Wednesday 31 July 2019

#BookReview — A Phoenix Rising (The House of the Red Duke, #1) by Vivienne Brereton #HistoricalFiction #Tudors

A Phoenix Rising
(The House of the Red Duke, #1)
By Vivienne Brereton

“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.”

“Red Duke...a Field of Red. A future generation of Howards on the throne of England. Me in charge of a country. And now a Field of Gold.”

Thomas Howard should have paid more attention to what the old witch, Mairghread, had foreseen all those years ago. But her words had seemed so far-fetched. So implausible. And yet, everything she predicted is coming true.

Thomas has lived through the reign of six kings — he has served four of them. He was an old man now, older than most. Nearing full four scores was an achievement in this troubled time. And yet, the young King Henry has entrusted him to look after his kingdom while he travels to France to strengthen the friendship between himself and Francis I at the Camp du Drap d’Or — Field of the Cloth of Gold.

Thomas had vowed long ago that he would restore the Howard’s fortunes, and he has. But Dame Fortune is a fickle mistress. Thomas knows that the Wheel of Fortune could bring you unimaginable wealth and power. But with a single turn, you could find yourself in a cell in the Tower of London. However, such things did not deter him. Thomas was determined that The House of Howard would become the most prominent and influential Houses in England second only to The House of Tudor.

From the rugged Cornish Coast, the comfort of Stirling Castle, the delight of Ardres Castle, and the splendour of Thomas Wolsey's Hampton Court Palace, A Phoenix Rising (The House of the Red Duke, #1) by Vivienne Brereton is the sweeping saga of four rival European courts and the people who helped to shape them.

For a debut novel, A Phoenix Rising (The House of the Red Duke, #1), is an absolute triumph and one Vivienne Brereton has the right to be justly proud of. Not only does Brereton write with incredible energy and imagination, while staying true to the documented history, she also has a keen eye for what is entertaining. Kudos, Ms Brereton.

Brereton deserves the highest of praise for her mesmerising narrative and her authentic historical detailing. Penned in the first person, Brereton has explored over twenty years of British and European history. It is a tale told for the most part from the perspective of Thomas Howard — 2nd Duke of Norfolk. Brereton lets her readers glimpse into a world that is filled with danger and intrigue. But it is also a story of personal triumph, as well as desperate and unforgettable heartbreak. A Phoenix Rising (The House of the Red Duke, #1) is a novel that is next to impossible to put down. It is also one that is going to be very difficult to forget.

A Phoenix Rising is a historical fiction lover’s delight. They are all here, within the pages of this remarkable book — The House of Tudor, The House of Stewart, The House of Habsburg, The House of Valois, The House of Stafford, The House of Bullens (Boleyn), and of course The House of Howard. And like chess pieces upon a board, they all must play their part. Titles and wealth are theirs for the taking for those who are of course brave enough to reach for it.

There is a huge cast of characters in this book, and although I would say I know this period of history reasonably well, I did fear that I was going to have trouble keeping up with who was who. There are a few time-slips as well, so this is a novel that demands your complete attention. Saying that however, there is a rhythm to this story, an almost musical quality, that is incredibly hypnotic. The characters are so distinctive that my fears were soon laid to rest. Before I knew it, I found myself completely immersed in this wonderful world that Brereton has penned.

I adored Brereton's characterisation of Thomas Howard. He is this wily old soldier come diplomat who knows only too well how to play this medieval game of thrones. I certainly enjoyed his attempts to outwit Thomas Wolsey — or the Snake, as Thomas calls him in this book! The scenes with Wolsey are certainly memorable, as is Thomas realisation that he and Wolsey have more in common than either would care to admit!

As I have stated, it is not just Thomas Howard’s life we glimpse. Brereton has been incredibly ambitious and told her story from several perspectives, and because it spans two decades, some of the narratives are told through the eyes of children. These children grow up within the pages of this book. As a reader, we get to watch them mature. By doing this, we can have a seemingly intimate knowledge of why they turned out as this did. I thought this worked incredibly well. I particularly enjoyed reading Nicolas story, as well as his rival and "brother" Tristan.

I cannot praise this book enough. It was absolute fabulous. If you are looking for your next Tudor fix then check out A Phoenix Rising (The House of the Red Duke, #1) by Vivienne Brereton.

I Highly Recommend.

Review by Mary Anne Yarde.
The Coffee Pot Book Club.

Pick up your copy of
A Phoenix Rising

Vivienne Brereton

I’ve always loved the Tudor period, from a very early age, have a degree in medieval history. I’ve lived in six different countries in my life and soaked up the history in each one. I now live in France which made writing about three different countries and cultures easier for me. I’ve always worked with words wherever I’ve lived: teaching, editing, writing. 

I’m married with three sons so plenty of scope for Nicolas and Tristan! Anne Boleyn was the only character I found slightly elusive. All the others were so vivid, I had no problem getting into their heads. Of the kings, James was my favourite and after all my reading I hope I did him justice. All were brilliant men. Renaissance men, so cultured. What would they make of ours today? Harry could easily pass for Henry’s naughty little brother. Not sure Charles would make the grade. 

Connect with Vivienne: WebsiteBlogGoodreads

1 comment:

  1. A Phoenix Rising sounds like a fabulous read, Vivienne, it will be going on my TBR list.


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Take Care,
Mary Anne xxx