Where Life is Sweet
Blackberry Island
Click here for printable readers'guide to The Happiness Guide
Click here for printable readers'guide to Sisters by Choice
Click here for printable readers'guide to Evening Stars
Click here for printable readers'guide to Three Sisters
Click here for printable readers'guide to Barefoot Season

Please note: these questions contain spoilers. You should wait to read them until after you've finished the book.

The Happiness Plan Readers' Group Guide

1. With which of the three heroines did you relate the most—Heather, Daphne or Tori? Why? Which storyline touched your heart? Which made you laugh? What made the ending so satisfying?

2. Which of the three brothers would you fall in love with in real life? Why?

3. Have you read the first book in which Heather appeared, Sisters by Choice? Do you think your answer impacts your understanding of Heather in this story? Why or why not?

4. Although Heather broke up with Campbell prior to the start of The Happiness Plan, that moment was key to her reaching out to her birth father. How so?

5. Why do you think Heather was so afraid to trust? How did connecting with Fletcher and his family change her? How did it change her relationship with her mother, Amber, and her relationship with Campbell? How did you feel about how Jillian reacted to a new stepdaughter’s sudden appearance in their lives?

6. Was Daphne fooling herself to think that she could handle a baby with her current schedule? What makes you say that? How did you feel about her giving up a job she loved—was that the right decision for her, or do you think she should have done something else?

7. Was Daphne having an emotional affair? Explain your answer. Did she do anything wrong? Did your feelings about this change as you progressed through the story?

8. How did you feel about how Brody and Daphne treated each other when they were angry with one another? Did they have good reason? Were you surprised they stayed together? Why or why not?

9. Have you ever been displaced like Tori and Grant were by the flood in their building? If so, for how long, and how did your experience compare to theirs? (If you fell in love with your temporary roommate, Susan really wants to hear your story! You can email her via the Contact Susan page at www.susanmallery.com, under the Members menu.)

10. Why did Tori resist her feelings for Grant for so long? What made her change her mind?

11. Susan’s heart for animals is well known and shines through in her books. How did the animal characters in The Happiness Plan reveal things about the characters that you wouldn’t have known?

Sisters by Choice Readers' Group Guide

1. Sophie felt that she was the only person she could truly rely on, especially when it came to her business. What happened in her past to make her feel that way? How did that hold her back, prevent her from taking Clandestine Kitty to the next level? What lesson did she need to learn? What happened in the story to teach her that lesson?

2. Mallery has said that because she didn't ever write from Amber's point of view, she never truly knew whether Amber believed everything she was saying, or whether she was putting on an act in order to manipulate her family. What do you think, and why?

3. When women are young, many have a tendency to over-accommodate. A woman sometimes sublimates her needs to others'—husband, kids, friends. Then when she gets older and wiser and realizes that she has as much right to a fulfilling life as they do, she has to renegotiate her relationships, which can be stressful to all parties. How did Mallery capture that in this story? In the disagreement between Kristine and Jaxsen, whose side were you on and why?

4. How did you feel when Ruth, Kristine's mother-in-law, gave Kristine some start-up money? Why do you think she did that? What message did that scene convey about Ruth's relationship with her own husband?

5. At the beginning of the book, Heather was working her tail off, but not making progress. It's like she was trying to ride a bicycle uphill without the chain engaged. How were Heather's actions and decisions leading her toward living the same sort of life as her mother—without success and filled with regret? What happened to make her change direction? Do you think there's any hope that Amber can still change her life? Why or why not? Do you think she wants to?

6. Both Sophie's relationship with Dugan and Kristine's relationship with Jaxsen had a lot to say about equality—not gender equality, necessarily, but a relationship of equals regardless of gender. Discuss. How important is balance in romance?

7. When Mallery first got the idea for this book, it centered around the theme of ambition. In American popular culture, ambition, especially in women, is sometimes conflated with greed, giving it a negative connotation. Mallery wanted to explore the positive side of ambition. How did she do that in each of the three storylines? Is a woman wrong to be ambitious? Is there any such thing as "too ambitious" and, if so, where is that line? Can a woman have it all? Can a man? If Jaxsen hadn't come around, do you think that Kristine would have sacrificed her marriage in order to fulfill her professional ambitions? Why or why not? Would she have been right to do so? Why or why not? How did Amber reinforce the theme of ambition? Dugan?

8. There are two pivotal scenes in this book when the only thing that really changed was a character's perception—and yet, that change of perception changed everything. Discuss perception as it relates to these two scenes, and how things changed as a result:

a. Sophie finds out about Dugan's past.
b. Kristine discovers that Jaxsen wasn't just cooling off at his parents' house; in his heart, he had left her.

9. Were you surprised by the ending? How so, and what did you think was going to happen?

Evening Stars Readers' Group Guide

1. Why did Nina stay on Blackberry Island so long? Why did she put everyone else’s needs ahead of her own? Do you know any women like that?

2. If you have a sister, how is your relationship similar to Nina and Averil’s relationship? How is it different? In general, do you think brothers’ relationships are as emotionally complex as sisters’ relationships are?

3. One of the themes of Evening Stars clearly related to taking responsibility for one’s own life. How were different facets of responsibility explored through the characters of Nina, Averil, and Bonnie? Is it possible to be too responsible? Where do you fall on the responsibility spectrum?

4. What other themes did you think about as you read Evening Stars?

5. Were you on Team Dylan or Team Kyle? Why? Did your allegiance change as you progressed through the book? Were you satisfied with the choice Nina made?

6. What did you think of Averil’s relationship with her husband Kevin?

7. Early in the book, when Dylan drives Nina home, she sees the house through his eyes. How did her feelings about her home reflect her feelings about how her life had turned out? How would you feel if your first love visited your house?

8. Do you think Bonnie will change? Why or why not?

9. What caused Averil and Nina to begin to see each other differently? What caused them each to see themselves differently, and to take positive steps in their lives?

10. Explore a metaphor from Evening Stars.

Three Sisters Readers' Group Guide

1. The Three Sisters in the book are the three houses atop the highest hill on Blackberry Island. In what way does each house reflect its owner? Would you like to live in a Victorian home that is more than 100 years old? Why or why not? Which house would you want to live in and why?

2. Andi was left at the altar by a man she’d dated for more than ten years. How do you think you would’ve reacted if this had happened to you? What do you think of Andi’s decision to move to Blackberry Island, where she had no support structure in place because she knew no one?

3. With which of the three women did you empathize most strongly? Why? Did your feelings change as the story progressed? What did the women have in common besides geography?

4. Which character changed the most? In what way?

5. A lot of women have control issues like Deanna, though not to the same extreme. Do you think she knew she had a problem before Colin confronted her with his unhappiness? Why or why not? Deanna’s need for control stemmed from her childhood as the abused and neglected daughter of an alcoholic mother. When do you feel that Deanna truly began trying to change, rather than going through the motions?

6. Many couples split up after the death of a child because they grow apart while learning to accept their new reality. How did Boston and Zeke react differently to their son’s death? Did you feel that one of them dealt with the loss more appropriately than the other? Why or why not? Why did Boston continue to draw black and white portraits of Liam?

7. Wade was angry when Andi didn’t defend him to her mother. Andi felt Wade was using the moment as an excuse to avoid commitment. Who do you think was right, and why?

8. Susan Mallery is known for tapping into the humor of even the most emotional situations.
Which scenes in Three Sisters made you laugh?

9. Female friendship is at the heart of this story, and yet for the first half of the book, the women really didn’t interact much. Deanna’s breakdown in Boston’s kitchen was a major turning point in their relationship. How do you think this single moment changed the women’s understanding of each other? How do you think their friendship changed each woman from that point forward?

10. Overall, do you feel this was a sad book or a happy book? Why? Did you like the way Three Sisters ended for each of the characters? Why or why not?

Barefoot Season Readers' Group Guide

1. What are the major themes of this story? How does the title support those themes? Explain your thoughts.

2. What story events caused the characters to change and grow? Who changed the most? Explain.

3. Author Susan Mallery is widely lauded for evoking strong reader emotions with her books. Which moments in Barefoot Season triggered the strongest emotions in you? Did the ending satisfy you, or do you wish the story would have had a different ending?

4. Did you relate most to Carly or Michelle? Why?

5. Why do you think Michelle was so angry with Carly when she first returned? According to Carly, she was the one who had the right to be angry. Do you agree? Why or why not?

6. Carly’s past haunted her. Why do you think Carly stayed on Blackberry Island? Would you have moved to a different town? Why or why not? How have you changed since high school?

7. Michelle was damaged by the war, both physically and emotionally. Do you think her emotional damage would have been reduced if she hadn’t also been injured physically? Why or why not? Do you think she would have healed faster? Why or why not? Do you know someone who has been to war? Did he or she come back a different person?

8. What did you think of Damaris when she first appeared in Barefoot Season? How did your feelings about her change as the story progressed? How did you feel about Michelle’s decision about what to do about Damaris?

9. Have you ever stayed at a private inn or B&B? Did you like it more or less than staying at a hotel chain? Why?

10. What did you think of Chance and Mr. Whiskers? Have you ever known a dog and cat that became friends? Have you rescued an animal?