Gina Conkle writes Viking and Georgian romance with a new dip into hot contemporary romance. She grew up in southern California and despite all that sunshine, Gina loves books over beaches and stone castles over sand castles. Now she lives in Michigan with her favorite alpha male, Brian, and their two sons where she’s known to occasionally garden and cook.
The Story Behind the Story by Gina Conkle
Thank you, Patty, for hosting me on your blog. I love talking Viking romance.
Every story has its seed moment, the “What if…” wondering that starts a novel. With Norse Jewel, the moment came in 2002. I was watching Gladiator when a thought occurred to me: What if a Viking chieftain wanted to lay down his sword and be a farmer?
I’d been devouring books on Viking history after a 1999 trip to Sweden. The surprise is Vikings have breadth and depth which goes beyond the stereotypic violent raider image. True, they were heroic and often vicious fighters. Revenge is part of their cultural ethos. So is equality between men and women. Nowhere else in Dark Ages history will you find a people allowing widespread equality between men and women. The right to inherit land and wealth. The right to fight in battle. The right to lead.
But, one historic event really grabbed me —the peaceful exile of Swedish Viking King Olaf Skotkonung in 1022.
King Olaf came to power in 1008 in Svea (i.e. Viking Age Sweden encompassed the islands of Aland, Gotland, and territory around Uppsala). He was by all accounts a good king, keeping peace and prosperity. His queen was Estrid, a woman of Wendish origin (modern day Poland). It’s believed she shared her beliefs in the White Christ (Christianity) with her husband. It’s possible he converted.
History tells us Swedish Vikings were the richest and most violent of all Viking groups. Yet, darkness stains their past. Svea held onto the 9th year siddur of human sacrifice until almost 1200. The rest of Vikingdom quit the practice around the year 1000.
In 1022, time had come for the 9th year siddur. King Olaf astonished his people by calling for the end of the practice. Here’s where I’ll stop explaining history because this is where Norse Jewel begins. Most people assume all Vikings are gung ho pagans, but they were as diverse in their pagan worship as Americans. Vikings had many sects and non-believers as America today has Catholics, Lutherans, Baptists, Atheists, and so on. This is evident in the various modes of Viking burial. Each Viking sect practiced different burial customs.
But, I digress. You want to know about Hakan and Helena!
All my books start with persistent characters talking in my head. In this case, a minor Viking chieftain, Hakan, wants to lay down his sword and be a farmer (like Maximus). Along the way he buys a Frankish thrall (slave) named Helena. He wants to continue his lucrative wine trade with the Franks (France) who make fantastic wine — history hasn’t changed much there! He needs someone to teach him Frankish and keep his longhouse.
Weary and ready for peace, Hakan goes home to find his best-laid plans upset. Deeply loyal to his king, Hakan is honor-bound to do Olaf’s bidding…but Helena thaws his icy heart.
And so their love story goes…
Thanks so much for sharing your story, Gina! Here’s the blurb and cover for Norse Jewel:
What does the wolf-eyed Viking want?
Stolen by marauding Danes, Helena’s desperate to escape their camp. She wants to return home but the wolf-eyed Viking who bought her has his own plans.
Wearied of living by the sword, Hakan wants a quiet farmer’s life, yet his once tranquil homeland’s in turmoil, and his new Frankish thrall vexes him for her freedom at every turn. Even worse, the fair maid lures him with her laughter and smiles. Betrayal has left the warrior cold to other women until one hot summer his icy heart thaws to the clever woman. Helena weaves happiness into his hard life, and soon she questions her own desires. But, shadows of deceit spread across the kingdom, reaching Hakan’s farm. Old loyalties call on the Viking to wield his sword again, but at what cost?
I was captivated by this story of a strong Viking chieftain who wants to leave his life of fighting and become a simple farmer. But violence is brewing, and King Olaf sends him on yet another mission. This is a gripping tale of betrayal, loyalty, and honor. I’m eager to begin reading Book 2!