AWW Feature: Q&A with Cathryn Hein, author of Rocking Horse Hill

Cathryn Hein - Author Photo - web quality

I am thrilled to welcome Cathryn Hein back to Book’d Out today to celebrate the release of her fourth rural romance novel, Rocking Horse Hill. Cathryn’s first three novels, Promises, Heart of the Valley and Heartland were finalists in the 2011, 2012 and 2013 Australian Romance Readers Awards. In September she will release The French Prize, her first romantic adventure story.

Cathryn Hein was born in South Australia’s rural south-east. With three generations of jockeys in the family it was little wonder she grew up horse mad, finally obtaining her first horse at age 10. So began years of pony club, eventing, dressage and showjumping until university beckoned.
Armed with a shiny Bachelor of Applied Science (Agriculture) from Roseworthy College she moved to Melbourne and later Newcastle, working in the agricultural and turf seeds industry. Her partner’s posting to France took Cathryn overseas for three years in Provence where she finally gave in to her life-long desire to write. Her short fiction has been recognised in numerous contests, and published in Woman’s Day.
Cathryn currently lives at the base of the Blue Mountains in Sydney’s far west with her partner of many years, Jim. When she’s not writing, she plays golf (ineptly), cooks (well), and in football season barracks (rowdily) for her beloved Sydney Swans AFL team.

About Rocking Horse Hill

RHH cover - resizedWho do you trust when a stranger threatens to tear your family apart?
Ever since she was a little girl, Emily Wallace-Jones has loved Rocking Horse Hill. The beautiful family property is steeped in history. Everything important in Em’s life has happened there. And even though Em’s brother Digby has inherited the property, he has promised Em it will be her home for as long as she wishes.
When Digby falls in love with sweet Felicity Townsend, a girl from the wrong side of the tracks, Em worries about the future. But she is determined not to treat Felicity with the same teenage snobbery that tore apart her relationship with her first love, Josh Sinclair. A man who has now sauntered sexily back into Em’s life and given her a chance for redemption.
But as Felicity settles in, the once tightly knitted Wallace-Jones family begins to fray. Suspicions are raised, Josh voices his distrust, and even Em’s closest friends question where Felicity’s motives lie. Conflicted but determined to make up for the damage caused by her past prejudices, Em sides with her brother and his fiancée until a near tragedy sets in motion a chain of events that will change the family forever.

 My review of this delightful rural romance will appear later today, in the meantime please read on to learn more about Rocking Horse Hill and Cathryn Hein.

Q&A

 

Q: What five words would you choose to describe Rocking Horse Hill?
Cathryn: Dramatic, sexy, atmospheric, emotional, donkeyed!

Q:What was the first element of inspiration for the story of Rocking Horse Hill?

Cathryn: I was going to say Mt Schank, an extinct volcano south of my home town of Mount Gambier in South Australia. But the truth is I was riding my exercise bike and thinking about a newspaper article I’d read the day before, about women who fall in love with long-term jail inmates. One thing led to another and next minute I was off the bike and scribbling down notes. The story is nothing about that, by the way. That just triggered it all off!

Q: What is your favourite scene in the novel?

Cathryn: I can’t tell you! It’s such a pivotal scene that I can’t even give a hint because it will spoil the story. What I can reveal is that I wrote it fast and breathlessly.
But I do have another that I can talk about. There’s a scene at Camrick, the magnificent Wallace-Jones town mansion, where Em walks Josh to his car. As she swings past to leave, he reaches out and grabs her hand. What she says in response changes things between them. It’s lovely. Makes me sigh just thinking about it.
This is the lead up…
The wind had died down, leaving a night lit by Camrick’s warm glow. The gravel of the drive crunched underfoot, punctuating their lack of talk.
He leaned against the back of his ute and crossed his arms. ‘Nice evening.’
‘Yes.’
‘Do you mind that I came?’
‘No, not at all.’
‘Then you’re glad?’
She squinted at the sky. ‘Digby would have appreciated it.’
‘I didn’t ask about Dig, Em. I asked about you.’

Q: What is on all those post it notes?

Cathryn

Cathryn: Ooh, all sorts of things! Anything from writing reminders, character notes and the like – they tend to hang off the whiteboards on my left…

Post it notes - left

While on the right, under the window sill, I keep promo ideas and website, computery type things.

Post it notes - right

As you can see, I’m a bit of a post-it lover. They’re just so handy!

Q: I know you are a bit of a foodie, as evidenced by your regular blog feature Friday Feast, what recipe would you pair with Rocking Horse Hill?

Cathryn: Moelleux au chocolat! Or chocolate fondant. Em serves it to Josh the first night he comes for dinner. Besides being delicious, it’s a perfect metaphor for the way they feel about one another: set on the outside but gooey on the inside!
I’ll be sharing the recipe on Friday Feast this week, so keep your eyes out for that one.

Q: What are you working on now, or what can we expect next?

Cathryn: Right now I’m working on the second draft of The Falls, my 2015 rural romance. The heroine of that one is Teagan, one of Em’s, from Rocking Horse Hill, best friends. As for my next release, that’s a romantic adventure called The French Prize. It’s out in September and I can’t wait. I’m so excited about this book! There’s a romantic legend, an ancient sword, a sexy French hero, a clever and gutsy Australian heroine, and a cruel and dangerous enemy. It’s an adventure-filled page-turner.

Q: Can you please share three of your favourite novels by Australian women writers?

This is really hard because I’ve read some truly incredible books by Australian women, across all sorts of genres. It pains me to have to choose because I want to include them all, and because what comes to mind as a favourite right now might be surpassed by another tomorrow. It depends on my mood!
But here goes…
The First Man in Rome by Colleen McCullough. Her Masters of Rome series is incredible. I’ve read The First Man in Rome maybe 6 times and it’s a monster-sized book. Only packing tape keeps my copy held together now. I’m just fascinated by the era.
The Rain Queen by Katherine Scholes. Oh, this book! Romantic and sweeping and an amazing story. I read The Hunter’s Wife before I read this and thought that nothing could top that, but The Rain Queen did. I’m a sucker for African stories though. It’s another big fat book too. I’m reading Scholes’s latest, The Perfect Wife, at the moment.
The Shifting Fog by Kate Morton. Or anything else by her. She writes so beautifully! The stories are completely compelling with their mystery and atmosphere. They have that wonderful Gothic feel that I adore. I’ve loved all her books. The opening of The Distant Hours? Magical!

Q: What is your preference?
Coffee/Tea or other?
Both! I have a cup of Irish Breakfast tea first thing then swap to rather strong lattes for the rest of the morning. Although I usually only have a couple a day. On the odd occasion I have a post lunch or evening coffee it’s straight espresso.
Beach/Pool or River?
Pool. You don’t usually find sharks in them.
Slacks/Jeans or Leggings?
Jeans.
Butterfly/Tiger or Giraffe?
Giraffe, because I’m height challenged!
Swings/Slide or Roundabout?
Swings. Wheee! That swooping feeling? It reminds me of teenage love. One glance, one word, one breath taken in the same room as your crush and it felt as though your entire innards were about to sweep out of your body and take flight. Completely agonising, of course.

Rocking Horse Hill is available to purchase from

 

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Review: The Tea Chest by Josephine Moon

 

Title: The Tea Chest

Author: Josephine Moon

Published: Allen & Unwin April 2014

Read an Extract

Status: Read from April 11 to 13, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

The future of the ‘The Tea Chest’, a boutique chain offering gourmet and custom tea blends, is in doubt after Simone Taylor’s sudden death. Judy, Simone’s step-sister and part owner, is desperate to sell but Kate Fullerton, who inherited Simone’s share of the business, is determined to follow through on her mentor’s vision and launch a new store in London. It’s a huge undertaking, a scary financial risk, and means leaving her husband and young sons behind in Australia for months, but if it succeeds, Kate’s wildest dreams could come true.

A charming debut novel from Josephine Moon, The Tea Chest is a story about self belief, friendship, love and tea.

As a tea designer, with no experience in running a business, Kate knows she needs help and during the process of readying the store recruits Leila Morton, and sisters Elizabeth Clancy and Victoria Plimsworth. All four women, have something to prove, to themselves and others, and need to work together to launch The Tea Chest on time, and on budget, but their path is strewn with obstacles, both personal and professional.

A third person narrative shifts between the perspectives of the four women, providing individual back story while moving the story forward, and an additional narrative begins about a third of the way into the book to share Judy’s story. To be honest I found this thread a bit distracting as it seems so removed from the main action, though ultimately it explains Judy’s motivation for selling.

The technicalities of tea making didn’t really interest me, as I don’t drink tea (or coffee) but Moon infuses Kate’s passion for blending with a romanticism and glamour that is appealing, and I’d certainly be tempted to stop and browse in The Tea Chest should I pass it on the street.

I thought The Tea Chest was a light, easy read with a lovely message about trusting yourself and reaching for a happy ending.

The Tea Chest is available to purchase from

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Blog Tour Review: Losing Kate by Kylie Kaden

 

Title: Losing Kate

Author: Kylie Kaden

Published: Bantam: Random House April 2014

Read an Extract

Status: Read on April 10, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Kylie Kaden’s compelling debut novel, Losing Kate, is an absorbing contemporary story of secrets, betrayal, love and redemption.

On the night that seventeen year old Kate disappeared while celebrating ‘schoolies’, Francesca lost both the best friend she adored and the boy, Jack, who held her heart.
Thirteen years later, Frankie is stunned to discover Jack has bought the vacant block of land bordering her cottage. Their unexpected reunion revives memories and emotions neither are prepared for, and to move forward they need to learn the truth about what happened to the girl they both loved.

The first person narrative shifts between the past and present as it traces Jack, Kate’s and Frankie’s teenage relationship, the events on the night Kate went missing, and Frankie’s and Jack’s reunion after 13 years. Though Frankie and Jack quickly reestablish the intimacy of their childhood friendship, Kate always stands between them. Guilt, regret and lies are irredeemably tangled with loyalty, truth and love. The situation is complicated further by Jack’s current relationship.

The mystery of Kate’s fate is what primarily drives the tension throughout the novel. The flashbacks slowly reveal what Frankie remembers of the night and how those memories fit with what she is learning in the present day. Frankie just can’t let go of Kate and her desire for closure. Suspicions rise and fall as the truth is pieced together, and the swirling ambiguity kept me guessing.

Despite the pop culture references (to bands like Powder Finger), elements of the story, including the oppressive summer weather, Francesca’s crumbling cottage, fire and illness, give the story a contemporary gothic feel. The doomed teenage romance between Kate and Jack also plays into this, as does Frankie and Jack’s unrequited love.

Set amongst the streets of suburban Queensland, Losing Kate is a gripping novel of suspense, drama and romance. An impressive debut, I really enjoyed Losing Kate and I’m looking forward to more from Kylie Kaden.

 

Losing Kate is available to purchase from

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To learn more about Kylie Kaden visit Goodnight Carolina to read an interview with the author

 

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Review & Giveaway: Beached by Ros Baxter

Title: Beached {Aegira Chronicles #2}

Author: Ros Baxter

Published: Escape Publishing April 2014

Read an Extract

Status: Read from April 06 to 07, 2014 — I own a copy  {Courtesy the author}

My Thoughts:

Beached is the second book in Ros Baxter’s Aegira Chronicles, a fantasy trilogy with a creative twist on Norse legend. The first, Fish Out of Water, introduced Rania Aqualina, deputy sheriff of small town Dirtwater, and half mermaid. Her investigation into the discovery of a dead blonde with a fish tattoo on Main Street leads Rania to uncover a plot which could mean the end of her underwater home, Aegira, and her own life, at the hands of a crazed sorcerer, Manos.

In Beached, the focus of the story shifts to Rania’s sister, Princess Lecanora whom the Queen has sent to Land to find support for the battle against the Sorcerer from none other than the Presidential candidate. Lecanora, while struggling to adjust to the ways of the Land, joins her sister, mother and their allies to gain the candidates favour while dodging over zealous bodyguards, Manos’s army and saving two worlds.

The action is fast paced, as Manos launches his attack, determined to take Lecanora as his bride so he can rule over Aegira, and destroy any chance of the prophecy of ‘the Three’ thwarting him by killing Rania. The fight moves between land and sea, finally culminating in an epic battle in Aegira.

As in Fish Out of Water, there is a strong romantic element within the story and it’s Rania’s ex, Doug, who leaves Lecanora breathless. Peace loving Lecanora is baffled by her attraction to the gun toting, ex special forces, bad ass and the strange feelings he evokes. It’s insta-love of a sort, but not too badly done.

I enjoyed the humour which came from Rania’s snark, and Lecanora’s naïveté. Baxter writes well, with snappy dialogue and descriptive prose. I’d recommend reading Fish Out of Water before Beached though it’s not strictly necessary, Baxter provides enough back story to orient a reader new to the trilogy.

Beached, like Fish Out of Water, is a fun book, combining action, fantasy, humour and romance, which I really enjoyed. I’m looking forward to reading the final adventure in the Aegira Chronicles.

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GIVEAWAY

Thanks to Ros Baxter

I have 1 e-edition of

Beached

to giveaway

**Open worldwide**

Please leave a comment on this post and then

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Entries Close April 20th, 2014

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Beached is available to purchase from

Escape Publishing

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Review: Crimson Dawn by Fleur McDonald

 

Title: Crimson Dawn

Author: Fleur McDonald

Published: Arena: Allen & Unwin April 2014

Read an excerpt

Status: Read from April 04 to 06, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Fleur McDonald’s fifth novel to combine her love of rural Australia and her farming experience with drama and romance, Crimson Dawn is an engaging story of betrayal, resilience, and family secrets.

Reeling from betrayal and tragedy, Laura Murphy throws herself into the management of Nambina, the family sheep station which now belongs to her. Eight years later, Laura is proud of what she has achieved including developing prize winning Merino rams and setting up a successful farm school that teaches young women the basics of managing a property but then things slowly begin to wrong, one of her rams is poisoned, she suspects one of her students is doing drugs and then her neighbour, and former best friend, announces she has a claim on Nambina, and threatens to take away everything she loves.

There are several tangled plot lines in this story which ultimately reveal unexpected connections, including Meghan’s claim on Nambina, the identity of Laura’s mother, a drug and sex party ring and most significantly, the parallel narrative within the novel which tells the story of a young boy, who left his abusive home in the 1930′s, as he grows into a man. McDonald does well to draw these and other minor threads together in a manner that is plausible, though not entirely probable.

The story did feel a little disjointed to me, especially to begin with, as the contemporary chapters move quite quickly from 2000 to 2001 to 2003 before finally settling in 2008, while the parallel historical timeline makes similar leaps. I personally would have preferred for the contemporary story to have been grounded in a single time period.

Laura is a likeable heroine, her own hard work and determination has seen her build a successful property and business and she is satisfied with the life she has created for herself. But she has been unable to move on from the shocking betrayal of Meghan and Josh, once her best friend and fiance respectively, and has become emotionally closed off from all but family. When Nambina is threatened, McDonald gently guides Laura into the realisation that she doesn’t have to face this latest betrayal alone and introduces Tim, the local vet with whom Laura forms a tentative, and ultimately lovely relationship.

While I do think the storyline was just a bit too ambitious and the flow of the narrative suffered as a result, I did enjoy Crimson Dawn. Laura is a protagonist I can admire and I always appreciate the authentic details McDonald provides about everyday life on rural properties.

 

Crimson Dawn is available to purchase from

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Review & Giveaway: The Red-Hot Chili Cook-Off by Carolyn Brown

 

Title: The Red-Hot Chili Cook-Off

Author: Carolyn Brown

Published: Sourcebooks April 2014

Status: Read from April 02 to 04, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Across the street from Miss Clawdy’s Cafe (featured in The Blue-Ribbon Jalapeno Society Jubilee) in Cadillac, Texas you will find ‘Bless My Bloomers’, a custom ‘under-britches’ store owned by cousins Carlene, Alma Grace and Patrice the southern heroines of Carolyn Brown’s latest novel, The Red-Hot Chili Cook-Off.

The story kicks off when Carlene Lovelle discovers a lacy red pair of panties in her husband’s briefcase, the same pair Carlene sold the week before to a size 4 twenty-something planning a weekend away in Vegas with her ‘sugar daddy’. Furious, Carlene confronts her cheating husband, Lenny, and his mistress, at his car dealership, where she stomps all over a showroom Corvette before installing her self in one the bedrooms above Bless My Bloomers. Carlene’s extended family rally around her, with Patrice willing to poison him, her mother offering to shoot him and Josie dispensing wise advice, though pious Alma Grace can’t help but pray fervently for a reconciliation before she loses her position on the church committee, branded sinful by association.
When it becomes clear that Lenny has no plans to repent for his despicable behaviour, Carlene decides the best way to punish him is to deprive him of the thing he loves most – first place in the town’s annual chili cook-off.

Scandal, sniping and sly acts of revenge ensue, seasoned generously with hilarity, as everyone takes sides in the battle for top honours in the cook-off. The cousins and their mother’s (aka the Fannin sisters) are united in their desire to produce the prize winning recipe and dethrone ‘King’ Lenny and they discover they have plenty of support from the women of Cadillac.

The cast of quirky characters thrive on gossip and grudges tempered by fierce loyalties and unconditional love. Carlene, Patrice and Alma Grace are very different from one another but bound (and sometimes strangled) by the tightest of family ties following the example set by the cousins indomitable mother’s: Sugar, Gigi and Tansy. I couldn’t help but love them all for their smarts, sass, quick wit and crazy.

A lively, warm-hearted story of family, love, feuds and food, The Red-Hot Chili Cook-Off had me laughing out loud and cheering for The Red-Hot Bloomers in their bid to win that trophy.

For an exclusive excerpt, a delicious recipe  and details on how you can win two great prize packs

click HERE for the Blog Tour post published earlier today.

To Purchase The Red-Hot Chili Cook-Off:

Amazon Barnes and Noble Books-a-Million Chapters/Indigo IndieBound iBooks Sourcebooks

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Blog Tour & Giveaway: The Red-Hot Chili Cook-Off by Carolyn Brown

The Red Hot Chili Cook Off Cover

Thank y’all so much for inviting me and the cast of The Red-Hot Chili Cook-Off  to visit Book’d Out today. We’re enjoying a recipe blog tour and talking about different foods that play a part in The Red-Hot Chili Cook-Off.

For those of you who are hearing about this book for the first time, it’s the second in a trilogy set in Cadillac, Texas. Lenny Joe Lovelle has been bitten by an acute case of terminal stupidity. He’s been cheating on his wife, Carlene, one of the three cousins (Alma Grace and Patrice are the other two owners) who own Bless My Bloomers, a lingerie shop in Cadillac. Lenny Joe’s mother, Kitty, has accused Alma Grace’s daddy of coming on to her and Sugar Magee—that would be Alma Grace’s mama—has moved into the upstairs bedroom above the panty shop. Yes, it’s quite a twisted up mess but in the south a good hot cinnamon roll for breakfast can cure a multitude of sins…even if one of them isn’t a low-down, scumbag, cheatin’ son-of-a-bitch of a husband.

First a little excerpt and then the cinnamon roll recipe and your chance to win 1 of 2 great prizes!

 Excerpt

(NOTE: the panty shop is in an old two story house and there are three bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs. Carlene has moved into one and now Aunt Sugar is in one of the other bedrooms.)

The aroma of hot cinnamon slipped up the stairs, through the crack under Carlene’s door, and made its way through the feather pillow she’d crammed over her head to keep out the noise of Aunt Sugar’s snores.

A week ago she’d packaged up a cute little bright red outfit and rang up the sale to Bridget who was going to Vegas with her sugar daddy. That little red pair of panties didn’t have a tenth of a yard of fabric in them. Hell, they didn’t have enough material in them to sag a clothesline and yet they’d turned her world, her family, and the whole town of Cadillac upside down.

She carefully removed the pillow from her head and got an even stronger dose of the cinnamon rolls. What would the scent of cooking do for sales? Would it make the customers hungry and they’d leave without buying anything?

She rolled out of bed, peeked out the door, and made a mad dash to the bathroom before Aunt Sugar claimed it. Mama said that Sugar always took two hours to get presentable in the morning. She didn’t go to breakfast without checking for stray eyebrows, chipped fingernail polish, and saying her morning prayers. Carlene didn’t know if Sugar prayed in the bathroom but she didn’t have time to wait two hours before she went to work.

She passed Sugar on the landing on her way back to her bedroom. Fully dressed in a cute little sundress and sandals, her makeup was perfect, and her earrings glittered in the sunlight filtering in from a bedroom window.

“Good mornin’, darlin’. Did you know that you snore?” Sugar asked.

“Yes, ma’am. And good morning to you, Aunt Sugar.” Carlene smiled. “You’re runnin’ a little late. Alma Grace and I’ve already had devotionals and I ordered cinnamon rolls from Clawdy’s. Trixie was good enough to deliver them for me.”

“Guess I’d better get on the ball if I want to grab one. Patrice loves cinnamon rolls and she’ll eat them all,” Carlene said. “After morning prayers, I’ll be back downstairs. Now you run along and get dressed in something pretty. If Lenny comes by again, you want to look nice.” Sugar blew her a kiss.

Carlene dressed in a fitted bright blue dress with a scoop neck and long sleeves. It was Friday and the appointment calendar said that two wedding parties were coming from Sherman so Alma Grace would need help. She picked up a necklace of chunky blue, yellow, and red stones wet with sparkling crystals between the different colors and fastened it around her neck, then added the matching bracelet and earrings. She carried her high heels down the steps and padded barefoot to the kitchen.

She took one look at the pan of cinnamon rolls and said, “Shit, Alma Grace! You can’t take them right out of the middle. That’s not playing fair.”

Patrice caught the last sentence as she pushed the door open. “She’s right. No taking them out of the middle. Did Aunt Sugar get up this early and get food already?”

“She gets up early every morning. We have devotionals before I come to work.” Alma Grace ignored them and removed her second cinnamon roll from the center of the pan. “And she is always dressed with her makeup done and jewelry on, too.”

Patrice cut two big rolls from the middle of the pan. “We’ll treat this like a Scrabble board. I’m playing off Alma Grace’s choice. So praying is done for the day?”

Alma Grace sighed. “Oh, no! Mama is upstairs doing her morning prayers now. And Daddy says he’s going to church at the CNC with me until she gets over her hissy and that means I can’t sit beside or flirt with Jack Landry. Come on Pat-tee, help me out here.”

“You call me that again and I’ll smack you right in the mouth. You know I hate nicknames,” Patrice said.

Alma Grace slid a nasty look toward Carlene. “Don’t look at me. I didn’t make Jamie kiss Kitty or Kitty kiss Jamie or your mama move in here,” Carlene said.

Patrice slapped Alma Grace on the shoulder. “Stop blaming Carlene for everything that happens. I swear if you got a pimple you’d figure out a way to make it her fault.”

And now for the cinnamon roll recipe that they use over at Miss Clawdy’s. It’s the same one I use in my kitchen here in southern Oklahoma.

  CINNAMON ROLLS

  • 2 cups hot water, not boiling
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 T. or two packages of dry yeast

Mix together and set aside until it bubbles.

  • Add 3 cups of flour
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 Tablespoon salt

Stir well! Now add 2 to 3 cups of flour to that. More flour makes stiffer dough which makes heavier rolls. Less flour makes lighter rolls. Put into a greased bowl and cover with a towel. Let rise for one to two hours until double in size. Punch down and roll out on floured surface to about ½ inch thick. Cut up two sticks of butter into think slices and arrange on top. Cover that with brown sugar (I usually use about two cups) and then shake cinnamon over that. Roll it up and cut into one inch sections, place in two 9×12 cake pans. Let rise about an hour, covered with a cloth, and then bake at 350 degrees until light brown. Turn upside down onto cookie sheets or heavy duty foil if you are taking it to a friend’s house. Ice with a powdered sugar, butter, vanilla and milk glaze while still hot.

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WIN!

Do you have a favorite bread recipe? Share it in the comments (along with your name and email) for your chance to win one of two prizes courtesy Sourcebooks:

Prize #1: a print copy of The Red-Hot Chili Cook-Off
or

Prize #2: A Carolyn Brown Prize Pack

o Print copy of The Blue-Ribbon Jalapeno Society Jubilee

o Print copy of The Red-Hot Chili Cook-Off

o Cute recipe card set—so the winner can save the recipes shared along the tour!

*This giveaway is open to US and Canada only – Closes April 13th 2014*

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Be sure to follow along on The Red-Hot Chili Cook-Off Recipe Sharing Tour!

  Learn more about The Red-Hot Chili Cook-Off and find out some delicious recipes from Carolyn and other readers along the way. Chances to win at each stop!

April 1: Carolyn Brown’s Facebook Page

April 2: Dew on the Kudzu

April 3: Fresh Fiction

April 4: Book’d Out

April 7: Book Reviews & More by Kathy

April 8: Chick Lit Central

April 9: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

April 10: Bitten By Love Reviews

April 11: From the TBR Pile

 

To Purchase The Red-Hot Chili Cook-Off:

Amazon Barnes and Noble Books-a-Million Chapters/Indigo IndieBound iBooks Sourcebooks

THE RED-HOT CHILI COOK-OFF BY CAROLYN BROWN – IN STORES APRIL 2014

More Than the Chili’s Heating Up Cadillac, Texas Carlene Lovelle, co-owner of Bless My Bloomers lingerie shop, found a pair of fancy red-silk panties in her husband’s briefcase, and all hell is breaking loose. She custom-made those fancy bloomers herself—and she remembers the bimbo who bought them. If her husband had a lick of sense, he’d known there are no secrets in a town like Cadillac. Carlene’s cohorts—and their mamas—plan to exact revenge on Lenny Joe where it’ll hurt the most: break his ten-year winning streak at the prestigious Red-Hot Chili Cook-Off. Never before has a woman dared to compete. But the ladies of Bless My Bloomers are cooking up a storm…and it seems the whole town is taking sides in the showdown. Welcome to Cadillac, Texas, where the chili is hot, the gossip is hotter, and friends stick by each other, no matter what the challenge.

Praise for The Red-Hot Chili Cook-Off:

“With a cast of characters that will leave readers grinning, Brown’s latest is delightful, humorous “chick lit”… Fun, fun and more fun is on hand in a story that wins a blue ribbon in both originality and wit.” —RT Book Reviews, 4 Stars “Fun, fresh and hilarious… The author showed that laughter is the best medicine and a sure fire cure for the toughest of challenges in life.” —Chick Lit Reviews “The characters are vibrant and engaging, the story is endearingly off beat and full of down home folksy charm. A wonderfully heartwarming and highly entertaining novel.” —Book Reviews and More by Kathy

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

carolynbrown2010

Carolyn Brown is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author with more than sixty books published. Her bestselling cowboy romance series include the Lucky trilogy, the Honky Tonk series, Spikes & Spurs, Cowboys & Brides, and the new Burnt Boot, Texas series. She has also launched into women’s fiction with a Texas twang. Born in Texas and raised in southern Oklahoma, Carolyn and her husband make their home in the town of Davis, Oklahoma, where she credits her eclectic family for her humor and writing ideas. For more information, please visit http://carolynlbrown.com/.

Review: Simmering Season by Jenn J. McLeod

 

Title: Simmering Season

Author: Jenn J. McLeod

Published: Simon & Schuster April 2014

Read an Extract

Status: Read from March 30 to April 02, 2014 — I own a copy  {Courtesy the author}

My Thoughts:

Those who have read Jenn J McLeod’s debut, House for all Seasons, will be delighted to reunite with some of the characters met in the small Australian country town of Calingarry’s Crossing. It is however a minor character, Maggie Lindeman, that takes the lead in this, Jenn McLeod’s loosely linked sequel, Simmering Season.

When Maggie’s father fell ill, she and her teenage son, Noah, reluctantly left husband, and father, Brian, in Sydney with plans to sell the family pub in Calingarry Crossing and reunite in a few months. But two years on, with no-one showing interest in the motel, Maggie is warming to the idea of making the move permanent, if only Brian, obsessed with chasing fame, would agree to join them. Frustrated by Brian’s excuses to remain separated from his family, Maggie’s loyalty to her errant husband is tested when her teenage crush, Dan Ireland, returns to Calingarry Crossing for the school reunion. But Dan’s return isn’t the only thing troubling Maggie, her son is growing restless, Amber’s headstrong daughter, Fiona, is her guest for the summer, and as the season wears on, simmering secrets begin bubbling to the surface.

While I thought things were a little slow to heat up in the Simmering Season as the author establishes the back story for the three main characters, Maggie, Fiona and Dan, once the school reunion gets underway, the story begins to move forward with surprising revelations and some dramatic moments, prompting the characters to make decisions about their future.

As in the House For All Seasons, the major themes of this novel examines the need to make peace with the past in order to move forward and the importance of knowing what you need, and want, to be happy within yourself.

In trying to accommodate what Maggie thinks her husband and son wants from her, instead of what she needs, Maggie has grown increasingly resentful, but is unwilling to admit it. At times I was frustrated by Maggie, while her sense of loyalty to her husband is admirable, it is so clearly misplaced that her angst was a little wearying and in protecting her son from Brian’s failures, she made herself a martyr. It took her a while but I was relieved when Maggie began to recognise her worth as the events that unfolded during Simmering Season forced her to reassess her priorities.

Dan has been punishing himself for years for the part he played in a fatal accident. Returning to Calingarry Crossing is difficult for him but he has to decide to let go of the things he can’t change, and do something about those he can including dealing with his high stress job as a police car accident investigator, reuniting with his father and pursuing Maggie.

I most admired Fiona’s growth during the story, a spoilt, spiteful princess with a (not entirely unwarranted) chip on her shoulder to begin with, she learns some hard lessons about the value of family and responsibility. Fiona is affected the most by the secrets her mother, Amber, kept and when they are revealed, she is finally able to make peace with her past and move on.

An appealing novel about self discovery and second chances, I enjoyed Simmering Season and I look forward to revisiting Calingarry Crossing again next year in the Season of Shadow and Light.

Learn more about Jenn J. McLeod and Simmering Season by clicking HERE

Simmering Season is available to purchase from

Simon & Schuster Au  I boomerang-books_long I Booktopia I Amazon AU I Amazon US

  via Booko

 

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AWW Feature: Who am I? by Jenn J McLeod

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Welcome Jenn J McLeod!

I am happy to welcome back  Australian author, Jenn J McLeod to Book’d Out today. During her visit around this time last year she was celebrating the release of her debut novel, House of All Seasons, which earned her the position of the 5th best selling author on the official Nielsen Bookscan list for 2013.

In Simmering Season, devoted mother, sole breadwinner, and now local publican, Maggie Lindeman is back in Calingarry Crossing with her teenage son to sell the family pub, hoping to turn their lives and finances around. The trouble is, the girl people once called Magpie is so busy protecting everyone else she has no idea the perfect storm is heading her way, until her past and present converge with the unexpected to blow the lid off a lifetime of secrets.

My review of Jenn J McLeod’s second heartwarming novel can be found HERE at Book’d Out, but first please enjoy this guest post from Jenn…

 

Who Am I?

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First of all, the very flexible female in this is picture is NOT me.
The characters in my books are also… NOT me.
It’s common, however, for a reader to assume an author might write themselves into their novel. Having four lead female characters in House for all Seasons I’ve been asked quite a few times: “Which one are you?”.
The thing is, I can no more write myself into a story than I can do the upside-down splits on a balance beam. I like my fiction to stay fiction and prefer to find the physical attributes and mannerisms of a character by loitering in my local shopping mall or having coffee in a cafe. (Tough research that simply must be done!) I doubt I will ever be one of my characters, although Poppy Hamilton (House for all Seasons) and I are both just shy of six feet tall.
But wait! Hold on! Rewind. I’ve just read this draft blog post aloud to a friend who knows both House for all Seasons and Simmering Season very well and it would appear I may have unconsciously modelled ‘bits’ of both books on myself after all. Apparently I have very definite opinions on certain subjects and, according to my now ex-friend – hehehe! – more than a few likes/dislikes that I share with considerable passion from time to time. I am being told right now, in fact, that some of these philosophies have trickled into my plots, finding their way into my characters attitudes!!
Okay, so I have a strong moral code and I’m passionate about certain subjects. (In Simmering Season I guess you’d say reality TV gets a flogging and young driver behaviour gets a very necessary flagging.)
In light of this discovery about myself and my stories, perhaps it’s not surprising that my latest dedication reads: “To my dad — my moral compass in life — for letting me travel my own path through life, for loving me no matter how I strayed, and for letting me make my own choices even when you didn’t understand them”.
My Simmering Season characters – especially Maggie Lindeman, Calingarry Crossing’s local publican – are forced to examine their chosen paths when a school reunion brings home more than memories, and the past and present converge with the unexpected to form the perfect storm, blowing the lid of a lifetime of small town secrets. I think readers will relate to Maggie – a woman juggling way too many things at once (like most mothers) and trying to do it all. She has a few conflicts to overcome and right now I have my own …
Preparing this blog post has sparked a friendly but lively discussion over a bottle of red and I am forced to finish by conceding…
It took someone who knows me well to point out those ‘aspects’ I’ve woven into Maggie’s story. I won’t admit to which ‘aspects’ in particular, except to say …
Balance beams!
Those blasted blocks of wood were my nemesis at school — and also Maggie’s.
We learn this about Maggie at the school reunion. The DJ has just cranked up the volume in the auditorium, the hired mirror ball is hypnotising a few eager couples into thinking they can dance, the strobe light exaggerating the jerky dance movements of mid-life bones that haven’t boogied for years. Maggie heads outside to cool down and, ironically, the only place she can find to give her stiletto-sore soles a break is the balance beam outside the old gym apparatus shed. Not her favourite place at all.
Maggie never enjoyed sports period and she never understood how learning to balance on a lump of wood might prepare her for anything to do with life after school. It hadn’t helped her balance a career with marriage and motherhood; that was for sure.
Like Maggie, I hated P.E class. I may even have developed my storytelling talent by making up reasons why I might be excused from participating. I’m not sure which I hated more: blue gym mats for tumbling upside down, parallel bars and rings for swinging upside down, and monkey bars for hanging upside down. If we were meant to climb monkey bars would we not have all been born monkeys? (Hmm, that’s a whole other discussion, and another bottle of red, for another time, I’m told!)

Click HERE to read an excerpt of Simmering Season

Simmering Season is available to purchase from

Simon & Schuster Au  I boomerang-books_long I Booktopia I Amazon AU I Amazon US

  via Booko

 

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Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Title: Fangirl

Author: Rainbow Rowell

Published: Macmillan Au April 2014

Read an Extract

Status: Read from March 30 to April 01, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

“Why do we write fiction?” Professor Piper asked.
Cath looked down at her notebook.

To disappear.”

Cather is comfortable escaping into the realm of anonymous fanfic where she can be free of her crippling social anxiety, and always know what to say and do. College is nothing but uncomfortable, and it is all she can do, while struggling with the separation from her twin sister, Wren, and her father, to make it to her classes. But gradually, Cath is forced out of her comfort zone, encouraged by her roommate Reagan and the irrepressible Levi, in this charming contemporary novel by Rainbow Rowell.

I wavered between wanting to shake or hug Cath a lot of the time. Though I thought her sweetly shy and endearingly awkward, smart and often funny, her naivety sometimes stretched credulity. There were things I could relate to though, like this;

“In new situations, all the trickiest rules are the ones nobody bothers to explain to you. (And the ones you can’t google.) Like, where does the line start? What food can you take? Where are you supposed to stand, then where are you supposed to sit? Where do you go when you’re done, why is everyone watching you?” (on why Cath avoids the dining hall)

I remember that anxiety when I first went to university and having to force myself to ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’. Cath really struggles with the changes college forces on her and it’s a slow, sometimes frustrating, transformation but I think Rowell handles it realistically and thankfully she has Reagan to look out for her;

“Cath rolled her eyes and looked at Reagan. “Do you really want me asking you stupid questions?”
“If they’re about food, water, air or shelter – yes. Jesus, Cath, I’m your roommate.”

Reagan is the perfect roommate for Cath – often absent allowing her the time on her own she craves but doesn’t hesitate to call Cath out on her ‘crazy’, in a blunt but non-judgmental way.

I loved the relationship between Cath and Levi, so much awkward cuteness. Their romance is sweet, moving from acquaintance to friendship to lovers without feeling rushed or forced. And even though he screws up quite badly at one point, Levi with his goofy, ever-present smile, is just so appealing.

I really wasn’t a fan of the fan fiction excerpts, the whole Simon Snow/Harry Potter thing made me feel a little uncomfortable. And I have to admit I don’t really get the whole fan fiction scene anyway, though I know it is huge and I respect Cath’s passion for it. The plagiarism debate that takes place between Cath and her professor seemed disingenuous, I found it hard to believe, no matter her private opinion, that Cath would have thought her fanfic be acceptable for an assignment specifically asking for an original story.

The scenes I particularly enjoyed included those where Cath was reading aloud to Levi, her Emergency Kanye Dance Party (though Kanye… ugh) and her and Reagan’s cafeteria observations (a friend and I used to do that too).

Unusually for YA/NA fiction, Cath’s family has an important role in this story. Cath’s identical twin, Wren, (get it? Cather..Wren) is also a freshman but unlike her sister Wren is eager to establish her independence and reinvent herself in their new environment, which means leaving Cath behind. The dynamics between the sisters is realistic I think, with its mix of love and resentment, complicated particularly by their oppositional feelings about their absent mother. The girls father, who is bipolar, is very much present through the book through phone calls, messages and trips home.

Fangirl isn’t perfect, but it is a sweet, funny and moving coming of age novel. I’d certainly recommend it for young adults on the cusp of graduation and those struggling with the transition to college, but it is also a charming read in it’s own right for anyone who remembers stepping nervously into the college dining hall for the first time.

Fangirl is available to purchase from

Pan Macmillan I boomerang-books_long I Booktopia I Amazon AU I Amazon US

  via Booko

 

 

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