Kitchen Nightmares

​ “The secret’s in the seasoning.”

 Compliments about her food were part of the language of  Cara’s  life.

 Her response always as ready as her legendary chocolate  cookies, mixing bowl to mouth in thirty minutes.

 “Cara should write a book.”

 “She should be on tv.”

 The chatter of the middle-classes at table. Wives moving  goose-  fat laden potatoes to husbands’ plates, masking  

 envy with cool smiles. Husbands licking sinful sauces from  overfilled spoons and wondering if Cara’s generosity  extended  to the bedroom.

 “Cara’s happy enough as she is.”

 That proprietary pat on her arm he always adopted in public.

 “She’s a wonder.”

 I’m your biggest asset. 

 The words, as always, unspoken; Cara’s smile, as always, in  place.


 Alan’s world remained as Alan’s world should: orderly, well-  run  and beautifully-catered. Cara could hardly complain: the  bargain  worked as well for her as it did for him.

“We’d be a  great team.”

 His first words, bestowed like a gift ten years ago when she  started catering for the company functions Alan starred in.  He’d  said it again when she’d poured out the truth of her  previous life  one exhausted, vulnerable night, her rule about  no third glass of  wine long broken.

 To read the rest and find out what Cara is really up to, click  here​​

 Blood and Roses: buy now for paperback & kindle at  independent bookstores & stockists including:



 Blood and Roses: buy now for paperback & kindle at  independent bookstores & stockists including:


​​​​​Twisted Short Stories... As well as historical fiction, I have been  writing short stories -  all with strong female characters and (I  hope) unexpected  twists. I am delighted to say that a number  of these have now  won prizes and been published:

 Now You See Me runner up in the 2014 Prolitzer Prize,   

 Kitchen Nightmares 3rd prize 2015 West  Sussex  Short Story  Competition

​ Stolen Moments finalist Scottish Arts Club Short Story    Competition 2015

 Still Waters published in Jan iScot magazine

 Commendation Cinammon Press Short Story Comp 2016

 ​​Longlist Retreat West 2016


 The Next Chapter: Click Here for Updates on Book Two


Talking about Writing...

 In a listening mood? Here's my

 interview with Booked on Pulse, Pulse

 Radio's Sunday bookshow about the

 experience of writing my first novel: 


 A Sweet Case of Adultery

I'm currently having a bit of an Annie Grey fan moment having just read The Greedy Queen (a fabulous account of Queen Victoria and food) and watched her recent BBC series The Sweet Makers which plunged four chefs back into the world of British confectionery production from the Tudors to the 1930s.

​There were all kinds of wonderful nuggets in the series. I loved the

concept of a Tudor sugar banquet - basically the dream 'pudding

dinner' my kids always longed for - and the weird Georgian jellies

but what intrigued me most was the Victorian muddling of sweets

and poison. We bandy the word poison about a lot when it comes to

food and, ironically, it's currently sugar that is only permitted a place

at the Devil's table. This is neither the time nor the place to rant

about clean-eating (although the news that coconut oil is basically

lard had me in fits of joy for a week) and nuts and additives are a

minefield for those with allergies, but at least they're not arsenic.

Yes arsenic, just one of the jolly compounds accidentally or intentionally used in food manufacturing in nineteenth century Britain. Fancy some more? What about copper sulphate used in bottled fruits and pickles or red lead for colouring Gloucester cheese or perhaps a tasty drop of strychnine in your rum or beer? If you're not in the mood for those, how about setting the breakfast table with a jug of chalk-filled milk, a nice loaf of bread with added plaster of Paris and a pat of butter brightened up with copper. Pop Tarts suddenly don't sound quite so bad after all.

Adulteration in food is nothing new. In the middle ages, costly spices were often bulked out with ground nutshells or pits or even stones and dust and bread flour was regularly mixed with sand and sawdust. Laws to try and regulate price, weight and quality of foodstuffs such as bread and beer began in 1266 and were heavily enforced by trade guilds. These laws, however, were to protect the market not the consumer and were patchy in their application outside towns and cities. Fast forward to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, with the mass move towards urbanisation, and adulteration becomes the rule rather than the exception across pretty much all food and drink sectors and one of the worst offending culprits was the confectionery trade.

Access to sugar democratised in the mid nineteenth century as

prices fell sufficiently for sweets and associated items (such as

cakes and biscuits) to come within working class budgets. A cottage

industry grew up to feed the nation's new sweet tooth, particularly

round the production of boiled sweets. However, this was also a

period of intense competition as technological innovations in

processes and packaging (and the growth of the advertising industry)

opened the market to entrepreneurs such as Fry, Rowntree and

Cadbury whose interest was not tiny kitchens but large scale

manufacturing. Profit became king and corners were not so much cut

by the smaller producers as rampaged round. Potentially lethal

chemicals were used for colouring, especially to make the sweets attractive to children, eg: mercury sulphide (red), lead chromate (yellow), copper sulphate and good old arsenic (blue) and copper arsenite (green). Sugar was bulked out with plaster of Paris and limestone. Very often the hapless consumer could not tell the difference - as the sweet makers demonstrate in the programme when they compare adulterated and non-adulterated toffee.

To find out more - including some rather nasty poisonings - click here



And an extract from one of my blogs for the History Girls

New Posts on 22nd of each Month

 Stolen Moments 

 Alice Morgan liked to steal.

 “You’re such a little Magpie!”

 Her mother had been highly amused by the treasure trove  of  shiny trinkets she’d found burrowed into the tummy of  five

 year  old Alice’s teddy bear. A jumble of old coins and  broken  necklaces mostly and, yes, her eternity ring which  she thought  she’d lost for good, but nothing really  important. All children  did it and Alice would grow out of it  so no need for a scene.

 But Alice didn’t grow out of it and her mother’s laugh lost  its  sparkle when other parents muttered about ornaments  that  vanished and the party invitations began to dry up.

 “You do understand that this is wrong, don’t you dear?”

 Mrs Drake, the well-meaning head-teacher at Alice’s  Primary  School always smiled when she posed the  question but, as the  pile of hair slides and toys that Alice  acquired and other  children cried over, grew larger, the  smile gradually grew more  strained. It only reached her  eyes again when Alice’s parents  agreed with the gently  unmovable suggestion that, yes, a new  start would be best  for everyone.


“I know you know it’s wrong so why do you do it?” 


 A more direct question from the harassed form tutor as she  waved her hand across another heap of purses, watches  and  rings tipped out from Alice’s bag. But Alice merely  smiled and  eyed her teacher’s pretty brooch and the tutor  had too many  other challenging pupils to deal with to push  the matter.

​ To read the rest and find out why she does it, click here

​ Described by the judges as: "a brooding, disturbing, and  unsettling story...a picture of a  total sociopath."