Book Review – ‘A Phoenix Rising’ by Vivienne Brereton


Thanks to Vivienne for sending me a copy of this book to read!

Thomas Howard. Head of a sprawling, hot-blooded, sensual brood. Soldier, courtier, politician, a man of great personal charisma. A phoenix rising from the ashes. Will Thomas’s ambitions be realised? Or will the phoenix come crashing down again? Every Howard, male and female, renowned for their good looks and charm, is born to dazzle at court. Luring admirers, even royal ones … like bees to sweet nectar. Equally, each member is expected to restore the family to the very pinnacle of achievement. April 1509. Seventeen-year-old Henry VIII inherits the throne of England. But who sits on the thrones of France and Scotland? Uneasy bedfellows at best. Intrigue and danger stalk the corridors of the royal courts of Europe. Secrets and lies are concealed behind the ancient walls of castles in three lands. [Description from Goodreads]

Series – House of the Red Duke #1

It took me a few chapters to get into this book, but once I did, I really enjoyed it. The descriptions of the characters were really engaging and gave me a very different perspective of people that I had quite set perceptions about, like the Howard family. I was also quite intrigued by Tristan and Nicholas, and their pasts as they were revealed throughout the story. The relationship between the two was interesting as well because they seemed so similar, but really didn’t get on, like people who are too different. It was an intriguing dynamic.

I sometimes struggle with books written from the point of view of several characters, as this one is, but this one worked quite well because it had to be told from the points of view of different characters because it is spread across several countries – England, France and Scotland. The juxtaposition of the three countries was very interesting as they all had people reacting to the same or similar events in different ways depending on where they were and what they believed. It makes for a very intriguing read, though the amount of characters does sometimes throw you.

The addition of Tudor recipes was a nice touch, and demonstrated that the writer had really done her research. From a brief discussion with Vivienne about the book, it seems she has tried the recipes herself at home so it’s not just a theoretical recipe either! There were also nods to primary sources with sections based around these.

For my own personal point of view I really enjoyed the tantalising glimpses of Anne and Mary Boleyn as young girls, and Thomas Boleyn really just starting out on his career, knowing how important the family will become. It was also an interesting perception of Edmund Howard, son of Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk, as he would become the father of Katherine Howard, Henry VIII’s ill-fated fifth wife. He doesn’t really get much page or screen time in fictional portrayals of the Tudors so it was nice just to get a small glimpse. I’m sure we’ll see more of him in later books as well.

I’m looking forward to reading the next in the series, so don’t wait too long, Vivienne!

Also published on my sister blog https://bookbloggerish.wordpress.com/

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Who’s Who of Tudor History


Katherine of Aragon by Lucas Hornebolte
Katherine of Aragon by Lucas Hornebolte

Aragon, Katherine of = First Queen to Henry VIII, marriage annulled 1533, died 1536.

Ashley, Kat = Governess and close friend to Elizabeth I from her childhood. Died 1565.

Aske, Robert = One of the leaders of the Pilgrimage of Grace in 1536. Executed 1537.

Beaufort, Margaret = Mother to Henry VII. Outlived her son and saw the accession of her grandson, Henry VIII.

Blount, Bessie = Henry VIII’s mistress, and the only one to give him an acknowledged illegitimate child – Henry Fitzroy.

Boleyn, Anne = Second Queen to Henry VIII, executed 1536 for adultery and incest.

Boleyn, George = Brother to Henry VIII’s second Queen. Accused of adultery and incest with his sister. Executed 1536.

Boleyn, Mary = Sister of Henry VIII’s second Queen. Mistress of Henry VIII. Died 1543.

Brandon, Charles  Duke of Suffolk and best friend to Henry VIII. Married Henry VIII’s sister, Mary. Died 1546. Continue reading “Who’s Who of Tudor History”

Spotlight: Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk


Name: Thomas Howard

Title/s: 3rd Duke of Norfolk / Earl of Surrey / Earl Marshal / Knight of the Garter

Birth / Death: 1473 – 25 August 1554

Spouse: Anne of York 1475-1511 / Elizabeth Stafford c.1497-1558

Children: Thomas Howard c.1496-1508 (by Anne of York) / Henry Howard Earl of Surrey c.1516-1547 / Mary Howard Duchess of Richmond 1519-1557 / Thomas Viscount Howard 1520-1582 / Muriel Howard (died young) / Katherine Howard ?-1530 (by Elizabeth Stafford)

Parents: Thomas Howard 2nd Duke of Norfolk 1443-1524 & Elizabeth Tilney c.1445-1497 Continue reading “Spotlight: Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk”

Discussion Questions – ‘Secrets of the Tudor Court’ by Darcey Bonnette


Darcey Bonnette's 'Secrets of the Tudor Court' (2011).
Darcey Bonnette’s ‘Secrets of the Tudor Court’ (2011).

This book focuses on the life of Mary Howard, who married Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond and Somerset, the illegitimate son of Henry VIII.

  1. Discuss how Mary’s character changes throughout the novel.

The main that Mary undergoes in the novel is her loss of innocence. At the beginning she truly believes in her father and in the king. The turning point in the relationship with her father is when she sees him beat her mother, and finds out about his relationship with Bess Holland. With the king, there are a lot of little things, but the major event is his actions against her cousin Anne Boleyn. Mary is still essentially innocent until her husband, Henry Fitzroy dies, and she realises that she has to become more forward and ruthless in order to live. Other events which contribute to her loss of innocence are her relationship with Cedric Dane, the executions of Katherine Howard and Henry Howard, and the actions of Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford. Mary’s perception of loyalty also changes, as she realises that loyalty to the king should come first and foremost in order to survive, and loyalty to your family should come after. The examples of Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard illustrate this. Self-preservation is also an important motivator for Mary, particularly in the case of the accusations against her brother and father. Her mother and Cedric Dane encourage this. Continue reading “Discussion Questions – ‘Secrets of the Tudor Court’ by Darcey Bonnette”

Photos from my visit to Framlingham Castle and St Michael’s Church!


Photos from my visit to Framlingham Castle and St Michael’s Church!

If you click on the above link you can see photos from my visit to Framlingham Castle, the seat of the Dukes of Norfolk, and also where Mary I gathered her forces to overthrow Jane Grey and the Duke of Northumberland in 1553.

There are also photos of St Michael’s Church, where the bodies of the 3rd Duke of Norfolk and his wife are buried, along with Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, and his wife, and the two wives of the 4th Duke of Norfolk. Also entombed there is Henry Fitzroy, the illegitimate son of Henry VIII.

Framlingham Castle, Suffolk.
Framlingham Castle, Suffolk.

The Fall of Thomas Cromwell 1540


Thomas Cromwell by Hans Holbein.
Thomas Cromwell by Hans Holbein.

So I’ve had several people saying that they want to read more about Thomas Cromwell. This is me obliging and trying to widen my field of knowledge (it can never hurt!), but bear in mind I don’t really know a lot about him, so you’re bound to disagree with things. Don’t be afraid to comment and pull me out on something! In this post, I intend to focus solely on his fall from power in 1540. (I apologise for the lack of page numbers for the Hutchinson text, but I’m using an e-book, so it doesn’t have page numbers).

Robert Hutchinson has written a biography of Thomas Cromwell, saying that his arrest was ‘as ruthless as it was sudden’.[i] Cromwell was only made Earl of Essex in April 1540 and at the beginning of June 1540 Henry VIII gave the command for his arrest. So, sudden, it definitely was. From this point of view, we can also see it as ruthless – how did Cromwell go in that short space of time from being Henry’s favourite minister and really high in royal favour, to being accused of undermining Henry’s intention for a religious settlement? Continue reading “The Fall of Thomas Cromwell 1540”