We’re rolling along in the Cutler series. Midnight Whispers follows standard V.C. Andrews tradition, departing from Dawn’s narrative. Instead, we’re treated to a jam-packed book full of her daughter (and doppelganger) Christie. Will Christie live with the Cutler family curse, or is it all just sunshine and princess rainbows?
Well, this is a V.C. Andrews book, so of course not.
HAPPY AND INNOCENT, DAWN’S DAUGHTER CHRISTIE HAS GROWN UP IN THE SAFEST, MOST LOVING OF HOMES…
Yet Christie can’t help feeling as if a dark cloud hovers over Cutler’s Cove… a cloud whose origins lie in her family’s troubled history, and the many questions no one, not even Dawn, will answer. Only one person can always chase away her blues: Gavin, Daddy Jimmy’s young and handsome stepbrother.
Then, in one harsh night, Christie’s world is changed forever. She is shocked to discover her Uncle Philip’s unbrotherly love for her mother… but even worse is the way he now looks at Christie, his eyes bright with tortured passion. Fleeing to New York City, she finds her real father… a pathetic, helpless has-been. Desperate and heartbroken, she turns to Gavin, who travels with her to The Meadows, a plantation where Christie was born. In Gavin’s arms in the first, tender moments of true love, Christie finds a refuge from her painful memories. But The Meadows is blighted by its own dark secrets — and all too soon Christie is torn from Gavin’s embrace. Now as black storms of evil gather around her, Christie must struggle to break the cruel bonds of the past… to defy the curse that has haunted Cutler’s Cove for generations…
Good God Almighty, these back synopsis’ are getting long.
About the Book
In every V.C. Andrews family saga, the first three books follow the main protagonist, while the 4th serves as a denouement that typically follows the protagonist’s child (pretty much always a daughter that looks just like the mom). It’s convenient writing because the daughter always sounds exactly like the mom.
In this case, Christie does sound like Dawn, but I did notice one difference in that Christie frequently uses ALL CAPS in dialogue to convey outbursts. Case in point:
“You bitch,” she screamed after me. “You can’t welsh on a game of strip poker. You’ll be sorry… YOU’LL BE SORRY!”
Like, I use all caps for comedic effect, but in a novel it just looks tacky, and I wonder why Neiderman made this writing decision in this book and not the others.
On the stepback, we’ve got Christie (sitting on a chair just like mommy did). Beside her is Gavin, and then her brother Jefferson. Left to right on the back we’ve got Fern, a very aged Uncle Philip, and Aunt Betty Ann.
In my massive accumulation of V.C. Andrews books I’ve discovered that finding quality copies of earlier books (anything from the Landry series or before) is relatively difficult. Most of my books in the Cutler series were in decent shape. Midnight Whispers is my only Cutler book that has ZERO SPINE CREASES. The pages are still clean. Cover damage is minimal.
I took care of this copy. I marked pages with mini Post-It notes instead of folding the pages down. I didn’t open the cover wide. Unfortunately, when I took off the used bookstore price tag com the cover, however, it tore off some of the image.
In my teens, I only ever read one of these “4th novels”, which was Hidden Jewel of the Landry series. It was so mediocre that I literally don’t remember anything about it. The Midnight Whispers synopsis does promise a lot and based on the bad reviews I was expecting a lot of horrible stuff to happen. Nevertheless, I was eager to start fresh with a new character and apply the V.C. Andrews standards to her story.
An Innocent & Pretty, Yet Completely Naive Female Protagonist
Christie Longchamp is not an exact copy of her mother, Dawn, oh no. She might be sweet and beautiful and blonde like her mother, but her secret special skill is playing piano. The books begins on Christie’s 16th birthday, where she wakes up in her dumb canopy princess floral dreamland bedroom and looks out her window at the ocean. Clouds line the sky and Christie expresses her displeasure:
I had so wanted to wake up to a morning filled with sunshine. I wanted the sea to sparkle as it had never sparkled before, and I wanted the sunlight to stream through the petals of the roses, the daffodils, the tulips and turn the leaves of the trees into a rich spring green.
What a great way to make readers like you, Christie. And you do this on the FIRST PAGE OF THE FIRST CHAPTER, right after your pointless prologue letter to your Auntie Trisha. I have to give her a bit of a break, though. Christie is a V.C. Andrews protagonist, after all.
Fortunately, Christie isn’t entirely hopeless. During the novel she stands up for herself and her brother, Jefferson, when required. She’s still clueless like Dawn and makes really stupid decisions like Dawn.
A Tragic Death
School ends for the years and Dawn, Jefferson, and her twin cousins Melanie and Richard come home to find the hotel on fire. Everyone gets out, save for Dawn and Jimmy, who the firefighters find dead in the basement where the fire started.
And honestly, I didn’t expect this. I know various V.C. Andrews protagonists die in other series’, but this is my first protagonist death and I uh… was a bit impacted. Dawn wasn’t a great character by any means, but I suffered through three books with her. Then she dies in a stupid fire.
A Hostile Maternal Figure (+ Bonus Mean Girl!)
Christie and Jefferson are placed in Uncle Philip’s care, and it’s pretty obvious where this plot goes. Uncle Philip and Aunt Bet move into the Longchamp house, taking over the rooms and casting away Jimmy and Dawn’s possessions.
Aunt Bet does a character 180, trading her sweet and naive persona in the aforementioned previous book and turning into a micro-managing clean freak. She establishes set times for meals, insists things be kept clean.
Then she and the twins gang up specifically on the already troubled Jefferson, blaming him for every little things that goes wrong in the house. Part of me loves how ridiculously neurotic Aunt Bet becomes, and the other part loves that her hostility gets Christie charged up.
In one scene when the twins blame Jefferson for getting mud in one of the bedrooms or something stupid like that, Christie defends her brother and threatens to set Richard on fire in his bed. This frightens Aunt Bet and she retaliates. Aunt Bet ALWAYS retaliates.
Aunt Bet also has a habit of pressing her lips tight together. She presses them so tight that they turn white, or she presses them so firmly that they look like a rubber band about to snap. There are NUMEROUS examples of this visual for the first hellish half of this book. And honestly, I know that every writer falls back on a certain turn of phrase (there are plenty of examples of “fingers flinching” in Vile Men), but once a writer takes notice, you’d think maybe they’d stop?
Not so with Andrew Neiderman! I doubt these books spend much time in the editing process, but damn, if this guy could evolve to some degree. (Spoilers for Darkest Hour: there are literally billions of tight lips in the final Cutler book.)
A Beloved Doting Paternal Figure
Uncle Philip started out as a gross fratty dudeboy who stalked after Christie’s mother in Dawn. Now he’s full-blown insane:
He smiles softly, his eyes two pools of tenderness, and then he kissed my forehead. “Poor, poor Christie,” he said, stroking my hair.
I relaxed. “It’s all right, Uncle Philip. Go get some sleep yourself. I’m fine,” I said. He continued to smile and stroke my hair lovingly.
“Dear, dear Christie. Lovely Christie, Dawn’s Christie. I remember the day she brought you back to the hotel. I told her not to worry that your real father had deserted you. I would always be a father to you too. And I will. I will,” he promised.
Christie worries about him to a certain degree, but never to the degree that she’s paranoid about her personal well-being. During the night, Christie head to the resort’s graveyard to talk to her parents. It’s there that she finds Uncle Philip, fawning over Dawn, apologizing for raping her vaguely enough that Christie doesn’t get it.
Even after this scene, when Uncle Philip walks in on Christie having a bath just so he can give her a gift. He opens the box in the room and holds up a sheer white lace nightgown.
“Isn’t it pretty?” he asked. He put his cheek against it. “It’s so soft and feminine, I couldn’t help but think of you when I touched it. Wear it tonight, especially after a bath. It will make you feel good,” he said.
“Thank you, Uncle Philip.”
“Will you wear it tonight?” he asked.
Christie fails to understand why Uncle Philip’s being so weird around her, even though she’s 16 and her mother’s already told her alllllll about sex and what it means. And I promise you, we’ll get to that conversation later on.
Later, Uncle Philip enters Christie’s room to talk to her about sex, as uncles do. This scene isn’t so much weird as it is a messed up character assessment of Philip’s character.
“But these feelings, these new desires, they they can confuse a young person so badly that he or she thinks he’s going mad sometimes.” He clutched at his chest and closed his eyes. “These feelings twist and torment you inside, making you feel as if you might explode if you don’t find relief. You want to touch something, feel something, press yourself against something that will… calm you down. Am I right? Is that what’s been happening to you?”
And well, of course all of this leads not to pie-fucking, but to Uncle Philip coming in and raping Christie. Great. Fantastic. This event occurs on page 226 of the book’s 440 pages, which means we wasted over half of the book on painstaking poorly-written orphan misery.
Oh, and also Christie’s grandmother, Laura Sue, (Dawn’s birth mother) dies at some point and a pointless funeral is had but nobody cares.
A Rags to Riches Plot
The bulk of this books’ turmoil comes in the form of Christie and Jefferson running away after the rape. It’s kind of a riches to rags plot because Christie steals money and they waste it on a bus trip to New York to find Christie’s real father. Christie wastes a bunch of coins calling all the Michael Sutton’s in New York so they can go and live with him.
Christie and Jefferson show up at Michael’s apartment only to discover that he isn’t doing so well:
I waited patiently for this scene (as it took up a bulk of the book’s synopsis on the back) but it took like five pages? Christie relays her biological relationship to Michael. She tells him about the fire that killed her parents, but Michael’s insistent that they can’t stay with him because he has no right to take custody of them. For once, he’s the smart one, but of course, he’s also gotta be a bit smarmy, too. He’s got problems with the IRS, see?
“After a few years, when you’re eighteen, or when you’ve gotten your inheritance, you’ll call me and I’ll come out,” he said, smiling. “Sure. We’ll have a real father-daughter relationship then, okay?”
Without any money left, Christie calls Gavin (her step-grandfather’s son and kind of brother?) and Gavin comes and saves the day.
A Vivid Gothic Setting
Most of Midnight Whispers takes place in the Longchamp house built in Twilight’s Child. Not so much a gothic setting as it is an ’80s mess that Aunt Bet spends much of her time fixing up with ’90s refreshments.
The later part takes us back to The Meadows, which is in an even more dilapidated state. Christie decides to head down there with the idea that nobody will know that they’re there. Aunt Charlotte and Luther give them rooms and they spend a few days in a weird form of bliss. Jefferson gets to help Aunt Charlotte paint random rooms in the house.
One night, Christie sees a shadow in the window, and in the coming days she sees a strange person in the house. That person is revealed to be a boy named Homer, who we later learn is Charlotte and Luthur’s son who we all believed was dead. Turns out he was just left in the woods by Emily. The neighbours adopted him, but now Homer spends his days at The Meadows because he likes it there?
He’s just another character in the background. He’s pointless. This whole plot is absolutely pointless except to maybe make the setting creepier?
Fantastic Psychological Horror
These 4th books are always pretty terrible. It’s like three books crammed into one novel of random soap drama woe. Christie and Gaven know that they can’t stay in The Meadows forever, so of course their fantasy world disappears around whem when cousin Fern shows up with some random dude to paaaaaarty.
Fern’s like the baddest bitch on the block, fucking dudes and drinking whiskey and calling Christie “princess” over and over because she’s mean and jealous and blah blah blah. Fern blackmails Christie into being her little servant so that she won’t tell Uncle Philip where they’re hiding.
One thing I love about Fern is that she tells Christie the truth about sex, unlike the pure drivel garbage that Dawn fed her back in the day (and we’ll get to that later). Then, of course, while Christie’s giving Fern a bath, she confesses that Uncle Philip raped her. Instead of BELIEVING WOMEN like she should, Fern confesses how jealous she is because she once tried to seduce Uncle Philip and he didn’t bone her back.
In the end, Jefferson gets sick from a cut he received from a nail. Christie asks Fern for help but of course, Fern’s pointless.Christie and Gavin fluster about trying to help Jefferson when he gets sicker, and it’s not until Luther recognizes the signs of tetanus that they decide to take him to the hospital.
LIKE WHY DIDN’T THEY ASK LUTHER FOR HEP IN THE FIRST PLACE. WHY ARE YOU SUCH AN IDIOT, CHRISTIE?! WHY DO YOU HAVE NO POWER OF DEDUCTION AND RATIONAL THOUGHT?!
SO yeah, they end up having to ask Uncle Philip for help and head back to Cutler’s Cove.
While Christie’s relationship with Gavin isn’t exactly incest, it’s weird. I think they’re step-siblings? I can’t figure it out. Dawn married her not-bio-bother Jimmy . Jimmy is Christie’s step-dad and Jimmy’s dad Ormond is Christie’s step-grandfather, who is also Gavin’s dad. So Gavin’s her step-uncle? I’m so confused.
Either way, nobody mentions anything of their courtship but I still found their bond a bit odd and also, boring AF.
Then there’s Uncle Philip, who commits LEGIT incest when he rapes Dawn. In the last 10 pages, he takes Christie out to visit Jefferson at the hospital, but he totally lies and takes her out to the beach so he can recreate the spider-hands car make-out scene from Dawn:
“I want to… to show … to teach you… things,” he gasped. His hands were over my breasts and his fingers began to fumble with the buttons on my blouse. I kicked up and twisted myself wildly to get out from under him, but he was too heavy and too strong. His fingernails tore down the side of my neck and onto my chest. I screamed and screamed and then I clutched a handful of hand and turned to him.
Even in the pitch darkness, I could see his eyes gleaming, his skin moist with perspiration.
“I’m not Dawn! I’m not” I screamed and tossed the sand in his face.
Christie ends up at Bronson Alcott’s house and he’s like, “Now that your grandmother’s dead I don’t have anyone to take care of so sure, I’ll take care of you and Jefferson.”
Some Good Olde School Misogyny
Most of it comes from Christie’s nostalgic memories of Dawn. Christie can’t help but think about how BEAUTIFUL Dawn was after she died. It’s a travesty because she was so damn beautiful.
Christie’s only vivid memories of Dawn are of their conversations of love and sex, and specifically of Dawn’s love affair with Michael Sutton. Why would a mother do this? I dunno. You’d think Dawn would have been ashamed, would have learnt from her mistake of buying his BS, but no. She’s still blinded by her fantasy of him.
Here, Dawn explains to Christie was REAL LOVE is and what it’s like after you have sex when you’re really in love, compared to what it’s like when you’re bonding like and not a total slut whore tramp like Fern:
“Girls who give their bodies to men for the pleasure of the moment don’t value themselves; they’ve closed the doorway to the soul and to love.”
“They take the stars for granted; they resent the song of birds waking them in the morning; the ocean is monotonous to them, and they think getting up early enough to see the sunrise is stupid and exhausting. It’s as if… as if they’ve missed the ride from the angels and are doomed to drift from one shallow thing to another.”
Yeah, I’ll take this as some solid advice, Dawn, when you feel for a loser like Michael Sutton and got yourself into the mess that was Secrets of the Morning.
Christie takes Dawn’s advice, because after she has sex with Gavin, this is her morning-after:
Slowly, as the first dray of sunlight lifted the shadows from the trees and the earth absorbed the darkness like a sponge, I felt in tune with everything. I realized that every morning the flowers, the grass, the forest and all the animals were reborn. I opened the window wide and inhaled the warm morning air as if I could also inhale the sunshine. I embraced myself and closed my eyes and remembered that moment when Gavin and I touched each other’s souls and with our bodies promised to be true and loving forever and ever. I had not missed the ride with the angels.
Some Really Bad Writing
There’s a lot of that class V.C. Andrews melodramatic overwriting. Every couple pages Christie’s going off on how difficult things are or how beautiful something is or how much she loves something. Here’s a sad version where she talks to Dawn during her late-night graveyard visit:
“Oh, Mommy, it’s so hard to live in a world without you,” I moaned. “Nothing’s the same; no morning is as warm and bright, no night is as safe, nothing that I loved to eat tastes as good, and nothing that was pretty to wear looks pretty to me anymore. I feel empty inside. Surely my fingers will be numb on the piano keys. The melody is gone.”
She goes on for another page, but I think you get the gist, right? The prose is purple and it goes on and on like a Saskatchewan field. You could watch your dog run away for days on this prose.
Honestly, all the bad passages I marked consist of ridiculous over-writing. I didn’t notice it during my reading. Maybe I’m just blind to Neiderman’s poster-Andrews’ prose by now. I don’t know.
Here’s a scene where Christie’s had a bit too much wine and wants to bone Gavin but he’s trying to be nice by not taking advantage of her inebriation.
“I want to be with you,” he said, “but not when you’re confused.”
I wanted to shout back that I wasn’t confused. It wasn’t the wine; it was the woman in me demanding to be born in a beautiful ad loving way instead of being ripped and torn and dragged into maturity by a sick and twisted man. I wanted to pretend that this was my first time, that I was a girl with a normal life and not one who had been abused. My body ached to be treated tenderly, kindly, softly. I wanted our kisses to be kisses that reached into the farthest corners of my heart to stir my imagination. I wanted Gavin to touch me and set off the fire of passion in a way that made love between a man and a woman something wonderful, not something horrible to haunt me forever.
And just like that, once again my SEO writing score is a fail. These massive blocks of text are a turn-off to editors. For any writers out there, DO NOT DO THIS. The above paragraph could have been like 3 sentences. Minimalism is your friend.
Lastly, here’s a scene where Christie puts on her birthday dress, a silk strapless pink monstrosity with shoes dyed to match:
When I first tried the dress on, I thought I looked foolish in it because of my small bosom, but Mommy surprised me by buying me an uplift bra. Even I was shocked by the effect. It took my breath away to see my breasts swell up to create a cleavage. My face reddened along with my chest and neck. Could I wear this? Would I dare?
I’m confused here because it’s a strapless dress and I’m quite sure that strapless push-up bras didn’t exist until recently, but please, anyone who knows anything about early 90’s fashion, please let me know. I’d assume that a strapless dress would have the bust built-in, no?
Also, it took Christie’s breath away to see her pushed-up boobs? This reads less of a teenage girl confronting her modified cleavage for the first time and more of a middle-aged man’s fantasy of a teenage girl confronting her modified cleavage for the first time. Maybe that’s just me?
My Final Thoughts
This novel floated from one portion to the next. I found Dawn and Jimmy’s death rather shocking, but instead of utilizing that inciting moment, Neiderman spends a a grueling bulk of the novel torturing us with numerous schemes that the twins pull on Jefferson. Every promised “big moment” leads to another new place and more repetitious scenes.
In the end Christie learns nothing.
MIDNIGHT WHISPERS (Cutler #4)
- Another trip to a very decayed Meadows estate.
- Christie puts up a good protest.
- There's a nice nod to Lady Chatterley's Lover.
- Gavin is pointless AF.
- The tension is pointless AF.
- Christie's "final showdown" with Uncle Philip is a letdown.