Title: His Castilian Hawk
Author: Anna Belfrage
A bit about the author
Anna Belfrage wanted to become a time-traveller but ended up as a financial professional with a passion for writing and history. She is the author of a 9 book time travel series, a 4 book historical fiction series in the medieval era, and has also published a contemporary romantic suspense trilogy.
An arranged marriage that seems to have little hope for a happily-ever-after. A former lover. A spirited young wife. Politics, war… and treason.
Robert FitzStephan, loyally serving Edward I since the age of twelve, now rides with his king to bring Wales under English control. His young wife’s blood-ties to the Welsh princes complicate their lives. Eleanor d’Outremer is determined to save at least one member of the House of Aberffraw from the English king. Where will Robert stand?
The scene or line that made you laugh out loud
King Edward’s wife is very pregnant and unhappy that she won’t be getting any sex with her hubby…
“No nightly visit from my husband at the end of Lent this year,” she said to Elena.
“Which is most fortunate,” Elena said. “In your present state, it would be a very cumbersome exercise, mi reina. Verily, like a goat attempting to mount a mare.”
“Elena!” The queen said, before breaking out into a fit of laughter. “Best never tell our king you likened him to a goat.”
The place where you wanted to throw the book across the room
Robert is the one who needs to be thrown across the room. He is such a weak SOB.
This had to stop. It had to, for his wife’s sake—and for Edith’s. But when she hummed under her breath and pressed her naked breasts against him, he couldn’t quite remember why it had to stop. At least not quite yet.
A memorable line or scene (or two)
King Edward is reading a letter from Eleanor to Robert, and chastising him. (Go, Edward!)
How else to explain that a man chooses to rise from my bed and spend our wedding night [cut for spoilers]… ” The king lowered the letter and studied Robert. “Truly, Robert?”
“It wasn’t like that,” Robert protested. “I …Well, she was so young and fearful, and–”
“Instead of allaying those fears, you chose to leave her to spend the night alone and rejected while you cavorted elsewhere.” The king made a disgusted sound. “She’s your wife! She deserves more respect than this. Damn it man, she’s a relative of my wife!”
And a bit later in that scene…
… “Is that how you treat my gifts?” He scowled. “There are plenty of ambitious men who would leap at the chance to wed and bed her.”
Later in the novel, Robert is thinking about how his wife has affected him:
Us. A new word, a word that filled him with surprising warmth. The wife he had dismissed as a child some months ago had become a woman and companion he desired in his life. At times, the insight filled him with fear: for the first time in his life, he was developing a dependency on another person, and that made him feel vulnerable.
My verdict: ***4.5 stars rounded up to 5***
My favorite era of historical fiction is the medieval era, and I have read many of Anna Belfrage’s novels set during these times. With His Castilian Hawk, she has done it again: Belfrage’s knowledge of the time period and the historical record shine in this exciting new story set in the late 13th century during the reign of Edward I. She gives us just enough political detail so the conflicts between the English king and the Welsh he wants to subjugate is understood, but not overwhelming. The settings are luscious – Belfrage has a way with words and we can see, smell, hear, and taste everything.
In this novel, young Eleanor, aka Noor, is shuttled into an arranged marriage with a man she has never met. Robert FitzStephan has been a loyal ‘yes’ man to the king. This is a page-turner that had me worried about Robert and Noor. Robert’s former mistress, a Welsh prince being hunted by the king that Robert serves, and Noor’s outspokenness spell trouble for these two. There is a compelling love story. (There are also a few graphic sex scenes, but just squint & turn the page if you’d prefer.) The antagonists are not black & white. You’re never quite certain if they will end up destroying Robert and Noor.
Highly recommended. ***4.5 stars***
Charlene Newcomb is the author of the Battle Scars series, 12th century historical fiction filled with war, political intrigue, and a knightly romance of forbidden love set during the reign of Richard the Lionheart. She also writes sci fi/space opera filled with rebels and traitors, battles and romance, in Echoes of the Storm, set in a galaxy far, far away (but no, this one isn’t Star Wars) .