This recipe is from my romantic suspense novel, "Combatting Fear".
Neve lives in a rustic shack, nestled in the Australian bush, with her father.
Here's an excerpt from the book, where Neve prepares the lamb shanks for dinner ...
Tony patted Neve's shoulder and bent over the cast-iron pot to inhale the rich aroma. "That smells fabulous."
She drew in a big gulp of the flavoursome steam too, and saliva pooled in her mouth. Braised lamb shanks with her secret ingredients: balsamic vinegar and five-spice.
The heavy iron lid settle into place with a clunk and it took the two of them to lift the pot back into the oven.
While dinner is finishing in the oven, there is a crisis on the property. An intruder. But never fear, that's not going to keep us from enjoying this truly delicious meal. Here's another excerpt from the book, where Neve serves the lamb shanks ...
"Well, dinner's ready. You may as well stay and we can all get to know one another a little better. Tony, you can mash the potatoes."
Tony huffed and went to the stove to help Neve lift the cast-iron pot. A swirling cloud of meat-moistened steam whooshed out when she lifted the lid.
I can promise you that this recipe is extra special and easy to make. It works just as well if you use the ingredients with stew meat too.
A kindergarten teacher by day, Neve has a special affinity for one of her students. Little Rowan looks just like her late brother; so much so that sometimes it brings back painful memories.
She loves her job, because it's the only way a spinster can enjoy the laughter of children. It's her choice to sacrifice the chance of ever finding a partner, and she doesn't regret it. After all, Toni is all the family she has left.
Toni isn't like most fathers though. He is paranoid in the extreme, and has been training Neve to defend herself since she was a teenager. Guerilla warefare tactics, hand-to-hand combat and survival skills are all second nature to this teacher come warrior.
Living off-the-grid is certainly one way to keep potentia suitors at bay. What Neve never considered, was what would happen if she found someone she wanted to let in.
He's a self-made multi-billionnaire with a passion for renewable energy technology. He built his empire so his family would never have to go hungy again, and he'd do anything to protect them.
When his wife, Chelsea, left him, he took it on the chin. At least he still got to play an active role in his son, Rowan's, life. But when Chelsea got involved with a new man, Micah lost his cool and threatened to take Rowan away from her.
He's been paying for that mistake for the past year. She disappeared without a trace, but her downfall is always the money. Micah would never leave his family without, but every time Chelsea makes a bank withdrawal, he drops everything to track her.
They've been playing a game of cat and mouse all over Australia, but this time he can feel it in his bones... he's close.
This time he's bringing his son home.
Sandy on Two Wheels
Dear reader, I admit to being a motorbike addict. Please don't hold it against me.
Some may say — in fact many of my friends have said — that I’m an adrenaline junkie. I’ll admit to jumping out of a plane, swimming with a shark and being an avid motorbike rider, but it’s more than a rush, it’s a celebration of life. I just can’t get enough of new experiences.
I was a late-comer to the two-wheeled crowd, but I remember the day well. Hubby sent me on a joy ride for my 29th birthday, with a friend who owned a bright yellow Triumph Daytona (and you thought Brad Pitt was hot!).
Wow, that machine growled like a jaguar with the slightest twist of the throttle.
So, I climbed aboard behind said friend with a knot of trepidation in my belly. It didn't take long for the wind on my face, the warmth of the sun on my thighs and the smells of the passing country side, to totally mesmerise me. It's difficult to describe the feeling of freedom and power, yes and a little danger too. By the time we arrived at our morning tea destination I was hooked.
I may have been a tad apprehensive when I'd climbed aboard the Triumph that day, but when I dismounted, there was a persistent grin on my face. What else could I do? I pestered our poor friend to take me for a ride every fortnight (rain, hail or shine), and two months later announced to my stunned hubby that I was going to get my license.
Keep the shiny side up.
Thankfully hubby patiently tolerates all of my crazy schemes, and he got his motorbike license at the same time. We've never looked back.
One of the things I love most about motorcycling, is the community. I soon discovered that the camaraderie is all encompassing and breeches gender, race, and all other barriers. It's a lot like the writing community in that way.
From "Inheriting Fear", a romantic suspense novel
Hi, I’m Mya, the motorbike-riding tough girl from 'Inheriting Fear'. I want to tell you a bit about myself, just so you’ll understand that I’m not all bitch. I put on a front to keep people — especially men — at arm’s length. Can you blame me, after what I endured at the hands of Cockroach (Jack Roach)?
But my childhood wasn’t all bad. Jack was a loving dad once upon a time. I remember barbeques in the back yard with Nana hugging the breath from me and the neighbour’s dog waiting in the shade by the fence for a bit of left over sausage. Sometimes Mum and Dad’s friends would come over and they’d play card games at the kitchen table. I’d sit on the cool linoleum floor with a bowl of potato chips and glass of lemonade, listening to the grown-ups’ conversations. It made me feel important to be privy to such things.
Once we even holidayed by the beach and had to eat our ice creams fast, because the wind made them melt quicker than a lick. Mum was the most beautiful woman I knew, with long waves of caramel hair and glossy pink lips. She gave the best hugs too. Being wrapped in her arms was like snuggling into the softest blanket, with the scent of vanilla cupcakes, which made me hungry.
Cooking with Mum was such fun that even my kindy friends used to ask to join in. She didn’t get angry when you cracked the egg too hard and got shell in the cake mix, or when you stirred too vigorously and slopped some onto the floor. And she had an uncanny knack of needing something from the cupboard right when I slipped a few chocolate chips into my mouth. Luckily she always measured out extras, so there were still plenty for the cake.
Mum gave the best hugs...
It wasn’t until Nana died that Jack started to change. He was sad all the time and Mum didn’t know how to cheer him up. She’d make his favourite meals and keep the house tidy. I drew him pictures of the three of us holding hands on the beach, and told him funny jokes I learnt at kindy.
Nothing worked and he started going to the pub on the way home from work. I didn’t like the way he smelt when he got home, and he was clumsy and rough. I’m not sure how long it took before he stopped going to work all together, but things were never the same after that.
Jack used to sit on the porch and scowl at the world all day. There would be quite a collection of beer bottles by his chair when I got home from school. Sometimes he’d cry while Mum rocked him like a child, and other times he’d get so angry that he’d hit her. Mum told me he didn’t mean it, he was just like a lost child since his mother died.
The more he hit Mum, the more I stayed out of his way, but one day he got sick of the sight of me and locked me in his long metal toolbox. It was dark and cramped and I screamed and cried, and clawed at the door until my finger tips bled.
After that I made sure to ride the trains when he was in a mood. Nobody knew who I was and I could ride for hours on one ticket. Even the quiet electric trains made a rhythmic rumble as the wheels clacked across the joins in the track. The landscaped blurred past and if I had a seat to myself I could rest my head, fall asleep and dream of a different life.
From the "Autumn Leaves" anthology of short stories
Hello there, I'm Carly Shaw and I'm 30 y.o. In high school I fell in love with the handsome farmer, Elliot Fraser and we were inseparable. It was all we could do to keep our hands off one another in the school yard, and we hung out as much as possible in our own time.
The first winter we were together he gave me one of his jumpers to wear and I've had it ever since. It as too big for me, but it became my favourite fashion statement, because it smelt of him, all warm and earthy. We planned for a future together and never doubted that our love was strong enough to last.
Then I turned twenty and discovered that when my good for nothing father walked out, he left huge debts. Mum would lose the farm and the house I'd grown up in, if I didn't do something about it. So, I made the most difficult decision I've ever had to make. I left Cockatoo Flat for a high-paying job in Adelaide city. Money, an apartment within walking distance of the mall and trendy clothes were never things I'd coveted, and Elliot should have known that, but he wouldn't listen. All he heard was 'I'm leaving you'. It didn't matter, I still had to put Mum's needs before my own.
All he heard was "I'm leaving you".
It broke my heart when I heard that Elliot had moved on. He was married to another local girl and they were going to have a baby. There was no point in ever moving back to Cockatoo Flat. On the bright side, I made a lot of money fast and paid out all of Mum's debts.
Now, Mum has been diagnosed with cancer, so I've come home to take care of her during the chemo therapy. Being back is like having a weight lifted from my chest. I can breathe again and air is crisp and smells of cut hay. It made me realise how much I'd missed Mum and the camaraderie of the community. In truth it was the excuse I'd needed to leave an unsatisfying life behind. I reckon seeing all my old school friends with their doting husbands and cute kids, made my biological clock start ticking.
There wasn't much chance I'd find my soul mate a second time...