by Johanna Lindsey
Pub. Date: Oct. 1978
With languid tropical breezes caressing her breathtakingly beautiful face, Bettina Verlaine stood before the mast, sailing westward to fulfill a promise her heart never made - marriage to a Count her eyes had never beheld.
Then in a moment of swashbuckling courage, the pirate Tristan swept her away and the spell of his passion was cast over her heart forever.
But many days - and fiery nights - must pass before their love could flower into that fragile blossom a woman gives to only one man.
This is a true old school bodice ripper, its pretty dark and dramatic straight through to the end. Originally published in 1978, bodice ripping, dubious consent and outright rape were on par for the time period. These darker aspects were tempered with lots of drama, fabulous or dangerous adventure, and vivid descriptions of the setting, scenery and dress.
Bettina is a classic figure for the time, a virgin of good breeding who is treated as a commodity instead of a person. Having been sent away by a father who didn't want to deal with her, she was raised in a convent and returned home once she was marriageable age so her father could arrange a marriage to a man she has never set eyes on. As Bettina's father was obsessed with a title, he arranged Bettina's marriage to a French compte living in the Caribbean and he sends her off on a vessel across the ocean to be married without any family save her maid. Along the way, Bettina is abducted by a pirate captain. I liked Bettina and had a fairly good connection with her character. While I could never put myself in her shoes, I did understand her frustration and being shackled by her circumstances as a female of the time period. Lindsey did a good job and making the frustration and strife be felt by the reader.
The anti-hero pirate captain of the story is Tristan Matisse, who was technically a privateer sailing under the British flag. While Tristan had his own tragic circumstances in life, they did not excuse his treatment of Bettina. A good portion of the story is spent forcing relations and deceiving Bettina for no reason other than Tristan wanted to bed her. He had no thought to what would happen to the girl once he was done with her, and it made it really hard to like him. In fact, I didn't. Usually there are redeeming qualities or circumstances in a bodice ripper that makes you feel okay about the story by the end. But this may be the first book of this ilk that I have read where the "hero" was not redeemed.
There was no grand passion between our main couple, at least not one that happened on the page. There were times when Bettina professed to be happy, but given Tristan's refusal to marry and self-absorption, I really didn't believe her. I loved Ryan O'Casey and Bettina's mother - they may have been my favorite aspect of the book.
This was an audiobook listen for me, and I really thought it would take me a few days to get it done in time for the Throwback Thursday post. However it somehow kept me enthralled even though I hated Tristan, and I finished it in a day. I think that speaks to Johanna Lindsey's writing ability, to keep me wanting to find out what will happen even when the hero is an uncaring SOB.