We’re back to A Pirate’s Love by Johanna Lindsey, a historical romance novel first published in 1978. In the last chapter Bettina had sneaked off Tristan’s ship and gotten arrested for her trouble.
Chapter thirteen begins with what is clearly a flashback or a dream of Tristan’s, to make us feel bad for his poor tragic past:
The night was clear, and a full moon shone above the peaceful little village by the sea. A young boy of
twelve was asleep in his parents’ one-room house.
His father had not gone out in the fishing boats with the other men of the village that night because of a fevered cold, so both the boy’s parents slept in their big bed in the corner of the cottage.
Three hours after the fishing boats had left the little village, the Spaniards came. They came not for riches, for the village was a poor one. They came for sport, to destroy, and rape, and kill.
So these Spaniards have the exact same motives as Tristan did when he attacked the Windsong, except without the “those people we seriously injured and left at sea will probably be just fine” excuse. Got it.
The father goes to fight off the Spaniards and is killed by one. The mother hides the little boy under the bed and tries to fight the man who killed her husband. She puts up a really good fight, but eventually more Spaniards come to join the first one and they subdue her. They also refer to the first one by name: Don Miguel de Bastida.
There’s no dialogue in this sequence, so the absurdity of this is easy to miss. Here is my interpretation of how it goes down:
“Hey, could you help me hold down this struggling woman? I have no motive whatsoever except to rape these peasants because I’m Spanish and evil and entirely unlike an honorable English pirate with no motive whatsoever except to rape a French noblewoman.”
“Of course, Don Miguel de Bastida.”
The little boy stays hiding while his mother is raped by six men and murdered when she attempts to attack Bastida again. Then he comes out for his own feeble attempt at vengeance:
He attacked the Spaniard with his bare fists, but Bastida only laughed and laid open the boy’s cheek with the point of his sword. Then he kicked him to the ground only a few feet from where his father lay, and told him he was no match for—no match for. . . .
The book The Princess Bride came out five years before this book did. Tristan is a mash-up of Inigo and Westley. And the heroine is engaged to another man instead of her destined true love in both books. How did I never notice that before? I was born in the ’80s. I obviously saw the movie before I ever picked up a romance novel. Why wasn’t it obvious to me?
Of course, Westley and Inigo are both decent people and not raging assholes like Tristan. When Westley scares Buttercup, it’s because he truly believes she wronged him and yet he was still trying to do the right thing by her and save her life. Maaaaaaaaaaaaaan. I should just go watch that movie instead of reading this.
Anyway. It’s revealed that all of this was a nightmare of Tristan’s man pain that’s supposed to explain/excuse the horrific crap he does. He realizes that Bettina is gone and immediately goes to shore to find her. How he finds her is glossed over, but he gets to where she’s locked up and has her released with a story about transporting her to a convent for her father.
Naturally the first thing he does when he gets her alone is threaten her.
“You put on quite a show last night, displaying your body to half the men on the dock,” Tristan growled as they stepped out into the square. “Just what the hell did you think you were doing?”
“Never mind!” Tristan cut her off brusquely, tightening his grip on her arm. “Anything is preferable to sharing my bed, isn’t it? Even getting yourself arrested!”
“Yes, anything!” Bettina snapped in defiance.
He turned her around to face him, and his eyes were like blue ice crystals. Bettina feared for a moment that he was going to kill her right there on the street.
“There is only one thing that prevents me from throwing you back into that jail, and that is the pleasure I’m
going to have in breaking you,” he said in a harsh whisper. “I have yet to teach you something, my willful wench. And knowing how you feel about me, you won’t enjoy the lesson.”
“What do you mean?”
“In good time,” he snarled cruelly, and started across the square. “And kindly keep that cape tightly closed, Bettina, or I will wring your pretty neck.”
So. He watched his mother get brutally raped and murdered and now all he wants to do is rape this innocent woman and talk about murdering her. Tristan actually makes Dexter look like a really well-adjusted guy finding a constructive way to deal with his childhood trauma.
Bettina does have a valuable insight as she’s forced back to her imprisonment on the ship:
As they passed through the town, Bettina’s face grew red when she realized how stupid she had been. If only she had asked what country claimed this island, she could have saved herself much trouble. This settlement was English, and Tristan had said he had England’s sanction. No wonder those men had laughed at her when she told them a pirate ship was in the harbor. To the English, Tristan wasn’t a pirate
All very true. And the difference between a pirate and a privateer doesn’t matter one iota if you’re not one of his countrymen. But Bettina is being held captive, threatened constantly, and raped by this man. Any desperate attempt at escape seems damn reasonable at this point.
The chapter ends with Bettina locked alone in Tristan’s cabin once again. Chapter fourteen shall be up tomorrow.