The House of the Red Duke
A Phoenix Rising, Book #1
LOVE & WAR AT THE CANDLELIT COURTS!
By Vivienne Brereton
Publication Date: July, 2019
Publisher: Yuletide Press
Page Length: 372 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
LOVE & WAR AT THE CANDLELIT COURTS!
Be dazzled by the dancing, drama and display in Tudor England, Stewart Scotland, Valois France, and The Habsburg Empire.
Heady places of power, intrigue and lovers’ trysts. 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.
Meet Thomas Howard. Soldier. Statesman. Courtier. Head of one of the most powerful families in England. 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, Thomas’s 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 is a keeper of secrets on both sides of 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.”
‘Demoiselle Cécile’s related to the Governor of Picardy by marriage. Through his Cornish wife.’
Related to Guy d’Ardres? <<Related to Tristan d’Ardres>> who just happened to be the Admiral’s godson. Nicolas knew he would be hard pushed to decide which of the two deserved his contempt more. However, as usual, the honour would have to go to Tristan. Even with all this Cécile’s other failings (apart from having a name, Cecily, so close to the French, he was able to pronounce it with ease), Nicolas couldn’t think of anything less appealing than an affiliation with Tristan. It was already bad enough she was from Cornwall, a place that was almost like a separate country from England. He was still smarting from the loss of one of his best ships, ‘Le Nicolas’, off the Cornish coast, this past Christmas Day. Even though the cargo had been worth half a king’s ransom, and to his great regret, his crew had probably all met their end in a watery grave, most of all he mourned the loss of the gold and ruby necklace, priceless in worth and sentiment, presumably now adorning the seabed far beneath the Celtic Sea.
“Sunk without trace,” he’d been informed, when first told of the fate of ‘Le Nicolas’.
<<Damned Cornish thieves!>> Notorious for their skills as pirates, they either captured their prey on the high seas, or weaved in and out of secret inlets in their vessels along the perilous, seventy-mile Cornish coastland. They worked in tandem with local smugglers, waiting to catch out an innocent ship with a false beacon shining its light onto the treacherous black rocks - instead of leading the vessel to the safety of harbour. Then they would pounce, stripping the ships of their entire cargo with the efficiency of a dog picking a bone clean. Nicolas had no idea what had happened to his ship but guessed that pirates and smugglers had far more to do with it than the ferocious December storm, mentioned in a cursory note that had arrived for him a couple of months later. At the time, he’d found it a little strange that Bonnivet, as Admiral of France, in charge of all things maritime, was never informed of such a major incident, or taken any interest in the loss of a French vessel in English waters.
“You win some games, you lose some,” was the only comment he’d made, while giving a shrug. “With your skill at chess, you should know that by now.” His amusement had been palpable. “It seems not even the patron saint of seafarers with whom you share your name was able to intercede on your behalf.” The Admiral had finished off with a remark so irksome Nicolas felt tempted to punch him: “I’ve heard there’s a prayer used on the southern coast of England that goes something like this: ‘Oh Lord, protect ships at sea from the storm…but if they have to run aground, please let it be on our shore.’”
* * *
Sitting up straighter in his chair, Nicolas started mulling things over in his mind. He’d been about to refuse point-blank to take on the Cornish girl when a different possibility presented itself. What sweet revenge on Tristan to have power over this cousin of his. His mind made up, he picked up a bright red cherry from the small Venetian glass bowl next to him and popped it into his mouth, thinking how apt this luscious fruit was associated with virginity, ripe to be plucked. He turned towards the Admiral in the manner of one who meant business. ‘I would expect to become a baron for my pains. And receive a sum of one hundred and fifty thousand livres tournoi, to be paid on the day of the wedding.’
The look on Bonnivet’s face was a picture of outrage, his pale cheeks flushing, and his eyes watering with emotion - as if in pain. ‘A baron! Wasn’t a seigneury enough? Or being chosen as a Chevalier of Saint-Michel. Or your most recent appointment as Master Falconer.’
<<So he still hasn’t forgiven me for the past>>
Nicolas knew for a fact that Bonnivet had stood in his way of receiving anything higher than a seigneury, convincing the King he’d already been more than generous. What pleasure then to keep the other man dangling for a little while longer, before tugging on the rope. ‘Unfortunately, honoured as I am to have received these titles, I fear my future bride will be less than impressed with a husband who is merely entitled to wear a crimson hood and a gold chain around his neck. After all, if I’m to be married to an Englishwoman who, according to you, will own most of Cornwall one day, for the sake of appearances - and French pride - I have to at least appear her equal. A lieutenancy and a seigneury won’t be enough.’
* * *
To his disgust, the Admiral’s face reflected his defeat. They both knew Nicolas had won again. But didn’t he always? This time would be no different. Although he felt tempted to ape Bonnivet’s taunting words about “losing some games” back to him, he resisted the urge.
Now the matter had been settled to his satisfaction, he reached out for his lute and began idly strumming - after he’d wearily sworn to keep the plan secret from the rest of the world until the day itself. He let the remainder of the Admiral’s drearily fulsome, obviously false description of his future bride, and details of the magnificent wedding feast, float over his head. Why would he give a fig that the chapel at the forthcoming ‘Field of Gold’ would be lit with candlesticks brought over from Westminster Abbey in London. Or that he and his bride would sip wine from gold chalices, also transported from the Abbey.
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Born between historic Winchester and Southampton in the UK, Vivienne has been passionate about the Tudors for as long as she 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 she called home did she finally settle down to finish her novel.
Words have always played an important part in her life, whether it's been writing, editing, teaching English, or just picking up a good book.
Having three sons came in very handy when she had to write about squabbles between the male characters in her novel. Not so handy when she took her 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 her. She hopes anyone reading it will enjoy the end result as much as she enjoyed writing it.
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