Review: The Spitfire by Bertrice Small

The Spitfire by Bertrice Small
Release Date: June 28, 2012 (orig. 1992)
Publisher:  Ellora’s Cave
Pages: 481
Source:  Publisher

They cast their destinies to the winds of desire.The year is 1483. Tavis Stewart, Earl of Dunmore, abducts beautiful Lady Arabella Grey, cousin of King Richard III, as she is about to marry Sir Jasper Keane. Tavis wants revenge for Jasper’s murder of his fiancée. Irresistibly, deliciously, Arabella surrenders to her enemy with fierce abandon–knowing that there may be only one way to get what is rightfully hers.


Review:  For those not familiar with her work, Small has a very different style than other romance authors and tells complex, intricate and sometimes disturbing stories. This one is no exception. It begins with deception and treachery and a Scottish earl seeking vengeance. But it makes some strange twists and turns. To enjoy it, you must adjust your expectations from the typical historical romance to embrace Small’s unique style. If you do, you will plunge deep into the history of the time with well-developed characters whose life experiences are realistic for the era (late 15th century), and the place (the border between Scotland and England and France). She uses long narratives, repeated scenes told through different characters’ eyes, and “head hopping” from one character’s perspective to another when it suits her purposes. Her descriptions of clothing and food are intricate.

One has to love the “historical” part of historical romances (which I do), as Small goes into great detail as to what was going on at the time, including the politics. I give her full marks for her deep research. Some of her characters are real historic figures, like King Richard III and Henry Tudor of England, James III of Scotland and his son, Jamie Stewart (James IV), and King Charles of France. They make the story seem more historically accurate and bring these men to life.

Finally, you must adjust your expectations for the hero and heroine. In Small’s romances, not all have one love and live happily ever after. Oh, there is a happy ending, don’t get me wrong; this is romance. But it won’t be what you might expect and the heroine won’t always be with the hero. In fact, for long passages they aren’t together. Not all romance readers will like that. In this case, Arabella turns from a moral, headstrong young woman in love with her Scottish husband, and determined to take the right course, to a pragmatic woman four years later who makes some very odd, and seemingly incongruous choices, all for the sake of securing her family’s rundown English estate. Small attempts to explain Arabella’s whoring as understandable. In my view she was only mildly successful in that effort. For those turned off by a heroine’s considerable infidelity, I don’t think you’ll like this one. Then, too, the hero, Tavis Stewart may be a powerful Scottish earl and uncle to a king (I rather liked him at first), but he is too passive when it comes to his spitfire wife, even blaming himself for her bad behavior. It all comes right in the end but only in the usual Small way.

Small writes well and weaves an intriguing story. I just don’t think this one is for all, not even all of her fans, which I count myself as one.

Warning:  The heroine is a part of a menage a trois in one of the later scenes. This is not erotica but that is very strange for a historical romance, though perhaps not for Small.

Favorite Quote:  “No man, or woman for that matter,” the queen said softly, “should love another person so deeply. When ye love that much, ye are more often than not doomed to disappointment because ye make yer lover someone or something he isn’t. Eventually ye realize it, and then ye must come to terms with that disappointment, Jamie.”