10 December 2015

Excerpt Thursday - SULTANA: THE POMEGRANATE TREE (A Novel of Moorish Spain) by Lisa J. Yarde

This week, we're pleased to welcome author and Unusual Historicals contributor Lisa J. Yarde again with her latest novel, SULTANA: THE POMEGRANATE TREE (Sultana Book #5). This next installment of a six-part series is set in fifteenth-century Spain as the last Muslim dynasty attempts to hold on to Granada's Alhambra Palace while the Catholic monarchs Isabella and Ferdinand consolidate power and prepare for a final campaign against the Moors. Join us again on Sunday for an author interview, with more details about the story behind the story. The author will offer a free digital copy of Sultana: The Pomegranate Tree to a lucky blog visitor in his or her preferred format; this giveaway is open internationally.  Be sure to leave your email address in the comments of today's post or Sunday's author interview for a chance to win. Here's the blurb.

In fifteenth-century Moorish Spain, Aisha, the descendant of the Sultans of Granada endures a life imperiled by dynastic warfare, loss, and cruel fate. 

Enemies descend on the kingdom from all sides and threaten to tear it apart. To preserve a fragile peace, Aisha suffers a sham marriage to a cruel tyrant, forever divided from the love that once ruled her heart. 

Years later, when a trusted confidante becomes a powerful rival, Aisha must fight for the future of the next generation or witness the destruction of her family and the last vestiges of Moorish rule in Spain.

**An Excerpt from Sultana: The Pomegranate Tree**

On their return, Aisha plodded as if in a dreamlike state, forced along at Kissenga’s insistence. Meanwhile, Fatou took Aisha’s soiled garment to the laundress. In her rooms again, the eunuch would not let her return to the solace of the bed. Instead, he maneuvered her to the thick pillows arranged around the antechamber, pushed her down amidst them, and gripped her shoulders.
   She blinked and gawked as if seeing him for the first time in recent weeks. “Why did you lay such rough hands upon me? I don’t want to sit here. ”
   He muttered, “Why do you care? Bed or cushion. What matters most in your wretched state? Your feeble complaints mean nothing. The Sultana Aisha I knew, the one whom I've served since her birth would have upbraided me for such treatment. You’re not her.”
   She shook her head and dispelled the fog in her mind. “What are you saying? I am her, Kissenga.”
   “No. You’re not. You’re weak and beaten down by your losses, in the manner of your father. He let his enemies best him, too. They took Al-Qal’at al-Hamra from him and each time he fled, even as far away as Al-Tunisiyah. He sought his mother’s kin like a mewling boy.”
   Aisha struggled against his hold. “You attended my father loyally. Why are you saying such cruel things about him and me?”
   “I don’t want to spend my life in servitude to the causes of feeble cowards.”
   “I’m not a coward,” she murmured.
   His grip tightened as he hovered over her and pressed her down into the seat. “Then prove it! Get up if you wish.”
   “Have you lost your senses?”
   “Not as much as you’ve abandoned your will.”
   “I have not. Let me go now, Kissenga.”
   “Command me. The great Sultana, a princess of Gharnatah, eh? You’re pathetic! You can’t even rule a lowly eunuch of the harem. What would you do if Abu’l-Hasan Ali towered over you instead of me? Would you let him control you?”
   She gaped at him, aghast. How dare he be so callous?
   “I… I... wouldn’t.”
   “Liar! You hesitate because you’ve forgotten how to speak the truth. You only remember your misery and bitterness. You’re letting Abu’l-Hasan Ali have power over you now. He is not here to dictate your movements, but you have surrendered your will to grief and despair all the same. So what if you have lost? How many countless others before you have suffered? You sob and simper, a frightened kitten, no longer a lioness of Gharnatah. Abu’l-Hasan Ali killed the man you should have married. His father ordered the deaths of children whom you claimed to adore—”
   “I did! I loved them as only a mother could have! I still do.”
   “Their blood cries out for vengeance, and still you do nothing, but accept Abu’l-Hasan Ali’s dictates. He says you must remain in your chambers, so you stay. You’re no Sultana of Gharnatah. You don’t have the strength of the Sultanas Jazirah, Butayna, or Fatima before you, or even a tenth of the cunning of the viper Maryam. What happens next? You’ll let the mighty prince lock you away in a tower like your wretched mother. Will you become like her,  too, frail and frightened of your shadow?”
   Aisha drew back her fist and punched him in the throat. As he tumbled backward, she rose and stomped his belly twice, until he rolled away with a groan.
   “Don’t you ever talk about my mother in such ways! I’ll have your head! She was my father’s treasured queen, and he sought her love as a great prize. His enemies may have chased him away from the palace, but always, he returned to his throne. Only death could take it from him. I am my father’s daughter. Only death will rob me of what is mine!”
   She stood over him, enraged and panting, with her tiny fists shaking. A red haze, brighter than any envisioned in her angry outbursts, filled her gaze. Through it, Kissenga rose and clutched his midsection. He groaned and sagged once more.
   With a ragged breath, she uncurled her fingers. “Why did you say such horrible things to me? You’ve never hurt me before.”
   “I spoke so you would not forget who you are. You have a proud heritage and Nasrid pride, the pride of lions who lived and ruled for centuries before your existence, and the Sultanas, who would not let fate or circumstance bend or break them. Their blood flows in your veins. Prince Abu'l-Hasan Ali and his father have taken from you. Show them that you are as fierce as the Sultanas Jazirah, Butayna, Fatima, and even Maryam the viper. As strong as the lioness upon the plains. A lioness of Gharnatah. You have not forgotten. You do not forgive. You shall have recompense for the lives they have ruined and the blood they have shed.”

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About the Author

Lisa J. Yarde writes fiction inspired by the Middle Ages in Europe. She is the author of two historical novels set in medieval England and Normandy, On Falcon’s Wings, featuring a star-crossed romance between Norman and Saxon lovers before the Battle of Hastings in 1066 and The Burning Candle, based on the life of one of the first countesses of Leicester and Surrey, Isabel de Vermandois. Lisa has also written four novels in a six-part series set in Moorish Spain, Sultana, Sultana’s Legacy, Sultana: Two Sisters, Sultana: The Bride Price, and Sultana: The Pomegranate Tree where rivalries and ambitions threaten the fragile bonds between members of the last Muslim dynasty to rule in Europe. Her short story, The Legend Rises, chronicles the Welsh princess Gwenllian of Gwynedd's valiant fight against twelfth-century English invaders and is available now.

Born in Barbados, Lisa currently lives in New York City. She is also an avid blogger and moderates at Unusual Historicals. Her personal blog is The Brooklyn ScribblerLearn more about Lisa and her writing at the website www.lisajyarde.com. Follow her on Twitter or become a Facebook fan. For information on upcoming releases and freebies from Lisa, join her mailing list at http://eepurl.com/un8on.