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Roses have Thorns

Title:  Roses Have Thorns (A Novel of Elizabeth I)
Author:  Sandra Byrd
Pages:  303
Year:  2013
Publisher:  Howard Books
                Roses Have Thorns is the third entry in the author’s historical fiction series about the closest female friends of female members of the Tudor family.  This book is begins in the year 1564 with the departure of Elin von Snakenborg from Sweden, who would become Queen Elizabeth’s closest friend, through the death of Queen Elizabeth in 1603.  The story is told from the point of view of Elin.
                For those unfamiliar with the history of the Tudor family lineage, a family tree is included, which was helpful.  There are also some family trees for Elin and her two husbands, as well as Robert Dudley, who was thought to be the love of Queen Elizabeth’s life, even though the two never married each other or consummated their relationship as Queen Elizabeth was married to her realm.  This saddened the Queen very much, the fact that she would never have a child or husband of her own.  She sacrificed these things for her people, her country.  She had a single-minded dedication that is to be admired.  She was a devout Protestant, but didn’t want to have a pogrom instituted against Catholics.  She also kept a tight grip on her country’s purse strings.  Queen Elizabeth ruled with an iron fist, but tried to surround herself with people, especially women, who could soften her hard edges.
                  Elin arrives in England to accompany a Swedish princess.  She meets her future husband, William Parr, and decides she wants to stay in England.  William courts her and asks for her hand in marriage.  There is one big problem; he is already married.  He doesn’t tell Elin, who now goes by the English version of her name, Helena, this until after she has accepted and the ship sailing for Sweden has already left port.  It takes years for them to finally marry during which time Helena learns her way around court and Queen Elizabeth’s service.  As her life progresses, Helena experiences joys and sorrows just like anyone else.  Helena is also a Protestant, which helps her gain the Queen’s favor.  Helena is eventually elevated to the highest position in England for a female, except the Queen.
                In this fictional story, readers will see self-sacrifice, extreme loyalty, how servants were always to put the monarch’s needs first in all things, deception, lies, duplicity, and envy to name just some of the traits portrayed.  I enjoyed learning about this historical period as I didn’t know very much previously.  The way royalty and those in service to them lived was interesting and informative.  I did find, however, that the story tended to drag on somewhat and lacked action at times.  Following the conclusion of the story, there are sections titled Afterword, Acknowledgment section, References, Reading Group Guide, and a Conversation with the author.
                My rating is 3 stars.
Note:  I received a complimentary copy for an honest review of this book.  The opinions shared in this review are solely my responsibility.  Other reviews can be read at .  Also follow me on Twitter @lcjohnson1988, FaceBook at
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