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?
Sexual content, violence
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In which the proud French are obliged to crawl at the feet of King Pedro of Aragon
Two days later, a company of men came riding towards Pedro’s camp, a white banner flying aloft.
“If it isn’t my favourite nephew himself,” Pedro muttered, his eyes narrowing as he studied the Frenchmen. “As always, dressed to his teeth.”
Philippe was indeed a sight for sore eyes, looking as if he’d recently emerged from a bathhouse, not a war camp. In green and blue silk, a mantle in a darker blue hue edged with ermine, and his long hair loose and adorned with a thin gold circlet, he came striding towards the royal tent at such speed the fabric of his garments billowed around him.
“Uncle,” he began, walking towards Pedro with his arms outstretched, but he was rudely interrupted by the man-at-arms who stepped right into his path.
“Do not come here and claim ties of kinship,” Pedro warned, nodding at the man-at-arms to allow Philippe to approach. “I am not your uncle. I am the righteously incensed king come face-to-face with a would-be invader.”
To his credit, Philippe did not argue. Instead, he bowed deeply. “I am here as a representative of King Philippe, third of that name.” As he rose, he surveyed the men present, his gaze snagging on Robert. “You!” he exclaimed.
In response, Robert offered him a formal bow.
“Ah yes,” King Pedro said. “You have already met Robert FitzStephan, emissary and trusted captain of King Edward of England.”
Philippe blanched. “Emissary?” His tongue darted out to lick his lips.
“Indeed,” Pedro said drily. “I fear he will not be much impressed by how the French have treated him.”
“I . . . well . . . he didn’t—”
“I did,” Robert interrupted. “I made it quite clear I was here on behalf of my king.”
Pedro tut-tutted. “Really, Philippe, to lay hands on a man travelling with safe-conducts and abuse him so. Foolish, I say. Very foolish.” He sat down in one of the ornate armchairs and tucked a cushion behind his back.
The handsome lad flushed. “I am here to talk of other matters,” he said stiffly.
“Ah yes, your unconditional surrender,” Pedro said.
“Surrender?” Philippe straightened up and glared at his uncle. They were remarkably alike, these two men, with reddish-golden hair, light eyes, and cheekbones so defined it gave them both an eerie likeness to a bird of prey. “I come to negotiate a retreat.”
Pedro’s brows rose, but he held his tongue.
Philippe shifted under his weighty stare. “We will leave your lands immediately.”
“I think not.” Pedro gestured for one of his pages to serve him some more wine.
“They’re all ailing!” Philippe exclaimed. “My father, my brother—”
“The little usurper?” Pedro asked. “Well, well. It seems God smites some down immediately, hey?”
“My father,” Philippe began but had to stop when his voice broke. He took a couple of deep breaths. “The king of France hovers at death’s door,” he said. “A compassionate king would give him safe passage to his own lands, away from here.”
“I did not invite him,” Pedro said. “And I cannot help but wonder if he would have offered me the same consideration had our roles been reversed.” He lifted his goblet, took his time sipping at his wine. Philippe remained on his feet—after all, King Pedro had not invited him to sit—and it clearly irked him to stand like a penitent before his uncle, light eyes shooting daggers as the king of Aragon focused on his beverage rather than on him. “What do you think?” Pedro asked, directing himself to Robert.
“Me, my lord?”
“Yes. What would your lord and king do in a situation such as this?”
“Ah.” Robert thought about that. “Well, he would not let an invading army leave without teaching them a lesson.”
“No, I thought as much.” Pedro took another sip, his green eyes never leaving his nephew. “I will grant a safe conduct for your father, your brother, and yourself. After all, we are family—of sorts. But your men . . .” He shook his head. “They stay.”
Philippe blinked. Blinked again. “What is it you are saying? That we abandon our men?”
“Well, you can always choose to stay here with them,” Pedro said. “But if you wish to leave, you do so without them.”
“But . . .” Philippe licked his lips. “It would dishonour us to do so.”
“Dishonour?” Pedro’s voice rose. “I would say you dishonoured yourself the moment you set out to steal my kingdom!” He shrugged. “Besides, as I hear it, they go to meet their maker anyway. I will but hasten their journey.” From Philippe came something that sounded like a croak. Pedro nodded, no more. “Oh yes, either they die of the bloody flux or by our swords, but they will die.” He leaned forward. “And let us not forget who is to blame for all those dead men: you, the French. The innocents in Roussillon, my brave people of Girona and now your soldiers. They die in pain; they die in squalor. A sign of God’s displeasure, would you not agree?”
“God?” Philippe’s beautiful mouth twisted. “God has nothing to do with this venture. This is a power-hungry pope whispering seductively in the ear of a king.”
“More fool him to listen,” Pedro said.
“Please,” Philippe said, and to Robert’s surprise, the proud prince knelt before his uncle. “Please let us leave. All of us.”
“No.” Pedro stood, towering over his nephew. “I will give your father, your brother, yourself, and a selected group of followers—three score at most—permission to leave. But only if you swear a holy oath that France will never again raise arms against Aragon.”
Philippe had tears in his eyes. “Three score? But that—”
Pedro waved him silent. “That is my only offer. Take it, or prepare to die with your ailing men.”
The French prince bowed his head, studying his hands intently. “I take it,” he finally said. “May God forgive me, but I take it.” He lifted his head, and his eyes blazed. “Never again will a French king be led by his nose by a pope. Never.”
“Sounds wise,” Pedro said. “It is my experience the pope has more interest in expanding his power than he has in caring for the souls of his huge flock.”
Philippe made as if to rise, but Pedro set a hand to his shoulder. “Your oath.”
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-traveling 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.
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