Celeste is a novel published under the name of V. C. Andrews, but written entirely by the ghostwriter who had previously written sequels to several of Andrews's novels. It is the first novel of the three part Gemini series which is better known as the Celeste series.
Twins Celeste and Noble Atwell have always lived alone, away from town, with their strange spiritualist mother, who raises them to believe in signs, omens, and fate. Celeste has always resented their mother's obvious favoritism of Noble...but when Noble dies unexpectedly, Mama pretends that nothing's wrong. Instead she forces Celeste to dress as Noble, act like Noble, believe she's Noble, until Celeste can almost feel her brother's ghost in her head, trying to take over her body. She fears she's going insane.
Struggling to retain the last vestiges of her true self, while also feeling the first stirrings of adolescence, Celeste becomes intrigued by the happy, carefree children across the river, particularly handsome troublemaker Elliot. Celeste no longer wishes to keep her shameful secret, but her brother's ghost seems to be holding her back, warning her to stay away. It's a warning she can't bring herself to hear. After an encounter with Elliot Fletcher, Celeste becomes pregnant with his child and Mama starts to see this new baby as Celeste reborn...
In the second book, Black Cat, Celeste has spent two years dealing with the aftermath of her daughter's arrival. Baby Celeste is a charming toddler able to enchant anyone she encounters and Mama starts to see this as a sign that they should no longer be trapped solely in the house. When she gets into a relationship with the pharmacist Dave Fletcher, the father of the late Elliot Fletcher and grandfather of Baby Celeste, it all seems like life is starting to come together at last despite Celeste still forced to be Noble. But Dave's dangerous daughter Betsy proves herself to be a much more terrible person than her brother and tries to threaten both Celeste and Mama's livelihood. And in the aftermath of one terrible event, secrets start to unravel and Nothing Is the Same Anymore for not just Celeste but for everyone involved...
In the third book, Child of Darkness, Baby Celeste is now a teenage Child Prodigy who has spent much of her childhood in an orphanage after the events at the end of Black Cat. She is given a chance at another life with the wealthy Emerson family but the secrets behind it come at a cost that even a gifted child like her might not be able to pay. And then there's also the mystery that plagues her thoughts ever since she was a child: what happened to her beloved brother Noble that turned him into a strange girl named Celeste? And just what are the true secrets at the home she left behind?
Novels in the series:
- Celeste (2004)
- Black Cat (2004)
- Child of Darkness (2005)
This series contains examples of:
- Bastard Boyfriend: Elliot Fletcher, though he's less boyfriend and more bastard.
- Bedlam House: Celeste ends up in one.
- Canon Welding: In Celeste, it is mentioned that the events of the Cutler Series were made into a Lifetime Movie of the Week.
- Cartwright Curse: Sarah Atwell loses two husbands and a man that she was seeing after the death of her first husband due to accidents and illness. It doesn't gain her sympathy with the town.
- Child by Rape: Not only is Baby Celeste one but she also winds up almost going into this trope with the Emerson family who are desperate for an heir and willing to drug and rape her to get it.
- The Infant Jordan is one according to Sarah's story where she was taken advantage of by an older man at a young age and the newborn died in childbirth.
- Child Prodigy: Baby Celeste.
- Creepy Child: Celeste and Noble appear to have been Creepy Children, but since the story is narrated from Celeste's perspective, she doesn't know that this is how she was perceived.
- Baby Celeste gets to that level as well when time goes by, learning how to mimic behaviors she found from her "mother" to somewhat manipulate people into giving in to both her and her family. It's especially apparent when Betsy dies from her fall down the stairs and Baby Celeste is entirely undaunted by this. Not only that, she more or less encourages Celeste to bury Betsy in the garden...and she's maybe five or six years old.
- Cuteness Proximity: Baby Celeste, whose mere presence is known to soften even the worse tempers and bring smiles to the most melancholic.
- Dead Guy Junior: What everyone else thinks Baby Celeste is.
- Enfant Terrible: Betsy and Elliot Fletcher give their father nothing but grief with their terrible behavior and act like spoiled brats with no regards to anyone but themselves. Not even having a child quells Betsy's bitchiness and both of them eventually die from their bad behaviors, Elliot by drowning not long after his repeated rapes of Celeste and Betsy by falling down the stairs when she intended to scald Sarah with a pot of water when she was already dead in her bed.
- Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Betsy is truly upset about the death of her brother Elliot despite both of them being downright horrible people to everyone around them, especially their father and "Noble." She does also have a bit of a soft spot toward her son Panther.
- Evil Redhead: Elliot Fletcher, a creep and delinquent who quickly turns rapist when he discovers that his "buddy" Noble is actually a girl. Averted with his daughter, Baby Celeste, and his father Dave who are genuinely good people.
- Family Relationship Switcheroo: Baby Celeste (and much of the town) thinks that "Noble" is her brother and that Sarah Atwell is their mother when the truth is that her mother is her grandmother and "Noble" is really Celeste the first who was forced to dress up like Noble after his death in a fishing accident. The rest of the town also thinks that Dave Fletcher is Baby Celeste's father when he's actually her grandfather due to his son Elliot raping and impregnating Celeste the first.
- There's also the matter of the Infant Jordan who Sarah tries to play off as a story from a long ago relative who lost mother and baby in childbirth. It turns out, however, that the Infant Jordan is Sarah's child who was fathered by a distant relative when she was still very young.
- Half-Identical Twins: Played with in Celeste where the efforts of Celeste's mother to force her to be more like her twin brother culminate in Celeste being forced to dress and behave as her brother and take his place after he dies.
- Meaningful Name: Celeste (a name meaning "heavenly") replaces her dead twin brother and believes that she can speak to ghosts and spirits.
- Murder by Inaction: Celeste was the last person to see Elliot alive and in the water before he drowned.
- My Beloved Smother: Sarah, who can't let go of Noble even after his death so she forces his twin sister Celeste to "become" him against her will.
- Nice Guy: Dave Fletcher. It's a shame he has two horrible children that give him nothing but endless worry and drive him to an early grave. That or Celeste shocking him with the revelation that Baby Celeste is his granddaughter and Noble is really Celeste.
- One-Word Title: A Protagonist Title.
- Orphanage of Fear: Baby Celeste begins Child of Darkness in one of these.
- Parental Favoritism: Sarah favors Noble heavily to the point where she forces Celeste to "become" Noble after his sudden death because in her mind, Celeste being more attuned to the family spirits meant that she was destined to die early.
- Pillow Pregnancy: Of a weird sort. Celeste's mother refuses to acknowledge her "son" is pregnant and instead begins to show symptoms of pregnancy, including weight gain, since she has convinced herself that Celeste's unborn child is the real Celeste and that she (Mama) is the one who's really pregnant with her.
- Polar Opposite Twins: It's more apparent when they're older, particularly just before Noble's death, but Celeste is the quiet and spiritually attuned one who can see the family spirits while boisterous Noble is athletic and oblivious to the family spirits.
- Protagonist Title: Also a One-Word Title.
- Raised as the Opposite Gender: Celeste.
- Recycled Premise: A parent forcing a child to assume the identity of their dead sibling? Sounds an awful like My Sweet Audrina, except that in this case, the dead sibling actually existed.
- Replacement Goldfish: Celeste is forced from early childhood to dress as a male and "become" her twin brother, who died suddenly.
- And then Baby Celeste acts as the replacement for her dead "sister" with her hair actually dyed blond early on to match Celeste the first's until Sarah decides to let everyone else think Baby Celeste is her child with Dave (a natural redhead just like his son and granddaughter).
- Significant Green-Eyed Redhead: Baby Celeste.
- Teen Pregnancy: Celeste is around fifteen when she gives birth to her daughter. Sarah also had one as well in regards to the Infant Jordan.
- The Unfavorite: Celeste. Both her brother and her daughter have a higher precedence over her in the eyes of her mother.
- Too Good for This Sinful Earth: Poor Dave...having to deal with two horribly bratty children but still keeping his optimism and treating his "stepson" like he was his own and adoring Baby Celeste who he never knew was his granddaughter until the end.
- Traumatic Haircut: In Celeste, Celeste's mother cuts her hair while she is asleep in order to force her to dress as a boy and "become" Noble.
- Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: Nearly every child in this series staring with Celeste and Noble Atwell to Elliot and Betsy Fletcher all the way up to Baby Celeste have behaviors that come across as downright unsettling for their ages. Especially egregious with Baby Celeste who is entirely unfazed by Betsy's death and more or less encourages Celeste to bury her in the garden...and she's only a kindergartner!
- What Happened to the Mouse?: It's briefly wondered what happened to Panther, Betsy's son, after the events at the Atwell farm but quickly resolved when Baby Celeste finds out that he was adopted by a loving family.
- Wholesome Crossdresser: Celeste, though the reason behind it is actually quite dark.
- Wife Husbandry: Child of Darkness, where the Emersons adopt Celeste the younger because Basil, her adopted grandfather, had fallen for her, and wanted to marry her when she was older or at least convince her to have a child, who could become the family's heir. They drug and rape Celeste when it becomes apparent this plan isn't going to work.