Her Castilian Heart (The Castilian Series) by Anna Belfrage released in September in the Historical Romance fiction genre.
Blood is not always thicker than water…
At times a common bloodline is something of a curse—or so Robert FitzStephan discovers when he realises his half-brother, Eustace de Lamont, wants to kill him.
A murderous and greedy brother isn’t Robert’s only challenge. He and his wife, Noor, also have to handle their infected relationship with a mightily displeased Queen Eleanor—all because of their mysterious little foundling whom they refuse to abandon or allow the queen to lock away.
Eustace is persistent. When Robert’s life hangs in the balance, it falls to Noor to do whatever it takes to rip them free from the toothy jaws of fate. Noor may be a woman, but weak she is not, and in her chest beats a heart as brave and ferocious as that of a lioness. But will her courage be enough to see them safe?
There is some sexual (consensual) content. Also some violence
Had Anna been allowed to choose, she’d have become a time-traveller. As this was impossible, she became a financial professional with two absorbing interests: history and writing. Anna has authored the acclaimed time travelling series The Graham Saga, set in 17th century Scotland and Maryland, as well as the equally acclaimed medieval series The King’s Greatest Enemy which is set in 14th century England.
Anna has also published The Wanderer, a fast-paced contemporary romantic suspense trilogy with paranormal and time-slip ingredients.
Her Castilian Heart is the third in her “Castilian” series, a stand-alone sequel to her September 2020 release, His Castilian Hawk. Set against the complications of Edward I’s invasion of Wales, His Castilian Hawk is a story of loyalty, integrity—and love. In the second instalment, The Castilian Pomegranate, we travel with the protagonists to the complex political world of medieval Spain. This latest release finds our protagonists back in England—not necessarily any safer than the wilds of Spain!
Anna has also authored The Whirlpools of Time in which she returns to the world of time travel. Join Duncan and the somewhat reluctant time-traveller Erin on their adventures through the Scottish Highlands just as the first Jacobite rebellion is about to explode!
All of Anna’s books have been awarded the IndieBRAG Medallion, she has several Historical Novel Society Editor’s Choices, and one of her books won the HNS Indie Award in 2015. She is also the proud recipient of various Reader’s Favorite medals as well as having won various Gold, Silver and Bronze Coffee Pot Book Club awards.
Find out more about Anna, her books and enjoy her eclectic historical blog on her website, www.annabelfrage.com
Ensnared by medieval England
When I was a child, I was upset about two things: I was a girl and, even worse, I wasn’t born in medieval England.
Since then, I have come to revaluate both those topics. These days, I am delighted to be a “girl”, and boy am I happy I wasn’t born in thirteenth century England. But my fascination with British medieval history remains as strong as ever, even if I’ve had to reassess the heroes of my childhood dreams.
Take Richard I, for example. When I so desperately wanted to be born in medieval England, it was to serve this king as a page and squire (hence the gender issue). These days, I still recognise Richard’s military genius, but he wasn’t a particularly good king to the English, far more interested in glory and his other dominions.
After Richard came John—and what a disaster that was—and Henry III—not exactly a great king. And then came Edward. Three of them, to be exact, and these last few years I seem to have been spending most of my time reading up on them. In my recent release, Edward I is king, so it follows he’s the one I’ve invested most time on recently.
Edward I has something of a black legend attached to him. This is the king who so brutally crushed Wales, who did his best to crush Scotland, who hanged William Wallace, who locked up innocent children. All in all, a rather terrifying creature. At the same time, he reformed legislation, brought order and structure to the royal administration and worked constantly, releasing a steady stream of letters, deeds and orders. Plus, he was a loving and devoted husband, reluctant to spend any time separated from his wife. Mostly, they were joined at the hip, those two.
What quickly becomes apparent when reading up on the people of the thirteenth and fourteenth century is that we really know very little about them. Yes, we have a sequence of facts, but were we to reduce our own lives to facts, I think we’d quickly realise the sum total of those facts come nowhere close to describing us in all our vibrant complexity.
I am especially fascinated by the women of medieval times. Were they as weak and oppressed as some would have us believe? I think not. They may not be mentioned much in the chronicles, but women have always had to be strong—they have to be, to ensure the survival of their children, feed their household, support their husbands, manage their affairs. In medieval times, many were the landed men who left the management of their extensive domains to their wives while they were off serving the king in one war or other. Besides, there are women who deffo grabbed hold of the reins and ordered their life as they saw fit, like Margaret, Countess of Norfolk, Edward III’s cousin.
This impressive woman was born around 1322, became Countess of Norfolk upon the death of her father in 1338. By then, she’d been married for three years and would give her husband four children. In 1351, she announced her intention of requesting an annulment of her marriage, this due to not having been of an age to legally consent when she was betrothed to her husband. I imagine hubby wasn’t too thrilled: they’d been married for sixteen years by then! Edward III forbade her to petition the pope, Margaret did so anyway, sneaking off to France despite having been ordered by Edward III to remain in England. In France, she seems to have met up with her lover—the probable reason behind her desire to get an annulment. Before the pope could rule on the annulment, Margaret’s first hubby conveniently died and she wasted no time in marrying her lover, without royal consent! I imagine Edward III tore at his beard in vexation.
Margaret’s story proves that medieval women could be forceful and ambitious and quite, quite determined. So far, she has only made an appearance in my writing as a child, but now and then I catch a glimpse of her wafting through my brain. I am thinking she would make a great character!
Back to the thirteenth century and the background that inspired my latest release, Her Castilian Heart. This means going back to Edward I and his invasion of Wales. One can almost get the impression that it only took Edward a year or so to tame the Welsh. The reality was different, with rebellions breaking out repeatedly. I am fascinated by underdog stories, and any Welshman raising their banners against Edward I was definitely the underdog—Edward I could mobilise an impressive army if so required. And yet, the Welsh kept rebelling. And losing. Why?
Well, obviously I don’t know why—beyond concluding that Edward was a tad harsh in how he went about pacifying his new dominions. But no matter the why, all those rebellions make for a good story, and in Her Castilian Heart my protagonist, Robert FitzStephan, is ordered to ride to Wales and quell one such rebellion.
While there, he encounters a bellicose friar who is in charge of the king’s siege engines. (And this is true! A named friar managed the king’s various trebuchets during a siege in Scotland, and I have simply made use of this self-same friar in my book) This causes Robert to reflect about godliness and whether or not God would approve of this particular friar—which leads me to another of my fascinations with the medieval period, namely the constant, looming presence of the Holy Church.
The Church regulated everyday life in a way we can’t quite comprehend. Days of fasting, periods of fasting (like Lent and Advent) saint’s days, tithing practices, rituals and rites. In medieval England, one could not be an atheist. In medieval England, being Jewish was really difficult. In medieval England, people prayed to God and Jesus, to the Virgin and the various saints. In medieval England, the concept of an immortal soul was accepted as true—as was the fear of eternal damnation. So when my protagonist Noor expresses she is willing to swear on everything holy that her foundling isn’t Welsh (which he is) she expresses just how much she loves the child for whom she is willing to risk eternity in hell.
In conclusion, medieval England is a vibrant and confusing place, with people as complicated and multi-layered as we are. The period comes with the added boon of having castles and knights—after all, who doesn’t need a knight or two to brighten up their day?—and strong and resourceful women. What else does a writer need?
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