Set in the 17th century beginning in France in1667, this is the story of Tristan Matisse whose family was brutally slain by a Spaniard who plundered the coastal towns of France, and Bettina Verlaine, who was betrothed by her father to a wealthy count living in St. Martin. On her way to meet her betrothed, who she does not know, Bettina’s ship is seized by the privateer Tristan who sails for England plundering Spanish ships.
From the beginning, it is clear that Tristan intends to have Bettina in his bed. He considers her spoils, no matter she is an innocent. And high-spirited Bettina will have none of it, so he rapes her. Though he told her he was taking her to St. Martin for ransom by her wealthy betrothed, he decides instead to take her to his island hideout and keep her some months until he “tires of her.” What quickly becomes apparent is that he has no intention of letting her go. While he holds Bettina, he searches for the man who killed his family, Don Miguel Bastida.
Lindsey does a superb job of describing the emotions experienced by Bettina—she could not give in to the pleasure she might experience with Tristan because to do so would be to betray her betrothed. She was feisty and courageous and I loved her. While it was a bit difficult to understand Tristan’s comfort with his own actions given his childhood, somehow Lindsey made us believe it was possible. And I came to like Tristan in spite of his treatment of Bettina, for he genuinely cared for her. Eventually, his more noble side comes out, and even Bettina, who has suffered his “ruining her life,” comes to see it.
There are many well drawn characters along the way, including Jules, the man who watches Tristan’s back, and Bettina’s mother who confesses to Bettina the cold man she thought was her father actually is not. Lindsey makes this an exciting tale with subplots and twists and turns—and the visits to many ports in the Caribbean. She had me turning pages late into the night.