|A Lasting Impression, Belmont Mansion Series #1|
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A fake. A forger. More than anything, Claire Laurent longs for the chance to live an authentic life, to become the woman she wants to be. And she'll be given that choice. But will it come at too costly a price?
Claire Laurent's greatest aspiration is to paint something that will bring her acclaim. Yet her father insists she work as a copyist. A forger. When she's forced to flee from New Orleans to Nashville only a year after the War Between the States has ended, her path collides with attorney Sutton Monroe. She considers him a godsend for not turning her in to the authorities. But after he later refuses to come to her aid, Claire fears she's sorely misjudged the man. Finding herself among the elite of Nashville's society, Claire believes her dream to create a lasting impression in the world of art is within reach--but only if her fraudulent past remains hidden.
The Federal Army has destroyed Sutton's home and confiscated his land, and threatens to destroy his family's honor. His determination to reclaim what belongs to him and to right a grievous wrong reveals a truth that may cost him more than he ever imagined--as well as the woman he loves.Set at Nashville's historic Belmont Mansion, a stunning antebellum manor built by Mrs. Adelicia Acklen, A Lasting Impression is a sweeping love story about a nation mending after war, the redemption of those wounded, and the courage of a man and woman to see themselves--and each other--for who they really are.
A Lasting Impression Discussion Questions: Tamera Alexander
I’m thrilled you’ve chosen A Lasting Impression as your reading group selection, and I hope you enjoyed Sutton and Claire’s story, and the lovely setting of the Belmont Mansion. Christ drew me closer to Him as I wrote this story, and my prayer is that somewhere along the way as you read, you took a step closer to Him too.
I’d love to join your group discussion! If you’re interested, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and inquire about Virtual Book Club Meetings. I’ll also send you a Book Club Packet with goodies to distribute to your group. Also, if you’re ever in Nashville, please make a point to see the Belmont Mansion! See www.belmontmansion.com for details.
1. Has anyone ever said something to you that made you question yourself? Or your talent? In Ch 1, what was said to Claire that made her question her talent? Who said it? How would you have reacted to this kind of criticism? Discuss the ramifications that statement had in Claire’s life. Have things been said (or done) to you that have made that kind of negative impression?
2. Claire runs away––literally and figuratively––after the incident that night in New Orleans and winds up in Nashville. Was that a realistic response from her? Have you ever wished you could run away from something in your life? A person? A circumstance? If you could have given Claire advice when she’d first stepped foot off the train in Nashville, what would it have been?
3. Sutton is fighting his own demons––ones of guilt and remorse. What were Sutton’s issues from the war, and have you ever borne that kind of guilt over something you’ve said or done? Or over something you wish you could have said, but the person to whom you need to say it…is gone?
4. Adelicia Acklen was a “real” person, meaning that her character in the novel is based on a woman that actually lived, as well as her many true-life events. Adelicia was an extraordinary woman who really was “born before her time.” What did you think of her character? And about her relationship with Claire? Did you sympathize with Adelicia’s past losses? Does it make you want to learn more about her? You can do just that at www.belmontmansion.com.
5. Madame LeVert and her daughters were also “real” people, and Adelicia really did hold a reception for her. How did you feel about Cara Netta LeVert and her “claim” on Sutton? Have you ever known someone who was kind to your face and yet acted differently behind your back? Have you ever acted this way? [And a note on Cara Netta… From everything I’ve read, she really was a very nice person. But hey, can’t we all get a little riled when another woman is after our man? <grin>)
6. Claire longs to be more authentic in her life, in her faith. At the outset, she questions God’s trustworthiness. How have you struggled with giving God your full trust? How does learning to trust God go hand-in-hand with learning to be authentic within yourself? And with others?
7. In Ch 33, Claire has a recurring dream (that is actually one Tamera experienced as a young girl). What was that recurring dream and what do you think it represented in Claire’s life? Have you ever had recurring dreams like that? Do you know what fears or apprehensions they represent?
8. Also in Ch 33, Claire has moments when she doesn’t doubt, in the least, that God led her to Belmont, and yet God isn’t using her talent to paint in the way she thought He would. And she begins to question why He’s brought her there if it’s not to paint. Have you ever followed God’s lead in your life only to wonder what on earth you were doing in a certain situation, after all? Reflect on Isaiah 55:9. How does that scripture help us to make sense of those times in our lives?
9. In Ch 36, find the paragraph that begins with “Oftentimes, through the years, Miss Laurent…” What do you think about Mrs. Acklen’s perspective on life and death in this passage? Do you agree? Disagree?
An interesting tidbit: The dialogue from Mrs. Acklen in this paragraph was taken word-for-word from a letter Adelicia wrote to her sister in the 1860s. As Tamera was writing late one night, about 2:30 in the morning, she was writing this scene, trying to get Adelicia’s words just right, when she remembered a letter she’d read from the family’s personal files. She went back to the letter and found that Adelicia’s words fit the context and meaning perfectly! A God moment, for sure!
10. In Ch 38, Sutton is teaching Claire to jump. Search for the paragraph beginning with, “And this may sound simple”––he smiled in hopes of lightening the mood––“but remember to breathe.” Read the rest of that paragraph, then read Hebrews 12:1-2 and discuss the similarities between Sutton’s instructions to Claire and in learning to keep our eyes fixed on Christ.
11. In Ch 40, after Claire and Mrs. Acklen return to Belmont, Claire is reminded of how blessed she is to live at Belmont, and how undeserving she is. Have you ever felt that way in your life? Thankful for your circumstances and yet knowing you don’t deserve them? Can you describe a time in your life you’ve felt that way? What did God teach you during that time? What did Claire finally learn about being deserving?
12. Also in Ch 40, Eli assures Claire by saying, “The way I see things, Miss Laurent, you do belong here at Belmont. Because if you didn’t, the good Lord wouldn’t have brought you here. He knows what you’re doing here, even if you don’t.” Do you believe what Eli is saying is right? How did you feel about Eli’s character in the novel? And about Cordina? What kind of influence did they have over Claire’s life? Have you ever had an Eli or Cordina in your life?
13. At the end of Ch 44, Sutton makes a decision to leave. How did you feel about the way he left? Did you understand the reasons behind his motivation? Would you have handled the situation differently? Has “distance” from someone or something ever given you clarity? If yes, please share that situation with the group.
14. In Ch 46, Claire hears a whisper during worship. If you’ve read the Author Note at the end of the novel, you know that this is something that Tamera experienced. Have you ever experienced a word from the Lord like this? If yes, what did He tell you? What did you think of Claire’s hesitance to say “yes” immediately? Would you have acted any differently? And what of being clay in the Potter’s hand? Have you ever tried to tell God what you wanted Him to make of you, or do accomplish in your life? How did that turn out for you? : )
15. In Ch 54, Claire has the thought that “every step changes the view.” What do you think she meant by that? And how does that phrase describe your life right now? Is God using your present circumstance (or a character’s circumstance in this book) to change your view?
16. In Ch 54, find the paragraph beginning “God had given the gift and vision of that painting to Francois-Narcisse Brissaud. Not to her.” Claire is coming to grips with the fact that––as she copied those paintings–-she was, in essence, stealing not only from the other artist, but from God, and also from herself. How was this so? Have you ever struggled with that lack of authenticity in your life? In what venues do we see this lack of authenticity in our society today?
17. This novel contains many relationships, conversations, and moments of tension and reconciliation. Take a few moments to discuss some of your favorite scenes and tell why you were touched or challenged by them.