Prepare yourself: I am super sick. I had to go and look at other posts in this series to be sure was writing the title correctly (because I have such a complicated naming scheme) so this recap may make less sense than usual.
In the last chapter some stuff happened and then there was other stuff. I think sewing was involved. Tristan is a shithead.
Chapter eleven has us stuck in Tristan’s cabin with Bettina. She can’t leave and has nothing to do but clean the asshole’s bedroom, which she does. She reorganizes his possessions until the place is barely recognizable and tries her best not to die of boredom. This isolated captivity situation is probably part of what gets the “oh wow, I totes love my evil captor” dynamic really flowing. When you’ve got nothing to do but stare at walls all day, maybe even a hateful crapface like Tristan is a relief.
“Did you miss me, little one?” he asked, a hint of laughter in his voice.
She backed away from him when he closed the door and started unwinding the whip that was wrapped about his chest, the handle hanging over one shoulder.
They have dinner. There’s some back and forth about how she thinks he’s a coward since he won’t even be in the same room with a captive woman without a whip to terrorize her (I agree, Bettina). She wants to know why she wasn’t allowed out of his cabin, since she couldn’t escape. He says he doesn’t want other men to see her because everybody will want to steal her. Gross. She points out that she’s no different from any other woman and that’s a load of crap. He admits that’s true, but still thinks his crew will be tempted and it’s best if she’s only ever out of the cabin with him, in the evening because reasons.
Probably because this way he ensures she associates the pleasure of a minor reprieve from her captivity with his company. Like the Beast being so nice to Belle (who is his captive) by “giving” her a library. Or a bank robber trying to keep hostages calm.
After dinner he takes her on the promised walk on the deck. And of course he makes even this rapey.
It was a beautiful, warm night—a night made for love. She knew that she could look forward to many such nights when she reached Saint Martin, and she hoped that she would find love there—love that could make her forget this nightmare she was living.
She felt Tristan’s presence behind her. Looking down, she saw his hands clutching the railing on both sides of her, leaving her no way to escape. He was standing so close that his body was touching hers, and then she felt his lips brush against her neck. Gooseflesh spread down her back, making her whole body tingle, and she realized that she must break this mood before he went any further.
Ugh. I need a break from this horror. Look, here’s a picture of a woman riding Aristotle like a pretty pony.
Bettina asks Tristan why he let her believe he’d murdered all those people on the Windsong. He says she wanted to believe the worst about him and he saw no reason to deny her the satisfaction. He claims not to be as terrible as she, his kidnapping and rape victim, thinks he is. She points out he’s a pirate and he lays this whopping load of bullshit on her:
“Not exactly. Again I must disappoint you. I am a privateer under the sanction of England. I prey only on Spanish vessels, as I told you—plate ships carrying gold back to Spain. Do you know how the Spanish get their gold, Bettina?” Tristan asked, his voice suddenly cold. “By the death of men, women, and children. The Spanish enslaved the natives of the conquered Caribbean islands, and they starved and beat them to death because they didn’t work fast enough. And when the native Indians were exterminated, the Spanish brought in black slaves and treated them no better. I have no love for Spain, and I enjoy taking her gold and giving it to England. You may be surprised to learn that there are French buccaneers who do the same thing, and give the gold to France.”
This book takes place in 1667. In 1655, Britain took control of Jamaica, which had a population of about 4,500 white people and 1,500 Black people. By the 1670s, Black people formed the majority of the population. Why’d those numbers swell so fast? Because of the slave trade. For privateers like Tristan, taking slave ships for the crown was just as lucrative as taking gold, if not moreso. Sugarcane was brought over to the British West Indies at around this time, which would turbopower the Atlantic slave trade. Let us also not forget that wherever indigenous populations still lived when the British got there, they tended not to fair so well afterwards.
And Bettina’s country doesn’t get let off the hook either. They lagged behind other European powers, but were already involved in the slave trade at this point.
But of course Tristan would hold himself and his country up as virtuous. Their slavery and genocide isn’t as bad as the Spanish, right? Just like his rape of Bettina isn’t as bad as it would be if somebody else raped her. Can we really believe a man willing to kidnap, mentally torture, and repeatedly sexually assault a woman of his own race while profiting (whether directly or indirectly) from the slave trade and genocide of native populations really cares what happens to any people of color? It’s a convenient way to make himself feel superior to the Spanish, nothing more.
Oh, and Tristan has a great excuse for why he attacked the Windsong, too. They started it. No, seriously.
“I intended to board her and speak with you, or bargain with the captain to learn where you were being taken. The Windsong fired first, and I have never run from a fight, Bettina. However, since the battle was on, I gave the order to avoid killing. I boarded the ship, took you, and left.”
What can I do? Bettina thought wretchedly. I am such a coward! I fear the whip more than death itself. I should have jumped ship today, but it is too late now.
“Now!” Tristan bellowed.
So. Fucking. Romantic.
Once again he promises that this time it’s going to be super hot and she’s going to love it. Once again she insults him. Once again he hurts her and finishes in about thirty seconds. And once again he claims that her being mean to him is why he fucks like a rabid gerbil.
After he’s done assaulting her, Tristan chides Bettina for not taking better care of the dress he keeps tearing off of her. She says she has other dresses, but he says she doesn’t: he claims not to have taken any of her things from the Windsong. She sobs, saying that she had worked on her wedding gown for a month. He yells at her for her stupid, mysterious lady tears and stomps off.
And we’re now a quarter of the way done with this novel. Chapter twelve will be up on Monday.