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My debut book ACCORDING TO JANE won RWA's prestigious Golden Heart® Award for Best Novel with Strong Romantic Elements!!




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Book Club Discussion Questions:

According to Jane

Kensington Books
October 1, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-7582-3461-2


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In Marilyn Brant's smart, wildly inventive debut, one woman in search of herself receives advice from the ultimate expert in matters of the heart: Jane Austen.

1. What are the major themes and turning points in the story? Which turning point in Ellie’s thinking do you believe finally sets her on the road to greater self-understanding?

2. How is our vision of the world different as an adolescent than as an adult? Can we sometimes carry our adolescent worldview into adulthood long after we should’ve left it behind? Or are there some truths and beliefs about other people and/or ourselves that remain consistent through time?

3. Ellie’s friendship-turned-relationship with Sam is complicated by their having met in childhood. What adolescent misperceptions about him did she persist in holding on to over the years? What does it take to see our youthful prejudices through more mature eyes?

4. Do you identify or sympathize with Ellie? Do you empathize with her relationships--be they friendships, family interactions, romances?

5. What is Ellie’s “friendship” with Jane like? Do you believe a writer’s work--particularly that of an author no longer alive--can be a guiding force in a reader’s life? That it perhaps can even act as a form of friendship?

6. Are Ellie’s romantic relationships different from one another? Or, in essentials, are they each similarly flawed? Explain.

7. Ellie delineates seven “types” of men, and Austen, too, used her characters as representatives of a group (i.e., Darcy representing the rich yet honorable “highly eligible bachelor” who is not above learning a lesson in pride; Wickham being the prototype for a “deceitful charmer” who uses his looks and social skills for personal gain and self-indulgence; Bingley as the friendly “boy next door” who’s not as sophisticated as his role in society sometimes requires, etc.). Can people be so easily categorized? Do you recognize individuals you know in either Ellie’s or Jane’s categorizations? Or, do you believe human behavior defies fictional stereotyping?

8. What is Di and Ellie’s sisterly relationship like? How does it change over the course of the story? Is Angelique a family outsider or a symbolic sibling? What about Gregory? Could any meaningful change have taken place between these characters if the book had a shorter timeline?

9. Ellie is a middle child. Do you think she would have reacted to Sam and/or to men in general differently if she’d been the eldest or the youngest? How has birth order affected you in your relationships? Or do you think it hasn’t?

10. This story chronicles Ellie’s voyage of sexual discovery as well as her emotional and intellectual growth. Are these journeys interrelated? Do you believe there is any correlation between a woman’s level of comfort with her sexuality and the degree of her emotional maturity or the extent of her intellectual prowess?

11. What purpose does the persistent referral to 1980s music play? Do these songs help set a scene both emotionally as well as literally? Are any of the novel’s themes underscored by the unstated lyrics of the songs mentioned in the book? Do songs you hear on the radio pull you back to a certain place and time? If so, which ones? Why or why not might they be powerful tools in eliciting memories?

12. For readers familiar with Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, what are the similarities between the characters and situations in the classic novel and those in According to Jane?

13. For readers familiar with Austen’s letters and other biographical records, did you notice any parallels between Ellie and the real-life Jane Austen?

14. In Chapter Two, Jane tells Ellie, “You are more imaginative than any of them. Your cousin. Your siblings. Even your schoolmates. They have talents, to be sure, but beyond an intelligent mind there must be a creative spirit. It is not enough to absorb mere facts. True invention is in the application of vision.” What do you think Jane means by this? Do you believe what she’s saying?

15. What do you think happens to Sam and Ellie after the book ends? Do you think they’ll stay together? Do you want them to? Do you believe in soul mates, like Angelique does, or do you believe, like Di, that a lasting relationship is all about hard work and commitment? And, depending on what you think happens next, what do you imagine Jane’s comments on the subject would be?


Friday Mornings at Nine
Kensington Books
October 1, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-7582-3462-9


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**A Doubleday Book Club & Book-of-the-Month Club Featured Alternate Selection for October 2010**

[Check out what this creative and clever book club did for their discussion of Friday Mornings at Nine!]

In this modern fairy tale about three women, three marriages and what happens a decade or two after the Happily Ever After, three suburban moms discuss their lives, their families...and their first time contemplating an affair.

1. Discuss the personalities of three main characters in the novel--Bridget, Tamara and Jennifer. How are they different? Are there any similarities between them?

2. This novel is told from multiple points of view. Which character was the most compelling to you? Who did you most relate to? Did you find that you had a different favorite character at the end of the novel than you did at the beginning?

3. Consider the role of friendship in the book. Were these women good friends? Did they become closer or more distant as the novel progressed? Did one woman have a better understanding of the behavior and/or motivation of one friend versus another at different points in the story? How are your friendships similar or different to those of these women?

4. A fairy-tale theme is present throughout the book. Which woman was tied to which famous fairy tale? Was it a good fit? Do you think women in modern society have been conditioned to look at relationships, particularly marriage, as a kind of fairy tale come true? If so, is this a healthy expectation to bring to a committed relationship?

5. Has there ever been a person from your past that you considered “the one who got away”? A romantic relationship you’ve never had closure on and it has haunted you for years? Perhaps, a powerful physical chemistry with somebody, but you didn’t follow through on it, and you secretly still wish you would--or could--have acted upon that impulse? How far do you take those fantasies? Do you Google these people? Ask mutual acquaintances about them? And to what degree do you regret not having the chance to find out what might have happened?

6. Should people in a marriage be required to be faithful? Why or why not? Is your belief based upon religious principles? Family values? Personal experiences? And should fidelity be judged only by the crossing of a physical line? If so, where is that line? (i.e., When a married individual hugs someone other than his/her spouse? Kisses another? Has sex with another?) Or is the line an emotional one? Is an act of infidelity committed when emotions and confidences are shared with someone outside of the marriage?

7. How does the author use the season of fall as a metaphor in the story? Do you see anything symbolic in having one of the major turning points of the novel happening at Halloween, specifically, at a party devoted to games of pretense and disguise?

8. Music from the 1970s provides the soundtrack for this novel, even though the story takes place in the present day. Were you familiar with the songs referenced in the book? If so, did you feel they were good choices for the musical subtext?

9. Discuss the roles of women as wives, mothers and working professionals. What challenges do women face when they return to the workforce after devoting time to raising their children? What fears do they have about themselves and their relationships when those children leave the nest and the couple goes back to being alone at home again?

10. What do you think the future holds for each of the women in the story? Will they all find happiness in love? What does it take to have a good relationship? A successful marriage? Can a marriage survive an affair? If not, why not? If so, what would need to happen next to strengthen the married couple’s bond?


A Summer in Europe
Kensington Books
November 29, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-7582-6151-9


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**A Literary Guild, BOMC2 & Rhapsody Book Club Featured Alternate Selection for December 2011**

A modern story along the lines of E.M. Forster's A Room with a View about a young woman's journey of self-discovery as she travels across Europe with her adventurous aunt's Sudoku and Mahjongg club. Many wild (and a few romantic) experiences await!

1. Who is Gwendolyn Reese? What is her personality like and how has it been shaped by her early experiences?

2. Who are the people inhabiting Gwen’s world at home? What are their roles in her life? When she travels to Europe, she enters a new world filled with new people and situations. How does she handle the change? How would you handle it if you were in her position?

3. The first line of the book says, “The thing no one understood about Gwendolyn Reese was that she was three ages at once: Thirty chronologically, forty-five intellectually and fifteen experientially.” Do you believe a person can be at one age chronologically but also have different intellectual, emotional, social, etc. ages? What about you? Are you one age…or multiple ages?

4. A number of strategy games are referenced in the novel—which games do you most like to play, and have you ever applied the rules of your favorite one(s) to a social situation?

5. In 1904, E.M. Forster wrote the novel A Room with a View, are you familiar with it? If so, do you notice any parallels between Forster’s novel and A Summer in Europe?

6. The author has created a musical soundtrack for this novel by mentioning several songs throughout and focusing largely on stage musicals, particularly those of Andrew Lloyd Webber. Are you a fan of musical theater? Are you familiar with the songs referenced in the story?

7. In A Room with a View, E.M. Forster wrote, “The kingdom of music is not the kingdom of this world; it will accept those whom breeding and intellect and culture have alike rejected.” What does this quote mean to you?

8. Have you traveled to countries other than the one you grew up in? What have your experiences been? Have you visited any of the sites and cities mentioned in the novel? If so, what were your impressions of them?

9. Are you familiar with Albert Einstein’s attempts at finding a “Theory of Everything” or the physics doctrines mentioned in the book, like String Theory or Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle?

10. What is the relationship like between the Edwards brothers, Emerson and Thoreau? How has their mother’s behavior influenced them? Do your family dynamics ever resemble that of a soap-opera clan?

11. What did Gwen need to learn about herself in order to understand the people on the tour better—particularly Cynthia, Louisa, Hans-Josef, the Edwards brothers and her Aunt Bea? Her personal reawakening begins in Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance. Coincidental or no? Discuss.

12. What are your thoughts about the love triangle at play between Gwen, Richard and Emerson? Is there a love triangle (from the literary, music or film world) that calls to you? Have you ever been a part of a romantic love triangle? If so, who did you choose?

13. Zenia asks Gwen and then Gwen, in turn, asks Richard, “What is your art?” As an individual, how would you answer this question?


Pictures from some of Marilyn's book club visits:

Thursday book club

Saturday book club1

Saturday book club2

Saturday book club3

Friday book club

book club glk

valpo coffee

valpo 1

valpo 2

valpo 3








book club with wine

book club treats



Well, okay, this last photo isn't from an "official" book club visit, but we were TALKING about novels that night...really!































































































whimsy butterfly




Copyright 2007-2014 :: Marilyn Brant