Hello, everyone! Yes, it’s that time – it’s subject reveal day! I’ve been waiting for this day for quite some time, and I’m so excited to share this subject reveal with you! Without further ado, the title of the third book in The Trastámara Series is:
LA HEREDERA will be set during the years following Alionor’s death, and tells the story of Castilla’s attempt to gain the Portuguese throne, as well as her tentative peace with England. The protagonist of LA HEREDERA is Beatriz, Infante de Portugal and heiress to the Portuguese throne, as well as Queen of Castilla, León, y Galiza by virtue of being Juan’s second wife.
Of course, what kind of an author would I be if I didn’t give you a little intro to Beatriz herself?
Like so many of my characters, Beatriz’s life isn’t very well-known to the Anglo-centric audience. She was born in early February of 1373, and was the eldest child of King Fernando and Queen Lionor of Portugal. At the start of the novel, she is a mere ten years old, and it is the night before her marriage to Juan, King of Castilla, León, y Galiza, and recent widower. It was hoped that the union would bring peace to the Iberian peninsula, and unite the relatively small countries without war and unnecessary bloodshed; as we can tell by looking at any modern map, that was certainly not what happened, and her marriage instead brought about the Portuguese Interregnum of 1383-1385. I know that Beatriz herself was very, very vocal about her desire for the match, swearing to forgo all suitors but the King of Castilla, but I believe that she may have been pushed towards those desires by someone close to her, someone who would also push for the recognition of Beatriz’s maturity and readiness to consummate the marriage immediately, despite her young age.
Something I think readers need to understand prior to reading the snippet, is that Beatriz isn’t an average child. She was born to be a literal, God-given personification of a country – that’s what rulers were. Alliances were made with treaties but held fast by marriages and babies, and they could last for decades purely for that reason alone. Something else readers need to understand is that Beatriz’s mother, Lionor, was kind of the Anne Boleyn of her era – she was an “upstart” noblewoman who was thought to have enticed her king in unscrupulous ways. She was believed to have taken a lover long before her husband’s death, and was rather disliked, so much so that it really colors historical records of her, even now. Worst of all, in a dynastic sense, she had just one child survive infancy, and said child was a girl in a country where they had never truly had a female monarch (and the one female regent they did have was ousted for – get this her alliance with Galicia, or, as I call them in TTS, “Galiza”). I think Lionor would have been more than a little eager to see her daughter married off to a nearby kingdom, one that was larger in size and closer than any other, so that she could secure her position once her (either perpetually-sickly or rapidly-deteriorating) husband died. I don’t think she was ambitious, but rather scared for herself and her child. She did what she thought was best, even if it wouldn’t win her any modern “Mother of the Year” awards.
Yes, I do believe that happened, mainly due to a few things I’ve noticed and read while researching (for starters, she never has a child, despite being of childbearing age for two years of her queenship; her marriage was not annulled, which would have been an easy way to solve the Portuguese Interregnum, and would have been the obvious choice if it was unconsummated). I’ve been sitting here for about thirty minutes, trying to think of a way to phrase my next sentence, so I’m just going to be blunt: don’t worry, there will not be a sex scene. I don’t know if this makes it better or worse, but she was served unwatered wine during her wedding feast, and instead, she has a few interesting, not quite prophetic but relevant dreams.
And now that that’s been covered, let’s move on, shall we?
Without further ado, here is a sneak peek of LA HEREDERA, Book Three of The Trastámara Series.
La Heredera Portuguesa
(The Portuguese Heiress)
16 May, in the Year of Our Lord, 1383
At what point does a girl become a woman? Is it the first time she feels the stirrings of lust, the fire in her belly? The first time she experiences the bleeding that signifies her fertility? Is it on her wedding night, that first moment of being alone between a married couple? Perhaps womanhood is an abstract concept that comes into fruition based on feelings, or is it simply bestowed upon those who have lived a certain amount of years?
One thing was certain: even though she was the heir to the Portuguese throne, at ten years old, la Infante Dona Beatriz de Portugal was not a woman in any sense of the word. She still loved to play with dolls, and enjoyed playing catch-me with her father’s younger attendants, for her mother’s ladies could barely run in their dresses. She spent hours curled up on a windowsill, studying her letters and petting her rabbit, Bonitinho, which her father had purchased from a merchant in Lisboa due to the softness of its fur. Much like every other child, Beatriz enjoyed eating sweets and telling jokes which only made sense to her, but made her father and her mother laugh because of how serious she could be.
And of course, Beatriz was still obviously a child because she was still young enough to sleep with her mother as a bedmate. No one would expect any different from a ten-year-old girl, even though it was the night before her wedding.
Beatriz sat, facing her mother’s back and brushing her hair. Ever since she was very small, brushing her mother’s hair had been her job. Beatriz and her mother had shared a bed almost every night since for as long as she could remember, with few exceptions, even though they spent their days separately, Beatriz with her ama or at the convent entrusted with her education, while the Queen spent her days with her husband, King Dom Fernando, and his political advisers, much to their chagrin. Until the age of five, Beatriz had enjoyed chattering away about mundane things until, one day, her mother had turned right around, snatched the hairbrush from her daughter’s palm, and brought it down hard across the backs of the young girl’s hands. A few of the bristles, made loose from wear, had fallen in front of Beatriz, as though the brush shed the tears she could not.
“Ladies should be seen and not heard, lest their loose lips give way to talk of loose morals.”
Strangely, the proverb did not seem to apply elsewhere, for Queen Dona Lionor was not a quiet woman. She was the loudest woman in court, almost as if she was afraid that she would be forgotten if she was not speaking. Perhaps, Beatriz thought, she did not fear a slattern’s reputation, as she was Queen and very much love by her royal husband. It did not matter, anyway, except that instead of Beatriz filling the silence, it was the Queen who chattered away on that momentous night, while Beatriz stared down at her new betrothal ring as it weighed heavily on her right ring finger. In the morning, it would be replaced by a gold or silver band, depending on her future husband’s preference, and she would move the ring with the large, glittering gem to her opposite hand.
“…And after tomorrow, you’ll be a Queen. There will be a lot expected of you, Beatriz. People will want to see you fail. People will expect you to be wanton and free. They’ll expect that you’ll be exactly how they imagine me – oh, I know what they say!” The Queen shrugged. “But it’s just jealousy talking, those jealous of a beautiful noble catching the eye of royalty. Anyway, I wasn’t raised to be royalty, and you do not need to behave as I have. You were born royal.”
“Yes, mãe,” Beatriz whispered.
“And of course, you know what is expected of you?”
“To keep the interests of Portugal close to my husband’s heart, before all else,” the young girl answered monotonously, arms self-consciously hugging her sides, as still as Nossa Senhora da Nazaré. “And to bear sons.”
“Sons are the most important thing,” the Queen said, shaking her head. “I’m well aware of how much I failed your father by not being able to give him a son.”
“What about my brothers?”
“A living son,” the Queen amended with a sigh. “And you will be just as much of a failure as I if you don’t have a boy of your own. Do you know about what happens between a man and a woman?”
Beatriz’s face flushed. “I’ve seen the beasts in the field when they rut.”
“Yes, but those are beasts. They mate purely for procreation.”
Beatriz crinkled her nose. “Isn’t that what it’s for? Anything else is a sin unto Deu.”
Queen Dona Lionor sighed, picking at her cuticle. “What have those damned nuns taught you? When I put you into Urraca’s care, I thought she would fill in the gaps those damned spinsters would ignore. It appears I was mistaken.” Ignoring her daughter’s blatant shock at her casual blasphemy, the Queen pressed on with the topic at hand, “Rutting – sex – isn’t just for having children. A man expects more.” The older woman spent the rest of the time they took readying for bed explaining the facts of life to her daughter, how to ensnare a man and keep him interested, and certain tricks men might enjoy if they started to stray, much to Beatriz’s embarrassment. Of course, it was a mother’s duty to explain such things, but that did not make it any less uncomfortable. If she had been allowed to remain unmarried for just a few years longer…
But that was impossible, she knew, fighting back the tears burning her throat and nose. Hoping to calm herself, Beatriz stood, poured herself a cup of highly watered wine from the jug on the night table next to her bed, and sat on the raised edge of the rope-strung mattress, taking small sips to steady herself. At length, the girl spoke between mouthfuls, her entire body on fire with mortification. “Why are you telling me this?”
“Because you will be expected to, er, ’perform’ for your husband tomorrow night.”
Beatriz frowned, bringing her eyebrows together in confusion. “ ’Perform’? Perform what, a song? A dance? Why was I not told of this sooner? I need to prepare! And that,” Beatriz continued slowly, her voice doing nothing to hide the confusion, “didn’t answer my question at all.”
“Oh for the – no, you stupid child. You will have to consummate the marriage tomorrow night.” Under her breath, Queen Dona Lionor continued, “Oh, I hope you come to your senses some day, because you are not nearly pretty enough to be perpetually idiotic.”
Beatriz half-swallowed, causing herself to choke and spew the contents of her mouth onto the rush mats in front of her. Sputtering and staring at the floor, she watched the wine soak into the rug, staining it like blood. “What do you mean, tomorrow? The sisters said I’m not old enough!”
“The Church’s law can be bent or broken with the blessing of the Pope. He understands just how important it is to our countries that this alliance holds firm, and has given his blessing. You must have a son, Beatriz, a son to inherit Portugal, and you must have him soon.”
“But mãe, I haven’t even received my monthly visitor yet,” the child coughed.
Queen Dona Lionor waved her hand dismissively. “It doesn’t matter. It’s not about you and your comfort, it’s about the safety of this kingdom. A consummated marriage means that King Don Juan can’t set you aside, and he has a vested interest in making sure that you inherit, instead of your father’s bastard brothers and their spawn.” Noting the girl’s rigid posture, nearly still but for the occasional shudder, the Queen sighed, her tone brusque. “Surely you’re not afraid. This is your duty, this is your life’s purpose: to marry a foreign power and have children – to have sons. In order to do that, you must consummate the marriage.” The woman pulled down the covers, positioning under them and patting the bed next to her. “Now, blow out the light and come lay down. Tomorrow is a big day for you, the biggest day of your life, and you need to be rested.”
Beatriz stiffened at her mother’s words. “While I am sure tomorrow will be exhilarating, the biggest day of my life will be my coronation day, mãe. Won’t it?”
The Queen sighed. “Oh, Beatriz, how naive. Now, do you have your wedding vows memorized? You should, by now. Let’s hear them.”
Beatriz repeated the words that Dona Urraca had had drilled into her brain over the previous six months, her eyes focused on a fixed point above her mother’s head. When finished, the woman nodded, a self-satisfied smile on her face. “You will be a perfect little bride, Beatriz, as long as you remember to give your husband the respect he deserves. You may be married to him, but he will still be your elder, and when you are in his country, he will be your better. Do not forget to address him properly. Now, come here and sleep. It will be morning before you know it.”
Beatriz obeyed, snuffing out the candle next to her wine glass na taking off the heavy ring before burrowing down into the soft blankets. Next to her, her mother gently snored, but she could not sleep right away, kept up by her mother’s words ringing in her ears like church bells.
“You must have a son, Beatriz, a son to inherit Portugal.”
Before dawn, the bride-to-be was shaken awake by her mother and her mother’s ladies, all of whom were already dressed. An incoherent and bleary-eyed Beatriz was first deposited onto the chamber pot, and upon finishing, brought out into the light, where she was summarily parted from her night shift and dressed in a fresh linen, with a crimson kirtle over her shift, the sleeves embroidered with golden flowers and a scroll pattern. The overgown itself was silver with gold embroidering – her father had spared no expense on his daughter’s wedding, for as his only child and heir, it was expected that she would have an extravagant ceremony and feast for her nuptials. It was covered in gems, blue sapphires for the shield on her father’s emblem, and red rubies for both Portugal and Castilla y León, and was embroidered with the common emblem of their countries: tiny golden castles. On her shoes were two lions, embroidered gold with eyes of blue lapiz lazuli. Around her waist was a thick, silver-gilded belt, engraved with the tiny Latin words for Proverbs 31, each line separated by a tiny ruby chip, and attached to it was a rosary and a chain with a small book of hours at the end; this edition had her wedding date and the vows inscribed at the front, first in Latin, then in Castilian, and finally in Portuguese. Beatriz opened the book and traced the shaky child’s handwriting, remembering the countless hours she had spent translating the words over and over to make sure that she had done everything correctly, then having her tutor use charcoal to lightly write the words, which she then traced with ink and her short quill. The glinting of the diamond on her finger caught her eye and pulled her from her memories, and she allowed the book to fall closed, all fear from the previous night repressed. She was a child, yes, but she was a princess, and the heir of Portugal before all. It was not her right to be afraid.
Once her outfit was in place, the ladies began work on Beatriz’s appearance, brushing her hair into a river of rosewater-scented, molten copper, and plucking the stray hairs from her artificially enhanced hairline, rubbing waters and oils onto her skin and painting her face until she wondered if she even looked like her true self. At that moment, a knock on the door brought Beatriz to her senses, and with a fearful look, she looked at her mother. The red-headed Queen glanced at the door then nodded, allowing the visitor to enter. Much to Beatriz’s relief, a single, tall woman entered, dressed in a Castilian red and gold dress whose fabric pooled around her feet, requiring her to kick it out of the way, and jagged sleeves that almost touched the ground. As Beatriz’s eyes roamed upwards, she noticed the woman’s brown hair braided into two tubes of golden net at the side of her head, with a rope of pearls and sapphires intertwined into each cylinder; at her waist was a rather large drawstring pouch fashioned from purple velvet, which hung from a thin belt of braided gold. The women of the Portuguese court watched the woman as she stepped forward, swooping into a curtsy, from which the Queen reluctantly raised her. With a start, Beatriz stared into the strange woman’s face and found she was looking into a mirror of her father’s features.
“Merçed,” the stranger began, her Castilian flawless but with a slight accent that Beatriz recognized as one from her own land, “I am Dona Isabel de Viseu y de Castilla, wife of Don Alfonso de Castilla, conde de Noroña and the bastard son of the late King Don Enrique de Castilla, and Your Grace’s most humble half-sister, by way of our royal father. It is a pleasure to meet you once more.”
“Dona Isabel left for Castilla a few years after your birth,” Queen Dona Lionor cut in. “She was one of your attendants until that point, but you were still a baby. It’s no surprise that you don’t remember your father’s bastard.” Beatriz glanced at her mother from under her lashes, surprised by the woman’s words. The Queen was staring at her husband’s daughter with a look that could have killed a normal woman, but this Isabel did not seem to notice; instead, she was watching Beatriz with a look of amusement.
“Her Grace is correct, alteza,” the young woman agreed, slipping easily into Portuguese. “You were still learning how to walk when I left to live with my husband and his family, and I was not much older than you are now. I hadn’t even started my courses.” Isabel crinkled her nose, an action which made the terrified princess smile for the first time that morning. “Ah, there’s your famous Portugal beauty.”
“Oh, yes. Everyone knows Portugal has the most beautiful girls in the entire continent. Oh, that reminds me – ” With another small curtsy, Isabel suddenly reached for the pouch. Beatriz felt her mother tense, and another of the ladies grabbed something off the nearby night table, but the entire room relax when the they realized she had simply unhooked it, handing the entire package to the little princess. Heart pounding with a fear that she did not understand, Beatriz pulled open the purse, gasping when she saw its contents. With one hand, she pulled out a set of jewelry: a necklace and bracelet with perfectly spherical pearl and rubies strung together, ruby earrings, and best of all, a small tiara of gold, inlaid with uncut rubies, pearls, and a large emerald at the center; carved all around the sides were the most delicate scrolls and vines. “His Grace my brother-in-law asked me to bring these to you as a token of his esteem. He wishes you would wear them on your wedding day – he thought they would go well with your hair and smile. He has had coordinating adornments made for himself, as he believes it is best for the two future rulers of Spain to be seen as a united front as soon as possible.”
“Beatriz will be wearing my wedding jewels,” the Queen said, her voice low. Dona Isabel curtsied, her smile fixed good-naturedly on her face.
“It is natural that a mother would wish for her daughter to wear the same jewels on her wedding day, but it isn’t often that a groom sends his bride such a lovely set. Perhaps we could let Her Grace decide? Alteza, would you rather wear the jewels of Castilla as you become her Queen, or the jewels of Portugal?”
Her mother’s voice was low and deadly. “You are Portugal’s heir apparent, Beatriz.”
“But you are soon to be Castilla’s queen,” Dona Isabel shot back, her face breaking into a grin that so resembled their shared father’s. “And the Castilians aren’t known for being kind to foreigners.”
Beatriz stared, wide-eyed, her head swinging from side-to-side as though she was watching two children play catch with a ball. After a moment, she stopped herself, glancing at both of the women.
“I think I would like to wear the gift from my husband-to-be,” Beatriz replied slowly, purposefully avoiding her mother’s gaze. Queen Dona Lionor opened her mouth, but quick as a flash, Beatriz’s illegitimate half-sister had the tiara on her forehead and the necklace draped around her neck, clasping it shut. The bracelet was much too large, slipping easily down Beatriz’s arm and off her hand, so Isabel placed it in the pouch for safekeeping; the earrings were clipped into place, the gold and silver twined metal glinting in the sunlight. A hand mirror was held up so that the future queen could admire herself, but impatiently, she pushed the hand away.
“I hope His Grace approves.”
“Of course he will, Your Grace. You’re beautiful.”
Beatriz knew she was beautiful, in the sense that all young girls are extremely pretty like dolls from the East. Who can resist smiling at a happy girl as she hums her way down the street? There was an edge to Beatriz which made her seem as though she was made of stone, however – a hardness and solemnity that did not quite leave when she smiled. She had been impressed with her importance almost since birth, and while some children would have ended up with a big head, she seemed to be weighed down by the world even as she tried to be silly and carefree like the other ladies. As it were, she would probably frown herself to death once she was Queen.
Thankfully, she had no time to be solemn on her wedding day. Just as the ladies finished their final touches, sprinkling rose water on her hair to make it smell sweet and giving her rosemary to chew for freshened breath, there came a loud knock on the heavy wooden door. When the doors opened, all color drained from Beatriz’s body at the sight of a group of finely dressed men, clothed in Castilian red and gold, their presence signifying that the groom was waiting for his bride. It was time.