On the verge of marrying a man she loathes (the betrothal had been made when they were children), Skye O’Malley meets Niall Burke and it’s love at first sight – but the betrothal can’t be broken and Niall must make a better match than Skye. On her wedding night, Niall claims the right of droit du seigneur and gets first shot at the young virgin, enraging her husband Dom. Skye suffers mightily at the hands of her abusive husband, but by the time she’s free Niall is married (unhappily) and what then follows are plentiful ups and downs from capture by pirates on the high seas, being sold into slavery (don’t you worry, our heroine can charm anyone even the “whoremaster of Algiers”), and eventually ending in England in a marriage that brings her to the court of Elizabeth Tudor, but a twist in fate makes the two women enemies in the end. Can Skye win her battle of wits with the formidable Queen of England? Will she and Niall ever have a happy ending?Somehow I missed reading Small’s books back in the 80’s and when I spotted this at a free-book sale I decided to give her a whirl. Yes, I was warned that the purple prose was plentiful, rapes abounded and that the sex was OTT and I was prepared for it, but still –

As his seed thundered into her hidden valley he shook fiercely with the intensity of his passion.”

“Ahh…Skye, your little honey-oven is made for me.

Remember that honey-oven bit. Three (count ’em) three different men use this very same term when referring to Skye.

Let me play the great desert stallion tonight, my Skye. Roll over, and be my little wild mare.

Forgot to mention, Small seems to have a horse fixation…

A moment before his climax, he touched one hand beneath her to tweak at the little button of her sensuality and they shuddered their satisfaction in union.

*rolls eyes*

Your little honey-oven burns my lance with the fiery flow of the passion you would like to deny me, but can’t.

There’s that honey-oven again. Add all this up, toss in some very abrupt POV switches from one paragraph to the next, mix with some annoying info dumps containing waaaaay more background information on secondary characters than necessary (I really didn’t need to know about Geoffrey’s family history all the way back to the Norman Conquest) and what is left was just not the book for me. As for the rapes? Yes, they are pretty much standard for these older books and I can live with a forced seduction or two, but what I can’t live with is when the heroine is raped by the meanest, baddest, most irredeemable man on earth and we get this,

“And though she hated him, her body treacherously yielded itself.”

I won’t spoil, but the reader should also be warned that there is a scene towards the end involving a twelve-year-old girl and an aroused dog. If you’re a die-hard fan of the old school bodice rippers with a strong stomach this might be the book for you – and it’s a series so you can keep on readin’ more. Any one else, I’d recommend steering clear – this is my first and last Bertrice Small book.