The Moroccan Empire Series
11th century Morocco. A Muslim warlord named Yusuf bin Tashfin and his Almoravid army, creates an empire that stretches across North Africa and into Spain (defeating El Cid along the way). This series tells the interlinked story of four women. Zaynab, Yusuf’s powerful but jealous queen. Her handmaid Hela, a healer who has made an impossible vow. Kella, a Berber tribeswoman who marries Yusuf and bears him a son but has to flee Morocco to protect her child. And Isabella, a Spanish nun, sold into slavery in Morocco, who finds herself mother to Yusuf’s heir.
Each novel can be read as a standalone, but you will meet the same characters in each book, changing your perspective as you follow each woman’s journey and understand her actions, both good and bad.
Author: Melissa Addey
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Letterpress Publishing
Hela has powers too strong for a child – both to feel the pain of those around her and to heal them. But when she is given a mysterious cup by a slave woman, its powers overtake her life, forcing her into a vow she cannot hope to keep. Trapped by her vow, Hela loses one chance after another to love and be loved. Meanwhile in her household a child is growing into a woman who will become famous throughout the Muslim world.
This is a novella (100 pages) and you can get it for free on my website www.melissaaddey.com
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Slaves should not be sold in the hottest
part of the day, they tremble on the block or
sometimes faint away and no-one will buy a
slave who shows signs of weakness. Besides, the customers
grow weary of standing in the heat themselves and are
unlikely to buy, growing ill-tempered and tight fisted. The
heat today is reaching its zenith and my father is anxious
to finish his work for the day and retire for food and drink.
“A fine man! Broad shoulders, calloused hands. Long
legs. A good worker sir, he will serve you well.”
There is a pause while my father watches his customer’s
face as he inspects the slave. Standing by his side I murmur
something and my father pretends to give me water to
drink, the better to hear me.
“He is afraid,” I say, speaking directly into my father’s
ear. “A slave beat him once.”
My father does not change expression, nor ask how I
know. He pats me on the head before speaking loudly. “Be
off with you, stop pestering me now, Hela. I have business
to attend to.” I move away and become wholly engrossed
with a doll, a ragged little thing I have very little interest in.
My father’s camel whooshes in my ear and I slap its hairy
face and stinking breath away from me.
My father turns back to his customer. “Of course, one
must be careful with such an ox of a man that he has also a
good temperament,” he says. “One cannot be too careful.”
Without warning, he cuffs the slave’s head. The unexpected
blow causes him to stagger. He regains his stance looking
a little bewildered but shows no sign of anger. I watch the
customer’s face relax in relief and know that my father has
made a sale.
I mainly write historical fiction: my first novel, The Fragrant Concubine, was Editor’s Choice at the Historical Novel Society, my latest, The Cold Palace, won the 2019 Novel London award. I was the Leverhulme Trust Writer in Residence at the British Library and now run regular workshops there. I am just completing a Ph.D. in Creative Writing. I live in London with my husband and two young children who help me with research trips and exploring new eras.
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A String of Silver Beads
North Africa, 1067. Kella is a girl disguised as a boy, travelling the trade routes and beating all comers in the camel races. When her true identity is revealed, she is sent home to the family desert camp to be taught women’s skills. But Kella yearns for her freedom and the excitement of life on the road and when a mighty army sets out on a holy mission, she risks marriage to its general, Yusuf. While Yusuf conquers the whole of North Africa, Kella finds herself a rival to his infamous queen consort, Zaynab, a powerful and jealous woman. Can Kella protect herself and her newborn son? Can she find the freedom she craves as well as love?
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(Note, the men in this time and place veiled their faces, women did not)
I wake with a start as the man near me pokes me with his
“Commander says we must be on our way,” he says. I
put my hand to my face to make sure it is hidden but I am
safe. I struggle to my feet and roll up my blanket, kneeling
to fasten the strap holding it in place.
I look up over my shoulder. A man stands behind me.
“The General asks for you.”
I swallow. “The General? What for?”
“How would I know? Don’t keep him waiting.”
I stand, stumbling over my blanket and then follow
the man’s pointed finger towards a solitary figure some way
away from the men. Yusuf. I hesitate but I have no choice.
I make my way over to him. He is sitting calmly, one knee
pulled up, his hands wrapped around it while he gazes
across the dunes. When I reach him I stop at a distance
and wait for him to notice me. I hope he will not ask me to
come any nearer to him.
“Come closer,” he says, without turning his head.
Reluctantly, I take a few steps forward.
He doesn’t move for a moment, then slowly turns his
head and looks up at me. His black eyes stay fixed on me
for an unnervingly long time. I try to stand like a man,
head up, feet planted a little apart, my shoulders thrust
back. Still he says nothing.
“Sir,” I say, keeping my voice as deep as I can. “You
asked to see me.”
“Indeed,” he says. “Take off your veil.”
I swallow. “Sir?”
“Remove your veil,” he says.
I try to bluster my way out of it. “It is not seemly…”
His shoulders shake a little and I see laughter in his
eyes. “Not seemly for a man,” he says. “Remove your veil.”
My shoulders drop. I remove the veil as well as my
whole headdress, letting the cloth drop to the ground. My
hair tumbles down my back and the wind blows it into my
face. I don’t move.
Yusuf looks away from me, back across the dunes, nods
to himself. “What is a young woman doing amongst my
men?” he asks, as though to himself.
“How did you know?”
He looks back at me. “I know every one of my men,” he
says, his eyes serious. “We have an army of many thousands
and I make it my business to know every one of them. They
fight by my side, they would die for me. I should at least
know their names, their faces, how they move. Do you not
I say nothing.
“Well, you had better tie your hair up again,” he says.
“And then fetch your camel.”
“I won’t go home,” I say. “I won’t go back to the camp.”
“No,” he agrees. “I thought you might say that. I will
take you there myself.”
“I will accompany you,” he says. “Your honour is in
my hands. I would not allow any other man to escort an
unmarried woman back to her father and explain what she
was doing out in the desert with a hundred men, none of
them her own family.”
None Such as She
11th century, North Africa. Zaynab is the famous queen consort of Yusuf bin Tashfin, leader of the Moorish Almoravid army, which defeated El Cid, conquering all of North Africa and most of Spain. But her life is full of unanswered questions. She claimed she would marry the man who would rule all of North Africa, but it took four marriages before this prophecy came true. She was Yusuf’s right hand, an undisputed beauty and gave him many children, yet Yusuf chose as his heir the son of a Christian slave girl.
Some said she spoke with djinns and spirits of the air. Having met her as a child in The Cup and as a formidable rival in A String of Silver Beads, in None Such as She Zaynab has her own story to tell
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I try to get her attention but she does not seem willing
to share any information with me. She is putting on her
outer robes now, preparing to leave the house.
“Where are we going?”
“Engagement,” she says without any elaboration.
Well of course I have been to engagements before, but
never dressed like this. I would be well dressed, but not
so elegantly and expensively. I run through all our family
members trying to think who it might be that is getting
married, for it must be someone important to us if we are
going to all this trouble, but I have heard nothing about
this and surely my gossiping aunts would have told me if
something so exciting was happening in our own family?
There is no time to ponder this, for Myriam is rushing
me back down the stairs. I am just opening my mouth
to ask some more questions when I see my mother and
father standing by the main door, about to depart. They are
surrounded by servants.
My father Ibrahim looks like a prince. He is beautifully
dressed and looks very handsome. I cannot help smiling at
him, even though I am still confused. He catches sight of
me and nods, stretches out his hands to me. I reach him
and he holds me at arms’ length to examine me.
“Very fine, Zaynab,” he says. “The image of your
I look towards my mother Djalila. She is always
beautiful, but today she is stunning. Her robes are
magnificent. If my father looks like a prince, she looks like
a queen. I thought my new robes were grand, but she makes
me look like a beggar girl. She is not smiling, however. Her
face is pale and still. Beside her stands her handmaiden
Hela, who rules our household in my mother’s name.
“You are late,” says Hela.
Myriam bows her head without speaking.
Hela ignores Myriam’s contrite face and turns to the
They all nod. It is only now that I look from one servant
to the next and see what they are carrying.
A large jewellery box.
A live sheep.
An engagement cake.
I look again, unable to believe what I am seeing.
Jewellery. Dried fruits. The struggling sheep. The cake.
These are the gifts that the groom takes to his intended
bride on the day of their engagement.
My father is taking a second wife.
Do Not Awaken Love
11th century, Northern Spain. Isabella has been a nun in the Christian kingdom of Galicia since she was a child, a gifted herbalist leading a quiet and spiritual life, devoted to God. But on a rare journey outside of the convent, she is taken by Viking raiders and sold to Morocco as a slave. Cruelly treated by her first owner, salvation comes from an unlikely source: Yusuf bin Tashfin, leader of a vast Muslim army intent on conquering all of North Africa. Isabella must struggle not only to survive her new life but to hold true to her faith, which is tested by great dangers… and by love.
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coming soon, follow Melissa on Amazon or BookBub to receive an alert when it’s published.
Our late departure means that the midday sun burns down on us while we are still progressing along the banks of the estuary, passing small farms as we go. To our right, we pass a large apple orchard, the very first early apples turning shining red. The breeze rustles through the branches and birds sing. It is a place of great peace, reminding me of my herb garden at the convent. I have missed the garden, even in these few days away from it, the silence and the scent, the mastery of my own little kingdom.
“May we rest, Sister Juliana?” asks Sister Maria.
I consider for a moment. We should ride on, but the sun is at its zenith and the rustling leaves and faint scent of apples calls to me. “Very well,” I concede. “We will rest a little while. The shade will be cooling.”
Sister Maria slides ungracefully down from her horse, landing with a solid thud on her small feet. Her round face is beaming. “May we taste the fruits?”
“No,” I say sharply. “They are not ours to pick, Sister. You should know better.”
But Sister Maria is already holding a red apple in her hand. “A windfall,” she says. “A gift of God to the needy.”
“You are hardly in need, Sister,” I say, looking disapprovingly at her ample girth.
Sister Maria is not listening, of course, she is hunting for other windfalls in the long dew-drenched grass. She finds and offers one to Alberte, then another to Catalina, who looks to me for guidance. I am glad to see her hesitation; it speaks of humility and reverence for one’s elders and superiors. “You may accept,” I say. It would be a waste to let the windfall fruit rot in the field, after all. Alberte is sharing his apple with his horse, the foolish boy. When Sister Maria holds out a fruit to me, I hesitate but then take it with care, wiping a little mud off the red peel. Apples are easily digested by persons in good health, even when eaten raw, and the first apples of the season have a crisp sweetness that is pleasing to the palate. A little further down the slope is an old tree stump shaded by a young tree and I make my way to it, leaving the others behind. I sit down and look out over the fields, then lift my hand to my mouth. I bite, feel the sharp-sweet flesh crunch beneath my teeth and even as I do so, Catalina screams somewhere behind me.
I twist on my seat and look round, expecting the girl to have perhaps disturbed a snake in the long grass, but instead I am faced with Alberte, who is staggering towards me, his face ashen, eye wide, his neck ending in a scarlet slash from which blood is pouring.
Even as I rise, he falls, so that behind him I can see Sister Maria struggling in the arms of a man and Catalina running back towards the road, pursued by another man. I open my mouth to cry out and a rough hand comes over my mouth, my left arm is pinned back so hard I think for a moment my shoulder is about to dislocate. I struggle and try to bite the hand and it is taken away for a moment, only to strike me so hard the world grows dark.