Christmastime Is Coming Soon…

Here at HarperImpulse, we love any kind of reason to celebrate. That’s why this month we’ll be doing Christmas the best way we know how: ALL OUT. There are three main ways you can celebrate with us, and pay close attention, because there are prizes involved for some lucky folks who pay attention!

Here are the ways to make sure you’re in the know about every giveaway we do:

  1. Follow us on social media, and be ready to send us some content! There will be giveaways for some of those who send us their best Christmas cheer, and it’s the first place we’ll post about anything else that is happening.
  2. Participate in the HI Read-a-thon December 1-11! We’ll be following along with the #HarperXmas hashtag on Twitter, and some who are reading along might be rewarded with a little prize… click here to learn more about the read-a-thon.
  3. Watch this blog! The ABCs of Christmas start TOMORROW, and you don’t want to miss it. There could be a giveaway happening with one of the posts, and it’s a BIG ONE!

‘What are the ABCs of Christmas?’ you ask.

‘Good question,’ we answer. The ABCs of Christmas is our version of an advent calendar: a new piece of HarperImpulse goodness every day of December, all the way through to the 26th! We’ve got author guest posts, social media roundups, Q&As, giveaways, and even some musical treats for your pleasure. Here is a little sneak peek (we’ll be updating this list with links as we go on):

A: Advent

B: Books

C: Carols

D: Drinks

E: Elf

F: Family

G: Gifts

H: Hot Chocolate

I: Ice

J: Jumpers

K: Kris Kringle

L: Love

M: Mistletoe

N: Nuts

O: Ornaments

P: Parties

Q: Quilts

R: Rituals

S: Stockings

T: Tree

U: Unwrapping

V: Vacations

W: Winter

X: Xmas Spirit

Y: Yuletide Joy

Z: ZzZzZzzzz


Check back in throughout the month of December for updates, and have a happy Christmas season!!

FREE Erin Lawless Holiday Story: ‘Deck the Halls’

Have we talked recently about how much we adore Erin Lawless? I mean, to know her is to love her. She’s just amazing. And she’s a fantastic author at that, if you’re to believe the bestseller status achieved by Somewhere Only We Know and The Best Thing I Never Had.

Well, it turns out that Erin outshines all of us on many levels, the most relevant of which is her festive spirit. Combined with her undying love for her readers, it inspired her to create for you all a lovely story for the holiday season.

We’re going to have some VERY exciting Lawless news coming up (so stay tuned!!), but until then, we want to offer to you a free download* of Erin’s gorgeous Christmas story, ‘Deck the Halls’! Click the image below to read.


*Story is free via this webpage to all who want it, but this material belongs to HarperCollins Publishers, and any who alter or claim it will be in violation of copyright law.

Top Tips for Holiday Pie-Making (PLUS Pumpkin Pie Recipe!)

Post by author Lynn Marie Hulsman

The holidays call for homemade food, in all forms. That’s especially true of sweets and treats. This Thanksgiving, you may be looking to try your hand at any number of treats: cakes, cobblers, puddings, trifles, tarts, and more…

But pie is the pinnacle. And even as a cookbook author, and food writer, pie still intimidated me until very recently. It’s the gold standard of baking, in my opinion.

You can’t make one from a box. It’s a made-by-hand kind of food. Maybe you’ve thought about learning to make pie, but have never quite gotten over the fear. In the spirit of the holiday season, I invite you to trust and believe. Yes, there are things to know about pie-making, but it’s not rocket science. Could all those grandmothers and aunties of yore have turned out one pie after another in the days before automation if it were?

If you plan to make a pie from scratch this December, I suggest you go all the way, and do it the way your foremothers (and maybe a scant handful of forefathers) did. That means using a homemade crust and quality, seasonal ingredients for the filling. For my money, go with using only real butter, and only use fresh ingredients, never frozen.

Now that my grandmother and mother are gone, the mantel of holiday baker has landed on me. Sure, I could make a spice cake, or a sheet of chocolate chip cookies, but there’s something so much more substantial about pie. I’m not sure I would have gotten over my fear of the process and gotten my hands dirty had I not been presented with the chance to take pie-making classes from the foremost pie experts in my area: Cheryl Perry and Felipa Lopez, owners of Brooklyn’s own Pie Corps.

Here’s a photo of the first pie I ever made, in their class:


Pretty awesome, huh? And I never would have guessed I could do it. It’s a double-crust apple pie with an egg wash, sugar crystals, and decorations reflecting my family: A pig (our favorite animal) and a “C” for our last name (yes, I’m Hulsman, but my kids and husband are Cohen!). That pie felt like it weighed ten pounds, and it took my family of four days to eat. And we were working hard! It was hearty, and substantial, and made with love.

Cheryl instructed that one should make about 20 batches of pie crust (two per batch) by hand before switching to a mixer or food processor. Having done that and more now, I agree. In fact, I still make crust by hand. I’m starting to get the feel a perfect crust dough in my bones, the way bakers from yesteryear did. In class, Felipa demonstrated how 5 different measuring spoons, all marked “tablespoon,” held different amounts of water. Then, she showed us how much a “cup” of flour can vary based on the size of the cup and how tightly you pack the flour. Which brings me to my first tip:

  1. Weigh Your Flour, Don’t Just Use Cups

Most Americans didn’t grow up doing this. It’s worth it until you learn to eyeball the amount you’ll need for a perfect crust, the way your grandma can. I was surprised to learn that a digital scale can be gotten online for around 20ish dollars/12ish pounds. Unless you have experts standing over you when you learn to make a crust, like I did, this will give you a huge advantage.

Now I’m going to brag:  Here’s my deep-dish Bourbon Pecan Pie. See the nice, rustic, homemade crust? Did I mention that I wrote a cookbook called Bourbon Desserts? No? Well, I did! Bourbon Desserts


  1. Freeze Your Butter

The key to flaky pie crust is keeping things cold, cold, cold. When I used to read recipes, I had no idea that using ice water in baking wasn’t optional. Warm butter activates gluten, which gives you a rubbery, tough crust. Cheryl and Felipa taught me to add butter in two stages: The first half of the butter is grated, and the second half of the butter is cubed. After working the grated butter into a crust’s dry mixture of flour, salt, and baking powder, your dough should resemble grated parmesan cheese. The next round requires smashing the cubes with the heat of your fingers and fluffing the powdery mixture until the flour is coated, and the dough has a shaggy texture and barely holds together. Think “sponge.” This is why the dough should just come together. Pro-tip: It gets wetter as it rests.

  1. Butter You Can See Means Flakes When it Bakes

Don’t overwork your dough. You want uneven speckles and chunks of butter. These form “pockets” in your dough. But be careful not to let the crust warm. The butter will then weep moisture into the flour and make everything soggy. Keep it chilled, and when the cold pie crust goes into the oven, the water in the butter in your pockets turns to steam, and puffs the pockets up.

After your dough comes together, form it into patty-shaped blobs and chill it in the fridge. This allows the moisture to distribute through the flour.

Speaking of butter, (can there ever be enough butter?), I made the Buttermilk Pie (featuring lots of butter) after the recipe for the Kentucky State Fair winner this year. Check out my flakes.


  1. Rolling Requires Confidence (and two sheets of parchment)

Working quickly, so your butter doesn’t melt (beacause cold is key, remember?), place your patty between two sheets of parchment sprinkled with a tiny bit of flour.. Starting in the middle of the patty, roll pushing away from your body using firm, even pressure. Now, give the entire parchment package a one-quarter turn. Do this again, and keep rotating the dough. From time to time, peel back the parchment to see if the dough is sticking. If it is, sprinkle on as little flour as you can get away with, and flip the entire parcel, rolling on the other side. Cheryl told me, “if the dough doesn’t travel, it’s a wasted pass of the rolling pin.” This means the sheet of dough should be growing longer with each push. As you rotate, you’ll get a general circular shape. And once you can make a crust, you can make savory pies, like my Cottage Pie.


  1. If it’s Worth Doing, it’s Worth Doing Right

Pies are teaching me this lesson. I’m a big-picture girl. I work in broad strokes, and “quick and dirty” is my motto. That quality has helped me get things done in life. I’m a rainmaker. But some endeavors require attention to detail. Pies fall into this category. Pie is slow food. Making pies is like a meditation for me. You simply have to be in the moment, and do the next right thing. Just as with pie-making. That’s why when I made this pumpkin pie, I roasted fresh pumpkins and scraped out the pulp to make custard for these pies:

6  5

In short, like Cheryl says, “Don’t make a rhubarb pie in January.” Sure, you could dump a bag of frozen rhubarb into a bowl, but it won’t be good. In fall and winter, scrape your pumpkins. Use the apples you picked from the U-pick farm, or at the very least get the apples that your supermarket handles from a local farm. Peel luscious pears, and grate whole nutmeg over them. If you’re going to make that velvety-rich Coconut Cream Pie, take the time to top it with meringue.


Can you believe I made that?

Cut corners elsewhere. After all, if you’re going to put all of your love into making that crust, be sure and fill it with worthy ingredients.

And, without further ado, here is my famous pumpkin pie recipe:

Deep-Dish Pumpkin-Custard Pie in a Cream Cheese Crust

Makes 1 9-inch Pie

For best results, this recipe should be done over two days to allow for overnight chilling.

Cream Cheese Pie Crust

For best results, make this crust the day before, and allow it to chill in the refrigerator


  • 1 cup all-purpose (plain) flour
  • 1 tablespoon powdered (Confectioner’s) sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup salted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup full-fat cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla


  1. In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, confectioner’s sugar, and baking powder. Set it aside.
  2. In a separate large mixing bowl, using an electric mixer, cream together the butter, cream cheese, and vanilla until it’s light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  3. Add the butter mixture to the dry ingredients a little at a time, using your hands. Crumble it together with your fingers until it resembles small marbles in sand, about 3 or 4 minutes.
  4. Turn the dough out onto a clean, lightly floured surface and blend it well, using the heels of your hands. Press the dough into a ball, and wrap it in plastic wrap, then refrigerate it overnight.
  5. The next day, Preheat the oven to 400 F°/ 200 C°. Roll the dough out on a clean, lightly floured sheet of parchment paper, with another piece of parchment paper on the top. Essentially, you’re rolling the crust out like a “sandwich.” Roll away from your body, pushing the crust so that it “moves.” With each roll, turn the sandwich a one-eight turn. The thinness of the crust is important because this recipe contains baking powder, which will lift and aerate it.
  6. Once rolled, peel the parchment carefully away, and lay the crust over a 9-inch pie cast-iron skillet, then press it down, crimp the edges and prick it all over with a fork.
  7. Bake the crust until done, but not golden-brown, about 10 minutes. Remove the entire pie pan to a wire rack and allow it to cool for at least 15 minutes before adding the filling.

Pumpkin Pie Filling

  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin puree*
  • 1/2 cup granulated white sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/3 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon dry ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
  • scant pinch ground clove
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup full fat (whole) milk
  • 3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

*(If you’re using canned pumpkin, this is equal to 1/2 of a standard 15-ounce can of pumpkin. Using too much pumpkin will keep your pie from forming a nice custard.) Recipe for homemade pumpkin puree at bottom of post.


  1. Preheat oven to 400 F°/ 200 C°
  2. In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs until frothy.
  3. Stir in the pumpkin, sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and clove.
  4. Mix in the cream and milk, add vanilla extract, using a large whisk, and blend until smooth. Don’t be alarmed if the mixture appears filling soupy. It will thicken into a custard as it bakes. Pour filling into cast iron pan.
  5. Bake 15 minutes at 425 degrees F, then lower the temperature to 350 and bake 60 minutes.

Assembling and Finishing the Pie

  1. Carefully pour the filling into the pre-baked shell. Place the pie on a baking tray, and place it in the center of the oven.
  2. The pie will be done when it is firm around the edges but still runny in the center. It will only look semi-solid texture and will ripple slightly when moved. Your pie did not fail!! Place the entire pan on a wire rack to cool. Allow the pie to rest for at least an hour in order for the custard to cook through using the reserved heat of the cast iron skillet.  Once firm, cut and serve.
  3. Store tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to three days.

Homemade Pumpkin Purée

This is less a recipe than a “how-to.” And I can’t give you an exact yield, as pumpkin sizes vary, as does the density of the edible flesh. I like to make a lot of pumpkin purée at one time, and freeze it flat in heavy-duty gallon freezer bags, which I then stack for space economy.

  1. I suggest starting with a couple of sugar pumpkins, each larger than a grapefruit, but smaller than a football.
  2. You don’t need to cut pumpkins open before you roast them. Instead, pierce them with a sharp chef’s knife a few times in order to vent steam, arrange the pumpkins on baking sheets, then bake at 350 F° / 175 C° for about an hour.
  3. The pumpkin aroma is a clue to readiness. When they’re done, you should easily be able to insert a fork in, all the way to the end of the tines, without resistance.
  4. Once done, set the pumpkins aside to cool before circles in the top, the way you would with Jack-o-lanterns. Then, simply lift the lid to access the insides.
  5. Scoop out the seeds and guts, then peel off the outer skin using your hands if it’s soft enough to fall away from the flesh. If not, use a chef’s knife to fillet off the outer layer of inedible skin.
  6. Take the soft, orange flesh, and run it through a blender or food processor until it’s the consistency of applesauce.


Lynn Marie Hulsman photoLynn Marie Hulsman is a romance and cookbook author. Her latest HarperImpulse title A Miracle at Macy’s joins 2013’s Christmas at Thornton Hall as one of the most fun and uplifting Christmas tales around. Her books can be purchased digitally or pre-ordered in paperback.

On Location with Nikki Moore for #LoveLondon


In the exciting run up to the five #LoveLondon novellas and novel being released as a complete collection, I got thinking about how it all started and what inspired me to write each book.  I thought people might like a peek behind the scenes (aka into my brain and at the research trips I needed to excuses to go on)…

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Skating at Somerset House

Right from the start I knew I wanted a story where the main characters were opposites, with one almost Grinch-like who hates Christmas and one who loves Christmas and everything about it. And so Holly and Noel (yes, with deliberately festive names) were born. I also knew I wanted to feature Jasper (Matt from Picnics from Hyde Park’s son) as you can’t really write a story about Christmas without that sense of childlike wonder, then I added a slightly madcap family and a headstrong dog… As soon as I’d visited the beautiful Somerset House I knew that some of the rooms and architectural/festive features had to have starring roles.

SaSH Location Pic 1  SASH Location Pic 2

SaSH Location Pic 3

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New Year at The Ritz

I love The Ritz, having been there for cocktails with Charlotte just after I signed my first contract with HarperImpulse, and of course it’s a stunning and iconic location that is very recognisably London. This Means War with Reese Witherspoon and the gorgeous Tom Hardy and Chris Pine is one of my favourite rom-coms and I adore the concept of love triangles, so I really wanted the main character Frankie to have two men to choose from. The question is, which one is best for her? Adding in a romantic scavenger hunt was borne out of a trip to London with my boyfriend, where I realised how much fun Frankie could have following a trail of clues around Knightsbridge.

NYaTR Location Pic 2  NYaTR Location Pic 1  NYaTR Location Pic 3

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Valentine’s on Primrose Hill

This is one of my personal favourites and has just been short listed for a Love Stories Award. Scarred and damaged Georgiana and sweet, understanding Leo had been in my head for a long time waiting for their story to be told, and I adjusted the plot to fit Valentine’s Day. Initially it was a lot darker and more focused on George’s recovery after a catastrophic car crash, but Charlotte helped me pull the romance to the forefront of the story, and I also added the subplot of the ‘bet.’ I’ve had people tell me it made them cry, and I’ve taken that as a compliment!

VoPH Location Pic 1  VoPH Location Pic 3  VoPH Location Pic 2

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Cocktails in Chelsea

My teenage daughter and sister are devoted Made in Chelsea fans, and I’ve occasionally caught an episode and been amazed by (a) some of the behaviour (Spencer, you know who you are) and (b) how different the world they live in is to anything I’ve ever experienced. So when I was creating this story I started thinking about people who come from different social classes, and the challenges that might bring to a relationship. The Human League song ‘Don’t You Want Me’ also kept running through my head. You know, the one that starts ‘You were working as a waitress in a cocktail bar, when I met you…’ I put those things together, turned them on their head, threw in a few surprises, added a little piece of myself (I’m a Bournemouth girl at heart, love the beach, was a bit of a tomboy when I was younger and adored Tom Cruise in Cocktail) and drank a few cocktails (it was a sacrifice, believe me)…

Cic Location Pic 3  Cic Location Pic 2  Cic Location Pic 1

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Strawberries at Wimbledon

I wanted to write a really summery story seat against a British event in London, so Wimbledon was perfect (though sadly I’ve never been, so I had to do the most research for this story). The hook of this novella was the ‘one that got away.’ I’ve often wondered if having moved on, you can every go back and recapture that first love. So, Wimbledon is where Adam and Rayne, university sweethearts, run into each other again after nearly five years apart, just after Rayne’s friend Lily has suggested in the middle of Centre Court (much to the crowd’s amusement) that she should ‘have sex with an ex.’ I had great fun creating quirky, liberated Rayne and the (previously) more serious Adam, and seeing how they had grown up and grown apart, and whether they could have a future together.

Hopefully one day I’ll make it to Wimbledon – tickets anyone?

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Picnics in Hyde Park

This story originally started off as another book with a different ending, the first chapter of which was a finalist in the Novelicious Undiscovered competition 2012. It evolved and grew over time, and I spent a lot of time agonising over it in the last few months before publication. It’s not only Matt and Zoe’s love story, but is about how Zoe falls in love with London and Matt’s kids over a long hot summer, despite her hurt over her recent split from her fiancé, and the fact she blames Matt and his brother Stephen for breaking her younger sister’s heart and leaving her jobless and homeless. It’s also a story about redemption, grief and finding love unexpectedly.

PiHP Location Pic 2  PIHP LOcation Pic 1

PIHP Location Pic 3  PiHP Location Pic 4

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I hope you’ve enjoyed this post – look out for the #LoveLondon giveaway on Twitter and Facebook J at [Insert links]

Thanks so much for reading, Nikki x





Meet Our #DogStar Winner Ella!

Meet Ella – our fabulous #DOGSTAR!

If you’ve been following our Twitter and Facebook posts, you’ll know that Ella is going to be the next Tippermere cover star! We thought we had set ourselves an impossible task – picking a winner from the gorgeous, adorable, mischievous and all-around wonderful dogs that were entered, but Ella stood out from the crowd as the perfect pooch to join the pack!

Here’s an introduction to our totally irresistible star, and I can’t wait to see the fabulous cover that I know our wonderful designers are going to produce!


I think Ella has a wise ‘old’ face (who can resist that slightly sad look and those big eyes?) but she’s just a baby really, and will be celebrating her first birthday in January. She was born in Croatia and was rescued by the charity Palife after being hit by a car. Luckily little Ella wasn’t injured and a short time later found her new forever home with lovely adoptive parents Samantha and Andrew here in the UK.

Just like Tilly the terrier (star of the other Tippermere books), Ella loves her tug toys, and loves to fetch – so she’ll fit in well! Hopefully she won’t be quite as naughty as Tilly (Tab still hasn’t recovered from the time Tilly stole her knickers and refused to give them up to anybody but Rory).

She’s very friendly and loves to ‘talk’, chattering away to anybody who will listen, and gets so excited when she’s greeting people that her whole body wags along with her tail. If you’ve read Country Affairs, you’ll know that this is just what Lottie’s spaniel Harry does!

Ella is a bit of a foodie, always up for a treat, loves her canine friends as much as her human ones and is partial to sleeping on her favourite blanket on the bed! Apart from an understandable fear of cars, she’s pretty much un-spookable – a distinct advantage when surrounded by horses, tractors and all the other country sounds of Tippermere!


I just know that Ella will fit in perfectly with all the other Tippermere dogs. I’ve got big plans for her – you will be able to find out more about what she gets up to, and meet her very sexy ‘book’-owner Xander, in the next book, which will be out in the Spring. And while you’re waiting why not cosy up with a copy of my FREE Christmas short story ‘A Very Country Christmas’?

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