Book & Garden Clubs

Sally Handley loves book and garden clubs. If you live in Upstate South Carolina and would like Sally to participate in your book club’s discussion of one of her books, or if you are a garden club member and would Sally to do a presentation for your group, just contact her at If your book club is too far for a day trip from Mauldin, SC, Sally would be happy to Skype in.

Book Club Questions

Second Bloom Discussion Questions

  1. The original title of this book was Murder in Pineland Park. What do you think of the title Second Bloom?
  2. In real life, private citizens rarely assist the police in solving crimes. Yet, this is a staple of the cozy mystery genre. Did you find the reason Holly Donnelly becomes involved in Mrs. Hagel’s murder investigation compelling?
  3. Did you find Ivy’s reason for getting involved realistic?
  4. Did you share Holly’s first impressions of Nick Manelli?
  5. What does Nick Manelli’s relationship with his assistant, Yolanda Rivera, reveal about his character?
  6. Did you feel the minority characters were depicted fairly?
  7. If you were making a movie of this book, who would you cast in the leading roles?
  8. In what ways have Holly and Ivy been impacted by their involvement in the Hagel murder investigation?

Frost on the Bloom Discussion Questions 

  1. Though this second book in the Holly and Ivy Mystery Series takes place in the winter, gardening is a factor. Discuss how the sister’s knowledge of plants assist them in their sleuthing.
  2. Holly becomes angry with Nick when he gives her what he describes as her “first lesson” is self-defense. Is she justified?
  3. In spite of her independence, Holly uses some age-old feminine wiles in dealing with Nick. Is that out of character?
  4. Ivy is the less impulsive of the two sisters. Does she surprise you in this book?
  5. Does the use of tarot cards help or hinder the investigation?
  6. Kate’s grandmother communicates with her in a dream. Do you believe in the ability of spirits to communicate with us?
  7. Do you think Holly and Nick have a future together?

Full Bloom Discussion Questions

  1. Full Bloom takes Holly and Ivy out of Pineland Park. What did you think of Reddington Manor as a setting  for a cozy mystery?
  2. Had you previously heard the expression, “Things happen in threes”? Do you agree?
  3. Discuss how Kate and Holly seem to have switched roles from the previous two books in the series.
  4. Herbal remedies are featured in this book. Do you think herbs can be as effective as pharmaceutical drugs?
  5. Ivy says that Holly is “big on wakes”? How do you feel about attending wakes?
  6. Benny and Razor are not the typical individuals that Holly and Ivy encounter. What is your opinion of these two characters?
  7. Discuss Kate’s choice of weapons for self-protection.
  8. Did you suspect the identity of Tommy Cranston’s father?
  9. At what point did you guess the murderer?
  10. What type of future do you envision for Holly and Nick?

Murder Under Tuscan Blooms

  1. Setting is really important in this fourth book in the series. Did you enjoy the trip to Tuscany? Would you like to see future books in the series set there?
  2. Did you find the inclusion of Italian words and phrases distracting or was the meaning always clear? Would the book have been just as good if the Italian phrases were written in English instead?
  3. Nick has quite a large family. Did you use the family tree provided to help keep them straight?
  4. Which of Nick’s family members did you like best? Any you didn’t like?
  5. Holly finally meets Nick’s son in Book 4. Do you think Nick was as oblivious to what was going on as he appeared to be?
  6. Is the sisterly relationship between Angie and Brianna realistic? How does it compare to Holly and Ivy’s?
  7. What did you think of Kate and Ivy’s idea for an internship program for seniors? Whether or not you are a senior, would you like to participate in an internship at the Manelli vineyard?
  8. Did you know the definition of the word vendetta?
  9. Discuss Kate’s comment: “And now you see why it was the Italians who invented opera.”
  10. What do you think of Kate’s deceased grandmother, who is a recurring character in the Holly and Ivy series?
  11. At what point did you realize who the killer was?

The Blooming Treasure Murder

  1. How surprised were you to learn that Holly and Ivy had another sister? Did your opinion of Fern change throughout the book?
  2. Once again we meet with a pair of sisters, Jasmine and Violet? How does their relationship compare to Holly and Ivy’s? Would you like to see Jasmine and Violet again in future books in the series?
  3. In this book we also have a pair of brothers. Compare and contrast Ron and Don.
  4. Holly and Jasmine forge a special bond. Why?
  5. Nick also bonds with Jasmine. Did you enjoy their scenes together?
  6. The setting again takes Holly and Ivy out of Pineland Park. Did you enjoy this visit to their hometown?
  7. What did you think of Little Peggy? Did your opinion of her change throughout the book?
  8. Did you enjoy the treasure hunt? What did you think of the clues?
  9. Secret societies are often featured in mystery stories. What did you think of the Brothers of the Blaze? Their Supreme Commander?
  10. Did you recognize the homage to Macbeth in the final scene at the Temple?
  11. Do you think Peggy and Pat have a future together?
  12. Any characters you particularly liked? Disliked? Beverly? Ronnie?
  13. What do you think of Nick’s admission in the last chapter that Holly  “didn’t have a choice” about leaving the mansion to rescue Cassie? Do you think he’s finally come to terms with his wife’s sleuthing?

Stop the Threat

  1. The prologue describes the Austin Clock Tower shooting that occurred in 1966. The Columbine shooting occurred in 1993, thirty-three years later. What has changed since 1966? What is the same?
  2. Ellen McCall is a complex character. At the outset, do you fully understand her reluctance to carry a weapon in her classroom? Discuss her experience in the video simulation training class.
  3. How does Jefferson Davis Stone’s background shape his view of arming teachers?
  4. The Board of Education is composed of distinct personalities with conflicting points of view. Discuss their attitudes towards arming teachers: Amos Hogg, Billy Ray Fowler, Anna Jane Ballard, Mabel Liston, Johnny Crenshaw, Reverend Roger Wilson.
  5. Dr. Margalis Fjelstad, a family therapist specializing in clients with narcissistic parents or spouse, says the characteristics of narcissism include the list below.  How many of these characteristics does Drake Mallor exhibit?6
    1. Superiority and entitlement
    2. Exaggerated need for attention and validation
    3. Perfectionism
    4. Lack of responsibility—blaming and deflecting
    5. Lack of boundaries
    6. Lack of empathy
    7. Emotional reasoning
    8. Splitting (has good and bad parts)
    9. Fear
    10. Anxiety
    11. Shame
    12. An inability to be truly vulnerable
  6. Did you find Travis Crenshaw’s use of Adderall realistic?
  7. Were you sympathetic to teachers Millard Holmes and Hester Blackwell? Did you think the situations they faced were realistic?
  8. What did you think of Pat Sykes and her Teachers Against Guns? Is she a sympathetic character?
  9. Discuss Reverend Wilson’s relationship with his wife and with the church elders.
  10. What was your reaction when Ellen says that armed citizens actually prevented the Austin Clock Tower shooter from killing more people than he did?
  11. How do you feel at the end of the book?