One of the Weakest Links in the Casteel Family Saga | Review: Gates of Paradise by V.C. Andrews

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I had high hopes for Gates of Paradise, but, to put it bluntly, it was basically just Diet-Heaven/Dark Angel/Fallen Hearts with a little bit of Dollanganger all condensed into one novel. And, of course, it's a damn shame to kill off Heaven Casteel after everything she went through.

Gates of Paradise 
by V.C. Andrews
aka Andrew Neiderman 

Now a major Lifetime movie event, from New York Times bestselling author and literary phenomenon V.C. Andrews (Flowers in the Attic, My Sweet Audrina) comes the fourth installment in the classic story of the Casteel family saga. 
Stunned by tragedy, a young woman finds herself desperate and alone, and clinging to the frailest of dreams. Can Heaven’s daughter find the inner strength to survive?

The car crash that killed Heaven and Logan left Annie Casteel Stonewall orphaned and crippled. Whisked off to Farthinggale Manor by the possessive Tony Tatterton, Annie pines for her lost family, but especially for Luke, her half-brother. Friend of her childhood, her fantasy prince, her loving confidante…without the warm glow of Luke’s love, she is lost in the shadows of despair. When Annie discovers Troy’s cottage hidden in Farthinggale’s woods, the mystery of her past deepens. And even as she yearns to see Luke again, her hopes and dreams are darkened by the sinister Casteel spell…treacherous, powerful, and evil.

Gates of Paradise by V.C. Andrews
Rating: ★★★☆☆ (2.5)

Gates of Paradise was a massive letdown in my mind. V.C. Andrews likely outlined the finer points of this story, but we can make the assumption that Gates of Paradise was the first big spin during the Andrew Neiderman era.There were many great, darkly indulgent and horrific, twists and turns to be found in this fourth installment of the beloved Casteel series, but ultimately Gates of Paradise lacked the same enthralling, but still awful, quality the previous three books had.

And, let's face it, while I love Annie, she's no Heaven.

And Andrew Neiderman is no V.C. Andrews. 

(Why, yes, I am pressed over the death of both Heaven and Logan. I didn't even like Logan, but here we are. This is what Gates of Paradise has reduced me to! Excuse me, I need a tissue to properly mourn over the loss of both Heaven and my sanity. Back on track--let's get the negatives out of the way.)

While this novel no doubt tapped into a similar tone to Andrews, and is one of Neiderman's finer moments as ghost writer, I don't necessarily think it was because Neiderman was able to capture her essence in so many words--it was mostly because nearly all of the plotlines within Gates of Paradise were recycled from prior books in both the Casteel and Dollanganger Sagas. It was in the same vein merely because of rehashed twists and turns.

Looking back, this was my biggest issue with Gates of Paradise. There are so many throwbacks and parallels to past V.C. Andrews books--from incestuous sibling love (granted, they aren't related by blood this time; only raised as if they were) to mental and physical abuse, to attempted r*pe, and terrible relatives, Gates of Paradise seemed like the literary equivalent of an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink recipe.

This isn't to say that things were all bad when it came to Gates of Paradise. Tony died, you know? Fanny finally grew up. And the other, newer characters were solid and/or chilling. So many plots in Gates of Paradise could have been developed differently, but it still felt impossible to put down and served up a steaming helping of delightfully awful soap opera vibes, tugged at my heart strings a few times, and kept me reading.

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