Jun 28 2012 1:00pm

Rulebreakers in Romance: Bertrice Small’s Heroes

Skye O’Malley by Bertrice SmallThough romance is a very wide umbrella, one thing is still sacrosanct; the happily ever after (that, and other rules are covered in our What Rules are in the Romance Covenant? post). Our lovers have triumphed over every internal and external conflict. Their reward is a lifetime of love, together. Kind of the whole point, right? But what if fate throws another curve into the road to happily ever after? Is love lovelier the second time around?

Let’s take a look at a few Bertrice Small heroines who have had more than one big love in their lives. Since we’re looking at continuing series, spoilers will be present:

The O’Malley Women, O’Malley and Skye’s Legacy series

Skye O’Malley has to be one of the most resilient heroines in romance fiction as well as one of the most adventurous. Married six times, asking any O’Malley devotee who they’d pick as the love of Skye’s life (I’m a Niall gal myself) is sure to spark a lively debate.

Though Skye fell hard for her first love, Niall Burke, early on, she was slated to wed the evil Dom O’Flaherty, Niall being not quite quick enough to stop the wedding. After Dom met his demise, the lovers had another chance, but a shipwreck that left both Skye and Niall presuming the other had died led them both to other partners for a while. Amnesiac Skye wed the Spanish expatriate, Deigo Goya del Fuentes, better known by his professional handle, the Great Whoremaster of Algiers (tragic backstory alert), while Niall’s wife has issues of her own. Both marriages are short-lived, and upon Skye’s return to the British Isles, she meets the Angel Earl, Geoffrey Southwood, and pirate lord Adam de Marisco, both men with their own appeal. That’s only book one. In book two, All The Sweet Tomorrows, Skye experiences a wrenching loss, (twice, from a certain perspective) but once again, love comes through to heal the wounds.

This Heart of Mine by Bertrice SmallSkye’s genes are strong, and her daughter, Velvet, heroine of This Heart of Mine, finds love and marriage with Scottish lord Alexander Gordon. That is, until he’s presumed dead and a family enemy captures Velvet and ships her off to India as a gift to the Grand Mughal, Akbar. Akbar quickly falls in love with his English Rose, and Velvet, believing herself widowed, returns his affections. The two become parents of baby Yasaman, only surprise! Velvet’s first husband isn’t as dead as they thought. Some readers are torn on who Velvet’s true love might have been, but I was satisfied with the outcome.

Yasaman, later known as Jasmine, bridges the O’Malley and Skye’s Legacy series with her story. In Wild Jasmine, Yasaman flees India for the safety of the British Isles, after the death of her first husband, Prince Jamal, and catches the eye of an English marquis, a Scottish earl and even a prince of the realm, but who will truly win her heart? In Darling Jasmine, Jasmine leads her final hero on a merry chase, as this time, she’s determined to be the one who decides how her story ends.

Lara, World of Hetar series

A Distant Tomorrow by Bertrice SmallHalf-faerie Lara dominates Ms. Small’s first fantasy romance series, and claims her share of hearts along the way. Lara has a harsh start (having one’s own family attempt to sell one into prostitution will do that to a gal) but she soon meets not only one but two heroes; her first love, Vartan, and Shadow Prince Kaliq, who remains a presence in her life through may trials. Life in Hetar can be perilous, and when treachery rears its ugly head in book two, A Distant Tomorrow, Lara kicks butt and takes names even in her grief and travels to the world of Terah, where she meets Magnus Hauk, who bears the title of Dominus. In book four, The Shadow Queen, Magnus shucks off the mortal coil, bringing Kaliq and Lara together once more.

Though the heroines in all of these books do have a happily ever after with the heroes of their dreams, individual readers may either be cheering for their favorite’s triumph, or mourning a favorite who fell long ago. Does a second happily ever after invalidate the first for you as a reader, or is it uplifting to see a heroine find love again? Taking a third option, does it work better if viewed as the heroine’s story with romantic elements? Or are you more of a one to a customer sort of reader?


Anna C. Bowling considers writing historical romance the best way to travel through time and make the voices in her head pay rent. She welcomes visitors to her blog, Typing with Wet Nails and to follow her at Twitter.

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Glass Slipper
1. GlassSlipper
This is why I avoid her books. Maybe I'm not "mature" enough yet in my romance reading, but I just do not want to read about a hero dying/presumably dying, or the heroine moving from man to man.

The most I can stomach is the triangle scenario that happens in urban fantasy, like Kalayna Price's Alex Craft series, which I love, but that's only because I'm confident that the heroine is only going to choose one at some point. I actually enjoy it, because the jealousy and tension between the two suitors can be really fun and exciting to read about.

LKH's Anita Blake is another series that I have avoided. I hear horror stories about that one.
Sue K
2. Sue K
I can't read books where the heroine meets & marries only to have him die (or be presumed dead) and she remarries time & again. I have never read the Skye O'Malley books and I probably won't.
On the other hand, my favorite Bertrice Small book is The Kadin. Janet/Cyra met & married the love of her life and stayed true to him for the entire book.
So I guess I'm more of a one to a customer reader!
Anna Bowling
3. AnnaBowling
@GlassSlipper, falling in love with a hero, only to lose him, can be as heartwrenching for a reader as it is for the heroine, that's for sure. There's a fallen Small hero or two I'm still not over losing, but also those I cherish. If you'd be interested in a Small with the same couple throughout, The Duchess would fit the bill.

Triangles can make for some wonderful relationship drama, and we do know that the heroine (or hero) will at some point make their choice. If the third party gets their own HEA later, then everybody wins.

@SueK, The Kadin is tied with Skye O'Malley as my favorite Small. Janet/Cyra and Selim were an amazing couple and I loved how they had such a long time together.
Sue K
4. chris booklover
The HEA does not have the same emotional power if the latest hero (or heroine, although I don't know of any examples of the latter) is merely the last in a sequence of the central character's loves. I certainly recognize that people can have more than one great love in their lives. There are romance novels that show this, because the dead spouse is by no means always demonized. Bertrice Small, however, pushes this to the extreme, so that her heroes become faceless and fungible. Any reader who has persevered to the end of the Skye O'Malley series can be forgiven for asking: who cares?
Glass Slipper
5. GlassSlipper
@AnnaBowling: Yeah, I think I'm much too sensitive and emotional to be able to handle a hero dying. I just know I would resent the author for doing that, because I invest emotionally in the relationship I'm reading about. I don't want one of them to be killed off. I think I'd be absolutely devastated if any of my favorite protagonists died. To me, that's not romance. It belongs strictly in the Fiction or Non-Fiction section.

Thank you for the recommendation. I'm going to look it up!
Sue K
6. Linda Hart
Having multiple heroes can be touchy. If it's done well, I can tolerate them, providing there is enough time for a reader to mourn the passing of the previous hero. Otherwise it reminds me of an old comedy sketch about the wives of Henry VIII played by one actress with numbers that are torn off a pad of paper on a string around her neck. One hero is interchangeable with another.
Anna Bowling
7. AnnaBowling
@chris booklover, I think I remember a couple of older examples of a hero having more than one heroine after the first passes, but that's very rare. It's a fine line to tread, that's for sure, and as you said, not demonizing the former spouse goes a long way to valuing both loves for what they are. Some Small heroes do work better for me than others, as with any author, but heroes such as Niall Burke or Francis Bothwell have remained very distinct for me, many years after we first "met."

@GlassSlipper, That's a good point - would the saga of one heroine's life, that included more than one great love, sit better with some readers if it were shelved as historical fiction rather than genre romance? I hope you enjoy The Duchess.

@Linda Hart, glad to see you here! I agree, having enough time to honor and mourn the loss can go a long way to help the reader accept a second hero (or heroine) as a viable love interest. Magnus from the World of Hetar books had his own brand of magic for me (pun completley unintended) even though Vartan's loss still aches at times.
Dawn Roberto
8. dawn_roberto
I love Bertrice Small's Sky O'Malley Series as well as her World of Htera series. I feel that the heriones went through lots of trials and tribulations and they got HFN in some of them, which is fine for me to read. I cried when Adam died in Skye O'Malley series then when Skye died (sorry on spoilers). My first romance novel was Skye O'Mally and to this day I adore re-reading that one.
9. tadyena
I tend not to read books where the HEA doesnt last. I read romance books for the HEA - I look as books as a way to get away and I like that to be happy. I can deal with hardship, trails, fights, etc as long as the ending is HEA. I do not like multiple hero's and can even think of a few authors I have stopped reading because they do it. Maybe, I am also an unmature reader but it really makes me made when an author kills off a hero, or puts the herione with someone else at the end of the book, or even just breaks the couple up you spent the entire book reading about.
Sue K
10. Jacqueline DeGroot
I stopped reading Beatrice Small because I was beginning to think her relationships were becoming superficial to the heroine. Although I fully understand in the historical time frame she writes, that men die and disappear quite frequently and that the women must move on, I, as the reader, don't like to invest myself in the hero to lose him. For when I am reading, I am the heroine. And I want to stay happy.
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