Message From The Author

Author's Message

We first met Skye O'Malley in October 1980 when she won our hearts with her indomitable spirit, marking the age of a new kind of heroine. But no one could have predicted that this feisty, strong-willed femme fatale—and her descendants—would become legendary in the annuls of romantic fiction history. Two years before the O'Malley saga began, Bertrice Small took readers by storm with her first book, THE KADIN, and quickly established herself as one of the hottest new authors in a budding genre with the follow-ups LOVE WILD AND FAIR and ADORA. Exotic locales, lush backdrops, historical accuracy and steamy love scenes became the hallmarks of a Small book, so it was no surprise that SKYE O'MALLEY, which featured all of these in spades, was met with equal enthusiasm from the reading public. At the time of publication no series was planned, and readers were next graced with two more unrelated Small books, UNCONQUERED in 1982, BELOVED in 1983. But Skye was not done. She had exotic adventures to share and many loves to conquer, and the author whom she summoned to tell these stories responded with ALL THE SWEET TOMORROWS, published in 1984. The O'Malley saga and its spinoff, Skye's Legacy Series, have been going strong ever since, totaling 12 books in 22 years.

Although VIXENS, marks the conclusion of the series and the O'Malley family adventures, Skye returns to have the last say, as she lovingly reminisces about her wild escapades, many loves and descendants whom she has watched with great pride over the decades…

From the astral plain where I now reside it seems just like yesterday that my father exclaimed, "What the hell
do you mean she [my mama] can have no more children?" It was hardly a joyous welcome back into the world of men, but I was the sixth born of my father's daughters, and he had no living son. Yet I won the old devil over by being me, Skye O'Malley.

I'm an old soul, of course. Only an old soul could have accomplished in that time and place all that I did. I was born in a stone tower house in Ireland in the year 1540. I have had six husbands and a lover here and there. I made myself a rich woman. I was an intimate of the great Queen Elizabeth. I liked and admired her even though we finally became enemies. But it has gotten little better for my many descendants, some of whom don't even know my name, or
if they once did, have long since forgotten it. But of course you know who I am, and you know my many adventures, for one day I slipped into the conscious
of a writer named Bertrice Small. Despite the fact that they put her name in inch-high letters on her books, many of you insist on calling her "Beatrice." It annoys the hell out of her, although it makes me laugh.

She planned originally to do a novel on my distant cousin Grace O'Malley, whom the world remembers as the pirate queen of Connaught. My cousin always had a fine opinion of herself. Grace O'Malley! Imagine! The woman was crude, and frankly wouldn't have lasted five minutes at the queen's court. Grace would not have given a damn if she did or not, of course. There was the great difference between us. I wanted to be more than I was born to be. And I think I succeeded rather nicely, don't you?

So Bertrice told you my story in the novel she named for me, SKYE O'MALLEY. And she thought there was an end to it, for she went on to write two books after mine. But it wasn't the end. I had only begun to tell my story and that of my family. It was four years between the first and the second book, which we titled ALL THE SWEET TOMORROWS. And what a grand tale that next one was, my dears. The second part of my tale was also difficult for me because I lost Niall Burke. I know that many of you wept at his death, even as I had wept. But life goes on, doesn't it? And Niall's death brought me the truest love of my life, Adam de Marisco.

I have been told that each of you has a favorite among the men in my life. I suspect you have wondered which of them was my favorite. Dom O'Flaherty, my first husband, I despised. I felt pity for my fifth husband, Fabron de Beaumont. I loved neither of them. My father should not have forced me into my first marriage, nor should the queen have forced me into that unfortunate fifth. But as for the others… Niall Burke, who was my first love. Kahlid el Bey, who taught me both passion for life and for business. Geoffrey Southwood, my deliciously wicked and wonderful Angel Earl. Well, my dears, I loved them all, each in his own way. For each came into my life at exactly the right time. And let us not forget Nicholas St. Adrian, who became the duc de Beaumont de Jaspre following Fabron's death. He was a wonderful lover, of course, and I adored him briefly, but I was not the wife for him, and I knew it.

And the wicked Kedar, my master in Fez? I think I might have killed him myself had not my former sister-in-law done so. She died wretchedly, but deservedly, on the wall hooks in Algiers. I shall always remember the sight of it, as I had told Osman. Yet I could never forgive her for her responsibility in Niall's death. It was she who betrayed him into bondage.

But I lost Niall, despite our escape from North Africa. He, proud man that he was, refused to yield himself to Princess Turkhan, even after she had drugged him over and over again to gain his compliance. On our way home, he sickened and died. I changed course for Beaumont de Jaspre, of course, and with Nicholas's permission we interred him in the cathedral vault in Villerose. Eventually, I was able to bring his bones home to Ireland, where we buried him. It was impossible for me to give his body up to the sea.

And after that my life settled into a less adventurous pattern with my beloved last husband, Adam de Marisco, whom I married on Michaelmas in 1572. We finally returned to England to beg the queen's pardon for daring to wed, and
we eventually bought Queens Malvern from her and raised horses. But then came our fateful journey to India, halfway across the world in 1586.

We were followed by our daughter, Velvet, who thought
her husband dead in a duel and insisted that my second eldest son, Murrough, take her with him on his voyage out. He certainly should have known better, but then Murrough has always had a soft spot for Velvet, who is the baby of the family. You can read all about Velvet's adventures in the book titled THIS HEART OF MINE.

Velvet, of course, ended up in the zennada of the Grande Mughal Akbar. The man obviously had an eye for beauty as he made Velvet his 40th wife. Forty wives! God's foot! Of course Velvet explained to us later that most of Akbar's
wives were taken for political reasons. Still, 40 wives does seem a bit excessive to me.

Velvet's story was my author's fourth book in the saga, for the third dealt with my rather charming wicked little brother, Conn, and his wife, Aiden, who had been wed at the queen's insistence some nine years earlier. What an adventure Aiden had in Istanbul, and her escape put even some of my exploits to shame! She was literally fished out of the
sea sewn into a sack, for she had been condemned to drown. She was, quite frankly, always afraid of the water after that. Theirs was truly A LOVE FOR ALL TIME.

Velvet was brought home from India to be reunited with her husband, the earl of BrocCain. I must say that Alec was never one of my favorite sons-in-law. He was an obdurate a Scotsman as I have ever met. Once he got Velvet back he kept her up at Dun Broc but for summers. I did not know their children well, for it was only in their youth that I had their company, briefly, each year. Alec's natural daughter, Sybilla, I saw married to a good Englishman, the earl of Kempe. He had been enamored of my brother Conn's eldest daughter, Valentina, who married instead my son, Padraic Burke. Their tale was the fifth in my family's saga. Valentina led Padraic and the earl of Kempe on quite a journey to discover the truth of her own heritage in the year 1600. This fifth book is titled LOST LOVE FOUND, and it was.

The sixth book, however, brought to light, and to life, my favorite grandchild. Aye, Jasmine is my favorite, and I will not deny it! Her stepbrothers called her WILD JASMINE, and indeed she was. The year was 1606.
She was born to Velvet and the Grande Mughal Akbar, who had refused to allow Velvet to bring her back to England. And Velvet, foolish creature—I cannot believe even now that she was such a silly lack wit—never told her husband of this child. The same man who had swived his mistress to begat a bastard daughter while my daughter was lost to us. Not only that, on her return, Velvet had raised Sybilla as if she were her very own child!

Well my daughter got quite a surprise on her 33rd birthday. Yassaman had fled to England to escape a half brother who lusted after her. Her dying father had sent her to me. She became Jasmine de Marisco, and when her stepfather learned of her existence, he was at first furious. They never really took to each other, although they made a peace of sorts. I suspect that Alec never really forgave Velvet. I did not like him after that.

And Jasmine went on to make a most wonderful life for herself. The two husbands I knew adored her. Prince Henry Stuart was her lover, and he would have married her, I know it! But Jasmine knew it would not be right for him, and she also knew that it would never be permitted. She was a woman of great heart and common sense. What a pity! She would have made a marvelous queen of England, and the son she bore Henry Stuart, Charlie, would have been a far better king than his uncle, also Charles. Everyone said so.

I was not on this earth then. I was back on my astral plain, from where I speak to you now through my old friend, Bertrice Small. I left this earth on Midsummer's Eve in the year 1623. Darling Jasmine was by my side, wonderful child! How I loved her! I know there are some who will think me unfair in my preference for Velvet's daughter. Let them! I am entitled to have my favorite.
I had 49 grandchildren born to my children. (I counted Alec's Sybilla among them.)

My eldest son, Ewan O'Flaherty, and his wife, Gwynneth Southwood have five sons and three daughters. Murrough O'Flaherty and Joan Southwood had three sons and three daughters. My eldest daughter, Willow, bore her husband, James Edwardes, eight children, evenly divided between lads and lasses. Willow's girls were very much like her, except a bit subdued. My darling son, Robin, had three daughters by his first wife and four sons and a daughter by his second. Deirdre Burke, my gentle child, was the mother of seven children. How she reveled in her maternity and her home. John Blakeley was the perfect match for her, despite his age. I was, quite frankly, surprised when he managed to father three sons and four daughters with Deirdre.

He loved and respected her, and for that he had my approval. Padraic and Valentina had two daughters and three sons. And lastly, there was my Velvet, whose eldest child is my darling Jasmine. Velvet bore BrocCarin five sons to satisfy him.

But it was Jasmine who always had my heart, and Jasmine through whom my legacy descends. I watched her daughters come to womanhood from here on my astral plain. The wonderfully foolish but determined India, who managed somehow to evade a bad end and live happily ever after. BEDAZZLED is her story. Fortune, who never learned the secret of her birth, was a strong girl, but I do not believe she could have managed to survive that knowledge any more than my Willow could have. Neither could Jasmine. She always believed that Fortune was
a last gift to her from Rowan Lindley. It was a secret well kept. Fortune's tale is called BESIEGED, for she chose a difficult path. And then there was Jasmine's last child, Autumn. What a mix she was, and God's nightshirt, how determined to have her way! Mistress to two powerful and great kings! Neither her mother nor I ever accomplished such a feat, though we certainly never aspired to it. You can read Autumn's story in INTRIGUED.

And I have to admit that I am sorry not to have been personally acquainted with my great-grandson Patrick Leslie's wife, Flanna. I like her even from here! A sensible country woman who made a good wife for my grandson and always looked JUST BEYOND TOMORROW. Who would have ever believed she could have had an elegant daughter like Diana, one of my many great-great-grandchildren? What a trio of minxs you will have to read about as my story, and that of my descendants, concludes in VIXENS: Fortune's youngest, Fancy, following in her Aunt Autumn's footsteps; Diana, torn between two delightful young men, but making the right decision in the end; and of course, Cynara, Charlie, the not-so-royal Stuart's lass, who is Jasmine's favorite and would have certainly been mine as well. She has the kind of strength that I had in my youth, but of course it is a different time for them, and few but Jasmine understood it.

And so it has finally ended, my friends. My author and I have taken you through the years from my birth in 1540 to the year 1670. One hundred and thirty years of history. In 1540, the Tudor king Henry VIII sat on England's throne. Now, it is his descendant through his sister, Margaret, King Charles II, who reigns. We have traveled a long road together. The O'Malley Saga and Skye's Legacy are there for you to read and reread whenever you grow lonely. I thank you for the love you have given to me and to my kith and kin across the great space between this world, in which I now reside, and your world of today. God bless you all, my dears!

With love from Skye O'Malley

Vixens

A Fitting Farewell for Skye and her Legacy

By Beatrice Small

VIXENS brings to a close the Skye's Legacy series, which followed The O'Malley Saga. When SKYE O'MALLEY was conceived, written and finally published back in 1980, it was never meant to be a series. Series were not, with one or two exceptions (ANGELIQUE, CATHERINE), considered particularly marketable. But Skye was a phenom, and so I asked my publisher [at the time], Ballantine Books, if they would like a sequel. And after that it "sorta" snowballed. I went on to write six books in the O'Malley Saga series. When I later moved to Kensington Publishing, they wanted more O'Malley books, and since Jasmine's story wasn't really finished in Wild Jasmine (the last book of the O'Malley Saga), a second series, Skye's Legacy, began, following Skye's favorite grandchild, Jasmine, and her descendants.

But now, my dear readers, it is over. VIXENS is a worthy closer to these two series numbering 12 books. I know you are going to enjoy not one, not two, but three tales dealing with a trio of Jasmine's granddaughters, Skye's great-great-granddaughters. The eldest is Frances Devers, aka Fancy, Fortune and Kieran's youngest. You'll remember her parents from BESIEGED. She is, at 17, a young widow who arrives in England amid

a tittle-tattle of scandal and controversy. Did she, or did she not, murder her husband? She joins her two 16-year-old cousins, Lady Diana Leslie, Patrick and Flanna's daughter (JUST BEYOND TOMORROW); and Lady Cynara Stuart (Charlie, the not-so-royal Stuart's daughter by his second wife, Barbara). The girls become good friends, going with their grandmother to the bawdy Restoration court of King Charles II.

Each tale is told individually, yet they all intertwine. Each girl is different. Fancy is cautious about love, but also frightened. She has no intention of remarrying. Diana, called Siren by the gentlemen of the court, is so sweet and charming that even her rivals can say nothing bad about her without looking nasty. Trying to decide among her suitors is not an easy task for her. Cynara, however, is pure Stuart. Haughty, and
outrageously beautiful, she plays dangerous games to the despair of her family. Yet Cyn knows just what she wants, and will go to any length to get it. So there it is, dear readers. THE END. Enjoy VIXENS and please remember I have 19 other titles you will like too.

Watch for Bertrice Small's next release in October 2003, Until You—book two of the Friarsgate Inheritance Series, published by NAL. In the meantime, Bertrice and Kensington are considering a new series based on a familiar family you met in her 1998 book, BETRAYED: the Gordons of Lochbrae.

Excerpt From VIXENS

"His lordship says he was not expecting you, m'lady," the majordomo told her, looking extremely uncomfortable.

"Where is he?" Cynara asked in measured tones. "And bear in mind that I will be your mistress one day. What is your name?"

"Statler, m'lady. You will find his lordship in his dining room. Allow me to escort you."

"Thank you, Statler," Cynara said sweetly, and she followed the servant across the room and through the door he held open for her and then closed

behind her.
"You are persistent," the earl said.

"You did not come to congratulate me at Audley, and so I have come here so you may correct that oversight," Cynara said boldly. God! He was so damned handsome tonight. He was not formally dressed but wore brown velvet breeches and no coat. His shirt was opened, and his bare chest with its light covering of dark hair was visible.

"If you remain here, you know what must happen," he told her, and he drank deeply from the cup in his hand.

"Yes," Cynara said softly. "I know what will happen, but it must happen eventually between us, mustn't it?" She walked over to the table where he sprawled in his chair, and taking the cup from his hand drank from it too.

"I will never marry," he said almost despairingly.

"Of course we will marry one day, Harry. I am not your poor mama, and you are certainly not your dreadful papa. We are Cyn and Wickedness, and we were meant for each other. If you must have me in order to believe my love for you, then so be it."

"If you are not a virgin, I will kill you," he growled.

"Why?" she demanded of him.

"Because the thought of any other man touching you or loving you drives me to madness," he admitted, his eyes meeting hers.

Cynara did not flinch from his gaze. "You had better be very good at this lovemaking, my lord," she told him.

"If you are a virgin," he said, "how will you know if I am
or not?" His look was smoldering.

"Women, even virgins, my grandmama says, know such things instinctively," Cynara answered him.

Reaching out, he pulled her between his legs and buried his face in her cleavage, inhaling the exotic fragrance that seemed to surround her. "Oh, vixen!" he cried low. "You weaken my resolve."

"Make love to me!" Cynara commanded him. "Make love to me, my darling Wickedness! I am yours, and you are mine. The game between us is finished. By the dawn we will have both won."

He stood and towering over her, he grasped her by her slender shoulders, looking into her beautiful face. "I dare not marry," he said once again, but Cynara put gentle fingers over his lips to silence him.

"Hush, my love," she said. "Think not about tomorrow, or even yesterday. There is only now, Harry. Only now!"


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