Use this discussion guide at your next book club meeting as a starter for conversation.
Ida Sinclair comes to Cripple Creek with one purpose: to become a successful businesswoman. Her sisters Kat and Nell, however, seem more intent on matchmaking. But Ida's ambition leaves little time for romance, and she quickly obtains a job working for Mollie O'Bryan, Cripple Creek's infamous but undeniably successful businesswoman.
Under Mollie's tutelage, Ida moves toward the success she craves. She ignores her family's reservations about Mollie's business practices and the way the townspeople avoid her. But she can't ignore the two men pursuing her affections--Colin Wagner, the dashing lawyer, and Tucker Raines, the traveling preacher.
When Ida passes along a batch of false intelligence, several people in the community are affected, and she discovers that someone has decided to teach her why women aren't welcome in the man's world of business--someone who may not stop at simply ruining her reputation.
- Which of the Sinclair sisters do you identify with most? Feisty, stubborn Kat? Gentle, romantic Nell? Ambitious, determined Ida? What about that sister draws you?
- One of Ida’s defining characteristics—and her defining struggle—is her ambition and drive to succeed as a businesswoman. What is good about Ida’s ambition? What’s bad about it? How does it lead her into making material wealth her highest goal?
- If Ida struggles with her ambition, what does Tucker struggle with? Guilt over Sam’s death and Willow’s melancholia? His need for his father to forgive him? His purpose in Cripple Creek? What do his particular struggles say about him as a person?
- Why do the people of Cripple Creek look down on Mollie O’Bryan and, by association, Ida? How does Ida respond to this, and how is she able to convince herself for so long that what she’s doing is acceptable?
- Mollie O’Bryan is a historical figure who lived in Cripple Creek at the time this story takes place. Ignoring her fictionalized personality and behavior, what do you think of Mollie’s accomplishments as a businesswoman in an 1896 mining town? What qualities do you imagine she must have possessed in life that made it possible for her to become a successful businesswoman in this era?
- Ida distrusts most men, assuming they either want something from her or want to put her in her “place.” Many of the men she meets, both in Portland and in Cripple Creek, reinforce her distrust. Do you share her feelings toward men at all? Have you encountered any men like the ones who shattered Ida’s trust or been discriminated against because of your gender? How does Ida’s distrust cause her to lash out at men who mean her well, like Tucker or Judson?
- Tucker spends most of his time in Cripple Creek wondering what his purpose is. He feels adrift, unable to decipher what God wants him to do. In what ways was Tucker right where God needed him to be, despite his doubts? When in your life have you shared Tucker’s sense of being lost? Did you eventually discover God’s will for you in that time?
- Kat and Nell have very different reactions to Kat’s pregnancy, and neither is the expected unconditional joy. How do you think you would have responded in either of their situations?
- Ida doesn’t want to complicate her life with romance, focused as she is on her career. But God brings Tucker into her life, and Ida falls in love with him in spite of her desires. Has God ever brought something—or someone—into your life that you weren’t looking or ready for?
- How prevalent do you think schools of thought similar to Colin’s still are in this day and age? Do you see signs of it anywhere in society or media, or do you think we’ve moved past a dominantly patriarchal society? What about other parts of the world?