zaterdag 9 mei 2015

Bertrice Small – Skye O’Malley

The first book in the Skye O'Malley series, published August 12, 1981.
Genre: historical romance
Cover: this is my cover, but there are some really pretty ones out there.

Skye O'Malley photo n90138_zpsvw6vikvn.jpg

With ebony hair, deep blue eyes, silken gardenia skin, and a tall, luscious body, she is beautiful, hot-tempered, made for love. And love she does – from her first taste of tender ecstasy in the glittering green hills of Ireland to an adventure in erotic rapture in a lush Algerian hideaway to explosive passion in a stately London mansion.
A woman of incomparable beauty and vitality, Skye O’Malley is courageous, intelligent and wise – a seafaring captain of her own mighty fleet, the shrewd overseer of vast wealth, and spirited enough to win a battle of wits with none other than Queen Elizabeth herself.
Skye O’Malley is a novel of sensual delight, of a brave, brilliant and magnificent woman swept up on a timeless journey filled with tender romance, exquisite passion, and eternal love.

When I read on Facebook on February 26, 2015, that Bertrice Small had passed away, I was very sad. I discovered her books in my early teens, and have loved them ever since. From all my favourite authors (and my loyal followers know I have a lot), she was my most favourite author. And I have never loved a heroine more than I love her Skye O’Malley. So the only thing I wanted to do, was re-read her story. But this time, for the first time, in English instead of Dutch. And I enjoyed it even more.

When Skye is born, her father Dubdhara O’Malley is very disappointed that his wife born him another daughter, he wants a son! But Skye is different from her mousy sisters, she is vibrant and not at all afraid of him and she quickly becomes his favourite. And so, when she is only a few months old, he takes her with him on his ship. Dubdhara is a merchant, and a pirate, and Skye was truly born to captain a ship. She is a fast learner, and she loves to sail a boat, be it a small one or a big ship. The crew adores and obeys her instantly. But when Skye is 12, she is sent home to live with her stepmother and her small step brothers and her older sisters to learn the wifely arts. After all, she has been betrothed from the cradle to marry Dom O’Flaherty.
Sure, Dom is handsome, but he is also a very cruel man, and Skye hates him. But as much as her father loves her, he won’t go back on his word. Not even when she meets and falls in love instantly with Niall Burke, the son and heir of their overlord. Niall claims his “droit du signeur”, and steals Skye from Dom on her weddingnight. He promises to get her marriage annulled and marry her himself, but their fathers conspire to keep them apart, and so Skye stays unhappily married to Dom, and Niall becomes even more unhappy with his wife, who would rather be a nun.

Skye has to live with Dom and his family, and both Dom and his father are big lechers, no woman on their estate and beyond is safe from them. And then there is Dom’s younger sister Clair, who is a real pain in Skye’s backside. She is sneaky and steals Skye’s things, and refuses to marry. When Skye finally finds out why, her night turns into a true nightmare. It also is the end of her marriage and she returns with her two young children to her family.

When she arrives home, it is to find her father dying, and she is named the head of the family, The O’Malley. She will have to take responsibility for the family, their wealth and their ships. But she was born for it, and she handles it all amazingly well. And now, when Niall’s marriage is annulled and his wife returned to her convent, they are finally free to marry.

But first, Skye has to go to Algiers to meet the Dey, in order to win some great trading deals that will enrich her and the family even more. Not wanting to be parted, Niall will accompany her on this journey. And fate intervenes once more, when Niall is almost killed, and Skye is kidnapped by pirates. Thinking she has caused the death of the man she loves, Skye loses her mind and her memory, and wakes up weeks later in the harem of Lord Khalid El Bey, the Whoremaster of Algiers. He plans to have this extraordinary beautiful woman trained to be the best whore in town, but instead, he falls in love with her and marries her. And for a short time, Skye and Khalid are perfectly happy.
But Skye’s beauty catches the attention of the evil Lord Jamil, and he has Khalid killed, so he can take Skye and her riches as Khalid’s widow for himself. With the help of her good friend Osman the astrologer, and Captain Robert Small, an English sea captain and business partner of Khalid, Skye and her personal servants manage to escape Algiers and come to England with Robby Small, still not knowing her true identity.

Niall is not death though, and he is taken to nearby Mallorca where he is nursed back to health. When there is no trace of Skye anywhere, and not even the Dey of Algiers can find her, she is presumed death. Niall at first refuses to believe it, but in the end he has to give in, and as he needs heirs, he marries Constanza, the young woman who has nursed him so well.

Skye is pregnant with Khalid’s child, and Robbie takes her home with him, to his sister, Dame Cecily Small, a childless widow who instantly loves Skye as the daughter she never had. And there she will stay until her daughter Willow is born. Skye is a rich woman, and she starts a shipping company with Robbie, just like her late husband had. Skye is very educated for her time, and she has a good head for business.

Amongst Skye’s possessions is a house in Greenwich, near London, and they decide to travel there, in order to ask the Queen for her royal charter.

Skye quickly catches the attention of her neighbour, Geoffrey, the Earl of Southwood, and he bets he will make her his mistress within the next six months. But Geoffrey also falls in love with Skye, and he wants to marry her. Skye doesn’t want to marry again, she is still missing her beloved Khalid, but her body thinks differently and she responds to Geoffrey’s courting. The only problem is, Geoffrey is married already. He detests his wife though, and has been keeping her in poverty in the country, and the plain mousy daughters she has given him as well. But when an epidemic sweeps the land, his wife and four of his daughters and his only son and heir die from the fever. He himself survives, and now he is free to marry Skye.
Still, Skye hasn’t heard from him for three months after their loving weekend at the Inn, and she thinks he must have changed his mind now she has given in to him.

And so Skye marries Geoffrey Southwood, in the Queens own chapel and with her blessing. And amongst the wedding guests is Lord Niall Burke, who thinks he must be dreaming. Especially when he confronts the bride and she doesn’t know him.
But Niall can’t just give up and finally he meets up with Robbie Small, back from his last sea voyage and confronts him with his knowledge. Geoffrey is told about Skye’s past, but he does not want to disturb her piece of mind as she is pregnant with his second child.

Skye and Geoffrey are very happy, and she quickly gives him two sons. She also takes care of his 3 young daughters and together with her own daughter Willow, they are a loving family. But then disaster strikes again. And when Geoffrey dies, Skye is a widow for the third time, and she vows never to marry again. But she needs a man’s protection, especially as Lord Dudley is made the guardian of her son Robin, Lord Southwood, and he just rapes her. The Queen knows about it, and won’t stop him. Everything Dudley wants, Dudley gets, except her Queenly body.

But Skye won’t take it, she fights back, and she asks her uncle the Bishop Sheamus O’Malley to start looking for prospective husbands. Her uncle goes one step further though, and marries her by proxy, to Niall Burke, even though she especially stated she did not want him …

Will they finally be happy together? Or will fate keep interfering? Can Niall learn to see her as the woman she is today, instead of the young girl of 15 he fell in love with?

I love this epic romance, set against the backdrop of politics of Elizabethan England. Skye is such a strong heroine, realistic in her actions and her thoughts; she knows when to give in and how to make the best of things. Yes, her beauty makes men fall all over her, but she is not a Mary Sue type of character. Horrible things do happen to her, she loves and she mourns and she loves again. She is powerful and rich but as it is still a man’s world, she needs a powerful man’s protection or else as a widow she is prey to men like Dudley.
And to protect her children and their inheritances, she has no choice but to marry again. I know this is a long review, but I have only highlighted the main parts, there is so much more to the story, friends and lovers, good and especially the bad.
If you like historical romances, and haven’t read a Bertrice Small yet, try this on. I do warn you, it has a lot of explicit sex scenes, and there are a lot of euphemisms for body parts. But I love her writing style, she is very descriptive of the meals and the clothes, and I love that. It adds a lot of atmosphere to her books.

10 stars.

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© 2015 Reviews by Aurian

2 opmerkingen:

  1. I've read this one a long time ago, in Dutch, but I still can remember big parts of it. I have it in English now, when I have time I'll reread it. And hope I love it as much as you do, Aurian.