After the mess that was Secrets of the Morning, I was beyond stoked to start fresh with Twilight’s Child. No longer is Dawn Cutler a dumbass teenager. Now she’s a grown-ass woman (like me!) who learns (without even a high school diploma) how to run an entire resort. Is she #girlboss enough to do it? Let’s dive deep in this Grown-Ass V.C. Andrews review!
AS MRS. JAMES GARY LONGCHAMP, DAWN IS BLISSFULLY HAPPY. BUT A LEGACY OF DECEIT AND BETRAYAL STILL HAUNTS HER…
At last, Dawn can create a haven of warmth and love for her beautiful baby girl, Christie, and her darling Jimmy. Dawn is a huge success as the new owner of the Cutler’s Cove hotel… and soon she and Jimmy will be blessed with a child of their own.
Yet Dawn cannot quell her forebodings of evil. She an sense Grandmother Cutler’s presence everywhere… can feel her bitter hatred as if the old lady plotted her vengeance from the grave. When Dawn discovers that her brother, Philip, still clings to his mad, shameful passion for her, she is heartstricken. Her spiteful, jealous sister, Clara, is far easier to ignore… until the day Clara’s childish rage explodes into violence, destroying Dawn’s most cherished, precious dream.
Then Christie’s father, debonair singing star Michael Sutton, returns. Now, as the heartaches and scandals of the past threaten to engulf her, Dawn must fight for her steadfast Jimmy… for only with Jimmy’s love can she find the rainbow at the end of the storm.
About the Book
Spanning 410 pages, this book is JAM-PACKED full of DRAMZ. It picks up right where Secrets of the Morning left off and follows Dawn’s adulthood for 7-ish years. The book doesn’t make the passage of time exactly clear, but the plot takes her on a luxury cruise worth of truly crazy shit. Spoilers below, as I don’t think I can address everything in a single review:
- Dawn and Jimmy have a custody battle over Christie.
- Dawn and Jimmy get married.
- Randolph (Dawn’s step-dad) dies.
- Dawn’s mother marries an old love interest.
- Dawn gets pregnant.
- Clara Sue turns “bad girl”.
- Dawn miscarries.
- Philip gets all creepy obsessed with Dawn again.
- Dawn and Jimmy build their own house on the resort.
- Jimmy reunites with Daddy Longchamp.
- Dawn and Jimmy reunite with their long-lost sibling, Fern.
- Fern is THE WORST.
- Michael Sutton returns.
- Clara Sue dies in a freak car accident.
- Dawn’s mother goes insane.
- Emily Booth dies.
- Dawn (finally!) gets pregnant.
In a rush to get all the Cutler books, I grabbed the only copy at the used bookstore without caring about the book’s quality. It’s a decent reading copy, bearing all the standard signs of wear. The bottom edge of the binding’s come a bit loose. I worried about making it worse while reading, as I’ve become a bit obsessed with finding near-perfect books again.
My new goal is to have a near-perfect collection of V.C. Andrews books. This copy fails to hit my standards, but hey, it’s got a keyhole cover and an intact step-back:
I quite like these 80s-style family photo shots. They’re so surreal in that they look staged but none of the characters featured would ever pose together in such a fashion. Dawn sits in the chair with Christie on her lap. On the top left is Dawn’s mother, Laura Sue, then Jimmy, and Clara Sue and an older Philip (who looks a lot like Billie from Stranger things). I wasn’t sure who the girl on the left was, but I quickly realized that she’s FERN.
Somebody wrote #14 on the inside title page. This is the 14th book published under V.C. Andrews’ name, so somebody must have had a complete collection that they couldn’t read without creasing the spines. I’m shaking my head at you, previous owner.
I feel like this is the first V.C. Andrews book I’ve read that features an actual character arc for the protagonist. In this case, Dawn’s takes notice that her once timid personality is hardening. She’s paranoid of becoming just like Grandmother Cutler. While the arc could be a bit blunt from time to time, I did quite appreciate Dawn’s transition into functional adulthood. Still, this book wasn’t without it’s stereotypical flaws.
Admittedly, I had a tough time plugging all the pieces of this book into their standard V.C. Andrews tropes. It might be a bit of a mess, but we’re in the third book in Dawn’s “trilogy”. It’s a return to the first book and everything from the past is about to get dredged up all Scream 3-style on Dawn’s ass.
An Innocent & Pretty, Yet Completely Naive Female Protagonist
Over the years Dawn has become less innocent and naive, but she sure is still pretty! That is, according to Jimmy and — we’ll get to this later — Philip. Dawn marries Jimmy in a wedding planned by Laura Sue. It’s pretty epically 80’s, as is described in this passage:
As people entered they had to pass through a giant arch covered with red and yellow roses that spelled GOOD LUCK DAWN AND JAMES. On the other side of the arch, the maître d’ awaited at a desk upon which he had everyone’s name and assigned table. The entire ballroom had been decorated in a wedding motif. Enormous white, green, blue and yellow styrofoam cutouts of bells an flowers, chapels and angels were hung on the walls. At the far end were gigantic cutouts of a bride and a groom at the altar.
One major thing about V.C. Andrews books is that none of the style references age well. It’s weird because Dawn describes the decor and her mother’s dress in detail, but she doesn’t describe her own dress at all. It’s a borrowed dress from her mother, so I’m assuming early 70’s? Least it can’t be as horrible as the wedding decor.
Dawn says her vows but she can’t help but notice Philip in the background, reciting Jimmy’s vows. It’s only the beginning, friends! Dawn’s the new #bossbitch at Cutler’s Cove. Unfortunately, Dawn has no sense that some serious shit is about to happen.
A Tragic Death
Randolph (Dawn’s step-father) shows signs of distress after Grandmother Cutler’s death. He withdraws from the family and spends most of his time measuring laundry soap and counting paperclips to save on hotel costs. He stops taking care of himself, loses weight, and refuses to participate. Dawn attempts to get her mother and Philip to show concern for his well-being, but then some of the hotel workers find him dead in the family cemetery over Grandmother Cutler’s grave.
Laura Sue dresses to the 10’s for a funeral in some ostentatious 80’s ensemble. Her husband’s death sends her into a fury of vanity, which also sends her back into the arms of her former beau, a bank manager named Bronson Alcott. It’s revealed that at some point in the past that Bronson had a younger sister with an ailment who he spent too much time taking care of, and thus he was unable to date Laura Sue util after his sister died, but by then, Laura Sue had already married Randolph. Just like Prince Charles, Bronson was unable to ever forgot his first true love, and now, with Randolph dead, they’re free to marry!
Also, it turns out that Clara Sue is actually Bronson’s child and that Clara Sue isn’t even at Cutler at all, which doesn’t work out so well for Clara Sue when Clara Sue tries to fight Dawn for the Cutler family inheritance.
A Beloved Doting “Paternal” Figure
What this book lacks in true “Daddy presence” it makes up for in Philip’s messed-up new role in Dawn’s life. He was dearly missed in Secrets of the Morning, and his return, while intriguing, is also kind of pointless?
He returns to help Dawn look after the hotel, but he still makes the occasional lovelorn statement or touches her in a non-brotherly way for a little too long. Dawn brushes him off, wanting to forget the fact that he once raped her in the same hotel.
Dawn, in true V.C. Andrews fashion, doesn’t tell Jimmy about the weirdness. Luckily, Jimmy gets the idea that they build a separate house on the resort property so they can live as a family away from the hotel.
Philip marries a plain-Jane woman named Betty Ann. He then gets Betty Ann to dye her hair blond so she can look like Dawn. Later, after Betty Ann gives birth to twins, Philip starts sleeping in a different room. Turns out that that different room is Dawn and Jimmy’s old suite. Dawn goes inside to find one of her old nightgowns and a bottle of her perfume on the bed Philip sleeps on.
Then one night, while Jimmy’s visiting with Daddy Longchamp, Philip comes over drunk. The scene that unfolds should be troubling, but Philips’s lovelorn dialogue is so absolutely absurd that I can’t help but adore this absolute GIFT of a scene.
“You’ve had enough to drink, Philip,” I said. I cut him off in the middle of the room and grabbed his right arm, spinning him around.
“Dawn,” he said, smiling, “you look lovely tonight. Just the way I always imagine you, with your hair down. You’re wearing one of your sheer nightgowns under that, aren’t you?” he asked, licking his lips.
“Philip, you turn yourself around and march yourself back to the hotel and your wife this moment, do you hear me?” I commanded. He nodded, but he didn’t move.
“My wife,” he said, and he fixed his eyes on me, his lips moving into a grotesque mockery of a smile. “You could have been my wife if that security guard hadn’t recognized your father.” He seized my shoulders and pressed his forehead to my hair. “We could have eloped before Grandmother Cutler could have said anything,” he whispered. From the way he spoke, I knew it was a fantasy he replayed time and time again.
It’s probably the best and most well-written scene in the book. There’s action and dialogue. Not fantastic, but at least it’s something that’s not a burden to read.
A Hostile Maternal Figure (+ Bonus Mean Girl!)
Dawn spends most of her days agonizing over the change in her personality whenever people mention that she’s taking charge just like Grandmother Cutler did. Grandmother Cutler haunts Dawn throughout the novel. Most of the book’s tension comes from Dawn’s inner turmoil, but it’s Clara Sue who causes the most agony.
Shortly after Dawn and Jimmy get Christie back, Clara Sue takes the baby from the nursery and hides her in the hotel’s laundry room. A few years later, Clara Sue “kidnaps” Christie again, taking her out in her boyfriend’s truck for the afternoon. Dawn takes revenge by moving all of Clara Sue’s things to Laura Sue and Bronson’s estate at Buella Woods so she can live there. Then, Clara Sue returns from school finds her room cleared out.
And friends, this shit is NEXT LEVEL:
“Hasn’t mother told you?” I said calmly. “All your things have been moved to Buella Woods. That’s where you’re going to live now,” I said.
“Who decided that?” she asked through clenched teeth. I fixed my eyes on hers.
“I decided,” I answered calmly, despite the fear growing inside me.
Suddenly, she screamed, a high-pitched howl like some animal caught in a steel trap. She slapped her hands over the sides of her head and ripped at her own hair, her fingers clutching the strands.
Clara Sue charges at Dawn, punches her in the face and then kicks her in her pregnant stomach MULTIPLE times. Dawn loses consciousness right when Jimmy and Philip come in for the rescue. She ends up in hospital and OF COURSE loses the baby.
Jimmy mentions that they should press charges, but all Clara Sue really gets is a slap on the wrist? She goes back to school and starts dating some older men. Like seriously, everybody treats the whole incident like getting the pregnancy knocked out of your body is just a normal Cutler family occurrence.
A Vivid Gothic Setting
Cutler’s Cove Resort isn’t a new setting, but the it definitely felt more real in this book than it did in Dawn. We get opulent rooms and vivid ocean scenes. Because the family has to travel back and forth form the new house and the hotel, we get a lot more exterior description of the resort as well.
And, of course, we spend many scenes in graveyards. Can’t complain.
A Rags to Riches Plot
Jimmy sets out to build a new house for the Longchamp family on a rise in the property that overlooks the ocean. (It’s the house on the cover, ya’ll!)
Working closely with an architect, Jimmy had designed a two-story classical revival with a two-tiered entry porch supported by four simple columns.
I’m a broke-ass Millennial here, and not much else speaks volumes of wealth than owning a hotel and building your own luxury house on it because you don’t wanna live in the hotel next to your pervy half-brother anymore.
Some Good Olde School Misogyny
Once again, Dawn’s obsession with Clara Sue’s weight is troubling:
…Clara Sue continued battling her weight. Through her figure was fuller and more voluptuous than mine, if she wasn’t careful, she put on extra pounds. She has no self-control when it came to sweets and was constantly on a diet. She never lacked interest from the opposite sex, and because of her increasingly promiscuous behavior — so I heard — she had a following of boys at school.
Another qualm I have is with Dawn’s mother. I’ve always found her an interesting character. She’s got a weird mix of vanity + anxiety, but she takes it beyond believably. After Randolph’s death she pretty much becomes this woman:
And just like Rhonda, she is unbearable.
Fantastic Psychological Horror
The “horror” in this book isn’t so much psychological as it is Neiderman throwing curveball plots at Dawn and asking her, CAN YOU TAKE IT?! Anyway, I’m using this last “trope” to address the book’s other two major plot points.
First: Michael Sutton.
I waited the entire book for his promised return, but this plot point literally took up two chapters in the last 1/6th of the book. Michael calls Dawn up wanting to see Christie. A lot worse for wear (he’s aged and has grey hairs now), Michael gives Christie a necklace and proceeds to ask Dawn for $5000. Dawn refuses but then Michael claims he doesn’t care about his celebrity status anymore. He knows that a public custody battle would ruin the image of Cutler’s Cove Resort. Dawn LWYWR’S UP (a la Saul Goodman). She visits with Michael a second time and records his ultimate plan on a hidden recorder and the whole Michael Sutton threat vanishes just as quickly as it came.
Another plot that enters the book in it’s latter half is the return of Dawn and Jimmy’s long-lost sister, Fern. They head to New York where Fern’s adoptive parents live. The parents (obviously!) turn out to be bougie jerk-offs, which Fern affirms when she confesses that adoptive father molests her in the bath. Dawn and Jimmy confront Fern’s adoptive parents and the parents are like, FINE, JUST TAKE HER!
However, all is not blissful with long lost sissy’s return. Fern steals money from the hotel, fails her classes and lets her young cousins (Christie and Gavin) touch genitals or whatever. Then, Dawn finds a “romance magazine” in Fern’s room with a totally not romantic confessional story inside. FUN FACT: The article is called “My Stepfather Raped Me, but I Had No One to Tell”, which kind of feels like a nod to a real V.C. Andrews confessional she once published, titled “I Slept with My Uncle on My Wedding Night”. (Reference is halfway down the page.)
Turns out Fern made everything up. Dawn confronts Fern, but Fern is already beyond redemption (and a pointless character) by that point.
Miss Emily dies at the end of the book, and Dawn and Jimmy head back to The Meadows to bury her. During their stay, Luther (not actually a rapist as I originally thought, but rather just a dude who fell in love with a woman with the mental capacity of a child) reveals to Dawn that Charlotte is not actually Grandmother Cutler’s sister.
SHE’S ACTUALLY GRANDMOTHER CUTLER’S DAUGHTER, the spawn of Grandmother Cutler and her incestuous rapist father. And with this revelation, Dawn understands why her grandmother was a total bitch.
Full-circle storytelling, amirite?
Some Really Bad Writing
Sometimes I hate posting these excepts because they ALWAYS make my Yoast SEO really angry with me. My “readability” ranking is a green happy face right now, and I’m gonna sacrifice that perfection just for you, dear readers.
One thing that’s bugged me this entire series has been Dawn’s “love” for Jimmy. While she claims to love him and feel assured by him, she never writes blossoming purple prose passages about him the same way she does about Michael. Here’s a ridiculous fawning segment she has RIGHT BEFORE SHE WALKS DOWN THE AISLE TO MARRY JIMMY:
Despite my reluctance to do so, I couldn’t help but think about Michael and about the wonderful, romantic times we had at his apartment in New York. That was when he made all sorts of promises to me, when we had planned our own storybook wedding, when he had filled my eyes with visions of glamour and excitement — a wedding ceremony attended by all sorts of celebrities and covered by the newspapers and magazines, a honeymoon on the French Riviera, a chalet in Switzerland, cruises, parties on yachts and a triumphant return to the stage, singing our hearts and souls out to each other in a way that would make us both superstars.
That paragraph is only two sentences long, yet it takes up half the page and the text is absurdly small (10pt). Like, you wanna build a wall over Mexico? Do it with V.C. Andrews paragraphs because that shit will be IMPENETRABLE.
And speaking of penetration, here’s Dawn and Jimmy consummating their marriage, the passage of which not only contains the worst use of alliteration ever, but also the least sexy thing your brother who isn’t actually your brother could say right before sticking it in:
Gently he peeled my blouse away and slipped it down my arms. Just as gently, almost magically, he unfastened my bra. I didn’t open my eyes. I felt him move down the bed to take off my heels and slide my skirt over my legs. When he plucked my panties away I opened my eyes and looked at him. He was gazing at me with such desire, I felt myself grow faint.
“Do you remember,” he said in a voice barely above a whisper, “how you would catch me from time to time watching you dressing?”
Dawn’s mother is of particular concern in this book. When she announces that she plans to marry Bronson Alcott, Dawn persists. Then Bronson invites her to have a heart to heart. Bronson shares his story and Dawn is suddenly okay with the matter. Then she goes home and gets all early aughts emo introspective:
Yes, we lived in castles, but the moats that surrounded us were filled with lies and tears. The rich and the famous lived behind billboards; their houses were like movie sets, facades, glittering but empty. What person living what he considered a mediocre life would want to trade places with Bronson Alcott once he knew the truth about how the man suffered?
Why are you trying to make me feel bad for a rich white dude, Dawn? This is not the world I want to live in. Why do you even feel sorry for him? Your life is the most cursed thing in the universe. You even say so yourself. STOP CARING ABOUT PRIVILEGED WHITE MEN.
My Final Thoughts
Dawn finishes this book 100% total #bossbabe and she won’t even try to sell you makeup or diet pills on Facebook. Sure, this book is full of ridiculous drama and pointless characters dying randomly, but a part of me just enjoyed this book for the soap opera that it was.
Unlike most soap operas, at least this one actually ended.
TWILIGHT'S CHILD (Cutler #3)
- All the DRAMZ you could ask for, plus more!
- Clara Sue dies!
- Miss Emily dies!
- Dawn gets a spine!
- Philip's obsession with Dawn is so bad it's good.
- Weak writing makes the DRAMZ fall flat.
- The plot is clumsier than Marshall from Paw Patrol.