Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Book Tour for Norse Jewel by Gina Conkle (Review & GIVEAWAY)

As a fan of historicals I'm happy to bring you a romantic and action-packed story, Norse Jewel by Gina Conkle.  It's my first time reading this author but won't be my last!  Keep reading to learn more about this book along with my impressions of it.  Make sure to fill out the form below for your chance to win a $25 Amazon GC and a $25 Starbucks GC!

Why not storm the beaches with a Viking this summer?
That’s right. Hot men from the icy north want to invade your summer, all from the pages of a good book. After all, this season of sunshine does call for excellent vacation reads.  And, while those raiding days are long gone, you can still revel in the love and adventure with a Viking.
But, with so many great books available, how does a reader choose?
Maybe you crave a new warrior to love. Maybe you’re a fan of History Channel’s “Vikings” series and life’s a little empty without a Norseman on hand.
Then again, maybe you just want to discover the soft side of a hard hero.
Hakan and Helena of Norse Jewel fit the Viking romance bill perfectly.  But, you need a list of reasons, a countdown of sorts, as to why you should spend your summer with them.

Try these three on for size:

3.  Viking history’s sexy. Raw. Primal. Natural. Hasn’t History Channel’s popular new series showed us that? Norse Jewel finds its basis in history.  Though 100% pure romance, the story’s based on some real events. You could find out what interestingsurprises live within the pages of that era in this Viking tale.
2.  The lure of a damsel in distress never gets old. We’re suckers for a good man saving a woman in trouble….and Helena’s in a tough spot. But, before the story’s done, you’ll smile and wonder just who does the saving.
1.  An unexpected hero. What do you do with a strong Viking chieftain who craves the simple life? Not much, except Hakan’s a man with a past, a past that’s a bit different from the historical romance norm. Simple doesn’t happen for him.  Old loyalties and deceit come calling, and Hakan and Helena find themselves faced with a question:  How much would you pay for love and surrender?

Why not let Norse Jewel invade your summer and find out?

A stolen woman of rare qualities…
AD 1022…Helena longs for freedom. The Frankish maid wasn’t born a slave but marauding Danes have taken her. She’s desperate to escape their camp. Her savior comes as a fierce Norse chieftain, Hakan, who takes her to the far, icy north.
A powerful warrior who’s lived by the sword…
Hakan wants to lay down his sword and live a peaceful farmer’s life. Betrayal has left him cold to other women, yet his heart thaws to clever Helena. Her tender ways lure him, weaving kindness into his hard life. But, happiness is short lived. Old loyalties and deceit vex the warrior, calling upon his sword arm.
A clash of cultures amidst a kingdom in transition…
War erupts…a kingdom’s in the balance. Can Hakan defend his homeland and keep the woman he loves?


He saw wetness on her lashes. She turned her face to the fields, and another piece of the riddle that made Helena fell into place.
Hakan cupped her chin. His thumb stroked her scarred jaw. “Your pouch, the stone is the reason for this. Magnuson said as much.”
She nodded, sniffling and swiping at tears that rolled down her cheeks.
His thumb brushed a tender stroke over her cheek’s curving pink scar. “The stone almost cost you your life. Why?”
Hakan, with great tenderness, stroked her face. The salve had done its work: smooth, touchable skin remained. But the salve only healed skin deep wounds. Some wounds lurked deeper than the Dane’s cut. What ached beneath the surface? More fat tears rolled down her cheeks.
“I am a peasant maid.” Her voice quivered. “When Guerin wanted me, I felt…” Helena sniffed and chewed her lower lip. “I was suddenly important. A woman of value.Without it…”
Her vulnerable admission was a tender spot for her. Couldn’t she see her worth was higher than any stone?
His thumbs wiped away her tears. “Keep the pendant. It came at a great price. Wear it for all to see.”
Hakan took her hand in his and set the necklace in her palm. He curled her fingers over jewel and chain.
“Aye, Helena, the stone could buy more thralls. But ‘tis metal and stone. They do nothing for me.”
Her lashes, spiked with wetness, fluttered at him. Bewilderment writ on her face, he soothed his voice as if calming a babe.
He shook his head. “I’ll not trade you for that.”
“I don’t understand.” Her eyebrows knit together.
How could he explain what he didn’t fully understand? He was on shaky ground. From the corner of his eye, part of a red sail caught a strong breeze and fluttered. Selig replaced the rocks that tamped down the sail before the whole cloth blew free. The vibrant red waved at him, a banner by which he could escape explaining why he would not let her go. Hakan waved his arm at the sails drying in the meadow.
“Look what you’ve accomplished in so short a time. You promised me great talent weaving fine linens…to expand my wealth.” Hakan’s arms folded across his chest. “Strong sails for my ships. This I understand.” Tilting his hand toward the jewelry in her own, the corners of his turned down. “Stones do nothing for me.”
A thousand glittering stones couldn’t equal her worth. He stared into the depths of her blue eyes and called himself a coward for not admitting this to her.
Helena sniffed again and clutched the pendant, returning it to the leather pouch. “Is there no custom? No means to gain my freedom?” she asked, her voice hoarse with emotion.
Hakan sighed. “There are ways.”
“Mardred told me a thrall can earn her freedom after some years of service. Is this true?”
“Aye.” His arms stayed crossed, unmoving. He’d give no more.
“Then, may I strike such an agreement with you?”
“Such as?”
“I want to earn my freedom.” Her eyes pleaded with him.
Hakan shifted his stance, cagey about giving an inch. His neck and shoulders knotted.
True, many a valuable thrall gained freedom after years of service. Most stayed.
“Serve me well for seven years, Helena, and you’ll be a freewoman.”
“The time cannot be shortened?” She clasped her hands together. “Seven years,” she groaned. “So long.”
“I will not be swayed on this.”
She canted her head at him, doubt clouding her features. “But, will you keep your word, my lord?”
“What makes you doubt me? The way I’ve mistreated you?”  
Helena flinched at his sarcasm. She was not satisfied. Seven years must feel like one hundred to her. Her fingers plucked at her apron, and she kept silent. A stab, like a hot brand, hit him. This was rejection. An arm’s length from her, Hakan shut himself away as if in a distant fortress. “I require your respect. For seven years.”
Pain flashed from her eyes. She dabbed at their corners and nodded.
Hakan needed to move. He needed something to ease the itch that plagued him. He needed to keep a good distance from her. His ax leaned against the barn. He grabbed it and swung the heavy tool over his shoulder.
“I have to clear some trees,” he announced. The field did need widening, and he needed wood.
The tree line would keep him a safe distance from her, yet he could keep an eye on the longhouse. And the loom where she would sit. Hakan walked to the edge of the yard and something pushed him to needle her.
“I expect fresh bread at my table tonight. See to it.”
Her eyebrows shot up at his harsh command. He hadn’t spoken to her that way since the journey to Svea. Her body visibly bristled at his tone. He waited, and Helena bowed her head in exaggerated servitude. Hakan whistled on his way to chop wood, pleased at gaining the upper hand.
Much could happen in seven years.

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Norse Jewel is set during a unique time period which adds an extra element of exotic intrigue to a surprisingly romantic and suspenseful story.  The author has created a story that flows at a nice pace allowing the main couple plenty of time to form their relationship while allowing the suspense of who's the real enemy to take many twists and turns.  While the conclusion is satisfying it does end on a cliffhanger that leaves you wanting more and guarantees your return visit to this vividly depicted Viking world.

Helena has been stolen from her home and the future that was planned out for her.  Forced into the role of thrall her life is now in the hands of whoever's the highest bidder.  Fearing for her life she chooses the one man who shows her kindness and subtly begs him to buy her.  Lord Hakan brings her to a new world where she's fully accepted by his family and slowly starts making a place for herself where she's treated more kindly than she ever expected.  She soon starts harboring feelings for Hakan though she still plans on returning home and will use his honor to get her there.  Her mind can't ignore what her heart and soul feels for him and she soon must decide which future she really wants, her old life or her new one.  From the very start Helena shows a smart and lively spirit.  She doesn't act like you'd expect a prisoner to as she tends to speak her mind and shows subtle flashes of rebellion.  I enjoyed her spirit and was rooting for her to get whatever she wanted.  She was a kind-hearted soul who asked for very little in life and made the best of a bad situation but never lost focus of reuniting with her family.  Her affection for Hakan confused her but she never compromised her principles in her dealings with him.

Hakan's parents were killed when he was young and from that moment on he was taken under King Olaf's wing.  Even though he knew who killed his parents he was barred from getting revenge.  He moved on by marrying a beautiful woman who betrayed him and uses their son as a bargaining tool to continue to make him pay.  This betrayal has left him doubting the concept of love and leads to a vow of never marrying again.  He can't help his immediate attraction to Helena though as he longs to protect her by bringing her to his homeland.  She brings him happiness and speaks with an honesty that he appreciates for its uniqueness.  He longs for the succor she provides but a lifetime of honor won't let him have her since she's a thrall.  As their relationship progresses though it seems that they're getting further apart as his promise to return her to her home gets closer.  After waging many wars to gain riches, this is the one war he longs to win.  Hakan is an honorable man who, even after being hurt by his ex-wife, still shows compassion towards women.  He's a strong-willed man who shows an unexpected romantic side in trying to win Helena over as he'll do anything to keep her close.  As more betrayals towards Hakan come to light he'll need the support of Helena as she seems to be the only person he can truly trust as his enemies are closer than he thinks.

There's very few scenes involving war but its threat constantly hangs over everyone as there's a rebellion afoot.  There's numerous twists and turns that leave you guessing as to who the bad guy really is.  The majority of the story though revolves around the relationship between Helena and Hakan.  They start off as subtle adversaries hurling sarcasm at one another but admiration soon wins out and the initial attraction between them flourishes.  There's unrelenting sexual tension between them that's not culminated until the very end, but their romantic journey is still immensely satisfying.  Their interactions are sweet as their reactions to their feelings are entertaining to behold.  From start to finish I found myself completely immersed in this vividly depicted story and its storyline of love, war, and betrayal.  The ending is a bit rushed and the subtle cliffhanger is a bit frustrating, but I still found this a delightful read that has me counting down the days until the story continues.

My rating for this is a B+

*I received this book from the author for review in exchange for my honest opinion.


Gina’s a lover of history, books and romance, which makes the perfect recipe for historical romance writer.  Her passion for castles and old places (the older and moldier the better!) means interesting family vacations.  Good thing her husband and two sons share similar passions, except for romance…that’s where she gets the eye roll.  When not visiting fascinating places, she can be found in southern California delving into the latest adventures of organic gardening and serving as chief taxi driver.

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  1. Great giveaway!
    Cindy R.

  2. Hi Jody,

    Thanks for sharing Norse Jewel and the Viking post on your blog, and I appreciate your honest review.

    Have a great rest of the summer-
    Gina Conkle

  3. Sounds like a great book. Please count me in. Thanks!

  4. Who can resist Vikings? Not I, please count me in. Thank you!

  5. Congrats on getting a B plus review! Really like what the review had to say.