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. Vividly conjuring the years leading up to the beheading of Mary Queen of Scots, Roses Have Thorns is a brilliant exploration of treason, both to the realm and to the heart.
My Thoughts: Elizabeth I is undoubtedly one of my favorite people in history to read about so I am always ready to dive into a historical fiction novel which offers me a fresh perspective on this complex Tudor Queen. Sandra Byrd's Roses Have Thorns delivers this by providing a more intimate picture of the proud and often volatile monarch as she deals with some of the toughest decisions during her reign: the marriage and succession question, the threats from abroad, the forays into the New World and the threat to her throne presented by the captive Catholic Mary Queen of Scots.
Elin (who later changes her name to the English Helena) comes to England from Sweden after learning her fiance's affections lie elsewhere and her dowry is non-existent. Faced with an uncertain future, she catches the eye of William Parr, Marquess of Northampton and so begins her improbable rise to highest lady in the land (but not without several bumps along the way). Elin is a sympathetic character. Viewed as an outsider by the other ladies of the court, she is often met with jealousy, mistrust, and mockery for her occasional social blunders. It is her undying devotion to the Queen which finally earns her some respect and a closeness with Elizabeth that few obtain-close enough to see the regal mask slip to reveal the woman beneath who is carrying the soul crushing burden of governing a fractured Kingdom.
What I liked the most about Roses is the separate but similar struggles the women face on how much of themselves to give before it becomes too much and they have to give up their dreams. Elizabeth's struggle is with her need to be appreciated as a woman (with her decades long love of Robert Dudley) vs her need to be respected as a ruler and do what is right for England. Helena's struggle is with her desire to serve the Queen overriding her yearning to have a real family life.
One of the challenges authors have in writing a first person character is how to include the historical content of the time period while being limited to the view and role of the person who is the voice of their novel. While this novel covers a lot of history and delves most deeply into the marriage question and Mary Queen of Scots issue, some other well known happenings during this time were not covered as well because of the limited character point of view. This did detract from the novel just a bit for me but I still enjoyed the novel immensely. These are Christian Historical Fiction novels but the religion aspect is the character in prayer and not moralizing about any religious subjects. I really liked the previous two books in the series To Die For and The Secret Keeper and thought the presentation of the Tudor Queens through the eyes of someone in their inner circle was well done in all of them. This one was another winner for me and in a very trying week in my household, the perfect book to curl up and unwind with.
I received this book for review from the publisher via NetGalley for participation in the author's tour with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours. These are my honest thoughts on the book.
I am happy to be able to offer a copy of Roses Have Thorns and an Elizabeth I necklace to one lucky reader!
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Giveaway Ends: Midnight April 19th. Winner will be announced the 20th.
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Sandra Byrd has published more than three dozen books in the fiction and nonfiction markets, including the first book in her Tudor series, To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn. Her second book, The Secret Keeper: A Novel of Kateryn Parr, illuminates the mysteries in the life of Henry’s last wife. 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.
Visit Sandra at www.sandrabyrd.com