Fancy an Olive with that Glass of Wine? Food and Drink in the Convict Era

There can surely only be one thing more gratifying than historical research into wine and food, and that’s researching wine and food, while contemporaneously consuming wine and food. Not in a library of course, that would see one ejected faster than a soot blackened chimney sweep from a Regency drawing room, but then, that’s the beauty of the internet.

Granted, actual convict food wouldn’t have been up to much. A monotonous ration of flour and meat, enlivened only with a spot of tea and sugar.

But if discovering, that for those with money, a good Burgundy, a smattering of pickled olives and gherkins, and English cheese, were all available in 1820’s Sydney sends one off to ransack the refrigerator – who is there to complain?

As per the proverbial sapling that falls in the arboretum, if there is no-one there to witness the covert scoff, did it really happen?

Did the victuals in the photo survive scarcely a minute thrice after the smart phone crackled out its satisfying artificial shutter sound? My lips are sealed with the lingering aftertaste of Mediterranean salt cut through with notes of citrus fruit and honey…







The Seductive Appeal of Research

It starts out innocently enough – a stolen glance on the internet to verify a fact – just a glimpse to check a date – a little peek to confirm a detail.

 But one thing always seems to lead to another…

Several hours later, screeds of interesting facts and apt details scatter the page. Fragments of poignant true life experiences are sparking off ideas for future stories, but sweet diddly has been put down towards today’s word count.

It has been going on for a week or two now and my latest heroine has made camp on my book shelf.

She’s eating peanuts – somewhat huffily (Note – I’m resisting the urge to Google whether peanuts were actually available in early nineteenth century Australia).

They’re whole peanuts. I’m guessing if they had them, they wouldn’t have sold them shelled. So she’s shelling them and biffing the husks at me.

I know what she’s thinking.  I should stop watching that video I found on the internet of the hot shirtless blacksmith at work (strictly for research purposes of course) and conjure up hers.

And I will.

Just as soon as I watch it one more time.

His Convict Wife

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It’s the Regency period.

The lucky are having a rollicking good time attending balls and house parties, with little to concern them, except perhaps ettiquette, and fashion, and displaying good ton.

The unlucky are transported, forced into backbreaking work in hideous conditions with only brutal floggings and forced prostitution to break up the monotony.

And then there’s Irish convict girl Colleen Malone, feisty, indignant, and equally determined not to be crushed by the horrifying injustice of it all.

The series that began with the novella The Convict’s Bounty Bride continues with His Convict Wife, due to be released on 1 December 2013.

The Case for Later Historicals


The East End of London in the 1950’s, San Francisco in the ‘swinging sixties’, Saigon during the Vietnam War, the American Civil Rights movement, Cold War Russia.

Sound like promising settings for an historical romance? Not according to much of the romance writing industry.

How is it that back in the 1970’s and 80’s World War Two was considered to be an historical event and yet thirty to forty years on, anything that happened in the same number of years susequent to the end of the war is not? Surely historicals should now span out to at least 1985?

When did time stand still and history go into pause mode?

In a society that embraces change at a pace in every other sphere, it seems remarkable that when it comes to our history we’re stuck.

Isn’t it time to turn off the freeze-frame?



The Slang Maker


It is not until you start writing for an international audience that you realise how much overseas slang New Zealanders need to absorb just to stay entertained. For us it’s a case of continually having to guess at unfamiliar words and phrases, or risk perpetual boredom.

That’s because New Zealand is a country of only four million people – yes you read that right – the whole of New Zealand’s population would fit comfortably into Sydney, squeeze into Los Angeles and only populate London if it were to gobble up some demographic steroids and double over night. Continue reading

A Heart Divided by Mary Brock Jones

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I approached Mary Brock Jones’ ‘A Heart Divided’ with a mixture of excitement and trepidation.

Excitement – because I believe the incredible history offered by the Central Otago Goldfields in the South Island of New Zealand makes it deserving of a romance sub-sub genre all of  its own, and any release of a new book set in that era only serves to advance the cause.

Trepidation – because I am intimately familiar with all of the places in Brock Jones’ novel. The beautifully stark landscape studded with sculptural rock formations is a hero to get lost in and fall in love with in itself. To have lived in Central Otago is to yearn for it. So it was important to me as a reader that the writer did the landscape justice. Fortunately, I needn’t have worried. Brock Jones depicted the environment wonderfully well and any reader who has not visited will almost certainly come away with a true sense of the remarkable setting. Continue reading

The Chieftain’s Curse by Frances Housden


Diving back into The Chieftain’s Curse in order to refresh my memory for this review, I’d barely read a few sentences before I found myself ensnared deep within Cragenlaw Castle’s walls and in serious danger of curling up on the sofa to read the book a second time instead of getting down to work.

When I finally tore myself away, achieved only by switching off the E-reader completely, the residue of Cragenlaw and its inhabitants, were still suspended in my consciousness like a spell cast by the witch responsible for the curse itself. Continue reading

Call Story


This week, bestselling Australian romance writer Kylie Griffin shared my ‘call story’ or more correctly in my case, my ‘call email’, on her blog as part of a series she is running on new authors.

Now that its out there, I thought it was time I  posted it on my own website, especially, as while I was still an unpublished writer, reading other people’s call stories always gave me a lift. Continue reading