I used to love this cover so much when I was a kid. Okay, I still love it. It's so dramatic and pretty! The women on the panel appear to be (in order from top to bottom) Lili, Rose, Isabelle (or Grace? I never was sure who that was supposed to be) annnnnd LILA! When you open the cover, you see Celeste and Marc kissing, and later welcoming a baby into the world. There's Lili about to have her head cut off by angry peasants, and something else is happening in the upper left corner, but that stupid bar code blocks it. I will always resent that damn bar code.
This SVS starts off the way a Fowler Saga should-with a snobby, rich girl ordering her maid around.
The snobby girl is none other than Lili de Beautemps, the french 1789 version of Lila. Lili's maid, Marie Oiseleur is helping her get ready for her debutante ball (I've always wanted to have a debutante ball! Is it too late to have one at 25?).
Marie doubles as Lili's childhood best friend, and her family has been working for the Beautemps for generations. Like our lovely Lila, Lili's mother is not in her life. She died when Lili was a child, and now it's just Lili and her brothers. Lili is, of course, the most beautiful girl at her ball, and she even gets to dance with the prince! Sigh, Lili is living my dream.
But not for long! History fans already know that 1789 was the start of a little thing called the French Revolution. Marie and her brother, Georges both attempt to warn Lili and tell her to leave before it's too late. Lili shrugs off their warnings and is caught by surprise when a group of angry peasants storms her home and imprisons her family. The mob than takes them to the guillotine and beheads Lili's brother and father. Before they can chop off Lili's head, Georges arrives on horseback and saves her. Romantic! Why can't a cute french guy show up on a horse and save me from the guillotine? Some girls get all the luck.
Lili's luck doesn't last long. Georges drops her off in near a small town and tells her that he can't stay with her, They gaze into one another's eyes and realize that they're in love. But alas, Georges needs to get back to revolting, and Lili has to begin a new life.
Fast forward to 1792, and Lili is a dressmaker living in a rented basement. Lili runs into an old family friend, Madame Fouchette, and is invited to a fancy rich people party. One problem...Lili's not rich anymore! But thanks to Lili's lies (she tells everyone that she's living with a well-off Aunt and Uncle) no one has to know that. At the party, Lili meets the dashing Count Matthieu Bizac.
After a few months of dating (and Lili borrowing tons of money from her BFF Babette) the charming Count proposes. They honeymoon in Italy and it's all tres romantique. But, once again Lili's luck runs out. The Count abandons her, leaving her at a hotel! Lili searches high and low, but Matthieu is gone for good. She finally goes to Madame Fouchette, who tells her that Matthieu is already married, and whatever ceremony he had with Lili was a fraud. Apparently he's done this to other women, and will probably do it again.
So, no one decided to let Lili in on this before they got "married"? That's pretty effed up.
Even though they were never married, they "lived as man and wife" and Lili is now pregnant.
Embarrassed, Lili refuses to go back to her old friends (Did she ever pay Babette back? I've always wanted to know, for some reason) or old job. Pregnant and alone, poor Lili struggles just to eat everyday, until the friendly Marie Chardin begins bringing her food. Marie and her husband own the boulangerie, which according to Google, is a French bakery. Things seem to be looking up for Lili, until she dies in childbirth. Before she dies, Lili names the baby Celeste and asks Marie to raise her. Lili's life was pretty damn depressing! I need a Prozac after reading that.
Hey, whatever happened to Georges, you ask? If you're like me, you forgot all about him.
Well, Georges has been busy thriving while Lili was struggling, and is now a rich landowner. He has the property deed for Lili's old family estate and has made it his life's mission to return the estate to Lili, and marry her. In his searches, Georges finds out about Lili's fake marriage, resulting pregnancy, and death. Distraught, he vows to find Lili's child and give them their rightful inheritance.
1809. It's Celeste's 16th birthday, and she celebrates with her adoptive family, the Chardins. The book makes it clear that Celeste is incredibly beautiful "Physically, she was like a swan among more humble fowl". Nice.
Celeste won't be hanging around the "humble fowl" for much longer. She's off to work as a maid for the snotty Lafitte family and their even snottier daughter, Emilie. Emilie is a royal bitch, and just reading about her annoyed me. She even has a bell that she rings whenever she wants Celeste's help. And I thought kids today were spoiled! Her mom and dad aren't a whole lot better.
But guess who's friends with the Lafittes? Georges, of course! What a total coincidence! Even more coincidental, Georges spots Celeste and senses that there's something special about her. He begins anonymously giving her gifts and paying Emilie's tutor, Solange, to educate her. Celeste can't believe her luck, and wonders who her benefactor is.
It's been about 20 pages without any mention of romance, and that is unacceptable in a Sweet Valley book! Time for a love story! Emilie's brother Marc has been away at school, and when he returns he falls in love with none other than Celeste. They makeout a whole lot, and fall in luv. But their love can never be. The Lafittes would disown Marc if he married a servant girl! Marc doesn't care, and asks Celeste to marry him anyway. He wants to give up his inheritance and run away with her! SO ROMANTIC. It's clear that I need to move to 1800's era France. All I need is a plane and a time machine. Let's make it happen!
Celeste spoils the romantic-ness by refusing to marry Marc. She won't let him give up his fortune for her. Marc is not dissuaded, and tells his parents that he wants to marry Celeste. His parents are scandalized, and throw Celeste out of the house.
As Celeste does the 1800's version of walk of shame, she comes across Georges, who offers her a ride home. On the way, Georges asks her about her family history and Celeste tells him about her mother's death. Things get super crazy when she shows Georges the picture in her locket, and the pic is of Lili! Celeste is the person Georges has been looking for this whole time! (Why am I so excited? I knew that.)
Celeste is now richer than the Lafitte family, and is cleared to marry Marc. If I were her, I'd want to move far, far away from Marc's awful family!
Skip to 1865. Celeste is a grandma! Her only child Claude and his wife have had a baby and named her Rose. The book reminds us that Celeste is still a great beauty in her old age (We couldn't have an ugly grandma in a Sweet Valley book, now could we?!). Even baby Rose is beautiful, with purple eyes and "flaming red hair" (Do people actually have purple eyes? I only knew one person with purple eyes, and hers were contacts).
It's now 1880 (time flies in Sweet Valley Saga world) and Rose is 15. She's also incredibly annoying. The ghostwriter tries to paint her as spirited and fun, but she's just really annoying.
Did I mention that Rose was my least favorite character in this Saga?
Rose hangs out with her BFF Pierre Oiseleur and I can't see why he'd want to be friends with her. She pushes him into doing mischievous things and throws a tantrum when he tells her that he is leaving for boarding school. Does his last name sound familiar? That's because he's the grandson of Georges, who married Celeste's tutor Solange right around the time Celeste married Marc. Pierre must have really low self-esteem (and terrible taste in women) because he's in love with Rose, who claims to not be interested in marriage (or him) at all.
Everyone from grandma Celeste to Rose's friends to me think that she is secretly in love with Pierre, but Rose refuses to admit it. The ghostwriter tells us over and over again how Rose is different than other girls. She's into politics and books! She's so intellectual and independent!
Barf. We get it.
Time flies again to 1885, and Rose is now 20. She's living on her own and attending college in Paris.
She wear pants (because she's different, remember?) and hangs around with a bunch of artists and "radicals". Pierre warns her about one of these friends, a gentleman named Leo who's known for breaking hearts. Rose declares "If he breaks my heart, so what?"
On the very next page, Rose is at Pierre's doorstep crying over Leo. He was seeing two women behind her back! "So what?" (Can't you feel all of the sympathy I have for Rose? I can't wait until her part of the book is over.)
Poor, deluded Pierre hopes that maybe Rose will see what a good guy he is, and return his love. Rose crushes his dreams and announces that she is swearing off men entirely. Time to move on Pierre, she really isn't that great of a catch.
Pierre finallllllly gets it when he proclaims his love for Rose, and she rejects him. She has doubts about it after, but pushes them out her mind. She's going to show the world what a woman can do without a man!
Jump to 1888, and Rose is heading home to see her parents, who are having a big party for the Oiseleur family. The Oiseleurs have something big to announce!
Rose spends extra time getting ready for the party, because Pierre will be there. Yes folks, Rose has at last admitted to herself that she's in love with Pierre!
Fortunately for Pierre (He seems too nice to get stuck with Rose) Rose's timing stinks. The big announcement is that Pierre is getting married!
Rose is heartbroken, and holds back tears throughout the engagement dinner and wedding. Once again, I have zero sympathy for her. Thankfully we're almost done with Rose, so I'll stop complaining soon. Rose goes on to marry an unfortunate man named Robert Eastman, and they have a child together named Isabelle.
Isabelle (Thank God) is pretty much the opposite of Rose. We don't have to hear about how "independent" and "different" she is every two seconds, and I couldn't be happier. However, the ghostwriter just couldn't resist reminding us that "at almost fifty, Rose was still a strikingly beautiful woman". Sweet Valley characters only get more gorgeous as they age! Where do I get that super power?
16 year old Isabelle goes to her first dance and meets a nice young man named Charles Doret...but the guy she really wants is (You're never gonna believe this!) Jacques Oiseleur. Yup, he's the second cousin (or something) of Pierre! These Sagas really love to pair the same families together generation after generation, don't they?
Charles and Jacques are both in the French Army, and they're best friends. Charles is such a good friend, that he doesn't mind when Isabelle and Jacques become a couple.
But 'sigh', it's 1914 and France is about to go to war with Germany! Isabelle and Jacques get married before he leaves for war, without telling her parents. Romantic!
Even more romantic, Isabelle starts volunteering at a army hospital in Paris everyday after school. Okay, so maybe that's not so romantic.
Even less romantic, Charles soon delivers the news that Jacques has died in battle. Hey, wasn't there another Jacques that died in a war? Poor Isabelle faints when she hears the news, and is utterly devastated. I actually feel bad for her, because she's not totally irritating like her mother.
After a few years, Charles asks Isabelle to marry him, even though he knows that she will always love Jacques. Charles reasons, "I'll love you enough for the both of us".
Oh Charles. That is not a good thing to base a relationship on.
It works out okay, until SURPRISE! Jacques isn't really dead! Turns out he was just a prisoner of war. When the war ends he comes home to find his wife married to his best friend. Awkward. Jacques is so mad that he gets on the next boat to America.
Charles and Isabelle are shocked, but eventually decide that they need to start over, and they move to America as well. Guess where they move? I'll give you one guess (I bet you'll never get it).
And guess who else is in Sweet Valley? That's right- Jacques. Only now he goes by the name Jack Fowler. So you can see where this is going.
Charles is mayor of Sweet Valley, and he and Isabelle live comfortably until she sees Jack walking down the street. She nearly faints, and the town gossip, Evelyn Pierce (So being a gossip is genetic?) is right there to catch her.
According to the ever-helpful Evelyn, Jack is a "vagabond" and "poor and rough as could be". Sounds kind of sexy, amirite ladies?!? How the hell did they all end up living in Sweet Valley? Seriously, one town out of how many towns in the U.S.A? Really?
Charles has known about this insane coincidence for months, and tried to make peace with Jack, but Jack wasn't having it. Isabelle sneaks over to Jack's ranch to make amends, and he forgives her, but still hates Charles. He tells her that he doesn't love her anymore, and to go home to her husband. So....guess things aren't going to work out between Jack and Isabelle?
We're teleported to 1952, and Charles and Isabelle have a grandchild (they had two daughters and two sons) named Grace. Charles is still mayor of Sweet Valley, and has become rich from his manufacturing company. Isabelle is "still the most strikingly beautiful woman in Sweet Valley", in case you were worried. Charles is still bitter about Isabelle's love for Jack, and is doing some kind of mayor-zoning-law-thing to block Jack from selling his ranch and making a fortune.
Jack is married to some chick named Anita and has three kids and one grandson, George. Jack is broke because of Charles' zoning-law-thing and vows "the bad blood between us will never die".
Almost 20 years later, George Fowler is an adult and starting his own computer company. He runs into-guess who!-Grace Doret on the beach, and sparks fly. He doesn't realize that she's the granddaughter of his family enemies until they go out for dinner at a clam bar (yuck). They both decide it's no big deal (And you know it's definitely going to be a huge deal). OMG it's like Romeo and Juliet!
Another minor issue: Grace is engaged to Everett Garrison the Third. Oops.
Even after she tells George this, they continue to date and fall in love. Things come to a halt when Grace's parents catch them making out. Uh oh! Her parents threaten to disown her, and spineless Grace dumps George and agrees to go forward with her wedding to Everett. At their wedding party, Grace gets some good advice from Grandma Isabelle "Marry the one you love."
I guess Isabelle should know....
Grace leaves the party to sob hysterically outside, when George appears and proposes to her!
George and Grace elope to Paris, but before they leave George's company buys out Charles' company's stock, or something like that. Charles is pissed, and he's even more pissed when he finds out that Grace has run away with George.
A number of years later, Grace gives birth to Lila (yay!) and even though her parents still aren't speaking to her, grandma Isabelle shows up to meet her great-grandchild. Jack Fowler arrives, and he and Isabelle share a sad but kinda romantic moment. They're still in love after all of these years, and Isabelle's marriage to Charles has been "a bitter disappointment". Ouch. They find comfort in the fact that now, the Dorets and Oiseleurs-I mean, Fowlers-are together again.
And most importantly, this union produced Lila Fowler, the best character Sweet Valley has EVER HAD EVER.
If you've read the SVH books (or any of my amazing, fabulous recaps) than you know that Grace and George don't stay together for much longer. George works too much, and Grace feels abandoned. George is livid when Grace takes Lila to see her parents, who have finally decided realized that seeing their grandchild is more important than a decades-old family feud. Grace is fed up and goes to stay with her parents, taking Lila with her.
In a seriously screwed up move, George sues her for custody, and as you know, he wins. Grace runs off to France, and Lila ends up with some pretty serious mommy issues.
The Saga ends with 16 year old Lila dealing with the fallout from John Pfeifer sexually assaulting her. George knows that Lila needs her mother, and asks Grace to come back and help. Grace comes back and she and George reunite! The reunion story is covered in more detail in the Evil Twin miniseries, which I cannot wait to recap because SERIOUSLY that miniseries is CRAZY.
And so, like all the Sagas, this has a happy ending. Awww, I think I feel my ice-cold heart melting. Just a little.