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: