2 October 2019

Blog Tour: A Phoenix Rising: The House of the Red Duke, by Vivienne Brereton


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Thomas Howard is 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. 

Excerpt:

Thomas Howard, the Earl of Surrey, a veteran soldier and Treasurer of England, is talking to his best friend, Gilbert Talbot, in Calais harbour. The date is September 30th, 1511 and they’re discussing the headstrong young King Henry VIII’s determination to go to war with France.

  The wind suddenly dropped completely so we could hear each other again. Right on cue, the sun came out, bathing us in pleasing warmth. Immediately, I felt my mood lift and was even able to smile back at my friend. We’d both aged, of course, and I could see that (unlike me, who prided myself on still having the wiry frame of one of my prize whippets) a love of his wife, Bessie’s, cooking had added flesh to Gilbert’s bones. The approach of old age hadn’t completely passed me by either. My knees were beginning to ache and I had more silver threaded through my hair than before. But to me the streaks were a badge of honour.
    <<Evidence of a long life, lived well and to the full>>
  Gilbert still had the same ready smile he’d always had, and his slightly faded blue eyes reflected the same wisdom and humour I’d long set store by.
   ‘It’s true,’ I said. ‘That toad-spotted, bum-bailey of a royal almoner, Snake, couldn’t wait to write to Richard Fox reporting my disgrace. There was such a red mist in my mind, I could think of nothing else to do but come to you. I rode like the clappers to Dover and jumped on the first vessel crossing the Narrow Sea.’
 ‘And I’m very glad you did. I take it you tried again to dissuade the King from declaring war on France.’
   ‘I did. But the Tudor boy is as stubborn as a mule. He’s determined to risk his royal neck in the lists and has got his sights set on the spoils of war. The treaty Fox, Ruthal, and I negotiated last March is as good as dead. All Henry thinks and talks about is invading France.’
   Gilbert laughed. ‘He certainly lives up to your description of him: “A Tudor rose with thorns”. I wish to God he and Katherine hadn’t lost the prince in January. Maybe it would have calmed him down.’
   ‘But they did lose little Henry. And nothing and no one can turn his head away from the idea of leading an army over the Narrow Sea.’
  ‘It doesn’t help that Henry’s father-in-law—’
   ‘That wily old fox, Ferdinand.’
    ‘Yes. It doesn’t help he’s joined forces with the Pope, declaring the French got more out of the Cambrai agreement than either of them—’
   ‘Or that Rome has invited Henry to join a Holy League against France. He’s acting like a moonstruck maid, meeting a swain in a meadow.’
   ‘Speaking of lovesick swains, Tom, doesn’t Henry realize the Pope is panting after Venice? And Ferdinand after Naples. Not France.’
  ‘That flap-mouthed Andrea Badoer—’
   ‘The Venetian ambassador?’
   ‘Yes. He’s stoking the fires of war, telling the King that old Louis of France wants to be “monarch of the whole world”.’
    Gilbert rolled his eyes. ‘We can only pray the good ambassador falls into the Grand Canal on his next trip back to Venice.’

                                       *                           *                    *

    By this time, we’d almost reached the end of the quay. It felt good to be able to talk like this to an old friend who understood my predicament, even if he couldn’t help me out of it. Just offer me food, board and good counsel for a few days. I knew I was exaggerating a little out of frustration. Young Hal hadn’t actually dismissed me, merely suggested I might like to spend some time with Agnes who was expecting another child. A second boy, I was certain of it. There was nothing wrong with Howard seed: perhaps another thing about me that didn’t sit well with the royal pup. <<A man of nearly seventy able to produce what a youth of twenty cannot>>
   ‘What about your boys, Tom. Can’t they help out? Try to change the King’s mind.’
  I let out a dismissive laugh. ‘The King doesn’t like Thomas. Not that I blame him for that. You know my eldest is a chilly devil at the best of times; even his dogs don’t care for him. And Henry has no time at all for Edmund. Nor do I blame him for that either. Sometimes I think ‘tis both a miracle and a tragedy that one survived the childbed. Animals seem to know much better than humans how to deal with those too puny to survive.’
  ‘He’s a fine jouster.’
   ‘A loggerhead, for sure. Instead of showing cunning like Charles Brandon - and all the others - did back in the lists in February, either tying with the King or letting him win, what does my idiot of a third son do? Knock the proud young Tudor pup to the ground so many times he must have been choking on the dust in his mouth.’
   ‘God’s teeth! Henry will never forgive him.’
   ‘He hasn’t. Edmund hasn’t been invited to a single joust since that day.’
   ‘You’ve got new boys to follow.’
  ‘Yes. William in the cradle and another in the belly.’
  ‘What about Edward. He’s still in favour.’
   ‘Yes, but for some boil-brained reason, he spends his time dripping poison about James of Scotland into the royal ear. When the Venetian ambassador has finished dripping poison about France into the other one.’
    ‘Ah, I see your problem. It must be hard for you. Especially as you struck up such a good rapport with the Scotsman when you went up for the wedding.’
  ‘I did. I can honestly say James deserved every word of any praise I heaped upon him back then. Truly a king amongst kings. Whereas I swear our own sometimes shows less sense than my Lizzie’s little George.’
    Gilbert pointed straight ahead. ‘How about a visit to “The Sign of the Ship” to drown our sorrows? I know for a fact a cargo of the best Malmsey arrived from Madeira this morning, by way of La Coruna.’

Vivienne Brereton

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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. Find out more at Vivienne's website and follow her on Twitter @VivienneBreret1

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for hosting today, Tony! We appreciate your support!

    Amy
    HF Virtual Book TOurs

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