Her Castilian Heart: Coffee Pot Club Blog Tour

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 – in which Robert has discussions with King Edward.

Robert did not make it far before someone called his name. Thank the Lord it was not his king, but his wife, who looked delightfully rosy after what he assumed had been a long walk with Elias, seeing as his squire was at her heels. 

“We saw more of those birds,” she told him. “You know, the bone-breaking ones.” She pointed due north towards the peaks they’d passed on their way here. “And look, it has snowed up there.”

She gushed on for a while, but his taciturn replies had her coming to a halt, brows pulled together. “Did something happen?”

“I don’t know,” he admitted before giving her an abbreviated retelling of the recent discussion between the two kings, how Alfonso had said that he couldn’t wait for ever for his bride, so if the pope did not give his approval soon, he’d look elsewhere than King Edward’s precious daughter.

“Well,” she said. “Alfonso is merely expressing a concern—a valid one at that, what with the pope dangling that dispensation just out of reach.”

“I don’t think our king saw it that way.”

“No?” She tucked her arm under his. “King Edward is too wise to take it otherwise.”

The wise man in question took this opportunity to appear from one of the small churches. He was still in high colour, still looked as if he’d swallowed a surfeit of bile, but at the sight of Noor he somehow managed a polite smile.

“I need to talk to you,” the king said to Robert, and Noor rose from her deep reverence and slipped off with Elias, leaving Robert alone with his liege and his attendants. The king gripped Robert’s arm. “A walk,” he ordered. Robert extended his stride to match that of the king’s, and they walked in silence for a while.  

“That dratted whelp!” the king said. “To insinuate he’ll not honour the contracts.”

“My liege, I do not think that was his intention,” Robert said.

“No?” The king scowled at him. “Are you that close to him? God’s blood, Robert, I had no notion Alfonso considered you such a close friend.”

“Friend, my liege?” Robert shook his head.

“He greeted you as if you were.”

“More likely due to seeing a familiar face. And aye, we spent a lot of time together back in 1285, but by now I’d hazard you have spent many more hours interacting with him than I ever did.”

“Hmm.” The king rubbed at his drooping eye. “You like him, don’t you?”

Robert hesitated. “I think he has the makings of a great king, my liege.”

“Maybe.” King Edward glanced at him. “You must have made quite an impression back in 1285 for him to embrace you like that.” He veered abruptly to the right to avoid a large puddle glazed with a thin sheet of ice. By now, they were navigating a steep slope, the buildings of the town replaced by meadows on either side of the drystone walls.

Robert shrugged. “I’d warrant the only reason he remembers me is this.” He held up his hand, displaying his maimed fingers. “After all, it was his opportune arrival that left me with the rest of my digits intact.”

King Edward smiled. “That’s why your wife called him an angel.”

“She did?” 

“That’s how she described him to the queen.”

“There is nothing angelic about Alfonso of Aragon,” Robert commented drily. “Well, beyond his handsome countenance.”

King Edward laughed. “Aye, he is very comely. That will please my Eleanor.” His expression clouded again. “Assuming the whelp does not renege on his vows.” He rubbed at his eye again, strong shoulders drooping slightly. “He’s right,” he muttered. “There is only so long a king can wait for a bride—or a bride for a husband. I swear, I’ll strangle the pope myself if he does not deliver that dispensation.” He gave a humourless laugh. “Well, I’ll send someone else to do it, of course.”

“My liege!”

The king rolled his eyes. “I jest, Robert. But there are days when I am right tempted. Best not tell my wife, though. She’d not like that I threatened the Holy Father, not even in jest.” He straightened up and clasped his hands behind him, walking back the way they’d come. “And just so you know, it isn’t because of your maimed fingers that you’ve made an impression on Alfonso. It’s despite them.” He clasped Robert’s shoulder. “To hear it, you did us all proud back in 1285.”

For the first time in years, Robert felt himself blush. “Thank you, my liege. I was merely—”

“Aye, I know, you were merely doing your duty. As you’ve always done.” The king squinted upwards, following the flight of two raptors—eagles, to judge from the wings. “I’d have liked to return to the Holy Land with you at my side,” he continued. 

“I’d have been honoured to ride with you, my liege.”

The king nodded and resumed walking. Robert fell into step, as comfortable with the silence as the king was. Soon enough, they were back in Canfranc proper. From every window, every door, people stared openly at the tall English king in all his finery. And the king obliged, slowing his pace and carrying himself as straight as a lance while now and then giving a benevolent nod. The breeze lifted his mantle, revealing the gold silk lining, and on his chest the lions of England glowed in gilded thread against the scarlet of the silk tabard. 

“One would think they’d never seen a king before,” he muttered to Robert.

“I think it is more that they’ve never seen quite so tall and formidable a king. Alfonso’s father was shorter than he is, and Alfonso is several inches shorter than you.”

“Hmm.” The king threw his shoulders back further and raised his chin. “Formidable, you say?” 

“Very, my liege.”

The king just laughed and relaxed his posture before wondering out loud if there was any hunting to be had in the nearby surroundings. 

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Anna Belfrage

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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