A Pirate's Love
Either Johanna Lindsey has changed her style of writing since 1978 or I’ve grown as a reader since the early 1990’s when I began to read her books. It’s got to be one or the other, or there would be no other explanation for why I’ve enjoyed some of her later books, in particular, Prisoner of My Desire, Once a Princess, and Man of My Dreams. For A Pirate’s Love should really be called A Pirate Rapes; the book is basically a series of scenes in which the hero forces himself upon the heroine. Sometimes she likes it, sometimes she doesn’t, but she’s always mad afterwards. And, though the hero and heroine express emotions in the story, they vary in range from petulance to jealousy, from anger to lust, with very little in-between.
Beautiful, young Bettina Verlaine is on her way from France to the island of St. Martin where she will marry the handsome young Comte de Lambert. Her journey is interrupted when she and her maid are captured by Tristan, a privateer who sails under English protection. Though Tristan plans to eventually ransom Bettina to her comte, he sees no reason why he shouldn’t enjoy his (or is it her?) booty before-hand. He tricks her into capitulating to his carnal demands and she allows herself to be raped.
Of course, when she discovers his trickery, she defies him, and, of course, must endure another rape. Though he often manages to incite her body, she hates him with a passion, which she tells him so often and in such shrill tones it gave me a headache. She manages to escape, he manages to catch her (and save her from even worse predicaments), she screams she hates him, he forces her to have sex to prove she doesn’t. And so on and so on and so on.
Eventually Bettina manages to escape to St. Martin and her fiance’s protection, where she overhears the comte tell Tristan’s sworn enemy he does not plan to marry the soiled Bettina. Even though at this point Bettina has come to see that Tristan is a better man than her comte, when he comes to take her away yet again, she can’t help but twist the knife. When Bettina discovers she’s pregnant, she lets Tristan believe he might not be the father of the baby, which, of course, he is.
There are so many frustrating aspects to this book that it’s hard to pinpoint which are the most frustrating. There are, of course, all those rapes. None of the scenes are particularly explicit, but there are so many of them that the reader becomes as inured to them as do the secondary characters, who can see that Tristan has more feelings for Bettina than he seems willing to admit.
Then there are the characters themselves. Although pirates were known to pillage and plunder, that fact, in and of itself, doesn’t make them particularly likable or romantic. Still, I’d have to say that I enjoyed Tristan more than Bettina, whose strengths are turned into weaknesses by author Lindsey. Sad to say, I was rooting for the bad guys to do her in more than once during the story.
The final few chapters redeemed the book somewhat, although it was far too little, far too late. When Tristan revealed his true feelings for Bettina, I was happy. Unfortunately, the author chose this opportunity to muck things up with a “big surprise” involving one of Tristan’s oldest friends and Bettina’s mother that was simply ludicrous. Still, the scenes where Bettina is held prisoner by Tristan’s oldest foe are exciting – will he get there in time to save her? Can she keep her screams of agony (she’s in labor) to herself so as not to distract Tristan in the fight for his life?
I’ll admit to enjoying the occasional pirate romance, but not this one. Aside from those final chapters and the fact that it’s a quick read (it’s easy to get into that escape-rescue-rape rhythm), there’s nothing to recommend it. Why Avon chose this one to reissue again (it was last reissued in the mid-1990’s), we’ll never know – it’s not one of Johanna Lindsey’s best. It may, in fact, be one of her worst.