Book Title: Her Castilian Heart
Series: The Castilian Series
Author: Anna Belfrage
Publication Date:27 Sept 2022
Publisher: Timelight Press
Page Length:380 Pages
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?
Trigger Warnings: There is some sexual (consensual) content. Also some violence
Excerpt 1 – in which Robert realises just how much his brother hates him
They reached Wigmore just after noon the next day. Robert couldn’t help himself, rising to stand in his stirrups as he took in the castle that had been his home for close to four years. Initially, it had not been easy, him the rough and unpolished bastard son of a nobleman who’d been offered a place in the Mortimer household to clear a debt the Mortimers owed de Lamont.
Little had changed; a large gatehouse led to the huge outer bailey—large enough to hold a minor host. There were buildings everywhere: stables, a smithy, storage sheds, a building from which came the distinctive smell of brewing ale, kennels to house the Mortimer dogs.
Their arrival caused quite some stir, and when one of the smiths recognised Roger Mortimer and bellowed a welcome, it was as if a swarm of bees had been let loose as those who belonged to the Mortimer household came hurrying over to welcome the Mortimer son back. Robert held back Mars, smiling at how boisterously Roger returned the greetings.
“Really!” Eustace muttered, directing himself to Robert for the first time since they’d set off. “Should our men greet me so discourteously, I’d have them whipped.”
“They love him,” Robert said. “They’d lay down their lives for him. Would your men do that for you?”
Eustace sniffed. “That’s what they’re on retainer for.”
“It is my experience only those who inspire affection as well as respect among their men can expect them to risk everything on their behalf.” Robert nudged Mars into a walk, making for the stables.
“Oh, so you serve King Edward out of love, do you?” Eustace said. “Not because he rewarded you with a nice little manor and a plump, dusky wife?”
“Careful,” Robert growled. “I’ll not have my wife disparaged. But in answer to your question, I’d served the king for close to two decades when he honoured me with Noor’s hand. And those years of service were because of loyalty—and love.” He cocked his head. “Not entirely sure you comprehend either of those concepts, dear brother.”
“Just because I don’t go starry-eyed at the mention of my wife does not mean I don’t know what love is.”
“True. But having a loving wife is one of the true treasures in life.”
“I wouldn’t know,” Eustace said. “Yet.”
“Yet?” Robert dismounted and handed Mars’ reins to Elias, giving his squire a nod and the stallion an affectionate pat before they ambled off.
“I find myself a widower,” Eustace explained, dismounting as well. One of his men rushed forward to care for the horse.
“Lady Elisabeth is dead?”
“Aye. Since some weeks back.” He scowled. “It took her long enough.”
“Eustace, for shame!” Robert said, and his brother had the decency to blush.
“She wanted to die since before we wed,” he muttered.
Aye, that was probably true. Having lost everyone she cared for, what reason was there for Lady Elisabeth to continue to draw breath? And once she realised the king would never relent, never allow her to see her daughter or her imprisoned sons, she’d likely sunk even deeper into despair. For an instant, he almost pitied Eustace, lumbered with a wife so wounded. What man could possibly have helped that broken woman heal?
“She lies at Waldbur Castle?” Robert had visited his sire’s principal residence all of two times, had but vague memories of large round towers and a massive keep in golden stone.
“What? Bury her there? Why would I spend money on having her corpse transported there? She’s buried where she died, in a small village somewhere in Flint.” Eustace stretched. “So now, I am free to wed again, and I hope for a dutiful and fertile wife. And rich,” he added.
“I wish you the best of luck,” Robert said, and Eustace gave him a surprised look. “What? I may not like you much, but that does not mean I begrudge you an opportunity to be content.”
Eustace appeared stunned. After a moment or two of silence, he cleared his throat. “How unfortunate I do not share that sentiment,” he said, lowering his voice to a hiss. “Your contentment is verily like venom to my soul.” He wheeled, leaving Robert to gape at his receding back—and with an icy sensation spreading through his bowels. His half-brother not only resented him, he hated him. With an effort, he shook off the unease and extended his stride to catch up with Roger.
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
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Amazon Author Page: http://Author.to/ABG