Welcome to yet another exciting recap of A Pirate’s Love by Johanna Lindsey, a historical romance novel first published in 1978.
When last we left Bettina, she was betrothed to a stranger on the other side of the Atlantic.
Chapter two starts with Bettina’s mother Jossel coming to speak to her privately later the same day. This happens, which is awesome:
“Is there something you wish to tell me, Mama?” Bettina ventured.
“Yes, yes, there is,” Jossel answered in heavily accented English.
Papa and Mama both liked to speak English, since many of Papa’s associates were Englishmen. And since Bettina had also learned that crude language at the convent, Papa insisted that English be used at all times.
Usually when some weird detail like that is shoved in hamfistedly, it pops up again as important. I kind of hope it isn’t at all important and is just a nonsensically weird thing Andre the Asshole did. The guy calls his wife “madame” after all and introduces his daughter to people she already sees as family. I can just see him declaring one day, “Madame and Mademoiselle Verlaine, my wife and daughter, I have decided that even in private conversations the two of you have behind closed doors without me present, you must speak English because I often do business with Englishmen.”
ANYWAY. What Jossel wants to tell her daughter is that when she got married she was a good and dutiful wife, but Andre was a big jerkface because she wasn’t getting pregnant. So she went and boned some Irish sailor named Ryan “with fiery red hair and dancing green eyes” and then got pregnant. Gee, it doesn’t sound like Jossel is the one with the fertility problem there. So she wants Bettina to know that not only is Andre not her biological father, but that it’s totes cool if Bettina decides to have a lover on the side because she doesn’t like her arranged marriage.
Y’know, it might not be a popular opinion, but I’ve got to agree and this makes me really like Jossel. If she doesn’t get a choice in marriage, then she doesn’t really have an obligation to be faithful either. Jossel can’t protect her daughter from what’s happening, but she can let her know that she deserves love, wherever and however she can find it. Good for her.
They go on discussing how Bettina doesn’t look much like her biological father and this is the point when I realize we haven’t really gotten a description of what she looks like yet. It may have been better when I was just imagining a generic blonde:
“I was deathly afraid at the time that you might be born with Ryan’s flaming red hair. But luckily you have my white-blond hair and my papa’s changeable eyes. Of course, those eyes of yours can be a hindrance to you. You cannot hide your feelings with those clear, dark eyes. As they are now, dark blue, I can tell that you are happy.”
“You are teasing me!”
“No, ma cherie. Even now your eyes are turning dark green.” Jossel laughed. “I know it must be unsettling to learn that you can’t hide your feelings, but your eyes always show the truth.”
It’s strangely reassuring to know that the Mary Sue kaleidoscope eyes trope goes all the way back into the seventies, at least. My worry here–based off of the “it’s so rape-y” reviews I saw on Amazon–is that Bettina’s mood ring eyes are going to be used to justify abusing her. If her eyes are dark blue and happy well, gosh, she can’t really mean it when she says no.
(Yes, she can. She can. She can.)
More description of how Bettina looks as she checks herself out in a mirror after her mother leaves:
She supposed she was pretty in a way, but she didn’t think she was as beautiful as her mother fondly said. She had a nose that curved slightly at the tip, an oval face, but she felt that her forehead was not high enough. Her pale skin was smooth, without a blemish, but her thick flaxen hair was straight, not fashionably curly, and she hated it.
She stood out oddly among the girls at school, who teased her for her different appearance. At five feet, six inches, she towered over the petite French girls. And instead of having full breasts and soft, round curves, she was very slim. Her breasts were nicely shaped and not too small, so she didn’t find much fault there. It was her hips that she cursed. They were slim—too slim, in fact—and her long legs didn’t help matters. Her tiny waist added a slight curve to her hips, but it annoyed her that she had to pad her skirts in that area.
She’s a tall, skinny blonde with straight hair. Damn, does it suck to be her, right? I do kind of wonder if this was already a cliche when this book was published, or if this is one of the early examples of “oh woe is me, I’m so ugly by looking exactly like modern societal ideals.” Being too thin could absolutely be a drawback in historical settings, but Bettina has people constantly gushing over how beautiful she is. Also: NOBODY’S DAMN HIPS WERE SO BIG THEY DIDN’T HAVE TO PAD THEM. Have you seen the shit people wore in history?
Hint: Those aren’t her real hips.
Bettina talks to herself a bit about her upcoming marriage and laughs at how silly her mama is, because nobody really has eyes that change color. Then she goes to sleep and the chapter ends.
This chapter probably blew my mind as a kid, but now I can see cliches that I’d been ignorant about before. Again, it’s entirely possible that none of these were cliches when this book was published and these were actually innovations on Lindsey’s part, but if they were they aren’t exactly great innovations. Conventionally attractive women lamenting over their looks not being good enough was tired the first time an author wrote about it. There are things that could be done with it, but not if everybody is constantly telling her how gorgeous she is.
I’m really digging Mama Jossel’s free love attitude, though. That’s an interesting, innovative heroine. Still enjoying the book so far. Still no sign of Tristan.
Tomorrow I’ll have chapter three up.