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Book Recommendation | A Phoenix Rising, Book One in the series, The House of the Red Duke by @Vivien

TITLE: A Phoenix Rising, Book One in the series, The House of the Red Duke

AUTHOR: Vivienne Brereton

GENRE: Historical Fiction

PUBLISHER: Yuletide Press


“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.”


I have chosen an excerpt where the fearless Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey, meets his match in an old nursemaid of the King of Scotland’s mistress up in Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh, where he has recently delivered little Margaret Tudor, James IV’s child bride:

“I looked across at the King who began introducing his mistress and another far older woman with snow-white hair who’d just entered the room.

‘This is the favour I mentioned earlier. Lady Gordon is soon to leave for Darnaway but was verra curious to meet a man of whom she’s heard so much. And this is her auld nurse, Mairghread, a woman famed at our court for her gift of second sigh—’



With all my focus up until now concentrated on the considerable attributes of Lady Gordon, I’d hardly acknowledged the new addition. That is, until the old crone began pointing at me and shrieking at the top of her voice in what I supposed must be that heathen tongue, Gaelic:

An ruadh diùc! An ruadh diùc!’

Unnerved by the creature and having no idea what she was screeching, I glanced at Janet Kennedy, trying to keep my expression pleasant.

Having the air of one who was thoroughly enjoying the little spectacle, mischief bubbling up inside her until it reached that pair of gleaming brown eyes, the King’s mistress went through the motions of an apology.

‘You must excuse my nurse, Sire, but she’s from Stornaway, up in the far Isles, and is verra excitable.’

James smothered a chuckle. ‘Although our good poet, William Dunbar, describes the way the people there talk as “the roup of raven and rook”, no one can deny the beauty of their poetry, the melodies of the clareschaw, or the pretty pictures they carve on their standing stones.’

<<A pox upon such stuff and nonsense. I’m being cursed by a shard-borne sorceress!>>

‘What’s the woman saying?’ I asked the King, who was wearing an equally amused expression as his saucy mistress. <<Damn them both! >> I suddenly felt mightily uncomfortable in this unfamiliar chilly northern land where the only decent commodities to leave its shores were wool, hides, salted salmon and coarse woollen cloth. No wonder they had to travel to the Low Countries to purchase coloured cloths, cushions, books, silverware and wine, and a hundred more such luxury items, to bring back to a country bogged down in mud and misery. The sun never seemed to set during the summer (for that matter, hardly bothering to rise during the winter months) and strange lights could be seen in the night skies; for instance, if I stepped outside at this late hour, the daylight had failed so little I might fancy myself back in the chamber with the Tudor girl. It was as if I was being pursued down one of Edinburgh’s narrow cobbled streets, heading from West Bow towards the Mercat Cross with no way ou—

‘“The Red Duke”. She’s calling ye “the Red Duke”.’

James said something to the old woman and then looked at me. ‘I told her she must be mistaken for ye are an earl not a duke.’ He motioned for the four of us to be seated at the small walnut table where the chess set lay permanently abandoned. This new game (with its two additional players) seemed to be proving far more appealing to my host than the last.

‘Why don’t ye calm yourself, Mairghread,’ said Janet. ‘And tell this man his fortune.’ She repeated it in Gaelic while putting her hand on the witch’s arm.

Putting one hand up to protest, I slowly lowered it again. I fought to keep my temper in check - or at least, not let it show. I couldn’t believe I was being forced to make a foray into accursed necromancy but knew I had no choice but to accept. My own master, Goose, definitely less colourful but far older and wiser, would never have subjected a foreign visitor to such rough treatment.


The old woman was looking at me with a mixture of hatred and terror in her bright blue eyes while grasping hold of a talisman around her neck and whispering what sounded like curses under her breath. But she’d at least stopped cackling about some confounded red duke. King James handed me another aqua vitae and watched as I downed it in one quick motion. He laughed and pointed a finger at the witch.

‘Best wait to hear what old Mairghread has to say, Thomas, before ye decide to drown your sorrows.’

As he said this, the witch was speaking very fast to Janet Kennedy who proceeded to translate:

‘…She says ye were born when the sun was setting on the Ram. And the goat rising in the East. That ye will have a verra long life, with many offspring from your loins… but your greatest joy will also be your greatest sorrow…’ The King’s mistress hesitated for a moment or two. ‘She says it will be nothing less than ye deserve—’”


Amazon US

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It is also available to order through bookshops everywhere.


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.



Twitter: @VivienneBreret1

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