Please welcome the very talented and extremely well-researched Lisa Yarde.
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, The Burning Candle, based on the life of Isabel de Vermandois, and On Falcon's Wings, chronicling the star-crossed romance between Norman and Saxon lovers. Lisa has also written three novels in a six-part series set in Moorish Spain, Sultana, Sultana’s Legacy, and Sultana: Two Sisters, where rivalries and ambitions threaten the fragile bonds between members of a powerful family. Her short story, The Legend Rises, which chronicles Gwenllian of Gwynedd’s valiant fight against English invaders, is included in Pagan Writers Press’ 2013 HerStory anthology.
Author of SULTANA, Two Sisters
About Sultana: Two Sisters
Book #3 in the Sultana series. In fourteenth-century Spain, former friends vie for a man's heart and the future of his kingdom. Both women are captives sold into the harem of Sultan Yusuf I of Moorish Granada. A young girl with a hidden heritage, Esperanza Peralta, forges a new identity as Butayna and becomes the mother of Yusuf's firstborn son. The Jewess Miriam Alubel takes the name Maryam and also bears Yusuf several children, including two sons. The clash between former friends is inevitable, as each finds diverging paths in a dizzying rise to power beside their husband. Both remain aware of the struggle ahead of them, for only one heir may inherit Yusuf's throne and only one woman can claim the revered title of Mother of the Sultan.
About the Sultanas of the Alhambra
Over the years, scholars have shed new light on the captivating history of Moorish Spain during the Nasrid period, but little information is available about the women of the last Muslim dynasty to rule from the beautiful Alhambra in Granada. The untold story of these slaves, wives, mothers and daughters inspired me to the Sultana books, a six-part series of which the first three books are now available. The most recent title, Sultana: Two Sisters is the story of two women, Butayna and Maryam They were the slaves and lifelong companions of Sultan Yusuf I. Born of the union between Sultan Ismail I with his former captive, Yusuf reigned in the mid-fourteenth century. The rivalry between Butayna and Maryam created divisions within his court and deeply affected the reign of his eventual heir, Sultan Muhammad V.
Yusuf would have been no stranger to the influence of powerful women. The premature death of his father just three months after Yusuf’s seventh birthday meant that he and his siblings came under the direct supervision of their grandmother, Fatima. A remarkable woman, she boasted connections to the founder and the most illustrious members of the dynasty. Fatima was the granddaughter of Sultan Muhammad I, daughter of Muhammad II, sister to the Sultans Muhammad III and Nasr I, and mother to Ismail I. At a tender age, when she was possibly as young as eight or as old as twelve, she had married her paternal cousin Faraj. After years of civil war with former allies of the dynasty, Faraj became the governor of Malaga on the southern coast. He and Fatima raised several children together, but knew more than their fair share of tragedy with Faraj’s death in prison occurring February 1320 and the murder of their eldest son. In her twilight years, Fatima returned to the Alhambra where she raised and educated Yusuf and his immediate predecessor, his brother Muhammad IV. She imbued her grandchildren with a love of learning and reputedly exercised such control that in Yusuf’s youth, the extent of his decision-making permitted him only the choice of the dishes he would have at mealtimes. When his grandmother died in February 1349, one of Yusuf’s ministers eulogized her in the following way. “… She was Fatima, daughter of Muhammad II. She was the cream of the kingdom, the central pearl of the dynasty, the pride of the harem women, the height of honor and respect, the link that gave the people the protection of the kings and her life was a reminder of the legacy of the royal family.”
Butayna and Maryam were no less influential in Yusuf’s life. Both entered his harem as Christian slaves, a practice dating from the foundations of Moorish Spain in which natives and others became captives during raids and ended their lives as occupants of harems. Butayna likely remained a Christian throughout her years in the Alhambra. Sources refer to her alternatively as a slave or a wife. She secured Yusuf’s reign with the birth of their son Muhammad in January 1338 and bore a daughter Aisha two years later. Ten months after Muhammad’s birth, Butayna’s nemesis Maryam gave birth to Yusuf’s second son, Ismail, in October 1338. Six other children of the couple followed him; a second son named Qays, along with the daughters Fatima, Mumina, Khadija, Shams, and Zaynab. In the fight for Yusuf’s love, it seemed Maryam held the upper hand as Yusuf reportedly displayed more attachment to her than Butayna. He also might have considered his sons with Maryam as eventual heirs rather than Muhammad. Primogeniture, the rule of the eldest son, rarely applied in the politics or history of the Nasrid Dynasty. The rivalry between the women of Yusuf’s harem came to head when he died suddenly in October 1354. As Yusuf had not named an official heir, his chief minister selected Butayna’s son as the next sovereign. Yet, Maryam’s ambitions for her sons remained undiminished and would have a devastating impact on Muhammad’s reign. The fourth book in the series, Sultana: The Bride Price explores the consequences for Muhammad’s court and harem.
At a time in which we might think women were trapped and powerless behind harem walls, the examples of Fatima, Butayna and Maryam demonstrate the strength and endurance such women possessed. Each new discovery about the extent of their authority and their roles behind the scenes remains fascinating and unexpected. Thank you for allowing me to share a portion of their lives with readers of Enchanted by Josephine and HF Book Muse - News.
THANK YOU Lisa- such interesting history!
Please come by tomorrow for my Review of this fantastic novel. But now...
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