Today I’m delighted to be sharing an excerpt from Anna Belfrage’s newly released novel The Castilian Pomegranate as part of a blog tour hosted by The Coffee Pot Book Club. The Castilian Pomegranate, set in the complex political world of medieval Spain, is the second book in The Castilian Saga.
In which Noor meets her uncle, King Sancho of Castile, for the first time.
Queen Maria and her ladies were in the gardens with their children when a page came running, breathlessly informing the queen King Sancho was back. Right at his heels came the king himself, striding at speed towards his wife, who shed all her usual decorum, picked up her skirts and ran to meet him.
They came together, her arms round his neck, his round her waist, and Noor had to look away, not wanting to intrude on what should have been a private moment—whispered words and a sequence of kisses that left the normally composed queen rosy and giggling like a young maid.
“Some lovemaking, some pillow talk, and then they’ll be back to discussing matters of the realm,” Malena said, smiling when the king swept his wife up into his arms and set off towards the private entrance to the queen’s apartments. “Isabel!” she called, and Noor’s daughter looked her way. “Not you, little one,” Malena said. “Isabel!” she called again, and the little infanta looked up from where she was playing with a set of jugglers’ balls. “Your Papa is home,” Malena said. “Come, we must clean you up.”
In Noor’s opinion, the princess looked as neat as a pin—she always did. Where the other children barged about among trees and shrubs, Isabel of Castile preferred to sit to the side, wide blue eyes staring at the little boys. A serious child, very much her mother’s daughter, Isabel was accompanied at all times by a maid and her duenna, a formidable lady who reminded Noor of Yolande’s Doña Teresa, albeit this lady was decades younger than Teresa and answered to the name of Fernanda. But when Malena smiled and held out her hand, the little princess smiled and skipped towards her.
“She likes me,” Malena confided in a whisper to Noor.
“Everyone likes you,” Noor replied. “And it helps that you bribe her with sweets.”
Malena laughed and got to her feet, her hand settling for an instant on a belly that was just beginning to round. “Come. You must meet your uncle.”
“Now?” Noor just looked at her. “But you just said that they were going to . . .” She blushed.
“I am not suggesting we barge into their bedchamber,” Malena said. “Sancho would never forgive me for that. But knowing them, they will merely scratch the urgent itch now and save the rest of their reunion for later.”
“I do not want to talk about Queen Maria’s urgent itch!” Noor hissed.
“Why? You do not think she has one?” Malena swung Isabel up to sit on her hip, giving Noor a curious look. “Don’t you itch with longing when you’ve been separated from your husband?”
“Is that any of your concern?”
Malena rolled her eyes. “Poor Sir Robert if that is not the case.” She tilted her head. “Maybe you’re more like Margarita, cold and uninterested.” But her eyes were sparkling as she said it.
“I am not!” Noor scowled, throwing a quick look at the elegant Margarita—a cold fish indeed, who rarely smiled or laughed or did anything much but embroider and admonish her young son to behave.
“Thank the Lord for that! So do you itch?”
“Yes!” Noor’s cheeks were on fire.
“I am happy to hear that.” Malena grinned. “I imagine Sir Robert is too.”
By the time little Isabel was deemed presentable enough to meet her father, the king and queen had clearly done enough scratching to tide them over until evening. Noor shared a quick look with Malena and muffled a giggle as the guard stationed by the door to the queen’s private apartments stood to the side to allow them to pass, Malena holding Isabel by the hand.
The king was a vigorous man, strong enough to easily toss his little daughter high. He’d changed into clean robes and looked a tad flushed, as did his wife. Once he had greeted Isabel, he turned his attention to Noor. His intense scrutiny had her struggling to stop herself from fidgeting.
He approached, and while this king was at least a head shorter than King Edward, he carried himself with the same confidence, all of him screaming to the world that this was a man who set himself a target—and achieved it.
“Niece,” he said, extending a hand to help her rise from her reverence.
“Mi rey,” she replied.
That made him smile. “Not your king,” he said, “but your uncle. Don Sancho will do.”
Queen Maria had evidently informed him about why she was here, and after some polite conversation he dismissed her, saying he and his wife had matters to discuss. In the doorway, Noor almost bumped into Father Pérez and a similarly garbed man who merely nodded at her before preceding Father Pérez into the room, saying something about the perfidious Aragonese dogs over his shoulder.
“That’s the king’s privado,” Malena said, lifting Isabel into her arms. “His most trusted man. A bit like Father Pérez is to our queen—except I like Father Pérez more. The good Abbot Gómez has a tendency to pretend women do not exist—well, beyond giving birth to the all-important males.”
“That cannot endear him to the queen.”
“I think he makes an exception for her—or rather, the king expects him to do so.”
An enraged and grieving queen commands them to retrieve her exquisite jewel and abandon their foundling brat overseas—or never return.
Robert FitzStephan and his wife, Noor, have been temporarily exiled. Officially, they are to travel to the courts of Aragon and Castile as emissaries of Queen Eleanor of England. Unofficially, the queen demands two things: that they abandon Lionel, their foster son, in foreign lands and that they bring back a precious jewel – the Castilian Pomegranate.
Noor would rather chop off a foot than leave Lionel in a foreign land—especially as he’s been entrusted to her by his dead father, the last true prince of Wales. And as to the jewel, stealing it would mean immediate execution…
Spain in 1285 is a complicated place. France has launched a crusade against Aragon and soon enough Robert is embroiled in the conflict, standing side by side with their Aragonese hosts.
Once in Castile, it is the fearsome Moors that must be fought, with Robert facing weeks separated from his young wife, a wife who is enthralled by the Castilian court—and a particular Castilian gallant.
Jealousy, betrayal and a thirst for revenge plunge Noor and Robert into life-threatening danger.
Will they emerge unscathed or will savage but beautiful Castile leave them permanently scarred and damaged?
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.
The Castilian Pomegranate is the second 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 Castilian Pomegranate, we travel with the protagonists to the complex political world of medieval Spain, a world of intrigue and back-stabbing.
Her most recent release prior to The Castilian Pomegranate is 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.
Book Title: The Castilian Pomegranate
Series: (The Castilian Saga, Book 2)
Author: Anna Belfrage
Publication Date: 1st October 2021
Publisher: Timelight Press
Page Length: 400 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction, Historical Romance