Be Warned: These are the scribblings of a writer unruly, unsupervised, and largely unrepentant

Friday, January 31, 2014

Cooking the Books

For the second book in my Sydney Dovedale series, THE WICKED WEDDING OF MISS ELLIE VYNE, my sister chose the following recipe (for the Hartley jewels that Ellie is accused of stealing - as if she would!!):

Tomato Jewel Tartlets


4 ounces goat cheese, softened
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/2 of a 17.3-ounce package Puff Pastry Sheets (1 sheet), thawed
24 cherry tomatoes


Heat the oven to 400°F.  Stir the goat cheese, parsley, chives, Parmesan cheese, black pepper and lemon zest in a medium bowl. 

Unfold the pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface.  Roll the pastry sheet into a 10-inch square.  Cut into 4 (2 1/2-inch) strips.  Cut each strip into 6 (3x3x3-inch) triangles.  Discard any remaining pastry.  Press the pastry triangles into the bottoms and up the sides of 24 (1 1/2-inch) mini muffin-pan cups.

Bake for 7 minutes.

Cut slits in the tops of the tomatoes and scoop out the seeds.  Spoon about 1 1/2 teaspoons cheese mixture into each tomato.  Place the tomatoes in the centre of the warm pastries and press down lightly.

Bake for 5 minutes or until the pastries are golden brown


Ellie Vyne never had much sympathy for men, until she temporarily became one. Disguised as the
"count de Bonneville," donning satin breeches and an old-fashioned powdered wig to gamble among Society’s decadent rich, she discovered a surprising fact. Contrary to previous conjecture, the male animal did not necessarily have all the fun. True, they could burp as they chose without reprimand, and sit with their legs in any pose comfortable. But they too had pitfalls to dodge, because the female sex could be just as single-minded in pursuit of sport and just as reticent to take no for an answer.
For instance, the "count" was lucky to get away with his true identity intact—likewise his trousers—since Lady Ophelia Southwold proved herself such an overeager strumpet that evening. While pressing a lavish diamond necklace into the count’s gloved hand in payment for her IOU, the lady also extended a startling offer, whispered so hotly in his ear that the
steam nearly wilted his wig. An offer he was obliged to refuse for reasons obvious only to himself.
It was fortunate Lady Southwold’s fingers never ventured any higher along the count’s breeches, or she would have shared his secret and suffered a nasty shock.
Followed by disappointment of severe magnitude.

Ellie could laugh over the incident now she had safely retreated to a rowdy inn on the outskirts of London. Kneeling on the bed, in the count’s lace-trimmed shirt, she counted out the guineas won after another night of fleecing unsuspecting aristocrats and rich young bucks about Town. She carefully lifted Lady Southwold’s necklace and studied the five enormous diamonds hanging on little clips. Ellie never wore much jewelry, other than the pearls left behind by her mother—and those were elegant and understated. But this necklace was nothing like that. She’d never seen diamonds so large. And heavy. They would surely drag a woman’s shoulders down by the end of an evening. It really was possible to have too much of a good thing.
While this had been a fruitful outing for the charming, elusive "count," when Ellie looked at those ugly diamonds, a shimmer of foreboding lapped at her senses. It ruffled her nerve endings like the tongue of a sly, cooling zephyr. Perhaps tonight had been too
fruitful. It could be time to hang up the count’s breeches before the ruse was discovered. Truthfully, she was surprised she got away with her masquerade as long as she did. It didn’t say much for her looks, Ellie mused, that she was so easily disguised as a man. Or
else it said little for the masculine appearance of today’s aristocratic gentlemen.

Her winnings packed safely away, she peeled the itching theatrical eyebrows carefully off her face, finished a glass of brandy, blew out her candle, and tumbled back across the bed. Sprawled in the moonlight, she yawned heavily, listened to the general ruckus from below, and pondered the strange direction her life had strayed. As the main caretaker of her family since the age of eight, she’d always known something different waited in her future, but she never imagined the road she traveled would be quite like this.
* * * *
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Thursday, January 30, 2014


Well, it is a cold, cold day here but at least I don't have ice on the inside of my windows this morning, so it must be warming up. Slightly!

I have something today that will heat you up, I hope.

Welcome to my new feature - Cooking the Books - in which I'll be spotlighting one of my books each day with a recipe that matches the theme of the story. My very clever, amusing and vastly talented sister, Lynne Gilkes (yes, that is how she prefers that I introduce her) has provided the recipes, because I can't cook much beyond Yorkshire pudding and jam sandwiches.

Today's offering is the first book in my Sydney Dovedale series, THE MOST IMPROPER MISS SOPHIE VALENTINE. Since Sophie is a lady who keeps her spicy true-self well hidden under a demure, sweet exterior, the recipe my sister chose is Chilli Chocolate Ice Cream.


Chilli Chocolate Ice Cream

Ice cream

3 red chillies, sliced
600ml double cream
¼ tsp chilli powder
4 large egg yolks
100g caster sugar
150g dark chocolate, broken into small pieces
50g dark chocolate, chopped

Candied chillies, optional

2 fresh red chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
100g sugar
100ml water


 To make the ice cream, place the chillies and cream into a saucepan. Warm until just below boiling and then remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 30 minutes. Strain the cream and discard the chillies and seeds. Add the chilli powder and reheat the cream until just below boiling, stirring continuously.

Place the egg yolks and sugar into a bowl, mix together then slowly pour the cream over the egg mixture, stirring continuously. Return the egg mixture to the saucepan, add the 150g broken chocolate and heat gently, stirring, until the mixture thickens slightly. Remove from the heat, leave to cool a little and then put in the fridge to chill.

Once cool, stir in the 50g chopped chocolate. Set the timer on your ice cream maker for 25 minutes. Pour the mixture into the bowl with the paddle running and leave to freeze churn. If you prefer a firmer consistency, place the ice cream in your freezer for 20-30 minutes.

To make the candied chillies, place the ingredients into a pan, bring to the boil and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and strain through a sieve. Reserve 1 tbsp of the liquid and discard the rest. Stir the reserved liquid into the chillies, leave to cool then sprinkle over the ice cream to serve.

Tip: Home-made ice cream is best taken out of the freezer 20-30 minutes before serving.

* * * *

Sophie continued her sewing. She should have known better than to raise the subject of economy, for any advice she tried to give Lavinia dropped into small, ineffectual ears muffled by ringlets and attached to a very small brain incapable of understanding any will but its own.
"To be thus attacked and criticized in my own home. Me, a married woman of consequence and property, from good family and well brought up! To be lectured daily by a tight-lipped spinster who’s here only on my husband’s charity. I’ve never heard of such a thing. I am outraged that you think to tell me how to behave!"
 The wisest course of action would be to ignore her. After all, Sophie should be accustomed to it by now. It was apparently her lot in life to always be in the way, unequal to anything and unwelcome to everybody. But even as her conscience politely reminded her she was almost thirty and ought to be darning stockings by the fire with her aunt, only occasionally discussing the ins and outs of her health with no one who cared, she simply must relieve her anger somehow.
She was supposed to be a reformed character these days. Alas, the same naughty, rebellious imp that once urged her to leap from a balcony, not knowing how far she had to fall or what lay directly below, thrived inside her still. It would not sit in a corner and be quiet.
 She stood quickly, set aside her sewing, and walked out into the yard and round the corner. There she waited a moment, fists at her side, gaze darting back and forth.
"Put upon," she muttered. "Put upon?"
 She turned in a tight circle, bristling with anger.
Aha! There were two large sacks of chicken feathers and goose down against the wall, waiting for the pillowcases she and her aunt were sewing. Grabbing a stick from the woodpile, she ran up to the sacks and began beating them, imagining they were her sister-in-law.
"You should be put upon and often," she hissed. "And if your husband dislikes the duty, I’ll gladly do it!"
A cloud of feathers flew up as the first sack burst open, and she found the sensation so satisfying she turned her wrath on the second sack, until the air was full of feathers. She swung that stick so wildly she heard the stitches ripping at her shoulder, but it felt too good to stop. When she tossed the stick aside, she picked up the sack and emptied the last of the feathers, shaking it hard overhead. "One of these days," she gasped, "I’ll clap the side of your big head with the bacon kettle!" Dropping the sack to the ground, she stamped on it, grunting.
"I beg your pardon, madam, I tried the bell by the gatehouse, but there was no reply."
She spun around and found him right behind her, his hat under one arm, a pair of darkly curious eyes studying her in part bewilderment, part amusement.
Goose down drifted all around her, and her hairpins were falling loose, but she was frozen to the spot.
* * * *
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Tuesday, January 7, 2014


Celebrating the new year, giving away the complete set of Sydney Dovedale books - signed by me. That includes THE MOST IMPROPER MISS SOPHIE VALENTINE, THE WICKED WEDDING OF MISS ELLIE VYNE, LADY MERCY DANFORTHE FLIRTS WITH SCANDAL and the new release MISS MOLLY ROBBINS DESIGNS A SEDUCTION.
Want a chance to win? Check out my author page on FACEBOOK for directions.