Friday 27 September 2019

Join me in conversation with #HistoricalFiction author, Vivienne Brereton #Tudors @VivienneBreret1

A conversation with Historical Fiction author, Vivienne Brereton

Please give a warm Coffee Pot welcome to historical fiction author, Vivienne Brereton. Vivienne’s debut novel — A Phoenix Rising (The House of the Red Duke,#1) is fabulous. I Highly Recommend you all check it out!

I am always curious as to what inspired authors to write their books. What was your inspiration behind A Phoenix Rising?

I have been an ardent fan of the Tudors since I was a small child and so the choice of time and subject was a natural follow-on from that. I also have a great love of Cornwall, Scotland (from a Scottish grandmother) and France, so all these things played a part.

My interest in the Howard family probably began with a fascination of Katherine Howard and her tragic story. Further reading of ‘A Tudor Tragedy’ by Lacey Baldwin Smith cemented this. I’ve read several different versions of her life. Poor Katherine. She didn’t really stand a chance: hardly more than a child in the crossfire of the cruel harsh world of Tudor politics. 

Katherine Howard: Portrait miniature by Hans Holbein the Younger.

Little by little, I began to get a picture of the Howard dynasty, and particularly of Thomas Howard, the head of the House of Howard and the central figure in my novel. Reading a biography of his life by Melvin Tucker and Robert Hutchinson’s excellent ‘House of Treason’ opened the door wide for an infinite number of possibilities. Discovering George Goodwin’s ‘Fatal Rivalry’ was a turning point and moved the action northwards to include the court of the incomparable James Stuart in Scotland. And so ‘The House of the Red Duke’ was born.

Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk.

The Howard family certainly played a very pivotal role in the days of the Tudors. What was it like researching this fascinating period of history?

I loved the research part, especially as it was totally different from when I was a history student at uni, under time and subject constraints. I had never visited the British library before which was a joy and a revelation. Of course, the Tudor period was an era I already knew well so the research part was more like the icing on the cake. I dealt with it as an exploration of all six senses and set out accordingly.

I visited art galleries, castles, manors, battlefields, both in England and France. Touched the fabric in costume museums. Cooked Tudor food myself to taste the flavour of the period (using my family as guinea pigs, depending on the dish). Continued to watch all the Tudor programmes and movies and re-watched old favourites like ‘Anne of a Thousand Days.’ I loved Jonathan Rhys Myers and Natalie Dormer as Henry and Anne in ‘The Tudors’. Capturing the glamour, the passion and ultimately fated tragic pairing. They totally nailed it. I love all perfume so deciding which scents to include was a pleasure. When they were younger, my three sons were dragged along to jousts which they loved and Tudor music events which they didn’t. One of them was being a bit naughty and got lost accidentally on purpose in the Hampton Court Maze. Not an experience for the faint-hearted, slightly claustrophobic parent.

I love researching too, it is one of my favourite parts about being a historical fiction author, and I hate to admit it, I once got lost in Hampton Court’s Maze as well — unfortunately, it was only two years ago! Mazes and me… No, not a good idea. But I digress... The Tudor era is really popular, and there are many books out there depicting it. What makes your book different?

There are many brilliant books about the Tudor period. The three things I think that set A Phoenix Rising apart are:

·     It’s not just about England but equally Scotland, France, and Habsburg Burgundy, not forgetting Cornwall, ‘the backdoor of rebellion’. The Valois Kings, Louis X11and Francois 1, plus the Stuart, James IV, are not the most well-known of kings which is a great pity. I hope I’ve done them justice.

·     A Phoenix Rising incorporates fact and fiction, told from several points of view. Some of it is deliberately in the first person while I felt other characters related better in the third person.

·     There are a few yummy authentic Tudor recipes to try.

As I have read your book, I know it is brilliant, and I loved the recipes! Before you go, could you tell my readers what you are currently working on?

I am currently working on the sequel, called ‘The Lizard lurking in the Grass’.  

I have a strong attachment to Cornwall (with a Cornish husband) and have chosen a short extract, featuring two of the main characters: Tristan (half-Cornish and half-French) and Cecily (half-Cornish and half-mermaid, according to her father). They have escaped from a tedious sermon in the chapel of Saint Michael’s Mount and have decided to go to a May Day Fair in Marazion, on the other side of the causeway. It is told from Cecily’s point of view.

   I could tell Tristan was as eager as me to go to the fair from the way we almost flew down the side of the Mount, along the well-trod Pilgrim’s Way, past the ancient well, once home to a giant named Cormoran, tricked into falling into its murky depths by little Jack, a local boy. Cormoran had been wreaking havoc in the villages across from the Mount, stealing livestock, and even babies and young children to appease his appetite. Jack came up with the idea of digging a pit during the hours of darkness. As the dawn broke and the sun appeared in the sky, the little boy called out to the giant who stumbled out of his cave into the blinding sunshine and fell headlong into the trap Jack had laid for him.

      With all my efforts centred on reaching the causeway below, I didn’t stop to show Tristan the heart of the giant, embedded in the cobbles of the winding path. In no time at all, we reached the causeway. What exhilaration I felt both to have escaped, and to be running barefoot with Tristan towards the mainland, my own and his laughter lost on the wind. In one hand, I held my red leather shoes, and in the other, the skirts of my matching kirtle of the best Flemish cloth, held up high in a most scandalous fashion. The mingled tang of salt and seaweed was as heady as any jasmine scent from the Far East, worn by a lady in her boudoir to seduce her sweetheart.

 ‘You can be Perkin Warbeck, and I’ll be Catherine Gordon!’ I yelled back as I sprinted ahead of my cousin, as sure-footed as a goat that has committed every stone to memory. ‘You can’t catch me!’ I panted into the wind.

I would like to finish off with a recipe from the May Day Fair: gingerbread as you’ve never tasted it before. Delicious.


250g clear honey
200g fresh white breadcrumbs
1teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 long pepper or 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  3 strands of saffron
  To decorate: Fresh box leaves, such as marjoram or bay leaves or basil. Whole cloves to keep the leaves in place.

1)   Slowly bring the honey to the boil in a saucepan.
2)   Turn the heat down very low and add the spices. Cook for a couple of minutes and then gradually add the breadcrumbs, stirring all the time.
3)   The mixture should be very stiff, if not, add a few more breadcrumbs.
4)   Turn out onto a board and roll it flat until about an inch thick.
5)   Line a shallow rectangular tin with greased paper and lay the mixture flat inside. Press it down with your fingers.
6)   Place it in the fridge for two hours.
7)   Turn the pan upside down and place the gingerbread on a plate.
8)   Cut it up to your own taste. Squares, hearts, diamonds. Roll some into balls if you so wish.
9)   Decorate the top by taking a whole clove and pressing it into two leaves of your choice.
10)    It stores well in a tin.
Two fifteenth century cookbooks 1425-1450.

Thank you so much for dropping by today and for the recipe. I will be sure to try it out!

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.”

The Coffee Pot Book Club
Highly Recommended
Read the full review HERE!


*Giveaway is now closed.

Vivienne Brereton is giving away one print copy of her fabulous new release

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

All you need to do is answer this question:

At the Battle of Bosworth, did the Howard family fight on the side of the White Rose of York or the Red Rose of Lancaster?

Giveaway Rules

• Leave your answer in the comments at the bottom of this post.

• Giveaway ends at 11:59pm BST on October 2nd.
You must be 18 or older to enter.
• Giveaway is only open Internationally.
•Only one entry per household.
• All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
•Winners will be announced in the comments.
• Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

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: Website • Blog • Goodreads


  1. Such an interesting post, Vivienne. I love the recipe. I often make gingerbread, but would love to try out this recipe. I would also like to win a copy of your book. I am pretty sure the Howard's fought on the side of King Richard. So they were for York.

  2. Giveaway is now closed! C.Button you have won a copy of A Phoenix Rising (The House of the Red Duke, #1). Congratulations! Please send my your address details to


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Take Care,
Mary Anne xxx