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Book club questions for The Heiress by Rachel Hawkins explore the themes of family dynamics, dark legacies, and the haunting consequences of the past.
This is a well written book! I could hear each character speaking in my mind. I especially loved Ruby’s voice and moments of explanation. Twists in the novel came at just the right times.
What were your thoughts after reading this novel?
The Heiress by Rachel Hawkins
In this blog post you will find the discussion questions for The Heiress by Rachel Hawkins.
Book club discussions may also explore the complexities of inheritance, the impact of Ruby’s notorious life on subsequent generations, the unraveling mysteries surrounding her infamous kidnapping, as well as the secrets concealed within the grand Ashby House.
Have a wonderful book club discussion! ✨
About the Story
The Heiress follows the story of Ruby McTavish Callahan Woodward Miller Kenmore, the North Carolina’s richest and most notorious woman.
Ruby, a victim of a famous kidnapping in her childhood and a widow four times over, ruled the town of Tavistock from Ashby House in the Blue Ridge Mountains. When she dies, her adopted son, Camden, and his wife, Jules, who have been living a normal life in Colorado, find themselves drawn back into the family drama. Despite Camden’s initial reluctance to inherit Ashby House and its fortune, the legacy of Ruby proves inescapable.
As they delve into Ruby’s mysterious past, including persistent rumors from her childhood and the suspicious deaths of her four husbands, the couple realizes that family ties and inheritances can be more complex and haunting than they ever imagined.
The novel is a gripping Gothic thriller, exploring the dark secrets surrounding Ruby’s life and the enduring impact of family bonds beyond the grave.
About the Author
Rachel Hawkins, also known as Erin Sterling, was born in Virginia and raised in Alabama. Her writing journey began in Kindergarten with a thrilling tale involving a unicorn, a witch, and a princess, earning praise from her teacher and mother.
Rachel has since written over a dozen books for children and adults, published in more than twenty countries. As Rachel Hawkins, she penned the New York Times bestselling The Wife Upstairs, a Southern Gothic twist on Jane Eyre, lauded as a thrill ride and a gothic thriller.
Under the name Erin Sterling, Rachel writes paranormal romantic comedies, with her debut, The Ex Hex, earning acclaim as a Book of the Month pick and a New York Times and USA Today Bestseller.
Currently residing in Auburn, Alabama, with her husband, son, and five cats, Rachel enjoys reading, cooking, and exploring various creative hobbies. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram.
Book Club Questions for The Heiress
Disclaimer: the following discussion questions contain spoilers, so proceed with caution if you haven’t finished the book yet.
- Discuss the portrayal of family dynamics within the McTavish family. How does the author depict the relationships between different family members? Are there any relatable elements or surprising twists in these relationships?
- Did any of the characters in “The Heiress” remind you of people you know or situations you’ve encountered? How did these personal connections enhance or challenge your understanding of the story?
- Articles and stories play a significant role in the novel, making the media almost a character itself. How did these external sources contribute to the atmosphere of the story? Did they add depth to your understanding of the characters and their world?
- Each of Ruby’s husbands reflects different periods in her life. How did their characters evolve over the course of the story, and how did Ruby’s motivations for their eventual fates change?
- The color red is a recurring motif in the novel. Identify the instances where it is mentioned and discuss what significance you attribute to the color in those scenarios.
- Which character did you find yourself sympathizing with the most, and why? Were there any characters you struggled to empathize with, and if so, what aspects of their personalities or actions contributed to this?
- How do the characters’ individual secrets impact the dynamics within the McTavish family? Did it make you consider the role of secrets in your own family or relationships?
- Discuss how wealth and privilege influence the characters’ decisions and relationships in the book. Do you think the portrayal of wealth is realistic, and how might the story differ if the characters were from a different socioeconomic background?
- Were there moments that took you by surprise, and how did they affect your reading experience? Did the twists enhance the overall narrative, or did they feel forced?
- Names in the book, such as Ruby and Jules, are symbolic. Consider the significance of Grace’s name and speculate on what Jules might name her and Cam’s baby. How do these names contribute to the themes of the novel?
- The novel explores the concept of nature versus nurture, particularly with characters like Ruby, Dora, and Cam. Did your perspective on this age-old debate shift after reading “The Heiress”? How do the characters navigate their identities in relation to their upbringing?
- The McTavish name carries privilege, allowing the family to escape consequences multiple times. Discuss the theme of power and reckless freedom that comes with their wealth. How are the Darnells affected by the McTavishes’ actions?
- Consider the atmospheric elements of the Blue Ridge Mountains and Ashby House. How did the setting contribute to the overall mood of the story? Did it evoke any personal memories or feelings?
- Examine the relationships between Jules and Camden, as well as other family members. How do these relationships evolve throughout the story, and did you find the portrayal of love, loyalty, and betrayal relatable?
- If you were in Cam’s position and received similar letters, how might you react? How did the letters contribute to your understanding of Ruby’s character, and did they add depth to the narrative for you?
- Cam worked hard to distance himself from his family, yet upon returning to Ashby House, he felt transported to his past. Can one ever fully escape their origins? How does Cam define himself in opposition to the McTavishes?
- Why do you think Ruby created memorials for each of her husbands? Do you believe they serve as a form of penance or a strategic move to portray innocence? Share your interpretations.
- Why did Ruby adopt Cam, and did her plan for him play out as she had hoped? Discuss the complexities of their mother-son relationship and the implications of adoption in the story.
- Consider the theme of legacy and inheritance in the novel. How do the characters’ experiences with wealth and family legacy resonate with your own views on inheritance or family history? Are there aspects you would handle differently?
- The McTavishes view the family fortune and Ashby House as a source of power, while Cam sees it as a confining trap. Explore the dynamics of their different perspectives. Does the concept of “birthright” play a role in these varying views?
- Consider the significance of the baby doll with one eye closed. How does this childhood anecdote involving Ruby and Nelle contribute to your understanding of Ruby’s character and actions later in the story?
- Jules refers to Ruby as a possible “witch” and questions if she’s a “changeling.” How does this version of Ruby relate to the definition of a “changeling” on page 5? Discuss the symbolism and implications of these terms.
- Without revealing spoilers, consider the ending of the novel. How did the resolutions of various plotlines affect your overall satisfaction with the book? Were there any lingering questions or loose ends you wished were addressed differently?
Hope you enjoyed the book club discussion questions and reading guide for The Heiress by Rachel Hawkins.
Here are some more of my book club recommendations related to this book, along with their synopses:
The Women by Kristin Hannah
From the celebrated author of The Nightingale and The Four Winds comes Kristin Hannah’s The Women―at once an intimate portrait of coming of age in a dangerous time and an epic tale of a nation divided.
Women can be heroes. When twenty-year-old nursing student Frances “Frankie” McGrath hears these words, it is a revelation. Raised in the sun-drenched, idyllic world of Southern California and sheltered by her conservative parents, she has always prided herself on doing the right thing. But in 1965, the world is changing, and she suddenly dares to imagine a different future for herself. When her brother ships out to serve in Vietnam, she joins the Army Nurse Corps and follows his path.
As green and inexperienced as the men sent to Vietnam to fight, Frankie is over-whelmed by the chaos and destruction of war. Each day is a gamble of life and death, hope and betrayal; friendships run deep and can be shattered in an instant. In war, she meets―and becomes one of―the lucky, the brave, the broken, and the lost.
But war is just the beginning for Frankie and her veteran friends. The real battle lies in coming home to a changed and divided America, to angry protesters, and to a country that wants to forget Vietnam.
The Women is the story of one woman gone to war, but it shines a light on all women who put themselves in harm’s way and whose sacrifice and commitment to their country has too often been forgotten. A novel about deep friendships and bold patriotism, The Women is a richly drawn story with a memorable heroine whose idealism and courage under fire will come to define an era.
The Night Island by Jayne Ann Krentz
The disappearance of a mysterious informant leads two people desperate for answers to an island of deadly deception in this new novel in the Lost Night Files trilogy by New York Times bestselling author Jayne Ann Krentz.
Talia March, Pallas Llewellyn, and Amelia Rivers, bonded by a night none of them can remember, are dedicated to uncovering the mystery of what really happened to them months ago—an experience that amplified innate psychic abilities in each of them. The women suspect they were test subjects years earlier, and that there are more people like them—all they have to do is find the list of others who took that same test. When Talia follows up on a lead from Phoebe, a fan of the trio’s podcast, she discovers that the informant has vanished.
Talia isn’t the only one looking for Phoebe, however. Luke Rand, a hunted and haunted man who is chasing the same list that Talia is after, also shows up at the meeting place. It’s clear he has his own agenda, and they are instantly suspicious of each other. But when a killer begins to stalk them, they realize they have to join forces to find Phoebe and the list.
The rocky investigation leads Talia and Luke to a rustic, remote retreat on Night Island in the Pacific Northwest, where the Unplugged Experience promises to rejuvenate guests. Upon their arrival, Talia and Luke discover they are quite literally cut off from the outside world when none of their high-tech devices work on the island. It soon becomes clear that Phoebe is not the first person to disappear into the strange gardens that surround the Unplugged Experience retreat. And then the first mysterious death occurs. . . .
The Hunter by Tana French
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Searcher and “one of the greatest crime novelists writing today” (Vox), a spellbinding new novel set in the Irish countryside.
It’s a blazing summer when two men arrive in a small village in the West of Ireland. One of them is coming home. Both of them are coming to get rich. One of them is coming to die.
Cal Hooper took early retirement from Chicago PD and moved to rural Ireland looking for peace. He’s found it, more or less: he’s built a relationship with a local woman, Lena, and he’s gradually turning Trey Reddy from a half-feral teenager into a good kid going good places. But then Trey’s long-absent father reappears, bringing along an English millionaire and a scheme to find gold in the townland, and suddenly everything the three of them have been building is under threat. Cal and Lena are both ready to do whatever it takes to protect Trey, but Trey doesn’t want protecting. What she wants is revenge.
From the writer who is “in a class by herself,” (The New York Times), a nuanced, atmospheric tale that explores what we’ll do for our loved ones, what we’ll do for revenge, and what we sacrifice when the two collide.
Happy reading! ❤️