Cooking The Books – Natalie Charles

Chef with cookbookMy guest this week is Harlequin Romantic Suspense author Natalie Charles. I’m pretty envious of Natalie actually, because in 2011 she won that holy grail of category publishing, the Harlequin New Voices competition. So she only beat like a bazillion other hopefuls. No mean feat. Natalie’s debut release, The Seven-Day Target is out now and she’s generously giving away a copy to one lucky commenter. Welcome, Natalie!

Thank you so much for having me here today!

Natalie Charles

Opinions will always vary as to what makes a man attractive. Some readers like cowboys, others like billionaires, and if you’re anything like me, you have a soft spot for rugged men in law enforcement. But it takes more than a uniform and a sense of authority to make me weak in the knees. Give me a man who knows his way around the kitchen, and I’m practically drooling before he takes out the first pan. There’s something downright sexy about a man who can cook.

In my debut for Harlequin Romantic Suspense, The Seven-Day Target, my heroine, Libby Andrews, is a prosecutor who craves control over all aspects of her life—food included. She has experimented with everything from veganism to a gluten-free lifestyle, and when the book opens, she’s trying to relax a little more. Her ex-fiance, FBI agent Nick Foster, has always considered Libby’s diets weird, to say the least. He’s a no-nonsense man who loves burgers, fries, and strong coffee, but taking care of Libby is paramount:

Nick eyed her drawn skin and gaunt cheekbones. Her fingers had assumed the knobbiness that he knew came from working too many late nights and skipping too many meals. He’d be a lousy host if he didn’t at least make an effort to get her to eat. Figuring out how to prepare soybean patties smothered in soy paste and truffle oil and resting on a bed of tempeh was preferable to watching her go hungry.

TSDT CoverWhen Libby’s life is put in jeopardy, Nick vows to protect her, no matter how awkward their personal history. Both of them are hurting from the past and scared about the future, and so when Nick wakes after that first night guarding her, he surprises Libby with some old-fashioned comfort food: coffee, bacon, and pancakes.

I imagine Nick serving Libby a heaping stack of warm, fluffy pancakes with butter and pure maple syrup. He may even load them with blueberries or slice some strawberries on the side…you know, to make Libby feel less guilty about the indulgence. Simple and delicious — even Libby can’t pass up such a sweet gesture 🙂

 Nick Foster’s Pancakes

 1 ½ C. all-purpose flour

3 ½ tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

1 Tb. white sugar

1 ¼ C. milk

1 egg

3 Tb. butter, melted

Sift dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Forming a well in the center, add the milk, egg and melted butter and mix until smooth.

Heat a lightly oiled griddle over medium heat. Spoon batter onto the griddle and heat both sides until lightly browned.



Natalie Charles is living her dream as a writer for Harlequin Romantic Suspense after winning Mills & Boon’s 2011 New Voices Competition. By day, she is a practicing attorney whose writing is more effective for treating insomnia than most sleeping pills. This may explain why her after hours writing involves the incomparable combination of romance and suspense—the literary equivalent of chocolate and peanut butter. The happy sufferer of a life-long addiction to mystery novels, Natalie has, sadly, yet to out-sleuth a detective. She lives in New England with a husband who makes her believe in Happily Ever After and a daughter who makes her believe in miracles.

Natalie loves hearing from readers! You can contact her through her website,

You can connect with Natalie around the web:

Website           Facebook                    Twitter    Goodreads

Book Title: The Seven-Day Target
Publisher: Harlequin Romantic Suspense
Author: Natalie Charles
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Kindle link:
B&N link:
Smashwords link:
Author’s website OR blog URL:

Brief summary:

He never meant to speak to her again. Back in Arbor Falls for a funeral, Special Agent Nick Foster has moved on. He has no plans to stay in his tiny hometown-or to reunite with the beautiful Libby Andrews. His onetime fiancée broke his heart, and what’s past should stay buried.

Libby doesn’t want his help. Her childhood sweetheart can never know the real reason she ended their engagement three years before. But when a serial killer targets her, she must team up with the rugged agent for her own safety. Something in her past has put her in danger, and the passion they’ve reignited puts their future in deadly jeopardy.


Nick took another step. “You can’t tell me you don’t feel it, Libby.”

“Feel what?”

“The heat that always burned between us. The attraction we’ve always felt for each other, even when we were pretending we didn’t.”

She rolled her eyes. “That’s ridiculous. I thought I made it clear how I felt for you.”

“You can’t hide it.” He straightened. “I see it written across your body.”

He advanced, moving with deliberate footsteps and a gaze that made her heart thunder. She instinctively retreated but stopped as her back pressed against the wall. This elicited a rakish smile and a chuckle from the back of his throat.

“We’re through,” she stammered as he came still closer, bracing himself against the wall with one hand. Blocking her escape.

“Through?” His warm breath fell on her cheeks as he leaned down. “You really think so?”

Now his lips grazed her ear, sending a shiver straight through her center. She felt his light breath on her skin, felt the animal heat of his strong arm as it fenced her in. Nick curved his body to bring his free hand to rest lightly on her hip.

“Yes. It’s over,” she said. “I feel nothing for you.” Her voice came out no more than a whisper, thick with desire.

Another chuckle, this one from deep within his chest. She stood helplessly still as he began to tease her shirt upward, exposing the sensitive skin on her belly. “So, I suppose this doesn’t do anything for you, then?” He trailed his fingertips along her waistline, eliciting a soft moan.

“No,” she gasped. “I don’t feel a thing.” Her skin was on fire, and an ache began at the juncture of her thighs.

He frowned playfully. “That’s surprising. I could have sworn I felt a reaction.”


As she spoke, he brought his hand fully under her shirt and round her bare back, pressing her closer to him. She felt the length of his hardness against her heat and sighed, allowing her head to fall back against the wall. His hot mouth was still beside her ear, but he brought his lips to the base of her throat as she arched her body toward him.

“Nothing at all?” He spoke the words against her throat, and she trembled as a current of fire and ice coursed through her.

She moaned. “Nothing.”

“This is troubling.”

For your chance to win, please leave a comment. If the lucky winner is in the US, she’ll receive a signed print copy. Outside US will be an e-copy.


Cooking The Books – Helen Lacey

Chef with cookbookThis week we feature the very best kind of cooking. Food that not only tastes good but carries with it history, memory and identity.

I’m thrilled to welcome Helen Lacey to ‘Cooking The Books’. Helen writes wonderful stories for Harlequin Special Edition. With to-die-for heroes, feisty heroines and conflicts that will have you turning pages long into the night, Helen knows a thing or two about how to mix love and emotion. And isn’t that the most dreamily romantic cover you’ve ever seen?

Helen has a giveaway for one lucky commenter and the details are at the end of the post. But first, here’s Helen.

I love to cook and especially love cooking for other people. When I’m starting a new book and working out what my characters are like, one of the things I decide is whether or not they know their way around a kitchen.Helen

In His-And-Hers Family, the heroine, Fiona Walsh is a competent cook and likes to make cakes and brownies. Since this is a twist on a reunion story – because Fiona is reunited with the daughter she gave away fifteen years earlier – it was fun for them to have some mother/daughter moments in the kitchen. Enter the hero – her daughter’s adoptive uncle and now guardian – and I discovered they were often coming together as a family over food.

AustCoverHisAndHersI also like playing around with recipes and cooking meals that lend themselves to my Welsh heritage. My mother is a great cook, as was my grandmother and as a child I can remember watching my mother bake pies every Sunday. The way she makes pastry still amazes me – no recipe, no measuring cups ….. just a dash of this and little more of that. She also makes Bake stones or Welsh Cakes as they are sometimes called (picau ar y mae) in the Welsh language. This name came from the fact they were traditionally cooked on a bakestone or griddle on an open fire or cooker. Welsh cakes are made from flour, sultanas, raisins, and/or currants, and may also include such spices as cinnamon and nutmeg. They are roughly circular, a couple of inches (4–6 cm) in diameter and about half an inch (1–1.5 cm) thick. And they taste awesome.

Welsh Bake stones recipe

1 cup of currants (I prefer to use these and my mother insists they are better than sultanas)

2 cups self-raising flour

230 grams butter

1 cup caster sugar

1 egg whisked and add a little milk


1. Mix together the sugar and sifted flour

2. Add butter to the flour/sugar mix and gently rub together (keep hands cool)

3. Gradually add the egg/milk, mixing by hand until you have a dough that is firm enough to roll out (You might not need the whole egg mixture and use a light touch when doing this))

4. Roll out to about 12mm (or 1/2 inch) thick before cutting out (my mother always uses a fluted cutter)

5. Cook on a warm bakestone (Or you can use a thick non stick frying pan) until golden brown on the outside and cooked through in the middle

6. Then dust with a little sugar

7. Lastly . . . eat! I defy you to stop at just one.

His-And-Hers Family2If you have a recipe that’s a ‘tradition’ in your family I’d love to hear about it. I have a copy of His-And-Hers Family to give away to one commenter.

Lou – Helen, thanks for that wonderful recipe and sneak peek into His-And-Hers-Family. I reckon these would be dead easy to make just about anywhere (including my much loved camping trips).

Comments will be open until 9.00 am Tuesday 12th AEDST. 

Helen on the web:

Web         Facebook         Twitter      Author Page