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This reading group guide forLady Jasmineincludes discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Victoria Christopher Murray. 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.
Questions for Discussion
1. The novel centers around Jasmine Larson Bush’s deep secret—one that she is willing to do anything to keep concealed in order to save herself, her marriage, and her family. The reader is let in on the secret very early in the book, however. How does this immediate revelation affect your reading of the story? What assumptions did you make about Jasmine within the first few pages?
2. If you’ve read other books that feature Jasmine—Temptation, A Sin and a Shame, or Too Little, Too Late—what is it about this character that makes for such compelling reading? Do you find Jasmine likable? Do you identify with her in any way?
3. Though Reverend Samuel Bush is in a coma for most of the book, he remains an important and influential figure. How does his absence or presence affect the lives of Hosea, Jasmine, Pastor Wyatt, and the other church members?
4. Is Mae Frances being a good friend to Jasmine by doing whatever it takes to help her out when she’s in trouble, or is she simply enabling Jasmine’s scheming and devious ways? What’s your definition of a good friend?
5. Is Jasmine capable of being a responsible first lady of City of Lights at Riverside Church, or is she interested only in glamour and prestige?
6. What motivates Jasmine? Is she driven by pure motives such as love for her husband and child, righteousness in the eyes of God, a quest for truth, or a desire to change? Or is she driven by temptations like lust, money, fame, and revenge?
7. How would you characterize Jasmine and Hosea’s relationship? What is it built upon? Do you think they will have a lasting marriage? Why or why not?
8. The novel pulls back the curtain on the messiness and divisiveness of church politics. Have you ever been part of a church, workplace, or other organization that was nearly undone by disputes over leadership or direction? Describe that experience.
9. In Hosea’s debut sermon in chapter 12, he speaks of “the audacity to obey.” What does this phrase mean in the context of his story? What does the phrase mean when you apply it to your own life? Provide examples if you can.
10. In her search for her blackmailer, Jasmine seeks to bring down all her potential enemies—Jerome Viceroy, Pastor Wyatt, and Mrs. Whittingham. With a bit of digging, Jasmine discovers that all of them harbor secrets that would shock the church congregation. Do each of these characters get what they deserve? What does Hosea mean when he says, “No one else’s misfortune is God’s blessing to me”?
11. In the end, does Jasmine do anything that surprises you? She has the power to reveal some very dark secrets and destroy people’s lives, but she refrains from wielding that power. Why do you think she holds back?
12. Hosea faces a very difficult decision when he must choose whether or not to keep his father on life support. What would you do if faced with a similar situation?
Enhance Your Book Club
1. For a laugh, use Viva’s method of coming up with your “dancer” name. Like “Pepper Pulaski,” take the name of a childhood pet for the first name, and the street you grew up on for your last name. Share the humorous results with the group!
2. Detective Foxx says, “Blackmailers always mess up.” Check out some other criminals who aren’t so good at covering their tracks at www.dumbcriminals.com.
3. For more information on the novels of Victoria Christopher Murray, visit the author’s website, www.victoriachristophermurray.com. If you’d like a chance to meet the author, be sure to check the tour dates. Murray tours extensively and could be reading and signing at a bookstore near you!
A Conversation with Victoria Christopher Murray
This is your fourth novel featuring the beloved and despised Jasmine Larson Bush. When you wrote Temptation, did you envision her as a recurring character?
Never, never, never! When I first brought Jasmine to life, I never expected to write about her again. Look at her—she’s not very likable. Who would want to revisit her? Those were my thoughts, but those thoughts did not belong to the readers. Jasmine Bush has become my Erica Kane—she’s the woman that most love to hate!
Jasmine’s juicy secrets and schemes seem simply endless. Will there be additional books featuring this intriguing woman?
I can’t tell you that! But truly, how many more secrets can one woman have? Oops, we are talking about Jasmine, aren’t we? Well, the truth—I’m not sure if Jasmine has any more secrets, but there’s something that I have been thinking about: Doesn’t there come a time when one has to pay for their past sins? Hmmmm . . .
How do you relate to Jasmine personally? Is she inspired by anyone you’ve known, or is she a purely fictional creation?
Are you kidding me? I don’t know anyone like her. Jasmine is truly a figment of my imagination.
You’ve had such an interesting and inspiring life, spending many years in the corporate world and as an entrepreneur before giving it all up to write fiction. How do you share your story of faith and courage to other people who may feel a similar calling?
When I left corporate America to venture into this writing life, I never saw it as a big step of faith. That’s because I really believed that I was supposed to be doing this. Plus, I do have a lot of faith and one thing I know is that you don’t need faith when you’re inside the box. You don’t need faith to keep doing what you’re doing. Faith is only necessary outside of the box. So stepping out gave me a chance to exercise my faith. I tell people that if you have faith, use it!
There’s certainly a religious theme to your novels, but it doesn’t seem to be heavy-handed or overly judgmental. What role do faith and religion play in your life, and how have they helped to shape the stories that you tell?
I tell people this anytime they ask this question. I am a Christian and I love the Lord. Period. For me, my Christianity is not an adjective—it’s a verb. It’s far more than a way to describe me; it’s what I do. I always say that if I were a bus driver, people would have said, “There goes that Christian bus driver.” Or if I were a teacher, people would have said, “Have you met the new Christian teacher?” My Christianity goes with me wherever I go.
You seem to love the characters that make the greatest mistakes, always treating them with a sense of humor, often giving them second chances or hope for forgiveness. Where do you get such compassion for “the sinners” in your stories?
I’ve got lots of compassion for sinners—since I’m one of them. I haven’t committed the same sins as my characters, but I sin nonetheless. And I thank God for His compassion and His grace, and His mercy every day. So it’s easy for me to have that kind of compassion for my characters and pass on to them the same forgiveness that God gives to me every moment of my life.
What do you hope readers will take away from a story like Lady Jasmine?
I’m not sure there’s a specific message—I don’t write my books that way. What I try to get across in all of my stories is that no matter what you do, no matter what you’re going through, no matter who you are, God is there for you.
Aside from the story of Hosea and Gomer, do any other parts of Lady Jasmine have subtle biblical parallels?
Hmmmm . . . I don’t know. I didn’t put any other biblical parallels in the story, but you never know what a reader may find.
Do you have a favorite Bible verse? What’s the significance for you?
I have so many favorite scriptures, but there is one that does stand out for me. Jeremiah 29:11. Although I’ve read the Bible completely several times, this scripture didn’t stand out to me until 2001—just days after my husband passed away. I was in a Christian bookstore with my best friend, Tracy, and as she was shopping, I noticed Christmas cards. I was overwhelmed with the thought that for the upcoming Christmas, I was going to sign cards with only my name on them. Grief rolled over me and I told Tracy that I didn’t feel like I had any hope; I didn’t feel like I had a future. Tracy tried to comfort me, but still she decided that we needed to leave. As we stood at the cash register, both of us noticed a poster behind the counter. For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future. Tracy and I were both shocked—I had just said those words! From that point, I’ve stood on that scripture. And God has fulfilled His promise. He’s given me mounds of hope. And He’s given me quite a future.
Victoria Christopher Murray is the author of more than twenty novels including: The Ex Files, Lady Jasmine, The Deal, the Dance, and the Devil, and Stand Your Ground which was named a Library Journal Best Book of the Year. Winner of the African American Literary Award for Fiction and Author of the Year (Female), Murray is also a two-time NAACP Image Award Nominee for Outstanding Fiction. She splits her time between Los Angeles and Washington, DC. Visit her website at VictoriaChristopherMurray.com.