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A Phoenix Rising by @VivienneBreret1 is a Christmas and Holiday Festival Pick #historicalfiction #hi

Title: The House of the Red Duke, Book One: A Phoenix Rising

Author: Vivienne Brereton

Genre: Historical Fiction

Book Blurb:


At the extraordinary Field of Cloth of Gold.


Meet the Howards. One of the most powerful families in Tudor England. Thomas Howard. An indomitable old man approaching eighty: soldier, charismatic courtier, politician. After a calamitous period of disgrace, his family, renowned for their good looks and charm, are once more riding high at the court of Henry VIII. A proud ‘phoenix’ rising from the ashes, will Thomas’s bold vow be fulfilled?

“If I have anything to do with it, we Howards will live forever.”

Danger stalks the corridors of the royal courts of England, Scotland, and France. Uneasy lies the head beneath a crown. Every ruler, a fickle bedfellow. Or sworn enemy.

On either side of the Narrow Sea, Tristan, Valentine, Cecily and Nicolas are partly unaware of each other, and certainly oblivious to what Dame Fortune has in store for them.

“Nicolas 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.”

Amazon: “Unique.” “Great authentic feel.” “I was enthralled.”

Goodreads: “An absolute triumph!” “Wow! I whipped through the pages.”


It is Christmas Day, 1512. Cecily Tredavoe, a young girl living in Zennor Castle at the furthest tip of Cornwall, is very excited. She is spending the festive season with the four Bullen (Boleyn) children, feeling blessed that as an only child of doting parents, everything is perfect in her world…

‘I pray you, my masters, be merry,

Quod estes in convivio (As many as are at the feast)

Caput apri defero (The boar’s head I offer)

Reddens laudes Domino.’ {Giving praise to the Lord}.

The great hall was filled to the rafters with the familiar strains of my favourite carol, ‘The Boar’s Head’. Heartily joining in the chorus with my family, friends and all our guests, at the far end, I could see four Castle servants entering, bearing aloft a glazed, roasted boar’s head on a platter. It was set in a circle of red and yellow jelly, and decorated with gilded bay leaves, lemons and oranges. The music from the minstrels’ gallery above, accompanied this impressive procession across the floor.

Glancing past Nan (whom I’d asked to be placed next to me), beyond my Pendeen cousins, I was pleased to see all the other children were equally impressed by the colourful display. A short while before, I’d noticed Lizzie Stafford and Mary deep in conversation…probably about the wedding night again. It was gratifying to see the rapt expressions on the faces of the two Bullen boys beside them, watching the progress of the boar around the hall. Although it was a Tredavoe family tradition and the centrepiece of the Christmas festivities, the entrance of the boar’s head never lost its appeal. Thanks to a double-wicked wax candle that had been wrapped in cotton and soaked in aqua vitae, before being placed in the roasted boar’s mouth, our cook was able to produce a particularly fearsome, fire-breathing effect.

Christmas was my best-loved time of the year; without exception, the Castle would be transformed into a riot of colour. Yesterday, on our return from the chapel, nursing our great secret, we’d excitedly helped the servants hang the usual decorations. Green garlands with their bright red berries were strewn everywhere, including the famous Kissing Bough made of willow and covered in greenery, with its effigy of the child Jesus in the centre. We watched Father carefully place it above the front door.

“Now Ralph can kiss you beneath it,” Mary whispered to Lizzie, earning herself a fierce glare in case anyone was listening.

There were oranges, dried fruit, and candles in every nook and cranny, and the famed Lord of Misrule (in this case, Hugh, our family steward) had replaced Father for a day of mischief and merriment. Beyond the diamond-paned windows, the December sea was grey and stormy, but inside there was a roaring fire, good cheer and much laughter. The only person missing from this idyllic scene was my cousin, Tristan. I glanced down at my posy ring and smiled, hoping his Christmas was as joyful as my own.

In front of me, Hugh was brazenly stealing some grapes and oranges from the enormous platter and throwing them to all the children (including the little Knyvetts), making it deliberately difficult for everyone to grab it with their hands.

‘Well caught, Mistress Cecily!’ he cried, smiling as I pressed a sweet smelling orange to my nose.

‘Here, Mother,’ I said, planting a tender kiss on her cheek, ‘I know how you love oranges.’

Standing up on the dais, I eased myself past my parents’ high-backed chairs to go and take some grapes to the Knyvett children. With so many friends, neighbours, relations, as well as many of the local gentry, gathered this year, no expense had been spared. As well as the boar, lavish helpings of swan and goose were being served to make up for the lack of meat, cheese, or eggs, yesterday. Hogsheads of ale, Gascon claret and white wine had been rolled out of the cellar for our guests, although of course I was only allowed to consume the weak ale intended for the sick and the young.

‘I don’t think I can eat another thing!’ protested Nan in a loud voice, clutching her stomach and winning her a glare from her nearby father for showing such bad manners in company.

I smiled to myself, knowing full well that all the food we’d just eaten was shortly to be followed by the famous Zennor Castle mince pies. They were in the shape of a crib and made from thirteen ingredients to represent Jesus and his Apostles, including my favourites of fresh chopped coriander and saffron. This last had been bought in October from a travelling peddler who told me he was from a strange-sounding place in Essex called Chipping Walden.

‘Don’t worry, Nan, you’ll find room for mince pies and warden pie,’ I assured her, first checking that Thomas Bullen was no longer listening.

She playfully puffed out her cheeks and I made a face back, knowing no one could resist the delicious, piping hot pie, using Tredavoe pears and the peddler’s saffron.

I put out a hand to tickle her neck but she stopped me, whispering: ‘Don’t, Cecy. You’ll get me into trouble with Father again.’

I looked across at Thomas Bullen, seated next to my parents as a mark of his importance. He didn’t have the face of an unkind man; the expression in his large brown eyes was rather gentle and the general impression was that of one of the over-eager Hever dogs, panting with effort and hoping for praise from their master - but equally expecting a kick. Although he had unattractively thin lips, he didn’t have the cruel look of his brother-in-law so desperate to marry Lizzie. He didn’t even have the more forbidding features of his father-in-law, the Bullens’ grandsire, Thomas Howard. I remembered Nan telling us how he’d cried because his daughter was ill, making me wonder if he was kinder than his son.

Yet, I’d always felt Nan’s father was unduly harsh with his children, and that beneath the friendly exterior lay a man of almost frightening ambition.”

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Share a holiday family tradition:

It has to be that first Buck’s Fizz on Christmas morning (before a hearty full English breakfast with all the trimmings, and a walk) while we’re ripping open all our presents.

Why is your featured book perfect to get readers in the holiday mood:

Come and channel your inner Tudor. You know you want to. In Part Six, ‘The Christmas Castles’, there’s something for everyone. For the ladies. Share a kiss under the Kissing Bough with Tristan or Nicolas, or even young Henry Tudor himself, if you dare. For the gentlemen. Select the slice of Twelfth Night cake containing the bean. And Hey Presto! You’ll be King of the Bean/Master of Mischief for a day. Take a sip or two from the wassailing bowl and pass it on. There’s going to be a wedding in the chapel of Saint Michael’s Mount, Cornwall. And you’re all invited. Ssh! You mustn’t tell a soul. It’s supposed to be a secret. Especially from the King…. As a special Christmas bonus for every reader, there are some recipes included for your pleasure. Enjoy!


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Open internationally.

Runs December 1 – 31.

Drawing will be held on January 3, 2020.

Author Biography:

Born between historic Winchester and Southampton in the UK, I have been passionate about the Tudors for as long as I can remember. This led to a degree in Medieval History at university and the growing desire to write a novel. However, life took over somewhat and only after stays, short and long, in six countries I called home did I finally settle down to finish my novel.

Words have always played an important part in my life, whether it's been writing, editing, teaching English, or just picking up a good book. In preparation for my Tudor series, I did an enormous amount of research.

Having three sons came in very handy when I had to write about squabbles between Nicolas and Tristan. Not so handy when I took them to Hampton Court and one of them got lost in the maze! I also used the men in my life as guinea pigs for my Tudor cookery attempts (recipes included) with varying degrees of protest.

Seeing 'A Phoenix Rising', the first book in the series 'The House of the Red Duke' in print for the first time was a moment of great joy for me. I hope anyone reading it will enjoy the end result as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Social Media Links:

Twitter: @VivienneBreret1

Instagram: viviennebrereton

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