Petals on the Wind

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Petals on the Wind
First edition cover
Author V. C. Andrews
Country United States
Language English
Series Dollanganger series
Genre Gothic horror
Family saga
Publisher Simon & Schuster
Publication date
Media type Print
Pages 448
ISBN 0-671-72947-0 (1990 reissues)
OCLC 28589928
Preceded by Flowers in the Attic (1979)
Followed by If There Be Thorns (1981)

Petals on the Wind is a novel written by V. C. Andrews in 1980. It is the second book in the Dollanganger series. The timeline takes place from the siblings' successful escape in November 1960 to the fall of 1975. The book, like the others In the series, was a number one best-seller in North America in the early 1980s. In 2014, it was adapted into a Lifetime original movie.


Petals on the Wind picks up right where the previous book, Flowers in the Attic, left off: with Cathy, Chris, and Carrie traveling by bus to Florida after escaping Foxworth Hall. Still weak from the effects of the poison that killed her twin Cory, Carrie gets sick on the bus and other passengers complain. Suddenly Henrietta "Henny" Beech, a large African-American mute woman, rescues them and takes them to the home of her employer, 40-year-old widower Dr. Paul Sheffield of Clairmont, South Carolina. At first the children refuse to reveal their identities, but when Cathy is convinced that Dr. Paul genuinely cares and might be able to help them, she tells him their horrifying story of being locked up for 3 years and poisoned by their mother and grandmother. He convinces them to stay and applies for and eventually receives custody of them.

Though they all thrive under Paul and Henny's care and start fulfilling their dreams (Chris heads to premed and then medical school; Cathy gets into a local ballet school and then one in New York City), Cathy is still bitter and bent on revenge against her mother, seeing her as the root of everything wrong in their lives from Carrie's anguish over Cory's death and her own failure to grow properly and the social problems this causes (this includes a deeply traumatic experience at a private school she was sent to), to Cathy and Chris' incestuous obsession with each other. Cathy is still deeply drawn to Chris, even as she rejects his advances and insists that she loves him only as a brother and he must find someone else to love.

Cathy knows that she too must find someone else, and over time she falls in love with Paul and they become lovers and plan to marry, to Chris' dismay. Cathy's desire to be with Paul increases greatly when he tells her the story of his wife Julia, and how she had drowned their son Scotty and herself after Paul confessed to an affair. After Cathy and Paul become engaged and her ballet troupe has begun performing in New York City, Cathy finishes a performance to find Paul's sister Amanda waiting to meet her. Amanda leads Cathy to believe that Julia is still alive—and she flat-out states that she knows Cathy miscarried Paul's child. (During the siblings' first Christmas with Paul, Cathy began bleeding profusely during a ballet audition and in the hospital she was told something about her irregular menstrual periods. But at the time she was told this, she fearfully suspected that it was a miscarriage—of the product of one night in the Foxworth Hall attic, and at Amanda's words, she thinks this theory was correct.) Devastated, she runs to a man in her dance troupe, Julian Marquet, who had been pursuing her since the day they met, and agrees to marry him immediately. When she returns to South Carolina and Paul, it is as Mrs. Julian Marquet. Only then does she confront Paul about Amanda's message—and she learns that Julia had still been alive (though in a permanent vegetative state from her suicide attempt) at the time he took them in, but she had died around the time Cathy and Paul became intimate. He also insists that Cathy did not have a miscarriage. Cathy still isn't sure, but she does realize that she has now revealed to him the truth about her and Chris committing incest while they were imprisoned. Paul assures her he loves her, and she knows she loves him and has made a mistake in marrying Julian, but she feels she must stay with him.

This is difficult almost from the beginning: Julian is a possessive husband and jealous of Cathy's relationship with Paul and Chris. He abuses her, cheats on her, and forbids her from seeing Paul or Chris. She must even sneak off to see Chris graduate from medical school. When she returns to Julian, they argue and he breaks her toes so she can't perform. Rushing to her rescue, Chris wants to take her away, but she has found out she's pregnant and realized she does love Julian and wants to make their marriage and family life work, although both Paul and Chris insist she must get away for her own safety. Soon Cathy gets a phone call; Julian has been seriously injured in a car accident. At the hospital she learns he's paralyzed, at least temporarily. She tells him she loves him and tells him about the baby, but he commits suicide in the hospital, believing he will never dance again. Though guilt-ridden—and a single-mother-to-be—Cathy is free.

After Cathy gives birth to Julian Janus "Jory" Marquet, she becomes more determined to destroy her own mother's life. She packs up Carrie and Jory and they move to Virginia, not far from Foxworth Hall. Under the guise of collecting Julian's insurance, she hires Bartholomew Winslow—her mother's second husband—as her lawyer. She intends to seduce him and eventually reveal her true identity as his wife Corrine's daughter.

Meanwhile, Carrie meets a young man named Alex and enjoys a sweet courtship—until he says he plans to be a minister. Frightened, remembering her grandmother Olivia's rants about the children being the "Devil's spawn," she purchases powdered doughnuts and arsenic and attempts to reunite with Cory. In the hospital, Cathy tells Carrie that Alex won't be a minister if it bothers her so much, but Carrie has another reason for attempting suicide: she saw Corrine on the street and ran up to her, and her mother's angry rejection of her further convinced her that she must be unworthy. After Carrie dies, devastated Cathy becomes even more intent on wreaking revenge on her mother, and soon comes up with a plan to blackmail her along with stealing her handsome young husband Bart.

When Chris finds out about Cathy's plan, he gives her an ultimatum: she must give up the plan or he'll have nothing more to do with her. Cathy refuses to listen and continues her plan. Though initially focused solely on revenge, she falls in love with Bart, and it's mutual. One day she sneaks into Foxworth Hall and locates her grandmother, who has suffered a stroke and become an invalid. Cathy taunts and lashes her grandmother, pouring out her rage about Cory and Carrie in particular, but eventually she feels guilty and flees from the mansion. The next time she and Bart get together, he reports that "someone" attacked his invalid mother-in-law. Cathy and Bart continue their affair and she realizes she is pregnant by Bart. She believes this will be a crushing blow to Corrine: according to her father's will, she must forfeit her vast inheritance if she ever has children. Bart is torn between his desire to stay married to Corrine and his wish to be a father. He does manage to put an end to Cathy sending blackmail letters to Corrine, though.

Cathy returns to Foxworth Hall on Christmas Eve, all dressed up for the Foxworth Christmas Ball in a replica of the gown Corrine had worn to the Christmas party Cathy and Chris had spied on, and seen her with Bart Winslow. She visits the room where she and her siblings were locked away: it remains untouched. At the stroke of midnight she appears in the ballroom and exposes the truth to Bart and the party guests. Bart whisks Cathy and Corrine away to the library—where Grandmother Olivia is seated—where at first he thinks Cathy is lying, but once he's heard Cathy's whole story, he confronts Corrine, who exposes her side of the story, claiming to be the victim because her father had known he had grandchildren, he knew they were hidden in his home, and he wanted them to die in captivity. Corrine claims that she had given the children the arsenic to make them sick gradually so she could sneak them out one by one, and when they were safe she could tell her parents they had died in the hospital. Cathy doesn't believe her and Bart is visibly disgusted. Cathy demands to know what happened to Cory's body because there were no death certificates issued for a boy his age the month he died. Corrine says she stashed the body in a ravine, but Cathy claims she found a small room that gave off a strange musty smell, and accuses her of stashing Cory's body there. Corrine stares at her in shocked, silent horror; when Chris suddenly bursts into the library, Corrine sees him as the ghost of his father, her first husband. She suffers a mental breakdown and sets fire to Foxworth Hall. She, Chris, and Cathy escape, but Bart and Olivia are trapped and die in the fire. Corrine is committed to a mental institution, and in a twist of fate, the inheritance Corrine had to forfeit had reverted to her mother, whose own will stated that her daughter was to receive everything.

Chris drags Cathy from Foxworth Hall, urging her that they must get to Henny and Paul: Henny had a massive stroke, and while trying to help her, Paul suffered a massive heart attack. Cathy returns to Paul, marries him, and when she gives birth to a second son, she names him Bart after his father. But Paul dies when Bart Jr. is still quite young; on his deathbed he encourages Cathy to be with Chris, who has waited for and loved her for all these years. Realizing that he was the right one for her all along and that she still loves him, she agrees. She and Chris move to California with the two boys and they live as the Sheffield family. Cathy secretly dreads what will happen if their secret is exposed, and she ends the book stating that she has been having strange thoughts about the attic in their house, claiming she has put two twin beds up there.


  • Julian Marquet: Cathy's first husband. He is a talented ballet dancer. He is very cruel to Cathy; he physically abuses her, is unfaithful, and forbids her to see Chris and Paul. He is injured in a car accident with Yolanda and loses his ability to dance. Despite that Cathy was pregnant with his child, he committs suicide after learning he will never dance again.
  • Julian "Jory" Janus Marquet: Cathy's first son, fathered by Julian. He is Cathy's pride and joy, due to his brilliant dance skills and beauty. He resembles his father but is more kind and gentle like Chris. He has his father's fierce temper but he is never violent and loves Chris as his father.
  • Yolanda Lange: Cathy's room mate at the Ballet Academy and her rival for both Chris and Julian. She and Cathy hate each other deeply. Cathy, who feels Chris is too good for Yolanda, is disgusted that Chris and Yolanda are lovers but does not care when Julian and Yolanda become lovers. She is killed in the car crash which paralyzes Julian.
  • Paul Sheffield: A doctor who lives in Clairmont. He becomes the legal guardian of the Dollanganger children. He provides means for Chris to go to medical school, Cathy to ballet school, and Carrie an expensive private school. He marries Cathy towards the end of the book and, after having suffered prior heart attacks, dies peacefully in his sleep a few years later.
  • Amanda Sheffield (Biddens): Paul's older sister. She is a scheming liar who disapproves of Paul's engagement to Cathy because of their age difference. To break them up, she tells Cathy that Paul's first wife is still alive. She further claims Cathy's D&C procedure aborted the two-headed monster embryo in a jar sitting on Paul's desk. Considering Amanda's age in this book, she is likely dead by now.
  • Julia Sheffield: Paul's first wife and the mother of their son Scotty. She was frigid and withheld sex from Paul yet demanded fidelity from him. To punish Paul for having an affair, Julia murdered Scotty by drowning him in a river. She attempted to drown herself too but was taken to the hospital in a coma and died later on.
  • Scotty Sheffield: Dead son of Paul and Julia; murdered by Julia.
  • Bart Sheffield: Cathy's second son, this one being fathered by Cathy's stepfather Bart Winslow. He envies his older brother Jory, whom Cathy seems to prefer. He grows up believing Paul was his father until the truth comes out in If There Be Thorns. He is a curious, precocious child who notices he does not look like Paul and wonders why he has no interest in becoming a doctor.
  • Henrietta "Henny" Beech: A housemaid to Dr. Sheffield who helps Chris and Cathy when Carrie is ill. She is able to hear but not speak and communicates in written messages. Her personality is nurturing and motherly. She is a good cook and has a weight problem which contributes to her death from a stroke.
  • Theodore Alexander "Alex" Rockingham: Carrie's fiancé. He planned on becoming a minister but tells Cathy that he would remain an electrician to save Carrie's life: "To me she was a dainty doll who didn't know she was beautiful. And if God lets her die I will never in this life find my credence again!"
  • April Summers: Cathy's second roommate. She becomes instant friends with Cathy.
  • Sissy Towers: Carrie's roommate at her elementary school. She, along with other girls, torment her. As revealed by Carrie, she drowned when she was twelve.


The book was adapted into a television film of the same name in 2014. Unlike the book, the film jumped 10 years ahead from the events of Flowers.[1][2] It starred Rose McIver as Cathy, Wyatt Nash as Christopher, replacing Kiernan Shipka and Mason Dye from the previous movie, respectively, and Will Kemp as Julian Marquet, with Heather Graham as Corrine and Ellen Burstyn as Olivia Foxworth. Production for the film began on February 25, 2014, in Los Angeles.[3] The film premiered on May 26, 2014, on Lifetime.[4]



  1. ^ Lifetime developing ‘Flowers in the Attic’ sequel
  2. ^ Flowers in the Attic’ sequel scoop: Who’s in, who’s out
  3. ^ ‘Flowers in the Attic’ sequel casts Cathy’s abusive lover — EXCLUSIVE
  4. ^ Lifetime to Premiere 'Petals On The Wind' on Memorial Day