This reading group guide for Love Lies Beneath 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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In Love Lies Beneath
, New York Times
bestselling author Ellen Hopkins delivers her most riveting, seductive novel yet. By many accounts, Tara has it all: she is beautiful and wealthy, and at age 40 she knows what she wants in the bedroom—and usually gets it. She owns a gorgeous house in the heart of San Francisco and loves the independence of her life, made more than comfortable by her three ex-husbands. Enter the captivating Dr. Cavin Lattimore, who stirs feelings in Tara she never before experienced. Could this be love? But Cavin’s ill-mannered son, Eli, keeps dropping hints that Cavin isn’t all he seems. Will Tara finally give in to her heart or, with her growing suspicions and doubts, will she be her own undoing? Questions & Topics for Discussion
1. The story opens with a poem titled “It’s Said.” From whose point of view did you think it was written? Is it a warning to the reader about what is to come in the story or does it represent Tara’s innermost thoughts? Why do you think the author chose to begin the book like this?
2. Early in the story Tara breaks up with her boyfriend, Nick, and the same night pursues a one-night stand with a man she meets at a bar. Do you think her behavior is unnecessarily risky? Why do you think she does it?
3. When speaking to her sister about having children, Tara rhetorically questions, “Allow some alien being to grow inside me, stretch my body into an unrecognizable shape, scarring my skin irreparably with fat silver marks?” How did this passage strike you? How does Tara interact with the children in the story?
4. Tara admits, “I’ve always had a love for words” (p. 37), and she often notes the definition of particular words, as well as where they fall in the dictionary. Is this simply an individual quirk, or does it indicate something deeper about her personality?
5. During their skiing vacation, Melody reveals to Tara that she’s “been going to church for a while” (p. 67), and proceeds to explain the importance of religion to her and her children, a sentiment at which Tara scoffs, “I forgot more Bible than I ever knew.” (p. 68) Why do you think faith is meaningful to Melody but not to Tara?
6. While she is spending the Christmas holiday at Melody’s house, Tara questions the way her sister raises her children and thinks she is “overcompensating for her own sterile childhood.” (p. 82) Do you think Melody is harming her children by her behavior?
7. Throughout most of the story Tara is recuperating from a serious knee injury. “For someone who prides herself on total independence” (p. 162, how does Tara’s weakened physical state affect her?
8. As adults, Melody and Tara turn out very differently; Melody has had a lengthy marriage and three children, while Tara is fiercely independent, having had “three loveless marriages, all ended unhappily” (p. 225), with no children. In what ways are their life choices the result of their difficult childhood?
9. Relationships and love are primary elements throughout the story. When considering her twenty-year marriage to Graham, Melody declares, “All marriages suffer after so much time. People grow apart. People’s opinions change. The passion cools.” (p. 229) Do you agree with her sentiment? What is your response to Tara’s question “Can love connect two people indefinitely?” (p. 225)
10. How much of Tara’s behavior do you think is a reaction to her upbringing by her mother, her environment, and how much is due to the genes her mother passed on to her?
11. In the beginning of Tara’s relationship with Cavin, he seems stable and forthright. His son, Eli, however, seems conniving and secretive. How does this change by the end of the story?
12. Tara frequently discusses revenge in the story. Indeed, she seeks revenge on every man who crosses her, from her philandering boyfriend Nick to her jealous brother-in-law Graham to other, quite unexpected characters. Why is revenge so important to Tara?
13. Were you surprised by the story’s twist ending? After Tara’s honeymoon, what do you think will happen between her, Cavin, and Eli?
14. As she did in the opening lines, the author continues to intersperse poetry throughout the story. How did the poems affect or inform your understanding of Tara?
15. What is the meaning of the book’s title? Enhance Your Book Club
1. Tara has an extremely well stocked wine cellar and regularly enjoys cocktails, champagne, and other beverages. Open a bottle of wine, regular or nonalcoholic, or whip up a batch of cocktails—or mocktails—to enjoy at your meeting. Break out your most beautiful glassware and enjoy! And although it’s bad for her “size four” (p. 191) figure, Tara frequently indulges in takeout pizza in the story. As a food suggestion, order one from your own “great little local pizzeria” (p. 82) to share with your group.
2. Connect with Ellen Hopkins online. She shares fascinating details about her personal history, her books, and the publishing process, and even offers advice to writers and poets on her website www.ellenhopkins.com. On her Facebook page, which is devoted to her fans, she regularly posts updates about her books and book events. You can also email her directly with questions or comments that come out of your book club discussion. Ellen regularly posts poetry on Tumblr and Pinterest, where she also posts photos, videos, and even recipes!
3. Mental illness is a key theme in the story. Tara and Melody’s mother suffers from bipolar disorder, and Tara thinks she sees some of its symptoms in her niece, Kayla. Has anyone in your group had experience with someone with a mental disorder? If they are comfortable, have them share some experiences. Were there any similarities to the story?
4. If you enjoyed the story, consider reading Ellen Hopkins’s other adult fiction books, Collateral
. You may also have noticed that Ellen has a keen eye for adolescent issues. She has written a number of bestselling YA novels as well. If you know a teenager, consider recommending them!