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This reading group guide forThe Ideal Wifeincludes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Jacquelin Thomas. 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.
Young newlywed Jana is settling into married life with her handsome husband, Lawrence, after a whirlwind courtship and wedding. But soon after their honeymoon, it becomes apparent that in order to adapt to her successful husband’s world, Jana will need to change. Her new circle of friends includes the wives of Lawrence’s partners at his law firm, who spend their days shopping, having lunch, and working on charity committees. Jana tries her best to be the ideal wife, but it soon becomes clear that her husband has voracious and somewhat unusual sexual appetites and, although she strives to please him, Jana is having trouble reconciling his uninhibited lifestyle with her faith. Will she be forced to choose between her husband and her God?
Questions for Discussion
1. Why do you think the author opens the novel with the epigraph from the book of Esther? What tone does this set?
2. In trying to reconcile her husband’s wants with her strong faith, Jana relates to the biblical story of Queen Vashti: “My first impression of Queen Vashti after reading the scripture was that of a rude and undisciplined woman. Now I’m beginning to think differently. . . .” (pp. 51–52) Why does the queen’s story strike such a chord with Jana?
3. Do you think Jana’s reaction to Lawrence when he wants to watch the “blue” movie is justified? How would you have reacted in this situation?
4. What do you think of Lawrence’s requests concerning their intimate life? Is there a way he could have broached the subject better and possibly reached a compromise?
5. Both Jana and Lawrence make strong arguments citing biblical scripture in defense of their own opinions concerning marital intimacy. Whose is more convincing? How important a role does sex play in marriage?
6. What is the significance of the title, The Ideal Wife?
7. Since Lawrence knew his wife was not comfortable with his adventurous sex, were you surprised when he brought her to the swingers’ club? Why do you think he decided to do that? How do you feel about Jana’s reaction?
8. Pastor Lacey defines adultery in this way: “The original meaning of adultery stemmed from the fact that women were considered property in the Old Testament . . . so adultery was having sex with a man’s wife without his consent. In our society, women are definitely far from being called property, but I still believe the definition should be essentially the same. Having sex with a married person without their partner’s consent is adultery but if that person doesn’t mind, then there’s been no harm done.” Do you agree or disagree with his explanation?
9. As they are finalizing their divorce, Lawrence offers to buy Jana a house and give her a million dollars. Should she accept this offer or do you think there will be strings attached? Do you think Lawrence is a changed man at the end of the story?
10. How does Jana try to utilize her difficult experiences to help others? How has what she’s been through changed her as a person?
11. Have you ever been in a relationship in which you’ve been asked to compromise your principles?
Enhance Your Book Club
1. To find out more about author Jacquelin Thomas, check out her official site, www.jacquelinthomas.com, which includes information about her other titles as well as biographical information about the author.
2. Jana’s favorite restaurant in the novel is an establishment called Southern Style. Have each member of your book group make a Southern-style dish to bring to your next meeting, or meet in a Southern-style restaurant.
3. The author’s inspiration for The Ideal Wife is from the book of Esther, mainly the story of Queen Vashti. Have each member of your book group discuss a story from the Bible that has given them inspiration.
A Conversation with Jacquelin Thomas
Q. You start off The Ideal Wife with a scripture passage from Esther 1:8–12. Why did you choose this particular passage and how does it relate to the story?
A. There isn’t a whole lot on Queen Vashti in the Bible, but she inspired me to write The Ideal Wife. The scripture reference sets the tone for the story. Here is a man proud of his wife’s beauty and he wants to show her off to the men in his court, much like Lawrence does with Jana. Only Lawrence takes it a step further—he wants his wife to sleep with other men.
Q. Y our novel discusses the difficulty women might face when trying to juggle a modern marriage and their faith. What inspired you to write a novel that addresses such an issue?
A. I was inspired by Queen Vashti, but also by conversations I’ve had with other women. There are women who want to know just how far to go when it comes to satisfying their husbands, and hopefully this novel will spark open conversation between couples.
Q. Forgiveness plays a big part in The Ideal Wife. Was this intentional? What message are you trying to convey to your readers?
A. I think forgiveness comes into play in any Christian novel, but yes, it was intentional. In order to move forward with your life, you have to forgive past hurts. If you don’t, you run the risk of bitterness setting in.
Q. You wear so many hats as a writer—romance author, Christian fiction author, young-adult author. How do you decide what to write next? What are the differences, if any, in writing for different genres?
A. I love writing, and God has given me so many stories I find it’s hard to keep up at times. I love romance and I’m married to my very own Hero, so writing romance is just a celebration of love. With writing Christian fiction, it’s more of a ministry for me, and with YA, I have a heart for teens so I wanted to write books that spoke to their issues. There really isn’t any difference between them as I always strive to tell a good story. The teen books are geared toward ages twelve to eighteen. None of my books have profanity or graphic sexual situations.
Q. Can you walk us through your writing regime? Do you have a set outline that you follow, or do you go where the narrative takes you?
A. I write from an outline, which changes from time to time, but for the first draft, I tend to keep it close to my initial notes. The rewriting phase is when I really flesh out my scenes and let the characters tell me where to take the story.
Q. How important is it to incorporate your faith into your work? What does your faith bring to your life?
A. It’s very important as my writing is a gift from God. I didn’t just decide to be a writer—it is what I was born to do, and I truly believe this. God wants us to use our gifts to glorify Him and that’s what I want to do. Without Him, none of this would be possible.
Q. What would you like readers to take away from The Ideal Wife?
A. That it’s important to search the Word of God for yourself. You can’t just lean unto someone else’s interpretation of what the scriptures say. People will twist scripture to suit their purposes. If you’re doing something that is not in the will of God, He will convict your spirit.
Q. What can we expect from you next?
A. My next book will be a modern-day adaptation of Samson and Delilah’s story.
Jacquelin Thomas' books have garnered several awards, including two EMMA awards, the Romance In Color Reviewers Award, Readers Choice Award, and the Atlanta Choice Award in the Religious & Spiritual category. She was nominated for a 2008 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Fiction in the Young Adult category. Jacquelin has published in the romance, inspirational fiction and young adult genres.