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Her Castilian Heart

Anna Belfrage's thrilling Castilian Saga continues

I’m happy to welcome Swedish historical novelist Anna Belfrage to the blog today in celebration of Her Castilian Heart, the latest book in her fabulous Castilan Saga. With a deft blend of rich historical detail and vibrant characterization, Anna’s series brings a lost medieval world to vivid life. The Castilian Saga stars Robert FitzStephan and his Castilian-born wife Noor, a couple whose fate is bound up in the drama of England’s bloody acquisition of Wales. Though their arranged marriage has a rocky start, an abiding passion grows—and together they navigate the dangers of war and court life. In Her Castilian Heart, they fall out of favor with the mighty Queen Eleanor—and the couple faces their most agonizing challenge yet.

Welcome, Anna!

AM: What’s the tagline or ‘elevator pitch’ for your book?

AB: I vacillate. Some days, the tag line is “Blood is not always thicker than water.” Other days it’s “Sometimes, it’s the knight who needs saving.” So I use them both 😊

AM: How did you come up with the idea for your book?

AB: Her Castilian Heart was born out of a need to find out what happened next in Robert’s and Noor’s lives. There they were, safely home from their adventures in Aragon and Castile, but if we’re going to be honest, they’d not fulfilled the mission(s) Queen Eleanor had given them, and royalty in the thirteenth century were dangerous to rile—even more so when you’re secretly harbouring the son of an executed Welsh rebel. It helped when, just by chance, I came across an article about medieval hostages, where the writer described at length the huge hostage exchange Edward I was involved in in 1288. “Yay!” I though. “A political segue to the previous book.”

AM: What inspired you to write about that particular era or character?

AB: I always knew that at some point I was going to write about Edward I and Wales. Why? Well, partly this is because of Sharon K Penman, because seriously, her books about Llewellyn Fawr and his grandsons Llywellyn ap Gruffydd and Dafydd ap Gruffydd are among the best ever, IMO.

Partly, this was driven by a fascination with Edward I, a king I find an interesting mix of good and bad, terrifying and gentle. Eminently capable, he was ruthless and driven and even heartless at times—at least from a modern perspective—like when he locked up children and throws away the key. And then there’s the other side: the man who is heartbroken after the death of his wife, so devastated that for the first time during his reign no business is conducted for three days. 

Siege of Caerlaverock Castle in 1300

 AM: What surprised you in the course of your research?

AB: Well, one of the things that really had my eyebrows crawling upwards was finding out a friar was in charge of King Edward’s siege engines. Friar Robert was a Dominican friar—that’s about all we know—and he is specifically mentioned in the contemporary account of the Siege of Caerlaverock Castle in 1300 where he commands the trebuchets into position prior to initiating a bombardment of the little castle. I find it something of a contradiction: a man of God actively participating in warfare. In Her Castilian Heart, my male protagonist agrees. Robert FitzStephan is astounded by the friar’s callous attitude as can be seen in the below:

“Does it not bother you?”  Robert asked.

“Mmm?” Friar Robert looked up from the rough drawing of a dismantled engine he’d made with coal on a table.

“Being a bringer of death,” Robert said. “After all, you’re a friar, not a warrior.”

“I don’t bring death to anyone. They bring it upon themselves by defying the king.” He shrugged. “If my engines can stop others from rebelling out of sheer fear, then I am actually saving lives.”

“What an odd way to reason,” Robert commented as he and Roger made their way back to their camp. 

“Aye. But as he never actually has to see the men his engines kill die, he never experiences the anguish of seeing eyes grow blank with death.”

Robert raised his brows. “How insightful of you.”

Roger grunted. “I kill easily in battle—so do you. But that does not mean I don’t feel it.”

“Amen to that.”

Obviously, once I’d found this particular friar, I just had to insert him into my narrative!

AM: Do your research findings guide the plot, or do you plan out the plot first and flesh it out with research? (Or perhaps both?)

AB: I write predominantly about fictional characters who, to a larger or lesser extent, interact with real historical people. To do so, I must have a tight control over my timeline, so I generally have a pretty clear take on where the various historical peeps were and what they were doing (in as much as we know) and use that as a framework for my narrative. Yes, at times I stumble across something during that research that affects my plot, but in general, the plot lives its own vibrant life—as long as it stays within the framework of available historical facts. And yes, there are times when I am obliged to tweak said facts. In Her Castilian Heart, I’ve had to move the death of an off-scene real historical person from March to November of 1287 so as to fit with my narrative. For the person in question, those six months made no difference, but I am of course conscientious about divulging such little tweaks in my Historical Note. 

AM: What do you have planned for your next writing project?

AB: I always end up writing series! And so, Her Castilian Heart leads into a fourth book about Robert and Noor, with the working title Their Castilian Orphan. That’s the last book. Yup. Absolutely. Or maybe not. . .


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?


About the author:

Had Anna been allowed to choose, she’d have become a time-traveller. As this was impossible, she became a financial professional with three absorbing interests: history, romance and writing. Anna always writes about love and 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, she has published Her Castilian Heart, the third in her medieval Castilian series set against the conquest of Wales. She has also written a new time travel romance, The Whirlpools of Time.

Find out more about Anna, her books and enjoy her eclectic historical blog on her website,

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  1. Anna Belfrage says:

    Dear Amy,
    Thank you so much for inviting me to visit with you!

    1. Amy Maroney says:

      My pleasure, Anna!

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