Roses Have Thorns – A Novel of Elizabeth I – Sandra Byrd

Roses Have Thorns: A Novel of Elizabeth I (Ladies in Waiting #3)Roses Have Thorns: A Novel of Elizabeth I by Sandra Byrd

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

(Reviewer’s note – I am an independent writer.  I am also a freelance reviewer, listed with Howard Books, a division of Simon & Schuster.  I choose the books that I wish to read, the opinions expressed are my own and my review is based solely on the merits of the book.  Other than a free copy of the book, I receive no compensation from the publisher or the author.  My reviews are posted on the GoodReads website, Amazon and my personal blogs.  The following is my review of Sandra Byrd’s ROSES HAVE THORNS, generously given to me by the author.  Thank you – vmls)


Roses Have Thorns is the third in Sandra Byrd’s Tudor series novels.  As with The Secret Keeper, the first of Sandra’s novels I was privileged to read, Roses Have Thorns captivated me from the very first page with Sandra’s rich prose and evocative narrative style, weaving a brilliant tale with unforgettable characters amidst the peace and the turmoil of mid-16th century England.

With a heroine one can’t help but love and admire and as much deceit, infidelity, murder, treason, intrigue, romance… set during the reign of Elizabeth I, the virgin queen of England… one could put into 300 pages, “page-turner” and “I could not put this book down!” are phrases that immediately spring to mind with Roses Have Thorns.

On the eve of leaving for England, Elin, ladies maid to Princess Cecelia of the court of Sweden’s King Erik, discovers two things… two most disturbing things.  One…Phillip, Elin’s fiancé, and her sister, have become romantically entangled… to put it mildly… and, two… Elin’s dowry has been gambled away.  Her departure from Sweden is thus bittersweet.   Elin’s heart is torn from the deceit and betrayal of those nearest her, but her regret at leaving home when her future is suddenly uncertain is tempered with the prospect of finally journeying to England, and all that it promises.  Little does young Elin know just how long, or how much, her journey will encompass.

After an arduous ten months of travel and travail, Princess Cecelia’s ship finally arrives in England, where new adventures await the princess and her entourage.  For Elin, the coming days are also a time for some hard decisions to be made.  Circumstances back home have left her an uncertain future and Elin, through chance or divine design, soon realizes that her future, though it be without her own mother, is in England.

Elin, having ‘anglicized’ her name and now Lady Helena, joins the court of Queen Elizabeth and…

I should stop here before I tell away too much.

In Roses Have Thorns, Sandra brings the reader a richly imaginative story of Tudor England during Elizabeth I’s reign, told through the eyes of one of the Queen’s most trusted ladies.  The author’s carefully crafted narrative will thrill fans of historical fiction with its attention to detail and history of the period.  History class in school was never this much fun to read!  Evocative and at times suspenseful, Sandra weaves an indelible tale, the fabric of which is rich with romance and intrigue, compassion and adventure, tumult and peace, betrayal and faith.

The story’s protagonist, 17 year-old Elin, is ‘transformed’ through marriage to William Parr, into the second-highest-ranking woman in England at the time, Lady Helena Von Snakenborg, Marchioness of Northampton, and one of Elizabeth’s most trusted confidants.   It would be no understatement to say that Helena controlled access to the queen; she was indeed a powerful figure in the court of Queen Elizabeth I, finding herself, at times, neck deep in royal intrigue.

Over the course of the next forty-plus years Helena serves her queen, at times making tremendous sacrifices – she was married twice and bore her second husband eight children – to serve her adopted queen and country.

It is here that Sandra really excels in the telling of Roses Have Thorns, giving the reader not only Helena’s view of events which transpired during Elizabeth’s reign, but also a view of the inner workings of the queen’s chamber, making the reader privy to many private conversations between lady and queen and leaving little doubt that Helena was a favorite of Elizabeth’s and much loved by the queen.

What makes Roses Have Thorns even more compelling, for fans of fiction and of Tudor history alike, is that Helena Von Snakenborg was a real lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth.    It is quite exciting to have Helena’s point-of-view presented in this re-telling of the life of Elizabeth I and I can’t think of a more authoritative author on the subject of Tudor history than Sandra Byrd, to tell the story.

A storyteller who mesmerizes from the very beginning, drawing the reader in with her narrative… a richly woven tapestry of character and place… and a pacing that is both emotive and suspenseful, Sandra shows a mastery of the craft that few others of the genre can touch.

Roses Have Thorns is a ‘must-read’ for all… not just for fans of historical fiction.  I recommend this book without reservation.  I enjoyed the story immensely and while it is difficult to pick out a favorite passage, if pushed to it, I would have to say that the incident with the bee would be in a very close tie.  This scene tells so much in such a small amount of words… it is a testament to the author’s skill.

I will close with this ‘caution’… you will want to have a box of tissues near to hand, especially at the closing pages.

Thank you.

Veronica Marie Lewis-Shaw
10 June 2013
(Writing under a large mushroom, somewhere in the Pacific Northwest)
View all my reviews


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