The House of the Red Duke
“If I have anything to do with it, we Howards will live forever.”
Thomas Howard Charismatic head of one of the most powerful Houses in Tudor England. An indomitable old man approaching eighty: soldier, courtier, politician, a ‘phoenix’ rising from the ashes. After a calamitous period of disgrace, the Howards, renowned for their good looks and charm, are once more riding high at the court of Henry VIII.
Set against the backdrop of the extraordinary 1520 ‘Field of Cloth of Gold’, it is a tale of ambition, love, and intrigue, with Thomas at the centre of this intricate tapestry
Will Thomas’s bold vow be fulfilled? Danger stalks the corridors of the royal courts of Europe. Uneasy lies the head beneath a crown. Every other ruler – a fickle bedfellow…or sworn enemy.
The action takes place in England, Scotland, and France. On either side of the Narrow Sea, four young lives are interwoven, partly unaware of each other, and certainly oblivious to what Dame Fortune has in store for them.
“Nicolas de La Barre laid his lute to one side, hardly bothering to stifle a yawn of boredom. Nevertheless, he couldn’t escape the fact he’d agreed to take on a new wife….”
Explosive family secrets are concealed behind the ancient walls of castles in three lands. But… “There are no secrets that time does not reveal.”
Thomas Howard, the ageing Earl of Surrey, is the central character (around whom all the others revolve) of ‘A Phoenix Rising’, Book One of ‘The House of the Red Duke’.
Here he is in conversation with twenty-nine-year-old Henry VIII. They have been discussing the forthcoming Field of Cloth of Gold with Thomas Wolsey (nicknamed ‘Snake’ by Thomas). Thomas waits until Wolsey has left because he has a brilliant idea (the brainchild of Thomas Bullen) he wants to put to the King. He has just been telling Henry about an old witch he met in Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh, at the court of James IV of Scotland….
“For some strange reason, I could still remember almost every word the old hag had uttered in a chamber where there was neither night nor day. I was hardly about to repeat her nonsense about bloodied wedding bands involving the House of Tudor…or a match between my own House and the royal House of Stewart. Therein lay the path to madness: one that would take me straight back to the Tower. However, there was still that important matter I needed to discuss with Henry: my last piece of pork, smothered in apple sauce. One of Tom Bullen’s better ideas I was about to present to the King as my own. But as head of the House of Howard, and Tom’s father-in-law, that was my prerogative. Of course, if Henry liked the plan, Tom could see it through publicly, putting his head above the parapet before we knew whether or not it would be successful.
<<Either way, I’ll win. If it all ends in disaster, Tom will shoulder the blame and I’ll lament him ruining my cunning scheme>>
As usual, Henry was far too preoccupied with his own concerns to pay any attention to my mood of uncertainty. ‘Now, Thomas,’ he said, about to make for the door, ‘I’m off to see my tailor back in Westminster about that new doublet of cloth of gold I’ve asked him to make. Why not come too and sup with Kate and me. I can help you down to the landing stage and you can tell me what else this ancient Scottish witch told you.’
Rising as fast as my old legs could manage, I thanked the stars again for giving me this heaven-sent private moment to put my son-in-law’s proposal to the King. I was glad that Henry had the grace to wait for me, gently putting a helping hand under my elbow which I gratefully received. <<We both know that even though my body might be failing, my mind’s as sharp as it’s ever been. And I’m as useful to him as I’ve ever been>>
‘Now Tom has gone about on his business,’ he said, ‘you and I can discuss lighter matters on my barge. You know how much I value your opinion. I want to know what you think of Frenchwomen. I’ve seen for myself they’re very fair. But not as fair as our own, of course.’
I couldn’t quite believe my luck. ‘Your Majesty. How did you guess my thoughts? Comely Englishwomen is exactly the topic I wish to discuss with you. Or rather, one in particular. And then we may talk about comely Frenchwomen to your heart’s delight. Though they do say they can be quite contrary when the mood takes them. But as we know, so can the men.’
<<As I think of Snake, knowing how piqued he would be if he were here, I can almost taste that last mouthful of apple sauce on the end of my tongue>>”
Thank you, Vivienne Brereton and Love Books Group Tours
About the author
Born near historic Winchester in the UK, Vivienne Brereton has been passionate about the Tudors for as long as she can remember. This led to a degree in medieval history at university where she met her future husband. Three sons later and six countries she called home, she finally felt ready to write a novel.
Words have always played an important part in Vivienne’s life whether it’s been writing, editing, teaching English to foreigners, or just picking up a good book. In preparation for her novel, she read intensively on the skills needed to write well and did an enormous amount of research which she greatly enjoyed. Having three sons was helpful when she came to write about the characters, Tristan and Nicolas. All those squabbles she had to deal with came in very handy. She also used her husband and sons as guinea pigs for her Tudor cookery attempts with varying degrees of success (abuse).
Seeing ‘A Phoenix Rising’ in print for the first time was a moment of great joy for her and she hopes you enjoy reading it as much as she enjoyed writing it.
Amazon US https://amzn.to/2yaLmO1
Amazon UK https://amzn.to/2N6AzwV