The Captain from Castile finds love in a nasty era

The eponymous captain from Castile is Pedro de Vargus, a handsome young cavalier from a distinguished Spanish family of modest circumstances.

Pedro has taken Luisa de Carvajal as his lady, but the spirited serving wench Catana Perez has her sights on Pedro as well.

The Captain from Castile by Samuel Shellabarger

Blakiston, 1945. 503 pages. 1945 bestseller # 8. My Grade: B.

Masts of replica of 16th century Spanish ship
The ship in which Pedro de Vargus sailed to Spain’s New World colonies probably looked much like this replica.

In 1518, Pedro sails for the Caribbean, followed soon by Cantana.

Hernando Cortes is raising an army to invade Mexico, contrary to the orders of the Spanish Governor of Cuba.

Pedro distinguishes himself in the campaigns to conquer, convert and loot the natives.

Cortes sends Pedro back to Spain to persuade the Crown to support further colonization. Pedro has trunks full of golden persuaders to use.

Pedro barely sets foot in Spain before he’s arrested.

He has to use his wits and his sword to save himself and his family, serve his General, and get the girl he truly loves.

Samuel Shellabarger keeps his focus on the story, refusing to make the novel into a history book. Without knowing a bit about 16th century history, however, readers will find it difficult to understand the plot.

The characters and general outline of this novel are romance staples. Its selling point is its setting: Shellabarger makes the Spanish Inquisition and Spain’s conquest of the Aztecs truly repugnant.

© 2015 Linda Gorton Aragoni

Photo credit: The still photo is from a video of El Galeon, a 16th century replica Spanish sailing ship,  docked in New York Harbor.   The 2 minute video is at

Prince of Foxes will keep you intrigued

Prince of Foxes is historical fiction at its swashbuckling best. Samuel Shellabarger sets his tale of a blacksmith’s son who picks up the armor and identify of a fallen cavalier in 1400s Italy when the Borgias were top dogs in the city states.

Andrea Orsini goes to work for Cesare Borgia. Borgia sends him to conquor Citta del Monte as part of Borgia’s plan to create a unified Italian state.The city’s lady, Camilla, is to be Orsini’s reward. Orsini falls for Camilla and switches sides, letting himself in for a lot of trouble.

Few settings lend themselves so well to tales of cross and double-cross as the Italian Renaissance. Shellabarger, a Renaissance scholar, knows the era backward and forward, yet he makes all his knowledge serve his story.

Shellabarger draws his characters with bold strokes, but with just enough hesitancy in each personality to make them plausible. You may wonder how a blacksmith’s son acquired all of Orsini’s skills and polish, but while you’re reading you won’t doubt for a minute that he has them.

The plot is masterful. Shellabarger prepares readers for each plot twist with an adroit touch.

Prince of Foxes is a real page-turner, a made-for-the-imagination mini-series.

Don’t miss it.

Prince of Foxes
By Samuel Shellabarger
Little-Brown, 1947
431 pages
#10 on 1947 bestseller list.
My grade: B+
© 2006 Linda Gorton Aragoni