Thursday, August 8, 2019

Guest Post + Excerpt: A Phoenix Rising by Vivienne Brereton

Please join me in welcoming Vivienne Brereton to Let Them Read Books! Vivienne just published her debut historical novel, A Phoenix Rising, and she's here today with a guest post about the inspiration for her novel, Thomas Howard, and an excerpt!

“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.”

Fascinated by the Howard dynasty, I was drawn to the head of the family, Thomas Howard. His longevity was quite extraordinary in an era when most men did not live beyond their early fifties. The fact that he was grandfather to two Tudor queens (who both came to a tragic end in the Tower of London), Anne and Katherine, increased my interest. Who was this man who survived his first wife and then re-married her young cousin at fifty-four, his fertility showing no sign of waning? I think his rude good health and ability to father sons probably affected Henry’s decision to marry two Tudor women. After all, he needed sons and there was no shortage of Howard boys. Anne was a Bullen (Boleyn), but in Thomas’s mind, she was a Howard marriage pawn.

Thomas stands in the centre of A Phoenix Rising, intelligent, brave, plain-spoken, never losing his mental faculties, secure in his position as Lord Treasurer until the last two years of his life. All around him, like branches of a tree, are his various offspring and grandchildren. The series title is The House of the Red Duke, which is appropriate because it is just as much the story of his dynasty as his own. He appears in the book at intervals and is never very far away from the main action. I used a mixture of first person and third person for my characters, but Thomas was very definitely a first person! With his strong personality and presence on the page, he couldn’t have been anything else.

To give readers a glimpse into Thomas’s character, I have chosen a scene where he is on the rooftop of the Palace of Placentia in Greenwich, watching the stars with the young Henry VIII and Thomas More. We have to remember that with no electricity, and only the occasional flare of a torch, lantern, or candle, the nights would have been very dark indeed and the skies, a velvety tapestry of stars.

    For a few long moments, the three of us stood on the Palace roof in companionable silence, enjoying being inside the dark cocoon, free to contemplate the mysteries of the universe outlined above our heads. I was the first to speak: ‘France and England as foes. England and France as friends. Why does history always have a habit of repeating itself?’
  ‘Thucydides!’ exclaimed Henry and Tom together, before dissolving into laughter.
  ‘Thucydides?’ I repeated, at a loss.
  ‘The Greek historian,’ said Tom, ‘who believed that in accordance with human nature, historical events are likely to repeat themselves at some future time - if not in exactly the same way, then in one very similar.’  
     I knew of old how much Henry enjoyed such discussions as these, grabbing them with his hands, kneading them into shape as if he were a baker producing the best manchet loaf, and they the dough. ‘Throughout the ages,’ he said now, ‘a philosopher or politician might well have regarded this as proof of human weakness or stupidity, an inability to learn from past lessons. An astrologer might have looked to a shift in the planets above, their movements reflected in events below. Whatever the reason, no one can deny patterns exist that are endlessly repeated.’ 
  ‘I’m nought but an old soldier,’ I said, ‘yet, that makes sense to me.’

About the Author:

A Phoenix Rising is Vivienne Brereton’s debut novel and the first in a series of Tudor historical romance books entitled The House of the Red Duke. Vivienne has a degree in medieval history and a lifelong passion for the Tudors. For her research, she visited most of the places in the book, using it as an opportunity to step back in time…


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