Europe 1547. The rising tide of the Reformation threatens bloody revolution. And the terror of the Inquisition grows, even for those who have converted.
Bethia, newly married tries to find her way in Antwerp, both the city and family she now belongs to a constant source of confusion – and sometimes fear. While her brother Will, enslaved on a French galley, doubts there will ever be an end to his torment.
Divided by faith, Bethia and Will each desperately seek a place of refuge from the looming maelstrom.
But there is no safe haven… unless Will denies his beliefs and Bethia surrenders those she loves.
Book two in the series continues the stories of Bethia and Will—two separate stories, for Bethia is off to Antwerp with her new husband Mainard and poor Will finds himself a galley slave on a French ship, along with John Knox. Although I think you might be able to read this as a stand-alone, I wouldn’t recommend it. Their respective beliefs and ideaologies were well explained in volume one. Bethia is a spitfire of a gal, brave and independent, and she is in for a rude awakening in her new life. Her adopted family is less than enthusiastic about her sudden appearance and she is shut out of their elusive conversations (the language barrier doesn’t help). Her husband his inexplicably uncommunicative when she looks for an explanation of their strange behavior. Worse than that, she is expected to stay in the house, or at best only leave when accompanied by preferably another family member. The change in her lifestyle is dispiriting, and the people of Antwerp equally puzzling:
She picks up the cone hat and twists it in her hands. ‘Do I really have to wear this ugly thing.’
‘Yes, it’s better if you do. We must show that we fit in.’
Seeing his anxious face, she places it on her head without another word, and stepping out into the street, takes his arm. Someone walking behind mutters a word she doesn’t understand, then hawks and spits. She goes to turn but Mainard stops her. ‘Let’s not spoil our day because of a fool.’
Again, no explanation. It takes a long time before she pieces everything together. And by then, she is heavily pregnant and must accept her situation. At least she knows that, giving birth, she will be accepted into the family. But what of Will? She knows nothing about his fate, but we—the reader—get to follow him through some awful times. You can almost feel the physical distress and smell the vomit and fear, only somewhat appeased by the conviction of John Knox that God will protect them.
So we have a world in which religion is the driving force in European society, and the Reformation is spreading its revolutionary message. At the same time, the Catholic Holy Roman Emperor intends to force the commercially-minded Antwerp to bend to his will. Where do the Conversos fit in? Bethia is about to find out. People are increasingly intolerant to the point of physical danger, and the troubles of individuals torn from their homes matters little in the face of this inexorable conflict. Bethia and Will are going to have to adapt to survive.
Meet V.E.H. Masters
VEH Masters was born and brought up on a farm a few miles outside St Andrews, Scotland. The first time she ever visited St Andrews Castle was aged 12, when her history teacher took the class on a school trip. They crept down the siege tunnel and peered into the bottle dungeon, where Cardinal Beaton’s body was said to have been kept pickled in salt for the 14 months of the siege. She was hooked!
The Castilians is her debut novel and she’s currently working on a sequel. She loves to chat (blether we would say in Scotland) and is keen to hear readers comments, ideas and suggestions. You’ll find out more at https://vehmasters.com/ and can contact her there, and join the special Readers Group.
She’s also on facebook https://www.facebook.com/VEHMastersBooks and on Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/56074977
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