FOOD writer Prue Leith’s schedule is relentless.

Filming starts after Easter for the latest series of Great British Bake Off, now on Channel 4, and she has also been appearing in episodes of The Great Celebrity Bake Off for Stand Up to Cancer.

In one episode, the cook couldn’t stop laughing when comedian Russell Brand created a ‘biscuit vagina’.

When she is not on TV, working with outrageous TV personalities like Brand, Ms Leith returns to her ‘labour of love’, writing romantic novels.

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Her eighth novel, The Lost Son, the final part of a trilogy, has just been published by Quercus.

It’s the final instalment of The Angelotti Chronicles, an epic saga about an Anglo/Italian family in the restaurant business.

The family is left reeling when the lost son, given up for adoption in the war, traces his birth family and returns to the fold, with devastating consequences.

The author likes to conduct some detailed research for her novels and on this occasion she was able to find help very close to home.

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The 79-year-old writer, who lives in West Oxfordshire, revealed that her husband John Playfair, who she married in 2016, was able to provide inspiration.

She said: “I was very lucky because my husband had experienced the same thing - he was illegitimate born and he had kept all the papers to find his birth mother.”

The Lost Son also features a lesbian love affair and, anxious to create an accurate portrayal, she consulted friends in a lesbian relationship.

Ms Leith, who also writes popular cookbooks, is delighted that The Angelotti Chronicles have been well received.

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Her keen desire to write has led to the eventual completion of the chronicles, despite her schedule.

“I have been incredibly busy - writing these novels is a sort of labour of love," she said.

“Writing is like a disease - once you have it you can’t get rid of it.”

Although Ms Leith conducts careful research into the background of her novels, she tries to ensure that her research is not visible to her readers.

She added: “The first draft of one of my earlier novels, The Gardener, was practically a manual on how to take cuttings and I had to take a third of it out.

“During the course of my novel-writing career my editor has written in the margin ‘Prue on her soapbox again?'”

The food writer enjoys appearing at books festivals and as Chancellor of Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh she likes to appear at the Edinburgh literary festival in the autumn.

“John comes from Edinburgh so we spend quite a lot of time up there,” she added.

In the book’s acknowledgements the TV presenter thanks her husband for his invaluable support.

She writes: “I must thank my husband John Playfair for making me cups of tea and doing the shopping, washing up and lots else, so I could keep writing.

“But also, this time, I need to thank him for allowing me to steal his experience of post-war adoption and of his search for his birth mother and father, without which I would not have written this tale.”

The author added that the story was much improved with help from her friends.

The Lost Son by Prue Leith is published by Quercus, price £16.99.