Ruby, V.C. Andrews (1994)

Fifteen-year-old Ruby Landry, whose mother died when she was born and with no clue as to who her father is, lives a simple life with her maternal grandmother in a house on the bayou in Louisiana. They make just enough to live selling handmade crafts to tourists. Grandmere Catherine is also a healing woman, called upon by Cajun neighbors to treat maladies and injuries with her folk medicine, usually paid for with food or other useful items. Ruby, a talented and aspiring artist, occasionally sells one of her nature-themed paintings.

Ruby has a boyfriend, Paul Tate, who hails from a moneyed family, but upon a revelation from her grandmother, Ruby ends the relationship. As her grandmother’s health begins to fade, Ruby learns some startling truths about her family. Her father, Pierre Dumas, is a rich Creole in New Orleans, and she has a twin sister who was sold to him by her no-good, drunk, swamp rat grandfather. Grandmere Catherine extracts a promise from Ruby that she’ll seek out her father after she dies. Not long after, Grandma shuffles off her mortal coil, and Ruby heads to the city, escaping her vile grandfather and his loathsome plan to marry her off to a man twice her age.

Once in New Orleans, Ruby easily finds her father, who just as easily welcomes her with open arms. Her step-mother, a snobby socialite cunt, and her sister, a raging spoiled bitch, go out of their way to make the prodigal daughter’s life miserable, including a prank in which Ruby is photographed naked by some boys from school, and being admitted to a psychiatric hospital as a nymphomaniac. There’s a not-right-in-the-head uncle, and daddy Pierre is not only manic depressive (or as wife Daphne puts it, ‘suffers from melancholia’), he allows himself to be browbeaten by his domineering wife. She’s got plans to commit hubby, too. What a gal. Where’s Vera from Audrina to push a bitch or two down the stairs?

Ruby is the first of five novels in what’s known as the Landry series, and despite bearing the V.C. Andrews name, none were written by her, but rather, hired ghostwriter Andrew Neiderman. Not expecting high literature, it’s not a bad read. The beginning is a bit slow moving and could have been shorter without sacrificing anything important. Ruby comes across as a smart, caring, likable girl who’s happy living her simple life with her loving grandmother. I admit to speed reading portions, usually overly long descriptive paragraphs of the bayou or things meant to build suspense that last two pages too long because what was about to happen was telegraphed ahead of time (mental hospital). I also skim over episodes of teenage lust, sexual stirrings, and teen hearts going pit-a-pat while other parts quiver and throb because it’s usually pretty silly and meant to titillate tweens and teens.

Unlike the previous Andrews book I read and hated (actually written by her, might I add), this one had characters I liked. The grandmother, and one-time boyfriend (and full-time half-brother), Paul. I like Edgar and Nina, two of the servants in the Dumas house, and my curiosity is piqued about both institutionalized Uncle Jean and the elusive gallery owner Dominique LeGrand, who made an appearance early in the book and who I’m sure will show up again. Ruby does need to toughen up though, if she wants to be the victorious mongoose in a pit of vipers. She does exhibit some gumption from time to time, but then she loses her resolve and becomes a gullible dolt again. It’s a bit frustrating.

V.C. Andrews books, written by her or not, are what they are; melodramatic soap-operas in print form, the better ones good for wintry nights, rainy days, and lazy summer weekends. This was one of the better ones, and I’ll be continuing the series. *** out of 5

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