Yesterday, I started telling y’all about the #Messiest family in popular American fiction, the Dollangangers, so let’s pick up where we left off, ’cause spilling the tea on these people is almost as addictive as those damn books were, so here goes!
One year after the Flowers in the Attic sequel, Petals on the Wind, V.C. Andrews released If There Be Thorns into the world, and it is just as convoluted and grippingly trashy as its predecessors. If There Be Thorns is narrated by Cathy Sheffield’s sons, half-brothers Jory and Bart, her (first) dead husband’s and her dead lover/stepfather’s children, respectively. Jory, who is 14 years old at the novel’s opening, is a talented ballet dancer, like his mother and deceased father, Julian. Nine-year-old Bart is otherwise unimpressive, but (unbeknownst to his parents) has congenital analgesia, which makes him a danger to himself. Cathy thoughtlessly displays some favourtism for Jory, which observant Bart internalizes and resents her for.
Chris and Cathy are happy and madly (emphasis on madly, cause that shit cray) in love, telling the people close to them, including the children, that Chris is her second husband Paul’s younger brother. Unable (thank goodness) to have any more kids, but desiring both a daughter and a child that is both hers and Chris’, Cathy adopts a little girl named Cindy, because why not bring an innocent child into their secret incestuous life, amirite? Cindy, two years old at the time of adoption, is the orphaned child of one of Cathy’s former dance students, and though Chris protests the adoption at first, he and Jory come to love Cindy. Bart, however, does not and (already feeling neglected), becomes the quintessential ignored middle child while his talented older brother and adorable little sister receive all of his parents’ affection.
Bart soon begins spending all his spare time with the new elderly next-door neighbour, a woman who encourages him to call her “Grandmother”. She spoils Bart with treats and presents, under the condition that he keep her a secret from his family, ’cause nothing bad ever came from such an arrangement. Things are fine, at first, until the old woman’s butler, John Amos, tells Bart that he knew his great-grandfather, and gives the impressionable boy Malcolm Foxworth’s journal. Remember Corrine’s daddy who so hated that she had married his half-brother that he would only give her her inheritance if she didn’t have any of Christopher’s children? Yea, that guy. Readers get to really get to know Malcolm for the first time, his diary revealing to us, and Bart, that he was a power-hungry misogynist, and Bart wants nothing more than to be exactly like the man in this diary. #Welp
Bart begins imagining that he is Malcolm, engaging in cruelty and violence towards Jory and Cindy, and even killing Jory’s dog, Clover, though no one can prove it. Jory suspects that the lady next door has something to do with this change in his brother, and also begins to suspect his parents’ relationship, which although tender and passionate, fails to distract him from their glaring physical resemblance, and only makes him question why, if Paul and Chris had been brothers, Cathy would have married the much older Paul first. Prompted to suspicion by Jory, Chris finds out the the old lady next door is none other than his mother, Corrine, who had managed to track them down, and wants to make amends, begging his forgiveness. Yup, this deluded bitch really thought she could undo the abuse and torture she put Chris and his siblings through by giving Bart (both her grandson and illegitimate stepson) some ice cream and toys. #BitchWut
Chris tells Corrine to stay away from his family, but doesn’t tell Cathy about their mother, fearing that this information will drive her to a violent rage. Cathy soon gets into an accident (this family has a lot of fucking accidents), is told that she will never dance again, and is temporarily confined to a wheelchair. During this time, she starts writing about her life, Bart starts pilfering pages of her work, and he discovers that she and Chris are sister and brother, and his beloved grandmother locked them in an attic when they were children. This drives Bart to become even closer to the one adult who hasn’t lied to him: John Amos. Jory, though disgusted at the true nature of Cathy and Chris’ relationship, forgives and loves them. Bart doesn’t forgive them until John nearly succeeds in killing Cathy and does succeed in killing both Corrine and himself. At Corrine’s funeral, Cathy finally forgives her mother, and the death of the grandmother whom he only ever knew as kind and gentle seems to curb the worst of Bart’s behaviour.
I told you this series was just the hot ass mess that keeps getting messier, and If There Be Thorns does not disappoint. Of course, this fresh new mess was also adapted into film. And now that you know a bit more about the character’s involved in this new phase of Chris and Cathy’s lives, let’s pick the pace!
Two years after this installment in the Dollanganger series, V.C. Andrews released Seeds of Yesterday, which takes place 15 years after the events of the previous book and centers around the lives of the now adult Jory and Bart, and teenage Cindy. The novel opens with Chris and Cathy going to visit Bart at his home, an exact fucking replica of Foxworth Hall. That’s right, folks! Problem child is still fixated on the diary and legacy of his great-grandfather Malcolm. #RedFlag
So here’s a rundown of what happens when the Sheffield family comes to visit Bart:
- Bart is already pissed off that he doesn’t have access to his trust fund until he’s 25, and still bitter about his mom and uncle’s incestuous relationship.
- An old man named Joel Foxworth, the older brother of Corrine Foxworth, who was presumed to be dead in an accident decades ago, is working at Bart’s house as his butler.
- Joel had previously been living in a monastery all these years and only reached out to Bart upon hearing of his sister’s dead.
- Joel is incredibly religious and instantly disapproves of everyone else in the family.
- Jory and his wife, Melodie (also a dancer) visit the house and eventually move in. Melodie becomes pregnant.
- Cindy visits from boarding school and (surprise) Bart still hates her and disapproves of how “immodest” she is.
- Jory gets into an accident (I told y’all this family has a lot of fucking accidents) and is paralyzed from the waist down. Melodie can’t deal with her husband’s disability and emotionally withdraws from him.
- Melodie, still very much pregnant by Jory, and Bart have an affair. Bart claims to be in love with her when Cathy confronts him.
- Bart and Jory both get their feelings hurt when they realize that Melodie doesn’t want either of them.
- Melodie gives birth to twins Deidre and Darren, whom greatly resemble the deceased Carrie and Cory.
- Melodie abandons both Jory and their children and moves to New York to return to her dance career.
- Hypocritical, trash ass Bart slut-shames his sister Cindy for having premarital sex and between he and Joel, the poor girl is more than happy to go back to school in New York.
- Jory is severely depressed following his divorce and his mother hires a beautiful nurse, Antonia “Toni” Winters, for him, hoping they’ll get together.
- Toni ends up falling for Bart, who becomes a better person under her influence, but his great-uncle, Joel, manages to sabotage that relationship, and Toni ends things only to later fall in love with Jory.
- Cindy informs the family that Melodie has remarried.
- Bart builds a chapel where Joel begins to preach on Sundays, and commands the family to attend services.
- Chris and Cathy refuse to allow the twins to become indoctrinated in Joel’s particular scathing and sanctimonious brand of religion, but when they see him sneaking the children into the chapel, they decide to leave Bart’s home, after two years, taking Jory, Cindy, Deidre, and Darren with them.
- While waiting for Chris to come home so that they can go, Cathy learns that he’s been in an accident (yup, another one!) and has died.
- Bart gives the eulogy at Chris’ funeral, showing deep remorse for how he treated his uncle, and gratitude at what a kind father Chris had been to him.
- Cathy and Bart become close again.
- Bart becomes a televangelist (ew), managing to do some work and, unlike Joel, spreading a message of positivity. He and Cindy finally achieve a healthy relationship.
- Joel goes back to the monastery. #SmallFavours
- Jory and Toni marry, and she becomes pregnant.
- Cathy, still devastated by Chris’ dead, the loss of Cory and Carrie, and her tragic childhood, dies of a broken heart.
Seeds of Yesterday is actually the most lackluster of the Dollanganger series books, yet Andrews still manages to bring her melodramatic, convoluted, family fuckery A game to the court. In this book, Bart and Jory swap not one, but two lovers, uncle Joel reveals that he has way too much in common with his religious mother, Olivia, for comfort, and one of the most cold members of one of the most cruel and depraved families anywhere found his vocation is religion. #Sigh
While Cathy and Chris managed to raise two (Jory and Cindy) very kind and warm children, and one highly questionable one whom, in his defense, was conceived under some incredibly shady circumstances, Seeds of Yesterday probably glamourized incest more than any of the other books in the series, simply because this brother and sister got their (much deserved) happily ever after… with each other. True, the pair had suffered so much, so deeply, together that it would have probably been difficult to connect with partners, but Cathy did connect with others (Paul, who was far too old for her, but otherwise a very, understanding man, and Julian, whom she loved despite his abuse. Chris never even tried to have a relationship with someone other than Cathy. #Ew Of course, this hot mess got its own movie, too.
And the drama is far from over. In the final part of my review of the Dollanganger series, we’re diving into the story that tells us where it all started! Stay tuned!