While I read Flowers and Petals in less than a day each, it took almost a week to read If There Be Thorns because it was so tedious. It takes place a few years after Petals. Cathy and Chris have moved to California and are living as husband and wife, raising Cathy’s two sons. The two boys – Jory and Bart – believe Chris is their step-dad. Jory is a normal 14 year old boy, wanting to be a dancer like his mom. Bart is…off. He is an odd character. His nerve endings don’t go all the way to his skin so he can hurt himself but never feels it. He’s constantly imagining himself as a predatory animal or something similar. The reader is led to believe that he is responsible for at least one death during the book.
A strange lady moves in next door and tries to befriend the two boys. She wears a veil so they never see her face. Bart spends more time in her house than Jory does, and he also becomes friends with her creepy old butler. The butler tries to corrupt Bart, giving him his great-grandfather’s diary and whispering to Bart about “devil’s spawn” and evil that must be defeated.
Meanwhile, Cathy and Chris adopt a little girl, and Cathy begins writing her memoirs. (FITA is written like it’s her memoir so the reader can assume that is what she is writing.) Between the new daughter and her writing, Cathy is distracted and does not notice how much more strange Bart is becoming until it is too late and she is scared of her own child.
There isn’t really a lot that happens in the book. Bart acts strange, brats it up with his veiled grandmother, the butler encourages his strange behavior, Jory wonders WTF is up with Bart, Chris goes to the hospital, and Cathy dances, dotes on the new daughter, and writes. Repeat ad nauseam. I honestly had to make myself skim through to the end. The book ends with another fire (POTW also ended in a fire). I found myself wishing V. C. Andrews had put her manuscript in a fire if she’s so stuck on using it to resolve the story lines. Instead, by the end, Cathy has sold her manuscript and dreams of cleaning the skeletons out of her closet. I couldn’t help but ask – if she is so intent on sharing her story with the world, won’t the world then know that she is “living in sin” with her own brother? Seems a little near-sighted.