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Beware the Lizard Lurking

Author Vivienne Brereton brings the Tudor era to glorious life

When I read Vivienne Brereton’s book The House of the Red Duke: A Phoenix Rising, I was captivated by her gift for bringing the past to vivid life. Tudor intrigue, romance, and court power struggles leapt off the page, and I was swept away by her mouthwatering descriptions of elaborate feasts (including medieval recipes!). She authentically conveyed the sounds, sights, scents, tastes, and textures of a bygone world, and her story completely transported me.

Needless to say, I’ve been eager for the release of Book 2 in Brereton’s series, Beware the Lizard Lurking, and with it a most welcome second helping of Brereton’s splendid world-building. Here with me for a chat today is Vivienne Brereton with the story behind the series. Vivienne, welcome!

VB: Hello, Amy. Thank you so much for inviting me onto your blog today to talk about my new book.

AM: What’s the tagline or ‘elevator pitch’ for your book?

VB: Love and war in the candlelit courts.

AM: How did you come up with the idea for your book?

VB: Beware the Lizard Lurking is the second book in the series ‘The House of the Red Duke’. It may be read as a stand-alone book and is a continuation of the journey of several characters: Thomas Howard, the head of one of the most important families in Tudor England; the young Henry VIII; his brother-in-law, James IV of Scotland; and the four fictional characters: Tristan, Nicolas, Valentine and Cecily whose lives are intertwined like the stitches of a tapestry.

Thomas Howard

AM: What inspired you to write about that particular era or characters?

VB: It’s set against the background of four European courts in the early sixteenth century. Ever since a child, I’ve been pretty obsessed with the Tudors but now my research includes Tudor Cornwall and Stewart Scotland. And across the Narrow Sea: Valois France and the Habsburg Burgundian court.

Mont St. Michel in France

AM: How did you create a realistic setting for your story?

Hever Castle in the UK

VB: I like to see my work of a feast of all the senses, even sometimes the sixth! That means for the visual: trips to art galleries, stately homes and gardens, watching TV shows and movies. And of course lots of reading, sometimes using primary sources. For hearing: music from the period. One example is listening to the Boar’s Head carol and imagining my characters sitting around the Christmas table. For touch, the feel of fabric on a Tudor dress or running my fingers down a post of a four-poster bed in Hever Castle. That’s enough to send shivers down your spine. Taste: In Book One I included several recipes and, much to the delight (or horror) or my family, had a dedicated Tudor month. I liked all the recipes except perhaps the Cameline Sauce which was breadcrumbs soaked in red wine. Thick Pea Pottage is perfect for a chilly evening meal. Smell: obviously the delicious smells coming out of my kitchen when I made the gingerbread eaten by two of my characters, Tristan and Cecily. The fragrance of plants and flowers is important too. I so enjoy using every little detail to evoke the era. As for the sixth, well a reader will just have to discover that for themselves.

AM: What surprised you in the course of your research?

VB: I think it was being able to use snippets from original letters and speech. That gave me such a thrill as normally I’m putting words into the mouths of characters.

AM: Do your research findings guide the plot, or do you plan out the plot first and flesh it out with research? (Or perhaps both?) 

VB: Definitely a bit of both. I do my reading and leave it to my imagination to fill the gaps. In general, I try to get as near to historical accuracy as I can as why make it up when the actual history is so extraordinary.

AM: What is your usual writing routine?

VB: I don’t have a particular time of day I can write so it can be morning, noon or very late into the night. When I write a chapter, it’s quite all-consuming until I’m satisfied with it.

 AM: Do you have any tips for other writers about historical fiction research?

VB: Hmm. That’s quite a hard one as I think we’re all so different. Some writers want a very light touch of historical background as anything else is not suitable for their genre. I think start with one major book from the period, and using their bibliography, dip your toe into others that will be useful. The power of the internet must never be underestimated. I am still in great awe as to how Anya Seton, author of ‘Katherine’ and possibly my favorite historical novel, ‘Green Darkness’ managed to pull it off all the way back in the 1950s.

AM: Do you prefer to write in silence or with background music? If music, what kind and why?

VB: I’d like to be able to write ‘music from the period’ but the truth is as near to absolute silence as I can get. A few birds singing or cats fighting are the only distractions I can put up with. Wish I was someone like Stephenie Meyer who wrote with an entire playlist at her fingertips. Sigh.

AM: What do you have planned for your next writing project?

VB: Books Three and Four. I already have the titles for them and some of the plot too.

AM: What do you enjoy doing when you’re not writing?

VB: Walking in nature, listening to all the music I can’t when writing, swimming, reading, hanging out with friends and family.

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?

Buy Beware the Lizard Lurking on Amazon:

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About the Author:

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.

Connect with Vivienne:

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  1. Mary Anne Yarde says:

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

    1. Amy Maroney says:

      It was my pleasure, Mary Anne!

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