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Literature / Cutler Series

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In her fine new Virginia school, Dawn Longchamp feels happy and safe, but nothing is what it seems. note 

The Cutler series is a Generational Saga series of novels published under the name of V. C. Andrews, but written entirely by Andrew Neiderman, who had been chosen by her estate to write sequels for the Dollanganger Series and The Casteel Series. This was the beginning of a long, LONG line of ghostwritten series.

In Dawn, Dawn Longchamp's life is changed dramatically and not entirely for the better when she is identified as a daughter of the wealthy Cutler family who disappeared as an infant. Two sequels continue her adventures, followed by one featuring her daughter Christie, and a prequel focusing on Lillian Cutler, the main antagonist of the first two novels.

Novels in the series:

  • Dawn (1990)
  • Secrets of the Morning (1991)
  • Twilight's Child (1992)
  • Midnight Whispers (1992)
  • Darkest Hour (1993)

NOTE: Unmarked spoilers follow.


This series contains examples of:

  • Adoption Diss: In Darkest Hour, Emily cruelly reveals to Lillian that she's adopted after Lillian comes to school covered in mud and embarrasses her.
  • Alpha Bitch: Clara Sue Cutler and she gets other girls at school to pick on Dawn right along with her.
  • Attempted Rape: Philip in Midnight Whispers attempts to rape Christie a second time after he tricks her into being alone with him in his car. Luckily, she makes a run for it and ends up at Bronson Alcott's home, where the police are promptly called.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness:
    • Dawn Cutler says that her sister-in-law Betty is very plain compared to her so it makes it easy for Philip to pretend that Betty is Dawn. Once she has the twins, however, Dawn soon changes her mind when motherhood becomes very good to Betty's figure.
    • Several characters make a point of mentioning that Dawn is much prettier than Clara Sue even though they otherwise look alike.
  • Betty and Veronica: Jimmy (the Betty) and Philip (the Veronica) to Dawn, with Michael as the Third-Option Love Interest.
    • Betty and Veronica Switch: The first half of Dawn actually depicted Philip as the Betty (blond, charming, not related to Dawn) and Jimmy as the Veronica (dark-haired, gets into trouble at school, getting involved with Dawn would be incest). It was the reveal of Dawn's Cutler heritage that shifted things so that Jimmy became the non-incestuous choice and could prove himself to be a good match for Dawn whereas Philip's incestuous obsession with Dawn made him the far more dangerous option.
  • Birth-Death Juxtaposition: In Darkest Hour Lillian prematurely gives birth to Charlotte on the same day Georgia succumbs to cancer.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: Unintentionally happened with Dawn and Philip. After they found out, Dawn was heartbroken but wanted to start seeing him as her brother, but Philip on the other hand...
  • Break the Haughty: Clara Sue Cutler gets her comeuppance for being a spoiled Alpha Bitch throughout the first three Cutler books. The girl she hated at school turns out to be her long lost sister (Dawn) whose returned presence completely upsets the twisted family dynamic the Cutlers have. Then she learns Dawn is actually her aunt and her sister thanks to their mother being raped by their grandfather. Their grandfather, it turns out, left majority control of their family's hotel and estate to Dawn as a way to make up for his actions, essentially robbing Clara Sue of a legacy she expected to be hers once their grandmother died. Clara Sue later accidentally causes Dawn to have a miscarriage which seemingly robs Dawn of the ability to become pregnant. When Clara Sue tries to contest the will with her Gold Digger boyfriend on the grounds that Dawn is an illegitimate child, Dawn takes a lot of joy in revealing that Clara Sue is also the result of an extramarital affair between their mother and an old boyfriend, meaning she has no Cutler blood in her at all. Clara Sue later dies in a truck accident.
  • Butt-Monkey: Jefferson Longchamp, who get picked on by his cousins before and after being orphaned and is more or less treated like an inferior child.
  • Child by Rape:
    • Dawn was born when Bill Cutler raped his daughter-in-law Laura Sue.
    • Charlotte was born when Jed Booth raped his adoptive daughter Lillian. The conception of Charlotte's own son Homer may count as this since she doesn't really understand what sex is.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Charlotte. Her eventual husband, Luther, tells Dawn that her behavior is caused by being the Butt-Monkey of her father and Emily as well as being a child of incest. The latter is actually not true, as Lillian was the child of Georgia's sister Violet and her husband, who died before Lillian was born.
  • Cool Loser: Dawn.
  • Creepy Twins: Richard and Melanie Cutler.
  • Daddy's Little Villain: Emily Booth.
  • Dead Guy Junior: Dawn's real name, Eugenia, came from Lillian's adopted dead sister, which is why Lillian is angry at Dawn for not accepting the name. 'Dawn' was also the name Sally Jean had planned on giving her second child had it not ended up stillborn.
  • Death by Childbirth:
    • Jed passes off his wife's death as dying in childbirth with Charlotte; she actually died from stomach cancer several days previously. This is to hide the fact that Charlotte is actually his adoptive daughter Lillian's baby, the result of him raping her.
    • Lillian's mother, Violet, died during childbirth.
  • Death by Despair:
    • Darkest Hour cites this as the reason for Violet's Death by Childbirth; she had been "wasting away" throughout her pregnancy after her husband died suddenly.
    • Also in Darkest Hour, Georgia Booth becomes very ill after her daughter Eugenia's death, and eventually develops terminal stomach cancer; it's suggested that this is the result of her grief.
    • In Twilight's Child, Randolph is found dead on his mother's grave, and that "the doctor said that he literally pined away."
  • Distinguishing Mark: After the possibility is raised of Dawn being the missing Cutler daughter, she's identified by a birthmark.
    • Charlotte tells Christie that her baby had a hoof-shaped mark on his neck, which Emily used as evidence that he was the 'Devil's child'. Christie later sees it on Homer, and Luther confirms that indeed he is his and Charlotte's son.
  • Domestic Abuser: Michael Sutton is one for abandoning a pregnant Dawn and later trying to extort money out of her.
  • Driven to Villainy: Lillian Cutler, as we see in Darkest Hour.
  • Dumb Blonde: Dawn is rather naive and clueless at times, particularly in Secrets of the Morning.
  • Evil Matriarch: Lillian Cutler at different points in the series.
  • Expy: Fern has more than a few similarities to Vera Adare, though it seems she has escaped Vera's fate for the time being.
  • Face–Heel Turn: In Twilight's Child, Betty Cutler is Dawn's kind sister-in-law and Christie's beloved "Aunt Bet" who remains good-natured and a doting mother to her twins Richard and Melanie. Midnight Whispers, however, transforms her into a haughty woman who spoils her children to make up for their father's lack of attention and seems to look down on everyone. It could be a result of Philip's emotional abuse and neglect but not once in Twilight's Child did Betty accuse Dawn of anything relating to Philip and feared that she herself was to blame for some reason. Even more jarring is how cold she becomes to her niece and nephew, when she had previously shown great fondness toward Christie from the start.
  • Family Relationship Switcheroo: Lillian's daughter Charlotte is raised as her sister, with the family claiming that Lillian's mother (actually aunt) Georgia died in childbirth.
  • Fat Bastard: The unpleasant Clara Sue is described as being on the heavier side.
  • First-Episode Twist: Dawn doesn't find out she's a Cutler until a quarter or two into the first book. Of course, even the back covers of the sequels don't keep mum about it, especially with referring to Jimmy as her love interest despite being called her brother in the first.
  • First Girl Wins: First Boy Wins: Jimmy is the first of Dawn's love interests that appears (and the second character to appear in the series, even), and they end up Happily Married and subsequently Together in Death.
  • Freudian Excuse: Lillian Cutler is given one in the prequel Darkest Hour to explain why she was so cruel and domineering towards Dawn. To elaborate, her birth-mother, Violet, died giving birth to her, her big sister/ cousin Emily is downright horrible to her and calls her cursed, and her beloved younger sister, Eugenia dies of smallpox, complicated by cystic fibrosis. On top of Eugenia's death, Emily blames her for that, along with everything else that goes wrong.
  • The Fundamentalist: Jed and Emily Booth.
  • Generation Xerox: Christie and Gavin are not only very much like Dawn and Jimmy respectively, but have a very similar relationship.
  • Generational Saga: The series revolves around a sort of 'curse' in the Cutler family, and how it affects each generation from the perspectives of Lillian (even though she only married into the family), Dawn, and Christie.
  • Glorified Sperm Donor: Michael Sutton, about whom Christie is very curious despite having only met him once when she was very young. When she runs away with her half-brother Jefferson to stay with him in Midnight Whispers, he basically treats her like a stranger and basically wants nothing to do with her until she comes into her inheritance. The whole experience leaves Christie bitter.
  • Half-Identical Twins: Richard and Melanie Cutler, who, though fraternal, look very much alike.
  • Happily Adopted: Dawn was pretty happy with her adoptive family in spite of them moving around a lot.
  • Happily Married: Despite the problems they face, Dawn and Jimmy end up as this.
  • Honorary Uncle: Honorary Aunt: Trisha, Dawn's best friend from NYC.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Temporal Theme Naming: Dawn, Secrets of the Morning, Twilight's Child, Midnight Whispers, Darkest Hour.
  • Informed Attribute: Christie claims that Jefferson has a bad temper like his father but we never really see him acting out in a way that isn't normal for a young boy.
  • It's All About Me: Laura Sue Cutler is an utterly self-absorbed Woman Child.
  • Littlest Cancer Patient: Eugenia Booth in Darkest Hour, who has cystic fibrosis, which leads to her death of smallpox.
  • Love Makes You Crazy: Philip Cutler goes from a well-adjusted guy with an interest in the heroine Dawn to a crazed Yandere who refuses to give up on Dawn when it's revealed that they are actually brother and sister, rapes her (and then tries to rape her again more than once), marries another woman only to try and turn her into a Replacement Goldfish for Dawn, and even later tries to do the same thing with Dawn's daughter (his niece) Christie.
  • Love Father, Love Son: Philip with Dawn and Christie.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Dawn Cutler eventually learns that her father is neither the man who "kidnapped" her in infancy nor Randolph Cutler, who thought he was her father. She is actually the daughter of Randolph's father, who raped his daughter-in-law.
    • Clara Sue also gets this slapped in her face by Dawn when Bronson Alcott, a friend of Laura Sue and Randolph, reveals that he is actually Clara Sue's father rather than Randolph which means Clara Sue has no Cutler blood in her at all.
  • May–December Romance: Dawn and Michael Sutton.
  • Meaningful Name: Dawn was told that she was named because she was born at the break of day. This turns out not to be true. She is also told that her name suits her because of her golden hair.
  • Momma's Boy: Randolph Cutler. His sanity takes a turn for the worse after Lillian's death, eventually leading to his Death by Despair.
  • Not Blood Siblings: Jimmy and Dawn are raised as siblings. After the revelation that Dawn is a Cutler, they admit to themselves and each that they're attracted, and they eventually marry.
    • Strangely, no one has any qualms about Christie and Gavin's interest in each other, even though they're step-uncle and step-niece.
  • Never My Fault: Laura Sue Cutler is utterly self-absorbed, spineless, and unwilling to take responsibility for her actions. She's either at her vanity mirror or feigning illness to avoid having to take on any sort of responsibility at the hotel.
  • Oblivious Adoption: Dawn doesn't know that she was "kidnapped" in infancy, despite her parents and siblings all being tall and dark-haired in contrast to her daintiness and golden hair, until her supposed birth mother dies.
  • Off to Boarding School: Dawn is sent to a boarding school because Grandmother Cutler wants her out of the hotel (although, given that Dawn goes to a performing arts school, it's different from the usual examples of this trope.)
  • Out of Focus: Jefferson, Dawn and Jimmy's son and Christie's younger brother, seems to be an afterthought for much of Midnight Whispers save for being bullied by Richard and getting sick at The Meadows.
  • Parental Abandonment: Homer was found as a baby by his adopted parents in their field, mysteriously left there. His real parents are Charlotte and Luther, and Emily left him in the field.
  • Parental Neglect: Randolph and Laura Sue are too absorbed in other interests to look after their children.
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality: Thanks to the first person narration, Dawn's major flaws such as naively trusting her rapist brother and not thinking things through are glossed over up until she winds up dead because she decided to run into a fire after her husband instead of thinking about her children.
  • Religious Stereotype: Emily Booth is a stereotype of Christian fundamentalists.
  • Replacement Goldfish:
    • Philip remains so madly obsessed with Dawn, even when he learns that they're brother and sister, that he tries marrying another woman and having her dye her hair blond and wear Dawn's nightgown and perfume to mold her into a substitute for Dawn. Later, when Dawn's daughter Christie comes to live with him after her parents' deaths, he begins to confuse her with her mother and eventually rapes her one night.
    • Clara Sue was Dawn's replacement after the latter's kidnapping, and always resented her for it. Ironically, Sally Jean and Ormand only agreed to "kidnap" Dawn because Sally Jean's second child was stillborn, making Dawn herself a replacement.
  • Sanity Slippage: Laura Sue loses her mind after Clara Sue's death, and often confuses things and people (at one point in Midnight Whispers, she thinks Christie is Clara Sue).
    • Philip suffers slippage after his true relation to Dawn is revealed, becoming heavily deluded at times. By the end of Midnight Whsipers, he's in psychiatric care for the foreseeable future.
    • Given that Lillian's much beloved little sister, Eugenia, died at a young age, it can be this trope is why she wanted to call Dawn by that name.
  • Satellite Love Interest: Niles Thompson for Lillian in Darkest Hour.
  • Settle for Sibling: Jed Booth wanted to marry Violet (Lillian's real mother), but had to settle for her sister because polite society dictated he should court the elder daughter.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: Dawn and Clara Sue (and to some extent Fern).
  • Southern Belle: Georgia Booth. Laura Sue tries less successfully to appear as one.
  • Spoiled Brat:
    • Clara Sue Cutler was the Replacement Goldfish to her sister Dawn and resented being put off to the side when Dawn came back into the family. She grows up with so much hatred for Dawn that as an adult, she dedicates much of her time to causing her misery, including kicking her when she's pregnant to cause a miscarriage. When she is killed in a car accident, not too many people are upset by this.
    • Richard and Melanie Cutler are heavily spoiled by their mother, possibly to make up for the lack of time and emotional investment their father has in them. Richard in particular takes great delight in being a bully to his younger cousin Jefferson. Melanie, however, seems to follow along with it because of how much she cares for Richard and out of her own jealousy toward Christie for getting her father's attention.
    • Fern is spoiled by her adoptive parents and grows up to be a huge brat. Jimmy and Dawn make a point of trying not to spoil her after she comes to live with them; but by the time of Midnight Whispers, it seems Jimmy has given up on her and basically pays her to stay away by giving her a large allowance.
  • Stigmatic Pregnancy Euphemism: In Secrets of the Morning, Dawn discovers she's pregnant after being hit by a car and taken to the hospital. Grandmother Cutler sends her away to Emily to have the baby, claiming to everyone else that Dawn is convalescing and her injuries from the car accident are far more serious than they really were.
    • When Lillian is implicated in the death of a neighboring boy (who had climbed up to her window and subsequently fell and broke his neck), Jed and Emily turn her into a slave. Subsequently, when Lillian is raped by Jed and gets pregnant, they lock her in a room and tell everyone she is simply being punished by forbidding her to leave the house.
  • Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: Occurs to Dawn and Jimmy in Midnight Whispers, to shift the focus to Christie and keep the angst and drama rolling.
  • Surprise Incest: Dawn and Phillip meet at school and start dating before they learn that they're brother and sister.
  • Tangled Family Tree: Let's see... Dawn is Laura Sue's Child by Rape from her father-in-law William Cutler, and she was arranged to be 'kidnapped' by the Longchamps. Dawn dated her brother Philip right before Dawn's true heritage was revealed, and fell in love with her Jimmy, whom she believed was her actual brother. Dawn's illegitimate daughter Christie later falls for Jimmy's younger half-brother Gavin (which would make the two of them step-uncle and niece). Dawn and Jimmy also took in Jimmy's younger sister Fern and attempted to raise her. On Lillian Cutler's (nee Booth) side, Lillian was adopted by her aunt and her husband after Lillian's own mother died in childbirth. Lillian is later raped by her adopted father Jed and gives birth to Charlotte, who is passed off as Lillian's sister.
  • Teacher/Student Romance: Dawn falls in love with Michael Sutton, her singing teacher at the Sarah Bernhardt School, and they begin an affair which leads to her getting pregnant with Christie. He abandons her after she tells him.
  • Theme Naming: The day—"Dawn", "Morning", "Midnight", etc.
  • Together in Death: Jimmy and Dawn die together in the same fire during Midnight Whispers.
  • Too Good for This Sinful Earth: Eugenia Booth in Darkest Hour.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Ormand Longchamp cleans up his act after being released from prison, and is a much better husband to his second wife Edwina and their son Gavin.
  • Troubled, but Cute: In Dawn, Jimmy gets in trouble at both school and home, but clearly cares about his mother and sisters.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: Fern has a knowledge of sex at an early age, frames her adoptive father for molestation, and makes Christie and Gavin touch each other's private areas.
  • Twincest: Implied in Midnight Whispers. Richard and Melanie Cutler have a close attachment to each other that Christie finds disturbing due to the fact that they're starting puberty.
  • The Unfavorite: Lillian and later Charlotte to Jed in Darkest Hour.
  • The Vamp: Fern Longchamp, especially in Midnight Whispers.
  • Victorian Novel Disease: Surprisingly averted in Sally Jean's case. Her tuberculosis is shown in a deeply unglamorous way.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: In Secrets of the Morning, Dawn becomes a sort of muse to Arthur Garwood, another student at the performing arts school. He's been forced into playing the oboe by his famous musician parents when he really wants to be a poet; he confides to Dawn that it's because he's adopted and they don't want the world to know it. He gives Dawn several poems before he decides to run away, and he's never even mentioned afterward.
  • Wicked Stepmother: Lillian Cutler, if you take into account that she is technically Dawn's stepmother.
  • Would Hurt a Child: All but stated to have been the intent when Emily took Charlotte's newborn baby and left him in the fields. He would have probably died if Luther hadn't found out and told their distant neighbors the Douglases about him.
  • Yandere: Philip Cutler becomes one for Dawn after he finds out they're siblings.

Alternative Title(s): Midnight Whispers, Darkest Hour