What was Catherine‘s role in the destiny of her daughter and the family? Would you have handled things differently, and if so, how?
When Arabella meets the extremely wealthy and quite married railroad tycoon Collis Potter Huntington, she is seventeen, beautiful, and absolutely impoverished. Why do you think Arabella became romantically involved with a married man nearly three decades years her senior? Do you believe she loved him? How were her feelings for him different from her later feelings for Edward?
Do you think Belle still would have flourished as she did if she’d never met Collis? Would she have risen to such wealth? Why or why not?
What do you think of Arabella’s efforts to manipulate Collis into moving her entire family from Richmond to New York, instead of just agreeing to his proposition at once and going by herself? Were her actions justified? Why do you think she risked so much to ensure her family would not be left behind?
What do you think of Collis’s marriage to his first wife, Elizabeth? Did he love her? How was the power she held over him different from Arabella’s power over him?
In what ways do you think Elizabeth punished Arabella for the open affair she had with her husband? Were her acts justified or fair?
At a picnic in Central Park one day, Belle and Lizzie get into a spat, one in which Lizzie says, “But none of us are as brave as you, little sister. Not a damn single one of us. And if there is one thing our family has learned over these past few years, it is that irrefutable fact.” Belle responds by demanding to know if Lizzie is actually suffering for Belle’s bravery, if she misses her old life of destitution. In what ways did Belle sacrifice herself for her loved ones to pull them out of that life, and to keep them out of it? Do you think she ever regretted it?
Describe Arabella‘s relationship with her sisters. How do you think they viewed her? How did their relationships with one another influence the decisions they made in life?
Were you surprised at the evolution of Belle and Johnny’s relationship? Do you think that Johnny truly ended up loving her, or was it more of a miserable infatuation with a woman he could not have?
Champagne Girl, widow, sister, outcast, femme fatale, doting mother, businesswoman, philanthropist… Arabella held many roles during her lifetime. Which do you think was her truest self?
Discuss the title of this book. What role did “beauty” play in Arabella‘s life?
There was a vast divide between the haves and the have-nots during the Gilded Age, with great wealth and extreme poverty existing side-by-side. How do you think the class divide today is similar? How is it different?