A Rose for the Crown Reading Group Guide Questions & Topics for Discussion
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- The Prologue contains significant details about Kate and her two sons, one of whom dies tragically in these opening pages. Did having this information up front influence your reading of the story? Why do you suppose Anne Easter Smith chose to reveal these facts in the Prologue?
- When Kate is ten years old, her father tells her the story of how he came into possession of an ecu, a French coin, in order to help her understand the concept of loyalty. Loyalty is "when you stand by someone you love or honor and do not desert them even in the bad times," he says. What impact does this conversation have on Kate? How does the idea of loyalty play out in the story? Why does Kate give Richard the ecu to wear when it comes into her possession?
- When Kate's parents decide to accept Richard Haute's offer to have Kate join their household, John Bywood says to him, "As much as it do sadden us to see her go, we are obliged to do what is best for Kate." Even ten-year-old Kate acknowledges that "the thrill of a new life at the Mote must outweigh the loss." How do these same statements apply to Kate and her own children many years later?
- Kate is reluctant to marry her first husband, Thomas Draper, a man much older than she. But in what ways does Kate's marriage to Thomas come to benefit her? Why is Kate, a smart woman, then so deceived by her second husband, George, who not only marries her for her money but harbors a dark secret?
- When Kate finds out why George refuses to consummate their marriage, she decides to keep his secret. Why does she choose not to reveal what she knows, even though it could be the very thing that will free her from her marriage? After George dies, Kate dreams of him and believes this is God's way of "reminding her of the reason for [his] untimely death. If she had told him who her lover was from the beginning, he might not have attempted to find Richard and venture into Sherwood Forest." Does Kate bear any responsibility for George's death?
- When Kate travels to the Howard estate and unexpectedly attends the birth of their daughter, she strikes up a friendship with Margaret. In what ways does Kate's friendship with Margaret play an integral role in her life?
- When Kate first begins her affair with Richard, he's fifteen and she's two years older. What draws them together? Is their relationship based on more than youthful passion? After the initiation of their love affair at the Howards' home, Richard attempts to persuade Kate to accompany him to London as his mistress. Although she's tempted, as it would allow her to see him more often, why does Kate refuse Richard's offer?
- When they return to Bywood Farm in anticipation of Dickon's birth, Geoff remarks to his sister, "Who would have believed how our lives would change, Kate. If it had not been for your boldness...we would still think there was no bigger river than the Medway or town than Tunbridge!" Is their change in fortune due to Kate's "boldness"? Does Kate knowingly use it to her advantage? Is this quality more effective when it comes to the men in her life than the women?
- Why does Kate insist on telling Richard in person that Katherine has died? When she breaks the news to him, he says, "I have nothing to live for, Kate. I have lost my wife, my son, my brothers, my nephews, and now my beautiful daughter. I swear to Almighty God I do not care if I live or die.... I wish Richmond would come through that door this very moment and put me out of my misery!" Did Kate do the right thing by telling Richard about their daughter's death right before he went into battle?
- Both Margaret and Kate's cousin, Anne, disagree with her decision to send Dickon to Bywood farm to be raised as her brother's child. When Kate tells Richard, however, he commends her for caring about their child so much that she would do such a selfless thing. How do you explain these different reactions? Did Kate make the right decision, particularly in light of what transpires later in the story? What compels Kate to finally reveal the truth to Dickon?
- Richard says to Kate about his wife, Anne, "she is a simple soul, Kate, and too vulnerable. In many ways, you would be more suited as a queen." Compare Kate with Richard's wife, Anne, and the role each one plays in his life. If someone were observing their first meeting, what would they conclude about the two women? Why does Richard confide in Kate on numerous occasions after he becomes king?
- A Rose for the Crown is a bittersweet story, and the characters experience both moments of great happiness and intense sorrow. What is your overall impression of the book? How does it compare to other works of historical fiction you've read? Did you come away with an understanding of what it was like during, as Smith says in the Author's Note, "one of English history's most complex periods"?
Set the scene -- and enliven your taste buds -- by serving tea and traditional English delicacies like shortbread, custard, sugared plums, and scones with jam and clotted cream. If your group normally meets at a restaurant, or if you'd like a change of pace, visit www.theteacaddy.com
for a directory of tea rooms across the United States.
Select a nonfiction aspect presented in the book, find out more about it, and share your findings with the group. Then discuss its significance in the story, and in particular how it affects Kate. Possible topics include fifteenth-century laws about divorce and annulment, the use of plants and herbs for medicinal purposes, and taking a vow of widowhood.
Throughout history King Richard III has often been remembered as a usurper of the throne and possibly even a murderer. Conduct some research into how he has been portrayed -- in books, articles, and even entertainment sources like Shakespeare's plays and twentieth-century film adaptations. Compare your findings to how Smith presents the monarch in the book, taking into account the information she shares in the Author's Note. A listing of resources and links can be found at www.richardiii.net
, the website of the Richard III Society, whose mission is to restore the reputation of this controversial historical figure.