Whitefern, the long-awaited 2016 sequel to the 1982 My Sweet Audrina, takes place following the death of Audrina’s father, Adrian. It turns out Adrian left controlling interest of his company to Audrina, much to the consternation of her husband, Arden. (Andrews had a thing for alliterative names). The book follows Arden’s pressure to make Audrina sign over her share of the company, along the lines of ‘it looks bad for a man to not have control of his business’.
(It’s been a while since I read My Sweet Audrina so I’m not sure of the exact timeline, but I think it’s set in the 50’s. Perhaps it even made sense, albeit in an old-fashioned way, in 1982. But it really grates in 2017.)
Whitefern is basically all about Arden being angry that he isn’t in control of the Adare company and isn’t getting what he wants (a son) and the lengths he goes to to rectify those two factors. A lot of the reviews on Goodreads are to do with how far removed My Sweet Audrina‘s Arden is from Whitefern‘s, but I disagree. I found the Arden of MSA to be a coward who made excuses for his behaviour and justified the actions that had caused Audrina so much trauma through inaction. It didn’t surprise me that the Arden who could behave the way he did in MSA, keep quiet about it for over a decade and continue to justify his behaviour to the woman he claimed to love who he had helped traumatise, was capable of doing the things he did as a grown man with his heart set on owning an extensive business and having a son – regardless of who those things might belong to, legally and morally. It’s not spectacularly well-written – none of Andrews’s work was, and even less so since Andrew Neiderman has been ghosting writing since Andrews’s death in 1986 – but I felt the levels of entitlement, cowardice and even sociopathy that Arden displayed at a young age were presented very plausibly in adult Arden.
This book is definitely intended for fans of Virginia Andrews, but I found it to be significantly better than much of what Neiderman has written since 1986; perhaps, like his work finishing off her other series, he actually made an effort to match up the characteristics with established work rather than write a new novel with new characters that doesn’t have her voice at all. I read the books about twenty years apart, and my tastes have changed since (not to mention my opinion of cowards who cause trauma through inaction) but I found Whitefern to be a very satisfying conclusion to My Sweet Audrina.