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Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Newest Ladies in Waiting Novel Offers a Rich, Poignant Examination of Love and Loyalty (with a Giveaway!)

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

When Sweden's Princess Cecelia sails for England in 1565, she takes along an entourage of servants, including her favorite ladies-in-waiting.  Among these is 17-year-old Elin von Snakenborg, a redheaded beauty longing for a change of scenery.  Elin leaves behind a fiancé who's recently fallen for her sister and a dowry that's been gambled away to almost nothing.  With little to draw her back to Sweden, she decides to stay in England, pledging her services to Queen Elizabeth I.  As a foreigner, Elin's received a bit coolly by the other ladies, but it doesn't take her long to bond with the queen.  Thanks to an advantageous marriage,  Elin soon receives the title of Marchioness, making her the highest-ranking woman in all of England (save the queen).  As such, she is able to be more to the monarch than just a maid—she's now a friend, someone Queen Elizabeth depends on, confides in, and trusts.  

Even as a married woman, Elin finds life at court exciting.  The daily gossip always sizzles with tales of romance, deceit and treason.  Enemies constantly threaten the queen, vying for a chance to seize her throne.  As Elizabeth deals with danger—both from within her borders and without—she relies on her ladies-in-waiting to comfort, support and distract her.  Elin fills her role faithfully, doing everything she can to serve the queen she loves.  But when problems within her own home arise, Elin questions whether her loyalty to Elizabeth will cost her more than she's willing to give.  Can she save her marriage, even if it means defying the most powerful woman in the land?  And does she really want to, especially now that she's not sure she can trust her own husband?  In a country already swarming with danger and deception, Elin must decide where her true fealty lies—before her own neck ends up on the chopping block.

Roses Have Thorns, the third book in Sandra Byrd's Ladies in Waiting series, continues the story of England's Tudor queens, as told through the eyes of the women who were closest to them.  Like To Die For and The Secret Keeper, the newest volume in the series brings historic England to vivid life using painstaking period detail as well as a richly-imagined scenes between the principal characters.  Still, while the constant turmoil caused by real, historically-accurate events provides plenty of background tension, the main storyline sags a bit in the middle, growing dull before it picks up again toward the end.  Byrd writes well, but my interest in Elin's plight definitely waxed and waned, depending on the pacing of the plot.  Overall, though, I found Roses Have Thorns to be a rich, poignant examination of love, loyalty and the life lessons we can all glean from the world's very turbulent history.  

(Readalikes:  To Die For and The Secret Keeper by Sandra Byrd; also reminds me of The Last Queen by C.W. Gortner and Nefertiti by Michelle Moran)

Grade:  B-

If this were a movie, it would be rated:  PG-13 for violence and very mild sexual content

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of Roses Have Thorns from the generous folks at Howard Books (a division of Simon & Schuster) via those at Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.  Thank you! 


Now for the fun part -- you can win your very own copy of Roses Have Thorns.  All you have to do is leave a comment on this post telling me which historical time period is your favorite to read about.  I will also need an email address so I can contact you if you win.  Easy peasy, right?  The giveaway will end on April 22nd at midnight.  Good luck!


  1. Oh! My favorite time period to read about it Either the Elizabethan or Victorian. I just love it, though to be fair, I may just love reading about older time periods than I live in. Times when you didn't have cell phones, speedy cars, too much electronic interference (ironic as I write this on my cell phone)... Such a simpler time, with not necessarily simpler problems.

  2. i agree with pam, i really like to read about almost any older time periods than i live in especially Victorian.

  3. Regency period. Hands down. I love Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and Austen novels. Thanks for the giveaway!! (:

  4. I tend to enjoy nearly every historical era, but I esp. like pre and post Norman Conquest. Thanks for the giveaway.

  5. I love early 1900s! (And 1800s, and the 21st pretty much any book haha!)

  6. Thank you for taking the time to read and review. I'm happy to have been a part of your mountain of books! :)


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