Blog Tour: Beware the Lizard Lurking

Welcome to the candlelit courts of Europe!

 

Uninvited guests at a secret wedding.

 

A frozen River Thames.

 

May Day celebrations to remember.

 

The young Henry VIII, with the aid of his chief advisor, Thomas Wolsey, and against the counsel of Thomas Howard, the Earl of Surrey, is hellbent on a so-called holy war with France. This puts him at odds with his Scottish brother-in-law, James IV of Scotland, and his older sister, Margaret.

 

Both Tristan and Nicolas know that time is running out for them before they have to…enter the Church – and into an arranged marriage, respectively. In the meantime, they remain at loggerheads over pretty Ysabeau de Sapincourt, the spoilt young wife of the hapless Robert.

 

At La Colombe, near Ardres, in Picardy, spirited little Valentine is still making mischief as she sees fit.

 

Across the Narrow Sea, Cecily is perfectly content in her beloved Zennor Castle, in Cornwall.

 

None of them know what Dame Fortune has in store for them. Will she allow them to follow their own paths…or has she got other ideas?

 

The following passage opens Beware the Lizard Lurking.

 

Twelfth Night, 1513. Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey has got wind of a secret plot to marry off the daughter of the Duke of Buckingham, Henry’s VIII’s wealthiest subject and the only duke in England. This cannot be tolerated as the widowed Thomas Howard the Younger (a man of almost forty) is determined to have fifteen-year-old Lizzie Stafford for his bride, and not let her go to Ralph Neville, a boy of fourteen and her true sweetheart. Leaving behind the King’s Christmas court, the old Earl and his three sons make haste to the furthermost corner of England. Thomas picks up the tale.…

 

 

The same evening.

 

Saint Michael’s Mount, Cornwall.

 

<<I’ve always believed in making a grand entrance. And I’ve made plenty of them in my time. On the battlefield, at court,in manor and at mass, at hearth and in harbourin the bedchamber. Even the six chimes of the clock I can hear outside indicate wholehearted approval of our arrival. My time as a commander in battle has taught me that in order to defeat the enemy, a surprise attack is the best way to go about it. Catching someone unawares always gives you the advantage. Somewhere in the sea of faces in front of me is Edward Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, wealthy enough to turn the King of England’s face pea-green with envy. Will he be in the mood to parley or to fight? As we reach one quarter of the length of the candlelit great hall, I make a small motion with my hand for my three sons to halt. I need time to put the almighty fear of God into my audience. Before bringing them to their knees>>

 

It gave me great satisfaction to witness the scene before me: a jumbled, sprawling tableau of utter dismay if ever I saw one. Every man, woman and child turned to stone, caught in some act or other. Not a word spoken – certainly not one of welcome. My white-faced granddaughter, Mary, still had her mouth agape, the sweet notes of her unfinished song left hanging in the air. I noted a lute that had tumbled to the floor, sliding through guilty fingers, a thin sheet of music resting atop to keep it company, like a woman shielding her lover from a jealous husband, or an archer clumsily dropping his last remaining arrow. One man had a cup of wine suspended in mid-air betwixt hand and lips, and was staring at us as if the ghosts of all his ancestors had just slipped through the door. He would discover soon enough that we were flesh and blood. More than that, we were Howards. To my left, I could hear Thomas’s breathing coming fast and heavy; no doubt he was scouring the room for his stolen prey, intent upon ensuring she hadn’t been snatched from him forever by the Neville pup. On my immediate right, next to Edmund, Edward was very still, no sound coming from him at all. I guessed the place was bringing back memories of that girl who’d once lived over at the castle in Zennor.

 

*

It was certainly stirring memories for me. All of a sudden, I was twenty-nine again. Newly married and in love.

 

<<Only not with my wife>>

 

I’d bedded Lizzie Tilney with the due diligence of any bridegroom who wants to put a son and heir in his cradle as soon as possible. Now it was time for pleasure. The warmth of that summer of ’72 came flooding back to me: the scent of Damask roses filling my nostrils, a pair of sapphire blue eyes fixed on me, tempting me and taunting me in equal measure, followed by full red lips teasingly joined to mine. I could almost hear the wild laughter of Matilda Pendeen (or de Lacey, as she’d been when I first met her, the name I gave her ever after). I could certainly hear her outrageous taunts, encouraging me to behave with reckless abandon, knowing full well she was a woman who now belonged to another. “Little temptress”, I’d breathed when I pressed her up hard against a stone wall and lifted her velvet skirts to seek what she so willingly offered.

Little witch, you mean”, she replied, one delicate eyebrow raised in mockery as she ran her fingers through my hair. I had no doubt she came from a long line of beautiful witches, with the ability to rob a man of his very soul if they so wished.

<<How could any woman ever compare to her?>> It was akin to arguing that a cheap red wine burning your throat and producing a coughing fit, was equal to one of the King’s finest Malmsey wines, shipped all the way from the Kingdom of Candia. She and I had certainly visited this place where I was now standing: a few lost August days when all the monks were absent – save a half-blind old brother, almost too frail to leave his chamber, let alone the Mount. I’d offered my services, assuring the Archpriest at the time that I’d willingly care for both the failing monk and the Mount in his absence. It was not such a bad idea. Only a year later, the Yorkist king, Edward, had to send an army to defeat John de Vere, the Lancastrian Earl of Oxford, who’d captured the Mount.

 

I’ll take a few good men with me,” I told the Archpriest.

 

But, of course, I only took one person.

Matilda.

 

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Vivienne Brereton

 

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 very much hopes that anyone reading ‘Beware the Lizard Lurking’, the second book in the series, will enjoy the end result as much as she enjoyed writing it.

 

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Comments (2)

  1. Mary Anne Yarde February 18, 2021 at 10:03 am

    Thank you so much for hosting today’s blog tour stop!

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