Book Cover: Sibyl with Tabula Rasa by Diego Velázquez

It is Burgos in 1599. María commits a crime so serious she could be hung or burned at the stake. She is terrified of being caught so she and her friend, Lucía, flee for Madrid.

They are perplexed by what a gypsy soothsayer tells them. She says that María will be surprisingly capable, but not ashamed, of working in her new profession. What can it be? How can this woman know of María’s long lost brother? Will she find him? And what does the prediction, this woman dares not put in words, mean for Lucía?

A charming wagon driver gives the fugitives a lift. Then they are kidnapped…

Gordon Thomas’s second novel is a daring prequel to his first, The Harpist of Madrid. This one is a page turning, historical adventure focussed on these two women and Beatrix, a third. It sensitively explores their struggle to survive as camp followers, not only on the Spanish army’s march from Genoa to Brussels but also in the raging battle for Ostend. It depicts their fiery relationships and the often amusing, sometimes tragic encounters with their many and needy customers. It boils with emotion, confounds with intrigue and dazzles with surprises.


Extract from The Emerald of Burgos:

I could see him in the twilight, swaying and staggering, as he walked drunkenly towards the house. I was ready to do it but quivering at the thought. I used all my strength to ease the granite paving stone up onto the window sill above the door. I steadied it with my hand and it balanced there. I could hear his uneven footsteps as he approached. I was determined if fearful: I dared not fail. While he inserted the key, I gave the stone a gentle push. It dropped straight on to him, smashing into his head with a muffled, deadly crunch. Silence…



A wonderful historical novel. The characters spring to life 
writer, Arleen Alleman

Characters in the book

Many of the characters in the Emerald of Burgos are based on real people who lived at the turn of the 17th Century. Here are the background details of these people and the roles they play in the book…

spinolaMarquis Ambrosio Spínola

whitesquareis the proud but modest general who commands the troops on the Spanish road from Genoa to Brussels. He truly impresses Esmeralda. What does he think of her and her colleagues? Does she manage to entice him into her bed? 

whitesquarePhilip III, king of Spain

The undistinguished Philip III, king of Spain and its empire, is known as the ‘miserable monarch’ and as ‘Philip the Pious’. So Esmeralda is stunned at his request to ‘educate’ his son and heir apparent, Philip the Infante, who becomes Philip IV after his father’s sudden and puzzling death. How does Esmeralda deal with his extraordinary request? 

duque_de_OlivaresThe Count Duke of Olivares

whitesquareInfante Philip’s principal adviser. He escorts the youthful Infante to the secret venue where Esmeralda gives him his first ‘lesson’.

whitesquarePhilip IV

as a young man. He must have looked like this when Esmeralda met him. He makes her his first woman spy and sends her on an important mission. To where and why?


I recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction’
Lisa Green.

Book Details:

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Click to enlarge
  • Paperback: 367 pages
  • Publisher: Olympia Publishers (26 June 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1848974469
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848974463
  • Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 2.3 x 23.4 cm



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‘ What a rollicking story! ’
writer, John Chamberlain