Reading Group Discussion Guide
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Little Lady, Big Apple
By Hester Browne
Description Little Lady, Big Apple
follows Melissa Romney-Jones from London, where she runs her own business, The Little Lady Agency, to New York City, where she travels to join her boyfriend, Jonathan Riley, a handsome and highly successful real estate agent who has recently been transferred.
In New York, Melissa finds herself out of her element among Jonathan's hard-charging friends, many of whom constantly compare her to his ex-wife, Cindy. With Jonathan so busy at the office that he can't spend much time with her, Melissa finds herself alone in the big city, looking after Jonathan's spoiled Scottish terrier and informally advising his friends on how to plan baby showers and get their children into English boarding schools.
Jonathan jealously urges Melissa not to take on any male clients while she's in New York, but she can't turn her back on Godric Spencer, a clueless old actor friend she runs into at a cocktail party, who is about to be launched in America as the next Hugh Grant. When Melissa returns to London to deal with a family emergency, she finds her agency in serious disarray. After setting things to rights, Melissa realizes how important her business and professional identity are to her, and she returns to New York emboldened, determined to figure out if her future lies in The Big Apple with Jonathan. Discussion Questions
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- "He is, in short, a complete dreamboat." How does Melissa Romney-Jones's description of Jonathan Riley, her boyfriend and soon-to-be fiancé, square with his characterization in the novel? To what extent does Jonathan's attitude about Melissa's continuing her work at her agency while on vacation in New York seem tangled up with his feelings for his ex-wife, Cindy?
- How would you characterize Melissa's relationships with her parents and her sisters, and why does Melissa avoid discussing the real nature of her work with her family? What does Melissa's allowing her sister, Allegra, to help out at her London agency while she's in New York reveal about her father's influence in the family?
- "I'd never felt so gorgeous as I had when I'd been a slinky blonde." Why does Melissa's physical transformation into Honey Blennerhesket make her feel more attractive as a person? To what extent does her costume alter her personality, and what does its dramatic effect suggest about her self-esteem? Why doesn't Melissa just assume the role of Honey Blennerhesket on a full-time basis?
- How does Melissa's friendship with Gabi get tested by her stay in New York? Why is Gabi's relationship with Nelson problematic for Melissa, and how does her discomfort with their developing romance suggest something about her own latent feelings for Nelson? To what extent does Nelson's decision to give Melissa -- and not Gabi -- his cell phone number at sea reveal something telling about his own feelings?
- "You're Melons the wardrobe mistress, and I'm Godric the geek." Why does Melissa agree to assist Ric's agent, Paige, in marketing Ric as an appealing film star, and why does she deliberately conceal her activities with Ric from Jonathan? How does Jonathan's discovery of Melissa's deception impact her relationships with both men?
- To what extent does Braveheart's presence at Jonathan's brownstone symbolize some of the unresolved issues between Jonathan and his ex-wife Cindy? How does the ongoing sale of his former apartment complicate Jonathan's relationship with Melissa? Why does Melissa seem accepting of Cindy's presence in Jonathan's life, and what does this acceptance imply about her own feelings for her ex-boyfriends?
- "You didn't think I'd say no, though, did you?" Why is Melissa troubled by Jonathan's marriage proposal? How does his proposal (and Melissa's reaction to it) reveal some of the tensions in their relationship? In what ways are Jonathan's vision of married life and Melissa's vision of professional satisfaction incompatible?
- What does Melissa's involvement with New Yorkers in need of her expertise reveal about her affection for the job she's left behind in London? Why might her efforts on behalf of some of her clients be perceived by Jonathan and others as inappropriate? Why is Melissa offended by Jonathan's suggestion that she turn her agency into one geared around party planning, manners coaching, and professional shopping?
- In what ways does Jonathan's being an American complicate Melissa's relationship with him? To what extent do their different nationalities seem responsible for their mutual attraction? Why might their respective attitudes about work and marriage be pre-determined by their English and American perspectives?
- "Love's about giving up a little independence....[b]ut that doesn't mean you have to stop being you." To what extent does Granny's statement hold true for Melissa and Jonathan in their relationship -- does each member of the couple surrender some private independence and succeed in preserving him or herself at the same time? What kind of future relationship does the final scene in the book seem to point to?
- In Little Lady, Big Apple, Melissa assumes the role of Honey Blennerhesket whenever she needs to help a client, but she also imagines she's Honey when she finds herself in difficult situations. Have your reading group members take on different personas for the meeting. Visit these websites for some ideas: find your code name at www.channelone.com/fun/2005/01/21/code_name/, or find your spy name at www.austinpowers.com/cgi-bin/austin/spyname.cgi.
- Jonathan proposes to Melissa at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. To take a virtual tour of the Metropolitan Museum, or to see some of its remarkable collection, visit http://www.metmuseum.org and explore some rooms and galleries that Melissa and Jonathan might have wandered through.
- Did you find yourself wondering what "dodgy," "rashers," and "chuffed" meant as you read Little Lady, Big Apple? As Jonathan discovers, lots of the words used by the English just don't translate easily into American vernacular. But if you're interested in impressing your friends and using more of these words, visit http://english2american.com/ to read some "American" definitions of English words.