Previously in Varney the Vampire: We encounter a strange prisoner and obvious foreshadowing.
I keep harping on Flora. It's the curse of mediocrity: harping on the bad points of good works seems nitpicky, and harping on the bad points of bad works just seems mean, but mediocre works inspire the most harping because you see what they did well and are flooded with disappointment when the rest of the work doesn't live up to the same standard.
Or maybe that's just me. But I get that feeling with Flora constantly. JMR vacillates constantly between presenting her as a strong and well-developed character and as a silly, negatively stereotypical woman.
In Chapter 30 (THE VISIT OF FLORA TO THE VAMPYRE. -- THE OFFER. -- THE SOLEMN ASSEVERATION.), I think I finally figured out why. It all just depends on who she's with and how they treat her.
When Our Heroes treat her as if she's insane, as in Chapter 27 and Chapter 28, her reactions are presented and observed through that lens -- and yet her reactions are completely realistic. They are not the ramblings and rantings of a madwoman, but the desperate attempts of someone who is never taken seriously to finally be heard.
In Chapter 30 (the title of which is typically misleading), the Admiral treats Flora as a normal human being and an equal, not as someone who needs to be sheltered and headpatted. He talks about Charles with her as a friend, he offers her money (which is clearly highly improper), and he even swears around her (to which she shows no reaction).
Flora reacts with emotion, but not the exaggerated type of emotion which is meant to appear mad or irrational. It is the same in Chapter 20 when she encounters Varney -- he talks to her as a person and treats her almost with respect.
It's still problematic that Flora's moments of pseudo-empowerment are only briefly granted to her by the male characters. Is it better than Flora being a stereotypical, disempowered character all of the time? I suppose, in that it gives me more jumping-off points for this blog. If her character were all bad, I probably would have made a few jokes and gotten tired of it quickly. It would be too easy to make fun of -- just as I almost feel bad mocking JMR's writing style except for the bits that really stand out.
Chapter 31: In Which JMR Isn't Even Trying