Roses Have Thorns: A Novel of Elizabeth I (Tudor Ladies in Waiting #3) by Sandra Byrd | Historical Fiction Review

Roses Have Thorns: A Novel of Elizabeth I (Tudor Ladies in Waiting #3) by Sandra Byrd

Tudor Ladies in Waiting #3
Historical Fiction

What happens when serving a queen may cost you your marriage—or your life?

From the author of To Die For comes a stirring novel that sheds new light on Elizabeth I and her court, a book that evokes the Tudor period's complexity, grandeur, and brutality.

In 1565, seventeen-year-old Elin von Snakenborg leaves Sweden on a treacherous journey to England. Her fiancé has fallen in love with her sister, and her dowry money has been gambled away. Ahead of her lies an adventure that will take her to the dizzying heights of Tudor power and plunge her to the riskiest, most heartrending lows.

Transformed through marriage into Helena, the Marchioness of Northampton, she becomes the highest-ranking woman in Elizabeth's circle and Elizabeth's dear friend and confidant. But in a court surrounded by enemies plotting 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 multi-layered exploration of treason, both to the realm and the heart.


A discussion of potentially sensitive content may be found on the author’s webpage for this book for those who would like to preview it before reading.

Tudor Ladies in Waiting series

Read the entire series:

My Thoughts

In Roses Have Thorns we are taken into the inner circle of Queen Elizabeth I. The story is told through the perspective of Helen von Snakenborg, who is a confidant of the queen and the second most powerful woman in all of England.

If you are a fan of Tudor history you are really going to enjoy this book! Sandra Byrd has woven a tale that is compelling yet tasteful. She gives you insight into just how turbulent the times were. We are reminded of how much shifting between Catholic and Protestant religions her predecessors embarked upon. The religious tension of the day was very pervasive in the lives of everyone, from those at court to those among the masses.  

I came away from the book with a new respect for Elizabeth I. She really did sacrifice her life and happiness for her subjects and her country. She was a very devout woman yet her court was still riddled with scandals. One of the things I appreciate about Sandra Byrd’s writing is that she tackles these disgraces head on in a discerning manner. We are aware of exactly what is going on, but we don’t have to muck through the tawdry details.

I was also profoundly affected by the story of Helen. I can’t even begin to imagine what it was like to live at court. Every luxury is at your fingertips, but your children and even in Helen’s case your husband are elsewhere. The power the queen held over her life would have been completely overwhelming to me. I loved her strength of character and also her flaws that reminded us that we are all vulnerable when we take our eyes off of our Savior.

This is the third and final installment in the Ladies in Waiting series. The first book is To Die For; A Novel of Anne Boleyn.  The second book is The Secret Keeper; A Novel of Kateryn Parr. Even though these three books are considered a series they are easily read as stand-alone novels. I highly recommend each of them!

Connect With The Author

Sandra Byrd


I received a copy of this book to facilitate my review.


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