Friday, April 3, 2015


My guest today is Gina Conkle. Gina writes both Georgian romance and Viking romances. She love the glittery balls and such but also finds the average citizen of these eras fascinating and writes stories around their lives. Gina also has a love of fairy tales. Her current story, The Lady Meets Her Match is a retelling of Cinderella.

Did you grow up with fairy tales?

A favorite of mine was Cinderella. I loved reading about a kind-hearted heroine with a magical rags-to-ballgown evening. Plus, being able to talk with animal friends was pretty neat.

Yet, as I got older, I had a few problems with the story. Like why did the funky Grand Duke hunt down Cinderella? Shouldn’t the prince search for his true love?

The prince’s lack of ardor bugged me. He should’ve been the one hot on Cinderella’s trail.

You know what else? The prince held zero appeal — we’re talking flat as a pancake personality. His role was pretty much “dance and decide” the woman you’ll marry.

The day after the ball, he insisted Cinderella was his true love. He wouldn’t marry anyone else but the girl who could wear the glass slipper. At least he was firm on that.

So, he made his grand announcement and retreated to his room. To wait.  I think I was nine years old when His Royal Highness’s appeal took a nosedive.

Years later, when The Lady Meets Her Match formed, the Cinderella tale fit. I pictured Claire, the housekeeper from Meet the Earl at Midnight sneaking into an elegant ball in the same pale blue and silvery gown Cinderella wore. This time things were different.

  • Her prince was a commoner dubbed the “King of Commerce”
  • Her shoe — well that part’s secret in the book— but I’ll give you a hint: it’s not glass or silk
  • Her life doesn’t need “saving” because she’s got plans of her own

And Claire’s fairy godmother is a saucy French woman with some eye-opening advice. Don’t typecast her as old and plump!

Life’s full of surprises. So is this modern retelling of Cinderella.


Finding her is only half the battle...Excerpt

Cyrus Ryland didn’t become England’s wealthiest bachelor by being a pushover, but the mysterious beauty he discovers sneaking around his study during a grand ball inflames his curiosity. They share one dance, but when the clock chimes midnight, she’s nowhere to be found. So Cyrus vows to scour all of London to uncover who she is.
Claire Mayhew  is risking it all by forging Ryland’s signature. But the maddening man won’t lease properties to an unmarried woman. He stands in the way of Claire’s dream: running her own business. The midtown property fits her plans perfectly—a place to live as an independent woman of commerce. When she sneaks into his study and forges his signature, she never expects to be attracted to the stodgy bachelor. But if he finds out who she is, all of her dreams could go up in smoke… 


Gina Conkle, a history nerd to the core, loves castles and museums. Her motto is “the older and moldier, the better.” When not enjoying relics, she lives in the present, dabbling in organic gardening at her home in San Diego, California. She lives with Brian, her husband and favorite alpha male, and their two boys. Visit her at

Monday, March 30, 2015



The morning is sunny but cool and wisps of fog, like gossamer veils, hang from bare oak limbs weave in and around the pine branches. There’s a hint of wood smoke in the air. I sip my coffee to the thrum of wings flying over my head on the way to the bird feeders. Nearby the liquid warble of ok-a-REEEE tells me spring is here with the presence of Red winged Blackbird.

There is another interesting, but not so nice, tell of spring.

I’m in the kitchen making a cake for our desert later tonight when my husband comes in from outside.
“Did you see the smoke in the field across the road?”

I look up and out the kitchen window. I can’t see anything. “I haven’t seen any smoke. Are you sure it wasn’t Tule fog?”

“The winds blowing now and then but I’m sure it was smoke”

“Hmph. I was out earlier but I haven’t seen anything.”
It’s not long before my son, who had just taken his finance into work, walked into the house.

“Mom, I think there’s a fire or something across the road. There’s smoke coming from the woods by the field. Maybe somebody dropped a cigarette over there?”

I’m again at the kitchen window looking out. I don’t see a blasted thing and so I say.  “Mom, it’s there when the wind blows and the smoke comes out of the woods into the field.”

Out go hubs and son to investigate. I step outside but I don’t smell anything burning but the wood smoke from our neighbor’s furnace, a mile away. The same smell I caught when I was watching the birds and drinking my coffee. I’m thinking that my guys are delusional.  They can get that way at times. <grin>

About twenty-five minutes later my husband comes back in and in his best Inspector Clouseau voice announces, “The mystery is sol-ved.”

“No fire, right Inspector?”

“No, but I can show you what it is. Come with me.”

I grab a jacket and follow him out to the edge of the yard facing the field and woods across the road. I still don’t smell or see anything. “I’m here. What am I supposed to be seeing?”

Smoke is actually Red Cedar releasing pollen
“Just be patient and watch the edge of the woods.”
I’m about ready to go back into the house when a gust of wind blows and sure enough, from the edge of the woods is a cloud of smoke.  My nose is flaring but the smell isn’t from something burning. I should qualify that by explaining that my husband calls me the bloodhound because I usually can smell things others can’t.

Bronzed Male Cedar (left) female on the right.
So what is this smoke? 

We have a lot of Eastern Red Cedar trees, one of Missouri's more common trees, otherwise known as Juniperus virginiana. Red Cedar trees aren't true cedar trees, they're juniper trees. When the male cones are mature, usually late February through March in Missouri, they release their dust-like pollen into the air. The pollen is so abundant that small "clouds" of it are released when a gust of wind shakes the branches of a male cedar tree. When the wind rises, great gritty clouds of the pollen drift aloft, making the woods look like they are aflame. After the pollen is shed, the tiny male cones will fall from the trees. The pollinated female cones, on female trees, will continue to grow and develop into this year's crop of cedar "berries." Great news for birds and gin lovers.

Male cedar cones releasing pollen (Missouri forestry pic)
I had heard about this pollen release but had never witnessed it. I was now. I was also smart enough, considering we have several lining the property on this side of the yard, to beat feet for the house. "Let's go. You do not want to be out here as the wind releases this stuff. It can make you very sick." 

Female cedar w/berries (MO forestry)
And it's true, If there are multiple male trees releasing the pollen it is like a cloud of smoke from a fire and the wind can blow it four or five miles (or more) from the trees. At that distance the pollen is more widely diffused, but up close to the cedars it's dense and not all good to breathe in. It can inflame your eyes, throat, and lungs and cause itching and multiple sneezing jags. It makes a person lethargic as the body's histamines try to fight it off. It's nasty stuff.

Fortunately for us the wind was carrying it away from the house, but it's been rather uncomfortable the past week since we have a bumper crop of male cones—makes the cedars look almost bronze. No wonder it looked like wood smoke when the wind blew.

This will all be done soon and then comes the nasty yellow-green pollen of the oaks and walnut trees that coat everything in sight. I have no idea how bad that will be this year. Now, that pollen does make sick—headaches, irritability, and dizzy. I have several packs of face masks and it does help when I want to be outside. We're surrounded by forests of various wind pollinators like oaks, hickory, sycamore, and walnut. 


The good news is it's not a fire and it's usually all done by the end of April.

(Pics not taken by me are from Missouri forestry archive pictures)