So hey, I’m back! And this is the very first of two new Sweet Valley “series.” It’s the first of the Magna Editions, these big-ass books that typically had well over 300 pages and fancy stepback cover illustrations and shit like that. But it’s also the first of a brand new set called Sweet Valley Saga, which I originally thought was a whole new series a la Sweet Valley Twins or Sweet Valley Kids. Instead, the Saga series is meant to tie-in to the regularly scheduled SVH books. The Sagas track the family lineage of the Wakefield twins and that of the Patman and Fowler families.
Wow, so now that I feel like one of those old hosts on the classic movie channel, I’ll swivel back around to the fire in my upholstered chair, and let the story begin.
1866. Alice Larson, an orphan, travels to New York from Sweden at 16. Everything important happens at 16, right? When the ship hits rough waters “somewhere in the Atlantic”, a little boy runs from his mother to look and falls overboard. Alice dives in after him with a life preserver, and then a young Englishman named Theodore Wakefield rescues both of them. Alice and Theodore spend the rest of the voyage falling in love. Theodore whittles Alice a rose out of a piece of lumber he found onboard. (The rose shows up again in a Sweet Valley Twins story!) They have a “date” at the dining hall, for which Alice’s friends dress her up. Theodore takes them to eat outside and imagines out loud that their gross porridge and hard tack are seafood bisque and steak. He makes Alice laugh even though she can barely understand him, and she slowly improves her English. When they dock in NY, Theodore wants to have the ship’s captain marry them, but Alice says they should wait to marry once they’ve gotten settled in the New World. They set a place to meet up after they are finished going through immigration. Apart from Alice, Theodore is told he might have typhus and is packed off to quarantine. From a distance, he sees Alice waiting for him at their spot, but can’t catch her attention before he’s sent away to the hospital. So Alice waits and waits. Her Uncle Par and Aunt Elisabeth come to pick her up and they all return every day for a week to check for Theodore. Finally her family tells her he has clearly deserted her, and refuse to keep waiting around. Alice and her broken heart head for St. Paul, Minnesota with her aunt, uncle, and two little cousins, Helga and Anika.
1877. Alice is now married to a George Johnson and living in Prairie Lakes, Minnesota. She gives birth to twin girls, Elisabeth and Jessamyn. Elisabeth has a mole on her left shoulder which is how you can tell the twins apart. Oh, lord, hereditary moles. We learn Alice and George previously had a son named Steven who died of scarlet fever as a baby. Alice thinks of Theodore Wakefield and hopes he’s as happy as she is.
1884. Elisabeth and Jessamyn are now seven years old. Jessamyn is a “headstrong frontier tomboy” who dreams of joining the circus, while Elisabeth is a boring pushover who does all the chores Jessamyn leaves her with. Gee, does that sound familiar? Jessamyn disappears at yearly family circus outing for a while to hang out with the bareback riding lady and momentarily scares the shit out of her family. After they find her, Jessamyn tells her mother that there’s an animal “talker” there who goes by “the Magnificent Theo W.” Alice flips out thinking it might be her first love and steals away to the circus to find out, only to see it has already packed up and left town.
1893. Now 16, the twins attend a corn-husking bee with their family and friends. There’s a set of bully brothers named Billy and Bobby Tyrus and Bobby makes fun of Jessamyn for liking “boyish” stuff like bicycles and baseball. She tells him off. Elisabeth gets jealous when she thinks Jessamyn is flirting with her crush, Tom Wilkens. Tom Wilkens? Really? You mean to tell me the twins’ love stories are hereditary too? What? Jessamyn also pisses off Alycia Germond by flirting with her love interest Tad Schmidt. Then Tom finds a red ear of corn; the tradition is that he can kiss the girl of his choice. He chooses Elisabeth and she floats on air. Jessamyn is momentarily annoyed but goes back to flashing her ankles at Carl Bergen and Tad, or however people flirted back then, I don’t know.
Jessamyn has also been taking bareback riding lessons from an old Native American named Peter Blue Cloud, on his horse Smoke Signal. Peter Blue Cloud shares a lot of his people’s history and legends with Jessamyn and she genuinely likes hearing them. She is the one person who seems to bring him any sunshine in life; they make great friends. I think it’s pretty cool that Jessamyn’s character is a lot less shallow than modern-day Jessica. In fact, she’s my favorite character in this whole book. But don’t worry, we can’t have Elisabeth not looking like a do-gooder. She has her own elderly man friend, a former slave named Matthew whom ‘Lis is teaching to read.
When the circus comes back that summer, Jessamyn dresses as a boy so she can either access the circus more easily or volunteer to work in exchange for free daily tickets. The new bareback riding lady tells Jessamyn she is a natural and offers to get her a job, so Jessamyn runs away with the circus, leaving a note behind. Elisabeth is devastated; Matthew says that this is Jessamyn’s chance to make a new life for herself. Tom continues to court Elisabeth and comfort her. Elisabeth slowly starts acting a bit more like Jess to feel closer to her, taking horsey lessons from Peter and sneaking rancid old cheese into Bobby Tyrus’ dinner pail to fuck with him the way Jess used to.
When Elisabeth hears that Peter Blue Cloud is dying, she asks her parents if she can find Jessamyn and bring her back, because Peter really wants to see her one last time. Her parents refuse, so Elisabeth sneaks off herself. She stows away on trains until she finds Jessamyn’s compartment. Jess is doing great and is the star of the show now and caught between twin trapeze artists, Mario and Dario Morrelli. The twins decide to return to Prairie Lakes after Jessamyn’s next performance so that Jessamyn can tell Peter goodbye. Elisabeth is wowed by the flips Jess does on the horse, Goldilocks, and Jessamyn agrees to let her try out a ride. But Elisabeth gets reckless and goes too fast, and Goldilocks throws her. Elisabeth is killed instantly. Damn you horse!
Needless to say, Jessamyn is devastated. She quits the circus and returns home. She’s too late for Peter Blue Cloud; he died the same day Elisabeth did. 😦
1900. Jessamyn is now a hostess at a hotel in San Francisco, California and actively courted by hordes of wealthy male guests, none of whom she really gives a damn about. She turns down tons of marriage proposals and thinks sadly about how she hasn’t known any real joy since her sister died.
1905. Taylor Watson of Watson Motor Company is the first man Jessamyn has ever been serious about. She feels comfortable with him, but isn’t sure she loves him. He asks her to marry him and she holds off on an answer, but wears the ring anyway. Then Taylor introduces her to his top Watson Motors race car driver Bruce Farber, and lust blossoms!
1906. Jessamyn is now having a passionate affair with Bruce Farber while still “engaged” to Taylor. On a hilltop overlooking San Fran, Bruce and Jessamyn are having a picnic and Bruce is pressuring Jessamyn to take off her ring. He wants Jess to finally tell Taylor that she’s going to marry Bruce instead, but Jessamyn is still hesitating. She knows that if Elisabeth were here, she’d tell Jess she should stop stalling and marry Taylor and tell Bruce to fuck off. But instead, Bruce seduces Jessamyn on the hilltop. No, for real, it’s definitely implied that they have sex up there. It’s always a Bruce that inspires the closest we get to sex scenes in Sweet Valley, isn’t it?
Then the San Francisco Earthquake hits and wakes our lovers up from their post-coital slumber on the picnic blanket. Jessamyn sees the city on fire and insists that Bruce drive her back down there in his Model E (get it? Like Model T? haha) so that she can check on her hotel guests and Taylor. Bruce refuses, because he is a big asshole and doesn’t want to help his rival. What a dick! Jessamyn promises to be his forever in order to get him to help her guests. They find the hotel split open and fire rapidly approaching, and an elderly lady guest named Mrs. Burnham trapped inside. Jessamyn begs Bruce to rescue the woman, but it takes her insinuating he is a coward to make him do it. When he heads in, Taylor Watson shows up and is saddened to see that Jessamyn was with Bruce, but he rushes to help Bruce pull a bed off the trapped woman without hesitation. The old woman is saved, but Bruce doesn’t make it out of the burning building with them. Taylor rushes back to save him, almost losing his own life in the process. Taylor and Bruce make it out alive thanks to Taylor. Jessamyn realizes she’s in love with Taylor and rushes to tell him so, much to Bruce’s utter shock and disapproval.
1908. Jessamyn and Taylor live in Detroit, where they have a one-year-old son named Harry and infant twin girls, Amanda and Samantha. More twins!
1920. Amanda is like Elizabeth Wakefield and Samantha is like Jessica Wakefield. One wants to be a writer and the other wants to be a movie star. Prohibition is in full effect and the twins argue over whether or not people are “supposed” to drink. Amanda gets mad at Samantha for gossiping their neighbor Elise DeCecco drank every day while waiting for her boyfriend to return from the Great War. Wow, Amanda is definitely exactly what a 1920s Liz would be like.
1925-26. Amanda is seriously dating the popular Geoffrey Aiken. (Geoffrey = Jeffrey?) Samantha has fallen in love with a hot picture of Harry’s college buddy, Ted Wakefield and can’t wait to meet him and make him hers when he visits at Christmas. The girls go to a local club where Samantha dances with Scott Turner while her ex-boy toy, sleazy speakeasy-goin’ boy Kevin Hughes, mopes around that she doesn’t want him anymore. Then Ted comes to visit with Harry. He’s a writer and needless to say, that’s all the excuse Amanda needs to fall for him. Ted fascinates everyone with his manly manliness and stories of how his grandfather, Theo W. (yes that one) struck gold in Colorado after he left the circus. One night, Ted finds Amanda writing poetry after everyone else is asleep. He gets her to read him some of her poetry, they make out, and Amanda feels horribly guilty because she knows Samantha is still after Ted, so she doesn’t tell her. So Sam continues to make a fool out of herself pursuing Ted, and doesn’t seem to realize he isn’t returning her feelings.
After Ted and Harry go back to school, Amanda breaks up with Geoffrey and returns his ring. Ted starts writing to Amanda every day. Amanda always grabs the letters before anyone else in the family can see them, and keeps telling herself that she’ll let Samantha know the truth, but squanders every opportunity she has to do so. She lies and tells Ted that she has told Samantha. Can you tell how this is ultimately going to go down?
Yes, Samantha one day gets home from school unexpectedly early, sees one of Ted’s letters to Amanda, and steams it open and reads it. Then she finds the rest of the letters where Amanda has hidden them under the mattress. Man, is she PISSED. Sam starts burning future Ted letters that Amanda receives, including ones that mention he’s going to visit again with Harry for spring break. Ted thinks Amanda doesn’t love him anymore or something, but goes ahead and shows up for the visit anyway. He is confused to find Samantha, not Amanda, waiting for him. Samantha has already taken the liberty of trashing the school newspaper office so that Amanda has to stay behind and clean it, so that Sam can get to Ted first. Samantha gets Ted to take her out in his car by saying she’ll show him the way to the high school so they can pick up Amanda; instead she redirects him to a secluded bluff and throws herself at him. Ted pushes her away and Samantha stalks out of the car and off down the road by herself. She heads straight to a speakeasy called the Cellar Door where she convinces her sleazy ex Kevin to help her bring down Ted and get back at Amanda. And what a nasty plan it is: Kevin plants a shitload of bathtub gin or whatever in the trunk of Ted’s car. Then Samantha goes and gets Ted out of bed in the middle of the night, posing as Amanda, and telling him a friend of his is in trouble and needs him down at the Cafe Car. So Ted and Samantha drive over there and the police pull them over as Samantha has advised them Ted is planning to make an illegal delivery. The police tell Ted that Amanda told them he was coming, Ted thinks she planted the liquor, and the fake “Amanda” says she did it because she thinks Ted made a pass at Samantha.
Wow, Samantha is kind of a loon.
Ted is hauled off to jail thinking that the girl he loves is a horrible double-crossing bitch. I can’t believe the idea that it might’ve been his true love’s twin sister plotting all this never once crossed his mind, especially after the erratic way she behaved just the day before!
The next day, Amanda hears what happened to Ted and goes to the police office, where she’s told he was released for “lack of evidence” (what? how is liquor in the trunk not evidence enough?) and that he complained his girlfriend had tricked him. Amanda realizes what happened and she and Sam have a horrible fight about it. Sam tries to get Amanda to forgive her, but Amanda is not as wimpy as Liz, and she refuses. The twins stop talking to each other and then Sam takes off for Hollywood after they graduate from high school. A few months later, she’s married to a Jack Lewis and starring in a new movie. Amanda refuses to go to the wedding or speak to her sister ever again. She’s also unable to track down Ted and tell him the truth.
1927. Amanda races back to Hollywood to finally reconcile with her sister after she hears she’s about to die from childbirth complications. Amanda promises Samantha that she will look after her daughter, Marjorie, with Jack. Samantha dies a minute or two later.
1935. Amanda is now a high school teacher in Sweet Valley. Jack, meanwhile, moves to France after he lands a good job there, allowing him to escape the Great Depression. He takes Marjorie with him.
1939. Marjorie misses her aunt, but is loving life in Val-le-Doux, France. Val-le-Doux? That roughly translates to Sweet Valley. Come on, let’s get a bit more creative here. Also, we learn that back home, one of Amanda’s students is a class clown named Walter Egbert.
1940. Marjorie and her father navigate Val-le-Doux around all the Nazi Germany soldiers who have occupied it. Marjorie doesn’t approve of the close friendship of her father and beautiful Frenchwoman Mademoiselle Pinget, even though her dad assures her they are just friends.
1941. Jack decides it’s too dangerous for Marjorie to continue living in France and makes arrangements to send her back to the U.S. to live with Amanda. Marjorie tearfully bids her best friend Marthe Giradoux goodbye. But then the United States enters World War II and Marjorie and her father, as Americans, are now enemies of the German-occupied France. The Nazis come and arrest her father while Marjorie is out one day. Mlle. Pinget and her friend, Monsieur Bourget, put Marjorie into hiding; it turns out they are members of the French Resistance. Marjorie stays in a wine cellar with a younger, Jewish girl, Sophy Berg, who tells her about her handsome older brother, Jacques. Marjorie realizes her father is also a member of the Resistance and that’s why he and Mlle. Pinget were so close. (They couldn’t also be lovers?) She feels proud of him.
1942. Jacques reunites with Sophy in the girls’ farmhouse hideaway, and invites Marjorie to become a member of the Resistance by transmitting Morse code messages in English and French to help their mission. Marjorie is excited to take up the task, but it means she must leave Sophy behind and constantly be on the move. Jacques helps her out, and it’s not long before he and Marjorie fall in love. While operating the radio, Marjorie receives an incoming message which says Sophy has been discovered and arrested by the Nazis, who are actively looking for Marjorie as well in the hopes that her capture will force her father to cooperate. The messages state that Marjorie’s dad is believed to have deliberately been turned over to the POW camp in order to work from the inside. That knowledge inspires Marjorie to draft a drastic plan to save Sophy. Jacques talks to a former classmate of his, Pierre Trichet, who collaborates with the Germans sometimes. Jacques convinces Pierre to offer the Germans Marjorie in exchange for Sophy. Jacques will bring Marjorie to a nearby train station and hand her over after Pierre releases Sophy. Sophy will not be allowed to stay in France, but will be given false papers and put on the train to Spain to start a new life. After Sophy gets on the train, Marjorie will flee from Pierre after a disguised Resistance fighter “accidentally” rams a cart into Pierre and knocks him over. Marjorie and Jacques will dash onto the train as it pulls away and leap off at a pre-arranged point to meet with more Resistance fighters and continue their work.
The plan appears to go well at first until the part where Marjorie and Jacques flee from Pierre. Swarms of Nazis fill the station and a gunbattle erupts between them and hordes of hidden French Resistance fighters. As the train carries Marjorie away to safety, she sees Jacques gunned down.
Damn, is no one allowed to find happiness with their first true love in this book?
On board the train, Marjorie meets with Sophy and they embrace and cry. Marjorie plans to leap off the train at a pre-arranged point to meet with more Resistance fighters and continue her mission, but Sophy thinks it’s time for her to fulfill Marjorie’s work while Marjorie returns to her home country. Marjorie insists that Sophy be the one to find freedom with the papers, but Sophy locks her inside their compartment, slides her papers under the door for Marjorie to use to find freedom, and then throws herself off the train to stay and fight in her home country.
1949. Home in Sweet Valley, Sophy marries Charles Robertson, an airman shot down over Val-le-Doux whom the Resistance helped rescue. At the wedding, Uncle Harry is there with his wife Stephanie and their sons, Peter and Stevie. No sign of old Ted though!
1962. Marjorie’s daughters Nancy, Alice, and Laura watch the first moon landing and make family trees.
Late 1960s. Alice Robertson attends the College of Southern California where she dresses like a hippie and joins in protests. Rich Hank Patman pursues her but she thinks he’s a ridiculous snob. But then the students hold a sit-in to protest the firing of a professor who was “too vocal” about the cause of civil rights. The administration attempts to starve the students out by cutting off deliveries from the building, but Hank saves the day by flying his helicopter over top the building and dropping food onto the roof while making an announcement over a bullhorn. The students eat and stay and the professor’s job is reinstated, and Alice falls for Hank. They date pretty seriously and eventually get engaged later that semester. At a beach party, Alice catches Hank walking off with a girl named Brenda and they have a fight. Alice swims off in the ocean in a rage, gets caught in an undertow, and is saved from drowning by handsome law student Ned Wakefield. It’s literally a re-do of Theo Wakefield saving Alice Larson after she fell off the ship. No, for real: even the text of the two incidents is the exact same with perhaps an extra sentence thrown in. It’s fate! Alice and Ned aren’t sure why, but they are instantly drawn to one another. Still, Alice turns Ned down when he eventually asks her out, explaining that she’s engaged. The day of the wedding, Alice and her sisters overhear Hank and his friends making fun of the causes Alice values and the hippie clothes Hank had to wear to convince her he was serious. Alice tells Hank she’s leaving him and he only seems to be upset about it because it will shame his family. He kicks her off the Patman property in a rage. She walks all the way to a pay phone, finds Ned’s home address in the attached phone book, and walks to his house where they embrace. At long last, the spirit of Alice Larson can rest as the Larson line and the Wakefield line are finally united … I guess. It’s destiny, or something.
“A number of years later.” The Wakefield twins are born with golden halos over their heads and an operatic chorus singing arias in the background
This cover is awesome. It is the first one that wasn’t done by the usual cover artist, James Mathewuse. I don’t know why. Franco Accornero did this one. So let’s check it out … here’s the full stepback …. (click to enlarge)
To the left, we have Theodore and Alice embracing on the dock, with Alice and Hank zooming around in his Mustang right below them. Then there’s a mountain range with a steam locomotive, and Jessamyn on a horse in front of it. The horse matches the description of Smoke Signal, not Goldilocks, but Jess is not riding him bareback, so I’m confused. Also, I don’t know if the train is supposed to be the one that Elisabeth catches to find Jessamyn or the one that Marjorie and Sophy escape on, but I’m guessing the former since it looks like the horse bit is supposed to be part of it. And then finally we have Samantha sashaying around in her flapper outfit while Ted looks on.
The identities of the ladies going down the righthand side has always confused me a bit. I think the top lady is Alice Larson, all dressed up by her friends on the boat with pearls and makeup for her first date with Theodore Wakefield. Then we have Elisabeth all prim and proper in her bonnet. Next, well, I guess that’s Alice Robertson, looking all feisty and protest-ready. I would say that’s Liz, but I don’t see any barrettes! And lastly, we have Jessica with the Aqua Net going on. Seriously, no Marjorie anywhere on this cover?
WTF? So yes, I genuinely liked this book. I do like historical sagas, but I thought this one was very well-done. (Of course, I did read it right after Sweet Valley Confidential, so consider the post-recovery factor from that piece of shit.) It was a super easy read, but it didn’t bore me at all. Okay, maybe Alice’s story started to make me nod off after a while. Can you blame me? It was hard to go from tales of war bravery and crazy speakeasy schemes to Alice fucking fretting over Ned.
I like the title; The Wakefields of Sweet Valley sounds appropriate for a saga. Yet it’s not really about the Wakefields until the last chapter, and the two Wakefield men that appear prior to Ned aren’t in Sweet Valley.
The font in this book is HUGE. If they made it the regular-sized font, they probably could’ve shaved off at least a good 50 pages.
Continuity police: I believe there are now three different versions of how Ned and Alice met – the one in this book, one in an earlier Sweet Valley High book, and one in a Sweet Valley Twins book (Jumping to Conclusions).
So, we learned about Alice’s sisters. We know that Laura went on to marry shitty Greg Bates and have Kelly Bates. So the other cousin, Jenny Townsend (in Taking Sides) must be Nancy’s daughter.
The Super Edition Spring Fever said that Uncle Herman and Aunt Shirley were Alice’s aunt and uncle. Okay, so due to the last name situation, we can guess that Shirley is either Marjorie’s half-sister (if Jack remarried), or Charles’ sister, who married a Herman Walker.
That leaves us with Cousin Rexy (who died) and Cousin Robin (from Sweet Valley Twins), neither of whom is mentioned; I can only assume these are children of Ned’s siblings. I know he has a half-brother named Louis.
Is Mr. Patman’s name Hank or Henry? I know Hank is short for Henry but I thought he generally went by Henry. Whatever.
Speaking of Hank/Henry, let’s talk about why Alice’s engagement to Hank is “a painful romantic choice she will hide forever – even from her twin daughters”, as the back cover tells us. Why? The whole town knew Alice and Hank were engaged and that she walked out on their wedding day. So why is it such a secret? Are their daughters really never going to hear about this growing up in the same small town? I know this is talked about a little later on in the SVH series, but I don’t get it.
The redundancy of names and connections got a bit annoying after a while. Is Bruce Farber supposed to be an ancestor of Bruce Patman? Is Tom Wilkens an ancestor of Todd Wilkins? It’s fate, right? And I guess Walter Egbert is Winston’s grandfather.
Of course the left shoulder moles get passed down for each Elizabeth-like twin, and the size six gets passed down as well! Seriously, isn’t that fucking pushing it just a little!
Whatever happened to Ted Wakefield, the one Amanda fell in love with who thinks she betrayed him? Did he die or just not show up at Alice and Ned Wakefield’s wedding? ‘Cause man, I’d love to see THAT showdown.
It’s entirely possible that I missed it, but I never saw where the Nazis were looking for Jacques Berg, only Sophy, nor did I get why Pierre didn’t want to turn Jacques over to the Nazis if he was such a collaborator.
The first names of Wakefield/Robertson family members are clearly passed down from generation to generation. I guess that whole bit in the SVH series where Ned claimed he named Steven after his dead college friend was something he made up to fuck with him.
I would love to hear more about what happened to Sophy Berg after she left the train to join the Resistance. Maybe she will reappear in the next Saga, but I doubt it. This isn’t THAT big of a series. Even characters randomly mentioned throughout this book intrigued me as to what their fates were, such as Alice’s friends on the ship: Angelique Stone, Birgitta Svensen, Sarah Thurber, and Jane McCarty, who come from different countries and help her look good for Ted.
Reading and enjoying this book left me with a whole new disdain for Sweet Valley Confidential. It also made some of the things that happened in SVC seem that much weirder.
Coming up next … We’re back to the boring original SVH books, in which two supposedly smart girls fight over that douchey Scott Trost.