April 9, 2013

Tudor Book Blog Book Review and Giveaway - 'Roses Have Thorns' by Sandra Byrd

Today, to celebrate the release of Sandra Byrd's new novel, Roses Have Thorns, I am posting my review of the book as well as offering a fantastic giveaway, courtesy of Sandra!

Tudor Book Blog Book Reviews

Roses Have Thorns by Sandra Byrd


From the publisher
"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."
Before I delve into my own thoughts, I wanted to assure you that I do not reveal any spoilers not revealed in the above overview! Sorry if some of my examples are a bit vague below. I'm trying not to give anything away!

My Thoughts:

Portrait thought to be of Helena.
One of the main themes of this novel is treason, and how the characters in the novel react to it. Treason is something Elizabeth I dealt with her entire life (from her mother's downfall to the "treason" of some of her favorites, whether politically or emotionally). While Elizabeth deals with treason in some very big ways (with one main focus being Mary, Queen of Scots), her lady-in-waiting, Helena, is also forced to deal with it, both politically and emotionally. She is eventually forced to make some big decisions focused around her Queen and her husband. These decisions do not come easy and cause much conflict and heartache for our heroine. I thought this theme very fitting for an Elizabethan novel, and like that the author chose to use another person, besides the Queen herself, to feel the pressure and heartache of having to deal with treason.

Many who have studied Elizabeth I know that she also had to deal with the theme of marriage throughout her life. She often reacted badly to the marriages of her ladies-in-waiting. Many suspect it was bitterness from not being able to or allowing herself to marry. I like that Sandra chose to portray this aspect of Elizabeth and marriage through the events surrounding Helena, rather than just focusing on "famous" cases (i.e. Lettice Knollys or Elizabeth Throckmorton). Though Byrd does show this famous (and angry) side of Elizabeth, I felt that by portraying it through the eyes of Helena, Byrd really humanized the Queen, showing her stern and unyielding temper, but also a softer, more feminine side as her friendship with Helena grows.

William Parr,
1st Marquess of Northampton
Another aspect of the novel that differed from many Tudor novels I've read is that the heroine is not actually English, but rather from Sweden. This puts a different spin on her background and outlook throughout the novel. It was actually the first thing that really drew me to the novel. I enjoyed seeing the Tudor court from the eyes of an "outsider" who chose to be there, rather than someone who was forced to be by an ambitious parent or spouse.

As always (though I felt it needed mention), Byrd has done a wonderful job researching her novel. Though it is a novel, you can tell she has spent hours pouring over primary sources, weaving them throughout her narrative. That, for me, is one of the most important things about a historical novel. That, and being able to keep the narrative engaging and not dry (with so much historical fact). Byrd does a great job of balancing both aspects.

Though I really enjoyed this novel, there are always things that stick out, or bug you. I felt the pacing of the story odd at times. Helena seems to brush over some of the "bigger" events in her life (such as some of her pregnancies) with time passing in big chunks between pages. However, the novel spans quite a bit of time and covers several major events, so I can understand this.

As I've said before, I don't usually care for first-person narrative. I like to know what's going on in everyone's head! However, Byrd always does a marvelous job of instantly connecting you with her storyteller. I feel that of all the narrating ladies presented in Sandra's three books, Helena is my favorite.


I think my favorite thing about Sandra's Ladies-in-Waiting Series is that she focuses on Tudor women, but not the ones you would normally think of. Rather than focusing on famous ladies like Anne Boleyn, Katherine Parr, or Elizabeth I, she places them in the background and brings their ladies-in-waiting to the forefront, telling the famous stories and lesser known stories through the eyes of ladies that actually witnessed them. I highly recommend this (and the other novels in this series) with 5 Tudor Roses.

A huge thank you to author Sandra Byrd for providing me an advanced copy of her wonderful novel!

Now, for the exciting part...a giveaway!

Sandra has offered a complete set of her Ladies in Waiting Series, including To Die For, The Secret Keeper, and Roses Have Thorns.

To enter to win, simply leave a comment on this page telling us your name and who your favorite Tudor lady-in-waiting (from the reigns of Henry VII to Elizabeth I) is and why she has stolen your heart. All entries must be in by April 16th. The winner will be randomly drawn (using random.org) and announced on April 17th.

Please take a minute to check out Sandra's fantastic website, SandraByrd.com. She has a section on her Ladies-In-Waiting series, but also on some of her other books.
She is also on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. If you are on any of these sites as well, be sure to find her!


  1. My name is Sarah and my favourite lady in waiting and eventual Queen is Anne Boleyn. She served as lady in waiting to Queen Catherine of Aragon. She has stolen my heart because she was brave, intelligent and was the mother of one of the greatest Queen's, Elizabeth I.

  2. Katherine Carey, it's well known that Elizabeth I was a taxing mistress and demanded a lot of her ladies and Katherine seems to have been one of the few that did not end up incurring her wrath and Elizabeth seems to have been really grieved at her passing

  3. My name is Kim tucker and my favorite Lady in Waiting is Elizabeth Blount to Catherine of Aragon. I think she surely must have been afraid to find out she was carrying the King's child knowing that she would be moved away from Court life. I haven't found a lot of info about her, but I think she was probably a very lonely and isolated woman. And when Henry acknowledge the child as his son publicly, she must have meet with hateful people, because Catherine was so love by the English people. To be so favored by a King and hated by everyone else must have been torture.

  4. I would love to win these books. I am trying to think of the ladies in waiting and I too am going to go with Anne Boleyn at this moment - lady in waiting to Catherine. I have always been drawn to Anne for some reason. Thank you for the chance to win.

    griperang at embarqmail dot com

  5. My name is Eva and this is a tough call. So many wonderful ladies in waiting and very difficult to choose. One of my favorites is Jacquetta of Luxembourg, lady in waiting to Queen Margaret (Henry VI) and then mother to Queen Elizabeth (Edward IV). She stole my heart seeking to marry for love, her devotion to her husband and children and her unfaltering resourcefulness

  6. It has to be Anne Boleyn. My only regret in this life is that I was not born in Tudor times, to have been a witness to her life at court.A truly fascinating young woman,not only a brave and intelligent woman but one who suffered a great deal at the hands of others.Friends she thought loyal and true became her enemies overnight. I have just read several of the letters exchanged between Henry and herself, and it is such an insight into not only his deep love for her but how she played him to gain the crown of the Queen of England. Is it any wonder their daughter Elizabeth 1 became such a loved and formidable Queen

  7. My name is Lisa and I just discovered Sandra Byrd's books on the Ladies In Waiting and cannot wait to get to know these ladies better. I would have to go with Helena right now until I get to know the others better.

    Ivorytwinz at aol dot com

  8. My name is Eliza and my favorite lady-in-waiting is definately Anne Boleyn! She was smart, charming, different from the other ladies, brave and ahead of her time!

  9. Since I am the bloggers mom :) I will not enter the contest. However, I will share with you my favorite lady-in-waiting: Lady Margaret Lee, who accompanied Anne Boleyn as far as the scaffold and later officiated over her tiny funeral. Sister of Thomas Wyatt, this lady was completely enmeshed in the royal family without actually being royal herself. The fact that she lived to see three more queens enthroned, to me, speaks of her tact and cunning in surviving what must have been a very dangerous court system. Her brother, Thomas Wyatt the poet, also managed to escape beheading not once, but twice. What an intelligent bunch they must have been :)

  10. My favourite lady-in-waiting has to be Anne Boleyn. Oh, to have been a fly on the wall to witness her time in court, first as a lady in waiting to Queen Catherine and then her own reign as Queen Anne! This has to right up there as the most amazing and exciting time in Royal history! denannduvall@gmail.com

  11. there are several ladies-in-waiting that i admire,but i would have to go along with the majority and choose Anne Boleyn as my favourite,just for the fact that she went from waiting on a queen to becoming queen herself and having ladies waiting on her. she was a truly amazing woman.

  12. My name is Shanan Kingsbury, and the lady-in-waiting that I admire the most was Meg Wyatt. She was such a devoted friend and LIW of Anne Boleyn's, while also dealing with her own battles in life. Being friends since childhood, she was probably knew Anne the most intimately,and was brave enough to stand with her till the bitter end and beyond. I may be biased, though-I am also a Wyatt....she would be a great aunt to me, as George Wyatt, grandson of Sir Thomas Wyatt is my great grandfather MANY times removed.

    1. I just posted on her. How fascinating to be a descendant of that family!

  13. Marie Queen of Scots
    I would have to say Elizabeth's first cousin, Lettice Knollys. She was a fascinating handsome woman, married to the Earl of Essex, Walter Devereux. While in Ireland he died, but rumor had it, she was already having an affair with Robert Dudley, who she secretly married. They kept their marriage secret for a year. Elizabeth was very jealous, and not pleased. She is a quite an important figure at court, and is an ancestor to Winston Churchill, Lady Diana, and Price Charles.
    Love your books. I have only read several of your books set in the War of the Roses. Would Love to win.
    Jan Abraham

  14. I am going to say my favorite lady in waiting in Mary Boleyn. She would have been witness to so much history as lady in waiting to Katherine of Aragon and eventually Anne Boleyn, as well as mistress to Henry VIII.

  15. I think I have to go with Kate Astley, Elizabeth's lady in waiting. Her devotion to Elizabeth was inspiring as much as it was conspiring.

  16. The LIW that stands out most to me is Jane Boleyn. She married into the family, betrayed them and ended up on the chopping block herself. I need to learn more about her because I'm still not sure if I hate her or feel sorry for her. Either way, she was witness to so much and one of few who would know what really happened behind closed doors.

    Heather Crouse

  17. My name i Christina, and my favorite lady in waiting is Mary Howard, the daugther og the Duke of Norfolk.
    She was so near the center of power through her father, one of the most powerfull and ambituois men at the Tudor court.
    She saw her father put two cousins on the throne as Henry's Queens, and withnessed them both being excuted for treason.
    Through it all she was loyal to both her family and most important to her self. That's why she is my favorite lady in waiting.

  18. My favorite would be Anne Boleyn.My name is Tyra Warrington.

  19. I'm Liz. My "favorite" LIW would be Jane Rochford, as an exemplary villainess amongst so many.

  20. My favourite would have to be Anne Boleyn as she was a fascinating and brave lady.

  21. Hey, I'm Danielle.
    From one to Queen to another, through all the trials and tribulations that must have been thrown at her my favorite Lady in Waiting has to be Anne Boleyn. Through the ambitions of her family her whole life changed when she got off the Boat from France to England. I feel that from what she experienced, and saw and obviously felt when she was a Lady in Waiting, would have molded her into the eventual Queen that she was. How could she not have been suspicious and jealous, or outspoken when she faced everything she did purely because she didn't want to be known as a Whore like her sister. I have always felt sorry for her, for her true love was harshly snatched away from her, and she was thrown into the path of a hungry eyed King, what could a poor defenselessness lady do? The battle she had, to keep her virtue, and the vileness she was faced with when she was finally Queen, she must have felt so incredibly alone. There is so much that we don't know and her story shall forever fascinate me!

  22. My name is Lisa and my favorite lady in waiting is Mary Boleyn. I think she truly liked Katherine of Aragon but was put in a situation by her family that she couldn't say no to.

  23. Anne Boleyn has to be my favourite as she drew me into finding out more about the Tudors and life during this turbulent time in British history. Thank you for the chance to win these fascinating looking novels.
    Lynn F

  24. My favorite lady-in-waiting would have to be Lettice Knollys. She led a very long and interesting life after she was banished from court by Elizabeth I.

    Christine Marshall

  25. I'm Michaela, and without a doubt my favourite Lady in Waiting would have to be Anne Boleyn. She brought so much life and colour to the court, and I agree with what many have also said; how much I would give to have been alive during the Tudor era! Anne used her own intelligence to get to the throne, and was advanced for her time. Seems like she had the brains and the beauty! :)

  26. My name is Sharon and my favorite lady in waiting has to be Anne Boleyn. I found her beautiful, charming, feisty, and free spirited. She spoke what she felt, straight from the heart and for a woman of that period, I commend her. She was also very intelligent and captured King Henry's heart like no other!

  27. Oh my goodness, how much fun is it to read these responses!? I loved writing about the Ladies in Waiting, and loved every one of them that were named, above. Blogger's mom and Shanen, you might be interested to know that the first book in this series, To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn, is from Meg Wyatt's point of view.

    Thank you so much for having me on the blog, and I feel like we're all sisters in Tudorphilia! :)

    1. I am so happy to have you on the blog! I have thoroughly enjoyed your series and am happy to pass it on to other Tudor-philes! :)

  28. Jadviga Vicky GOXHIApril 15, 2013 at 3:34 PM

    My name is Vicky and my favourite lady in waiting is Lettice Knollys.Lettice is a fascinating personage, she was beautifull,passionate and had a rich life and died at the age of 91.
    Her great-grandson Gervase Cliftoncomposed this epitaph for her :"She was in her younger years matched with two great English peers; she that did supply the wars with thunder,and the court with stars."
    Lettice Knollys is due a biografy her story is very important!

    great-grandson Gervase Cliftoncomposed this epitaph for her :"She was in her younger years matched with two great English peers; she that did supply the wars with thunder,and the court with stars."

  29. My name is Manon from Quebec City, my favorite Lady in Waiting is Anne Boleyn.

  30. My favourite Tudor lady in waiting is Anne Boleyn, without any doubt. Living at the French court for quite a while, she received the finest education and got used being around royalty from an early age. I truly believe she was one of the smartest, most charming and ambitious women of her time, and these are the assets that drew Henry's attention to her while being in the service of Queen Katherine. I do not believe that she seduced the King by witchcraft or that she cheated on him. It was purely her way of being, their common passion for Fine Arts and chemistry that brought them together. Unfortunately, she was thought to be too clever for the time she had lived, and the ones who disagreed with her behaviour considered it is better that she will be silenced for good, thus persuaded the King into beheading her. What a beautiful lady in waiting and Queen, both inside and outside, it is a shame that her life was brought to an end so soon... Happily, her legacy was carried on by her daughter, Elizabeth, "the lion cub". :)


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