Cooking The Books – Leesa Bow

Chef with cookbookWelcome to Cooking The Books! I’m excited because my guest is good friend and NA author Leesa Bow. You may remember that last time she visited, Leesa shared tips and recipes for cooking for hunky football players. This time she’s done a 180 degree turn and is on an entirely more feminine track. Here’s Leesa!



Cupcakes Make Me SmileLeesa Bow portrait

Thanks for having me on your blog Louise.

Admittedly, I’m a sweet tooth, which doesn’t help my hips or waistline at this time of year. When granted the liberty of cooking anything I like, it would generally lean toward a cake, slice, or some dessert over a savoury meal. Unfortunately it’s a trait I have passed onto my daughters and when the females in the household (there are five of us) are suffering a difficult ‘time of the month’ an awesome sweet dish is baked as a ‘pep me up’ reward.

Valentine cupcakesIn my book, Charming the Outback, Maddy likes to bake cupcakes to help clear her thoughts. Maddy’s signature cupcakes are topped with honeycomb and melted chocolate over chocolate cream icing. Cooking for stress release is about the end product making you smile, and enjoying the sweet reward of your labour. One thing I learned from baking and decorating cupcakes is to ignore the mess, as the dishes pile up quickly, and flour coats everything.

Recently, at my eldest daughter’s baby shower, the baby boy and girl themed cupcakes were a hit! Topped with little baby footprints, the pink and blue cupcakes put a smile on the guest’s faces.Cupcakes

For me, cupcakes are all about making people smile. Each bite of creamy icing is filled with heavenly yumminess. Not only do they look enticing, they are mouth-watering delicious, and I don’t feel as guilty eating one because they are only bite-sized. Right?

My favourite would have to be red velvet. What is yours?

Leesa Bio:

Leesa is a romance author who writes new adult romance about second chance love. Leesa also likes to writes stories with a sport theme.

Released in September Charming the Outback is the second book in the Player series.

Leesa’s next book Jardine will be released in December.















You can buy Charming the Outback from:

Amazon Aus:



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Find Leesa at:




Rebellious Women of the Aristocracy: Some Literary Heroes

Red Dirt DuchessMy latest release, Red Dirt Duchess, is set partly in the Australian outback and partly in an English stately home.

I’ve wanted to write a story about the English aristocracy for ages but I’m just an ordinary Australian. In order to make my aristocratic family believable, I needed to capture the tone and cadence of their speech and the type of language they might use.

To help with this, I drew upon the work of three of my literary heroes: Nancy Mitford, Elizabeth David and Mary Wesley.

Not only have I long been beguiled by their words, and in the case of Elizabeth David, her recipes, but by their rebellious reputations.

Each of these amazing women was born into a life of privilege that could have sailed seamlessly and silently to a dignified conclusion without creating a ripple. They each made conventional marriages to the “right” sort of men yet quickly moved beyond them, choosing a harder path. They lived life on their own terms instead of following the dictates of their class.

As rebellious women went, Nancy was by no means the wildest of the infamous Mitfords. That one aristocratic family should untitled (2)produce as daughters a communist, two fascists (of different flavours) and a duchess says a lot about their family dynamic. I imagine family get-togethers would have been extraordinary! Yet, despite the enduring legend which has grown up around them, it is Nancy’s sparkling comedies set within an aristocratic family loosely based upon her own that shine. The Pursuit of Love, Love in a Cold Climate and Don’t Tell Alfred are required reading for the devoted anglophile as well as the author trying to find the voice of that class.

images6I1K2GZ2Elizabeth David travelled widely and wrote a series of classic cookbooks and collections of published articles. Authoritative and imperious, her writing paints a vivid picture of a privileged life. With David, it’s all about ‘tone’. Her rigorously elegant prose is measured but evocative.

At 70, Wesley published her first novel and went on to publish ten more. I would love to have known this untitled (3)incredibly free-spirited woman (there’s a reason her biography is called Wild Mary). Her novels are full of black humour and poke and prod at the underlying seamy side of many upper-class families. In honour of Mary, I’ve included a little bit of seamy in Red Dirt Duchess.

Mitford’s and Wesley’s novels, and David’s writing, have allowed me glimpses into the lives of the upper-classes, a world I could otherwise only imagine from behind the velvet rope in a stately home tour. Here’s an interaction between my hero, Jon, his mother, Diana, and the heroine, Charlie. Barker is the butler and Vera is an elderly lady staying with the family. They have had a very trying day 🙂

Barker started to pour the tea as Jon ambled hopefully towards the drinks table. A cluster of almost empty decanters, more show than substance, sat on a silver tray.

‘What do you do in Australia, Charlie?’ Diana asked.

So the day was about to grind to its inexorable conclusion. Jon picked up a decanter and tipped it a little to the side, trying to work out what was inside. Quite frankly anything would do. He poured a generous amount into a glass and turned back to face the room.

‘I run a pub.’

Barker dropped a cup on its saucer with a clatter and murmured an apology. A small silence ensued.

‘A pub?’

Jon sighed. ‘A public house, mother. A drinking establishment. There is one in the village.’

‘I know what a pub is, Jon,’ Diana snapped. She turned to Charlie, her lips pursed, her back rigid with disapproval. ‘I see. You’re a barmaid.’

Jon sucked in a deep breath and turned just in time to see the level stare that Charlie gave his mother. He didn’t trust the slight smile on her lips. He hadn’t seen that since Bindundilly.

‘Oh, I’m so much more than that.’

Was that a small, suggestive wink she’d given his mother? Jon closed his eyes and said a prayer, although he wasn’t sure for whom. All he knew was that there was a tension that had been strained to breaking point today. It was about to snap.

‘I clean the toilets and make the beds as well.’ Charlie gave Diana a cheesy smile, letting her vowels broaden a little.

‘Really,’ Diana said faintly.

‘Charlie owns the Bindundilly Hotel, mother. She’s a businesswoman.’

Diana accepted tea from Barker, picked up the spoon and stirred it quietly, three times clockwise, just as she always did before placing the spoon back on the saucer. ‘And is business good in this Bindundilly place?’

Charlie stirred her own tea a little less quietly, then looked at the spoon as she removed it from the cup.

Please don’t.

She placed it neatly on the saucer. ‘Very good, thank you. Mind you, I’m the only business in town so it’s hard to assess just how good that is.’

His mother seemed to have run out of conversation. Possibly she was angrily fantasising about castrating Jon, although that would be rather counter-productive in the circumstances.

Charlie paused and cocked her head to one side, thinking. ‘Come to think of it, there is no town. There’s just the pub and nothing but desert in every direction for four hundred kilometres.’

‘Indeed.’ His mother was staring at Charlie, her eyes wide with horror, perhaps trying to imagine such a life.

‘But as long as the truckies keep stopping, I’ll be right,’ Charlie finished cheerfully, as though she’d just completed a complicated balance sheet and realised everything would be fine for the next year.

‘Truckies,’ Diana echoed, her gaze locking on Jon. He took a deep swallow from his glass. He didn’t know what of, but it sure felt good.

Vera woke with a light snort. ‘Truckie? What’s a truckie?’

Jon squeezed his eyes shut. This was priceless; in some ways the best fun he’d had in years.

‘Never mind, dear,’ said Diana.

‘It’s a lorry driver, Vera.’ Jon said. ‘You know, massive great lorries driven by men with strong, hairy muscled arms. Some women find it quite —’

‘That’s enough!’ Diana cut in. She really looked quite pale, no doubt imagining the countless lorry drivers that had passed through Bindundilly but hopefully not through Charlie.

She turned to Jon with a regretful smile that didn’t fool him. ‘Vera’s terribly tired, darling, and I’m afraid there’s not much for dinner this evening. I expect we’ll just boil some eggs or something.’

He could take a hint. He drained his glass and set it back on the tray. ‘That’s all right. I’ll take Charlie down to the Three Crowns.’

His mother rose to her feet and gave him a pointed look. ‘Excellent. I should think she’ll feel right at home.’






Twitter: @LouiseHReynolds



Cooking The Books – Cathryn Hein

Chef with cookbookReading a fabulous book while having a cup of tea and a slice of delicious home-baked cake is surely one of life’s great pleasures. Today I’m delighted to welcome Cathryn Hein, legendary foodie and the author of gorgeous, heart-warming rural romances. She’s got a terrific recipe that’s just perfect for this colder weather and is all kinds of retro and comforting and just plain yummy. I’m dying to try this date and walnut slice with a lovely cup of Darjeeling. Take it away, Cathryn!

Hi everyone. I was thrilled when Louise invited me on Cooking the Books. Any excuse to talk about my favourite subject!

Being a bit of a cooking nut, it’s so hard not to turn all my heroines into mini-Masterchefs. I would love to feature them whizzing about immaculate kitchens, whipping up truffle-scented soufflés and striking glamorous Nigella poses. But my heroines are country practical sorts, who don’t have time for kitchen fanciness. That doesn’t mean they can’t cook though. Oh, no no! They have the skills. They have the determination. They have an appreciation of food as sustenance for the body, soul and senses. They simply have far better things to do than indulge my foodie fantasies.Cathryn Hein Author Photo

The heroine of Heartland, Callie Reynolds, certainly does. She has a house to pack up, a warty horse to re-home, and a mad, extremely territorial goose to sort out. Since the death of her sister, Callie has run from those who care for her, but the passing of her beloved grandmother has brought her back to Glenmore, the property she’s always loved. It’s also a place filled with memories. Memories that eat at her determination to get in, clean up and get out, and leave her torn between what her heart aches for and the powerful need to honour her sister’s memory.

Among Callie’s precious finds at Glenmore is her grandmother’s recipe book and it’s almost without thinking that she makes one of her and her sister Hope’s favourite treats: a date slice.

Here’s a snippet from Heartland where it features. One of Callie’s later attempts suffers death by horse, but you’ll have to read that bit of fun for yourself!

Heartland_cvr_640x480 Pulling off his cap, Matt followed her inside, expecting to find a room filled with bags and boxes. Instead he found a neat kitchen, its floor swept and the sink and benches tidy. The china cabinet sported knick-knacks on doilies. A roster printed on Royal Hotel letterhead was pinned to the fridge front with faded plastic alphabet magnets. An old cake rack with some kind of slice cooling on top rested on the stove, while the kitchen table sported an open laptop, a notebook filled with Callie’s loopy writing at its side.

He glanced at her but she seemed oblivious to his scrutiny, too busy fetching glasses and a jug of water from the fridge.

‘Take a seat,’ she said, handing him a moisture-beaded glass. ‘Hungry? I made a slice. Nanna’s recipe.’

‘Sure, thanks.’ He pulled out a chair, noticing a cardboard box that had been hidden from view by the laptop’s screen. A blue ribbon lay bundled in the top. He reached out but before he could touch it Callie plucked up the box and moved it to the top of the china cabinet. Nothing about her expression suggested anything other than a person tidying for her guest, but he sensed the rebuke anyway. Whatever the box held, it wasn’t for him to see.

He drank his water, watching her closely as she cut two fat pieces from the slice and placed each on a plate.

‘Date slice,’ she said, sliding the plate in front of him. ‘It used to be our favourite.’


‘Mine and Hope’s.’ She avoided his eye, staring out the window as she rubbed at her tattooed wrist. ‘I’d forgotten about it until I saw the recipe in Nanna’s book.’

The way she looked made Matt wanted to touch her again. Instead he took a bite, mouth filling with moist crumbs, the flavour sweet, spicy and moreish. ‘It’s good.’

Callie smiled and took a sip of water before picking up and biting into her own piece. Her eyebrows lifted. ‘It’s not bad, is it? Not as good as Nanna’s, but nothing to be ashamed of.’

‘Definitely nothing to be ashamed of.’ Matt finished his slice to prove it.

And so I give you not quite Callie’s date slice, but a delicious heirloom loaf nonetheless. Sweet, sticky, nutty and seriously good. This is a Hein household favourite.


50g butter

150g dark brown sugar

250ml water

Generous pinch salt

250g pitted dates

1 teaspoon bicarb soda

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

1 egg, lightly beaten

300g self-raising flour

100g walnut pieces

Preheat oven to 180 C. Grease and line a 23x13cm loaf tin.

Place the butter, sugar, salt, water, and dates in a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove from heat and immediately add the bicarb soda and stir. Beware: the hot mixture will bubble up, possibly overflow if your saucepan isn’t big enough, and turn you into a kitchen crankypants. So choose wisely!

Allow mixture to cool until room temperature, then fold in vanilla, egg, flour and walnuts. Spoon into loaf tin and smooth top.

Bake for 40-50 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Keep an eye on the cake as sometimes the outside can burn before the centre is cooked and a reduction in temperature may be necessary. It really depends on your oven.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely, then slice, eat and smile!

So what recipe triggers fond memories for you? I have a thing about my grandmother’s scones and wonderful afternoons spent in her kitchen, learning to cook delicious country fare. The scent of baking scones will forever remind me of her. That, and her inimitable rabbit stew!

Heartland is available now from all good book retailers, or online from Booktopia. You can also find the ebook at Amazon (for Kindle), KoboBooks and iTunes.

If you’d like to learn more about me and my books, including excerpts and the story behind each of my novels, please visit my website. You can also connect via my blog, Facebook and Twitter.


A powerful, passionate and moving rural love story from Cathryn Hein,

author of Promises and Heart of the Valley.

When 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.