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The House of the Red Duke series by @VivienneBreret1 is unforgettable #tudors #historicalfiction
Lust. Ambition. Fear. Avarice. The House of the Red Duke series is that and more. You'll never look at the Tudors the same after reading...
Title A Phoenix Rising, The House of the Red Duke, Book One
Author Vivienne Brereton
Genre Historical Fiction
A disgraced Earl. A keeper of secrets hidden behind castle walls. Heady places of ambition, intrigue and lovers’ trysts.
Meet Thomas Howard. Soldier. Statesman. Courtier. Head of one of the most powerful families in England.
Be dazzled by the dancing, drama and display in Tudor England, Stewart Scotland, Valois France, and The Habsburg Empire.
Where plans are equally likely to be drawn up for a bloody war, as for an extraordinary event such as the fabled 1520 Field of Cloth of Gold.
Thomas is a phoenix rising from the ashes at the magnificent court of Henry VIII.
“If I have anything to do with it, we Howards will live forever.”
After a calamitous period of disgrace, his family is once more riding high at court due to his intelligence and perseverance, and the part played by his middle son, Edward, a royal favourite known for his good looks, swagger and charm.
Thomas’s travels take him down to Cornwall, up to Scotland, and across the Narrow Sea separating England from France. Mystery swirls around the lives of Tristan, Cecily, Valentine, and Nicolas.
But there are no secrets that time does not reveal….
“Nicolas laid his lute to one side, hardly bothering to stifle a yawn of boredom. Nevertheless, he couldn’t escape the fact that he’d agreed to take on a new wife.”
Amazon 5* review: ‘I’ve been reading Tudor fiction for 34 years, and this book is quite unique to anything I have read before.’
Goodreads: 5* ‘Vivienne Brereton has become one of my new favourite authors.’
I love food and cooking so of course it was natural that my Tudor novel included a lot about feasting back in the sixteenth century. I’ve even added some recipes to go with the events of the book. Enjoy! Here, one of the main characters, a little girl, Valentine de Fleury, is in the kitchens of her house in Picardy. La Colombe is in turmoil preparing for the Feast of Epiphany on the sixth of January, 1512.
“The King and Queen are coming to La Colombe for the Feast of Epiphany! Together with their girls and the Angoulêmes.”
How many times had Valentine heard that in the past few weeks? Royal fever had seized the manor house, affecting every member of the household from her parents, now the Baron and Baroness de Fleury (since the King rewarded her father for his bravery during the Battle of Agnadello)…to little Louis, the newest kitchen galopin. Valentine only wished it could be over and everything return to normal.
Today, it was the turn of Phélix, the pastry cook, to behave like a cornered bull in the nearby field when a tiny corner fell off his confectionary masterpiece. ‘A subtlety is made entirely of sugar and used to amuse,’ he told Valentine and her younger sister, Charlotte, as he impatiently pushed the piece back into place. He pointed at some large, conical sugar loaves in the corner of the room. ‘One pound of sugar costs more than I make in an entire month. But you know how it is with those who have money - they like to show it off to others.’
Valentine knew the longing on her face must be obvious; Phélix often teased her about her love of confectionery. ‘You can either eat a subtlety,’ he said, ‘except in March when we may eat nothing sweet - or, if I use wax, they make a wonderful table decoration. But judging from your face, Demoiselle Valentine, like my own daughter, Barbe, I’ve no doubt which one you’d choose.’
‘Oh, eat it please!’
Now his masterpiece was fully restored, the pastry cook’s mood was lighter. ‘Come, mes demoiselles, and look at these colouring materials. You shouldn’t always have white as your colour. If you want to have violet, you heat the flowers in a mortar with a little hard sugar and then soak them in rose water and gum tragacanth. Blue lichen magically turns a dish red or blue depending on what I mix it with. You can use cinnamon to give you the colour of walnuts but if you want a lighter brown, you have to blend the cinnamon with ginger. Or use sandalwood. I use saffron to make yellow and young barley blades. And parsley to make green. Carrots or leaves from the Dragon’s Blood plant make a sanguine colour which, as you know, is the colour of blood….’
Leaving Phélix to his sugary duties, the two little girls advanced deeper into the heart of the kitchens. They were always a haven of comfort and warmth - from where, thanks to Maître Jacques, the head cook, Valentine would leave with her belly satisfyingly full.
Even from the other end of the house, the commotion from within could be heard, and the appetizing aroma of a multitude of different dishes would waft in all directions. On Christmas Day, following a day of fast, and before the feast, her mouth had positively watered from inhaling the rich aroma of roasting meat, spices and newly-baked bread. The kitchens had been a hive of activity, with a variety of servants bearing silver salvers, scurrying to their destination, much too preoccupied to cast so much as a glance in the direction of Valentine or her younger sisters. It was the same today; neither her mother nor her father had any time for them, not with all the preparations for the Feast of Epiphany banquet making the adults behave as if they’d sat on a nest of wasps.
With time on her hands, Valentine had brought Charlotte to the kitchens, knowing they’d find a warm welcome there. On their left, hung Maître Jacques’ armour: countless rows of frying pans, colanders, cauldrons, hanging kettles, copper and brass boiling pans, wooden stirring spoons and holed spoons, as well as saucepans and skillets, meticulously arranged in order of size. Nearby, stood a battalion of perfectly sharpened knives: each one a trusty soldier waiting to go into battle. From the shine on the pewter spoons, horn spoons, and silver ladles, anyone could see how much pride the cook took in his collection of cooking utensils.
Valentine had heard chilling tales of how the terrifying English might one day come and kill them in their beds. It was bad enough that one of the fearsome Talbots was Deputy Governor of Calais. Sometimes, when she remembered, she sank to her knees and offered up a prayer: ‘Please God, may the only army in Picardy be the one in our kitchens, hanging on Maître Jacques’ wall.’
Arranged neatly around the kitchens were vital pieces of equipment: hampers, baskets for carrying foodstuff, pot-hooks, oven shovels, roasting spits and skewers. A large sack of unshelled almonds stood in one of the corners, just below a little statue of Saint Gertrude.
‘Why’s she there?’ asked Charlotte.
‘She’s supposed to be protecting the kitchen from rats and mice.’
Valentine was pleased she knew the answer; after all, she’d be nine in a few months and Charlotte still only eight. Walking past several shelves of plates of wood, silver, pewter and gold, and some cupboards containing fine linen and white cloth, Valentine suddenly came to a standstill in front of another one. She loved this shelf.
‘Look at those books, Charlotte.’
There, in pride of place (as if they were members of the nobility) sat two heavy tomes on cookery: presented to the cook the previous two years by Tristan d’Ardres’ father. It was a running joke between Valentine’s father and the Count that the Fleury cook was the Baron’s most valuable possession, much coveted by Guy d’Ardres. Charles de Fleury had jested that the Governor of Picardy’s extravagant New Year’s gifts to Maître Jacques were intended as a bribe to leave his present employer and move across to the Castle.
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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.
Having three sons came in very handy when I had to write about squabbles between the male characters in my novel. Not so handy when I took my boys to Hampton Court and one of them got lost in the maze!
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 Beware the Lizard Lurking will enjoy the end result as much as I enjoyed writing it.
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Title Beware the Lizard Lurking, The House of the Red Duke, Book Two
Author Vivienne Brereton
Genre Historical Fiction
Europe might be on the brink of war. But love is still very much on the minds of those in The House of the Red Duke. All will be well as long as they remember to beware the lizard lurking.
A secret wedding with uninvited guests.
A frozen Thames.
May Day celebrations to remember.
The following takes place in Ardres Castle, France. It is the first time Nicolas de La Barre has met his arch enemy, Tristan d’Ardres, since a banquet the previous evening where they both fought for the attentions of the beautiful Ysabeau.
As the only occupant at the high table so far, Nicolas was relishing the opportunity to break his fast in pleasant solitude. As he reached over for some more anchovies, he felt a pang of disappointment when the brass handle of the heavy oak door, at the far end of the hall, slowly started to turn. Disappointment swiftly gave way to disgust when he saw who it was bursting through the doorway jostling and jesting as usual, like a pair of eight-year-olds: Tristan and that earth-vexing friend of his, Jean de Lorraine. Still licking his wounds from last night’s humiliating débâcle of his planned wooing of Ysabeau de Sapincourt, not to mention his very public defeat to Tristan, Nicolas glared at them as they approached with all the swagger of a couple of street ruffians seeking out a brawl. Thinly disguised hostility towards himself was evident in every insufferably nonchalant step. His only consolation was that they weren’t accompanied by Guillaume Gouffier; that one had left the great hall last night with a pert young woman hanging onto his arm who definitely wasn’t his wife, Bonaventure. With his expression of a cat that’s got the cream, Gascon (as he knew him better) had put Nicolas in an even worse mood than before.
The pain of losing Ysabeau to Tristan hurt as much as salt being rubbed into an open wound. The realization that the scurvy-valiant, younger son of Monsieur Guy might prove a very real threat to him in the joust of love, had hit Nicolas with all the force of a thunderbolt from the heavens. Gone was his erstwhile notion of Tristan as a mewling jolthead, snivelling in protest all the way to the door of Anderne Abbey.
Destined for a wretched existence…devoid of the pleasures of the flesh.
* * *
Nicolas couldn’t even bring himself to entertain the thought that the future devil-monk might well succeed in luring Nicolas’s precious prize to his bedchamber.
As the two of them reached Nicolas, the cullionly Jean put one hand to his mouth in mock horror, his eyes - a pair of radiant forget-me-nots - wide with faux concern. ‘What ails you this morning, Nicolas? I think the frozen plains of Siberia would offer us a warmer welcome.’
‘Perhaps he had unpleasant dreams,’ smirked Tristan. ‘The kind where you’re pursued by a bear, or find yourself in the Castle courtyard as naked as the day you were born. Without even a horse in the stables upon which you’re able to flee. Or a fair maid nearby to kiss your cares away. Just a pot of linseed oil to keep you company while you polish the mud-crusted saddles.’
Although Nicolas wanted nothing more than to put out a boot to send his toad-spotted rival flying back from whence he’d come, he knew he couldn’t simply ignore this insult. ‘I can see you’re trying to make hay while the sun shines, Tristan. After all, the Church will soon be your only mistress.’
There was a momentary flash of anger on his adversary’s face that disappeared as quickly as it had come, in the manner of a cloud passing in front of the sun. Even so, Nicolas was gratified to see it. Served Tristan right for daring to steal Ysabeau right from under his nose.
‘Don’t be so sure of that!’ was the only weak parry of the sword Tristan managed.
Unable to resist going in for the kill, Nicolas shrugged, feigning indifference. ‘Wars and women. Who in their right mind would desire either? But if we’re forced to become involved, we should take heed of the old saying: “All’s fair in love and war”.’
* * *
Jean threw himself into a chair right next to Nicolas and rudely leaned across him to spear a sliver of Maroilles cheese, thereby releasing its pungent smell. Biting into it, he put his head to one side. ‘Mm, délicieux! I was just wondering what Dame de Sapincourt’s doing at this very moment. Whether she’s—’
‘Preparing a potion to relieve her husband’s megrim?’ suggested a female voice from behind them.
Nicolas’s chair made a loud scraping noise as he rose to his feet to greet Grace d’Ardres who’d arrived through a side door, accompanied by Gilles. A waft of violets assailed Nicolas’s nostrils, sweet and warm.
‘I think he’ll need several potions to relieve it,’ smiled Gilles.
Pleased he was no longer alone with the two errant Jack-a-napes, Nicolas shot Gilles a grateful look. Taking after his father in appearance, Tristan’s older brother possessed an Italian gaiety he’d obviously inherited from his mother, punctuating many of his sentences with a ready laugh. Turning back to Tristan and his friend, Nicolas was pleased to see a satisfying stain of scarlet on Jean’s cheeks. Making unseemly remarks about one of your hostess’s other guests was not the wisest course of action. Even though Nicolas knew Dame Grace to be exceptionally amiable, he couldn’t help wishing she wouldn’t accept the kiss the wastrel quickly planted on her hand, with quite such equanimity.
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