Title: The Curse of the Golden Heart (or Curse Stories 2: Electric Boogaloo)
Tagline: Pirate treasure!
Summary: A broken heart…
It’s spring, and identical twins Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield are taking a scuba diving course at Pirates Cove. On their first dive the twins discover the remains of an old pirate ship, and half a golden heart buried in the sand. [Wing: LIES. They’re only snorkeling at that point.]
Soon the twins receive spooky chain letters demanding that what was taken from the sea be returned. Jessica continues the chain; Elizabeth doesn’t. Suddenly terrible things start happening to Elizabeth. She finds threatening notes in her room and a live scorpion in her lunch bag.
Can Elizabeth discover the secret of the golden heart before the curse destroys her?
Please, ghostie, please don’t resort to pirate speak in this book. Please. I beg of you.
[Wing: Note from the future. Positive: no pirate speak. Negative: we’re rehashing old stories all over the place.]
We open with Steven filled with “deep satisfaction” over “spring break.” Since Jessica is lying next to him sunbathing, I have some doubts about “spring break” being that satisfying for him.
It’s the first day of their break and the Wakefield kids are hanging out on Sweet Valley’s beach. It’s supposed to be wide and beautiful, but last time, it seemed more dark and rocky, good for surfing but not sunbathing. Ah well, continuity, what’s that.
Joe’s with them, as is Lila, grumping over the junk food they brought (taco chips [tortilla chips?], salsa, chocolate chip cookies, cheddar cheese popcorn, and apparently a ton of other things). She says it’ll make them fat and give them zits. Way to go straight for the fat stereotypes.
It does make the twins defend him immediately, which is weird. Even weirder that they say the same thing at the same time, which they apparently never do even though they’re twins. I could have sworn that that at least used to be a thing they used to do, but, again, continuity what.
After some focus on Steven’s “tanned and handsome face” and “narrow, well-muscled waist,” [Dove: Which is weird. It was heavy with the Steven oggling. Which is a viewpoint I never want to view from again.] [Raven: Yup, sexy Steven was weird.] we go into the same but different. Jessica gossips and murders, Elizabeth writes and reads and whines.
Elizabeth’s having fun with the group, even with Lila, who is usually a snob and spoiled rotten but has been pretty good today. Probably, Elizabeth thinks, because Joe and Steven are there.
Jessica and Elizabeth are the only two who go snorkeling. Elizabeth wants to do it right where they are, but Jessica wants something more exciting: Pirate’s Cove, where it is supposed to be dangerous.
Apparently the girls took up snorkeling last spring break, and Elizabeth has been collecting shells and weird odds and ends ever since. [Dove: Sweet Valley means never having to foreshadow. (Which is what makes it such a good NaNo fandom.)] [Raven: She and Jessica were collecting shells on the beach in another of the books… the one in which Denny almost drowned, I think.] [Wing: I could call this continuity, but I’m going to call it another rerun storyline. (I had to double check. It was Team Boring. It does make more sense that Amy would be out there and not Jessica.]
They jump in from the pier and swim over to a shallow sandbar. Jessica disappears off on her own immediately, annoying Elizabeth because they are supposed to stick together. Elizabeth goes off by herself, too, and finds: a broken handle from a cup with interesting enamel work, a fly-fishing rod that somehow still fits inside her treasure bag (…not that one), sea glass, an ink jar, and, in water that is weirdly icy cold for how shallow it is, something muddy-colored and almost hidden. She doesn’t even look at it before she tosses it into her bag and swims up. [Raven: This section contained the WORST description of the sea I’ve ever seen: “It changed from day to day, like a person with moods.” WHAT THE EVER-LOVING FUCK?!] [Wing: It was hot like a thing that was hot. It was cold like a thing that was cold.]
A current pulls her off course and turns her over and over. Through it, she sees a shipwreck appearing below. When the current finally lets her go, the wreck is gone again.
It takes all Elizabeth’s strength to make it back to the surface and when she finally gets there, Jessica teases her about being weird over it. She, too, sees a weird current around Elizabeth, the water choppy and strange.
Elizabeth starts to hear sobbing in the wind; Jessica catches something, but doesn’t seem to know what. Elizabeth gets freaked out as the water tries to tug her down again and swims over to Jessica and they head back to the pier.
Jessica promises to stay behind her the entire way, and for some reason, Elizabeth trusts her on this even though she literally just left her alone to get into trouble.
When they get to the top of the pier, there’s a middle-aged man getting ready to do some diving. He stares at them, and Elizabeth is glad there are people around because he looks scary. Once he sees Jessica, too, he freaks out and starts mumbling while the wind does that sobbing thing again. [Dove: Clearly he’s seen her in the Mercandy backyard hard at work with her shovel.]
All of this creepiness is interrupted when Mr Walker, one of Ned’s friends, comes to talk to them. They ask about his fishing, he says he’s going to Colorado for a couple weeks (which will, I’m sure, be convenient later), and then they head out, because that guy is still staring and freaking them out.
Jessica, meanwhile, is thrilled with life and can’t wait to tell people about snorkeling Pirate’s Cove. Elizabeth shuts that down fast, making excuses that the water is dangerous and she doesn’t know what she saw, etc. Finally she gets Jessica to agree not for any of those reasons but because if they tell, Ned and Alice will find out about where they snorkeled. Duh.
The next day a big group of them are at the beach again, this time including Amy and Janet along with Lila, Joe, and Steven. Jessica’s grumpy because she’s bored and she can’t even tell their friends about Elizabeth’s adventure, blah blah blah blah.
Joe’s the one who finds the flyer for the scuba lessons over at Pirate’s Cove. About time the lessons kicked in. I was expecting the summary to flat out be lying to us.
Jessica teases Elizabeth into it in part by telling her that it’s not like she’ll only have to rely on Jessica this time, because relying just on her would make anyone nervous. Great awareness, but, uh, Elizabeth, for some reason, relies on you all the time.
The whole group goes to sign up for lessons (even Lila and Janet? Because I have my doubts about that). It’s hard for them to find 1779 Pirate’s Cove and while they look, Steven reassures them all that some of the best scuba divers and swimmers and seamen in the world are right there at Pirate’s Cove. Again, convenient. [Dove: Does anyone else find it odd that they have their own pirate cove, and yet nobody’s mentioned this before? I know I’m coming from reading the Famous Five, which led with smugglers, pirates, shipwrecks and gold ingots from about page 7 of the first book, but come on, Sweet Valley. This is far more exciting than Secca Lake.] [Raven: And Ned and Alice have always warned them to stay away from Pirate’s Cove, have they? Not in the ninety-odd books I’ve read thus far they haven’t. If they can’t warn the twins about Nydick, they’re not gonna mention Pirate’s Cove.] [Wing: Nydick the Pirate of Pirate’s Cove. Ass Pirate that is.]
Joe finally finds 1779 — but Elizabeth swears it said 234 just a minute ago. Despite this, pushes herself to go sign up with the others. And oh, look, the instructor is the creepy man from the pier. Good times, good times. He’s Joshua Farrel and he’s from a small island off Scotland but he ran away to the sea when he was young and never went home again.
The next day, Ned and Alice have not only given them permission to take lessons but are paying for the lessons and the equipment. How else did you think you were going to pay for it, twins? The Wakefields are renting the stuff they need, but Mr Fowler is, of course, buying Lila brand new equipment because he feels guilty that he’s going out of town for three weeks.
Is he … is he going out of town with Mr Walker. Is “fishing” a euphemism? [Dove: Probably.] [Wing: Go dudes go.]
Her wetsuit is going to be purple, of course, and Jessica is envious as hell.
When they’re home with their equipment, Ned tells them that he thinks they’re both very brave to take lessons. He tried to do it once and only made it a day before he was too claustrophobic to continue. This is very cool of him to admit, but it freaks Elizabeth out even more because of how she felt when she was caught in that strange current.
Jessica asks if he’ll sign up with them and try again, which is very un-Jessica but also pretty awesome. Unfortunately, he has a trial in a few weeks and he’ll be preparing for it the whole time.
To distract herself from her nerves, Elizabeth goes through the things she found in Pirate’s Cove. She likes the idea of using most of the stuff in the collage that she apparently makes at the end of every spring break. The clumpy object will take too long to clean, so she throws it away. (a) I’m sure that will last. (b) Didn’t we already do this plot, at least the big picture? Something found on or in the ocean, creepy feelings, weird things… can’t say why it rings a
Elizabeth and Jessica both get letters sometime after (I assume the next day, which is Monday, but Alice is home and it runs awfully early). The paper’s old and the writing old-fashioned. It’s no whimsical note, but it is a cursed chain letter, which is pretty cool, I guess:
A thief has come and taken something from me. But it is only half of the whole. Where is the other half? Someone knows where it is. But they do not know what it is. Or what it represents. Search, thief. Carlotta commands you to search and find the other half. Inquire of all ye know. Copy this letter and send it to six friends.
Tell them to send it to six friends. Do not rest until the search is complete. Then reunite the two halves. Fail in this errand and ye shall be as cursed as the thief of the sea. Cursed by Carlotta.
Elizabeth, for all that she’s been freaking out, thinks it’s a prank, someone saw them out at Pirate’s Cove and is playing a joke on them. Probably Steven.
Jessica, though, is taking it seriously and swears to Elizabeth that she at least hasn’t told anyone and she’s going to send the letters. [Raven: Is it just me that thinks the whole Chain Letter thing is complete horse-shit? Not Chain Letters themsleves – I’m sure everyone reading knows they are ACTUAL bollocks – but the whole “pirate curse by way of chain letter” plot thing? Sorry, I’m not engaged at all.] [Wing: I certainly prefer other chain letter stories (Christopher Pike, I’m looking at you), but this was about the level of cheesy convenience I expect from Sweet Valley when there are ghosts around.]
This infuriates Elizabeth who suddenly has a spine and a temper. (She should get haunted more often!)
The next day, Jessica’s done with all her letters and she’s going to hand-deliver six to the Unicorn Club, as well as a couple of extras for Steven and Joe. She’s less scared of the curse and more excited by how romantic the Curse of Carlotta is. I love you, Jess.
Once the Unicorns receive their letters, they spend some time trying to figure out what it means, but Jessica keeps them on track with writing their letters. Everyone’s there but Kimberly Haver, who’s skiing with her family, Mandy Miller, who’s camping with her family (I miss you, Mandy, but it’s probably good you’re away from this mess), and Lila, who’s just fucking late. Ha.
When Lila arrives, she’s fresh in from her special Sunday-afternoon appointment with Carlos at La Mer to get her hair done. (1) It’s still Sunday? The mail doesn’t fucking run on Sundays (at least not before Amazon did the thing). (2) A nice shiny hair cut and style when you’re about to spend some time scuba diving sounds like a terrible plan.
Lila can’t send her letters because her father’s secretary is out of town and she handles all of Lila’s correspondence: thank you notes, invitations, chain letters.
OH. MY. GOD. LILA.
I am dying.
Jessica is annoyed at her for not believing in curses, annoyed at Elizabeth later, and grumpy all the way around because 24 hours have passed and the next day they’ll start their lessons wait a fucking minute here no. NO. You got your letters on Sunday, it cannot still be Sunday and be 24 hours later. [Dove: *shakes head* Do not screw up a timeline when Wing’s recapping. She’ll make you cry. We once spent half a year trying to track a three-night camping trip in fiction. I believe we’re still traumatised by it.] [Wing: I STILL HAVE THE TIMELINES. AND MINUTE TRACKING. I WILL MAKE IT WORK GODDAMN IT.]
WHATEVER MOVING ON.
Elizabeth dreams that night of a ship in a storm. WE’VE ALREADY HAD THIS PLOT BEFORE. Item found in or near the sea, creepy stuff, bad dreams, etc. WE’VE BEEN HERE DONE THIS.
In her dream, Elizabeth sees two men fighting over one being a traitor. Red, the one who is apparently not a traitor, tells Carlotta to go, to save herself, but she refuses to leave without him.
The ship sinks, Elizabeth nearly drowns, then screams herself awake.
Jessica runs in because she’s screaming in reality too (we’ve been here before, too, more than once), and when Elizabeth tells her about the dream, Jessica says the bad dream is a warning from Carlotta.
Elizabeth doesn’t tell everything, though. She doesn’t tell Jessica that the other man in her dream, the traitor, looked exactly like Joshua Farrell, their creepy new scuba instructor.
Elizabeth keeps going back to look at all the things she collected under the water and can’t find anything that looks important. How about that thing you so casually cast aside, how about that, huh? But no.
The next day, everyone takes the public bus to the beach, including Lila and Janet. Which (a) HELL NO THEY WOULDN’T and (b) the public beach has been in walking distance of the Wakefield house more than once, what the fuck. [Raven: You can walk to the beach, but you must BUS TO THE COVE. I really hope that “Pirate’s Cove” is the final destination of the bus, so it’s written in lights on the sign out front of the vehicle.] [Wing: This is the only acceptable reason for them to ride the bus.]
They talk about who all sent their letters; Steven and Joe both swear that they have. Elizabeth and Lila still haven’t. Elizabeth starts to get a weird feeling. Again.
Joshua isn’t waiting for them, and eventually Elizabeth volunteers to go find him. She swears she sees him in his wetsuit walking around, but when she goes inside after he doesn’t answer, there’s no one in the wetsuit and it falls to the floor.
He shows up right after this happens and she tries to reassure herself that it was just the sun, so bright and hot that it made her see spots and created heat waves that make the buildings look like they’re swaying a little.
Two hours later, they are still on the beach going through equipment, safety, things like that. Joshua is a good teacher for scuba diving but also about the sea itself. Steven especially is damn impressed.
In the middle of all this, Lila loses her brand new, expensive diving watch; Jessica tells her that it’s the curse; even Joe gets in on this teasing. Elizabeth finds Joshua staring at her again, creeping her out. When he catches her looking, he tells them they’re not going out that day because the water’s too choppy. Everyone is disappointed, of course, but Steven continues to reassure them that they’re getting excellent instruction.
I like how hard Steven is riding for Joshua. It’s nice to see him throwing himself into something without just mocking people and eating all the food in sight. [Dove: I actually get freaked out by this version of Steven. We’ve had 93 books of him being a useless muppet with his face buried in the fridge, barely functioning beyond his next mouthful. To have him acting like a normal human being is disconcerting. And also, yet another continuity error.]
Jessica is, as always, envious of Lila’s house, including her private bathroom which has a shower, whirlpool bath, monogrammed towels, and a telephone next to the bathtub. Jessica admits that she and Elizabet have a nice bathroom but it has nothing on this one.
She’s having a sleepover with Lila and the next day the chauffer will drive them to the bus stop to meet the others so they can take a bus to their diving class. OH HELL NO. AGAIN, ZERO PERCENT CHANCE LILA WOULD RIDE A FUCKING BUS ESPECIALLY WHEN SHE’S TAKING THE GODDAMN CHAUFFER TO THE BUS STOP IN THE FIRST GODDAMN PLACE.
Do you even go here, ghostie? [Dove: Who on earth takes a limo to the bus stop? Well, actually, Lila would totally do that. But before she got out, she’d give the bus stop a contemptuous look and say something like, “A Fowler never uses public transport.” And then the driver would floor it. Leaving Jessica to wait for the bus.] [Raven: Hasn’t Lila used the bus before, when she and whoever was the Girl of the Week were going to go all Milli Vanilli on that TV show? I remember the GotW sassing the driver and blagging a free ride.]
Lila’s still having bad luck; she breaks a nail below the quick, tears her robe when she goes to get her nail scissors and falls hard on her arm. Mrs Pervis, the live-in housekeeper, rushes in to check on her and lets it slip (heh) that Lila has fallen a lot lately: down the stairs for one and head first into the kitchen cabinets for two.
Lila finally gives in and decides to write the letters — and her La Plume fountain pen, the fanciest and most expensive pen on the market promptly shoots black ink straight into her eye.
That is the last straw for Lila and she starts shouting at the ghost. I … I love you, Lila. She stands up, all stubborn and bossy, stares at the ceiling, because of course she does, and demands that Carlotta chill the fuck out until Lila can get the pen fixed and write the damn letters.
Jessica points out that Carlotta, as a ghost cursing people, probably doesn’t give a fuck about status pens. That’s what she calls them: status pens. Status. Pens.
This scene is so fucking great.
Lila decides to use her dad’s computer to type the letter once and print out six copies. Logical, but oh for the days when basically no one in the series could type. Lila tries to call and get permission, which shocks the hell out of me, but when she can’t get through, she decides to just go for it after all.
Lila manages to type the letter but they don’t know how to print and somehow Lila manages to press a combination of buttons that makes the files on the computer disappear. How the fuck did you manage that, Lila? [Dove: I have wasted so many full afternoons, trying to time the precise moment to F8 to factory reset whichever PC I have just murdered by installing something dubious. Clearly I just needed Lila attempting to use Word to send my PC back to the dark ages.]
Finally she just flat unplugs the computer, horrified at what she’s done, and Jessica tells her the only thing for it is for her to write the letters herself, one by one, just like everyone else.
You know better than to put it that way, Wakefield! Lila, of course, doubles down and says she will never do that, cursed or not.
At their next lesson, they actually go to the water. Joshua has them pair off as swim buddies but the uneven number leaves her with him as her buddy. How very very convenient. Jessica didn’t even have to hit up the Mercandy backyard to make that happen.
Joshua takes them to another part of the beach, though, not Pirate’s Cove, and when Elizabeth asks about it, he tells her, very dramatic, that there are a lot of old pirate legends about Pirate’s Cove … and some of them are true.
DUN-DUN-DUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUH [Dove: It’s just occurred to me that these Super Chillers should be on The Devil’s Elbow too.] [Wing: I’ll crosspost when I have some free time, then. This is a good idea.]
They go out in deep water, the deepest water Elizabeth’s ever been in (which makes sense, scuba diving and all), and she’s delighted by the beauty of it all. She does find it exhausting to swim with the heavy tank of oxygen on her back.
Elizabeth swims faster to catch up with Joshua. She needs a break, and they’re supposed to tap him on the shoulder and point to the surface to let him know that. When she reaches him, though, there’s no face behind his mask.
She screams and the mouthpiece to her air hose pops out of her mouth. Oh, god, this is actually terrible, Elizabeth sucking water into her lungs, choking and gagging, dragged down by the tank, unable to swim, unable to breathe, and then, when she grabs out at a passing swimmer, she passes out.
They’re not terribly deep, I’m sure, but just picture it: all the weight of that water, the pressure, something new and frightening and beautiful, and then your air is gone and you can’t get it back, all you have is saltwater in your mouth, in your throat, in your lungs, your vision going dim, falling down down down into a world where you don’t belong.
The ocean is amazing, and I love it. [Dove: Water is murderous. I’m terrified of it. But I do love an aquarium.]
Elizabeth wakes up on the beach, everyone gathered around her, terrified for her. Joshua says she just lost her head like a lot of first-time divers, and she wants to accuse him of playing a trick on her with the empty-mask stunt — but she stops herself, because she knows it will sound crazy and no one will believe her.
Joshua leaves them before Alice arrives to pick them up even though she turns up in just a few minutes. Way to be a good instructor there, Joshua. I’d be amazed if the Wakefields allowed their kids to come back but that would involve actual parenting, so you know nothing will happen.
Alice doesn’t even take her to the doctor; she lets Elizabeth talk her into just going home so she can rest and sleep. You are the parent, Alice, not Elizabeth! [Dove: Um, in Baywatch, when someone nearly drowns (especially a minor), they are taken to the hospital because they can have water in their lungs, and later experience drowning sensations (and there’s even a link to back this up: Dry Drowning. But sure, listen to the twelve year old. After all, if she dies, you’ve got a copy. It’s a photocopy, lower quality and integrity, but near enough for someone soaked in gin.] [Wing: Wow, I can’t believe you just called Jessica the lower quality copy.]
Oh, damn, at dinner Ned says Elizabeth shouldn’t feel bad if she doesn’t want to go back — he, of all people, understands — and Alice does say she’s wondering if she wants either of the girls to continue. Not so worried about Steven though, are you?
Everyone talks over each other about whether they should stay in classes or not, until Elizabeth says that she wants to go back, she forgot the safety stuff even though Joshua told them about it a lot, and she’d really like to finish the course.
Alice and Ned eventually agree, and this works for me as parenting and not them giving in to their kids. This is a family discussion. I actually like it.
Lila turns up later with terrible news: after scuba classes are over, she’s grounded. Lila Fowler. Grounded like a pleb. What has the world come to?
It’s the curse! Not only did they delete those files but somehow she sent the letter via email to hundreds of people across the country: every Fowler Enterprises client, vendor, civic leader, and other contacts.
Oh. My. God.
And also: how the fuck did you manage to do that?!
Lila: Secret Computer Genius?
Elizabeth can’t help but laugh when Lila wails about how he might even stop her allowance next month [Dove: He can’t! That allowance represents 90% of the Californian economy.]. Truly, truly the end of the world. She makes it up to Lila about how she’s fulfilled her end of the letter thing and shouldn’t be cursed anymore. Lila apparently hasn’t thought of that and this makes her feel better.
Jessica, of course, spins this as time for Elizabeth to do her part of it. Unfortunately for her, the more serious she and Lila take it, the more Elizabeth tells herself it’s just silliness — but, deep inside, she’s actually still scared.
Before bed, Elizabeth finds another letter from Carlotta:
What you took from me must be reunited with its other half. Do not ignore the Curse of Carlotta. Do not ignore the danger all around. Be warned.
She blames Jessica for this, of course, but Jessica swears she doesn’t know anything about it. Elizabeth turns on Steven next, of course, but he’s uninterested and doesn’t seem to know anything about it. [Raven: More crappy letters… SVT Super Chiller #42: The Curse of the Boring Pen Pal.]
Elizabeth can’t sleep, so in the middle of the night, she decides to figure out what the fuck she’s supposed to be looking for and/or returning to Carlotta. She goes through all the things she’s collected but still, still, STILL forgets about the thing she threw away. Also, if it’s still in her room, eww, kid, how often do you take out your trash?
If it’s not: You in danger, girl.
No answers, finally falls asleep, another dream where she’s on the ship. Carlotta and Red are talking like lovers, Joshua looking dude is behind her, guy on watch falls asleep so she can explore, storm hits and the storm founders, Elizabeth realises this is the same shipwreck as before and really really really wants to wake up before she half-drowns AGAIN.
As she’s running around the ship, like that’s going to help, she and Joshua come face to face and he seems to really see her before she wakes up with another scream.
Elizabeth finally tells Jessica about what’s been happening and Jessica agrees that something spooky must be happening because of those recurring dreams. No mention of how they’ve been there done that with this.
Lila update: She managed to talk her way out of being grounded and got her allowance back, so the curse has lifted.
Elizabeth thinks that the woman on the ship, Carlotta, doesn’t look like she’d go around cursing people — and then she reminds herself that she’s sensible and down to earth and would never do something as silly as comply with a threatening chain letter.
After some boring conversation with Steven over breakfast (most interesting thing: he knows that “orts” means leftovers. Which okay, Steven the Human Garbage Can, but damn, I didn’t even know that), Elizabeth decides that Jessica and Lila are the ones trying to trick her with the letters. [Raven: “Orts.” Huh. I think the ghostie has the hots for Steven, he’s acting all weird and cool.]
They both defend themselves, but also, Lila has come up with a plan that means Elizabeth won’t have to write the letter: she can dictate it onto cassettes and send those to people. Now, this is convoluted as fuck, but also kind of adorable. [Dove: Lila came up with 13 Reasons Why.]
Lila: Throwing Money at Problems Since 1984.
Elizabeth tries to hold firm even about that, but the storm continues and reminds her of her dreams, so she decides to dictate them.
Lila gets it set up but pushes play instead of record. When Elizabeth goes to fix it, because of course she does, she hears a rasping voice on the tape. The only words she can make out are: Curse of Carlotta.
This, of course, makes Elizabeth turn on Lila who must have teamed up with Jessica or Janet or Joe. No one without a J at the beginning of their name, though.
Lila’s freaked the fuck out, though, and Elizabeth knows she’s not that good an actor [Dove: Continuity ahoy!]. If she wasn’t actually terrified, she wouldn’t be able to pull it off. Elizabeth stomps the tape (DEATH TAPE) and runs off to her room.
Jessica begs Elizabeth to drop the scuba class now that things have gotten so weird, but Elizabeth is adamant that she’s going to see this through.
Joshua won’t meet them until 2, so they eat their lunches under a clump of palm trees. Janet forgot her lunch, though, and they all donate pieces of theirs to her, which is more friendly than I expect from any of them.
Just when Janet is about to start eating the apple Steven gave her, he smacks it away from her and demands that Jessica and Janet move immediately.
Everyone else runs, Steven stomps it to death and then tells them that it was on Janet’s arm and he thinks it came off Elizabeth’s sandwich. WHAT THE FUCK OKAY THAT’S CREEPY AS HELL.
Everything is tense while Steven makes sure there are no other scorpions around (Steven the Hero, though he’s serious enough about this that it kind of works), but eventually Janet breaks the mood by starting to “faint” — but Joe calls her out on her fainting act which makes people laugh.
Jessica, of course, continues begging Elizabeth not to go into the water and flat out says she wishes she was the one tormenting her because then Jessica wouldn’t be so scared for her.
Joshua shows up, everyone starts for the water, but in the end, Elizabeth can’t go into the water — mostly because she’s hearing sounds in the wind again, a woman crying. Sobbing.
Jessica runs after her, but misses the bus Elizabeth takes and has to take a later one. She’s determined that they get to the bottom of things to save Elizabeth and there’s some great sister bonding and girl friendship going on in this book. Lack of continuity or not, I love that part of this ghostie’s writing.
(A huge storm has hit while I’m writing this and I just saw a minute long run of lightning. It was beautiful and kind of terrifying at the same time. Hi Carlotta!)
The twins team up to figure out what’s going on, specifically what that thing is that is lost and Elizabeth needs to find.
Before they can get started, though, a man comes to the door. He was directed there from the Fowler house; he claims to be from The Market, a food distributor for corporate cafeterias, and he wants more information about the letter. He swears he’s harmless, which is the opposite of how to get people to actually believe you’re harmless, but before they can really shut him out, he says that the Curse of Carlotta is significant in his family. He will show them why if they will go with him to the pier at the north end of the beach.
YOU IN DANGER, GIRL. [Dove: Jessica, get your shovel. You can use it as a weapon.]
Elizabeth says no, Jessica says yes but they should meet him there, and that’s what they all agree to do the next morning. Tell me you’re not going to go alone, girls. TELL ME.
He finally introduces himself as John Filber but continues to creep Elizabeth out.
Welp, they go alone the next morning, because they are idiots.
John wants them to lie on their stomachs and look over the edge of the pier. Because that’s totally a normal thing for a grown man to want two kids to do. And they fucking do it, because they have death wishes goddamn.
Of course, he doesn’t actually kill them, because this is Sweet Valley Twins. Instead, he shows them something metallic embedded in the coral. It’s been there more than a hundred years. Maybe more than two hundred years. He doesn’t know what it is.
You’re not much with the useful information are you, John?
Every father in the family shows every son to warn them that anyone in the family who touches it will be cursed by Carlotta.
CURSED BY CARLOTTA!
It’s all very dramatic, as you can see.
He has dreams about the shipwreck, too, and describes it as being haunted. He also tells them the story of the curse: his great-great-great-great-grandfather was a sailor on a ship coming from the South Pacific. It wrecked, he survived, and he still haunts the beaches because he committed some great crime and Carlotta cursed him to remain until his wrong is righted.
John describes the exact dream Elizabeth is having, but neither of them know what it means. Uh, pretty sure that means Carlotta got separated from Red, her lover, because of something John’s G5 did. Probably G5 is the dude on the ship who is the boson who looks like Joshua and/or is Joshua.
All of this eases Elizabeth’s fears, though, because it’s a mystery and she knows how to solve a mystery and they’re going to do it together. [Dove: Fetch Amanda Howard!]
Elizabeth, too, has cottoned on to the fact that John reminds her of Joshua and that the man in the dreams also looks like Joshua. Elizabeth plans to go to the scuba class that afternoon, though she won’t dive, and to attend the cookout Joe has set up for after.
While everyone’s gathering driftwood, Elizabeth and Steven have a surprisingly decent talk about how he’s not mad at her for leaving the class (why the fuck would he be and if he was who cares?!) because it means she’s thinking for herself and she’s doing what is best for her not what other people want for her. A++
The cookout lasts well into the night and Joshua tells them stories around the campfire. He’s friendly for once and his stories are great — and, of course, mostly ghost stories.
Elizabeth oh so subtly asks Joshua to tell them the story of that ship that came from the South Pacific and wrecked on the reef at Pirate’s Cove. The one that wrecked because of the bosun and all.
Joshua hesitates but tells them this story (interrupted at times for Amy to hand out marshmallows, because that’s important):
Once there was a young and ferocious pirate. His name was Red Beard. He was the cleverest and most feared pirate that ever sailed the seas.
Feared by the King’s merchant ships, that is. Never by his own men. For to them, he was a fair and hearty captain. Not one to be feared, but one to be trusted. And because they trusted him, they obeyed.
He had amassed a huge fortune. And it was said to be buried off the shore in the New World. No one but he, though, knew how to find it. He had a map, it was said. But no one knew for sure.
One fair day, while he was sailing off of an island in the South Pacific, he spied a ship. It sailed under the flag of the governor of the island. “We’ll take her, lads,” Red Beard cried.
And his pirate ship sailed out to meet the governor’s ship.
The governor’s ship surrendered without a fight. They knew of Red Beard. And they feared to fight him.
Red Beard boarded the ship, and then he saw the most beautiful treasure he had ever seen. And her name was Carlotta.
Carlotta was the governor’s niece. And for her, it was the same as for him. Love at first sight. But Carlotta said she could never be the wife of a thief and a pirate. And Red Beard answered that he was a thief and a pirate no more.
Bravely, he handed his sword to the governor and surrendered himself and his ship. He asked only that his men be pardoned.
Carlotta pleaded with her uncle, and because of his great affection for her, and his admiration for the handsome pirate, he pardoned Red Beard. He presented him with a gold locket bearing his coat of arms and bade him take his bride and his ship and make his life in the New World. The gold heart was to show all that the governor had pardoned him for the sake of love.
Red Beard and his men set sail for the New World with Carlotta. They would all make new lives there.
During the journey, Red Beard split the heart he’d been given. He gave one half to Carlotta, and the other half he wore around his own neck.
The winds were fair and the seas were following until they reached the reef off of Pirate’s Cove. It wasn’t called Pirate’s Cove then. And there was no Sweet Valley.
[Wing: WHAT NO SWEET VALLEY?! Surely Sweet Valley is the alpha and the omega.] [Dove: Now, Wing, we all know that Sweet Valley was settled in 1789, and founded as a town in 1857.]
A squall blew in from the north, making the cove hard to navigate. It was a black, stormy night, a night without stars, when the ship struck a reef. The ship was wrecked, and the men were flung in all directions. Red Beard and Carlotta were separated, as were the two sides of the locket. Almost all on board were lost. A few managed to swim to shore. But Red Beard and Carlotta were never seen again.
Everyone wants to go find the treasure, but Joshua shoots that down because only fools sacrifice love, honor, friendship, and eternal rest for the sake of treasure. Oh, and it’s just a legend.
Yeaaaaaaaah. Legend. Right.
Once the twins are back in Elizabeth’s room, they talk about how the story matched Elizabeth’s dreams and she now has a rational explanation and a supernatural explanation.
Rational: She randomly heard the story before and forgot about it and maybe the same thing happened to John and it’s all a coincidence. Because all of those things happening just by accident is totally rational.
Supernatural: Cursed by Carlotta.
Not because of the letter, though, because Carlotta thinks she has something that belongs to Carlotta.
GEE I WONDER WHAT IT COULD BE.
She digs out the letters from her trash and finds that they’re postmarked 1779. Ooooookaaaaaaaaaaay, the same year as the shipwreck and the same as the address on Joshua’s shack.
Elizabeth spends the next class at home reading Amanda Howard mysteries. The mail slams into the house, interrupting her, and sure enough, she has another letter in it.
The little girl fears the sea, but she has a brave heart and does not fear the curse of Carlotta. The time for threats has passed. Now Carlotta offers treasure. Reunite one broken and sorrowful heart before the fall of a night without stars, and ye shall be rewarded beyond your dreams.
My god, no one can ever be straightforward about anything, can they?
Jessica gets home saying that Joshua didn’t show up for class and left them a note saying that he probably can’t give them any more classes. Huh.
Conveniently, Steven comes to collect the trash, which is one of his chores, and he found the barnacle-encrusted thing in Elizabeth’s trash that wasn’t wrapped up and was sharp enough to tear the bag.
GODDAMN IT, GHOSTIE, WHY COULDN’T ELIZABETH JUST REMEMBER SHE THREW SOMETHING AWAY AND FIND IT HERSELF? WHY SOMETHING SO GODDAMN CONVENIENT? WHY HAVE YOU DRAGGED THIS SHIT OUT FOR MORE THAN ¾ OF THE BOOK. [Dove: On the plus side, we get to see Steven doing chores. I know he does them sometimes, but the twins spend more pages than him overall doing chores.]
Elizabeth grabs it and runs upstairs, demanding that they both follow her. Guess Steven’s in on this now. Jessica and Steven watch as Elizabeth scrapes barnacles off whatever it is with her pocket knife. Since when does Elizabeth have a pocket knife?!
GEE FINALLY IT’S HALF A GOLDEN HEART. HALF A HEART-SHAPED LOCKET. WHO WOULD HAVE THOUGHT. [Raven: I think this is my main beef with the book. It takes an AGE to get to this point, when the VERY FIRST letter says “you took something from the sea, you snorkelling queef, give it back plzthxbye” and Liz is all “o noes wut can it mean” even though she’s still fucking damp from snorkelling and filling her fucking treasure chest with shite from the sea bed. Way to grasp that idiot ball, Liz!]
It’s Steven’s turn to be skeptical over whether this is a big prank, right up until Elizabeth finds a map on the back of the half-heart. They tell him the rest of what’s been happening, he blows up over them going to the pier alone with John, and Elizabeth lays out her theory: Red gave Carlotta half the heart and half the map and half his treasure. If they can get the other half out of the reef, they’ll have the entire map to the treasure. The bosun went below to find the map and that’s why he wasn’t at his post and the ship wrecked.
She’s also figured out that John’s G5 (though Jessica calls him the G4) is the bosun. It’s about damn time.
They start talking about what they’d do with the money; one of the things Steven wants to buy is the L.A. Rams. Who then became the St. Louis Rams. Who are now again the L.A. Rams. And so the sports world turns.
Elizabeth has a couple other thoughts floating around about what’s happening, but she won’t tell Jessica and Steven, not yet. And she won’t tell us, because gotta keep that suspense up somehow even though she’s our POV character right now.
Elizabeth goes to the library to do research on shipwrecks off the California coast. That branch doesn’t have what she needs, but she’s directed to the archives in the downtown branch. On the way, she runs into Amy who is waiting for her mom to get done shopping so they can go to lunch and get haircuts. There’s no benches in downtown Sweet Valley, though, and no place for her to sit and wait. Elizabeth decides that if they find actual treasure, she’ll buy benches for downtown.
Elizabeth Saves the Day All Day Every Day. [Dove: Oh fuck off, Elizabeth. And fuck off, Sweet Valley. Why don’t you have benches?] [Raven: Removed by the council, to drive the homeless population to sleep on the benches in a neighbouring town instead.] [Wing: Cold. And believable.]
One little thing at a time.
As she looks around, she finds more and more things she’d fix, and she’d like to be the fairy godmother of Sweet Valley. Okay, this is adorable, though I’d like it more if it wasn’t Elizabeth who is always so obnoxious about saving the day.
After she leaves Amy, Elizabeth runs into Lila and Janet outside Bergman’s Emporium, one of the most expensive department stores in Sweet Valley. That doesn’t really sound like an expensive store [Dove: Bergdorfs? I only know that name from watching Gossip Girl.] [Wing: Yeah, I assume it’s a knock-off of that. It’s more the Emporium part that threw me.]. Janet’s there to take advantage of the spring sale; Lila shoots that down because she would never buy anything on sale how very gauche.
Janet can’t get mad at Lila, so she turns on Elizabeth and the chain letter prank. They’re both upset over how immature Elizabeth was over the entire thing. Just because you freaked yourselves out you don’t need to take it out on Elizabeth, damn.
Mr Dallas at the library helps her find some old documents, a newspaper account about a pardoned pirate and his noblewoman bride. There’s also a list of the names of all the men on the ship and the positions they filled.
On the way home, Elizabeth’s dragged through bushes into a front yard. It’s Steven, of course, and he grabbed her because someone’s been following her — John. Someone not Steven, because he’s also been following her. Fucking creepy, dude.
The three Wakefield kids gather in Steven’s room because it faces the front of the house and they’re waiting to see if John shows up to lurk. I could have sworn that the girls’ rooms face the front of the house, but okay.
Elizabeth falls into a nap that afternoon even though she never naps and, of course, has another dream. In this one, Carlotta talks to her as she walks through a wet, heavy mist that is almost like being underwater. Carlotta tells Elizabeth that she’s their only hope and they’re depending on her. Elizabeth promises to help her and begs not to be cursed; Carlotta says she’s never cursed a soul. The bosun cursed himself through his guilt and that’s the ill fortune that touches his descendants.
Jessica wakes her up to bad news: a storm has blown in and it will be the night without stars, oh, TONIGHT.
Despite how dangerous it is to go out on the water in a storm, they do it, because so much for Steven trying to keep them safe. Treasure trumps siblings, I see.
Steven’s the one who goes down, all wrapped up in a safety line of rope, it takes him awhile to hammer loose the metal in the coral, and just as soon as they get Steven back on the pier and determine it is the other half the heart, John shows up, because of course. He was hiding under the pier the whole time.
THE WHOLE TIME.
Steven immediately wants to hand over the heart even though John has done nothing to actually threaten them, but before he can, Elizabeth grabs that half, adds it to her half, and as it fits together, it warms in her hand — she feels like she’s holding Carlotta’s and Red’s hearts and their destinies in her hand.
Now that Red and Carlotta are reunited, Elizabeth doesn’t care about the treasure and hands it over to John. He runs down the pier to the beach, falls when a wave covers the pier, and drops the necklace into the water.
Hand in hand, the three Wakefields ran toward the safety of the covered bus stop, leaving behind them John Filber, the gold heart, and the churning sea.
That’s a pretty great line to end on, but the scene keeps going. [Dove: I read it as John dove in after it and probably drowned. Then I remembered we were in a PG genre, and realised I’d assumed too much.]
Elizabeth tells the other two the last of her theories, which is that Joshua is the ghost of the bosun who caused the wreck. He was the one who sent the chain letter which, in turn, led John to them so they could reunite Carlotta and Red.
They turn on her at this point, though, in that no one but her saw anything, they just followed what she told them, and she took a calligraphy course last summer, and it was all just coincidence that her joke was based on something true.
One final dream:
She was sitting on the end of the pier at Pirate’s Cove. The sky was turning an inky black as storm clouds raced overhead. Suddenly, a bolt of lightning seemed to split the sky, and rain began to pour down. It pounded the pier and drenched Elizabeth. She felt the cold damp wind on her face. The sea was boiling and churning.
Over the roar of the waves, the crashing thunder, and the pounding rain, Elizabeth heard the terrible, chilling moan. Carlotta’s moan. Elizabeth felt her body clench with fear as a steamy, thick mist began rolling in from the sea.
Suddenly she saw something emerge from the mist. It was vague at first, almost transparent, but slowly she made out the prow of a great ship. The pirate ship!
And at that instant, the mist parted and she saw the most wonderful sight in the world: Carlotta and Red Beard standing on the prow of the ship locked in a passionate embrace. Carlotta’s long, dark hair framed her pale, beautiful face and hung down over her deep pink velvet gown.
As Elizabeth looked into Carlotta’s and Red Beard’s faces, she felt a sense of relief flow over her. Their faces were filled with joy, and Elizabeth knew in her heart that they’d never be separated again.
Carlotta looked up, and for a moment her eyes met Elizabeth’s. She smiled, and Elizabeth knew it was a smile of thanks.
Miraculously, the sky began to clear. The rain stopped, the sky grew still and quiet, and the thick mist began to evaporate.
Elizabeth watched with a full heart as Carlotta and Red Beard sailed away into the clear morning sunlight.
But no foreshadowing for anything coming next. Unless the bench stuff is foreshadowing, which: boring.
I know it probably doesn’t sound like it, but I did enjoy this, mostly. All the parts we’ve seen before were done better in those previous books, though. I did love the friendship and siblings stuff that threaded through the story, and the curse and legend itself was wonderful.
Sorry, felt a need to be ghostie-dramatic for a moment there.
[Dove: This one didn’t work for me. I thought Wing might have more luck with it than me, because she loves the ocean, she loves shipwrecks and storms, she loves curses and… if pushed, one might even infer she rather likes a doomed romance, as long as it ends in a curse or ghosts. [Wing: To be fair, she’s not wrong.] Me, on the other hand, that’s not my thing – and the one time it was, the Famous Five did it better. Their shipwreck and dungeons and buried treasure was far more exciting. This just felt like a lot of treading water, to use an apt metaphor. This book felt like 15% story and 85% admin. Just not enough spookiness or threat – which is fine in the main series, I’m all about their silly adventures, but in a Super Chiller, I want them to delightedly jump out of the SV norm and this just failed to deliver. Especially when it ended with Steven thinking something mundane had happened. I would not read this again.]
[Raven: I legit hated this one. It was Sweet Valley Twins Super Chiller: Research and Dreams. Like Dove said, there wasn’t enough actual action, it was all backstory and correspondance and “I’m sorry, no swimming today, it’s raining.” The legend itself was nice enough, I guess, but it felt like we’d seen it all before. When the book started, and Liz was snorkelling anf finding exciting things, and Pirate’s Cove was mentioned, I full-on expected Sweet Valley Does The Goonies. That would be AMAZEBALLS, but in the end it felt like an adventure romp written by a computer programme used in chartered accountancy. Lila was great, but I’m coming to believe that she’s such a joy that she practically writes herself, so $AwesomeLila should be fucking STANDARD. The nicest thing I can say about this book is that, of the handful of Sweet Valley Twins books I want to burn with napalm, this is the best of them.]