Welcome to the next installment of our V.C. Andrews nostalgia trip. Petals on the Wind is the second book chronicling the Dollanganger family, and if you thought the first one was bad . . . this one is a clusterfuck and a half.
The remaining three children – Chris, Cathy, and Carrie – have just escaped the house where they were held prisoner for more than three years. They’re riding on a bus, and Carrie has fallen ill with the arsenic poisoning that took her twin brother, Cory, towards the end of Flowers in the Attic. She throws up and starts going into shock; a mute woman comes to their rescue and offers to take them to the doctor she works for. Paul is entranced by Cathy’s emerging womanhood, or something, so he agrees to help them, even though it’s Sunday, and the Hippocratic oath admonishes doctors against actually, you know, healing the sick when they would rather sit on the veranda and read the newspaper. On the subject of budding boobs, however, that old Greek remains silent.
Chris doesn’t want to tell the whole truth at first, but Cathy unburdens everything, and, even though it’s a fantastic story, Paul believes her. Behold, the power of sexual allure. He helps Carrie and offers them all a place to stay, and eventually adopts them as his wards.
Chris and Cathy set out to fulfill their dreams of becoming a doctor and a famous ballerina, respectively. Paul falls for Cathy, who is not only criminally underage, but is also his adopted daughter.
In the meantime, a dancer named Julian has his eye on Cathy, but she consistently repels him . . . until she doesn’t. Paul wants to marry Cathy; he tells her that his first wife went crazy after he was unfaithful and drowned herself in the river, along with their son. However, Paul’s sister, Amanda, tells Cathy that Julia, Paul’s wife, is still alive, albeit in a hospital ward. So, instead of confronting Paul with this information and finding out whether or not this is actually the truth, Cathy gives in to Julian and marries him, and then they go off to London for ballet performances.
Julian is a possessive asshole (of course he is) and won’t let her leave his side. Have I mentioned that Chris is still creepy, and loves her more than a brother should, and attempts to have sex with her a couple of times? Because he is, and does. And other people notice how intimate they are. Cathy goes to Chris’ graduation, causes the jealous Julian to break her toes.
Through all of this, Cathy has been stalking her mother and plotting her revenge. Cathy is pregnant with Julian’s baby, but he ends up in an auto accident. Overhearing his mother say he will never dance again, he kills himself. Cathy goes back to Paul and has her baby. Then she, the baby, and Carrie move near her mother so she can start to put her wheels in motion. She seduces her mother’s husband, Bart. Is your head whirling yet??
Carrie, meanwhile, begins to get sick. She poisons herself with arsenic after trying to talk to her mother on the street, only to be coldly rebuffed. She feels she must be a bad person if her own mother won’t acknowledge her. In a deathbed confession, Carrie tells her sister that Julian came on to her one afternoon and she went with it. Cathy blames their mother for yet another death.
Cathy gets pregnant by Bart. Then she has a gown made just like the one her mother wore the night of that fateful Christmas party years ago. She reveals herself to all the guests, making Bart furious. He takes her to another room where Cathy and her mother have a final showdown. Chris comes in for a share, too; he needs Cathy to come back to Paul, who is dying, but Cathy is not yet done.
Corrine admits she poisoned her own children, and that their grandfather knew they were in the house all along. He wanted them locked up forever. Of course, Chris points out that the donuts didn’t start arriving until after their grandfather was dead. Corrine runs from the room. The mansion begins to burn, and Bart gets Corrine out. She begs him to save her mother, the evil grandmother, so he goes back inside, only to perish from smoke inhalation. They take Corrine to a mental hospital, although whether she’s really having an episode or is faking to evade prison is unclear.
Paul had a heart attack. Cathy marries him and is his nurse. He persuades Cathy to be with Chris. I suppose all of this incest is natural to him now, as he already married his daughter and all that. After Paul dies, she and Chris take her two sons to California, and live incestfully ever after. Well, not quite. But you know what I mean.
In each book, Cathy is more and more obnoxious. She has all of these men inexplicably fall for her, but she can never understand why. She’s the proto-Bella Swan, with a soupçon of Anastasia Steele. Utterly ridiculous.
But wait, there’s more! Next time, we’ll look at If There Be Thorns!