Saturday, 25 June 2011

Bought For The Harem

Here is a small taste of my new book coming in August. Already published in USA it will be published in UK this year. I hope you enjoy this excerpt.

‘This is an assignment I would trust to no other, Kasim. Prince Hassan is very precious to me. He will soon be of the age to marry and I must find the right wife for him. He already has many beautiful women in his harem but none of them are what is needed. Hassan will take my place when I die…’ The Caliph waved his hand as Kasim would have protested. ‘It is as Allah wills, my son. All men must die to take their place in Paradise. I shall not shrink from death when my time comes – but I would have my son secure. He needs a woman of both exceptional beauty and intelligence but also spirit. She will produce his heir. His mother was such a woman and this is what I want for my son.’

Kasim looked at him thoughtfully. ‘Is there no one within the ranks of your fellow lords with a daughter that would fill your requirements? She at least would be a Muslim and trained in all the things she should know to fit her for her duties as the prince’s chief wife.’

The Caliph was silent for a moment. His eyes held a cold glitter as he looked at Kasim and his mouth formed a thin hard line. ‘If I chose a wife from one important family I should make an enemy of another. You know the jealousy of the tribal chiefs, Kasim. We are constantly having to suppress uprisings and small rebellions amongst the chieftains of the north. My own wife came from the country that gave you birth and I wish for an English wife for my son.’

‘You wish me to buy a woman from the slave markets of Algiers?’

‘Yes, that is my wish. Choose wisely, my son. The price is immaterial. I want a jewel beyond price for Prince Hassan.’

‘It shall be as you command.’

Kasim bowed to his royal master and took five steps backward, before turning to leave the presence chamber. He was frowning as he made his way towards his own apartments in the palace. The Caliph treated him with respect and even affection. A tall, handsome man with dark hair and deep blue eyes, he owed his position here to a man he knew to be ruthless and yet compassionate, wise and yet sometimes ruled by his ruthless nature. Kahlid was a just ruler of his province, which he held in subservience to the Sultan, but he gave no quarter to his enemies. To raise your hand against him and fail was to die. Kasim had recently returned from an expedition to crush a rebellious tribe to the north of the Caliph’s territory. He had done so efficiently and with as little wanton bloodshed as possible, but he knew that the prisoners the Janissaries had brought back would receive harsh punishment. There was nothing he could do to change that fact, and any interference would be frowned on.

However, he would not be there to see the punishments for he must leave as soon as he could provision his ship. A request from the Caliph was an order. Kasim must find a bride for the young prince – and an English girl of exceptional beauty and intelligence.

He smiled ruefully for it was not an easy task. Given the choice he would ride out to do battle against the mountain tribes and leave the purchase of slaves to another more inclined for it. The slave masters of Algiers would have many men, women and children on offer. Some of the women would be beautiful and might end up in the harem of the Sultan himself but the Caliph had been precise in his instructions.

The woman must be beautiful, spirited and intelligent – and English. Kasim knew that he might need to spend many months searching for such a woman.

HMB are moving to simultaneous publication, here and USA together. It means some books will overlap and be published there only in digital, and some books here, already published there, will be brought out in double books. That may be a little disappointing in some ways but I believe the simultaneous publication to be a good thing, as books are now available both sides of the 'Pond' once they are published in either country and because some readers buy parcels of books they could find themselves inadvertantly buying a book they had read. So well done HMB for finding a sensible solution.

Best wishes to all
Anne Herries

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