Gates of Paradise by V. C. Andrews

Book 9 in the:

Gates of Paradise is the fourth book in V. C. Andrews’ Casteel series.  The focus is on Heaven’s daughter, Annie, who is about to turn eighteen.  She lives in Winnerow with Heaven and Logan and her sort-of-uncle Drake (now in college).  There is no one she is closer to in the world than Luke Jr., the son of her aunt Fanny and father Logan.  She often dreams of being with him forever, despite the fact that they are half-siblings (as far as they know).  They fantasize together, often including Farthinggale Manor in their dream world, although they have never been there.  Heaven’s past is a mystery to them; she refuses to talk about why she no longer lives at Farthy or talks to Tony Tatterton.

One night, Fanny throws a birthday party for herself, and Annie attends with her parents.  Logan drinks before they arrive, and is pretty drunk at the party, which only makes Heaven unhappy.  Fanny is excited that they have arrived and pulls Logan out on the dance floor, kissing him and rubbing all over him.  Logan, being the jerk he is, does nothing to fight her off.  Heaven eventually insists on leaving.  Logan is drunk driving when a storm starts and they end up in a car accident.  Heaven and Logan are both killed, and after waking up from a coma, Annie discovers that she cannot move her legs.  Her doctors do not think it is permanent but that she will need therapy and rest before she can walk again.

Tony Tatterton has shown up in the hospital, and insists on taking Annie to Farthy where he can give her the “best” care.  They arrive there and Annie is disappointed to see that Farthy is dilapidated and not the castle she and Luke dreamed it would be.  Tony sticks her in a room upstairs with a creepy nurse.  Annie is able to meet Rye Whiskey, the horribly stereotypical African-American cook who has been there forever and knew her mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother.  He cryptically warns her not to stay long at Farthy.  Beyond Rye, she is restricted from seeing many other people.  A friendly maid she had at first is fired, Annie is prohibited from contacting Luke, and Drake visits briefly but is distracted by the new summer job Tony gave him in the toy company.  He also doesn’t help Annie’s state of mind by claiming that he’s tried to get Luke to visit or call but that Luke is too busy with a new girlfriend.  Tony and the nurse are the two people Annie sees the most, and they appear to compete to see who can be the creepiest: the nurse with her controlling behavior and abusive therapy that seems to turn her on, and Tony, with his pedophilia and creepy caresses, who confuses Annie with Heaven, Leigh, and even Jillian.  He even convinces her to dye her hair blonde to better resemble these women.

Annie eventually grows tired of Jello and the bland food her nurse insists on, and demands to have some of Rye Whiskey’s food.  After eating it, she realizes her nurse spiked it with laxatives when she has an accident.  The nurse demeans her with the way she cleans Annie up.  Annie tells Tony and he has her fired, insisting on taking on her care himself.  This includes getting her bathed and dressed, which only makes Annie more uncomfortable.

Tony has buried Heaven and Logan in the family cemetary, which Annie can see from her bedroom window.  She is surprised to see a man visit the grave one day, but cannot seem to learn who it might have been.  Eventually, Tony installs a chair elevator and one afternoon, when she is left alone, Annie manages to get herself outside.  She meets Troy, who takes her through the maze and into his cottage.  They get to know each other a bit and talk about Heaven, and Annie realizes it was Troy she saw at her mother’s grave.  He even helps her take her first steps.  She finds herself trusting him and tells him about how creepy Tony has been.  When she returns to the house, Tony has been searching for her and leaves her alone in her room without a wheelchair.

That night, Tony arrives in Annie’s room intoxicated and tries to force himself on her, again confusing her with the other women she is related to.  The next day, he acts like nothing happened.  Annie tries to tell Drake about it and asks for help getting out, but he refuses to believe that Tony would do something like that and insists that it is best she stay at Farthy.  She is rescued when Luke and Fanny show up to take her home, thanks to an anonymous phone call that let them know what exactly was happening to Annie.  (Yay Troy!)  Before they leave, Tony confesses that he is her grandfather because he raped her grandmother Leigh.  He seems to think this will make Annie want to stay with him, rather than further prove what a creep he is.

I thought a lot of time passed during this part of the book, but at one point the reader learns it has only been about two weeks.  Annie returns home to Winnerow and her parents’ house, where Fanny now lives.  (Fanny has some how been motivated to undergo a huge personality change thanks to Heaven’s death.)  Annie and Fanny talk about how they are not really blood relatives now that they know Heaven was the child of Tony and not Luke Sr., but they consider themselves family just the same.  Still believing themselves to be half-siblings, Luke runs away after Drake discovers them sharing a kiss.  Drake still thinks Annie belongs at Farthy (I feel like he should have been Logan’s son with his jerkiness and moronic tendencies) and is angry that she refuses to return to Tony.  He leaves and Annie lives in the house with Fanny, eventually gaining her ability to walk again.

Troy soon calls to inform Annie that Tony has died.  Annie returns to Farthy for the funeral, with Luke by her side to assist her.  After the funeral, Troy invites them to his cottage and confesses that Annie is his child, not Logan’s, therefore Luke and Annie are not related at all.  Luke and Annie pledge to be 2-gether 4-ever.

There is one more in the series, the prequel Web of Dreams.  This was another Andrews novel obsessed with the incest and rape.  At this point, the books were being written by the ghostwriter, Andrew Neiderman.  I don’t know if Andrews left behind notes that included so much incest and rape, or if Mr. Neiderman has the interest in it, or if he just believes he’s holding on to her desires (which is probably correct).

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