Roses Have Thorns: A Novel of Elizabeth I

( 12 )

Overview

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...

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Roses Have Thorns: A Novel of Elizabeth I

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Overview

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.

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.

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Editorial Reviews

USA Today's Happy Ever After - Serena Chase
"Scandalous gossip! Court intrigue! Forbidden romance! Roses Have Thorns is addictive reading—a guilty pleasure that will transport your heart to the edge of despair and, with a sigh, to the renewal of hope."
Karen Harper
"In Roses Have Thorns Sandra Byrd has given the reader another amazing heroine to tell the intimate story of England's greatest queen, Elizabeth I. What a unique point of view and deeply moving story Helena von Snakenborg provides. Byrd is especially adept at blending political and private lives. This is a timeless women's friendship novel as well as a poignant love story to cherish—both the roses and the thorns."
Barbara Kyle
"There is something golden about this tale of Elin, an eager young woman in a strange land, diligent in her duty but alive to love. A tale gracefully told, even as it renders the terrors of treachery that form the crucible of Elin's hard-won wisdom. A heartfelt story of loyalty, longing, life-long friendship, and the many seasons of the heart."
D.L. Bogdan
"Beautiful prose and masterful research combine to bring this fascinating tale to life, treating the reader to fully realized characters and providing an original window in which we can view Elizabeth's court. Ms. Byrd's work will stand as an unforgettable contribution to Tudor fiction."
Historical Novel Society
"The book spans nearly 24 years, and readers will be very caught up as the story unfolds and they see some of the familiar players of Elizabeth’s court through the eyes of a gentle and affectionate friend to the Queen. With this well written novel, rich in history and everyday court life during the Elizabethan period, I can now count Sandra Byrd as one of my favorite writers of historical fiction."
From the Publisher
"In Roses Have Thorns Sandra Byrd has given the reader another amazing heroine to tell the intimate story of England's greatest queen, Elizabeth I. What a unique point of view and deeply moving story Helena von Snakenborg provides. Byrd is especially adept at blending political and private lives. This is a timeless women's friendship novel as well as a poignant love story to cherish—both the roses and the thorns."

"There is something golden about this tale of Elin, an eager young woman in a strange land, diligent in her duty but alive to love. A tale gracefully told, even as it renders the terrors of treachery that form the crucible of Elin's hard-won wisdom. A heartfelt story of loyalty, longing, life-long friendship, and the many seasons of the heart."

"Beautiful prose and masterful research combine to bring this fascinating tale to life, treating the reader to fully realized characters and providing an original window in which we can view Elizabeth's court. Ms. Byrd's work will stand as an unforgettable contribution to Tudor fiction."

"Scandalous gossip! Court intrigue! Forbidden romance! Roses Have Thorns is addictive reading—a guilty pleasure that will transport your heart to the edge of despair and, with a sigh, to the renewal of hope."

"The book spans nearly 24 years, and readers will be very caught up as the story unfolds and they see some of the familiar players of Elizabeth’s court through the eyes of a gentle and affectionate friend to the Queen. With this well written novel, rich in history and everyday court life during the Elizabethan period, I can now count Sandra Byrd as one of my favorite writers of historical fiction."

Kirkus Reviews
The story of a Swedish noblewoman in Queen Elizabeth I's court. Prolific novelist Byrd's latest historical draws on Lady Helena von Snakenborg's actual experiences as lady-in-waiting and close companion to the Virgin Queen. Helena--or Elin as she was named in Sweden--was scarcely 17 when chosen to accompany Swedish Princess Cecelia on a visit to the English court in 1564. Immediately upon arrival, Elin catches the eye of Lord Northampton and stays on when Cecelia leaves, becoming a maid of honor to the queen. But Northampton is not free to marry her, and when eventually he is, the marriage only lasts five months before he dies, leaving Elin--now Helena--a marchioness and the highest-ranking lady in the land after Elizabeth. The two women's friendship intensifies, although later the closeness is jeopardized by Helena's second marriage to Thomas Gorges, not a nobleman. But Helena's romantic history is in essence a background to and insider's perspective on the real and familiar story of Elizabeth's reign--the plotting; the Catholic enemies; the question of marriage; the execution of Mary Queen of Scots. Byrd ends with Helena as Elizabeth's chief mourner. A capable, empathetic historical recap with an unusual heroine, but it fails to set the Thames on fire.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781439183168
  • Publisher: Howard Books
  • Publication date: 4/9/2013
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 317
  • Sales rank: 336,503
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Sandra Byrd has published more than three dozen books, including the first book in her Tudor series, To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn. She lives near Seattle, Washington, with her husband and two children. Visit SandraByrd.com.

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Read an Excerpt

Roses Have Thorns

November: Year of Our Lord 1564

Tre Kronor, Stockholm, Sweden

Winter, Spring, and Summer: Year of Our Lord 1565

At Sea and Over Land

I may have been a maiden just shy of seventeen years of age, but I was no simpleton. I recognized beard burn on the fair face of my sister when she emerged, breathless, from a small closet off one of the king’s galleries.

“Have you been with someone?” I asked. By someone, she knew I meant a man.

She would not meet my gaze. But she answered, “Don’t be foolish, Elin.” She looked at my gown, plain cotton. “You’d best be preparing for the evening. The king is not likely to be pleased if we are not present when he commands the festivities to begin.” At that, she turned, held high her head, and proceeded down the long wooden hallway toward our mother’s palace apartment.

My stomach grew unsettled, as it always did when I was fed an untruth and forced by custom to compliantly digest it. Karin was right, though, that King Erik would not look kindly upon a late arrival. Everyone at court sought to keep the king placid and happy; he was a cart with three wheels, unsteady and liable to collapse at the slightest bump in the road, spilling his load on whoever was near. I turned and began to follow Karin into our mother’s lodgings when I heard a noise behind me, the quiet shutting of a door.

I turned to look back and saw a figure hurrying down the hallway in the other direction. “Philip?” I called after him.

My fiancé, Philip Bonde, was heir to the great Bonde mining fortune, and his face was as well favored as his purse. Before my father died some months earlier, he had finalized my betrothal to Philip. I was ever so grateful; my father had never expressed love or affection for me, preferring instead Karin, the baby, who resembled him in her blonde, blue-eyed beauty.

“Elin!” Philip stopped, turned to walk toward me, and then drew me into a quick, stiff embrace.

“Where are you going?” I asked, puzzled.

“Rather, whatever are you doing hanging about in the gallery when we’re to see the king within the hour?”

I was taken aback for a moment, recognizing, perhaps, that he sought to put me on the defense rather than account for his own presence.

He grinned and gently kissed my cheeks one by one in the French fashion, his beard lightly scratching my face, the unique spiced-herb blend of his wash water surrounding him, his lips freshly warm and soft though the hall was chilled. “I shall see you downstairs, soon.”

Then he turned and left.

I walked, slowly, to dress myself for the evening, unsettled, unhappy, confused. When I arrived at my mother’s chamber, my married sisters, Gertrude and Brita, were already fully gowned, and the lady maid was assisting Karin as she slipped into a stunning gown of green and silver. “Where have you been?” my mother clucked. I kept trying to catch my sister’s eye, but Karin kept her chin up and studiously avoided my gaze in the looking glass.

I knew.

“I’m here now,” was all I answered. After Karin was gowned, the lady maid turned to me, pulled out a gown of gold-stamped gray crushed velvet, and then shook it twice before bringing it toward me. After helping me dress she weaved gold threads through my long red hair.

I would be leaving on the morrow for England, with Princess Cecelia. So my gown had been most costly, a gift that was a dear sacrifice for my widowed mother and a token of her affection and esteem. I kissed her on the cheek, and we four girls followed her down to the great hall where Erik and his new mistress would arrive.

•   •   •

The hall was ablaze with torches and candles; flickering gold light, rolling fires, and the heat of hundreds of noble bodies warmed the cold Swedish night. I soon lost my family in the crowd of others and danced while the king’s court musicians played on. After an hour, I sought to rest and spied Karin Mansdotter in the corner, splendidly dressed and bejeweled but forlorn and alone. Although Sweden was collectively grateful for the opiate she was upon our sovereign, she was lowborn, the daughter of a tavern-keep, and had been, only months before, a lady maid to the king’s sister. Stunned by her beauty, Erik had plucked her from the rushes and made her his own.

“May I sit near you?” I looked at the red-covered chair next to hers, which was backed against a gilded wall.

“Oh, yes,” Karin Mansdotter said, breathless, then composed herself. “I mean, assuredly.” She smiled, and I smiled back at her.

“Are you afraid to sail tomorrow?” she asked. “I know I would be. Those ships are so small and the sea so vast!”

I found her forthrightness refreshing and laughed. “I am not afraid of the seas,” I said, catching Philip and my sister dancing together, again, out of the corner of my eye.

“Do the English speak German or Swedish?” she asked.

“No,” I answered. “But the princess has had Master Dymoke, Master Preston, and Master North teaching us the English language and customs for nigh on six years, since His Majesty decided to offer his hand to their queen.”

She looked at her lap, and I chided myself for bringing up so indelicate a topic.

“I hope they have lingonberries,” I said, and at that she looked up. I smiled but said nothing more, she watching the king as he made merry with the ladies of the court and I watching my sister and my fiancé entangle their hands. I wondered about the king’s mistress, born low and raised high so quickly, instantly forced to adjust to a court and a manner of life utterly different from her own, and no friend to help smooth the transition. My sister Gertrude had told us that when the king first took Karin Mansdotter as a mistress, she had been engaged to someone else. The king had asked his new paramour to send for her fiancé, and when he arrived, Erik had him killed.

Within a few minutes, Philip came to collect me and lead me to dance. “I’ve been seeking you!” he said.

“And now I have been found,” I said, cheered that he’d been looking for me. He took my hands in his own and, after we had danced for a while, led me into the long gallery next to the hall. The ceilings were painted with images of the king’s father, Gustav Vasa, and victory against the Danes, with whom we still fought. Torches along the gallery lit the room, but dimly, as they were few. We sat on a long bench, softly cushioned.

“You leave on the morrow,” Philip said.

“I don’t have to go,” I replied. “Princess Cecelia has five other maids ready to serve her on the journey and in England, and I am sure she would not miss me.” That was probably untrue, but I felt I must make any attempt to reach out to Philip before I left, given what I had seen earlier.

Surprise crossed his face, and perhaps irritation, too, before he blotted it with a smile. “After these many years of English lessons?” he teased. “And it is a singular honor to serve the princess and perhaps make connections with the woman who might soon be our queen. England is also a seafaring country, and I know my father is interested in making himself known to mutual interests.”

“Perhaps I can assist with that,” I offered weakly. I looked up to see my sister Karin, shimmering in the candlelight, near the doorway from the hallway to the gallery. She spoke with one of our cousins. Philip glanced up at them, transfixed, and then back at me.

“There is no other reason for me to go . . . or stay?” I lightly probed. I recalled a Swedish proverb that said it was not safe to leave the kitchen while the fires were lit.

“Not at all,” he replied smoothly. “And while you are gone, I will speak with my father about the . . . missing dowry portion.”

I blinked. “What missing dowry portion?”

“You do not know?” he asked.

“I know nothing of this.”

“Before your father took ill he had been gambling with the king and some other noblemen. I understand that he took a fair portion of your dowry money, as yet unpaid to my father, and bet it as a bid to earn a dowry for your sister Karin as well.”

I shook my head, speechless and incensed. He had gambled my dowry? He would never have gambled Gertrude’s or Brita’s dowries. But for Karin . . . he’d lost mine.

“Your father did not pay the last quarter of your dowry before he died. My father was negotiating with him about it, but it is, as yet, unsettled, which may void our engagement. I shall see if I can speak with him about this and settle things while you are gone.”

I nodded, dull. I had a partial dowry. Why had no one as yet brought this matter forward?

He took my hands in his own and kissed them. “I shall find a solution, do not worry. I already have an idea in mind.”

“I hope so,” I said. None of us relished a winter voyage in rough seas or the overland portion upon the ice and snow, but Princess Cecelia had insisted we go. The king, I suspect, was glad to be rid of her persistent fault finding and allowed the journey to move forward in spite of the weather. “Will you miss me?”

Philip perfunctorily kissed my hands again. “Of course!” He bowed to me before returning to the group that included my sister and my cousin. I watched them for a long while, but nothing seemed outwardly improper. Perhaps I had misunderstood the earlier situation in the closet. Or perhaps not.

•   •   •

A small crowd gathered at the ship the next morning as the wind spat ice. My trunk had already been loaded into the suffocating cabin that Bridget Hand and I would share for the sea portion of our journey. The Englishmen were already on board, eager, I supposed, to return to queen and country. With the exception of our princess, we Swedes were reluctant travelers.

I stood near my mother, sisters, and brothers, and a few of my young cousins. One, seven-year-old Sofia, broke away and impudently ran toward the end of the dock. Only quick thinking on the part of my brother Johann saved her from an icy journey heavenward. Princess Cecelia soon approached us, and we all curtseyed.

“Do not worry, Lady Agneta,” the princess soothed. “I shall be as a mother to Elin Ulfsdotter. She shall be in my constant care, as will all of my ladies, and I will return with her safely, and soon.”

My mother, still beautiful, bowed her head, a tear trembling in the corner of her eye. “Thank you, my lady.”

Princess Cecelia then left us to our parting sentiments while she went to bid farewell to her own family. Her new husband, the Margrave of Baden, waited for her on board, having no Swedish family to part from.

My mother had already given me her gift earlier in the day, a golden locket necklace with a sketch of her on her wedding day, and a recent one of me, inside. Each of my sisters came to me in turn. Gertrude pressed a jar of dried lingonberries into my hand, then softly kissed my temple, as we sisters did out of affection. “Good-bye, dear sister,” she said. “I shall pray for you.”

Brita came next and held out a new needle for my lacework. She kissed my temple and murmured her affection before stepping aside for Karin. My head snapped up as I saw that she wore one of my gowns, a favorite of rose pink.

“You shan’t need it for a few months,” she said without remorse. I held my temper and my tongue in front of the others; my mother disapproved of outward displays of emotion, finding them lowbred. Karin, too, kissed my hairline and bade me a safe journey and a speedy return. I noticed, as I held her near, a faint aroma of the spiced scent of Philip’s wash water. I looked at her, alarmed. She had betrayed me, she had! I did not want to leave, and yet it was too late; Princess Cecelia was motioning us all toward the ship.

It did not occur to me until later that Karin alone had offered no gift upon my departure excepting, perhaps, a Judas kiss.

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 to our cabins.

When the seas were not unwelcoming, the Danes were. They proved to be the hellhounds we expected them to be, harrying us from one coast to the next and forcing us to travel over ice-sheathed land by horse-drawn sleigh to friendly noble homes before boarding ship again. If it weren’t for the loyalty I knew I owed my king, I might have wondered if he’d signaled our route to distract the Danes from his brother Johan, whom he loved, in Finland.

“Why complain of cold when we are on our way to see the wonderful queen of England?” our princess cried in joy. Although I saw the irony in her warm pleasure while we numbed with frost, I was truly happy for her. For many years, since her brother Johan had visited England and returned to tell of its wonders, Cecelia had prepared herself for her own journey of diplomacy, mastering the language with only English merchants as teachers.

Within a few months it was clear that Princess Cecelia was with child, and we all gave a portion of our foodstuffs so she and the babe would not suffer. “I have to look away when she is sick over the side of the ship,” Christina Abrahamsdotter confided in me. “My innards pain me for lack of food, and then I watch as my supper lurches from her stomach into the sea.”

We began to run out of wood, too, with which to warm ourselves. Princess Cecelia sat shivering in a corner chair. “I need more coats!” She looked at us by turn and we reluctantly shed our warm outer clothing, and she took them one by one and layered them upon herself. From then on we ladies went about with our thinner inner garments. We often danced about in our light dresses to keep ourselves warm while the princess, now comfortable, sang English sea songs and English hymns. This did not endear any of us to royal service, but we were well trained enough to say nothing.

It was also clear that Princess Cecelia had been turning her husband away from their marital bed. Master Preston sternly warned the ship hands from even looking upon us, but he was not of a rank to speak thus to the margrave. One night the margrave appeared in my cabin as Bridget was attending to the princess.

“Hello, schön Elin,” he said, his German tight-toothed and proper. “I have been waiting for the right time for us to become better acquainted. You are the most beautiful girl at court.”

I moved away from him, steadying my feet with the constant pitching of the ship. “I think we know one another well enough already, sir.”

“But I do not, Elin,” he said. I could not even account his behavior to drunkenness, as he appeared to have all of his wits about him. He drew closer, and I grabbed hold of the feeble chair in the corner of our cabin to steady myself. As he advanced again, I feigned that I was losing my balance and pushed the chair in his direction, aiming a wooden leg for the part of him where he would feel the most pain.

He doubled over and cried out.

“I’m so sorry, my lord, I lost my balance,” I said. But I did not draw near to help him, and my voice was not falsely contrite. He left my cabin muttering and did not return again. I smiled when I thought upon it and Bridget did, too, when I told her.

Winter warmed to spring, which then unfolded into summer. We became truly alarmed that my lady would give birth before we reached London, and there was not a married woman among us, much less a midwife. Cecelia had no such concerns. Her greatest joy was that her firstborn would be birthed in the land of the queen she’d so admired for her autonomy and freedom.

One night in late summer we were happily informed that we were nearing Calais, from where they would send a message ahead that we were nearly to England. I sat that evening with Bridget; we had become as sisters during the journey and there was no thought too private for me to share with her.

“I should have married Philip by now,” I said with regret, speaking aloud the relentless thought I’d pushed back a dozen times over the months past as I lay abed wondering what he and Karin were doing in Stockholm. “It is September. Autumn.”

“Do not fret,” Bridget said. Her voice did not convey the confidence of her words.

“Perhaps they will marry him to my younger sister in my stead, as Gustav Vasa did with Princess Cecelia’s first fiancé,” I worried.

Bridget lowered her voice. “There will be no need to marry your sister to your fiancé, because your father did not find you willingly in bed with another man, drag you out by your hair, and unman the culprit.”

I agreed, and we smiled bemusedly together in the pitching cabin. The king had a coin struck with Cecelia on one side and the virginal Susanna from Holy Writ on the other, circulating the idea of his daughter’s innocence every time the coin was used. I didn’t know if the coin had made it to Baden, but the margrave had not hesitated to take Cecelia as his bride.

“There may be other reasons for Philip to desire to wed Karin,” I said, twisting the ring on my third finger, which had grown bony during our long journey. “We have been so very long gone.” She took my gown. She took my fiancé. In truth, he desired her before we’d even left. “And my dowry was not paid, which makes our engagement uncertain. Or void.” He’s always preferred her to me. Who would not?

“ ’Tis nothing to think upon now,” Bridget said sensibly. “We are far from Stockholm, and near to England. We must act upon that which is here, and we do not know what lies just ahead.”

“Are you unsettled by that?” I asked her.

She, who was typically calm and self-assured, merely nodded but didn’t speak. I, too, was anxious and unsettled, though I didn’t understand exactly why.

We were thin and weary and our teeth hurt in our heads, but we were here; within days England beckoned on the horizon, green and gold and holding out her arms to welcome us, I hoped, like Freya, the mythological Norse goddess of beauty and love.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 12 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 11, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Loved it!

    I am a big fan of Sandra Byrd's Ladies in Waiting series which centers around the three Tudor Queens and their closest ladies. The first two installments, To Die For and The Secret Keeper both made it onto my favorites list when I read them. Roses Have Thorns is the third and final installment in this series.

    In this book, seventeen-year-old Elin von Snakenborg arrives from Sweden and becomes one of Queen Elizabeth's ladies in waiting and eventually one of the queen's highest ranking ladies. In time Elin marries and becomes the Marchioness of Northampton. There is drama, backstabbing, crooked politics, battles over Religion and romance in the Tudor court as usual.

    Also involved in the plot is the fate of Mary Queen of Scots, the queen's own cousin and rival for the crown. Elin, also known as Helena, grows from young womanhood into adulthood while at Elizabeth's court and she learns some hard lessons on life, love and loyalty.

    The writing here is vivid and rich and I was instantly swept away to another time and place as author Sandra Byrd captures the glitz, glamour and danger of the Tudor court really nicely.
    The characters are well developed, I liked Elin. I was eager to see where her story would go, how this young Swede would fare in England being away from her family and her home. She became close to the Queen using her knowledge of herbs and scents to gain her trust and favor. Her friendship with the Queen seemed real and believable. Queen Elizabeth is written well and I found this version of the Monarch to be true to form. She is represented as being a queen, yet her frailties are shown as well. Lord Dudley is here, Robin as the Queen called him, always by her side, always the source of speculation.

    I love it when fact and fiction are woven together to create an interesting story like this one. Author Sandra Byrd has become a go to writer for me in this genre.
    I recommend Roses Have Thorns, and the Ladies in Waiting series, to fans of the Tudor's and of historical fiction. These books can be read as stand alone novels, but I do recommend all three of them as they are well written and highly entertaining. I can see myself reading this series again one day.

    Disclaimer:
    This review is my honest opinion. I did not receive any type of compensation for reading and reviewing this book. While I receive free books from publishers and authors, such as this one, I am under no obligation to write a positive review. I received a free review copy of Roses Have Thorns in exchange for my honest opinion.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 23, 2014

    Roses Have Thorns was not my favorite novel I have ever read, bu

    Roses Have Thorns was not my favorite novel I have ever read, but it was such a touching story that had my captured much of the novel!

    Helena is a very interesting character! I felt I could relate to her in many ways, especially as she became more openly outspoken in her humorous and witty remakes with the people around her! There were many times though that my heart broke for her concerning things that she experienced (I don't want to give any examples because I don't want to spoil anything)! She could have been an extremely bitter and mean woman, but instead she turned to God to help her.

    There was for the most part I felt a subtle faith message! In the time of Elizabeth there was much religious turmoil it seems between the Catholics and Protestants. However beside this their were a few Bible verses shared as well as a few prayers spoken! Many people believe me in God would sometimes openly share their faith!

    Lastly I really enjoyed learning more about ladies in waiting! It was so interesting and saddening at times when they had to serve the Queen much more often rather then be with their families! It was very interesting to see Queen Elizabeth through the eyes of a lady in waiting as well! She definitely is human even it seemed she did not with her many masks!

    One thing that I will mention is that there we're places where my attention was not held very good! However this is still a great historical novel! I felt I was almost reading a secret journal of Helena concerning her love life, court life, and of course the Queen herself (which was my favorite part of the whole novel)!

    I recommend this novel to anyone who likes a subtle faith message weaved into a historical account with love, loyalty, and grace!

    I give Roses Have Thorns by Sandra Byrd 4 out of 5 stars!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 29, 2013

    I would venture to say that I never tire of reading about or hea

    I would venture to say that I never tire of reading about or hearing more about the royal Tudor family. I mean King Henry VIII, Queen Elizabeth, Mary Queen of Scotts, Ann Boleyn--I feel like I know so much and so little about them. Up to this point, I have never felt any real compassion for Queen Elizabeth. I have realized how great she is and all that, but I felt she had no heart. I was never really a fan of Mary Queen of Scotts either. As far as I was concerned, they came from a crazy family, and there was really nothing good about them.

    Let me say that this book gave me a very different view of Queen Elizabeth and the Tudor court. I saw this supreme monarch as a real person with feeling and emotion. I actually dared to believe that maybe she was human after all. She even had friends. And all of this was told through the eyes of one of her ladies in waiting--Elin of Sweden. She was a real person, and Sandra Byrd has created a well-researched tale that kept me interested from start to finish.

    I can certainly classify this book as a clean romance. There is absolutely no profanity, and there are no sex scenes. It is rare to find a historical novel that is squeaky clean like this book. I also love the fact that the dialogue fits the time period, and actual historical events are portrayed with only minor artistic liberties. I also appreciated the emphasis on the faith of the characters involved. I might even believe that Elizabeth was some kind of Christian. I have to say that as a result of this book, I will never see the Tudor family the same way again.

    I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. I was not financially compensated, and all opinions are 100 percent mine.

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  • Posted August 25, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    I really do love historical fiction and have a serious soft spot

    I really do love historical fiction and have a serious soft spot when it comes to the Tudor area. I consider myself pretty well read when it comes to Queen Elizabeth I. So, I almost passed on this one just because I was wondering if anything new could be added to her story. Wow! I am so glad I changed my mind. While the significant events never change, I think this book really gave new light to one of my favorite historical figures.

    First off, Elin's journey from Sweden to England was beyond imaginable. It seemed like such a simple thing and yet it took almost a year. I don't blame her for wanting to leave her country and have the opportunity to travel. Most young women never got the chance. She must have been such a captivating person to complete this journey and catch the eye of the Queen. I don't think its something that happened very often.

    I think what prompted Elin to want to stay was the idea of romance and love, something she knew was not waiting for her at home. I really don't think power and ranking were really a part of it, in fact it often seemed like she had no real use for her high title after her marriage and her husbands subsequent death. Even when it was so evidently a dark spot in her future her marriage to a man well beneath her rank. She only want love and friendship.

    I mentioned above how I consider myself knowledgeable when it comes to Queen Elizabeth. However, I somehow missed this person in all my reading and research of Queen Elizabeth. It seems completely plausible to me that the Queen would keep such an important person in her life well protected. I like the idea that the Queen may have had a close friends, someone she could share her secrets with. High ranking ladies in the Queen's household were often from other noble families of the land. Those seeking favor from the ruling household or wanting to prove their loyalty. So how does a Lady from Sweden end up one of the Queen's most influential women?

    I loved Helena from the beginning pages. I like how the author crafted a character that it seems like a blip in history and makes her come to life. I loved how she seemed to be able to be just what the Queen needed. I never thought how the Queen could be lonely and this book really brought that to focus. It made so many of her actions make so much more sense.

    If the author managed to capture my attention so much with the book, I will definitely be looking for her other books! I look forward to what she had to offer in the way of historical fiction.

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  • Posted June 10, 2013

    Roses Have Thorns, the third in Sandra Byrd¿s Tudor series novel

    Roses Have Thorns, the third in Sandra Byrd’s Tudor series novels, captivated me from the very first page with its 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… 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.  

    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.  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 unhesitatingly.

    Thank you.

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

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  • Posted May 10, 2013

    In Roses Have Thorns we are taken into the inner circle of Queen

    In Roses Have Thorns we are taken into the inner circle of Queen Elizabeth I. The story is told through the perspective of Helen von Snakenborg, who is a confidant of the queen and the second most powerful woman in all of England.


    If you are a fan of Tudor history you are really going to enjoy this book! Sandra Byrd has woven a tale that is compelling yet tasteful. She gives you insight into just how turbulent the times were. We are reminded of how much shifting between Catholic and Protestant religions her predecessors embarked upon. The religious tension of the day was very pervasive in the lives of everyone, from those at court to those among the masses.


    I came away from the book with a new respect for Elizabeth I. She really did sacrifice her life and happiness for her subjects and her country. She was a very devout woman yet her court was still riddled with scandals. One of the things I appreciate about Sandra Byrd’s writing is that she tackles these disgraces head on in a discerning manner. We are aware of exactly what is going on, but we don’t have to muck through the tawdry details.


    I was also profoundly affected by the story of Helen. I can’t even begin to imagine what it was like to live at court. Every luxury is at your fingertips, but your children and even in Helen’s case your husband are elsewhere. The power the queen held over her life would have been completely overwhelming to me. I loved her strength of character and also her flaws that reminded us that we are all vulnerable when we take our eyes off of our Savior.


    This is the third and final installment in the Ladies in Waiting series. The first book is To Die For; A Novel of Anne Boleyn. The second book is The Secret Keeper; A Novel of Kateryn Parr. Even though these three books are considered a series they are easily read as stand-alone novels. I highly recommend each of them!

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  • Posted May 9, 2013

    Historical fiction at its finest. When I want to read historical

    Historical fiction at its finest. When I want to read historical fiction, I don't want to feel as though I've picked up an encyclopedia and started reading it. I want to feel as though I have been transported back in time and am a part of that particular era. This is not an easy thing to do for any author. Sandra Byrd is one of the very few that can accomplish this. Too often, historical novels become places with major information dumps and I get bored. Quickly. And then I never want to return to the book. This one? In my opinion, this one is even better than To Die For.




    I have my favorite books and authors. Sandra Byrd is at the top of the list.




    This story is full of intrigue, suspense, and stratagems almost entirely within your own family.
    Everyone smiles.
    Everyone bows or curtsies.
    Yet almost everyone wants you dead.
    The solution? Surround yourself with brilliant counselors and ladies in waiting that you can trust. And even then, you may make a terrible mistake.




    Taking a piece of history that is in itself fascinating, Ms. Byrd went the extra distance. She found and expounded on a tiny fractional piece of history about a person many people didn't even know existed, and gave her her own voice. Her own story. And it was captivating. Thrilling. And I was sorry to see this one end.




    If you're looking for cardboard characters, limp plots and scenery? Don't waste your time on this book. If you're looking for something to chew on and think about for weeks to come? Even do a little research on your own just to see how much of this could be true? You'll want this book.
    Highly recommend.




    *My thanks to the author & publisher for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for a review. I was in no wise obligated this review be positive. These thoughts are my own.*

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  • Posted April 23, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Sandra Byrd in her new book, "Roses Have Thorns" A Nov

    Sandra Byrd in her new book, "Roses Have Thorns" A Novel of Elizabeth I Book Three in The Tudor series published by Howard Books takes us into the life of Elin von Snakenborg AKA Helena.

    From the Back Cover: What happens when serving a queen may cost you your marriage-or your life?

    In 1565, seventeen-year-old Elin von Snakenborg leaves Sweden on a treacherous journey to England. Her fiance 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.

    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.

    I like history and if you give me history that I am not really all that familiar with I like it even more. Sandra Byrd has given us a novel about the reign of Elizabeth I of England. Elizabeth's story is told through the story of Elin from Sweden, who changes her name to Helena when she stays in England. It deals with the inner court and what these ladies were there for. "Roses Have Thorns" is full of deceit, political wheeling dealings, mistrust and some shady characters. There are also the events that led to the beheading of Mary, Queen of Scots. It also has romance. As I said this is a historical novel and it is very well researched. I don't generally receive books set in this time period so I was very glad to get this one. Sandra Byrd did a great job. You will like this book as well.

    Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Howard Books for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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  • Posted April 16, 2013

    Elin von Snakenborg is a seventeen-year-old handmaiden when she

    Elin von Snakenborg is a seventeen-year-old handmaiden when she journeys with Sweden’s Princess Cecelia to England to visit Queen Elizabeth I. Elin learns that not only has her fiancé fallen in love with her sister, her dowry has been gambled away. So when the Marquess of Northhampton shows interest in marrying her and provides an opportunity to stay England, she takes it. William is thirty years her senior, but he’s handsome, kind, and attentive. Unfortunately, due to strange circumstances, he’s still considered married to another woman. Until he is free to marry her, Elin (now called Helena) serves Queen Elizabeth as a lady in waiting.

    At first, Helena is treated as a foreigner, but she works hard to overcome being treated as an outsider. She uses her talents with soothing herbs to gain Elizabeth’s attention—and her loyalty to earn trust. In time, Helena becomes the highest-ranking woman (next to the queen) in England and one of the queen’s most trusted friends. As much as Helena enjoys the advantages of her position, it comes at a cost. She must continually choose between serving Elizabeth and being at the side of the man she loves.

    Although much-loved by her people, there are still those who plot to kill Elizabeth. They desire to replace her with a queen who will re-establish the Catholic faith in England. With deceit and betrayal surrounding her, Helena must decide who she can trust in protecting both the queen and herself.

    Roses Have Thorns is the third and final novel in Sandra Byrd’s “Ladies in Waiting” series. I’ve enjoyed how all three were written through the eyes of a close friend of a well-known historical figure. As readers, we’re able to experience loving, close, and loyal friendships between two women—one a person of royalty—and someone who serves at her side. It gives us the opportunity to see and imagine these famous women in a different light.

    Like the other two books in the series, I finished reading Roses Have Thorns having learned so much about that time period. For instance, I never knew that the beautiful gowns worn were actually pinned together in pieces each day. I’d never considered the fact that some of the ladies in waiting were actually married and kept from their husbands and families for great lengths of time in order to serve at court.

    I love it when a novel makes me see, think, and feel differently than I did before opening the pages. Before reading this book, I didn’t know much about Elizabeth I, except that she was the daughter of King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn (accused of adultery and beheaded), and that she was a strong queen who never married. But through this story, I was able to see Elizabeth not only as a queen, but a woman who had deep feelings. A woman who wanted to love and be loved, but who sacrificed her own wants and needs for others. I saw not only a strong, commanding woman, but someone who was kind and gentle to her people. In a time when the Protestants and Catholics schemed to destroy each other, Elizabeth was tolerant of other people’s beliefs.

    As a person who believes in the importance of friendship between women, I was drawn to Helena. I felt her pain when torn between loyalty to her queen and to her husband. She was always trying to do the right thing while knowing the right thing for one could easily be the wrong thing for the other. While Elizabeth gave up personal desires in the best interest of England, Helena made personal sacrifices for her queen.

    The author, combining extensive research and beautiful prose, brings history to life in an engaging story. If you enjoy reading about Tudor history, I highly recommend Roses Have Thorns.

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  • Posted April 14, 2013

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    Byrd¿s third novel in her Ladies in Waiting series is told from

    Byrd’s third novel in her Ladies in Waiting series is told from the viewpoint of a Swedish noblewoman in the service of Queen Elizabeth I. Elin comes to the English courts with the Swedish princess Cecelia in 1564, leaving behind a betrothed who from the very beginning the reader is able to tell is not interested in her. After Princess Cecelia is asked to leave, Elin stays behind to become maid of honor to Queen Elizabeth I. She takes an official English name of Lady Helena and catches the eye of Lord Northampton. After learning that he isn’t free to marry, Helena wonders if she made a huge mistake in staying behind. Once Lord Northampton is finally free to marry the marriage only lasts 5 short months before he dies. Now Helena is a marchioness and a very high ranking lady. Her friendship with Queen Elizabeth grows to the point that Elizabeth cannot live without her. But Helena has dreams of having children and another husband and she finds that in Thomas Gorges who is a mere nobleman and Helena knows that Elizabeth will never allow her to marry beneath her station.

    Byrd does capture the familiar story of what we know of Elizabeth’s reign. There is the constant plotting and the need for Elizabeth to control everyone around her. You also see a softer side of Elizabeth that only Helena would have seen. That softness is especially noticeable during the time that Elizabeth was making the decision whether or not to execute Mary Queen of Scots. I was taken on an amazing recap of Elizabeth’s life and death that left me feeling like I was seeing her through Helena’s eyes.

    I have not read the other two books in this series but after reading Roses Have Thorns I will be adding them to my wish list. This is a great historical novel that doesn’t have a heavy underlay of information that normally tends to make a historical work heavy. I felt it was a light enough read for any novice historical fiction fan.

    (DRC was provided by publisher for an honest review)

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  • Posted April 11, 2013

    The young Elin von Snakenborg travelled from Sweden to England i

    The young Elin von Snakenborg travelled from Sweden to England in 1565. She left behind a fiancé who betrayed her with her sister. In England she meets the wealthy Lord Northampton, who is attracted to Elin. Although he is many years older than Elin, the feeling is mutual. When Elin’s travel companions return to Sweden, Elin stays behind in hopes to get married to Lord Northampton, meanwhile serving in Queen Elizabeth’s court. 

    When she got married to Lord Northampton she became the Marchioness of Northampton and she changed her name to Helena. She spends most of her time serving the queen—day and night—and that is going to have a huge impact on her marriage. 

    In this novel we get to know and see Queen Elizabeth through the eyes of Helena. Although I don’t know much about the Tudor family, or any other thing about English royalty for that matter, this novel rings true. The writing is engaging and I loved the historical details. This is an intriguing story that kept me turning the pages until far after midnight.

    *Thanks to the publisher for providing me with a review copy through NetGalley.*

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 17, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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