Saturday, April 20, 2013

Roses Have Thorns: A Novel of Elizabeth I by Sandra Byrd, ©2013

What happens when serving a queen may cost you your marriage—or your life?
Helena von Snakenborg

In 1565, seventeen-year-old Elin von Snakenborg leaves Sweden on a treacherous journey to England. Her fiancé has fallen in love with her sister and her dowry money has been gambled away, but ahead of her lies an adventure that will take her to the dizzying heights of Tudor power. Transformed through marriage into Helena, the Marchioness of Northampton, she becomes the highest-ranking woman in Elizabeth’s circle.

But in a court that is surrounded by Catholic enemies who plot the queen’s downfall, Helena is forced to choose between her unyielding monarch and the husband she’s not sure she can trust—a choice that will provoke catastrophic consequences.

roses have thorns
Mary, Queen of Scots

A rich, tautly woven tale of love, deception, and grace, Roses Have Thorns vividly conjures the years leading up to the beheading of Mary Queen of Scots and is a brilliant exploration of treason, both to the realm and to the heart.

Roses have thorns, and silver fountains mud,
Clouds and eclipses stain both moon and sun,
And loathsome canker lives in sweetest bud.
                       —"Sonnet 35," William Shakespeare

November: Year of Our Lord 1564
   Tre Kronor, Stockholm, Sweden

Winter, Spring, and Summer: Year of Our Lord 1565
   At Sea and Over Land

Elin Ulfsdotter ~ Lady Elin von Snakenborg of noble heritage ~ leaves Stockholm as one of the ladies in waiting of Princess Cecelia on their way to England. The seemingly one month sea and land voyage takes ten months.
The ship wound its way through the fjords and into the open ocean. What should have been a journey of perhaps one unpleasant month turned into a nightmare of nearly ten. There was no ill weather that did not bedevil us, from ice storm to windy squall that threatened to scupper the ship nearly every week. The seas churned, gray trimmed with foamy white ribbons like an old man's beard, and most days we kept in our cabins.
   --Roses Have Thorns, 10
Elizabeth I  Queen of England
Elin accepts becoming a maid of honor to Queen Elizabeth I while she is waiting to wed, as the others prepare to return to Sweden. At their departure, Princess Cecelia discloses there is a complication. Elin's intended is legally married to another. Elin changes her name to Helena now that she has chosen to become an Englishwoman. She is dedicated to the queen's service and faithfully serves, bringing her Swedish skills of soothing herbal preparations for relaxation for the Queen. The story is told through her point of view.

With the lack of an heir, the political scene is uncertain. The queen needed a successor and an heir. With enemies plotting the queen's downfall, country backing was so important to eradicate uprisings. Queen Elizabeth I was betrothed to her countrymen and visited sections frequently for the people to be aware of her interest of them.
How readily one may be raised in this realm and how quickly the ennobled may fall.
   --Ibid., 111
Uncertain of whom to trust in and out of the English court, surveillance becomes steeper.
I had arrived on these shores nearly nine years earlier. I’d thought that William had brought me from girl to woman, but that night I had truly reached maturity. I had prayed for the queen, against her enemies in Spain and in France. But I understood for the first time, then, that the enemies with the greatest potential to harm were the ones closest at hand and to heart.
   --Helena, Marchioness of Northampton, Ibid., 129
I liked the depth of research for this novel, which may be read as a stand-alone if you have not read the first two books in the series. Also to be noted are the Family Trees that show the lineage. Roses Have Thorns revealed how much control the queen had over her court, bestowing or withholding honor in their personal decisions during this Tudor era.

Book Details:
Roses Have Thorns:
A Novel of Elizabeth I
Ladies in Waiting, Book 3
Author: Sandra Byrd
Howard Books
336 pages
ISBN 9781439183168
April 2013
Sandra Byrd
Photograph © Studio B Portraits
Sandra Byrd has published more than three dozen books in the fiction and nonfiction markets, including the first two books in her Tudor series, To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn and The Secret Keeper: A Novel of Kateryn Parr. For more than a decade Sandra has shared her secrets with the many new writers she edits, mentors, and coaches. She lives in the Seattle, Washington, area with her husband and two children. For more Tudor tidbits, please visit

Ladies In Waiting series
 ~ A rich alchemy of fact and fiction, the Ladies in Waiting series chronicles the glittering court lives of three Tudor Queens and the women chosen to be their closest friends and companions. Each book envelopes the reader in sweeping romance, heartwarming and heartbreaking circumstances, and heroines who choose lives worth risking all for.

To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn
Ladies in Waiting, Book 1
     The Secret Keeper: A Novel of Kateryn Parr
     Ladies in Waiting, Book 2
          Roses Have Thorns: A Novel of Elizabeth I
          Ladies in Waiting, Book 3

***Thank you to CFBA ~ Christian Fiction Blog Alliance ~ for sending me a copy of Roses Have Thorns: A Novel of Elizabeth I by Sandra Byrd to read and review on this blog tour. No other compensation was received.***


  1. Thank you so very much for this rich review, and montage, of the book and the Ladies in Waiting series. I truly appreciate it ... and you!

    1. Thank you. Wanting to write a review and not a synopsis, readers are going to be surprised at all the turns and twists that were hidden from view but not from hearts. The depth of what they experienced to serve in and without to spare a country from turmoil.

  2. Loved all the quotes from the book and seeing the picture of Helena. I always enjoy seeing these portraits of Tudor era characters. This is an absolutely amazing series (is my Tudor fangirl showing?) and I'm sad to see it ending. Sandra's done an amazing job though!

    1. Hi Liz, Thanks for your comment; yes, I agree! That's why I specifically like Historicals! These people really lived. Another novel I liked was