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Paying my respects to Bertrice Small

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When I was twelve years old, I found a book at a garage sale that would forever change my life. The book was called All The Sweet Tomorrows, and it told the tale of Skye O’Malley, a beautiful raven-haired widow on a mission to find her not-so-dead-after-all husband in Algiers. This book introduced me to dildos, dubcon, anal sex, foot torture, and pony play. No, I’m not kidding, this book, which was originally published in 1986, had all of that.

That book set in stone my destiny as a romance reader and writer. It also really helped hone my reading skills; as a child with learning disabilities, I was supposed to practice my reading. Nothing makes you want to practice reading more than learning about the seedy sorts of things adults are getting up to with their private parts.

Since that book, I’ve read many, but not all, of Ms. Small’s novels. I say not all because she wrote over fifty in her career, each one a grand, sweeping saga that helped define old school romance, as well as evolve the historical genre. When I had the pleasure of meeting her at the Romantic Times convention in 2008, I asked her to sign my favorite.

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When I handed it to her, she smiled fondly at the cover and said, “Oh! I love this book.” There is nothing quite as fantastic as hearing the creator of something you love express how much they also love it. It’s a feeling I will never forget.

I also told her my story about finding All The Sweet Tomorrows and how her work had shaped my career. “And now,” I told her proudly, “I’m a USA Today bestselling romance author, and I never would have been if I hadn’t read your book.” I had tears in my eyes. So did she.

That was the one and only time I ever met Ms. Small, who wrote “God bless!” in her kink-tastic novels and dotted the “i” in her name with a heart. She passed away on Tuesday at age seventy-seven, leaving behind a legacy that will live on for as long as the romance genre endures. I won’t say that we lost one of the greats, because that phrase doesn’t cover it. I will say instead that we were lucky enough that she shared her ingenuity, her boundless talent, and her fantastically wicked imagination with us all.

Rest in peace, Ms. Small.

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42 Comments

  1. Lieke
    Lieke

    This is lovely.
    Ms. Small sounds wonderful. I think a good way to honour her is to read one of her books, so that is what I’m going to do.

    February 25, 2015
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  2. KatieF
    KatieF

    Now I have tears in my eyes reading about your meeting with her. What a wonderful remembrance of her. Thank you for sharing!

    February 25, 2015
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  3. There is nothing quite as fantastic as hearing the creator of something you love express how much they also love it.

    This.

    February 25, 2015
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  4. Quint&Jessel, Sea of Azof, Bly, UK
    Quint&Jessel, Sea of Azof, Bly, UK

    I loved her books; first read her HOT hot HOT books in college. One of our friends actually knew her–she lived down the street. She said Ms. Small was a really nice, sweet lady, and my friend got the latest books gratis, and we’d fly to read it and share it and buy our own. And she used nouns and verbs and commas right, too.

    February 25, 2015
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  5. Ellie
    Ellie

    I just bought the first Skye O’Malley book–raising a figurative glass to her as I enjoy it! Thank you!

    February 25, 2015
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  6. Suzanne
    Suzanne

    A lovely tribute, Jenny. It is, indeed, a sad day for the romance community.

    February 25, 2015
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  7. I’ve never read a Beatrice Small book although I’ve heard how crazysauce they can be, but I’m tempted to do so in her honour. She loved and owned her crazy stories, which is a gift and a blessing. 🙂

    February 25, 2015
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  8. Pansy Petal
    Pansy Petal

    Beautiful!

    February 25, 2015
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  9. Thomas Small
    Thomas Small

    OFFICIAL SMALL FAMILY STATEMENT:

    I would like to extend my thanks for all the wonderful tweets, posts, newspaper articles, blogs, people, and more that are paying tribute to my mother and her work. To me, she was simply “Ma”, but she was many things to her loyal readers. Perhaps she was that first book you didn’t want your parents to find that you hid under your bed. She could have been someone whose tales of romance and history kept you company at night in your home, on a beach, in your favorite chair, etc. Maybe she was able through her writing to not only entertain you, but perhaps give you an escape during difficult times. It doesn’t matter which of these applies, because the bottom line is you enjoyed her work…and it meant something to you.

    I can also tell you, you meant something to her… a great deal in fact. She loved you. She was as loyal to her readers as you were to her. She told me many a time how lucky she felt to have the best, most loyal readers in the world. She meant it. She took great care in every page she ever wrote to make sure she gave you her best. She never took her readership for granted, and always enjoyed meeting and speaking with you every chance she could. She never wanted to disappoint you.

    Now, a few things about the future…then a final note on the present.

    There is something she left us all… one last book. I cannot tell you when it will be published, but it WILL be published. You can look forward to a final tale. When things settle down… my first task is to make sure that book gets out there. It will. She told me the plot… I believe and hope you will like it.

    Next, I will be sitting down with “the powers that be” to make sure her legacy and work are not only protected, but available to new and old readers alike. This could include new editions, editions with bonus material (like original outline pages), as well as making her available on new formats. There are a bunch of exciting things that can come down the pike… and I will do my best in her memory that they do.

    Finally, I want to clear one thing up. Despite what you have read on the USA today website or other sources for news, NO FAMILY MEMBER confirmed her passing… until now. Who or how the news of her passing was leaked is a mystery to me. She had not been gone 12 hours before I was getting calls, and yet I had not said a thing yet….I was still in shock. This is disappointing to me, as I feel it was our families duty and responsibility to make a statement….which we were preparing to do. My children and her grandchildren needed a touch of time to process it all. I will be looking for a vehicle… be it her twitter feed or her website to communicate with you upcoming releases or projects. This way, if it comes from me… you know it is the truth. I am not happy with whoever leaked her passing early. From now on, it comes directly from the family. Announcing her death before we could prepare something was not authorized, nor appreciated.

    Tonight, she is with my father. This gives us comfort. And I speak for her when I say to all of you, “Thank You”. She loved what she did, and she loved you. Thank you for being loyal, caring, and supportive of her work for all those years. As I said above, you made her as happy as she made you.

    Thomas Small

    February 25, 2015
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    • Elizabeth T
      Elizabeth T

      Please know that we all share the loss with your family, with our most sincere condolences. Your message reinforces all the wonderful things we all knew of your mother; she was able to write about epic love, because that’s what she held in her heart. We will wait for her gifts, but this time our tears are for her instead of her stories.

      February 26, 2015
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      • Mary Attard
        Mary Attard

        Dear Thomas and family, my deepest regrets and sympathy to you and all your family. I just read about my beautiful and darling author Bertrice and my heart is breaking. I have been reading her books since I came to Canada in 1979, hers was the 1st book I read ‘The Kadin’ and I was hooked. I have all her books except of course ‘Serena’.She was so nice to me when I emailed her in OCT/Nov of last year, I had an email back from her the very next day. She loved you dearly and your children and I am really happy that you are going to keep her memory alive. She is with her darling George in heaven. May God give you peace and comfort. I cannot imagine my life without my beautiful Bertrice. Her writing was one of a kind. I will keep her in my prayers. My husband said that your mom must have had a good place in my heart for me to be crying so much for her and he is right. May God bless you and your family. Your parents are now watching over you and their grandchildren. She always kept us up to date about her family. R I P dearest Bertrice, my heart is broken. I will treasure all your books. I will keep you always in my prayers. I am really sorry that such private information was leaked out without your knowledge. May God bless you and your children Thomas

        March 15, 2015
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    • Honey
      Honey

      It was very nice of you to leave this comment on Jenny’s blog. I’m so sorry for your loss (it sounds like your mother was an inspiration and legend to so many). I think it wonderful that, even in her passing, you want to spread her legacy and share her passion. I’m also sorry for the way your mother’s passing was disseminated to the public. I wish you and your family all the best for the future (and am looking forward to finding out more about your mother’s work!).

      February 26, 2015
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    • JennyTrout
      JennyTrout

      I am so sorry to hear that your mother’s passing was announced ahead of your wishes. I can’t imagine how difficult that must be, and how it must have been for those who were close to her and hadn’t yet heard the news. I hope that my post here didn’t cause anyone extra stress during their grief. 🙁

      February 26, 2015
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      • Thomas Small
        Thomas Small

        No, No, Jenny…not at all. It was out way before then. It was someone high up in the industry who leaked it. Thank you for your wonderful blog post on my mom. It was awesome to read!

        Tom

        February 26, 2015
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    • Janna Politte
      Janna Politte

      Dear Mr. Small,
      I have just read of your mother’s passing and have tears in my eyes. She was my absolute favorite author. I have MANY of her books going back to the very first one (Skye O’Malley) in hardcover. Bertrice hooked me with that book and I waited hungrily for the next, and the next until I had Skye’s entire family in books. I see I need to get the latest “Silk Merchant’s Daughter” book on my nook now. Bless Bertrice for the many hours of pleasurable reading she gave me and bless you and your family during this most difficult time.
      Warm Regards, Janna Politte, a very faithful reader.

      March 17, 2015
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    • Lesley Bauchop
      Lesley Bauchop

      It is almost two years since this lovely lady left this world, and like many still feel sad at the loss for her the family. But l have enjoyed rereading Beatrice’s books and eagerly awaiting the final book to round of my library. Her books have followed me across two countries and will always remain in on my book shelves as will the letters l’d received from her some years ago most treasured as we talked of the history of her books and in some of the cases they have people who lived in a real time which she borrowed for her story line. I’d love to see some transferred to the screen. Lesley Perth WA

      January 20, 2017
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    • Tammy Stetler/Shipp
      Tammy Stetler/Shipp

      I found out not long ago about your mother. She was my favorite author. I started reading her books over 20 years ago when I was pregnant and on bed rest. My first book was Skye O’Malley, from then on I was hooked. I was so upset to learn she had passed. I only found out recently because I was looking for the book Serena. I missed not hearing about it because in 2015 my husband was in a bad car accident and has had to go through so much medical/surgeries and PT since. For the last 2 yrs we have been caught up in the craziness of that. I once sent an email to your mother about 12 yrs ago and was so happy to have gotten a email back from her. We were talking about our cats. Unfortunately I can not find the email. I had saved it for so long. I just want you to know how much I have always enjoyed her books. I am so sorry for your loss. Us fans have lost a wonderful story teller but you have lost an awesome mom. I will miss eagerly looking forward to her new book releases and hearing her stories of the escapades of her pets. I cherish the books I have of hers. I lost some of them due to hurricane damage/flooding and are slowly collecting them again. I will always treasure them. Looking forward to the release of Serena. Once again, I am so sorry for the loss of your mother. Take care.

      October 17, 2017
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  10. I just bought three of her books off of Amazon. I have high hopes for them!

    February 25, 2015
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  11. Mandi Rei Serra
    Mandi Rei Serra

    I grew up devouring Bertrice Small books I’d hijack from my mom’s bookshelves (the one sporting a whole bunch of shirtless, muscle-bound men) when I was in my early teens. By high school, I was sharing with my girlfriend.

    Deeply saddened there’ll be no more adventures pouring from Ms. Small’s mind.

    (Must flip coin to decide whether to read Lost Love Found or Love Wild and Free in tribute)

    February 25, 2015
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  12. Thomas Small
    Thomas Small

    Read my statement above, there will be one more tale yet to be published.

    February 26, 2015
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    • Mandi Rei Serra
      Mandi Rei Serra

      I read your statement with tears burning my eyes.

      Thank you so much for keeping your mother’s legacy alive, and I’m terribly sorry for your loss (and the breech of confidence at announcing her passing).

      My thoughts to you and yours.

      February 26, 2015
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    • Stacy
      Stacy

      Your mother’s books are my own personal treasures . I have every one of them. Some I’ve read 3 times. Her books have made me a more confident woman. I am tickled to know her final book will not be left in limbo. Thank you so much for keeping her legacy alive. have you got any news when Serena will be published? So sorry for your loss.

      May 25, 2015
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  13. I exclaimed “Oh no!” out loud when I saw this. At least I now have the comfort of knowing she was as sweet a lady as I’d always imagined.

    February 26, 2015
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  14. Honey
    Honey

    I must admit, I have never heard of Ms Small, but this post still brought tears to my eyes (I’m such a softie!). I will need to seek out her works and have a read (if she is so revered by you, she must be a wonderful author!).

    Thank you for always sharing these tidbits of your life. They are so heartfelt and inspiring. <3

    February 26, 2015
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  15. cheryl ickes
    cheryl ickes

    Mr Small, Im sorry for your loss, I own all your mothers books which I have read over and over again. I sit for hours at my seriously ill daughters bedside, your mothers books take me to far away places giving my life adventure, and wildly beautiful romance. I will continue reading and rereading all these fantastic tales.

    February 27, 2015
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  16. Mauvaise
    Mauvaise

    I, too, grew up reading Bertrice Small’s novels and it’s because of her that I (to this day) defend the Romance genre and say proudly that I read Romance Novels.

    I still re-read my favourites (Skye O’Malley, All the Sweet Tomorrows, and my most favourite: The Kadin) every once in a while. I hadn’t heard of her passing before reading this post and I’m very saddened by the news.

    February 27, 2015
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  17. No, way. All the Sweet Tomorrows was my gateway drug (think I was 14) to reading/writing smut…and I never, ever, ever will forget the dildo made of elephant tusk. Or all the girls in the harem crawling around in pony gear, or how that Arabian guy “saved his seed” for Skye (whom he called “Muna”) …after banging all the other ponies first. How was 50 Shades shocking? Anyway, I’m so envious you got to meet her, and sorry to hear she passed.

    March 2, 2015
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  18. Artemis
    Artemis

    I bought the very first Skye O’Malley book for my kindle because of this post. It sounded like the books would be exactly my sort of thing, and like many other commenters said above, getting into them would be a good way to pay respects to the author.

    Last night, an ice storm brought public transportation to a screeching halt in Philadelphia, and the only thing that made waiting over two hours for a trolley bearable was reading about Skye’s adventures.

    March 2, 2015
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  19. Cristin Easton
    Cristin Easton

    Oh man, R.I.P. Beatrice Small. I found, “Skye O’Malley,” the first book of the Skye O’Malley series, slightly battered and tucked unassumingly into my mother’s romance novel collection as a teen. Tore through it in a couple of days. Aside from the scandal of being young and inexperienced and reading sex scenes, this book appealed to me in SO many other ways as well. I loved the historical clothing, the jewels, the houses and the descriptions and personality of Queen Elizabeth I and her court. This is the romance that made me love romance. Each one the the books in this series is as detailed and brilliant as the last, and following Skye through so many wondrous years of her life was one of my favorite literary journeys. I have read the series countless times, and many of Small’s other works too. A few years ago, I bought a new copy of “Skye O’Malley,” (I had to, I wore my other one out reading it so many times) and was lucky enough to have a friend get the copy signed for me. I will cherish it more than ever now! 🙂 Thank you, Beatrice Small! Again, R.I.P.

    March 6, 2015
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  20. Gwendolyn
    Gwendolyn

    Lady Small was my mother’s favorite author. Mom had shelves devoted to her books. When I turned twelve, Mom handed me “The Kadin”. I was hooked myself.

    Through her obvious fascination with history, her excellent writing, wonderful characters and attention to detail, I grew up devouring history like if it was water. I took what I learned from her books and researched it. As I grew older, I grew more fascinated with history. When I entered university, my parents wanted me to major in Early Childhood Education. I wanted to major in history. I won. Through a lot of history classes and a lot of papers, I graduated with a Bachelor’s in History. I later returned to university and went after an education degree. I am now a history teacher in Oregon.

    I credit Lady Small with my foundation of history and sparking my love of history. Her books are my treasures. I have my own shelves of her books and they are highly treasured! I will read her books and remember each page was written by the world’s best author!

    Thank you for sharing your mother with us, Mr. Small. She is the world’s eighth wonder!

    March 6, 2015
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    • Mary Attard
      Mary Attard

      Dear Thomas and Family, my deepest regret and condolences to you all. I never knew your mother except through her books , I own them all . I have been reading her books since I came to Canada from Malta in 1979. I just loved her, she made us feel a part of her family. I emailed her in October/November and she answered me by the very next day. I had a different email back then. I am really going to miss her, but she is with her George now Console yourself knowing that so many people loved her. I will keep you all n my prayers and may the Lord give you peace. I will never forget her and the many happy hours of reading she gave me. R I P dear Bertrice.

      March 18, 2015
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  21. Jan
    Jan

    She sounds like a fabulous person to have known. I’m sure many more people will fall in love with her writing in years to come. R.I.P.

    March 22, 2015
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  22. to my horror I just found out of my favorite writer writer bertrice small passing away. A friend introduced me to her book and I was hooked ever since.read everything she wrote.I am truly sorry for your family’s lost. She will be greatly missed.

    April 23, 2015
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  23. Dianne
    Dianne

    It was sad to hear of her passing I have been reading her books for years hanging On every word and waiting fir the next to come out I have traveled to places that only she could take me rest in peace Betrice Small rest in peace

    April 27, 2015
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  24. Debbie Serpico
    Debbie Serpico

    I have also been reading dear Bertrice Small books since i was 15. I have read and reread them all hundreds of times over the years. I loved reading about the dresses and homes and the furniture in them…you felt as if you were there. Skye O’Malley should be a mini series…I feel as if I knew her and her whole family. I also felt as if I knew Bertrice..her family and her cats…lol. I loved hearing about them at the end of the books . My deepest condolences go out to your family. I felt very bad to hear she was ailing and now tears come to my eyes when I think about her passing. She was loved by all who read her books and will be missed. R.I.P. Thomas Small my heart goes out to your lovely family. D.S.

    May 14, 2015
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  25. Lamar
    Lamar

    Hello Thomas, I have been hooked on your late mother’s stories within over the past couple of months before she passed on. Sorry for your loss, I am a fan of the silk merchant daughter books and read all of the three stories and being a fan even more and noticed that Serena was not available and was hoping if Serena would ever and be released officially to bookstores for people to buy and take home as a tribute to your mother’s work and legacy despite she was nearly finish working on it until her passing and I hope it does get released for many fans including myself all over the world. I thank you, Thomas.

    May 21, 2015
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  26. Susan Corbridge
    Susan Corbridge

    i am so saddened by Mrs. Small’s passing. She has brought me so many hours of enjoyment, and I own every one of her books! A friend gave me All the Sweet Tomorrows back in 1980, and I was hooked for life. I even wrote her a fan letter many years ago and I kept the response she sent to me on her special stationery. I look so forward to rereading my Bertrice Small library, eagerly waiting for her swan song, Serena. God rest you, and give you peace, and thank you Thomas for caring so much for your mom’s legacy, and being sensitive to her many fans.
    Susan Corbridge

    June 13, 2015
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  27. Herman
    Herman

    Tom, do you by chance have any update on when Serena will be published? All the best. Thanks for all you do.

    September 5, 2016
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  28. I, too, was saddened when I heard of Bertrice’s death when it happened. She was and still is one of my all time favorite romance writers. I have a personal note that she wrote to me on a post-it note after Wild Jasmine was published. It is one of my prized possessions. Hope her last gift to her fans (Serena), will be published soon.

    September 27, 2016
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  29. Hollykim
    Hollykim

    One thing I love about her books is that, unlike so many books in this genre, which are love stories of true love between soul mates to the end of time forever and forever amen and there could never be anyone else, etc, she wrote about women’s lives, their whole love lives, and she wrote period pieces. So a husband would die, and the heroine would move on. They would have affairs that ran their course, relationships with mostly compatible people that ended naturally, infatuations that went nowhere because the timing was wrong. They’d have not great marriages where the sex started out terrible and got better. They’d fuck kings because it would be a really bad idea/an actual crime to say no and the experience would range from from awful and traumatizing to satisfying but certainly doesn’t live up to the hype to OMG I’m in love with Charles II now, not that he’s going to divorce his wife and make me queen or anything. They’d wind up in harems (seriously, like 99% of her characters) and have mind-blowing sex with men they didn’t particularly like.

    September 28, 2016
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  30. Sam
    Sam

    My mother is/was an avid fan and is so hopeful that the final installment to the Silk Merchant’s Daughters series will be published. If there is any information on when this will happen it would be great to know.

    December 20, 2016
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