Title: A Phoenix Rising: Passion & power at the Tudor court (The House of the Red Duke Book 1)
Author: Vivienne Brereton
Genre: Historical Fiction
Love. Ambition. Danger at the glittering court of Henry VIII. From London down to Cornwall, up to the Scottish court of James IV and over the Narrow Sea to France. A fast-paced story with plenty of action and romance thrown in.
Saint Valentine’s Day, 1497.
Zennor Castle, Cornwall.
‘You have no choice. You have to wed the Frenchman. It’s all been arranged.’
‘I don’t give a fig! I’ve never even met him.’
‘You know what he looks like. You’ve exchanged portraits.’
‘I don’t want a roynish portrait! Or to be forced into wedlock because the monks at Saint Buryan asked Father to send their mead over to Sir Edward Poynings at Calais. How earth-vexing that the Comte d’Ardres tasted it, asked for more, and found out about our family. And me.’
‘But he did. And now I fear you must wed his son. King Henry favours both our trade with the French, and the match.’
Grace shook out her hair in a cloud of burnished gold. ‘I don’t want Guy d’Ardres. I want Ned. I love him.’
William was trying hard to remain patient. Inwardly sighing at the gargantuan task that had landed on his boyish, twenty-one-year old shoulders, he gazed past his younger sister, seeking inspiration in the slate-coloured February skies, beyond the lattice windows of the chamber. When he spoke, his voice was unnaturally quiet considering the dangerous subject matter…for fear of being overheard. Heaven forbid what would happen if news of this secret liaison got out. He’d only found out by chance yesterday when he saw Grace and Edward Howard in a foolhardy embrace in the courtyard below. He’d been aghast. How he wished their beloved mother hadn’t perished from the sickness two years before; she would have known exactly what to say and how to act. All he could do was try his best.
‘I have no idea what’s possessed you. Edward is a Howard through and through. You know how ambitious that family is and how far they’ve fallen. They still haven’t recovered from being on the wrong side of King Henry at Bosworth—’
‘It’s not Ned’s fault his grandsire was one of King Richard’s closest allies.’
‘Much good it did either of them. Both slaughtered on a battlefield.’
‘So why are you so against the Howards now?’
‘Everyone’s heard the rumours about Edward’s grandsire having a hand in the disappearance of the little princes for financial gain. Helped by Edward’s father. There are still whispers about how the Howard titles of duke and earl, given by Richard a few days into his new reign, were bought with blood—’
‘That’s scurrilous gossip!’ interrupted Grace, letting out something akin to a hiss. ‘Tavern talk by those too far gone in their cups. Alys Pendeen’s mother thinks Margaret Beaufort had a hand in it. Mistress Matilda says Margaret’s always been like a wildcat who’d claw anyone’s eyes out if they crossed her in her ambition to put her son on the thron—’
‘Hush, sister! That’s the King’s mother of whom you’re speaking. Men have been hanged for less.’
Yet, he knew he was powerless to Grace’s indignation.
‘You know our own mother used to say Cecily Neville, King Richard’s mother, never stopped loving him. Moreover, Mother said that the princes’ mother still favoured the King after their disappearance. And that no grieving mother would have treated the murderer of her sons so.’ Grace gave a little toss of her head. ‘I don’t know why we’re even talking about this, Will. None of it has anything to do with Ned.’
‘Perhaps not, but some facts about the family can’t be disputed. After Bosworth, they lost those titles and Edward’s father was thrown into the Tower. Before Henry Tudor exiled him to look after the North.’
Grace swept aside a strand of blonde hair that had fallen across stormy green eyes. ‘Ned says the Earl has done a magnificent job there. And is quite restored to the King’s good graces. Or “Goose” as Ned’s father calls him.’
‘You and I both know the Howards are at the mercy of the Tudors. And need all the help they can get to crawl their way back to the top again.’
‘I don’t care about any of that. I love Ned and he loves me. He’s asked me to marry him. His mother is very ill and he wants us to be wed as soon as possible.’
As she said this, she turned away, reaching down into her pocket. Then she thrust out her left hand in a defiant manner. On it was a gold ring, its slim band adorned with stars all the way around.
* * *
William was appalled. Matters had clearly gone even further than he suspected. He knew his hot-headed sister only too well and dreaded to think how far that was. If only he’d noticed something before now. Edward Howard had been staying with Roger Trewellis and his family at Mount’s Bay for several months, supposedly working in the trading business of his father’s old friend. William now knew the reality to be quite different; it explained why Edward hadn’t returned home to the Howard home in Norfolk for the twelve days of Christmas. Instead, he’d accompanied the Trewellis family to Zennor for Twelfth Night. William was almost certain Lord Trewellis and his family knew nothing of the clandestine relationship either, and that the two lovebirds had successfully managed to keep it away from prying eyes…until now. It explained Grace’s recent frequent absences from the Castle, ostensibly to pay visits to friends, or satisfy a sudden fancy to visit a dressmaker’s in Penzance to discover the latest fashions in London. William frowned. As a Howard, Edward had enough gold coins in his purse to find a suitable love nest for the pair of them, as well as bribe any over-inquisitive servants.
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