For bastard-born Robert FitzStephan, being given Eleanor d’Outremer in marriage is an honour. For Eleanor, this forced wedding is anything but a fairy tale.
His Castilian Hawk
Robert FitzStephan has served Edward Longshanks loyally since the age of twelve. Now he is riding with his king to once and for all bring Wales under English control.
Eleanor d’Outremer—Noor to family—lost her Castilian mother as a child and is left entirely alone when her father and brother are killed. When ordered to wed the unknown Robert FitzStephan, she has no choice but to comply.
Two strangers in a marriage bed is not easy. Things are further complicated by Noor’s blood-ties to the Welsh princes and by covetous Edith who has warmed Robert’s bed for years.
Robert’s new wife may be young and innocent, but he is soon to discover that not only is she spirited and proud, she is also brave. Because when Wales lies gasping and Edward I exacts terrible justice on the last prince and his children, Noor is determined to save at least one member of the House of Aberffraw from the English king.
Will years of ingrained service have Robert standing with his king or will he follow his heart and protect his wife, his beautiful and fierce Castilian hawk?
Enjoy an Excerpt from
His Castilian Hawk
EXCERPT in which Robert bids his wife farewell before riding out to war . . .
Robert was up at the crack of dawn. The rain had abated, and for a couple of hours he had his men busy themselves with preparations while he oversaw the loading of victuals onto a couple of packhorses—a cart would not get far in the mountainous terrain of Wales.
By the time they came in to break their fast, Noor was already in the hall. She served him herself, placing a platter of smoked fish and bread in front of him. No words, they just sat side by side, holding hands under the table.
And then it was time to leave. Robert ordered his men outside but lingered in the hall, reluctant to leave the warmth and his wife. From outside came the sound of men and horses, and there was no point to further delaying, not when the moment of farewell was upon them.
Noor accompanied him outside, fingers clutching his. Down the steps that led from the hall, there was Elias, holding Mars. Robert took a deep breath and turned to his wife.
“Be careful,” she said, stroking his cheek. “Come back safe and sound to me.”
“I will,” he promised, knowing just how futile his promise was. It was all in the hands of the Lord—and maybe his king. Robert could do nothing but obey his orders and hope he’d emerge from every fray alive and essentially unharmed. “And you must take care of yourself, my heart.”
She blushed, her eyes glistening. She nodded in response.
Robert took her hand and kissed each finger in turn before lifting her chin so that he could press a kiss to her lips. A chaste thing, him far too aware of their audience, of just how close Noor was to tears.
“I have something for you,” he murmured.
“Another collar?” she teased, and he was grateful for her attempt to lighten the mood. He glanced at Gawain, presently wearing his new collar. The hound looked none too happy about it, his hind leg coming up regularly to scratch at his neck.
“No. This is for you, my hawk.”
He dug into his pouch, his hands closing round the smooth white stone he had found so many years ago on the shore of the Holy Land. He had just been laughed out of Yasmine’s room, she telling him he need not come back if he intended to subject her to his lovesick spouting, and instead of returning to his lodgings he had ended up by the sea north of Acre, having first snuck out through St Anthony’s gate.
He pulled out the stone and opened his hand. Like a little white heart, it lay on his palm, as bright as when he’d first found it and veined with thin lines of red and black.
“I’ve carried this with me for longer than I’ve had my leather surcoat,” he said. “I never found someone to give it to before.”
“A stone?” But her finger followed its shape.
“A heart.” He cleared his throat. “My heart.”
The look she gave him made his throat constrict. In those beautiful dark eyes, he could see just how much she loved him, and that single tear running down her cheek had him reaching out to catch it.
“Don’t weep, little hawk,” he said. “I cannot bear it.”
“I’m not weeping.” She ducked her head and scrubbed at her face. “It is just the wind making my eyes water.”
He smiled. “There is no wind.” He handed her the stone.
“Then it must be a speck of dust.” She straightened up, still as short as when he’d first met her, still soft and round. But his Noor was different from the maid he’d wed less than a year ago: she had grown into a young woman, alluring curves hiding a centre of steel. A wife to be proud of, he reflected. A wife to love and cherish, he added as an afterthought when she embraced him as if she would never let him go.
“God keep you,” she said, releasing him.
“And you.” He pressed a kiss to her forehead and stepped back, only to bump into Gawain.
“Take care of your mistress,” he said to the dog, scratching it behind the ears. Gawain gave him an aloof look, eyes the colour of amber staring straight through him.
Excerpt Copyright © Anna Belfrage. Shared with permission for blog tour.
In the author's words . . .
Interview with Anna Belfrage
What makes His Castilian Hawk special or unique to you?
The first time I knew I was going to write a book set in the late 13th century was when I first read about the death of Llywellyn the Last (Prince of Wales) in 1282. Poor man: recently widowed, distraught by his loss, and his hot-headed brother somehow manages to embroil Llywellyn in a fight with England that there’s no chance in hell he can win.
I wasn’t sure how I was going to write it until the day Robert FitzStephan popped into my head with all his baggage and his fair mistress Edith—who turned out to be anything but fair by the time the story was done! Anyway: Robert has served King Edward of England loyally since he was twelve and is therefore rewarded with a landed wife. Eleanor (Noor) d’Outremer—Robert’s “reward”—is young and very alone in the world. She also has Welsh kin, and is not quite as impressed by King Edward as Robert is. In fact, Noor will do whatever it takes to save one innocent Welsh child from the king’s wrath. his puts Robert in a difficult position: to whom does he owe his ultimate loyalty? To the king he has served so faithfully since he was a boy or to the dark-eyes young girl who is growing into an admirable woman? Things ar further complicated by Edith who will do whatever it takes to rid herself of Noor—even more so when she realizes Robert has fallen in love with his wife.
What type of hero do you like best?
Physically, I find myself always writing heroes who are pretty big—tall, broad-shouldered and the like. I think this is because I rather like the idea of being able to (vicariously, obviously as my characters never materialize in the flesh) snuggle into the warm chest of my male characters and feel completely protected. I like heroes who are dependable, men of convictions and ideals. I like it if they’re a bit too set in their beliefs initially so that my female protagonists can work their magic and broaden their horizons. All my heroes are honourable. They would die defending those they love. They may be products of their time, but they never belittle their women, even if at times they are overprotective. While their lives require that they be tough, my heroes are brave enough to expose their more vulnerable sides to the woman they’ve given their heart to.
Do you believe in the concept of a muse? What is yours like?
Ha! Do I believe in a muse? Oh, yes, I most certainly do. Ms Inspiration is a lady who has a preference for dramatic clothing, lots of leather and the occasional whip which she slaps against her boot when she feels I am slacking. She presents me with a constant stream of potential stories and gets very irritated when I don’t immediately start tapping away like crazy.
“But I’ve already given you a male protagonist,” she’ll grumble. “Look, he’s perfect!” (This is when she bats her eyes at the as yet unknown male protagonist)
“Yeah, but I’m not sure I want to write a story about…”
“Fiddlesticks! Of course you do!”
“Err…” I study the shadowy male outline. Seriously, 16th century? No, not for me.
“Now, you listen to me,” (slap, slap goes the whip) “Not everyone has a muse like me! So stop arguing and start writing!” She gestures at the man. “And just look at those legs, absolutely gorgeous in hose!”
I won that discussion. Well, sort off. That shadowy male is the protagonist of my romantic suspense series, but without the puff hose. Instead, Jason meets the world in jeans or bespoke suits. “Thank God for that,” he mutters.
Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?
Usually, one scene kicks off a new WIP. Once I have that scene down, I will sit back and draw up an outline, but I have learned the hard way that nothing ever happens according to the outline. It helps me set the initial chapters, but once the story takes off, that outline is history. In my present WIP, I was SO sure I had found my antagonist in a terrible scene in which my male protagonist is maimed. Three chapters later, the intended antagonist has become a victim, so there went that outline.
I still think the outline helps as it offers some initial structure, but I have to own the fact that I am more of a “pantser” than a “plotter”. ( Ms Inspiration snorts—loudly. “No discipline,” she mutters. I’d disagree. “Pantsers” are just as disciplined as “plotters”—it’s just that the creative process works differently)
What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book?
The toughest challenge was getting Robert’s character arc right. He doesn’t exactly endear himself to his new wife or the reader (or the writer!) initially. There are reasons for his behaviour, starting with the fact that the concept of having a wife is totally unfamiliar to him. Robert never expected to marry well as he is no catch himself. Bastard-born, all he knows how to do is fight on behalf of his king, and suddenly here he is, married to a much younger woman who comes with manors and lands. Still, this does not excuse how he humiliates poor Noor. But Robert is basically a good man and I had to give him the opportunity to vindicate himself . Along the way, Robert discovers love—for the first time in his life. *sighs happily* I think I managed to make Robert credible and relatable—ultimately, though, that’s up to the readers to decide!
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.
More recently, Anna has published The Wanderer, a fast-paced contemporary romantic suspense trilogy with paranormal and time-slip ingredients. While she loved stepping out of her comfort zone (and will likely do so again ) she is delighted to be back in medieval times in 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.
Genre: Historical Fiction/Medieval
Release Date: September 28, 2020
Content Note: R-1
During the Blog Tour, the author is giving away two paperback copies of His Castilian Hawk! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.
Open internationally. By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old. Void where prohibited by law. This giveaway ends November 20, 2020. This giveaway is sponsored by the author and hosted by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.
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