About the Book:
Author: Sandra Byrd
Publisher: Howard Books
Publication Date: 2013
Series: “Ladies in Waiting” (book three)
Genre: Christian Fiction; Young Adult, Teen, Series, Historical Rating: 3 ½ out of 5
Review: For years, over her entire educational studies, Elin Von Snakenborg has prepared for her trip with the Swedish Princess Cecilia to the English shores to visit Queen Elizabeth. The woman, the Swedish monarchy once thought may marry their king. As one of Cecilia’s ladies-in-waiting, Elin never expected to be swept into the Queen’s court. Her knowledge of essential oils and herbs interests Elizabeth and Elin immediately captures the fancy of the kindhearted, older and widowed Lord Northampton, a man who owes his life to Elizabeth having been imprisoned once by the Queen’s elder sister, Mary. Choosing to remain in England transforms Elin into becoming a true Englishwoman as she prepares for a wedding as Helena and finding her place in Elizabeth’s court but where does her heart truly lie…
The Pros: Conflicted and curious are probably the two words I’ve use to sum up this book – the first describing how I felt at the end, the latter prior to ever reading anything by Sandra Byrd. Reveled for her skill with this series – having seen films and television shows that chronicles the rise and fall of power in the Tudor family, I was naturally interested. This, the third book is set in the court of Elizabeth II – known as the “virgin queen,” deals largely in a “behind-the-scenes” kind of look and there are some great details of how she ran her court that were quite delightful. Between the costuming descriptions and the unique descriptions of “the way” of the era, it was an interesting read and one I am not sorry to have been a part of. Sandra weaves a well-written and plotted book.
There are some interesting historical looks at the long-suffering struggle of power between Elizabeth and her cousin, Mary, Queen of Scots that eventually (historically so as well as fictionally) ends in tragedy. Then Sandra explores the relationship between Elizabeth and her “love,” Robert Dudley. Being no scholar on the matter, I don’t know how much she wrote from what her own impressions of the romantic liaison was or if she backed her scenario on historical facts. Either way, the end of Elizabeth’s life is a sad one – one that the author writes and handles well.
As a fictional character in a historically accurate world, I grew to like Helena. She was sympathetic and alone in a world not her own and yet that did not stop her from forging her own life in the unfamiliar. She wasn’t a “spunky” heroine so much as she was loyal and dutiful to the crown but her marriages were, by contrast of the darker historic facts, special. Weaving two sweet love stories, I have to say I was impressed by how deftly Sandra expressed the love and tenderness each respective person had toward the other person – Helena’s first blush with love was all it should be, her shifting feelings towards William were realistic and easy to understand as was Thomas’ jealously later on in his marriage to Helena. In the first three-fourths of the book, these are themes that were held up and well explained, however in the last vestiges of the book, I felt as if this was dropped in an unceremoniously way.
Cons: Hurrying through what should be the formative years of Helena seemed an unnecessary element. Furthering the plot is one thing, passing eight years between a space of eight chapters is another. Some single chapters even buzz pass time in an alarming rate. This use of time reads as if the story were rushing past what could have been key changes in the story, either by creating conflict or important “game-changers.”
Conclusion: I cannot honestly say that I loved this book. By no means was it a bad read for me, just not one I’ll be likely to re-read. To be fair, I think that a part of this was because I felt “rushed” when reading the book. Once I had to set it aside to meet a deadline and nearer the end, I tended to “speed read,” being a bit more interested in the romantic liaisons of Helena and Thomas (what can I say, I am a romantic) than that of Elizabeth’s continuing political struggles of power. Perhaps this was because the book is written from Helena’s perspective and so, it felt like a slight to her to focus so much time on Elizabeth’s reign and life or maybe it was nothing more than being strung out on the trials of Elizabeth having already an image of her formed via cinematic sagas. To be fair, this era is not a favorite either. Between that and my opinion being, in all likelihood biased by the cinematic portrayals, I was probably less enthused by this book as a work of fiction and reading it more as a “duty” and for me, that isn’t what I want from the books I chose to read. However, I’d wager any fans of Sandra’s prior two books will enjoy this one.
Synopsis: 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, 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.
With thanks to the publisher for providing a complimentary copy of this book for reviewing purposes