Help A Bitch Out

HaBO: All Around the World

This request comes from a gentleman whose wife is looking for the first romance she read. This one is a doozy:

“This would have been in the 1983-1987 timeframe. I think it had a purple
cover (but I don’t think Johanna Lindsey wrote it). I remember it being
quite racy for a girl my age…

It may or may not have started off with a rich heiress trying to escape a
bad betrothal in the Caribbean to a much older man to pay off her father’s
debts. There was a pirate (with very green eyes) between the Carribbean and
France who took her virtue. Later, she was all the rage in Paris, and
Napolean’s attentions drove Josephine mad with jealousy. She left France
on a ship; other passengers included a Puritan couple from New England who
did not approve of her.

The captain of the ship was the pirate. Or maybe the pirate captured her
ship? In either case, she wound up somewhere in Africa, traded as a white
slave into a harem. She was picked to be some sultan’s squeeze (he was
described as a Janissary), but our plucky heroine was with the pirate’s
child at this point. The fabulous Arab had his way (but only anally). She
gave birth, and was told the baby died during childbirth, but it was really
taken away & given to the Puritan couple. They were being held hostage by
the Janissary.

Then, she wound up back in New Orleans, was called an octoroon and sold as a
slave. The green-eyed pirate rescued her and she was reunited with her son
(the missing baby). Then wound up in the Oregon territories. Or maybe not.
It’s all verrry fuzzy after all this time. “

Of course I Googled “octoroon” and am so pleased to make the acquaintance of one more piece of racist nomenclature. Good Lord.  Anyone remember this book?



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  1. 1
    AgTigress says:

    But WHY was she labelled an octoroon?  The archaic American ‘mulatto / quadroon / octoroon’ terminology is really interesting, because it reveals the pervasive conviction that white and black humans were different species — at least as different as a horse and a donkey (I can’t write ‘ass’ there, because you all use ‘ass’ to mean ‘bum’):  hence ‘mulatto’ for the ‘first cross’.  Really weird.

    I have no idea of identification of the book, but it certainly seems to have packed in a lot of action.

  2. 2
    Ell says:

    Definitely Rosemary Rogers; a quick glance at Amazon has me thinking its’ Wicked Loving Lies.

    Hey! I finally recognize one!

  3. 3
    Ell says:

    ‘Scuse me while I wish I could move that apostrophe.

  4. 4
    Virginia E says:

    My suggestion is to check the Angelique series by Sergeann Golon. She went through a lot of very racy adventures in a lot of locations. I think there’s something like twenty books in the series, which is out of print these days. This may actually be a combination of more than one title.

    AgTigress: Yes, the term is racist. Historically, a lot of cultures were ethnocentric and racists, and not all of them were caucasian. In this case, octoroon is an important distinction becuase this is someone that could pass for “white” if one didn’t look carefully. However, that small amount of “black” ancestry was enough to make her legally black. Octoroons were highly prized as mistresses. The more “white” they appeared, the higher their value. It’s an accurate historical detail that adds another cliffhanger to the plot as well as another excuse for wild and racy sex.

  5. 5
    cate says:

    No, Virginia,definately not good old Sergeanne’s Angelique books – they’re set during the reign of Louis the Sun King.
    BUT Juliette Benzoni’s Marianne series are set during Napoleon’s reign – & she has a flingette with him, lands up in Constantinople, has a child with an Arab prince, lands up in a harem, is at the seige of Moscow AND FINALLY … hooks up with her One True …the American privateer .. she’s been longing for since book 1 (or is it 2 ?) ….  There’s lot’s more besides that quick overview…..The woman really got around !!!!

  6. 6
    robinjn says:

    I’m pretty sure Rosemary Rogers as well. I have definitely read this book.

  7. 7
    Hydecat says:

    I can’t identify the book, but now I really want to read it. My PhD research is on popular fiction in the 19th century and one of the most popular plot elements at that time was when either a white woman was mistaken for an octoroon and sold into slavery, or when a woman with African ancestry was brought up to believe that she was white and then suddenly discovered that she was an octoroon and was sold into slavery. The end result of both was either rescue by the hero or a melodramatic death scene—sometimes both at once! They’re really fascinating stories.

    Also, I’m really happy that “octoroon” is marked as misspelled by this spell-checker. Thank god it isn’t a recognized common word anymore.

  8. 8
    Nonny says:

    I must admit I’d never heard the term before this post.

  9. 9
    DiscoDollyDeb says:

    I’m also betting on this being a Rosemary Rogers, but which one, I’m not sure.

    As an aside, I’m so glad that terms like octoroon, quadroon, and mulatto have faded from our cultural consciousness—as evidenced by the comments above.  But in literature until quite recently the “tragic mulatto” (a mixed-race woman, usually trying to pass for white, but tripped up by her own “passionate” nature) was a recognized trope—see the movies “Carmen Jones,” “Pinky,” or “Imitation of Life” for examples. 

    In pre-Civil War Louisiana, it was quite common for men from the planter class to have quadroon/octoroon mistresses.  New Orleans hosted “quadroon balls,” where rich white men went to find light-skinned ‘black’ women.  In fact, the system was so entrenched, it had a name, “Placage,” and the mistresses were referred to as “placees” (I can’t do accent marks or the curlicue tail under the “c,” but these were French terms, so pronounce them accordingly).  These tended to be very stable unions, with the man making a financial settlement on the woman and any children they had.  After several generations of this, there were blond-haired-blue-eyed people who were classified as ‘black.’  Which only goes to show what a complicated racial history we have in this country.

  10. 10
    AgTigress says:

    In this case, octoroon is an important distinction becuase this is someone that could pass for “white” if one didn’t look carefully. However, that small amount of “black” ancestry was enough to make her legally black.

    Technically, one-eighth black, the equivalent of one black great-grandparent;  this proportion of African heritage would be unlikely to be visually perceptible even if one looked very carefully indeed!  (See DiscoDollyDeb’s post above, mentioning legally ‘black’ fair-skinned individuals).  The whole elaborate classification system (and of course the equally complex legal classifications that were in use far more recently under apartheid in South Africa, with the three classes of ‘black’, ‘white’ and ‘coloured’) is extraordinary, based as it is on completely false beliefs and flawed understanding.  But alas, you will still find a remarkably similar mind-set amongst some breeders of pedigree animals.

    I suspect that my own familiarity with this now mercifully obsolete vocabulary may have been based on reading quite a lot of Victorian pornography in my misspent youth.

  11. 11
    robinjn says:

    @Agtigress, I imagine it depends. I have a theory about my own ancestry that I have no way of following up on; I suspect my paternal Great Grandmother was at least part black; perhaps half, perhaps 1/4. My recordable ancestry is all Scotts-Irish, yet here we have this paternal line that suddenly has very dark hair and dark complexions (not at all like “black irish), dark eyes, sallow skins. My family is from Kentucky which of course was a slave state. My aunt Jane had black, distinctly rippled/fuzzy hair. My Dad’s was straight, mine is very curly and tends to frizz easily. I have sallow skin and I keloid scar, which is very common in African Americans and uncommon to unheard of in Scotts-Irish.

    At the very most I would be 1/16th African American. My two sisters and my brother look *nothing* like me and are fair skinned, brown to blond hair with no curl at all, etc.

    I’m actually really interested in pursuing this avenue of my heritage, but I don’t know how; obviously this would have been a huge, horrible scandal at the time, and hidden. And all this is to say that I think it depends on how the genes are expressed. For whatever reason, the genes from my Dad’s side of the family expressed more dominantly in me than it did in my siblings.

  12. 12
    darlynne says:

    The fabulous Arab had his way (but only anally).

    Wait, this happened in a Rosemary Rogers book, according to those of you who attribute this story to her? I read them all, I thought, at a completely inappropriate age, and feel certain my eyes would have bugged out permanently in the circumstance. Unless the scene was written in such a way to throw not a veil, but a canvas over the whole thing. Really?

  13. 13
    robinjn says:

    There was a lot of anal sex in RR books. It was a recurring theme.

  14. 14
    darlynne says:

    Well, there you go. Clearly I had no idea what I was reading at the time. Mom never covered that in those little talks.

  15. 15
    JoanneF says:

    I know I read this book, but I didn’t read much, if any, Rosemary Rogers IIRC.  Bertrice Small perhaps? 

    Spamword hospital46.  I know I’d have been in the hospital 46 times if I went through what that heroine did.

  16. 16
    AgTigress says:

    And all this is to say that I think it depends on how the genes are expressed.

    Robinjn, of course that is true.  Nobody ever said genetics was simple!  The possibilities are endless, and there are many cases of an individual looking uncannily similar to a single, fairly distant ancestor.  But in general, a person with only one black great-grandparent would be likely to look ‘white’, though there could easily be exceptions.
    The complexities of biological inheritance, and the continual mixing of so-called races going back to antiquity makes the very idea of ‘black’ and ‘white’ humans, and the idea of ‘racial purity’ complete nonsense:  not just morally offensive, but scientifically ridiculous.

  17. 17

    Anne Rice’s work is full of those terms.  One dealt with the handsome son they had to send to Paris for higher education which was common practice then .  He wouldn’t be allowed in University here.  There was a whole subculture, strictly defined, of these wealthy mixed race people,  the result of the master-slave interaction. They had their own debutante balls and stuff.

  18. 18
    robinjn says:

    Beatrice Small was the only other author I thought of. I do know, for absolute fact, that I have read this book. I remember the Napoleon, Josephine, Sultan, baby, pirate thing. But I read it when it was new and I’ve slept since then. :)

  19. 19
    JennKinPA says:

    *claps hands* I know this one!! It’s definitely Rosemary Rogers’Wicked Loving Lies. My grandmother adored RR, and when I was 13, I stole this from the box of books she’d given my mother. Usually she read Harlequins or mystery novels, so this was…quite different from what I expected. And it took many more years before I understood more than a little bit of what was going on.

    Via Amazon:

    Born of wealth and privilege, Marisa is a prisoner to her father’s expectations. When the sanctuary she has found behind the walls of a convent is threatened by the news that her father has arranged for her to marry, Marisa flees . . . right into the arms of a pirate.

    From the safety of a sheltered convent to a sultan’s harem, from the opulence of Napoleon’s court to the wilds of the new frontier, Marisa and Dominic brave all that they encounter in this thrilling age: intrigue, captivity and danger. And above all, an enduring passion that ignites into an infinite love.

    Here’s a link to a pic of the original cover.

  20. 20
    Elise Logan says:

    I vote for Beatrice Small, as well. I KNOW I’ve read this, and I’ve only ever read two Rosemary Rogers, which I don’t think included this one. But I went on some kind of massive Small kick – don’t judge me. I was a teenager.

    Now you have challenged me to find it. Will go hunting.

  21. 21
    TaraL says:

    I definitely remember the Napolean, sultan, baby, octoroon bits in one by Rosemary Rogers. Sweet, Savage Love, I think. But I don’t remember the bit about the pirate. Is the memory a possible mash-up between SSL and the later books in the series? I read them also, but don’t remember much about them.

  22. 22
    MariDonne says:

    The story about “miscegenation” in the South that I could never get out of my mind was “Desiree’s Baby” by Kate Chopin. Definitely not a romance of any kind, though:’s_Baby

  23. 23
    kkw says:

    I have definitely read this book, but it was so long ago…it might actually have been my first introduction to the word octoroon.  I remember running across it in a romance novel as a teenager.  Along with ton and lave, it’s one of those words I think I’ve only ever seen in romance novels.  Both the Rosemary Rogers and the Juliette Benzoni sound familiar, though, which is no help at all I realize.  And I want to hear more about the books you’re using for your thesis, Hydecat!

  24. 24
    ashley says:

    Word’s like octoroon (one eighth black) and quadroon (one quarter black) are racist because they are meant to track “impure” blood through families lines.  a white man wouldn’t want to marry a woman with ANY black blood, for fear of tainting his family.  so these words reminded people that people of mixed race were not worthy.

  25. 25
    Cindy says:

    I found this link to a list of Pirate/sheik/viking books.  I think the questioner may have mixed a couple of books.  But RR included o lot of anal and I think this may be one of hers too.  Maybe it’s a mix of Lindsay, RR and Small?

  26. 26
    Miranda says:

    A good mystery series that includes discussion of these various ‘castes’, is Barbara Hambly’s Benjamin January series. The first book is A Free Man of Colour. It’s set in 1840’s New Orleans and is excellent.

  27. 27
    Tiblet says:

    Don’t have any clue on the HaBO, sorry. But, this thread makes me want to watch “Band of Angels” with Clark Gable again.

    Spamword: modern94. Yep, I might have been modern if I had been born in 1894. Definitely like the Victorian age.

  28. 28
    Abbie says:

    I lived in Alabama for a while as a kid, and some of the older people still used terms like “octoroon”. They would also say someone was “passin’”. Which meant they passed the paper bag test. If you were lighter than a paper bag, you could pass as a white. It amazes me how racism is alive and well still in a lot of the Deep South.

  29. 29
    JamiSings says:

    I haven’t read the book – and I wouldn’t if I had it as I prefer to pretend anal sex does not exist. *shudders* However I am surprised a lot of you don’t know these racist terms. When I was in school they were taught as part of history class to show how bad “the good old days” were.

    Of course, I think it was mostly stressed by a history teacher who revealed one day his father was a major racist and he always tried to take that as an example on how NOT to be.

    Plus of course Anne Rice’s book – I forgot the name, something about Saints, I think. Not Cry To Heaven, that’s about the kid who’s jealous family member has him castrated.

  30. 30
    Ken Houghton says:

    Of course I Googled “octoroon” and am so pleased to make the acquaintance of one more piece of racist nomenclature.

    I keep forgetting how young most of you are.

    As long as you’re doing the research on the word, one of it’s best uses was by Wynton Marsalis. (I believe the original commission was from the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra, but I can’t sort through my CDs right now.)

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