88 books like Crown of Thistles

By Linda Porter,

Here are 88 books that Crown of Thistles fans have personally recommended if you like Crown of Thistles. Shepherd is a community of 9,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Blood Feud: Mary Queen of Scots and the Earl of Moray

Marie Macpherson Author Of The First Blast of the Trumpet

From my list on Mary, Queen of Scots and her people.

Who am I?

Growing up in the Honest Toun of Musselburgh near Edinburgh, I was surrounded by bloody battlefields, haunted castles, ruined abbeys and palaces. In particular, Scotland during the turbulent 16th century Reformation and the tragic reign of Mary, Queen of Scots fired my imagination. I was curious to know more about the lives, loves, and destinies of these fascinating historical characters. I wanted to delve deeper, go beyond dates and events–what happened when–to explore why and how people acted. I’m passionate about writing historical fiction as it involves researching the tiniest details about everyday life–clothes, food, methods of travel, language, beliefs–to bring people from the past to life for the reader.

Marie's book list on Mary, Queen of Scots and her people

Marie Macpherson Why did Marie love this book?

Returning from France to claim her throne, the Catholic queen steeled herself for a battle with John Knox, the fiery leader of a Reformed Scotland. However, as this exhilarating book reveals, Knox was not her most dangerous foe but her half-brother, James Stewart. 

In many accounts, the cunning, ambitious, and jealous Earl of Moray remains a shadowy figure, a Machiavellian eminence grise behind his sister’s throne but Veerapen’s scholarly historical analysis highlights the intense rivalry between the siblings that precipitated bloody assassinations and execution. 

Dr. Steven Veerapen is a historian of Stewarts and Tudors as well as a prolific author of mysteries set in the 16th and early 17th centuries. Here he writes a gripping narrative about the base-born brother who coveted his sister’s crown.

By Steven Veerapen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Blood Feud as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Much-needed analysis of a sinister sibling rivalry" - Marie Macpherson, author of 'The First Blast of the Trumpet'

Mary Queen of Scots is one of history’s most famous monarchs. A sovereign almost from birth, her life has been subject to intense scrutiny. So too have her relationships, from those she shared with her three husbands to that with the sixteenth-century’s other famous queen, her cousin Elizabeth.

There remains, however, a relationship that has been little explored: that between the Scottish queen and her base-born brother, James Stewart, the earl of Moray. Theirs is a drama of suspicion, political intrigue, religion,…


Book cover of Mary of Guise (Scots' Lives)

Marie Macpherson Author Of The First Blast of the Trumpet

From my list on Mary, Queen of Scots and her people.

Who am I?

Growing up in the Honest Toun of Musselburgh near Edinburgh, I was surrounded by bloody battlefields, haunted castles, ruined abbeys and palaces. In particular, Scotland during the turbulent 16th century Reformation and the tragic reign of Mary, Queen of Scots fired my imagination. I was curious to know more about the lives, loves, and destinies of these fascinating historical characters. I wanted to delve deeper, go beyond dates and events–what happened when–to explore why and how people acted. I’m passionate about writing historical fiction as it involves researching the tiniest details about everyday life–clothes, food, methods of travel, language, beliefs–to bring people from the past to life for the reader.

Marie's book list on Mary, Queen of Scots and her people

Marie Macpherson Why did Marie love this book?

The more I learnt about Mary of Guise, mother of Mary Queen of Scots, the more I admired this inspiring woman whose life is overshadowed by that of her more famous daughter. The French widow who spurned Henry VIII’s advances in favour of James V proved to be a wise, sharp-witted politician ruling as regent for Mary. Despite suffering great personal sorrow–the loss of two husbands and four sons–she held her daughter’s throne against opposition from the Scots lords until her premature death in 1560.

I often wonder how Mary’s life would have turned out had she been brought up by her shrewd and politically astute de Guise mother.

This is more a sketch than a full-length portrait but, like all Dr. Marshall’s studies, offers a wealth of information and telling details.

By Rosalind Marshall,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Mary of Guise (Scots' Lives) as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As mother of Mary Queen of Scots, Mary of Guise is often overshadowed by her more famous daughter. However, this intelligent and energetic woman also led an intriguing life of her own. Daughter of a powerful French family, a staunch Roman Catholic and subtle politician, she acted as Regent for her young daughter and was keen to ensure that Scottish loyalties lay with France rather than Protestant England. This is the story of a strong-willed woman who lived through turbulent times.


Book cover of The Sword Bearer: John Knox and the European Reformation

Marie Macpherson Author Of The First Blast of the Trumpet

From my list on Mary, Queen of Scots and her people.

Who am I?

Growing up in the Honest Toun of Musselburgh near Edinburgh, I was surrounded by bloody battlefields, haunted castles, ruined abbeys and palaces. In particular, Scotland during the turbulent 16th century Reformation and the tragic reign of Mary, Queen of Scots fired my imagination. I was curious to know more about the lives, loves, and destinies of these fascinating historical characters. I wanted to delve deeper, go beyond dates and events–what happened when–to explore why and how people acted. I’m passionate about writing historical fiction as it involves researching the tiniest details about everyday life–clothes, food, methods of travel, language, beliefs–to bring people from the past to life for the reader.

Marie's book list on Mary, Queen of Scots and her people

Marie Macpherson Why did Marie love this book?

My upbringing taught me to believe that John Knox was the Antichrist but that only piqued my curiosity to know more about the Thundering Scot. What fired his driving ambition? Why did the ordained priest reject the Roman Catholic Church? How did he become leader of the Scottish Reformation? Was the twice married preacher who wrote The First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment of Women really such a rampant misogynist? How did his public persona differ from the private family man? Rev Lamont answers these questions and more in an exciting non-fiction account that reads more like an adventure thriller than a history.

While Jane Dawson’s comprehensive biography tackles the theological issues, this short book looks beyond the caricature of the pulpit-thumping Calvinist to reveal a complex, contradictory character.

By Stewart Lamont,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Sword Bearer as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is the biography of one of Scotland's most famous reformers whose life story reads like an adventure thriller involving assassinations, revolution and undercover trips across Europe. In 1544 he was acting tutor to the sons of two families where he was brought into contact with George Wishart. In 1547 he was formally called to the ministry, and preached with acceptance. A few months later the castle fell to the French and for 18 months Knox remained a prisoner on the French galleys. In 1549 he regained his liberty and for four years made his home in England. In 1551…


Book cover of Darnley: A Life of Henry Suart Lord Darnley, Consort of Mary Queen of Scots

Marie Macpherson Author Of The First Blast of the Trumpet

From my list on Mary, Queen of Scots and her people.

Who am I?

Growing up in the Honest Toun of Musselburgh near Edinburgh, I was surrounded by bloody battlefields, haunted castles, ruined abbeys and palaces. In particular, Scotland during the turbulent 16th century Reformation and the tragic reign of Mary, Queen of Scots fired my imagination. I was curious to know more about the lives, loves, and destinies of these fascinating historical characters. I wanted to delve deeper, go beyond dates and events–what happened when–to explore why and how people acted. I’m passionate about writing historical fiction as it involves researching the tiniest details about everyday life–clothes, food, methods of travel, language, beliefs–to bring people from the past to life for the reader.

Marie's book list on Mary, Queen of Scots and her people

Marie Macpherson Why did Marie love this book?

The murder of Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley, has baffled historians and authors for centuries, yet the queen’s consort is often a minor figure in the greater tragedy/romance of Mary. While writing my own book, I was eager to know more about the ill-fated lang lad other than the results of his self-centred scheming conspiracies–David Rizzio’s assassination, his own murder at Kirk o Field, and ultimately Mary’s downfall. And so it was refreshing to read this excellent biography which gives Darnley centre stage. By recreating his childhood and family background, particularly around his ambitious mother, Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox, Caroline Bingham offers a fascinating portrait of this flawed character who stole the queen’s heart and then broke it. 

At times her account made me feel sorry for this gullible pawn in the Game of Queens.

By Caroline Bingham,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Darnley as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Darnley was a murderer, and then himself a victim of one of the most famous unsolved murders of all time.


Book cover of Mary, Queen of Scots: Escape from Lochleven Castle

Gill Arbuthnott Author Of The Amazing Life of Mary, Queen of Scots: Fact-Tastic Stories from Scotland's History

From my list on Mary Queen of Scots for people who aren't into history.

Who am I?

I was utterly uninspired by history at school—couldn’t see the point of it at all—but then I discovered Jean Plaidy’s books and realised history was about people, real people. Dorothy Dunnett propelled me headlong into a fascination with sixteenth-century Europe, a period full of larger-than-life characters and an unusually high number of strong women. Mary Queen of Scots, Elizabeth I, Catherine de Medici, Mary of Guise, Hurrem Sultan (wife of Suleiman the Magnificent): they wielded real power. And Mary Queen of Scots was so young—it makes her the perfect starting point to interest young readers in history. I hope I’ve done her story justice.

Gill's book list on Mary Queen of Scots for people who aren't into history

Gill Arbuthnott Why did Gill love this book?

This is a great introduction to Mary’s story for young readers. I love the clever way it centres the whole story of Mary’s life on her true, action-packed escape from Loch Leven Castle, helped by a young boy called Will Douglas. It’s beautifully illustrated and written. This is how to get ‘em interested in history at an early age!

By Theresa Breslin, Teresa Martinez (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Mary, Queen of Scots as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

The true story of the daring escape of Mary, Queen of Scots from the island castle in Lochleven is well-known throughout Scotland and the world.

Multi-award-winning author Theresa Breslin, who has carefully researched Mary's life, has adapted this famous adventure into a picture book for children.

Through stunning illustrations and a gripping story, both packed with historical detail, children will feel the tension of Mary's imprisonment and the excitement of her escape plans, gaining insight into this fascinating period of Scottish history.

A full and engaging historical tale for children from a fabulous Scottish storyteller.


Book cover of Mary Queen of Scots: An Illustrated Life

Anne J. Cruz and Mihoko Suzuki Author Of The Rule of Women in Early Modern Europe

From my list on women who ruled in early modern Europe.

Who are we?

Mihoko and Anne first met at the University of Miami, where Mihoko was a specialist in early modern England and Anne, in early modern Spain. Sharing their interests in gender studies, literature, and history, and combining their expertise, they team-taught a popular course on early modern women writers. Anne’s publications range from studies of women in Cervantes’ Don Quixote, female rogues, and religious women to early modern Habsburg queens. Mihoko has published on the figure of Helen of Troy in classical and Renaissance epic; and women and politics in early modern Europe, especially in the context of the many civil wars that upended the political and social order of the period.

Anne's book list on women who ruled in early modern Europe

Anne J. Cruz and Mihoko Suzuki Why did Anne love this book?

In many ways the opposite of her cousin Elizabeth I whom she sought to replace as queen of England, the thrice-married Mary Queen of Scots ruled Scotland for only six years before she was deposed; she then was imprisoned in England for almost twenty years before she was executed for plotting to overthrow Elizabeth. Susan Doran’s richly illustrated biography, which includes portraits of the queen, images of letters by her and by Elizabeth, and sketches of her trial and execution by eyewitnesses, brings to life this enigmatic figure concerning whom many questions remain unresolved: Were the “Casket Letters” written by her to her lover Bothwell or were they forgeries? Was she complicit in the murder of her second husband? Did she join English Catholics in a conspiracy to assassinate Elizabeth? Doran judiciously weighs the evidence on these controversies and concludes that Mary’s lack of political judgment was largely responsible for…

By Susan Doran,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Mary Queen of Scots as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Mary Queen of Scots has been the subject of innumerable plays, poems, songs, operas, films, novels and biographies. It is not difficult to see why. The first 21 years of her life were packed with dramatic incident, including her flight to France, widowhood at an early age, the murder of her secretary and second husband, abduction and rape by a third, and finally captivity and escape from a remote castle in the Highlands of Scotland. Her last 18 years as a prisoner in England, while certainly quieter, were nonetheless marked by conspiracy and intrigue; and her execution in February 1587…


Book cover of Royal Road to Fotheringhay

Gill Arbuthnott Author Of The Amazing Life of Mary, Queen of Scots: Fact-Tastic Stories from Scotland's History

From my list on Mary Queen of Scots for people who aren't into history.

Who am I?

I was utterly uninspired by history at school—couldn’t see the point of it at all—but then I discovered Jean Plaidy’s books and realised history was about people, real people. Dorothy Dunnett propelled me headlong into a fascination with sixteenth-century Europe, a period full of larger-than-life characters and an unusually high number of strong women. Mary Queen of Scots, Elizabeth I, Catherine de Medici, Mary of Guise, Hurrem Sultan (wife of Suleiman the Magnificent): they wielded real power. And Mary Queen of Scots was so young—it makes her the perfect starting point to interest young readers in history. I hope I’ve done her story justice.

Gill's book list on Mary Queen of Scots for people who aren't into history

Gill Arbuthnott Why did Gill love this book?

I was never interested in History at school: it just seemed to be boring lists that didn’t involve relatable human beings. I can’t remember why I picked up this book in the library, but it opened history up to me as something completely different—and fascinating. These Queens and Kings and plague victims and soldiers were people like the people around me—and the story was as exciting as many of the plots in the non-fact-based fiction I read. 

By Jean Plaidy,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Royal Road to Fotheringhay as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The haunting story of the beautiful—and tragic—Mary, Queen of Scots, as only legendary novelist Jean Plaidy could write it

Mary Stuart became Queen of Scotland at the tender age of six days old. Her French-born mother, the Queen Regent, knew immediately that the infant queen would be a vulnerable pawn in the power struggle between Scotland’s clans and nobles. So Mary was sent away from the land of her birth and raised in the sophisticated and glittering court of France. Unusually tall and slim, a writer of music and poetry, Mary was celebrated throughout Europe for her beauty and intellect.…


Book cover of The Game of Kings

Leigh Grant Author Of Mask of Dreams

From my list on capturing a moment in history.

Who am I?

I started out on this journey with an entirely different book in mind based on a Chinese tale about beauty, masking, and deception. Somewhere along the way, I transposed the idea to 15th-century Venice where Neo-Platonic beliefs were parallel to those in the fairy tale. The country that preceded Montenegro became part of the story and I fell in love with both those places. Finally, I read everything I could find in nonfiction on the 15th century, and developed two characters, a Slav brigand, Rade, and a Venetian maiden, Caterina. To my great surprise, the book began to write itself.

Leigh's book list on capturing a moment in history

Leigh Grant Why did Leigh love this book?

In the character of Francis Crawford of Lymond, Dorothy Dunnett created one of the most memorable heroes in historical fiction. I lived for the next book in the series. Lymond was mercurial, malicious, loving, insouciant, flawed, and fearless – and yet believable and very human. Dunnett brought 16th-century Scotland and the borderlands to life, even to the songs and the literature. It was a world entirely real to the reader and one in which, despite unexpected tragedy, elsewhere in the story, there could be a sense of humor.

By Dorothy Dunnett,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Game of Kings as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this first book in the legendary Lymond Chronicles, Francis Crawford of Lymond, traitor, murderer, nobleman, returns to Scotland to redeem his reputation and save his home.

It is 1547 and Scotland has been humiliated by an English invasion and is threatened by machinations elsewhere beyond its borders, but it is still free. Paradoxically, her freedom may depend on a man who stands accused of treason. He is Francis Crawford of Lymond, a scapegrace nobleman of crooked felicities and murderous talents, posessed of a scholar's erudition and a tongue as wicked as a rapier. In The Game of Kings, this…


Book cover of Mary Queen of Scots

Gill Arbuthnott Author Of The Amazing Life of Mary, Queen of Scots: Fact-Tastic Stories from Scotland's History

From my list on Mary Queen of Scots for people who aren't into history.

Who am I?

I was utterly uninspired by history at school—couldn’t see the point of it at all—but then I discovered Jean Plaidy’s books and realised history was about people, real people. Dorothy Dunnett propelled me headlong into a fascination with sixteenth-century Europe, a period full of larger-than-life characters and an unusually high number of strong women. Mary Queen of Scots, Elizabeth I, Catherine de Medici, Mary of Guise, Hurrem Sultan (wife of Suleiman the Magnificent): they wielded real power. And Mary Queen of Scots was so young—it makes her the perfect starting point to interest young readers in history. I hope I’ve done her story justice.

Gill's book list on Mary Queen of Scots for people who aren't into history

Gill Arbuthnott Why did Gill love this book?

I read this book many years ago, but I went back to it as my first port of call when I began to research my own book on Mary. It’s a fantastically readable, detailed, and sympathetic portrait of Mary. And the sympathetic bit was important to me. It’s almost impossible not to take sides when reading or writing about Mary, and she did make some disastrous decisions, but I keep coming back to how young she was, and that’s well illustrated here.

By Antonia Fraser,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Mary Queen of Scots as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“A book that will leave few readers unmoved.”–San Francisco Chronicle

She was the quintessential queen: statuesque, regal, dazzlingly beautiful. Her royal birth gave her claim to the thrones of two nations; her marriage to the young French dauphin promised to place a third glorious crown on her noble head.

Instead, Mary Stuart became the victim of her own impulsive heart, scandalizing her world with a foolish passion that would lead to abduction, rape and even murder. Betrayed by those she most trusted, she would be lured into a deadly game of power, only to lose to her envious and unforgiving…


Book cover of The Girl in the Glass Tower

Sara Read Author Of The Gossips' Choice

From my list on biofiction of historical women.

Who am I?

I’m a literary historian who works on the history of women’s reproductive bodies in the early modern era. I am also a debut novelist who has used my many years of researching the seventeenth century to bring to life the story of a seventeenth-century midwife. My own novel is not a bio fiction in the strictest sense of the term (novels with a named protagonist who was a historical figure) but it is based on the published works of two contemporary midwives, Jane Sharp (fl. 1671) and Sarah Stone who worked in the early part of the eighteenth century. I love reading works where other authors have brought to life figures I both research and teach.

Sara's book list on biofiction of historical women

Sara Read Why did Sara love this book?

This is such a good biofiction of Lady Arbella Stuart (1575-1615), niece to Mary, Queen of Scots, who was for many years presumed to be the natural successor to Elizabeth I. She lived under the strict rule of grandmother Bess of Hardwick, at the many-windowed palace, Hardwick Hall, the glass tower of the book’s title. As a bonus in this novel, we meet Aemilia Lanyer again. The two women’s paths cross in a most unexpected way.

By Elizabeth Fremantle, Elizabeth Fremantle,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Girl in the Glass Tower as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Lost in history . . . losing her self. Uncover Tudor heroine Arbella Stuart's incredible story, reimagined by Elizabeth Fremantle in this tense, historical thriller.

Hardwick Hall, sixteenth-century England.
Formerly a beacon of wealth and power.
Now a gilded prison.

Hidden away, forgotten, one young woman seeks escape.

But to do so she must trust those on the outside.
Those who have their own motives...

Discovery means death. But what choice has any woman trapped in a man's world?

Imprisoned by circumstance, Arbella Stuart is an unwilling contender for the throne. In a world where women are silenced, what chance…


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