Fair Is the Rose, Lowlands of Scotland Series #2Fair Is the Rose, Lowlands of Scotland Series #2
Liz Curtis Higgs
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Interview, Excerpt


Following up her bestseller Thorn in My Heart, Higgs takes you back to the 18th-century Scottish Lowlands, where gentle Leana and her bonny sister Rose vie for the love of Jamie McKie. Who will win? This unforgettable story of entwined lives, passion, faithfulness, heartache, and redemption parallels the biblical accounts of Jacob, Esau, Rachel, and Leah.
     

 

 Fair is the Rose Discussion Questions: by Liz Curtis Higgs


 

1. Fair is the Rose begins with the very scene where Thorn in My Heartends…but this time we see things from Rose’s viewpoint. She soon tells Jamie, “What is right and what is fair are not necessarily the same. Is that a true statement? Does Rose have a rightful claim to Jamie’s heart? Does he treat Rose fairly in this difficult situation? If you could advise Rose at this turning point in her life, what would you say to her?

 

 

2. Lachlan McBride cautions Rose, “Your bonny face may open doors better left closed.” How do Rose’s fair face and figure work for her, and how do they work against her? Does charming Rose elicit sympathy from you, or jealousy? Do you find yourself rooting for her or againsther? Which of the following quotes best describes Rose McBride; “A rosebud set with willful little thorns” (Alfred Lord Tennyson) or “That crimson rose how sweet and fair!” (Robert Burns)?

 

 

3. In Thorn in My Heart, Jamie’s behavior is often less than honorable. In Fair Is the Rose, we find him becoming more trustworthy. Describe the positive attributes you find in Jamie McKie. And in what ways might he disappoint you? What are Jamie’s weaknesses, and how do they affect his relationships with Rose and with Leana?

 

 

4. Is Leana “too good to be true,” or can you relate to her struggles and flaws? What incidents have most influenced Leana’s life to date? In particular, how has motherhood changed Leana? When she stands up to the kirk session, what thoughts and feelings run through your mind and heart? And when she flees to Twyneholm, are you proud of Leana or disappointed in her? Could she remain at Auchengray in such circumstances? Could you?

 

 

5. What do you make of the disciplinary actions of the early Scottish kirk—the session meetings, the repentance stool, the jougs, the subscribing of bands, the testimonial letters? How might conventions like these create a better society? And what are the dangers inherent in such practices? How would you compare the role of religion in today’s culture with its role in eighteenth-century Scotland?

 

 

 

6. Each of the three main characters, Jamie, Leana and Rose would be justified in echoing Rose’s oft-stated claim, “Tis not fair!” In what ways have they been wronged and by whom? Which one of the three has the most cause for complaint? Describe how each person handles unfair treatment and what that says about his or her character. How else does the concept of fairness play out in this story?

 

 

7. The epigraphs that introduce each chapter are meant to foreshadow the action that follows or to capture the essence of a character’s struggles. Chapter 55 opens: “For every rose a thorn doth bear.” What thorns press into Rose’s tender heart in this chapter? Choose another epigraph from the novel that strikes you as particularly appropriate, and explain its significance to the story.

 

 

8. Rose tries everything to heal her barren womb, from cantrips and herbs to a predawn pilgrimage to Saint Queran’s Well. This of the various reasons she is so desperate for a child of her own. Which ones ring the most true to you? In what ways might modern women define themselves by their childbearing abilities?

 

 

9. In his poem “Halloween,” Robert Burns describes the principal charms and spells of the night, so big with prophecy to the peasantry in the west of Scotland”:

 

Some merry, friendly, country-folks Together did convene, To burn their nits, an’ pou their stocks, An’ haud their Halloween Fu’ blithe that night.
 
 
 

Do the Scottish traditions of dunking for apples, building bonfires, and carving faces in turnips conjure up fond memories of your own childhood autumns? How has your view of Halloween changed over the years? What do you make of Rose’s many divining rites? Are they harmless diversions or risky forays into a darker world?

 

 

10. Do you consider Jane Grierson the “bad girl” of Fair Is the Rose? Or might that title belong to Lillias Brown? How and why do these women make a mark on young, impressionable Rose? Perhaps you’ve found yourself drawn to such risk takers at one time or another. What is their appeal? Might they serve some divine purpose in our lives? In Rose’s life?

 

 

 

11. When they share their testimonies before the kirk session, Rose, then Jamie, and finally Leana strive to “speak the truth in love.” Review their statements in chapters 40, 41,and 42. What truths do you find there? And what untruths do you discover? What one word might you choose to describe Rose’s testimony?

 

 

12. Reverand Gordon undergoes a significant change of heart throughout Fair Is the Rose. Compare the man we first meet in Chapter 4 with the man we see in chapter 59. How might you explain such a transformation? Can you pinpoint one or two places in the novel where his behavior shifts? What conclusions might you draw about the difference between a religion based on law and a religion founded on grace?

 

 

13. Jamie’s uncle, Lachlan, like the biblical Laban after whom this character is patterned, depends on devious words and clever deception to accomplish his will. Can a person simply be bad without explanation or justification? What do you make of Lachlan’s relationship with the Widow Douglas of Edingham Farm? How might life at Auchengray be affected if Lachlan McBride suddenly became a happily married man?

 

 

14. The scene in which Rose asks Leana for the valerian Ian has pulled from the garden, then hurts Leana’s feelings and sends her fleeing into the gloaming in search of Jamie, parallels the account in Genesis 30:14-16, in which Rachel offers Leah a night with Jacob in exchange for a fertility plant pulled from the ground by Leah’s son. However, what was common practice circa 1900 B.C. is hardly acceptable in either A.D. 1790 or the present! I decided young Rose would never make such an offer, nor would Leana throw aside her band and all that preceded it for one night of passion with Jamie. Had the story followed the biblical account to the letter, how might that have altered the lives of Jamie, Leana and Rose in the days that followed? How would their relationships with one another and with God have been affected? And how would it have changed your opinion of Rose? of Leana? of Jamie? What might this pivotal scene suggest about choices and consequences?

 

 

15. Though our story comes to a meaningful close, clearly the tale is not yet finished. How do you hope things will conclude for Jamie, Leana and Rose in Whence Came a Prince? All three of them long to love and be loved, but that is not all they need. What do you think Jamie needs most? And what of Leana? Finally, what might Rose require above all things? What is your definition of a “happy ending,” in novels and in life?

 

 

 


 
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