This reading group guide for When You Are Mine includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. 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. Introduction
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Philomena McCarthy is an ambitious young officer with London’s Metropolitan Police, a career choice complicated by her father’s criminal connections. While responding to a domestic violence call, Philomena rescues the bloodied Tempe Brown, mistress to a decorated detective, Darren Goodall. The case is hushed up by her superiors, but Philomena continues to dig deeper into Goodall’s history, discovering further abuses, which leads her to question whether her father or her police colleagues are the true monsters.
As Philomena pursues the case against Goodall, she strikes up a tentative friendship with Tempe—though something isn’t right about the stories she tells and the secrets she keeps. Tempe weaves her way into every corner of Philomena’s life, complicating her efforts to help Goodall’s wife escape his ongoing abuse, deal with repercussions at work, mend ties with her estranged father, and plan a wedding for a relationship that may be on the rocks. Soon Philomena finds herself a victim on the verge of losing everything, trapped in a web of secrets, corruption, and murder. A propulsive tale about domestic abuse, toxic friendship, and family baggage, When You Are Mine
will leave readers unsure who to trust—until the very last page.Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. When Philomena first tries to help Tempe leave her abusive relationship, Tempe scoffs, saying, “I’m not some battered wife” (page 17). Why do you think she is so reluctant to consider herself a victim? Is this true of other victims in the story and in real life?
2. Throughout her life and career, Philomena has been judged by the circumstances of her birth as the child of a notorious mobster. Why do you think she decides to try repairing their relationship?
3. Philomena joins the police force because she wants to help people, only to learn that the institution itself often protects those inflicting harm. After being suspended for digging into Detective Goodall’s history of domestic abuse, Phil remarks, “Good never prevails. It simply treads water and waits for the bad to show up again” (page 25). Do you agree? Is it possible to work for good within a corrupt system?
4. Phil notices that following the murder of George Floyd and the 2020 resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, ordinary people treat her a little differently when she’s in uniform, “with less trust and more doubt” (page 65). How does her own perspective on policing change between her childhood and the end of the novel? Discuss her experience with corruption on the force, her own suspension and dismissal, and the charges brought against her. How have your personal experiences with law enforcement influenced your outlook on policing?
5. Discuss the situation for Goodall’s wife, Alison. What should someone being abused by a police officer do when they cannot trust law enforcement to protect them? What could be done to hold these abusers accountable and better support their victims?
6. Philomena’s mother and father have a contentious relationship, summarized by Philomena’s comment that her mother “would set fire to her own happiness if she could burn him as well” (page 100). Would you risk your own happiness to make an enemy suffer?
7. Philomena’s friendship with Tempe starts out well but turns toxic before Philomena even realizes it. What were some of the early warning signs? When does Philomena realize that she herself might be a victim?
8: In chapter forty-two, we learn about Tempe’s “white knight syndrome.” Compare her troublesome relationship with Mallory Hopper to her friendship with Philomena. Does Philomena have any “white knight” tendencies as well? Do you find it easier to help others than to help yourself?
9. When Philomena learns of Alison’s involvement in Goodall’s death, she chooses not to report it. Do you think she did the right thing? Consider the definition of justice that Philomena contemplates on page 357: “the quality of being fair and reasonable.” Would justice be served if Alison were charged with murder? Is it possible to achieve justice in a case between two victims?
10. Philomena compares the situation that led to Tempe’s death with the trolley problem. She concludes, “An innocent has to die” (page 358). While Tempe did not kill Goodall, do you think she was “an innocent”? Was her death necessary? If Tempe had lived, how do you think the novel would have ended?
11. In the end, Philomena decides to keep her father in her life, saying, “Perhaps that’s the best way to ward off my demons—to have one of them at home” (page 358). Do you agree?
12. When You Are Mine
has no simplistic heroes or villains, and many of the characters take a turn as victim and abuser both. Pick a few characters and discuss the complexity of their actions throughout the novel. When are they “good” and when are they “bad”?
13. What do you think the title means?Enhance Your Book Club
1. Read Michael Robotham’s The Secrets She Keeps
, another suspenseful thriller about an unlikely friendship between two women, both with something to hide. How does their friendship compare to Philomena and Tempe’s?
2. Visit the websites for the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (ncadv.org) and the National Domestic Violence Hotline (thehotline.org) to learn about the warning signs of domestic violence, statistics for who is affected, and strategies for helping potential victims—whether a friend or yourself.
3. Research local organizations working to end domestic violence and support victims of abuse. Consider volunteering or making a donation as a group.