Goodness gracious, it’s time to review Fallen Hearts, the pivotal third book in the Casteel series by V.C. Andrews! This book actually is quite pivotal in that it’s the first book to be ghostwritten by Andrew Neiderman. To be honest, after churning through the Shooting Stars series and the Cutler series, I was kind of excited to get back to some plain and simple Neiderman prose. But does Neiderman hold a candle to V.C. Andrews’ original voice? Let’s take a skeptical dive into Fallen Hearts in this “Grown-Ass V.C. Andrews” Review.
PROUD AND BEAUTIFUL, HEAVEN CAME BACK TO THE HILLS — TO RISE AT LAST ABOVE HER FAMILY’S SHAME!
As Logan’s bride, she would savor now the love she had sought for so long. And free from her father’s clutches, she would live again in her backwoods town, a respected teacher and cherished wife. But after a wedding trip to Boston’s Farthinggale Manor and a lavish, elegant party, Heaven and Logan are persuaded to stay…lured by Tony Tatterton’s guile to live amidst the Tatterton wealth and privilege. Then the ghosts of Heaven’s past rise up once more, writhing around her fragile happiness…threatening her precious love with scandal and jealousy, sinister passions and dangerous dreams!
About Fallen Hearts
One aspect that I find fascinating about V.C. Andrews is the amount of uncertainty behind her work. She kept a lot of things very secretive, including her work. Following the success of Dark Angel in 1986, Pocket Books, signed a contract with Andrews to publish a sequel in October of 1987. Nobody was aware that V.C. Andrews had breast cancer. She signed the contract but her agent never received it until after her death in late 1986.
Following her death, the Andrews family collected Virgina’s notes. (She reportedly had outlines for another whopping 63 novels). Her editor made an attempt to ghostwrite the Dark Angel sequel but was unable to complete it. The Andrews estate then gave Andrew Neiderman the opportunity to write the novel based off of the notes that Virginia had left behind.
Fallen Hearts was published in August of 1988. The Andrews family claimed that Virginia’s outlines were completed manuscripts. They promised that fans had many more V.C. Andrews books to look forward to, when in reality they had hired Neiderman to emulate Andrews with her notes.
Eventually, the estate admitted the truth in an open letter in 1987. Its first appearance in a V.C. Andrews book was in Dawn in 1990. Neiderman’s status as the ghostwriter remained a secret for a few years, though the secret was ultimately unearthed in 1993.
My Copy of Fallen Hearts
I ordered two copies of Fallen Hearts off of ThriftBooks. Neither one was a stepback edition, though I did manage to locate a first edition stepback copy at my local thrift store. It isn’t in the best of shape but it did the job for reading purposes.
Now, I do love the cover design of Fallen Hearts. The illustration of the bleeding heart plant is beautiful and I love that the cutout is one of the flowers. You know what I hate, though? I hate that Heaven isn’t featured in the stepback. Call me petty, but I grew up with the 90s Andrews books, which featured their beautiful female protagonists in all their Mary Sue glory. I hated looking at this book, only to wonder: WHO IS THIS STUPID KID?!
I didn’t figure it out until about a quarter way into the book. The kid is Heaven’s half-brother, Drake, who I completely forgot about from Dark Angel. An older Tony Tatterton sits behind Drake. Behind him (right to left) stands our newly-blonde protagonist, Heaven, our favourite POS Logan, and the best evil sister ever, Fanny.
Fallen Hearts: The Grown-Ass Review
I suppose the big question with this book is whether or not Neiderman’s prose holds a candle to Andrews’. Most die-hard V.C. Andrews fans seem to hate Neiderman’s writing. Some swear by the original 7 books penned by Andrews herself and that’s completely fine.
Admittedly, I didn’t enjoy Heaven so much upon first read, but once I got to penning my review, I thought long and hard about what V.C. Andrews was successful at, which was telling dark stories for women. She knew what we all wanted and she wrote it without shame. Of specific note is Heaven’s need for her father’s love and her mistake of replacing it with Cal Dennison’s lust. Andrews also did a hell of a job creating Kitty Dennison, the truest V.C. Andrews villian who readers can actually sympathize with to some degree.
Neiderman writes better than Andrews. He gets mockingly purple with his prose but his writing is engaging and keeps me invested. I struggled from time to time with Andrews’ drifting narrative, BUT she at least had the heart. I read Neiderman and his characters always feel flat and bland and forced to do what they do.
So I don’t know. I love and hate things about both writers. Neiderman-penned books are easier reads, but I appreciate Andrews for putting her mind out there. I respect her for that. She told some crazy stories and that’s really all a writer needs to do.
So let’s get to those V.C. Andrews tropes!
An Innocent & Pretty, Yet Completely Naive Female Protagonist
Heaven is back, bitches, and she starts this book out writing a sad letter to Luke (who isn’t actually her real dad) asking him to walk her down the aisle when she marries Logan, because out of all the POS losers in the world, she had to pick her childhood sweetheart, Logan Effin’ Stonewall.
It’s okay, because she takes the time to explain herself:
Logan had been there from the day I returned to Winnerow. He had been there through the terrible days after Tom’s death, while Pa was in the hospital. He had been there after Pa had returned with Stacie and little Drake to his own home in Georgia. He had been there when Grandpa died, leaving me alone in the cabin of my childhood, now rebuilt and refurbished into a cozy home. He had been there on the first day I began teaching my dear students at the Winnerow Grammar School. I laughed to myself now, recalling that first day, getting ready to test my competence, to see if I really could be the teacher I’d always dreamed of being.page 3
So yeah, she’s naive AF. At least V.C. Andrews made her hate him on and off. Neiderman’s Heaven is 100% devoted to this loser, and just you wait, because his out-losers himself like 100 times over.
A Rags to Riches Plot
Luke Casteel declines Heaven’s request, leaving Heaven to walk down the aisle by herself. Heaven and Logan then venture to Boston to have a grand reception at Farthingale Manor, where Jillian makes her reappearance in full clown makeup, convinced that she’s marrying Tony all over again. Tony brushes her off, clearly, because now Jillian’s simply a plot device instead of a cool female character to hate, but we’ll get there soon.
Taking Logan under his wing, Tony convinces the newlyweds to spend the entirety of the honeymoon. Heaven wants to bone, but Tony lures Logan down the rabbit hole that is the Tatterton Toy empire. Logan laps it up and decides that he and Heaven should move into the empty master suite of the manor, which Tony also conveniently just had redecorated.
Heaven’s pissed but Logan shares his idea of opening up a Tatterton Toy factory in Winnerow, where they will get a bunch of artisan wood-carving old folks to carve fancy handmade toys for a giant coorporation to profit off of.
Exploitation! Profit! Logan making a name for himself!
Heaven gives in.
A Vivid Gothic Setting
Much like Dark Angel, we spend this book travelling back and forth between Farthington Manor and The Willies. Farthy remains as it always has, though we do get one new setting in the suite Tony’s had refinished. It’s not goth, but it’s def got some hardcore 80’s interior decor.
Even the oversized king-size bed looked lost in the enormous room, the floors of which were covered with a thick, beige carpet so soft to the step that it felt as though I were walking over marshmallows. The windows on either side of the bed had been redesigned, making them longer and wider, thus providing the room with a great deal of sunlight and making it look bright and lively.page 58
The light oak posts of the bed with their hand-carved thread rose to support a milk-white and apricot canopy. There was a matching bedspread with frilly edges, and rust-colored throw pillows had been placed at the center.
And here’s the dang bathroom:
The fixtures were modern and plush, with the whirlpool tub set in a caramel-tinted tile floor. All the knobs and faucets were gold places. There were mirrors everywhere, which made the bathroom look larger than it was, although it was, in and of itself, one of the largest bathrooms I had ever seen.page 59
Heaven and Logan also buy themselves an old estate in The Willies, known as the Hasbrouck House, owned by Anthony Hasbrouck who used to mock the Casteels for being poor. Broke and forced to sell his home, he gives Heaven and Logan a tour. Heaven takes this opportunity to turn the tables in true class-traitor style:
“If we take this house, ” I whispered loudly enough for Mr. Hasbrouck to hear, “we’re going to have to have the whole place redecorated. It’s just been allowed to fall to pieces.” I enjoyed going on and on about how much more glorious his house would become in my care, how many more rugs there would have to be, how the old kitchen wouldn’t do at all. I rarely enjoyed flaunting my wealth, but with people like Mr. Hasbrouck, people who had looked down on us Casteels, who had chased my lovely Tom away from his dreams, I truly did enjoy it.”page 223
Don’t make this about your brother, Heaven. Get a therapist.
A Tragic Death
Heaven finds herself drawn to the newly maddened Jillian. She gets upset with Tony for not paying enough attention to her, but Tony’s pretty much like, “I gOt HeR a CaReGiVeR, wHaT mOrE dO yOu wAnT?”
Then, one day, Jillian snaps out of her madness and tells Heaven that she feels responsible for Troy’s death. Why? Because Troy rode her horse into the ocean.
“My horse, the horse no one but I could ride. And so, it was my fault. Don’t you see? My fault,” she repeated, waving her handkerchief at me and turning back to the window. “And now they’re all coming back to haunt me.”page 96
Heaven worries about Jillian’s mental state, but then she starts to hear the piano playing in the manor at night. She hears footsteps in her room. Later, she retraces her old path through the hedgemaze to Troy’s cabin. She enters to find it still in use, and believes that Tony hired a new toy maker to work in Troy’s place. Then she finds the secret tunnel open and she follows it down to find TROY.
They bone it up real good and spend several pages fawning over each other. Troy goes full on mopey and admits to stalking Heaven before ultimately running away forever. Then Heaven discovers that…
BUT IS IT LOGAN’S BABY OR TROY’S? WHOAMG!
So this is sort of a death, right? It’s okay if it’s not because then JILLIAN DIES.
Tony handles it fine, but then does a total 180 the next morning
Then, Heaven receives notices of Luke Casteel‘s death in a car accident, and honestly, this death matters more than poor old Jillian’s. Luke’s wife Stacey also dies, and Heaven goes to take custody of their son and her half-brother (but not really her half brother), Drake.
A Beloved Doting Paternal Figure
During the custody process, Heaven discovers that it was Tony who sold Luke the circus in the first place. Heaven sleuths her way through Tony’s office to find a folder with her name on it. Inside she finds a contract that Luke signed, promising never to speak to Heaven again in exchange for the circus. Heaven confronts Tony about this revelation, and he’s pretty much just like, “i’M sOrRy, i ToTaLlY fOrGoT i DiD tHiS! pLeAsE fOrGiVe Me, fOr I aM sTiLl SaD aBoUt My WiFe I dIdn’T gIvE a ShIt AbOuT uNtIl iT wAs eMoTiOnAlLy CoNvEnIeNT!”
Like, there are some weird Daddy issues here. Like Heaven’s bio-dad is a rapist pedophile to prevented Heaven’s adopted dad from having a meaningful relationship with her AFTER he sold her to a jealous woman he rebound-boned after Heaven’s birth-mother died giving birth to her.
In Heaven’s words:
“Yes, Luke was just as horrible and as guilty for agreeing to your contract, but he wanted his precious circus so much, he was willing to sell any love he might have possessed for me. He wasn’t my real father and he knew it.page 280
“But you,” I said, pointing my finger at him. “To make such an offer, to appeal to his greed, to his passions… you’re like… you’re like the Devil.”
After Jillian’s death, Tony turns into an emotional rapist mess. All of this underhanded methods of controlling Heaven come to light but they’re hardly worth mentioning because they’re of little consequence. Every time Heaven confronts him he puts on his sob story face and relents that he’s messed up because his precious Jillian died.
In the night, he bursts into her room, ultra wasted.
The room exploded with brightness. I covered my eyes and when I took my hands from them, I saw him approaching, wearing only a shirt and slacks, his shirt unbuttoned to his navel. In his arms he carried one of Jillian’s sheer nightgowns.page 285
“I brought this for you,” he said. His eyes were glassy; his hair was disheveled, looking like he had been running his fingers through it. “I love how it looks on you. Won’t you wear it for me again? Please.”
Okay, I gotta ask, but what’s the whole deal with rape-y V.C. Andrews dudes and nightgowns? Uncle Philip pulled the same shit with Christie in Midnight Whispers and it was just as whack.
Tony whips out a bottle of Jillian’s signature jasmine perfume, climbs over Heaven and attempts to slather it all over her breasts. Heaven fights him off, snapping Tony out of his delusion, and he leaves the room with the nightgown, ashamed.
Luckily, the next morning, Heaven takes Drake and leaves Farthy behind.
A Hostile Maternal Figure (+ Bonus Mean Girl!)
At the end of Dark Angel, Heaven’s sister Fanny married a rich dude and got herself a nice suburb house and some fancy guard dogs. In Fallen Hearts, she ditches the rich dude and lives alone with her fancy guard dogs. Heaven visits her on occasion, though I have no idea why because Fanny is always horrible. I realize that Heaven just feels this need to help Fanny (maybe because she’s a better Christian than me).
In reality, Fanny’s just a poor abused girl who never saw her own worth. I really did enjoy her character in the first two books, but Neiderman stripped away the depth her character had and turned her into a vain soap opera villain.
Fanny gives Heaven a call to reveal that…
SHE’S PREGNANT WITH LOGAN’S BABY!
Now, it might not be Logan’s baby (as Fanny’s also banging some dude named Randall). Heaven confronts Logan and he cries and blames his wild oats and all that trash. He admits that Fanny seduced while he was at the cabin on a business trip in The Willies, getting him wasted and preying on his poor male inability to turn away a nude woman’s body.
Heaven then falls into an emotional whirlpool, not of woe, but of self-aggrandizing anger.
And then, as suddenly as it had come, the self-pity slipped off my image like a cellophaen wrapper on a forbidden chocolate and was replaced with the heavier, darker wrapping of guilt. Troy. My beloved, beautiful, passionate Troy. I had betrayed Logan with Troy. But it wasn’t the same, no, not at all. For I love him, truly loved him with all my heart and soul even though he was more specter than flesh and blood. How could I refuse him, how? And it wasn’t wrong, wasn’t the same, it wasn’t, because he was only a ghost of my love come back for a precious fleetingmoment. My love was his life blood, and to have been denied him that would have been to have denied who I was, the spirit that was purest and noblest in me. He had come back and then had returned to that unknown, unclear, mysterious world of oblivion, never to be heard from or seen again. Surely that made what I had done different form what Logan had done. I couldn’t believe that Logan had any deep feelings for Fanny. It was lust, simple lust that drove him to her, and it was nor love, but revenge and hatred that drover her to him. She was merely an object of pleasure, a sexual distraction, a sorceress. At this moment I hated her for making my life tadry, for turning what was pure into something soiled and base, and my hate for her gave me strength to face the crisis.page 202
Sure, Heaven could use her massive wealth to get herself a good therapist to work through her emotional trauma, but THIS IS A V.C. ANDREWS NOVEL, DAMMIT, so instead she decides to pay Fanny for healthcare and child support to shut her up about Logan’s infidelity.
When Heaven and Logan move back to Winnerow, the Tatterton Toy Factory officially opens. Tony makes one last awkward appearance at the party, and then Drake goes missing. Immediately, Heaven knows that it was Fanny who took him. She confronts Fanny, who has legit custody rights to Drake because she is a blood-relation, unlike Heaven.
So yeah, the last quarter of the book is a dumb custody battle, wherein Heaven makes one last-ditch effort to slut-shame Fanny, but to no avail! Alas, Heaven literally buys Drake from Fanny for…
Then Fanny and Heaven go into labour on the same damn day. Fanny has a boy that looks a lot like Logan, who she names Luke. Heaven has a girl who looks a lot like Troy, who she names Annie. So I think we knew exactly where the next-gen book is gonna go, right?
Some Really Bad Writing
One of the major flaws between Andrews’ prose to Neiderman’s is the dramatic shift in Heaven’s voice. While Neiderman does a decent job writing as V.C. Andrews, he abuses her flowery prose into every sentiment. At least Andrews’ Heaven had some guts to her. She knew when Logan was being a complete and utter dick.
Neiderman’s Heaven thinks everything about their relationship in the first two books all sunshine and rainbows:
I remembered the night when I would look up at the stars and wish for a time when Logan and I would be like a prince and a princess. He had come into my life so dramatically, just like a storybook knight in shining armor, there to do my bidding, to devote his life to me, and I thought surely we were meant to be husband and wife.page 21
Logan wasn’t there for shit, Heaven. What bout that time he had eye surgery and avoided you for months? What about that time you went to find him in college and he said you didn’t look vulnerable enough for him? HUH?! The only time he really was truly there for you was when you got sick with the flu and he forcibly took care of you and carried you to the bathroom so you could take a dump, and I CLEARLY remember you despising him for that.
Fantastic Psychological Horror
Ultimately, this book focuses on Heaven coming full-circle. I don’t hate Heaven, but damn if it took a lot of referencing sobby monologues for her to get past her trauma.
She also boned stupid Logan a lot. And she cried while boning him. The book is jam-packed with plenty of these dumb saccharine love-making scenes:
I was weeping for that little girl in the Willies, that wide-eyed, blue-eyed girl who had been forced to grow up too quickly, who had been forced to be a mother to her younger brother and sister and who had seen even that hard, often overwhelming like torn apart by the devastating sale of her brothers and sisters to other families. I was weeping for that yet innocent child victimized by the insanely jealous Kitty Dennison and then befriended and seduced by her husband, Cal. I thought that would be all the love and tenderness there could be for me and was so confused as to mourn the loss of it at first. Most of all, I was weepy for Troy, for the love I should have been able to claim as mine forever.page 183
Logan kissed away my tears the way Troy had and I found myself kissing him back. I needed to be loved. I needed to be reassured and to know that I was alive and that I was cherished. Every kiss, every caress, built the foundation of my fortress of faith in the future. I didn’t want loneliness and sorrow. I wanted an end to tears. I wanted to feel something other than sadness, and I knew that through the act of lovemaking, I could do that.
Normally I would post that blinking dude GIF, but I had to put my thickest glasses on to read this shit clearly.
Some Good Olde School Misogyny
Fallen Hearts contains some standard examples of misogyny, but let me just share this passage, wherein Heaven reconnects with her high school friend, Amy Luckett.
In Dark Angel, Amy was one of the only girls who was nice to Heaven. Upon reuiniting, Heaven has some not-so-great opinions to share:
Amy had gainec considerable weight since we were students together at the exclusive Winterhave School for Girls. Now she was a round-faced woman with a small bosom and wide hips.
Later, after chatting about the bitchy girls they both struggled to deal with, Amy relents that they were just sO jEaLoUs oF hEaVeN and aRe StIlL jEaLoUs oF hEaVeN.
I looked at her. It seemed obvious to me that it was she who was jealous. Despite her wealth and her good breeding, her fancy school and her colleges, her clothing and her traveling, she was alone, still searching for something romantic to happen to her. The frustration led her to overeat and the overeating made her unattractive.page 192
“You’ve gained a lot of weight, Amy,” I said when she reached for her fifth finger sandwich. “Shouldn’t you be concerned?”
Great job, Neiderman. You ruined Heaven. I liked her and now she’s a horrible, fat-shaming class traitor who thinks boning emotionally-abusive idiot men is a good thing.
Fallen Hearts: My Final Thoughts
Sometimes nostalgia does not bode well, and Fallen Hearts is a prime example of that. Perhaps I should forgive Neiderman, as this was his first attempt at posing as Andrews. It’s just a bit tragic how he took a pretty decent character like Heaven and replaced her depth with vanity and “V.C. Andrews aesthetics”.
And hey, I know that Troy is a beloved Andrews love interest, but her bores the crap out of me. There, I said it.