This story is classic Bertrice Small. Set in Ireland, Algiers and London in the mid 16th century, it is the first in the O’Malley series, and tells of the Irish noble families and the loves of an amazing heroine. Though her wealthy Irish sea captain father, famous for his merchant piracy, had 6 daughters, the O’Malley had only one like himself: Skye, strong and intelligent in business—and in her case, also beautiful.
When she is 15, though betrothed to another man (a man she hates), Skye falls in love with the dashing Niall Burke, heir to the MacWilliam, the O’Malley’s overlord. But their families deny them the marriage they want. Instead, Skye is wed to the brutal, lecherous man, and Niall is wed to a highborn woman who would prefer to be a nun. It will be years before they can get together.
You know, if you’ve read Bertrice Small before, her romances are…well, let’s just say, unusual. Perhaps they are more realistic of life in the times, but one should be aware. Typically, there is not just one couple nor is the heroine with just one “hero.” So, be prepared if you pick up this one. To be sure it’s a good story and will hold you captive as the scene moves from Ireland to Algiers and then to England; but what happens can be disconcerting at times. For example, using the vehicle of amnesia, at one point Small has the heroine adopting a lifestyle that is inconsistent with who she is and her life in Ireland. There were other instances where I lost my admiration for the heroine but in the end she triumphs, and so does Niall, though for a long while, he had one piece of bad luck after another.
The whole thing, though a bit farfetched, was very well done. Small’s descriptions of people, places and even dress and food really put you in the scene and make you feel like you are there. And the real life characters of young Queen Elizabeth’s court, including Elizabeth herself, were very believable.
Should you want to read more in the series, here’s the list:
The O'Malley Saga:
All The Sweet Tomorrows
A Love For All Time
This Heart of Mine
Lost Love Found