At the end of Petals on the Wind, Cathy was struggling with 2 small children and a dying (second) husband. Paul’s dying wish was that she give in to Chris and allow him to provide for her as a husband would. So SHE DOES!
If There Be Thorns starts up 9 years later, with Chris and Cathy living as husband and wife (ew) in Northern California. For some reason, I keep wanting to say they live in New Mexico, even though I know that isn’t right. Weird. Anyway. Cathy has a ballet school and Chris is a doctor. They tell everyone that Chris is the younger brother of Cathy’s second husband and that Paul was the father of her younger boy. Unlike the first two books in the series, this one is told from the PoV of Cathy’s sons – Jory and Bart.
Jory is 14 and following in the dance-steps of his parents. He studies ballet with his mom, everyone goes on and on constantly about how talented he is – even more so than his dead daddy. He tries to be nice to his little brother, but Bart makes things difficult between them.
Bart is a weird kid. There’s just no other word to describe him. He suffers from some rare disorder, which is described as having nerve endings that don’t quite reach his skin, so he doesn’t really feel pain. It sounds somewhat like CIPA, but I’m pretty sure I remember him sweating in the story – so that can’t be entirely correct. Who knows, maybe VC Andrews made it up.
Bart and Jory like to visit the abandoned mansion next door, even though they know they’re not supposed to be hanging out there where it’s super dangerous. The summer of Bart’s 10th birthday, an old lady (that dresses all in black and wears a veil…oooh, mysterious!) moves in and Bart starts spending all of his free time with her. She buys him all kinds of presents and asks him to call her grandmother. She’s also got a creepy butler, who talks to Bart when no one else is around. Creepy butler (John Amos) tells Bart that the old lady really is his grandmother and gives him the journal of his great-grandfather, Malcolm Foxworth. The journal is full of misogyny. Ol’ Malcolm blames everything that went wrong in his life on the fact that his mommy left him when he was little, so he spends a lot of time talking about how women are the worst, and “I’ll SHOW THEM!” type behaviour.
Bart has an incredibly active imagination, so he starts pretending that he actually is Malcolm. Walking like an old man, talking in a different voice, acting like a complete douche, etc.
One day while Bart is digging around in the dirt and the “grandmother” is talking to him over the wall between the two properties, he finds the mostly decomposed corpse of a kitten. Grandmother asks him if that was her kitten that went missing, but Bart tells her that he has no idea how it got there. Of course he doesn’t. He’s not a weird kid that could possibly be killing small animals. Nooooo, not at all.
Bart’s fondest wish is to have a pony, but grandmother doesn’t want to get him one because if he goes home smelling like a horse, mommy and daddy will know that something’s up. Instead of a pony, she gets him a Saint Bernard puppy that is “just as good.” The pony puppy is named Apple, and Bart shows us just how strange he is by deciding that he will turn the canine into an equine if he just wishes hard enough, and only does pony things with it – like riding it around and trying to force it to eat hay like a good pony should.
Jory’s doggy (that interestingly enough was given to him by Bart’s real father) goes missing, and all eyes are on Bart. No one else knows about the kitten, but they all know that he’s pretty strange and that the dog never really liked him anyway. Since he suspects his little brother of doing in his pet, Jory starts following Bart, and discovers Apple in the barn next door. Bart freaks the eff out and tells Jory that this is HIS PONY and he’d better stay away because Apple can’t love anyone but him. Wow, Bart. Way to convince people you’ve got it together.
While Jory is struggling with whether or not to tell people about Bart hanging around with the old lady and the creepy butler guy, Bart goes and gets a rusty nail stuck in his knee. Only since he doesn’t feel pain like normal people do, he continues on about his daily
craziness shenanigans and doesn’t think about it other than to poke it with a dirty finger (and he’s been cleaning out his ‘pony’s’ stall, so you know just what was on his fingers…gross, but I digress). Bart’s leg gets WAY infected (dur, just because he can’t feel pain doesn’t mean he’s immune to infection!) and he has to spend his 10th birthday in ICU. He’s allergic to every antibiotic they give him and almost doesn’t make it.
Jory goes to take care of Apple while Bart is in the hospital and discovers that the
pony puppy is being mistreated. He’s locked up in the dark barn, his food and water is just out of reach, and he’s all covered in poo because no one has been cleaning up after him. Did Bart just leave the dog locked up and no one has checked on him? What, exactly, is the deal here?
Bart survives, Chris and Cathy adopt a little girl (kind of under the table because no one really knows about their situation) and this fuels Bart’s ragey little psychosis even further. He’s mean to Cindy (dear lord, another C name?!), Apple dies, Cathy insists on dancing with Jory at a recital, has an accident and her dancing days are completely over. Oh, and John Amos gets even weirder than before.
Cathy decides to start writing a book about their childhood (which we’re to assume is where the manuscript for Flowers in the Attic came from) and of course the kids read it. Uh oh. Now they know that Chris isn’t really Paul’s brother, he’s THEIR UNCLE! More ew. Jory confesses that Bart has been spending far too much time with the creepazoids next door and so Chris goes over to confront the old lady. Gasp! Shock! Horror! It’s his mom! He thought she was locked up in an asylum back east! ”You leave Bart alone!” ”But he should have been my son since his father was my husband and my real kids left me after I kept them locked up for years! Besides, you don’t want me to tell everyone who your ‘wife’ is, do you?”
Of course, Cathy goes next door on one dark and stormy night to confront the old lady that’s been poisoning her son’s mind and discovers the wicked witch next door is her mother. Wait, Chris kept a secret from her? OMG! Crazy. John Amos works with Bart to lock Corrine and Cathy in the
attic basement. John Amos has been reading a little bit too much of Malcolm’s diary and thinks women are sooperevil creatures, bent on the destruction of man. PLUS, if Corinne dies, he gets all of her money.
House is set on fire, Chris, Cathy, Jory and Bart escape. John Amos dies in the fire, Corrine succumbs to smoke inhalation (I think, I really was only half paying attention at this point), but not before we find out that it wasn’t Bart that was killing all the little animals. It was the creepier old man, trying to frame the creepy kid.
Oh, but wait. There are still two more books. Will cover Seeds of Yesterday on the Trashy Tuesday – Thursday Edition. See you then!
ps. Happy Birthday, Heather! <3