This reading group guide for Swept Off Her Feet includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Hester Browne. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
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Evie Nicholson, an assistant antiques dealer in London, has a fascination with what others might consider “old junk.” When her sister, Alice, offers Evie the chance to value items in her friend’s family castle in the Scottish Borders, it’s the opportunity of a lifetime.
Kettlesheer Castle appears to hold many wonders—none more intriguing to Evie than the castle’s attractive young heir, Robert McAndrew. But when she discovers the late Violet McAndrew’s notebooks, Evie uncovers a scandal that could financially ruin the McAndrew family. On top of this upsetting discovery, Evie is forced to take her sister’s place in the McAndrews’ annual Scottish Reeling Ball, learn a complicated dance routine, and sort through her feelings for Robert—all in the course of two days.TOPICS AND QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
1. Max’s motivations for being in the business of antiques are very different from Evie’s: “To succeed in antiques, you’ve got to ignore the item and focus on the person you can sell it to” (p. 3). If you were looking to buy or sell an antique item, with which dealer would you rather work? Why?
2. At the beginning of the novel, Alice and Evie are two sisters at odds. How does their relationship change over the course of the novel?
3. Although Evie and Alice’s mother never actually appears in the novel, each sister speaks to the effects she’s had on their lives. Did you find the girls’ relationship with their mother to be typical? In what ways do their relationships mirror your own relationship with your parents and in what ways is it different?
4. What do Evie and Robert think of each other when they first meet? Do you think either of them expects to fall so deeply for the other?
5. What were your feelings toward Catriona? Did you like or dislike her character? Did you feel sorry for her when she didn’t get the proposal she so expected?
6. When Evie doesn’t “feel” anything from what is supposed to be a very valuable and historical table, she tries to ignore her suspicions. Did you think something was wrong with the table? What were your initial suspicions?
7. Evie’s impression of Violet changes when she finds out Violet is selling off the castle’s antiques and replacing them with duplicates. What was your reaction to this scandal? Do you admire Violet for doing everything in her power to keep the house? Were you appalled to find she’d sold off the family’s most valuable treasures?
8. The beauty of the fallen snow outside the castle catches Evie by surprise. In what ways does nature have an impact on the novel, particularly on the individual characters?
9. Evie is entranced by the candlelit ball, which she says is straight out of a Jane Austen novel. What are some other references or comparisons to Jane Austen novels in Swept Off Her Feet
10. Although Evie has spent her entire adult life avoiding dancing in any form, the magic of the reeling ball takes charge as she finds herself easily moving with the music. Can you picture the ball through Evie’s eyes? Discuss what you imagine the reeling ball looks like.
11. Did you find yourself surprised when Alice showed up at the McAndrews’ mid-first reel? Or had you anticipated that she would show up all along? Did you think it was fair of Alice to take her sister’s place after having pressured Evie to fill in?
12. Robert and Duncan have very different opinions on how to run both the castle and Duncan’s proposed brewing business. Do you think the compromise they reach at the end of the novel will be successful? Why or why not?
13. Evie’s crush on Fraser disappears when she finally realizes the strength of her feelings for Robert. How are her feelings for each man different? What do you think would have happened with Fraser if she had never met Robert?
14. Max groans when Evie mentions using eBay to sell antique items, and Duncan brushes off her need for an Internet connection, telling her to use her eyes and brain instead. Are there other examples throughout the book in which the generations differ in their opinions on technology?
15. Despite having always wanted to attend a romantic ball, Evie is unsure when Alice presents her with the opportunity: “It was my absolute dream, actually happening. So what was holding me back? Fear. Fear of being the one part of the dream that didn’t match up” (p. 177). In what ways has Evie overcome her fears by the end of the novel? Which other characters had fears of their own that they had to conquer? Were they successful in doing so?
16. If Swept Off Her Feet
were to be made into a movie, which actors and actresses would you cast to play the main characters?
17. Max tells Evie to look out for Kettlesheer’s many assets— the famous table, beautiful silverware, paintings—but Evie’s drawn to far more personal treasures in the house, such as the daily household book of Lady Violet and her love letters. Which are, ultimately, the most “valuable” to the McAndrew family? What would be the real treasures in your family?
18. Evie loves history and is always looking for ways to make the past come alive around her, whether it’s buying vintage clothes, or imagining Ranald and Violet following the reel she’s learning, in the very same ballroom. Have you ever done anything to “connect” with your family’s past?
19. To begin with, Evie has a very romantic view of what life would have been like as a noblewoman in a Scottish castle. Do you think her view changes over the course of her stay?
20. Scottish reels are often danced in “sets” of four couples. Who would you invite to make up your ideal “set”?ENHANCE YOUR BOOK CLUB
1. Visit an antiques shop with your reading group and explore the shop’s unique treasures. Can you imagine the history of each object, like Evie does? Which objects do you think Evie would have found the most interesting?
2. Evie feels a deep connection with Violet and Ranald as she wanders through their castle. Which items around your home would you want to represent you in one hundred years? Ask each member of your reading group to compile a list, then compare lists to see which items are similar and which are different. Why did you choose the items on your list? What special significance do they hold?
3. When Evie and Max have trouble selling an item in Max’s store, Evie often turns to eBay. Ask the members of your reading group to search eBay for antique items. Who can find the best bargain? The rarest object? The oldest piece of furniture?
4. If your reading group is feeling particularly brave, why not try to learn a Scottish reel? For instructions, go online to the Scottish Dance Archives at http://www.dancearchives.co.uk/instructions.htm. If you’d rather skip the dancing but still want to experience the music of the Scottish reels, try looking for recordings online or at your local library.
5. Can’t get enough of the Scottish dances and customs featured in Swept Off Her Feet
? Visit the following websites:
· All forms of Scottish dancing, from the very formal to barn dances: http://www.scottishdance.net/
· Royal Scottish Country Dance Society—the official body of the formal side of things: http://www.rscds.org/index.php
· The Strathspey Server—everything you ever wanted to know, and more: http://www.strathspey.org/index.html
6. To learn more about Hester Browne and her books, including her bestselling The Little Lady Agency
series, visit her author page at http://authors.simonandschuster.com/