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Thursday, April 18, 2013

"Roses Have Thorns" by Sandra Byrd~Historical Fiction Gilded


From the acclaimed author of To Die For comes a stirring novel told that sheds new light on Elizabeth I and her court.Like Philippa Gregory and Alison Weir, Sandra Byrd has attracted countless fans for evoking the complexity, grandeur, and brutality of the Tudor period. In her latest tour de force, she poses the question: What happens when serving a queen may cost you your marriage--or your life?

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.

Praise for Roses Have Thorns

"In Roses Have Thorns Sandra Byrd has given the reader another amazing heroine to tell the intimate story of England's greatest queen, Elizabeth I. What a unique point of view and deeply moving story Helena von Snakenborg provides. Byrd is especially adept at blending political and private lives. This is a timeless women's friendship novel as well as a poignant love story to cherish--both the roses and the thorns." (Karen Harper, New York Times bestselling author of Mistress of Mourning )

"There is something golden about this tale of Elin, an eager young woman in a strange land, diligent in her duty but alive to love. A tale gracefully told, even as it renders the terrors of treachery that form the crucible of Elin's hard-won wisdom. A heartfelt story of loyalty, longing, life-long friendship, and the many seasons of the heart." (Barbara Kyle, author of The Queen's Gamble and Blood Between Queens)

"Beautiful prose and masterful research combine to bring this fascinating tale to life, treating the reader to fully realized characters and providing an original window through which we can view Elizabeth's court. Ms. Byrd's work will stand as an unforgettable contribution to Tudor fiction." (D.L. Bogdan, author of The Forgotten Queen)


Publication Date: April 9, 2013
Simon & Schuster/Howard Boo
Paperback; 336p

ISBN-10: 1439183163

About the Author

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. For more Tudor tidbits, please visit
www.sandrabyrd.com. Follow Sandra Byrd on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.


We are delighted to bring this informative guest post from Sandra today!  Thank you, Sandra... Feeling so special to have you stop by with this.

                   Sleeve Puffs, Lace Ruffs, and The Queen's Wardrobe 

"Queen Elizabeth was so fond of her clothes that she would never part with any of them, and it is said that at her death there were three thousand dresses and 'head attires' in her wardrobe." So claims Herbert Norris in his tome, Tudor Costume and Fashion.  Elizabeth actually was known to give away some of her clothing—to her ladies, to maids of honor, and to other less well-off nobles. But there is no doubt that the woman, like her mother and father before her, was a clothes horse. 

            Her coronation robes, according to Norris, "consisted of a dress with a long train of gold tissue lined with white sarcenet and bordered with ermine, and worn over the Spanish farthingale." Of interest is the fact that, of course, ermine, the winter white fur of the English stoat, is common among the robes of state, sometimes being powdered (as was the queen's visage) to make it even whiter. Although both Queen Anne Boleyn and her daughter were particular to French fashion, the queen retained a fondness for the Spanish hoop and  underskirt fashion nearly all of her reign. But how did the queen, and others of the age, know what was fashionable in France, or anywhere else?

            Portraits of ladies and nobles in other lands were available through diplomatic channels, and they provided insight into continental fashion. Queen Elizabeth tried, in vain, to bring over a French seamstress at least once during her reign. More interesting, though, were the fashion dolls that were sent from land to land. Helena von Snakenborg, Marchioness of Northampton, sent such a doll to her Swedish sister, Karin Bonde, in 1604. Helena's letter to her sister says, "As regards the doll, which, dearest sister, you have mention in your letter, we have sent our servant up to London, to have it dressed in the best and latest fashion of the season. When it is ready it shall be sent to you as you desire." According to Janet Arnold's Queen Elizabeth's Wardrobe Unlock'd, there is just such a little doll preserved at a museum in Stockholm, dating from the late 16th century. Click here to see the doll.  

            There are two fashion accessories for both men and women that are particularly noted to the Elizabethan era: the ruff and gloves. Norris teaches that the ruff started out as "a cutwork or lace edging on the neckbands of gentlemen's shirts" before the reign of Elizabeth's brother, Edward VI. But they continued to grow until, as John Davis writes in Life in Elizabethan Days, "ruffs a foot deep are very usual and a gallant's head sticking out of them looks (as a courtier remarked) 'like John the Baptist's head upon a platter.'" The ruffs were often lace or linen, and were formed and curled on hot irons. Norris states that, "Starch, called by the Puritans as 'the Devil's liquor'" was brought over from the Netherlands, and that a Dutch woman whose husband was Elizabeth's coachman "monopolized in England the knowledge of clear starching."

            The queen was famously vain of her long white fingers, and rightly so. To protect them, and to show them to their best advantage, she often wore gloves. Gloves were most often made of soft kid, and were embroidered and embossed, or had delicate ruffs of their own sewn on.  Norris says that perfumed gloves were not common until later in Elizabeth's reign, when they became very popular indeed. The queen received a dozen pair of them as gifts for the New Year, 1599. The queen was famous, like her father, for an abhorrence to "evil smells."  This made perfumed gloves very popular,  but also an easy vehicle for those who would like to poison her through inhalants. In 2012, the London department store Selfridges sponsored an exhibition of gloves to mark the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. The centerpiece of the exhibit? The gloves worn by Queen Elizabeth I at her 1559 coronation.  You can view the entire collection here: Selfridge's Diamond Jubilee Glove Exhibit.

            According to Lace: A History, by Santina Levey, in today's money, Queen Elizabeth I averaged £9535 4 wardrobe each of the last four years of her reign; James I averaged £36,377 per year during the first five years of his.  In today's money, that's roughly £1,191,875 ($1,883,163) per year for Elizabeth or £4,547,125 ($7,184,458) for James. So perhaps the Stuarts were the biggest clothes horses of all!
Perfect and informative piece on Elizabeth who always appeared to be the consummate "clothes horse!" 
Sandra Byrd has written a trilogy in historical fiction beginning with To Die For, then The Secret Keeper, and now Roses Have Thorns.  These are extraordinary works of fiction simply because they are well-researched on the one part, and they are also so well presented as stories.  I think Ms Byrd is at the top of her game.  She rests as one of the best in those writing historical fiction on the market today.
In this novel, we meet a Swedish noble lady who leaves her homeland as a teenager to serve her homeland noblewoman in a trip to England.  As she leaves her mother, she discovers she's been betrayed by her sister and her betrothed.  Once in England, she meets a love interest and decides to stay, and to serve Queen Elizabeth I in hopes of marrying the nobleman.  Love and loss follow her in the coming years in England.
What Ms Byrd focuses on in her characters throughout the book is this sense of betrayal along with the character traits of loyalty and devotion; thus the title of roses and thorns.  Also, she shows the two sides of Queen Elizabeth in the novel--her love and patience toward  her peasant subjects, yet her dual personality in relationship to her close ladies in waiting and relatives.   These character studies, as well as the love interests of the Swedish Elin von Snakenborg who becomes a Marchioness in her eventual life in England, provide historical details in the life of Elizabeth and the workings of her inner sanctums.
Historically, the time of the Protestant and Catholic struggle between Elizabeth and Mary Queen of Scots is dealt with; although I didn't find this a strong focus of the novel. 
I'm a fan of Sandra Byrd and her consistent way of writing.  She's an author who is true to historical facts, while she brings in a storyline that is easy to read and flows well with descriptive detail and human love interests.
I'm delighted to be able to recommend all of her books in this series, particularly "Roses and Thorns" with its court intrigue and pains of love and loss.
5 stars in historical fiction         Deborah/TheBookishDame
This guest post and review was brought to you in cooperation with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.  Please visit the website to find more reviews, interviews and posts regarding this book at:  http://www.hfvirtualbooktours.com


Sandra Byrd

Thank you so much for your wonderful review - I will carry these words forward as encouragement as I write the next book. I appreciate the time you take to read, and your thoughtful, careful reviews!


Thank you, Sandra. Coming from you, a wonderful encouragement to my heart!

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