Tuesday, July 2, 2013
Book Review: Roses Have Thorns by Sandra Byrd/4 Stars
From the acclaimed author of To Die For comes a stirring novel told that sheds new light on Elizabeth I and her court. 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 an 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.
It's been several weeks now since I read Roses Have Thorns, and I'm ashamed to say that I've struggled with writing my review of this book. Sandra is not only a great author, but someone that I now think of as a friend. Perhaps that's why I've...um...slightly avoided writing a review of RHT because I didn't connect with it the way I'd hoped I would.
Compared to the other two books in the Ladies in Waiting series, this novel features a Queen rather than the wife of a king. That alone took some getting used to because, as a reader, I wasn't accustomed to being that close to the decisions made by a leader of a country since the first two books were not told from that viewpoint. However, I felt that I learned a great deal more about the political intrigue that must've been rampant at that time, as well as the willingness of Elizabeth I to be totally and completely devoted to her country rather than finding a husband.
I enjoyed Helena as the viewpoint for the story because she seemed to be a woman with a smart head on her shoulders, and knew when she should speak her opinion and when she should keep silent. While I didn't expect things to turn out the way they did for Helena in regards to marriage, I did appreciate the reality shown here that marriage is not always wedded bliss, and "happily ever after" rarely occurs despite our dreams for such.
But as a whole, there just seemed to be something missing. The only thing I can really attribute it to is lack of emotion. As we all know, Queen Elizabeth never married, but did have one gentleman she was fond of. Because of her devotion to her throne and to England, she squelched her desire to explore anything further with him, and from that point forward, seemed to be "all business." Also, there seemed to be a repetition that I've never experienced in one of Sandra's reads, and as a result, it took me longer to finish RHT than it did to finish To Die For and The Secret Keeper combined.
It pains me to no end that this was not as enjoyable of a read for me because Sandra has been one of my favorite authors for many years now, and this is the first book that hasn't received 5 stars from me. By no means will it stop me from reading more of her books, and I think I'll look back on this one as a blip on the radar because I know she's got more great books in store. :o)
**Many thanks to the author for providing a copy for review.