If you're anything like me, I'm having a tough time getting my head wrapped around the fact that today is the first day of December. That final month in the year. Where does time go so quickly? Ahead are the fun-filled Holidays, lots of guests, gatherings with friends and family, and musical performances. It all makes my head spin!
And--I have my final author event this coming Saturday, December 3 at Book No Further on the Roanoke Market. If you're in the Roanoke, Virginia area, I invite you to come say hello, browse for Christmas gifts, and meet my friend and author, Amanda Cockrell (Damion Hunter), who also writes Roman fiction. We'll be there signing books from 11-2pm. I'll look forward to seeing you there!
In the meantime, take a deep breath, find a good book, sit near some candles, a warm fire, or Christmas tree, and spend time reading and using your imagination. This week, I have a lovely excerpt from author Anna Belfrage. This is from her newest book, Her Castilian Heart. Anna writes with such luscious imagery and her book cover is gorgeous.
Enjoy and READ ON!
Excerpt from Her Castilian Heart
By: Anna Belfrage
By dawn, they were on their way. The night had been cold, a heavy frost covering the grass. Noor shivered and tightened her heavy cloak around her and Lionel, who was sitting in front of her on Castaña. One by one, the carts trundled off, and still the mounted party was no closer to departing as harried servants hastened from one pack animal to the other with bundles containing the queen’s most essential belongings.
At long last, the mounted guard fell into formation. The queen emerged from within, draped in a fur-lined cloak. Piers was at her side, gallantly offering his arm, and for all that he was a year or so shy of ten, he carried himself with grace and elegance. And surprising strength, as he had no trouble keeping their queen steady when she slipped on a patch of ice.
They reached the queen’s palfrey—a gorgeous grey with a sweeping dark tail—and Piers knelt, offering her his hands as a stepping stool. The queen smiled down at him and lifted a dainty foot clad in dark red leather. Moments later, she was astride, competently collecting the reins while one of her ladies fussed with her cloak to ensure it lay as it should.
And then, at last, they were off.
It promised to be an enjoyable ride through the hilly terrain. The day was bright, the air was nippy, and a slight breeze had the royal pennants unfurling lazily. The road wound its way upwards through coppices and meadows; here and there they crossed a burbling stream. Lionel pointed excitedly at squirrels, at birds and even at a flock of sheep eyeing them balefully from their meadow.
“I miss Bertram,” he said.
“Who is Bertram?” the queen asked, having held back her horse.
“Our best ram.” Lionel giggled. “Bertram the best ram.”
The queen laughed. “How do you know which ram is the best?”
“He sires strong lambs,” Lionel said. “Everyone knows it is the ram that matters, not the ewe.”
“Ah.” The queen looked at Noor. “Are you raising him to be a shepherd?”
“Me?” Lionel scowled. “I’m not going to be a shepherd! I’m going to be a knight, like Papa.”
The queen smiled at him. “A knight? Then you’ll have to work very, very hard.”
They’d come to a halt on a relatively flat stretch of land, and Noor helped Lionel down before dismounting herself, looking about for somewhere to relieve herself. The queen remained astride, her gaze fixed on Lionel, who was running towards Piers.
“A knight,” the queen repeated with something of a sneer. “An impossible dream for a little foundling. You’d do better to apprentice him to a smith or a tailor.” She leaned forward. “I’m not comfortable with him learning to fight.”
“In this world, everyone must learn how to fight, mi reina,” Noor replied, striving to sound calm.
“Not a potential rebel!” the queen hissed.
“Rebel? Our Castilian foster son?”
“He is Welsh!” the queen said. “We both know that.” She rode her horse closer. “Furthermore, I have reason to suspect he’s the son of Dafydd, worm that he was. Like father, like son, they say.”
“You have no proof of that. None but the raving accusations made by the spy you sent into our household.” Noor drew herself up straight. “And I have yet to receive my father’s ring in return.”
“The one your servant Mary stole from me, crowing it was proof of us harbouring a little Welsh prince—”
“There are no Welsh princes!”
“Not anymore, no. And there’s never been one at Orton Manor. Never.” A lie, that was, but Noor met the queen’s gaze firmly.
“Hmph! And will you swear on everything holy that child is not Welsh?”
Noor would do anything to see Lionel safe. “Aye,” she said firmly, but her intestines churned.
Before the queen could demand she speak the words, perjuring her soul for all eternity, one of the queen’s younger ladies came hurrying over.
“Look!” she exclaimed, and in her hands she was holding a perfect little rosebud, unmarked by frost. “For you, my queen,” she said, blushing. “I thought you might give it to the king.”
That was enough to distract the queen, and Noor took the opportunity to slip off, making for a stand of trees before her bladder burst.
All About Her Castilian Heart
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?
All About Anna
Had Anna been allowed to choose, she’d have become a time-traveler. 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
Connect with Anna
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This book is available on Kindle Unlimited.