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Reading Group Discussion Questions

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1. What kind of mood and tone does the Prologue set? Why do you think the author chose to open the novel with Meg and Jack and to introduce the reader to the Frasers’ world through their eyes?

2. What image of the Frasers and their marriage did you have from the first scene between Mélanie and Charles? How does this scene change if one rereads it knowing the secrets that are revealed over the course of the novel?

3. Did you find yourself sympathizing more with Mélanie or with Charles or with both of them equally? Why? Did your sympathies change over the course of reading the novel?

4. What do you think would have happened if Charles had learned Mélanie’s secrets in a different way, without Colin’s disappearance forcing them to work together? How would events have played out? Would Charles and Mélanie have continued to live under the same roof? Would they ever have revealed the things they reveal over the course of the novel? What would have happened to Colin and Jessica and their relationship with their parents?

5. When Roth meets the Frasers in Chapter 3 in the small salon (”an airy room with sea-green walls and pristine ivory moldings”) he thinks of them as a “typical Mayfair couple, at home in their perfect jewel box of a world.” [p. 34]. In Chapter 8, when Charles learns Mélanie’s secrets, he smashes his fist into the wall of this perfect room. Discuss the ways in which that moment is a metaphor for the events of the novel.

6. How did the secrets Mélanie kept compare with the secrets Charles kept?

7. How did you feel about Mélanie’s secret when it was first revealed? By the end of the book, had your opinion of her changed? If so, why?

8. How are Mélanie and Charles both shaped by their childhoods, particularly their relationships with their parents? How does this affect their relationships with Colin and Jessica?

9. At one point, Mélanie thinks, “If her life had taken a different turn, if she had made different choices, she might be preparing to open a new production of “Romeo and Juliet,” like Violet Goddard. Or dying of consumption in a brothel like Susan Trevennen.” How do Violet and Susan and the other women in the book–Helen Trevennen, Kitty, Meg, Lady Frances, Julia Mannerling–echo different elements of Mélanie’s story? What does this say about the position of women at the time?

10. Just after Mélanie has opened up to Charles about the horrifying circumstances that shaped her early life and led her to be a spy, she says, “Whatever happens, don’t let Jessica be stifled. Give her an education, let her travel, give her an independent income. Make her as free as a woman can be.” And Charles thinks, “The speech at first seemed a complete non sequitur. But in light of their whole conversation, perhaps it was not.” [p. 302]. Do you agree? Why do you think the revelations about her own past drive Mélanie to discuss her daughter’s future?

11. Mélanie says, “You can never know what another person is thinking or feeling. You have to make guesses and assumptions. The picture keeps changing with new evidence.” [p. 335]. Discuss how this is true of the image the other characters–and the reader–have of the major characters–Mélanie, Charles, Raoul, Edgar, Meg, Roth, Helen Trevennen–over the course of the novel?

12. How does Roth attitude toward the Frasers change over the course of the novel. Why is Roth’s confession of some of his own secrets in the last chapter “in its own way an offer of friendship”? [p. 457].

13. Discuss the use of names in the book. What does it say about Charles’s relationship to Mélanie that he almost always calls her “Mel” rather than the more elegant and delicate “Mélanie”? How does the way he addresses her change after he learns her secret? What does it say about Mélanie that she continues to call Charles “darling” throughout the book, even in the darkest moments between them? Is there a difference between when Raoul calls Charles “Fraser” and “Charles”? What about Raoul calling Mélanie “querida”?

14. Why is it significant that Charles’s letter to Mélanie at the end of the book is written from the House of Commons?

15. What new light do the letters in the A+ section shed on the characters and story? What do the salutations and signatures (”My dear David,” “Melly mine,”, “Your affectionate friend,” “R.,” “As always”, etc…) say about the characters and their relationships.

16. Despite working for different sides, in what ways are Charles and Mélanie’s ideals similar? What does this say about the political landscape of the day?

17. Toward the end of the book, Charles says, “I think you were right earlier. We never know what we’re capable of until we actually commit an act.” [p. 454]. How does this apply to the various characters in the book–Mélanie, Charles, Edgar, Raoul, Meg, Jack, Roth?

2 Responses to “Secrets of a Lady Reading Group Discussion Questions”

  1. william jacobs Says:

    Being new to your work, before I jump in, which book should I read first?

  2. Tracy Grant Says:

    Thanks for posting, William! I deliberately wrote “Secrets of a Lady” (formerly “Daughter of the Game”) and “Beneath a Silent Moon” so they could be read in either order. “Secrets”/”Daughter” takes place after “Beneath” but was written and published first. Neither book spoils the other, but if you read “Secrets” first you learn things about the characters (particularly Mélanie) which add shadings to “Beneath.” I’ve heard from readers who’ve started with both books, and I’m always fascinated by readers’ reactions depending on which book they read first. Which ever book you read first, I think (I hope!) it will add depth and shadings to the book you read second.

    Hope that helps! Please feel free to ask further questions.

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