Book Review: Beware the Lurking Lizard (The House of the Red Duke, Book 2) by Vivienne Brereton
Publication Date: 28th February 2021
Publisher: Yuletide Press
Page Length: 302 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
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 day a Howard gives up will be the one when England ceases to exist...
But Thomas Howard would do well to remember that Dame Fortune was a fickle mistress, and what she gave today she could just so easily take away tomorrow…
With a historian’s insight and an author’s understanding of what makes history worth reading, Vivienne Brereton has presented her readers with an utterly enthralling story about the House of Howard in the reign of Henry VIII. In her fabulous new release, Beware the Lurking Lizard (The House of the Red Duke, Book 2) Brereton has captured the very essence of the era. Through the eyes of the Howard family, we bear witness to the events that led up to Henry VIII’s “Holy War” with France.
There is a timelessness to Brereton’s writing. Reading this novel was effortless, and the hours slipped by unnoticed as I lost myself within the pages of this remarkable book. Brereton’s passion for this era, and her recognition of what drove the Howard family ever onwards, as well as her understanding of human nature and how easily it can become corrupted, shines through in every sentence. This kind of novel makes fans of quality Historical Fiction set in the Tudor era awfully excited.
Money and the continuing lust for power are the driving force behind the narrative of this novel. As before in Book 1, much of the story of Beware the Lizard Lurking is told through the eyes of Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk. Thomas was a character that I enjoyed reading about in Book 1, but he tried my patience in this novel. My initial fondness for this extraordinary man who had lived under the reign of six monarchs was tested. His ambition, his pride, and his desperate, one might say fanatical, desire that the House of Howards would survive and prosper to the end of time made for some unsettling reading, especially when Brereton depicts the lengths he was willing to go to if it meant achieving his aims.
Despite his age, despite the physical disabilities that come with his advancing years, Thomas is determined to always be in the thick of the action and, more importantly, have the ear of the king. His realisation that the upstart, the Snake, Thomas Wolsey has become one of Henry’s most trusted advisers leaves an exceedingly bitter taste in his mouth and one he cannot seem to get rid of.
Thomas’ relationship with Wolsey was fascinating. Thomas has made Wolsey his enemy, his arch-enemy, and he is determined to dislike the man because of his position in court. But in his time of need, Wolsey is the one that comes to his aid, that drops everything to be with a man who is grieving the loss of his child. I felt for Wolsey during this book. He is a pawn, and a sometimes extremely unwilling one at that, for Henry’s over jubilant immature jests at Wolsey's expense to annoy Thomas. I thought Wolsey’s depiction was fabulous. He is an intelligent but extremely considerate man, who I liked very much. I am looking forward to reading more about his journey to power and then ultimate ruin in the following books in this series.
I could not help but weep for Elizabeth Stafford, and again this made me rethink my feelings for Thomas. Elizabeth “Lizzie” is all set to marry the man she loves, Ralph Neville. But the Howards, having learnt of this, are determined to put a stop to the wedding. The Howards’ ruthless and uncompromising desire to hold on to their power and increase their wealth turned my stomach. Like a condemned woman taking the final steps to the gallows, Lizzie is forced to marry Thomas’ son, who is also named Thomas. There is a viciousness, a cruelty in how this marriage came about, and it was an utterly heartrending scene to read. There are also echoes of the barbarity that Lizzie would be forced to endure in her marriage. Although there are some tragic losses in this novel, this forced marriage upset me the most. This desperate scene will stay with me for a long time. And Thomas, the elder, knowing what would become of Lizzie, for he knew his son well, might well have been moved to pity if it were not for the fact that such matters were no concern of his—and that attitude made me feel physically sick. It is fair to say, as Hartley noted, that *the past is a foreign country, but...this period’s sad reality demonstrates that women had few rights, and it really made me feel for all those women, and men also, who had been forced to wed, not for love, but because of duty and money.
There is an undercurrent of an upcoming war throughout this novel. Henry’s desperate desire, jovial excitement, and hellbent determination to pursue a costly campaign across the Narrow Sea demonstrates the recklessness that Henry approached his kingship. It also showed Thomas’ desire to stay in that inner circle that surrounded the king.
With careful use of foreshadowing, Brereton has hinted at events yet to come. Anne Bullen’s off-the-cuff announcement that she has no desire to grow old, and the innocent comments from Mary Bullen that she would never be in the position to upset the king, whereas Anne’s temper often got the better of her and would be more likely too, made for some chilling reading—especially as both sisters were young and innocent. This, I think, is one of the most significant challenges of reading Historical Fiction—you already know how it is going to end and, of course, as in this book, the story is based on historical people and events.
As I did with Book 1, I thought Brereton was incredibly ambitious to tell the Howard family’s story and the upcoming war from all sides. Despite the extensive cast list at the beginning of this novel, if you know nothing about this era, I fear you would find it challenging to keep up with who everyone was and what parts they had to play in this game of kingships and thrones. However, if you are fascinated by this era, this novel gives you a depth and an understanding of how relationships between the nations were plagued with difficulties, life-changing decisions and wavering loyalties.
Brereton has given her readers a tautly gripping tale, and has breathed life into historical figures that have been dead for hundreds of years, and that is something that I cannot help but admire.
Beware the Lurking Lizard (The House of the Red Duke, Book 2) by Vivienne Brereton is a work of extraordinary scholarship. It is certainly deserving of a place on your bookshelf.
I Highly Recommend.
Review by Mary Anne Yarde.
The Coffee Pot Book Club
*Hartley L.P: The Go-Between, Penguin Classics, 2004.
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.