Web of Dreams
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|Author||V. C. Andrews|
|Cover artist||Richard Newton|
|Series||The Casteel Series|
|Genre||Gothic horror/family saga|
|Preceded by||Gates of Paradise|
Web of Dreams was written in 1990 by V. C. Andrews ghostwriter Andrew Neiderman. It is the fifth and final novel in The Casteel Series, and serves as a prequel to Heaven. Told primarily from the viewpoint of Heaven Casteel's mother, Leigh VanVoreen, the novel explains her secrets and circumstances as a 13-year-old girl who was forced to flee her wealthy Boston home, resulting in her dying in childbirth and leaving her daughter Heaven to be raised motherless in the hills of the West Virginia mountains.
The novel opens with Annie Casteel Stonewall returning to Farthinggale Manor for the funeral of her father, Troy Tatterton. Annie, hoping to finally put the past to rest alongside her mother Heaven, feels drawn to the suite that used to be occupied by her great-grandmother, Jillian. Annie soon discovers a forgotten diary hidden away in a back drawer in Jillian's suite. The diary was written by Leigh VanVoreen, Annie's grandmother and Heaven's mother. Surprised by the discovery, Annie begins to read the tragic story of Leigh.
In 1950, a 12-year-old Leigh VanVoreen was the beloved daughter of cruise-ship magnate Cleave VanVoreen and his beautiful Boston socialite wife Jillian. Leigh's life was happy until her mother left her father for the much younger Tony Tatterton, the handsome and wealthy owner of Tatterton Toys. When Jillian married Tony, she and Leigh moved into Tony's estate, Farthinggale Manor. Leigh's only friend on the estate was Troy Tatterton, Tony's 4-year-old brother, and they spent a lot of time together. Eventually, Leigh was placed in an exclusive private school for girls.
During her summer vacation, Leigh served as the model for what would be a new line of toys for Tatterton Toys: a portrait doll. During the portrait-doll modeling sessions, Tony had Leigh model nude and started making advances towards her, as Jillian had stopped sleeping with him. Leigh went to Cleave to ask for help, but he had remarried and was too busy with his new life to listen to her problems. Leigh told Jillian what was happening, but Jillian told her she was being silly and that it was nothing.
After the doll was complete, it was presented to Leigh on her birthday. Tony raped Leigh one night while Jillian was away, when she was about to go asleep. Leigh tried to call her close friend and tell her about this but was too ashamed. The next morning Tony acted like nothing had happened but Leigh refused to trust him. Leigh didn't want to stay in her room where the attack had happened, so she hid in Jillian's room with the door locked. It turned out Tony also had a key to the door and attacked her again: when Leigh tried to scare him off by saying she'd tell Jillian, he told her Jillian wanted him to have sex with her, and then raped her again. When Jillian came home, Leigh tried to tell Jillian that Tony raped her, but Jillian didn't believe her. She accused Leigh of lying, saying that Tony had told her Leigh was the one making sexual advances during the modeling sessions and that she had tried to get Tony to have sex with her. Leigh was shocked and saddened by her mother's decision to believe Tony over her own daughter.
After a few weeks, Leigh discovered she was pregnant by Tony and confronted her mother. Jillian, convinced that Leigh had seduced Tony on purpose, called her a slut for "going all the way". It was then that Leigh realized Tony was right about her mother. Disgusted, Leigh told her mother that she knew Jillian wasn't a virgin before she married and that she had essentially pimped her own daughter out to Tony to avoid having sex with him. After the fight, Leigh stole some of Tony's money that he kept in a strongbox and fled Farthinggale Manor with a few meagre possessions and her portrait doll.
Leigh decided to go live with her grandmother Jana in Texas. After leaving Boston, she purchased a train ticket in Atlanta, but missed her connection and was stranded. A stranger named Luke Casteel cheered her up. After he inquired about Leigh's portrait doll, she admitted that it was indeed modeled after her, and that she had named it Angel. Luke told her that 'Angel' was a better name for her than Leigh. He then proceeded to refer to Leigh as Angel after that. Leigh confided in him about the circumstances of her pregnancy and her tragic story and he drove her to a motel so she could rest. He then returned with some food for her, and when Leigh asked him to stay because she had never been in a motel room alone, he agreed. When she woke up in the middle of the night, Luke was instantly at her side, reassuring her that he'd always protect her. He then told her that he had fallen in love with her and wanted to be the father of her baby. Assuming she dreamt this, Leigh went back to sleep. After waking up in Luke's arms, she asked him about it. He passionately talked about his plans for the future if the two of them were together and Leigh fell more and more in love with him.
Although they had only known each other for one day, they got married and returned to Luke's West Virginia mountain home, where her young age was not so unusual. After meeting Luke's parents, Annie and Toby, Leigh worked hard around the shack and ignored the stares of the local townsfolk. For his part, Luke was madly in love with her and had plans to build a house in town for her and the baby. Whenever Luke would drink, Leigh would fear for his health and tell him off, which he liked because she put him straight. He promised to make her happy because she was the love of his life.
Leigh's diary ends when she starts experiencing labor pains while out for a walk with Luke. She writes about how they went up the mountain and how Luke talked about their plans for the future. He told her that she was his one and only and that no man could ever love any woman more than he loved her. She responded by kissing him and asking him to go back to the cabin with her so he could hold her. As they walk back, Leigh records that she stopped and stared at the stars, telling Luke that when she went to sleep tonight she wanted to feel like she was going to sleep in heaven. These are the last words in the journal, ironic because the reader/Annie knows that Leigh does go to sleep 'in heaven', due to her death in childbirth, and that it is this death which turns Luke into the heartless man he is in Heaven.
In the present, Annie finds a note from a private investigator Tony hired, stating that he had found out Leigh died in childbirth due to inadequate medical care. The note also states that the child survived and that it was a girl. The implication is that both Tony and Jillian knew about Heaven long before she came to Farthinggale, but decided to let her grow up in poverty rather than face what they had done to Leigh. Saddened by what she has read, Annie puts the journal back in the drawer as she hears Luke calling her name. She goes to him and they leave Farthinggale to its ghosts.
Interesting to note is that it is never stated how Leigh's diary was returned to Farthinggale. It is not mentioned in any of the other Casteel books; it is not mentioned as being among the possessions Heaven inherited from Leigh. The diary is also written in past tense, rather than in present, thus implying that Leigh completed a long "entry" while she was in labor and/or shortly before her death. The presence of the note from the detective in the diary possibly negates the whole question of whether Tony knew he was Heaven Casteel's father - due to the timeline, he must have realized it was likely (although Heaven lied about the year of her birth, making herself one year younger). Additionally, in "Dark Angel", Heaven tells Tony and Jillian that her mother had only recently died, and they seem to take this as absolute fact. In that novel, Tony reacts with shock when he finally hears that Leigh died in childbirth at 14, and only then attempts to break off the romance between Heaven and Troy (as they are niece and uncle). "Web of Dreams" raises many questions about the consistency of the storytelling details and the timelines.