My wonderful web designer friends Greg and jim are working on an update of the site for the May release of Beneath a Silent Moon. It should go live in the next couple of weeks. Meanwhile, there are now Reading Group Guides for both Secrets of a Lady and Beneath a Silent Moon on the detail pages for both books. I spent a lot of time on the Beneath a Silent Moon questions this week, so I thought I would make them this week’s blog topic.
1. The book opens with the line “The night air was like a lover’s touch. Cloaked in mystery, beckoning with promise, sweet at times but quickly cloying. And underneath rotten to the core.” How does this line set up the themes of the book?
2. Charles and Tommy are both returning home. How have their experiences in the Napoleonic Wars shaped their feelings about Britain?
3. What sort of marriage would Charles have had with Honoria? How does that compare with the one he has with Melanie?
4. What sort of marriage would Kenneth Fraser and Honoria have had?
5. Several characters–Charles, Mélanie, Francisco, Tommy, le Faucon–are dealing with the end of the war that has framed their lives for years. Discuss the similarities and differences in the dilemmas they face and the choices they make in the wake of the Napoleonic Wars.
6. Why do you think the author chose to introduce the reader to the Glenister House set through the viewpoints of Evie and Gisèle?
7. In Chapter 13, Charles thinks “The past echoed through the present, laughing at him for the presumption of thinking it could be left behind.” In what ways are various characters in the book–Charles, Mélanie, Honoria, Glenister, Kenneth, Lady Frances, Evie, Andrew, Gisèle, Quen and others–trying to come to terms with the past? How does the past shape their actions in the present?
8. What did you think of the hints about Mélanie’s past? If you’ve read Secrets of a Lady, how do you think her thoughts in Beneath a Silent Moon fit with the revelations in that book?
9. Charles says he isn’t a Romeo, and Mélanie says she can’t see him climbing a balcony unless it was to steal documents from the room beyond. But later Gisèle says that when Charles doesn’t think Mélanie is noticing he looks at her “like Romeo gazing up at Juliet’s balcony.” Whom do you believe and why?
10. Charles, David, and Simon are close friends who share many of the same political ideals and progressive thinking. Yet their reactions to the revelations in the book, particularly those involving romantic intrigues, are somewhat different. How might their childhoods and the more recent past have colored their reactions?
11. In Chapter 24, Lady Frances tells Mélanie that the younger generation don’t necessarily play the game of romance by the same rules as Lady Frances’s own generation. How do the attitudes of Lady Frances, Kenneth Fraser and Glenister toward love and sex and marriage differ from those of Charles, Mélanie, Honoria, Quen, and the other younger characters? Do these differences reflect differences between the late 18th century and the Regency?
12. How does Charles and Mélanie’s marriage change over the course of the book?
13. In Chapter 36, Lady Frances says “When I think the way Frederick and Cyril carried on their affairs with impunity while their sister suffered miserably for one love affair–which ended in marriage– It’s enough to make me take that Wollstonecraft woman seriously.” What do the differences in the ways Frederick and Cyril’s indiscretions are treated versus their sister Georgiana’s and the differences in the expectations for Quen and Val versus Honoria and Evie say about the roles of men and women at the time, even amid the license of the Glenister House set?
14. Charles, Gisèle, Quen, Val, Honoria, and Evie all have quite different attitudes toward love and sex and marriage. Yet in what ways have all of them been shaped by reacting to their parents’ intrigues?
15. What do you think was the real purpose behind the Elsinore League?
16. A number of Kenneth Fraser’s art treasures are described in the course of the book (the bronze of Triton and Nereid, the Gentileschi Cleopatra, the Fragonard oil, Danaë reaching out to clutch a fistful of gold coins). How are the works of art metaphors for the themes of the novel? How do the art-filled house and Elizabeth Fraser’s exquisite gardens contrast with Dunmykel village and the tenants coping with Kenneth Fraser’s Clearances?
17. In Chapter 18, Charles tells Mélanie, “Father and Glenister and perhaps even David think they can control the investigation through me, for all my fine words to the contrary. Tidy away the messy bits. Avoid a prosecution, if that proves inconvenient.” What do you think would have happened if the novel had ended with the killer still free?
Which of the characters would have wanted the killer brought to justice? Which would have wanted the killer to go free? How would Charles have felt himself? What does “justice” mean?
18. In Chapter 24, Dunmykel is described as “a turreted mass against the blue sky, the fifteenth-century north wing, the seventeenth-century central block and south wing, all overlaid by the embellishments and improvements of the eighteenth century. A jumble of eras, layered one on top of the other, like a tangle of memories.” How does Dunmkyel as a setting frame the events of the book? In what ways is the house its own character? How does the history of the house echo the history of the characters?
19. Charles and Mélanie often use Shakespeare quotes and Shakespeare plays as a sort of private code in their conversations. Why do you think they refer to “Hamlet” in particular so much in this book? (For example, their conversation in Chapter 36 and the last scene in the book).
If you’ve read Beneath a Silent Moon, I’d love to hear your thoughts on these questions. If you haven’t read Beneath a Silent Moon, are there other things you’d like to know about the book? What do you think of Reading Group Guides in general?
This week’s addition to the Fraser Correspondence focuses on the Glenister House family with a letter from Evie to Gisèle.