April 27, 2013 8 Comments

‘ROSES HAVE THORNS,’ BY SANDRA BYRD. Review of the 2013 historical about Elizabeth I's court. All review text is © Rissi JC

STORY: For years, and throughout her entire educational studies, Elin Von Snakenborg prepares for her trip with the Swedish Princess Cecilia to the English shores to visit Queen Elizabeth. The woman the Swedish monarchy once believes may marry their king. As one of Cecilia’s ladies-in-waiting, Elin never expects acceptance in the Queen’s court. Her knowledge of essential oils and herbs interests Elizabeth, and Elin immediately captures the fancy of the kindhearted, older and widowed Lord Northampton, a man who owes his life to Elizabeth. Choosing to remain in England transforms Elin into Helena, a true Englishwoman as she prepares for a wedding, and finding her place in Elizabeth’s court but where does her heart truly lie…

What I Like

Conflicted and curious are the two best words I’d use to sum up this book. The first describes how I feel at the end, the latter prior to reading this one. Praised for her skill, and as I did see films and television shows about the rise and fall of the Tudor family, this did naturally interest me. This, the third book is set in the court of Elizabeth I (called the “virgin queen”), deals largely in “behind-the-scenes” details of how she runs her court. Between the costumes and the unique descriptions of the era, it’s an interesting read.

There are some interesting looks at the struggle of power between Elizabeth and her cousin, Mary, Queen of Scots, which ends in tragedy. Then Sandra explores the relationship between Elizabeth and her “love,” Robert Dudley. I don’t know how much of this romantic liaison (here) is historical fact or creative fiction. Either way, the end of Elizabeth’s life is a sad one, and one the author writes and handles well.

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As a fictional character in a historically accurate world, one character I like is Helena. She’s sympathetic, and yet this doesn’t stop her from forging life in the unfamiliar. She isn’t a “spunky” heroine so much as loyal and dutiful to the crown but her marriages were, by contrast to the darker historic facts, special. Impressive is the weaving of two sweet love stories, and the tenderness each respective person shows to other person. Helena’s first blush with love is all it should be; even her shift of feelings towards William is realistic as is Thomas’ jealously later on. In the first three-fourths of the book, these are themes that hold up. However in the last vestiges of the book, this drops in an unceremonious way.

What I Don’t Like

Hurrying through what should be the formative years of Helena seems an unnecessary element. Helping to further the plot is one thing, passing eight years between a space of eight chapters is another. Some single chapters even buzz pass time in an alarming rate. This use of time reads as if the story rushes past what could have be key changes in the story, either by creating conflict or important “game-changers.”


I cannot honestly say that I love this book. By no means is it a bad read, just not one I’ll re-read. To be fair, I think part of this is because it seems “rushed.” The most interest I have is the romantic liaisons of Helena and Thomas, more so than that of Elizabeth’s continuing political struggles of power. Perhaps this is because the book is written from Helena’s perspective and so, it slights her to focus on Elizabeth’s reign or maybe it’s nothing more than being weary of Elizabeth’s trials. To be fair, this era is not a favorite either. Between that and my opinion biased by cinema, I’m probably less enthused by this book as a work of fiction and read it more as a “duty” and this isn’t what I want from reading. However, I’d wager any fans of Sandra’s prior two books will enjoy this one.

About the Book:

(Disclosure: this post does contain affiliate links; if you buy anything through these links, I may receive a small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you. Read the disclosure page for details. If you have purchased anything through our links, thank you. We’re grateful.)

Author: Sandra Byrd
Publisher: Howard books
Publication Date: 2013
Series: “Ladies in Waiting” (book three)
Genre: Christian Fiction; Young Adult, Teen, Series, Historical
Shop the Book: Bookshop.org | Goodreads
Rating: 3 out of 5

With thanks to the publisher for providing a complimentary copy of this book for reviewing purposes

About Rissi JC

amateur photog. #bookblogger. downton abbey. inspys. internet-photo-shy. writer. the aspiration is to someday write professionally. a girl can dream, right?

Rissi JC

amateur photog. #bookblogger. downton abbey. inspys. internet-photo-shy. writer. the aspiration is to someday write professionally. a girl can dream, right?

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  • Ruth A. April 28, 2013 at 12:33 am

    I really enjoyed this book too! I'm so happy to have finally discovered Sandra's work!

    • Rissi April 29, 2013 at 7:03 pm

      As am I, Ruth. Always was curious about Anne (Elizabeth's mother), so I'll have to read her story yet. I think while reading this one I was constantly reminded of the "Elizabeth" movies or TV show based on the Tudors so that sort of spoiled some of the book. ;)

  • Sandra Byrd April 29, 2013 at 7:39 pm

    Thank you so much for taking the time to review, Rissi. I really appreciate it, and hope you'll try To Die For when you have a "free" moment. :)

    • Rissi April 30, 2013 at 5:33 pm

      Hello, Sandra! Thank *you* for taking a moment to stop by. I appreciate that. :) I believe I do have one of your prior novels waiting in that TBR stack so certainly, yes, it's likely I will be reading some of your prior ladies-in-waiting novels. Thanks!

  • Charity U April 30, 2013 at 3:52 pm

    I'm sorry you didn't love this one, but hey — at least you enjoyed it! :) This series is a favorite of mine — and admittedly, I find the time period and characters fascinating. :) Hope you get a chance to read the rest of the series! :)

    • Rissi April 30, 2013 at 5:36 pm

      The time period is fascinating… I think I just prefer latter eras like the 1920s or late 1800's. I blame this on Downton Abbey in part. ;) Also I watched the movies about Elizabeth and Anne so that probably tainted my opinion a smidgeon of this book. Usually it doesn't but with everything else… yeah, I think that must have been it.

      It's wonderful that this is one of your favorite series, Charity. In all likelihood, I'll read 'Secret Keeper' as I believe that's the other one I have by Sandra.

  • Janka H. April 5, 2017 at 8:23 am

    Thank you for your honest review. I love Sandra Byrd´s books, now I can´t wait to get my hands on "A Lady in Disguise"! I strongly recommend the series (this is a third book in the series "The Daughters of Hampshire").

    • Rissi April 5, 2017 at 11:42 pm

      Thanks for the recommendation, Janka! I'm always excited to try new books. :) Sometimes I find myself reevaluating stories, and since I read this one years ago, who knows, today my impression might be entirely different. :)

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