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Literature / The Casteel Series

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Deep in Her Heart, Heaven Dreamed.... note 

My own name was both a blessing and a curse. I tried to make myself believe such a “spiritual” name had to be a blessing—why, who else in the whole wide world had a name like Heaven Leigh? No one, no one, whispered the little bluebird of happiness who lived now and then in my brain, singing me to sleep and telling me that everything, in the long run, would work out just fine … just fine. Trouble was, I had an old black crow roosting in my brain as well, telling me such a name tempted fate to do its worst.
Heaven Leigh Casteel, Heaven

The Casteel Series is the second Generational Saga from V. C. Andrews, published after Seeds of Yesterday. Andrews completed the first two books in the series shortly before her death from breast cancer in 1986. The series was completed by her officially appointed ghostwriter, Andrew Neiderman. Among Andrews' fans, this series (or at least the first two books) is held in particularly high regards, with some saying that they're Andrews' best work.

When she is ten years old, Heaven Leigh Casteel, a girl living with her extremely poor family in a mountain range called the Willies, learns from her grandmother of her father's first wife Leigh, a Boston socialite and teenage runaway who married Heaven's father Luke and died giving birth to Heaven. Heaven receives her late mother's few belongings, the most precious being a one-of-a-kind doll that is identical to Heaven's mother (and, aside from the hair color, to Heaven herself).


In the first book Heaven, the Casteel family—Heaven, her half-siblings Tom, Fanny, little Keith and Our Jane, her stepmother Sarah, her pa Luke Casteel, and his parents Annie and Toby—are known as "the scum of the hills," the poorest of the poor even among the poverty-stricken West Virginia village of Winnerrow. Heaven and Tom dream of making a better life for themselves and their family by completing school and getting a college education. Heaven's fortune seems to change for the better with the arrival of newly arrived City Slicker Logan Stonewall, who becomes Heaven's first love. But when the heart of the family, Granny Casteel, dies, Luke Casteel—never the greatest provider to begin with—completely abandons the family, while stepmother Sarah, fed up with his philandering, leaves the children to fend for themselves in the depths of a harsh mountain winter. Desperate for money, Luke returns with a plan to sell his children. Heaven finds herself sold to a dangerously abusive woman named Kitty and her weak-willed husband Cal, who emotionally manipulates Heaven and ultimately takes her virginity. Heaven, bruised but undaunted, becomes even more determined to find her lost siblings, claim her Boston heritage, and make something of herself.


The second book, Dark Angel, continues where the last one left off, with Heaven traveling to Boston to meet her glamorous maternal grandmother Jillian, and her step-grandfather Tony Tatterton, the owner of a prestigious toy company. Staying at a snobby private school and forced to abide by Tony's stern order to cut ties with her Casteel siblings, Heaven finds her only friend in Tony's reclusive younger brother Troy, whose air of melancholy and mystery draws Heaven ever closer to him, even as Tony warns her to stay away. Unknown to Heaven, there is more to her mother running away than she ever could have thought, and the reasons aren't pretty.

Fallen Hearts, the third book in the series (and the first to be written by Neiderman), picks up two years after Dark Angel, with Heaven, now a successful schoolteacher, on the verge of marrying Logan Stonewall while still grieving the deaths of her loved ones. Tony invites them to spend their honeymoon at Farthingale Manor, to which Heaven reluctantly agrees, leading to a plan to build a Tatterton Toy Factory in Winnerrow in hopes of reviving the impoverished community. But Heaven's uneasiness around Tony, Jillian's mental breakdown from the previous book, and her suspicions of her jealous sister Fanny's behavior around Logan drive Heaven once again to loneliness, and having a one night stand. Yet another tragedy leads to Heaven seeking custody of Drake, Luke Casteel's youngest child from his third marriage, ending in a final confrontation with Fanny.

Fallen Hearts was followed by Gates of Paradise, taking place about 18 years later. The story revolves around Heaven's daughter Annie, who is paralyzed from the waist down in a car crash. Tony invites Annie to Farthy, promising to care for her as an an act of atonement toward Heaven. Annie, who has dreamed of visiting Farthy since childhood, is shocked to see its rundown condition and disturbed that Tony keeps mistaking her for her mother. Tony feels he let Heaven escape Farthy once before, and he is determined not to let Annie slip through his fingers.

The series concludes with Web of Dreams, which is framed as a Secret Diary belonging to Heaven's mother Leigh. Daddy's Girl Leigh is shocked when her seemingly perfect parents suddenly divorce. Her mother Jillian immediately marries the handsome (and much younger) Tony Tatterton and takes Leigh to Farthingale Manor. In spite of Farthy's luxury and prestige, Leigh finds her new home lonely and cold, her only comfort being Tony's five-year-old brother, the precocious but fragile Troy. But Farthy is a much darker place than Leigh could have ever imagined, forcing her to leave Troy behind and flee Farthy forever.

In late June 2016, Neiderman contacted the fansite The Complete V.C. Andrews that a film adaptation of the series was in the works for Lifetime Television (who had also adapted the first four Dollanganger Series books and My Sweet Audrina). Shooting began in Fall 2017 and the films were aired over several weeks in Summer 2019.

NOTE: Unmarked spoilers ahead.

Books in The Casteel Series:

  • Heaven (1985)
  • Dark Angel (1986)
  • Fallen Hearts (1988)
  • Gates of Paradise (1989)
  • Web of Dreams (1990)

The Casteel Series provide examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: The Dennisons, with a mother bordering on a younger version of the Evil Matriarch and a father heading toward the Dirty Old Man route.
    • Luke's parenting, or lack thereof leaves much to be desired, especially in regards to Heaven.
    • During her fifth pregnancy, Sarah becomes outright abusive not only towards Heaven but her own children.
    • Jillian let her own daughter get sexually assaulted by her new husband.
  • Adaptational Dye Job: Heaven in Lifetime's film adaptation is a redhead rather than a brunette. Notable because Heaven's hair color turns out to be something of a important plot point in Dark Angel, and because Heaven thinks of herself as the darker version of her Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold late mother (whose nickname was Angel).
    • So is Fanny!
    • As is Annie.
    • And Leigh goes from blonde to brunette.
  • Adaptational Name Change: In the made-for-tv movie, Jane Casteel's nickname is Janey, not Our Jane.
  • Adult Fear: During Fallen Hearts Drake suddenly goes missing during the celebration of the opening of the Winnerrow toy factory. Heaven is sent into a panic not knowing that he was taken by Fanny.
  • Affectionate Nickname: 'Heavenly' for Heaven, 'Angel' for Leigh (to the point that that name is on her grave rather than her real name), and 'Our Jane' for Jane.note 
    • Even Farthingale manor has a nickname: 'Farthy'.
  • Alliterative Name: Tony and Troy Tatterton, with an added bonus that Tony's first name is Townsend.
    • Jillian's maiden name is Jenkins, making her and her mother Jana an example as well.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: In Dark Angel, Heaven asks Jillian point-blank "Was Tony the reason my mother ran from this house?" Finally being forced to acknowledge the truth drives Jillian hopelessly insane and even—somehow—undoes years of plastic surgery to reveal her true age.
    • There's a similar scene in "Gates Of Paradise" when Tony feebly tries to claim that he was "confused" as an explanation for why he tried to rape Annie. Annie realizes why Heaven herself fled Farthingale and rhetorically asks, "Did you get "confused" with my mother too?!"
  • Attempted Rape: In Fallen Hearts, Tony attempts to rape Heaven, thinking she is Leigh. Heaven, justifiably disgusted and horrified, leaves Farthy the next morning with Drake and never returns. A nearly identical scene plays out in Gates Of Paradise with Annie. Though she is unable to leave on her own, she is mercifully rescued by Luke and Fanny the next day.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Despite their constant disputes, Heaven and Fanny have moments like these, particularly in the first and third book.
  • Battleaxe Nurse: Annie's nurse. Completely insensitive to Annie's discomfort and so incensed when Annie insists on eating what she wants rather than what the nurse has planned that she spikes the food with a laxative, then refuses to help her until she has a Potty Failure.
  • Barefoot Poverty: How we find the Casteel children in Heaven.
  • Bastard Boyfriend: Logan Stonewall is particularly nasty toward Heaven up until they reconcile. He also cheated on Heaven with Fanny while they were married and conceived a child with her though Heaven was also cheating on him with Troy and got pregnant by Troy in return.
  • Betty and Veronica: Logan is Betty and Troy is Veronica to Heaven's Archie.
  • Big Fancy House: Farthingale Manor.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Kitty Dennison acts nice on the outside, but she puts Heaven through some awful abuse.
    • Not that her husband Cal is any better, acting like a father figure for Heaven only to end up molesting her.
    • Tony seems like a charming guy, but not only is he strict towards Heaven, but he turns out to be a rapist and an ephebophile.
  • Boarding School of Horrors: After coming to stay with Jillian and Tony, Heaven is sent to the all-girls private school Winterhaven and is promptly isolated and bullied by the other students.
  • Brainy Brunette: Heaven is ambitious, does well in school, sets out to become a teacher (which she does), and successfully runs the Winnerrow toy factory. And she's a brunette (barring her bleaching her hair, which she keeps from the end of Dark Angel to towards the end of Fallen Hearts).
  • Byronic Hero: Troy. He's born sickly, orphaned early, gains a sister-in-law that's more of a Wicked Stepmother, loses his sisterly figure, is never able to be with his true love though they do have a child together, has pessimistic thoughts about dying by the time he's thirty. He also appears to suffer from severe seasonal depression that makes him take self-destructive risks (sleeping with the windows open during a bitter-cold rainstorm even though he has chronic lung issues; riding an uncontrollable horse into the sea). In spite of all this, he outlives his parents, brother, sister-in-law, niece-in-law/sister, and niece/lover.
  • Character Title: Heaven. Started the long tradition of series under Andrews' name starting with books named after their heroine's first name (sure one could say that it started with My Sweet Audrina, but unlike the other books the title isn't just Audrina's name).
  • Child by Rape:
    • Heaven is the product of Tony Tatterton's rape of his stepdaughter Leigh.
    • Fanny's daughter Darcy from the Reverend Wise.
  • Child Naming Request: As a reconciliatory gesture, Luke asks Tom, his estranged son from a previous marriage, to name his new son.
  • Child Prodigy: Troy showed artistic talent when he was very young (coincidentally or not, so did Andrews), and then graduated college when he was still a teenager.
  • Cool Loser: A somewhat justified example. Heaven is beautiful and does well in school, but her family's social status and poverty causes her to be looked down upon by the people of Winnerrow.
  • Covers Always Lie: The cover of Fallen Hearts shows a boy (presumably Drake) as the center focus, as if he was the protagonist (much like the cover of If There Be Thorns with Bart, one of the two narrators). In the book itself, Drake doesn't appear until about halfway through (though he is still an important character) and Heaven is still the main character.
    • In the Gates of Paradise cover Annie is shown standing up, despite being disabled and in a wheelchair for most of the book.
  • Cute, but Cacophonic: Our Jane. To paraphrase Heaven, "Our Jane was a dear, darling doll, but she could wear on your nerves with her caterwauling."
  • Daddy's Girl: Luke is much more affectionate towards Fanny than Heaven, the fact which Fanny revels in.
    • Leigh was also much closer to her father than her mother even though he actually wasn't her father.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: At first Kitty demands Heaven sleep in the same bed as her and her husband to prevent Heaven from doing "nasty things." When Heaven is finally allowed her own bed, Kitty forbids her from sleeping in certain positions for the same reason. It isn't until much later that Heaven realizes that the "nasty thing" is masturbation...shortly before Kitty catches her in the act.
  • Dead Guy Junior: A downplayed example is Heaven herself, who got her middle name 'Leigh' from her mother.
    • Heaven's daughter Annie was named after her paternal grandmother. Fanny's son Luke was named after her dad Luke, and his middle name came from her grandfather Toby.
  • Death by Childbirth: Leigh died giving birth to Heaven.
  • Diary: Web of Dreams has Annie finding a diary kept by Leigh from shortly before Jillian married Tony to right before her death. After Leigh died, it somehow made its way to Tony.
  • Dirty Old Man:
    • Cal Dennison takes advantage of his adopted daughter Heaven's loneliness in order to rape her. Poor Heaven is so confused by her affection for him that she briefly convinces herself that their relationship is consensual and feels guilty over it.
    • Tony ends up going this route, having not only raped Leigh but almost doing the same with his respective daughter and granddaughter Heaven and Annie.
    • The Reverend Wise deserves a mention given that he molests Fanny shortly after adopting her. Unlike other examples in this series, Fanny is not seen as a victim and is slut-shamed by nearly everyone, despite the fact that she was a preteen and he was a married man (at one point in the first book, the Reverend keeps Fanny locked in the house and forbids her from making any contact with her family!). Heaven and Fanny seem to be the only characters who see the Reverend as this. Even worse, it's implied from the start that Luke Casteel sold his daughter to the Reverend with the knowledge that he lusted after her.
  • Disappeared Dad: Luke (who isn't the best father when he is around) disappears for a time during Heaven, rarely returning home.
    • Justified in Troy's case as Annie was conceived in infidelity and Troy was believed to have been dead.
    • Leigh turns out to not actually be Cleave Van Vorreen's daughter. She never learns who her real father was, only that he was an artist of some sort.
  • Distant Finale: The framing device of Web of Dreams takes place years after Gates of Paradise, with Annie and Luke having sense married and had children, and Troy dying seemingly of natural causes.
  • Dramatic Irony: As Leigh goes into labor at the end of Web of Dreams, she looks up at the stars and tells Luke that when she goes to bed, she wants to feel like she is "sleeping in heaven." The reader knows by this stage that she died giving birth to her daughter Heaven.
  • Driven to Suicide: Jillian in Fallen Hearts.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Heaven and Logan are both killed in a car crash at the beginning of Gates of Paradise in order to allow the focus to shift to their daughter Annie.
  • Eat the Dog: In Heaven, the children are left alone and starving during a blizzard and Heaven finds herself forced to consider killing one of the family's dogs. She gets as far as picking up the ax and heading out the door before she loses her nerve.
  • Evil Matriarch: Kitty is younger than most examples (being in her 30s at most) but is no less cruel to Heaven.
  • Evil Redhead: Kitty is a liar, an abuser and an animal killer. She also happens to be a redhead.
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: Heaven bleaches her hair in an attempt to resemble her dead mother, but then has it dyed back to its natural color when she discovers that she doesn't need to try to be someone else. Annie is coerced into doing this by Tony in an effort to make her a Replacement Goldfish for Leigh and Heaven.
  • Expy: Heaven and Fanny's relationship, at times that of Elinor and Marianne Dashwood i.e. the whole Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling trope they play, not to mention that like Marianne, Fanny is the favorite whereas Heaven isn't. Given that one of the authors Heaven is fond of is Jane Austen, it probably wasn't that unintentional.
  • Faking the Dead: Troy faked his death twice so that Heaven could marry Logan without Troy being a burden on her happiness.
  • Foil: Both of Heaven's grandmothers, Jillian Tatterton and Annie Brandywine Casteel. While Jillian is glamorous, youthful to an absurd degree, wealthy, and privileged, she is also a shallow and selfish woman who will even sacrifice her own daughter's virginity for her own comfort. Annie, by contrast, is poor, uneducated, looks far older than she actually, and works as hard as her body will allow, but she is also the honest, loving force that holds the family together. Her honesty is what kicks off the series when she tells Heaven about her real mother, and her loss causes the family to disintegrate, ending with Luke selling his children.
    • Fanny is also played as a foil to Heaven.
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: Heaven often takes care of the family and the house while Fanny slacks off and runs off with boys.
  • Framing Device: Web of Dreams begins with Annie and Luke attending Troy's funeral. Annie wanders around Farthy one last time and ends up in Jillian's old room, where she finds Leigh's diary and the story proper begins.
  • Funetik Aksent: Very common.
  • Generational Saga: The series goes from Heaven to her daughter Annie and finally to her mother Leigh, mostly dealing with the effects Tony, Jillian, Troy, and Luke had on their lives (ill or good).
  • Generation Xerox: The ur-example for the series is Heaven's resemblance to her mother Leigh. Other than Heaven's dark hair, they're said to be doppelgangers, and the fact that stubborn, determined Heaven is not the innocent, pliable Leigh fuels much of the first half of the series.
    • Heaven's daughter Annie looks extremely similar to her mother; so much that the sanity-challenged Tony mistakes Annie for Heaven (along with Leigh and Jillian). She even compares her relationship with her half-brother Luke to Heaven's relationship to Troy.
    • A minor case: Leigh, Heaven, and Annie (mother, daughter, and granddaughter) have at least one thing in common not related to their appearance: not a single one of them was raised by their biological father.
      • And all three of them fled Farthingale after being assaulted by Tony.
    • Luke Casteel sold his children, and in Fallen Hearts Fanny only agrees to give custody of Drake over to Heaven when the latter offers her one million dollars.
    • When Heaven reunites with a healthy, teenage Our Jane, she is stunned to realize that Jane looks just like her grandmother Annie Casteel, who was said to be the local beauty in her youth. Likewise Keith grows up to resemble his grandfather Toby.
  • Gentleman Snarker: Troy is always unfailingly polite, however he does have his snarkier moments; usually when Heaven is regaling him with tales of the hills.
  • Gilded Cage:
    • Farthingale Manor becomes this for almost every young woman who lives there. It's lavish and wealthy beyond all imagining, but the price for living there is always tragic.
    • The Settertons' suburban home. While it's no more than comfortably middle-class, Heaven comes from conditions of extreme poverty, so a home with running water, television, her own room, and adequate food and clothes seems like the height of luxury to her until it becomes clear that her new mother is abusive and that she was brought to there to be a housemaid.
    • Fanny's situation with the Wises was similar to Heaven's life with the Settertons: while the Wises provided her with much greater material security than she had ever known in her life, Reverend Wise also sexually abused her and eventually got her pregnant. Fanny was then confined to the house and not allowed to have visitors, so that the town would later believe that Fanny's baby belonged to the Reverend's wife When she finally escapes, the Reverend even calls her "ungrateful" for all he's given her.
  • Gold Digger: Fanny is briefly married to a rich old man named Mallory. Before he can kick the bucket, they divorce because Fanny refuses to bear his children.
  • Good Victims, Bad Victims: Fanny's notorious promiscuity makes it easy for the Reverend Wise to practically make himself look like the victim regarding his and Fanny's liaison (even though at best, it would still be statutory rape), claiming she seduced him when for once, it was the other way around.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Luke seems to hold this belief, as he nicknamed the golden-haired Leigh 'Angel' and his third marriage was to the also blonde Stacie, who seems to be a nicer person than the redheaded Sarah.
  • Happily Adopted:
    • Keith and Jane got the best of the lot when they were sold: their adopted parents turned out to not only be wealthy but genuinely caring and gave them better lives than they could ever hope for back in the Willies. When Heaven finds them, they're actually afraid she will take them back to the old cabin.
    • Heaven treats Drake very well after taking him in, much better than anyone ever raised her.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Fanny makes a major one after Heaven's death, totally reforming from her wild, selfish ways and becoming a confident Mama Bear without losing any of her characteristic brazen, brassy fearlessness. Upon learning that Annie is in danger, she storms Farthingale Manor to rescue her and tells off Tony Tatterton to his face.
    • Toward the end of Dark Angel, Luke Casteel straightens out his life, becomes a devoted husband, father, and provider for his new family, and feels enough remorse to attempt a reconciliation with Heaven. When she (justifiably) refuses to forgive him, he still helps her fulfill her dream of finding her Boston family.
  • Henpecked Husband: Cal barely gets better treatment than Heaven from Kitty, though he proves himself to be far less sympathetic than most examples, and even emotionally manipulates Kitty to an extent.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Tom dies while saving a lion tamer from some circus cats.
  • Horrible Housing: The Casteels' pitiful mountain shack is described in painful detail: a one-room building made of thin wooden planks with gaps between the floorboards, there is no electricity, no running water, and no indoor toilet. The only source of heat is a wood stove, the black smoke from which makes cleaning futile. Though the house is only a little bigger than a standard suburban living room, nine people share the space.
  • Hypocrite: Luke calling Sarah "heartless" for abandoning her children is a little much coming from someone who deserts his family for long periods of time, only occasionally stopping by to leave them some basic necessities and later even sells his children to fund treatment for his syphilis (which he got because of all the unprotected and adulterous sex he was having with prostitutes)! That's not even going into the fact that Sarah might not have run away if he'd ever supported her or helped her with the kids and the house and his parents once in a blue moon!
  • Ill Girl:
    • In Heaven, Our Jane is weak, sickly, and frail from birth. She suffers intense pain if her stomach is empty (a problem since the kids are constantly on the brink of starvation), but the same pain also makes her vomit if she eats too much. Through her loving, wealthy adoptive parents, she is finally diagnosed with a diaphragmatic hernia and receives surgery to correct the issue. By the time Heaven reunites with her, she's been restored to full health.
    • Troy is an Ill Boy, having had many allergies and long illnesses as a child. While he is still legitimately ill with many chronic ailments, his childhood experiences left him something of a hypochondriac who believes that he is too sick to enjoy many activities and that he will die young. Heaven manages to talk him out of some of his hypochondria in Dark Angel, though he does have some genuine health crises.
  • Important Dyejob: Having been told by everyone that she looks exactly like her mother except for her dark hair, in Dark Angel, Heaven dyes it her mother's shade of ash-blonde as a symbolic gesture of reclaiming her Tatterton heritage. It ends tragically when her hair distracts her father Luke at a critical moment, leading to the death of her beloved brother Tom. She remains a blonde until the end of Fallen Hearts, when she renounces the Tattertons and goes back to her natural color after Tony's betrayal.
  • Infant Immortality: Averted with Sarah's fifth child, who was stillborn.
  • Inspirationally Disabled: Annie was on her way to becoming this but then she miraculously learned to walk again.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: In Fallen Hearts, it's revealed that Troy faked his death so that Heaven could marry Logan and live happily with him.
  • I Was Quite the Looker: We never see it, but Heaven says that her Granny was once the most beautiful girl in the Willies.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: For as self-centered and spiteful as she can be in early books, Fanny has her moments. Notably in Heaven, after initially seething with envy when her two younger siblings are sold to strangers, she eventually breaks down crying on Heaven's shoulder and begs for reassurance that the little ones will be alright: "People love all little children, even ones not their own, don't they?"
  • Karma Houdini: Reverend Wise never gets his comeuppance for commiting statutory rape against Fanny, even after it was publicly revealed.
  • Killed Off for Real: Leigh, Annie Casteel, Kitty, Tom, Jillian, Luke and Stacy, Logan, Heaven herself, and Tony Tatterton. Troy in between Gates of Paradise and the framing story of Web of Dreams also kicks it for real.
  • Likes Older Women: Played with in Tony's case; he believed that Jillian was only 30 when they met, but was surprised that she was actually 40. Though of course he doesn't care about age, especially underage.
  • The Lost Lenore: Leigh to Luke.
  • Love Father, Love Son: Tony Tatterton takes this further with four generations of women in the same family — he was initially married to Jillian Tatterton but fell for her daughter Leigh, granddaughter Heaven and great-granddaughter Annie.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father:
    • Dark Angel reveals that Tony is actually Heaven's real father, and in fact him raping and impregnating Leigh is what caused her to run away in the first place.
    • Annie is Troy's daughter, rather than Logan's. However the reader learns this long before Annie does.
    • It was revealed in Web of Dreams that Leigh's real father was an unknown artist.
  • Maternal Death? Blame the Child!: Luke treats Heaven like crap because he blames her for Leigh's death.
  • May–December Romance: Tony was in his early 20s when he met and Jillian, who was 40.
  • Missing Mom: Heaven's biological mother Leigh died in the backstory, and then her stepmother Sarah runs off after delivering a stillborn child.
    • Speaking of Leigh, while Jillian was physically present, she was too self-absorbed to take an active role in her daughter's life.
  • Named After Somebody Famous: Tom got to name his youngest sibling. He chose the name Walter Drake Casteel (or just Drake) after explorers Walter Raleigh and Frances Drake.
  • Nice Guy: Tom Casteel, who cares strongly about his family and even smiles when his mother smashes a jar of honey on his head, is one of the few characters who manages to stay kind no matter what. Of course he's Too Good for This Sinful Earth to stay past the second book...
    • Troy likewise is a gentleman through and through so naturally the happiness he finds with Heaven is short-lived.
  • No Animals Were Harmed: Horribly averted with Chuckles, the pregnant pet hamster that Heaven had to take home for her teacher, despite her insistence that Kitty didn't want animals in her house. Heaven was right.
  • Not Blood Siblings: In Gates of Paradise, Annie had been in love with her apparent half-brother/cousin Luke Jr. since they were children but couldn't pursue a relationship with him due to their supposed relationship. Fortunately for them Troy reveals that he's Annie's real father and that she has no blood relation to the Casteel family, letting the two of them be together.
  • Oblivious Adoption: Heaven learns early on that Sarah is not her real mother, but doesn't learn until later on that Luke is also not her real father.
  • Odd Name Out: "Web Of Dreams" is the only book without a religion-oriented title.
  • Older Than They Look: Jillian is in her 60s by the time Dark Angel starts off, but still looks absurdly young. When she has her Freak Out near the end of the book she loses her youth and finally starts to look her age.
    • Kitty is a youthful-looking forty, but it still isn't good enough for her; she's obsessed with looking twenty.
  • Old Maid:
    • In the first book, Heaven wishes to be one, and says that she has no intention of getting married until she's at least thirty although she eventually marries at a much younger age.
    • In the Willies, where the locals marry very young, Heaven is considered this at fourteen. Granny advises Heaven to hold off from marriage until she's at least fifteen, so as to get her schoolin' in.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted, as Web of Dreams contains two Tobys, one being Heaven's grandfather Toby, and the other (a girl) being a classmate of Leigh's at Winterhaven.
  • Parental Abandonment: Towards the end of the first part of Heaven, the Casteel children are abandoned by both Luke and Sarah after they runoff (separately) and Granny dies, with the only adult being their senile and weak grandfather.
    • Tony and Troy's parents died sometime before Tony met Jillian. Troy was even with his father when he died.
    • Luke and Stacy die in a car crash during Fallen Hearts, leaving Drake orphaned.
    • And then Heaven and Logan have a similar fate to the above in Gates of Paradise.
  • Parental Favoritism:
    • Heaven resents that Pa ignores her at best and abuses her at worst in spite of the fact that she is the more responsible and trustworthy sister, while he openly favors her conniving sister Fanny. (Tom and Fanny also have this dynamic to a lesser degree, but as the oldest boy, Tom still gets more positive attention from their father than Heaven does.)
    • Reversed with Sarah, who, while not the most affectionate of parents, recognizes that Heaven and Tom have more potential and contribute more to the family than Fanny and treats them accordingly, even going so far as to call Fanny "trash" and give her up as a lost cause while being more encouraging of Heaven's schooling.
  • Parent with New Paramour:
    • Heaven is (justifiably) upset to learn that after selling off his children, Luke remarried and started another family. Even more of a slap in the face, Luke put his life back together, has a steady job, and his new family lives with a degree of luxury and security that Heaven and her siblings never had.
    • Leigh is taken aback by her parents' sudden divorce, and is even more surprised to learn that her mother has been having an affair with the much-younger Tony Tatterton and intends to marry him immediately.
  • Posthumous Character: Leigh died years before the main story begins, but she is still a major part of the series even before Web of Dreams told her own story.
  • Potty Emergency: A rare played-straight example. The girls at Heaven's Boarding School of Horrors spike Heaven's punch with laxatives, then lock all the bathroom doors. Heaven later gets a little indirect revenge on the lead prankster.
  • Practically Different Generations: When first met, Tony is around his 40s while his brother Troy is in his 20s. The age gap is farther emphasized in the prequel, where Tony is a married man in his 20s while Troy is only five.
    • Much later, Drake is born when all of his siblings are well over a decade older than him, some even being married and having kids themselves.
  • Promotion to Parent: Heaven and Tom in Heaven.
    • Tony practically became Troy's father after their parents died, and their relationship is sometimes more parental than sibling-like (helps that Troy was born when Tony was in his late teens).
  • Punny Name: Heaven Leigh Casteel. Tom even nicknames her 'Heavenly' to combine both her names. Pun value doubles as Heaven's mother Leigh was nicknamed "Angel."
  • Rape as Drama:
    • Heaven is sexually abused by Cal, whom she had come to see as a father figure.
    • In the backstory, Leigh is raped by Tony, which is her main motivation for running away.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Heaven, having had enough of Kitty's abuse, attempts to tear her a new one:
    Heaven: "You're not my mother, Kitty Setterton Dennison! I don't have to call you Mother. Kitty is good enough. I've tried hard to love you, and forget all the awful things you've done to me, but I'm not trying anymore. You can't be human and nice for but a little while, can you? And I was stupid enough to plan a party, just to please you, and give you a reason for having all that china and crystal... but the storm is on, and so are you, because you just don't know how to act like a mother. Now it's ugly, mean time again. I can see it in your watery eyes that glow in the darkness of this room. No wonder God didn't allow you to have children, Kitty Dennison. God knew better."
  • Really Gets Around: Fanny, starting in elementary school.
  • Reclusive Artistinvoked: Troy is a very talented toy maker, but his belief that he will die before he is 30 caused him to shy away from people.
  • Redemption Equals Life: After reconciling with Heaven at the end of Gates of Paradise, Fanny becomes a much kinder and more responsible person; and as a result is one of the only "bitchy/jealous/promiscuous sister" figure in early Andrews series not to be killed off (whereas Clara Sue Cutler, Vera Whitefern, Giselle Dumas and others all die.) Although to be fair, Fanny was never as awful as the others and underneath all her bratty behavior did in fact love Heaven and her siblings, she even said so herself and it's not like she didn't have her own problems and emotional hang ups.
  • Religious and Mythological Theme Naming: "Heaven", "Angel", "Paradise".
  • Replacement Goldfish:
    • When Heaven dyes her hair blonde, she is mistaken for her mother Leigh by several people, most notably by her father Tony, who raped and impregnated Leigh and eventually tries to do the same to her.
    • Then in the next book her daughter Annie is sent to live with Tony (though she's unaware that he's her grandfather) after she is paralyzed in the car accident that killed her parents. He convinces her to dye her hair blond like the other women and subsequently tries to mold her into his image of Leigh. Much like with her mother Heaven, the resemblance and his worsening dementia cause him to repeatedly confuse her with the other two, to the point where he virtually imprisons her, sabotages her attempts at recovery, and eventually tries to force himself on her late one night.
  • Retcon: Tony was described as blond in Dark Angel, but in Web of Dreams he has dark hair.
    • For no reason whatsoever, Gates of Paradise retcons Drake's full name from 'Walter Drake Casteel' to 'Drake Ormand Casteel.' (This is made a little more exceptional considering that kid's name is explained in canon, as Tom named him after his favorite explorers, Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Francis Drake.)
  • The Reveal: In Dark Angel: Heaven is not Luke's daughter at all, but Tony's, and Leigh ran away because he was raping her and Jillian wouldn't help her.
    • Web of Dreams: Jillian tasked Leigh with 'distracting' Tony so that his horniness wouldn't tire out Jillian, who feared that too much sex would ruin her youth.
  • Rich Bitch: Jillian, and the girls from Winterhaven that torment Heaven.
  • Sanity Slippage: Jillian in Dark Angel after about 20 years worth of denial come crashing down.
    • Tony's sanity starts to fall apart after Jillian's suicide, and only got worse by the time Annie came to Farthy in Gates of Paradise.
  • Satellite Love Interest: The only thing really notable about Logan is that he is supposedly the love of Heaven's life.
  • Settle for Sibling: In a particularly gross example, it's implied that Reverend Wise lusted after teenage Heaven and wanted to purchase her from her father, and that the only reason Luke refused was because he wanted to sell Heaven to strangers so that he would never have to see her again. Because of this, the Reverend buys Heaven's younger sister Fanny instead.
  • Shout-Out: Heaven's name may be a reference to the 1945 Film Noir thriller Leave Her to Heaven, and her dark wavy hair, delicate features, and cornflower-blue eyes strongly resemble those of the film's star, Gene Tierney.
  • Shrine to the Fallen: Annie is rather unnerved when Tony takes her to the suite of rooms that was Logan and Heaven's and sees how well maintained they are, in contrast to the rest of the house, which is showing its age and has signs of disrepair.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang:
    • Heaven and Fanny. Heaven is modest, prideful, and self-sacrificing; Fanny is wanton, attention-seeking, and selfish, and irresponsible. They invariably clash.
    • Keith and Our Jane. Keith is the gentle, shy, tender-hearted little brother while Our Jane is brash, affectionate, and a little bit of a show-off. Unlike Fanny and Heaven, however, Keith and Our Jane's relationship is particularly harmonious, to the point that they're described as "heart-felt twins."
  • Slut-Shaming: Happens multiple times. To the series' credit, in each case, it's made clear that whoever's doing the shaming is in the wrong.
    • Both her mother Sarah and most of the town writes Fanny off as a slut, even though Fanny starts behaving promiscuously before she even hits puberty, which would normally be a big red flag that something's wrong. Later, when Reverend Wise rapes and impregnates teen Fanny, her earlier promiscuity is used as proof that she seduced him. Heaven confronts the reverend over it.
    • Logan slut-shames Heaven when he learns she lost her virginity to Cal, even though—yet again—the act was the result of Heaven being groomed and abused by her foster father.
    • Jillian essentially sets Leigh up to be her sexual substitute for Tony, then blames Leigh when she comes to her mother for help after Tony assaults her: "Nice girls don't go all the way!"
  • Social Services Does Not Exist: Some social services would have existed at the time the series begins (early-to-mid-1960s), and the region of the Appalachians in which the Casteels lived had dedicated government agencies specifically to intervene on behalf of "poorest of the poor" families like the Casteels. Yet even Heaven's teacher Miss Deale chooses to give charity directly to the children rather than reporting their plight to authorities.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Logan comes across as this at times, especially in the first book when Heaven is trying to reunite with her family but is constantly harassed by Logan who insists that she doesn't need her family because she has him. At one point he even outright states "there's no where you can run where I won't find you". Whilst Heaven doesn't feel threatened, she does (understandably) wish he would leave her alone.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers:
    • Leigh and Luke, who despite being happy together only had a short time being married before Leigh's death.
    • Heaven and Troy, due to a combination of Troy's emotional issues and them being related.
    • Subverted with Annie Stonewall and Luke II, who fell in love while growing up but couldn't act on it because they're half-siblings, but jump at the chance of being together after it is revealed they aren't related at all.
  • Stepford Smiler: Jillian, possibly of the 'unstable' variety. When Heaven confronts her about Leigh's rape she goes mad and spends the rest of her life under constant psychiatric care, along with losing her youth.
  • Strong Family Resemblance: Jillian, Leigh, Heaven, and Annie all look extremely alike (except for the latter two, who have dark hair rather than blonde). Tony, after losing his mind, even mistakes Heaven for the former two, and later Annie for the other three.
  • Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: Heaven and Logan in Gates of Paradise in order to shift focus to Annie. Troy passes away right before the framing story of Web of Dreams, with Annie and Luke returning to Farthy for his funeral.
  • Surprise Incest: Heaven and Troy, who are actually niece and uncle. This is V. C. Andrews we're talking about, after all.
  • Tangled Family Tree: Stick with us, it's about to get complicated: in Fallen Hearts, Heaven takes in her father Luke Casteel's orphaned son Drake. Her sister Fanny kidnaps Drake out of jealousy. Since neither woman is the child's legal guardian, the law can do nothing about an orphaned child "visiting" his half-sister, so Heaven attempts to sue for custody by pointing out Fanny's irresponsible lifestyle. Fanny, in turn, proves that Heaven's biological father was not Luke Casteel, therefore Heaven is not related to Drake at all. It appears that Fanny will win custody of Drake until Heaven's heartfelt appeal (and an offer of a million dollars) persuades Fanny to give up the dispute. Meanwhile, Fanny has a son, Luke, fathered by Heaven's husband Logan. As they grow up, Heaven's daughter Annie and Luke fall in love, but believing they are cousins (and also half-siblings due to sharing the same father), they sadly put aside their feelings. Only when it is revealed again that Heaven and Fanny are not really sisters (and that Annie and Luke do not share a father) do the two realize they are not blood-related and can be together happily. (Ironically, in the course of learning that her love for Luke is not incestuous, Annie finds out that she is the product of incest—her real father was Heaven's half-uncle Troy. Her mother's incest means Annie's incest isn't really incest! It's like multiplying negatives to get a positive!)
  • Teen Pregnancy: Leigh was either 13 or 14 when Heaven was born.
    • Fanny had an affair with Reverend Wise, who had bought her, which resulted in this trope.
  • Theme Naming: Celestial—"Heaven", "Angel", "Paradise", etc.
  • Together in Death: Heaven and Logan are killed in a road crash. When Troy dies, likely of natural causes since he becomes a grandfather, he's finally able to be buried next to Heaven.
  • Too Good for This Sinful Earth: Leigh "Angel" Casteel dies of childbirth at the age of fourteen.
    • Tom Casteel, who has been nothing but kind and understanding to Heaven, dies after being mauled by a lion that would have killed his father had he not intervened.
    • Can be applied to Luke's third wife Stacy, who dies in a car crash alongside him in the third book; she is described as being similar to Leigh in both looks and personality.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Fanny, as of Gates Of Paradise, practically becoming a substitute Mama Bear to Annie, rescuing her from Tony, assuring her not to worry about being a burden and that her feelings for Luke are not sick or wrong, etc.
  • Tragic Keepsake: Leigh's identical 'portrait doll' (later named Angel in Web of Dreams), which Heaven's grandmother gives to her at the beginning of the series. Kitty destroys it.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: Fanny Casteel is already fooling around with boys at the age of ten and implied to be sexually active by this age (she later is raped and impregnated by Reverend Wise after he adopts her).
  • Understanding Boyfriend: Troy, whom Heaven confides to about her past.
  • The Unfavorite: Luke treats Heaven like garbage and blames her for Leigh's death. They don't fully reconcile but it's heavily hinted that Luke really did care about Heaven; he just had a hard time seeing her as someone other than Leigh.
  • The Vamp: Fanny.
  • What Beautiful Eyes!: Heaven's "cornflower blue" eyes frequently get a mention from almost every character at some point or another. Its significant due to the fact that she inherited them from her mother. Andrews never lets us forget this as characters who have never even met Leigh will gush over the similarity.
    • To a lesser extent Fanny's "black eyes" are also stated to be very beautiful.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Heaven's stepmother Sarah abandons the family about a hundred pages into the first novel in search of "something betta." For the rest of the series, we are never told what became of her.
    • Same with Heaven and Tom's teacher Miss Deale, who left for Baltimore due to her mother's death and apparently was never heard from again.
    • Fanny's daughter with Reverend Wise, Darcy, is never mentioned after Fallen Hearts.
  • Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?: Kitty makes fun of Heaven's name, hinting that it's not only dumb, but a little sacreligious. Later, on Heaven's first day at Winterhaven, a teacher invites her to explain to the entire class why she was given such an unusual name, to Heaven's embarrassment. Even Heaven sometimes wonders how she got stuck with it. (On the other hand, the men in Heaven's life tend to gush over how perfectly the name suits her.)
  • Wicked Stepmother: Sarah didn't start out like this aside from having Heaven do a lot of chores, but her fifth pregnancy put her on enough edge to start abusing not only Heaven but her own children.
    • Kitty was abusive towards Heaven from the beginning, overworking her, putting her in a scalding hot bath with housekeeping fluids, and generally being a real bitch.
    • Jillian towards Troy, though it's actually a case of Wicked Sister-in-Law, Troy was just very young when she and Tony married and she was expected to take care of Troy like a mother. Instead, she very clearly had no love for him, and was annoyed at his various illnesses as a child. Not that Jillian was a very good mother to her own daughter.
  • Younger Than They Look: A regular theme as Heaven notes how the hills turn people old before their time, both physically and mentally. A prime example is Heaven's grandmother Annie, who is only in her late 50s but looks far, far older.
    • In Web of Dreams, an older boy says to Leigh (who is 12 at the time) that she could pass as a teenager with no problem.

Alternative Title(s): Heaven, Fallen Hearts


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