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Out of the ashes of evil Chris and Cathy made such a loving home for their splendid children...note 
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If There Be Thorns, by V. C. Andrews, published in 1981, is the third book in the Dollanganger Series. It is told from the point-of-view of Cathy's sons Jory and Bart, notably the only book written by Andrews herself to be told from a male POV.

In an effort to leave their past behind them, Chris and Cathy move to California and live as man and wife under the name of Sheffield, along with Cathy's sons from two other men: handsome, talented Jory and lonely, confused Bart. Cathy tries to create a normal life for her sons, but she lives in terror of the day that the family's secret is discovered. The boys suspect something strange is happening in their home, but Bart, already mentally troubled, begins to withdraw from the family. Instead, he finds comfort with the mysterious woman next door, who invites him over for cookies and cake and asks him to call her "Grandmother." But the Woman in Black is accompanied by her sinister butler John Amos, who feeds Bart's darkest fears by convincing him that his mother is the worst kind of sinner, and that the only redemption for sinners is death...

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As his family begins to shatter all around him, as his younger brother slowly becomes possessed by a dark religious need for vengeance and power, Jory becomes determined to learn the strange secret of the woman next door... the same secret that seems to involve his parents.

For the 2015 Lifetime Movie of the Week see If There Be Thorns.


Tropes associated with the novel include:

  • Adoption Diss: Bart frequenly to his adopted sister Cindy.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: Even within the narrative, Jory is very aware his brother has something going on. Just what that is is unclear. Lack of parental attention and John Amos pouring poison in his ear certainly doesn't help, but that doesn't appear to be the root cause either.
  • Aren't You Going to Ravish Me?: Very briefly a Conversed Trope
    Jory: [jokingly] Yes, Mother, I know your lesson by heart. Melodie is a sweet, nice, innocent girl who would be insulted if I took advantage of her, so I'll insult her by not taking advantage.
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  • Artistic License – Law: In the conclusion of the previous book, Corinne is found incapable of standing trial due to insanity and is confined to a mental institution, where the family (or, well, just Chris) has visited her for the past ten years. This is very, very different from being found NGRInote  and sentenced to a mental institution. If she was found incapable, she would have gone to a mental institution until she was deemed fit to stand trial. If she had been tried and found NGRI, she would have been sentenced to a mental institution. But Cathy makes it clear that Corinne was never tried, implying that Corinne spent a decade in a mental ward, recovered her sanity, and was simply released without ever going to court.
  • Back from the Dead: Or rather, back from the insane asylum. The Sheffield family does not know that Corinne has been released until she moves into the house next door.
  • Becoming the Mask:
    Grew tired of pretending to be Malcolm. But the trouble was, I was losing the real me. Now I wasn't Bart all the way through. And now that he was slipping away, suddenly Bart didn't seem nearly as stupid and pitiful as he once had.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Jory really does love his difficult little brother and want to help him, even if he doesn't always know how to do that.
  • Big Friendly Dog: Apple. Also the nameless dog at the end of the book.
  • Blank Book: Malcolm's journal in the end.
  • Blunt "Yes": At one point she asks Chris if they're just living as married outwardly—it's not entirely clear what she's imaging, a Marriage of Convenience?—or if they're actually married. Chris tells her the truth out of spite.
    Corrine: [whisper] I have to ask something. Do you love her as a man loves… a wife?
    Chris: [turns his back to her] That is none of your business.
    Corrine: But I'd understand. I question Bart but he doesn't know what I mean. But he's told me you share one bedroom.
    Chris: [flaring, glaring at her] And one bed. Now, are you satisfied? [spins on his heel and leaves]
  • Caling The Old Lady Out: Cathy and Chris both do this, in two separate scenes.
  • Breaking the Cycle of Bad Parenting: Cathy and Chris are both determined to do this. While they aren’t always the best parents to Bart, they both really love him and are sincerely trying.
  • Call to Agriculture: Bart remarks that both of his parents have green thumbs. After all their time in their paper attic garden, Chris and Cathy grow a real garden and enjoy it.
  • Career-Ending Injury: A knee injury lands Cathy in a wheelchair. While she does walk again, she is forbidden to dance for the rest of her life.
    Cathy: Years ago Madame Marisha told me there would be no life for me without dancing, and I denied this was so. Now I'm going to have the chance to find out.
    Chris: Cathy, what about that book you said you were going to write? This is a good time to start…
  • Covers Always Lie: The cover illustrator made the black-haired Jory blond.
  • Creepy Child: Bart.
  • Creepy Housekeeper/Old Retainer: John Amos, a cousin of Olivia Winfield Foxworth who served as the butler at Foxworth Hall, is now butler to Corinne. He's not just her butler; he's also her third husband.
  • Deceased Parents Are the Best: Upon learning that his dead biological father was a powerful, handsome, and courageous lawyer, Bart immediately identifies with him to the point that he throws aside his living parents.
  • Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male:
    • During a very heated fight, Cathy slaps Chris across the face and deliberately tries to goad him into hitting her in return. He doesn't. Jory—who is overhearing all this—says that if he actually did, he would step in and stop him. This particular situation is made more complicated by two things which Jory doesn't yet know—a) the fact that Cathy's first husband, Julian, was physically abusive, and b) the one time that Chris did physically hurt Cathy, when he raped her when they were 17 and 15, which he instantly regretted—both of which would make Chris hurting Cathy far weightier than the inverse.
    • Bart, in the middle of a tantrum, throws a rock at Emma and hits her. Cathy is livid, and tells him he must never hit a woman. He proceeds to try to bite her, and then she slaps him repeatedly.
      Cathy: Don't you ever throw another stone as long as you live, or use your fists on another woman!
  • Everyone Can See It: Madame Marisha is not exactly surprised to learn Cathy married her brother.
    Madame Marisha: Damn you, Catherine, for not listening. I guessed a long time ago that in time you would succumb to your brother's adoration. I thought even when you married your Dr. Paul that you and your brother… well, never mind what I thought,
  • Evil Old Folks: John and Corinne.
  • Family Relationship Switcheroo: Jory and Bart are floored to learn that their stepfather Chris is actually their uncle. Jory is actually happy about it, once he gets his head around it, because he loves Chris and always wished he was a "real" blood relation rather than just a step one.
  • Fuzz Therapy: Corrine thinks that Bart—a lonely boy who feels unloved—needs A Boy and His Dog plot.
  • Groin Attack: Bart gets one in (by accident) to his brother, and Cathy dishes on out (on purpose) to John Amos.
  • Happily Married: Cathy and Chris
    Jory: The love they had for each other seemed to me very different from the love I saw between the parents of the few friends I had. Their love seemed more intense, more tumultuous, more passionate. Whenever they thought no one was watching they locked eyes, and they had to reach out and touch whenever they passed one another.
  • Hypocrite:
    • Even before Garden of Shadows spelled it out, Bart notices that despite Malcolm's journal making a big deal about the whole religious part, there's an awful lot of mush and talk of doing what he considered evil in the journal.
    • To another degree so is John Amos. While he tries to mold Bart into being "like Malcolm", he also tries to impart him to not be dragged down by Malcolm's weaknesses (aka women). This of course may sound like a strong twisted religious motivation but comes off less sincere when characters remember how John Amos himself loved to frolic on the couch with plenty of maids at Foxworth Hall.
  • Incest Subtext: Cathy's relationships with her sons actually have less incest subtext than most of the parent-child relationships these books have to date. But that is not to say they have none.
    • Incestuous Casting: In their production of Coppélia, Jory's character proposes to Cathy's.
  • Infant Sibling Jealousy: Bart is wildly jealous of Cindy, the 2-year-old his mother adopts and lavishes attention over.
  • Invisible Parents: While physically present throughout the novel, Cathy and Chris are so frequently wrapped up in their own issues that Jory, age 14, takes it upon himself to deal with his younger brother's growing mental instability.
  • I'm Going to Disney World: Disneyland rather than Disney World, but this is Bart's promised birthday treat, and a running thread.
  • Insatiable Newlyweds: Cathy and Chris—at least, Jory attributes it as such. This is about 7 years into their marriage, so mathematically it’s a bit of a stretch. A more truthful explanation is that this is simply the nature of their relationship.
    Jory: It's love. They're still like honeymooners. Remember, Chris is our mom's third husband, and the bloom hasn't worn off.
  • I Should Write a Book About This: While wheelchair-bound, Cathy begins to write her life story: Flowers in the Attic, down to having the same chapter titles.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Jory's grandmother is made out to be a bitch for threatening to take Jory away from Cathy and Chris—but she's rightfully concerned about him being raised this household, with all the drama that's going on.
  • Middle Child Syndrome: Bart felt this way even when he was the youngest child in the family. And then Cathy adopts two-year-old Cindy and turns him into the actual middle child of the family.
  • Most Writers Are Writers: Cathy takes the end of her dancing career to become a writer.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Corinne returns hoping to reunite and make her family happy again. The only things she accomplish is tearing the family apart even more, killing herself and turning Bart into a copy of her own crazy father, Malcolm.
  • No Animals Were Harmed: Horribly, horribly subverted.
  • Outnumbered Sibling: Cathy has 2 sons and specifically wants a daughter, so she adopts one.
  • Parental Sexuality Squick: In contrast to the Sex Is Evil mentality of the Foxworth clan, in their household, Chris and Cathy take a stance that isn't quite Sex Is Good, but more Sex Is Neutral—their kids know it happens, and it's ok. Still, Jory and Bart find it a bit uncomfortable because they are their parents. It’s also worth pointing out that Chris and Cathy are pretty into PDA, and have taught the kids never to come into their room if the door is closed, because they might be having sex. At one point, Jory goes to his parents room in the middle of the night to tell them he suspects his dog is dead, but they're naked under the sheet, and Jory gets uncomfortable and leaves without a word. At that point, he says in his narration that he rationally knows there's nothing wrong with sex, but it's still kinda weird.
  • Pushover Parents: On the whole, Cathy and Chris try not to punish Bart much, even when he's being a little shit. They have a lot of feelings about parents wielding their power over their kids, and don't want to be like that. Jory thinks that they take it too far, and that Bart would benefit from them being a bit harsher. Briefly subverted in a moment when Cathy finally snaps after Bart physically attacks Cindy, and she sends him to the attic. Bart is up there for a few hours at most, until Chris comes home and deals with it. Cathy and Chris see this as a big deal, and Chris gets really upset: From a Rule of Symbolism standpoint, this is seriously out of line—nothing warrants putting your kids in the attic, nothing. Bart—not having all that attic baggage—doesn't take it this way, and sees it only as slightly more severe than being sent to his room.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Corrine dies saving Cathy's life. At the funeral, Cathy breaks down and finally forgives her mother for what she did.
  • Replacement Goldfish: Cindy looks an awful lot like Carrie did as a child.
  • Retcon: An interesting Subvertion. Cathy—in the way she talks about it after the fact, both in Flowers and Petals—has more or less personally retconed that time Chris raped her into something at least mostly-consensual. But in Thorns, this is clearly framed as Cathy's view, not the series's view. When Jory reads that scene in his mother's transcript of Flowers, he calls it rape and is absolutely horrified that his father could do such a thing.
    Jory's interval monologue: That this man beside me could rape his own sister when she was only fifteen was beyond my comprehension, beyond my ability to sympathize no matter how desperate his need had been, or what the circumstances had been to drive him to commit such an unholy act.
  • Ripping Off the String of Pearls: To Cathy, Corrine's string of pearls with its diamond butterfly clasp represents all the material luxury she gained by sacrificing her children. As soon as she spots it, Cathy tears it off her mother's neck.
  • Road Apples: Amazingly, used as a plot point.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Chris has always talked in a way that is sometimes flowery and sometimes just plain weird. Hilariously lampshaded when—as a parent—he gives his sons a new word to learn each day, to expand their vocabularies.
    Chris: The world belongs to those who know how to speak well, and fortunes are made by those who write well.
  • Sex Is Evil, and I Am Horny:
    • John Amos, as while he is a religious fanatic it is also recounted how he did plenty of sleeping around with maids at Foxworth Hall.
    • Malcolm also has implications of being this. See the hypocrite entry above.
    • John Amos tries to impart this lesson to Bart, but Bart is 10, and isn't horny, and so he takes it kind of weird.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: Jory oversees his parents having a very heated fight in the middle of the night, which turns into a very heated... something else. He has a moment of Parental Sexuality Squick.
  • Social Services Does Not Exist: Averted Trope. Cathy is aware that if they were to adopt a child through an adoption agency, their family would be investigated. She negotiates a contract with Cindy's dying mother to make Cathy the child's guardian. However, even this private arrangement would rightly warrant an investigation in Real Life.
  • Strong Family Resemblance: Inverted Trope: Cathy's two biological sons take after their dark-haired fathers. Her adopted daughter, in contrast, looks strikingly like her by shear coincidence.
  • Take Care of the Kids: Nicole, one of Cathy’s students, is a single mother of a 2-year-old daughter. Chris is very wary of involving more people in their messy family, and is worried about being investigated for adoption reasons. But when Nicole is on her deathbed and pulls this trope, he relents.
  • Talk Like a Pirate: The title, if you think about it too hard.
  • There Are No Therapists: Subverted. It's not entirely successful, but Bart is taken to a child psychologist. The first one actually has a few useful insights—for example, how Bart hates himself and thus finds it hard to believe his family genuinely loves him either. But Bart doesn't like that psychologist, and so they then take him to a second psychologist, who doesn't seem to yield much.
  • Time Skip: It takes place about 7 years after after Petals on the Wind.
  • Traumatic Haircut: Bart tries, but—being a toddler—Cindy doesn't care.
  • The Unfavorite: Bart. He's awkward and clumsy compared to ballet star Jory. It only gets worse when little Cindy is adopted into the family. This lack of attention in turn makes him more difficult, to the point where his mother is sometimes literally afraid of him, making it a vicious cycle.
    Cathy: Chris, I don't understand Bart at all, the way he talks, the way he moves, or even how he looks. I feel afraid of my own son, and that's sick.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Chris gives it to Cathy on two separate occasions. We do not put our children the attic! Ever! Under any circumstances!
  • You Owe Me: For the most part this is the motivation of John Amos. Who felt he would have had the Foxworth fortune had Corrine not come home. As a result a lot of his actions in this book, including some of which would be implied as lies by Garden of Shadows, are to get himself back into the position he felt he has been owed.
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