Karen Quinn

Book Group Discussion Guide

Karen Quinn loves to call into book club discussions about her books. If you would like to arrange for her to call into your book club, contact Karen at karenquinn1@aol.com.


The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion of Holly Would Dream.

Book Summary:

Holly Ross has the job most women would kill for. She’s a fashion historian at one of New York City’s most illustrious fashion museums. She’s engaged to a handsome Broadway actor and she’s about to get a hard-earned promotion at work. Life was starting to resemble the kind of old-time Hollywood movie she adored so as a child. But when Holly’s life begins to fall apart bit by bit, she turns to her screen idol Audrey Hepburn, who has always been Holly’s beacon of style, grace and perfection, and realizes she must summon up the courage of her favorite screen star to turn her life around for the better.

Questions for Discussion:

1. The novel opens with the fairy tale beginning of “Once upon a time…” How is this story a fairy tale? What Audrey Hepburn movie does this opening pay homage to?

2. Holly Ross is a bright, ambitious, career woman who seems to have it all. What do you think the attraction was between her and Alessandro? Their break-up turned into a tabloid nightmare and he ends their engagement in a text message: “At that moment, I saw Alessandro, REALLY saw him. He was starring in the movie of his life and it was about to bomb. How could I have committed to co-star with such a loser? Was I that afraid to be alone?” (p. 76). What attracted Holly to Alessandro in the first place? Did she really love him? How does this action show Holly who Alessandro truly is? How did Holly miss this before?

3. Real estate mogul, Denis King makes quite an impression after he rescues a rain-soaked Holly in true Prince Charming fashion: “A woman could live happily ever after with a man like that. Any guy who would return to help the stranger his car splashed could be counted on to hold your hand when you walked down the street or your hair back when you puked.” (p. 57) Why doesn’t Holly completely trust Denis? Why do you think she doesn’t let on who she is?

4. Conniving Sammie Kittenplatt is a girl who, in Holly’s words, “was born with a Kmart exterior that has been attended to by the right dermatologists, hairdressers, trainers, and stylists. Now she was all Bergdorf’s.” (p.33-24) Why is Holly so furious at losing the job to Sammie? After being passed over for the promotion that was rightfully hers, why didn’t Holly quit on the spot?

5. Holly makes a deal with her boss, Tanya: If she can land a million-dollar benefactor for the museum, she can have the position she wanted. Tanya decides to make it a contest between Holly and Sammie. How does this make both women feel? Who do you think is more qualified for the job?

6. Holly’s father laments, “I never should have let you watch those old films. They’ve ruined you for real life.” (p.82) What does he mean by this statement? How are Holly and her father different? How are they alike?

7. When the Hepburn collection is found to be missing from the museum, why doesn’t Nigel tell Tanya that Holly is the courier for the clothes?

8. On board the luxurious Tiffany cruise liner, Holly meets wealthy Texas widow, Carleen Panthollow. How is Carleen like a fairy godmother to Holly? The oceanic adventure takes Holly to some beautiful ports of call. Which one was your favorite and why?

9. Denis King’s engagement to the beautiful Sydney Bass is a merger of two titan families. Do you think Denis has any real feelings for Sydney, or is he just marrying her to please his mother? How does Holly feel about this engagement?

10. Holly Would Dream is filled with hidden secrets and people who aren’t what they seem. What did you think of Sydney’s behavior on the cruise? Why is the truth kept from Denis? Who is Frank Flanagan?

11. In an effort to create interest in her lectures aboard the ship, Holly chucks her clothes and has the ship’s pastry chef decorate her as a ‘live dessert.’ What was the result? What is it about Holly’s personality that allows her to do this? What does this experience show Holly about herself?

12. Holly finally gets to give the “Satan Twins” (Tanya and Sammie) a piece of her mind when she says: “Sammie, I am so sick of you and Tanya telling me I’m not of your world…The difference between a woman of consequence and a nobody has nothing to do with where she is brought up, but how’s she’s treated. I’ll forever be a nobody to you because you treat me as a nobody and always will. But to Denis I’m a woman of consequence because he treats me as one and always will.” (p. 335) Which Audrey Hepburn movie does this speech remind you of? What do you think prompted Holly to make this declaration now?

13. When Holly returns to New York, she’s invited to attend Denis’s opening and does so wearing the ball gown from My Fair Lady: “Wearing fabrics that had once adorned Audrey Hepburn was everything I’d imagined and more—the exquisite detail of the embroidery, the sensual sheen of the organza sheath, the bright sparkle of the thousand tiny crystals. What intoxicating bliss! In this gown, nothing bad could happen to you.” (p. 366). Is Holly being herself or playing a part? Does wearing the dress empower Holly?

14. Discuss Holly’s transformation and the other characters development including Tanya, her father and Denis. How is the ending like an Audrey Hepburn film? Did then ending surprise you?

15. There are over 125 references to Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant movies in Holly Would Dream. How many can you name?

16. Do you ever wish your life could be like a romantic comedy from the 1950’s? What is it about those stories that you find appealing? What does not appeal to you?

17. There are several plot parallels between Holly Would Dream and some old Hollywood classics. In what way is Holly Would Dream like…Sabrina? Roman Holiday? How to Steal a Million? Charade? My Fair Lady? An Affair to Remember? That Touch of Mink?

18. Which movie stars of today that come close to having the style and class of Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant?

19. Do women today still wish for a prince to rescue them and a fairy tale ending or are we too liberated for that kind of thinking?

20. Have you ever encountered people like Tanya and Sammie in a work environment? What is the worst thing a Tanya or Sammie has ever done to you? How do fight back against snakes like that in the workplace?

Enhance Your Book Club:

1. To find out more about author Karen Quinn, check out her official site, www.karenquinn.net, which includes information about her other titles as well as Karen’s personal blog.

2. You can learn more about screen legend Audrey Hepburn at www.audreyhepburn.com which has information about her life, her career, and her charity, the Audrey Hepburn Children’s Fund.

3. Make your Book Club night “Book & a Movie Night” by screening of the many great films mentioned in Holly Would Dream. [The author recommends Roman Holiday and An Affair to Remember].