consequences for everyone she holds dear.

Gradually, Jason convinces Skye that she has to trust him if she is to solve the riddle of her past and learn the truth about her power.  But believing Jason means that her entire life has been based on a lie.

As her enemies gather strength and the danger increases, Skye is forced to accept who she really is. Will she risk everything and fight for those she loves? Or save herself and let them be destroyed by the forces of darkness?

About the Author.

Leisl is a tall red head with an overly large imagination. As a child, she identified strongly with Anne of Green Gables. A voracious reader and a born performer, it came as no surprise to anyone when she did a double major in English Literature and Drama for her BA, then went on to a career as an actor, singer and dancer, as well as script writer, stage manager and musical director for cabaret and theatre restaurants (one of which she co-owned and ran for six years).

After starting a family Leisl stopped performing and instead, began writing the stories that had been plaguing her dreams. Leisl’s stories have won and placed in many competitions in Australia and the US, including the STALI, Golden Opportunities, Heart of the West, Linda Howard Award of Excellence, Touch of Magic and many others.

Leisl lives in the leafy suburbs of Melbourne with her two beautiful boys, lovely hubby, overly spunky dog, Buffy, and likes to spend time with family and friends. She sometimes sings in a choir and works as a swim teacher in her day-to-day job.

Leisl writes paranormal fantasy and romantic suspense.

You can buy Dark Moon here:



Destiny Romance


Google Play

Her romantic suspense, Killing Me Softly is out now:




Destiny Romance

Google Play

You can follow Leisl and find out more about her and her books on her website:



Follow her on Twitter @LeislLeighton

5 Star Review for Dark Moon on Goodreads

4 Star Review for Dark Moon on Goodreads

Cooking The Books – Annie Seaton + GIVEAWAY

Chef with cookbook

I don’t know about you, but I love books and movies that include food. I’m not just talking about a random scene in a restaurant though. I want luscious details. I want to be able to smell and taste the food, dream about cooking it. And if one of the characters is a chef, or owns a bakery or – dream job alert – gets paid to eat and write about it, that’s crack for me. I have my go-to classics; Babette’s Feast, Like Water For Chocolate, Nora Roberts’ Dance Upon Air. And now there’s Annie Seaton’s Outback Affair. Here’s Annie to tell us all about it. And don’t forget to comment for a chance to win one of two copies Annie is generously giving away!

Annie_Seaton_200x300The inspiration for my books comes to me in strange places sometimes but the inspiration is always rooted in things I am interested in.

I’ve always been fascinated by the outback of Australia and the traditional foods of Australia’s indigenous population.  Indigenous food can be described in many different ways such as bush tucker, native food, or Aboriginal food. In the late summer of 2012 we dined at a wonderful local restaurant on the mid north coast of NSW (The Jaaning Tree) with an aboriginal chef, who bases the menu on traditional and bush tucker foods. Chef Clayton Donovan prefers to look at it as using native ingredients with the foods that everyone eats. The idea for using a chef in a future book began to percolate but I couldn’t pin it down to a story.

I had written the first two books in the Affairs series (Holiday Affair and Italian Affair) and I was wondering where the third Richards brother was going to find his own happily ever after.

My planning was interrupted by a trip to Las Vegas in mid-2012 to meet with my publisher. On the trip home I was flicking through one of the Virgin Australia on-board magazines and I read an article about a food journalist. By the time we landed back in Sydney, I had my story, my food journalist heroine, and an internationally renowned bush tucker chef school set on the Northern Territory coast.

OutbackAffairSeaton_cAs I wrote the story, I wanted the chef school set up and the bush tucker concepts and recipes to be authentic, so I paid a visit to Clayton, the owner and chef at The Jaaning Tree. (If you want to have a look at more about Clayton and read some mouth watering dishes.. .you can read about him in the Australian Good Food Guide.

So I visited Clayton and he was delighted to help me with my research. I learned about the working of a restaurant and chef school, and he told me all about bush tucker and the sourcing of ingredients.

In my book I use some of the flavours that Clayton described to me. When Alex and Jess meet in an old run down bar in the outback, Jess is overwhelmed by the appearance and the tastes of her first bush tucker dish.


She totally forgot about the man sitting across from her as she snapped six shots of the meal in front of her, from a variety of angles. She looked up at Alex, suddenly realizing he was watching her with a peculiar expression on his face.

“Do you always take photos of your meals?”

Get out of this one, Jess.

“It’s my first meal in Australia and I want to remember it,” she said weakly.

So much for the acting.

“An interesting habit,” he said. “Although I agree, Janet’s meals are spectacular. She’s wasted in a place like this. It never gets very busy, and she does to like to impress the guests.”
Jess was barely listening to him. She had speared a piece of fish and raised it reverently to her mouth. She closed her eyes, savouring the taste, and trying to figure out the herbs that combined to give it the subtle flavour. She opened her eyes and that direct blue gaze was fixed on her lips as she chewed delicately. Pointing her fork at him, she pulled out her best imitation of her mother’s voice.

“Has anyone never taught you manners? It is extremely rude to stare. Particularly when one is eating.”

“You really are a case, aren’t you?” Alex threw back his head and laughed. “When ‘one’ is eating? I think that ‘rest’ at Cockatoo Springs will do ‘one’ the world of good.”

“Don’t be smart. I’m just enjoying my meal. And I like to cook so I am figuring out what is in it.”

“Unless you know your bush tucker you won’t figure it out.” Picking up his fork, he speared a piece of fish and chewed it without taking his gaze from hers. “Lemon myrtle and pepper berries.”

The leaves of the Australian native, lemon myrtle have an amazing lemon fragrance, but without the acid of lemon juice.  The leaves can be used fresh, but are also available dried and powdered. It blends wonderfully with seafood. The leaves, stems and berries of the pepper berry plant have an aromatic peppery taste producing approximately three times the anti-oxidants of blueberries.

If you would like the recipe for Fish fillets with Lemon Myrtle Rocket Pesto served with Pepper Berry Vinaigrette Salad you will find it in the back of Outback Affair, along with an acknowledgement to Clayton for his assistance with my research.


Outback Affair

Available from


Barnes and Noble




You can find Annie at


What is your favourite flavour for seasoning fish? Two random commenters below will each win a copy of one of the first two books in this series. Holiday Affair or Italian Affair.