Felise is not the kind of woman to cheat on her husband—especially with her best friend’s man. But after one perfect storm of a night, it happened…and she can hardly believe it herself. To top it off, when she woke up in the morning, she found that the man to whom she guiltily made passionate love died of a heart attack overnight. Felise, who is a nurse and a good citizen at that, leaves the hotel room without reporting his death.
When her best friend, Paula, finds out about her husband’s sudden death a day later, Felise is overcome with guilt and grief. She must be there for her friend and her family, but when her husband repeatedly tries to apologize for his absentminded behavior and Paula starts investigating who Stephen was with the night he died, Felise finds it hard to hold herself together. Should she come clean and tell everyone what she did? Or should she just let it go and move past the mistake on her own?
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What’s Done in the Dark
“ANY MAN THAT CAN RESIST this must not be a man!” I giggled as I wiggled my toned behind in the full-length mirror in my bedroom. I made sure my snow white lace thong was situated just right, then brushed down the candy-apple-red negligee. I’d never in my life spent two hundred dollars on lingerie, but I wanted tonight to be special. I needed tonight to be special.
My commitment to Shaun T’s Rockin’ Body workout DVD had paid off. Everything was tight in all the right places, and my body looked like it belonged to someone who was twenty-five—not the thirty-five-year-old mother that I am.
I fluffed my curls and gave one last smile to my reflection. Today was my fifteenth anniversary, and I was determined that a sex life that died fourteen years ago would be resurrected tonight.
I had taken all of my sister, Fran’s advice. Even though she was single, she never had a shortage of men. She swore it was her ability to give good loving that kept her Rolodex on fire.
I pressed play on my iPod to start setting the mood with all of our favorite songs. I dimmed the lights as the sounds of Luther filled the room. I had left a trail of rose petals—from the garage, through the kitchen, up the stairs, into our bedroom, then finally all over the bed. I wanted Greg to experience the alluring ambience the moment he walked through the door.
I checked, then triple-checked that everything—the wine, the rose petals, the scented sheets—was just right. But my smile faded when I noticed the time. It was eight thirty. Two hours past the time my husband had said that he’d be home. I immediately felt myself getting frustrated. I had moved heaven and earth to get someone to cover my shift at the hospital so I’d be home in time. I had hoped my husband could do the same.
I took a deep breath. I was not going to stress about tonight. Greg was a borderline obsessive-compulsive workaholic who was dedicated to his job as a successful investment banker. For our anniversary, though, I hoped he would try his best to relax and just enjoy himself. And tonight I was going to help him make that happen. He would relax, and we would rekindle the spark that had long ago been extinguished.
I threw on my silk robe and busied myself with my iPhone messages until I finally heard the door chime, signaling Greg was home. I glanced at the digital clock on the nightstand: 8:52.
Okay, Greg was late but not that late, I told myself. We could still salvage this night. I removed my robe and eased into a sexy position on the bed. I plastered on a seductive smile and waited for the door to open.
A few minutes later, I glanced over at the clock again.
“Okay, what is taking him so long to get upstairs?” I mumbled.
When the clock hit 9:18, I had had enough. I got up, grabbed my robe, and made my way downstairs. That had to have been Greg coming in because our daughter, Liz, was spending the night with a friend.
I peeked out the small bay window near the staircase. Greg’s car was parked in the driveway, so he was home. What in the world was he doing? Surely he had seen the trail of rose petals.
I had just reached the middle of the stairs when I heard the vacuum cleaner. Not understanding, I descended a few more steps. Then my mouth fell open when I saw my husband vigorously vacuuming up the rose petals I had so meticulously laid out.
“What are you doing?” I screamed over the vacuum.
He glanced up. “Hey, babe, getting all this stuff up off the floor. Liz must’ve made a mess or something.”
I stared at my husband in disbelief. “Are you serious?”
He didn’t reply as he took the hose off the vacuum and began sucking up the petals off the stairs.
“Liz didn’t do that! I did!” I yelled over the vacuum.
He didn’t stop cleaning. “You did this? What did you spill?”
I picked up a few petals at my feet, then threw them at him. Of course, they didn’t do anything but flutter back to the ground. “I didn’t spill anything. I laid them out! It was a trail of rose petals.”
He looked at me like that was the dumbest thing I’d ever done.
“Well, you know I like to come home to a clean house.” He finally cut the vacuum off and started picking up the rose petals the machine hadn’t nabbed. “Why do you have all of this stuff laid out like this anyway?”
Only then did he glance up at me and notice the negligee. “What are you wearing?”
I wanted to cry. I knew we hadn’t been intimate in a long time, but this was ridiculous. “What does it look like I’m wearing, Greg?”
“Oooh,” he said, as realization set in. “I’ve just been preoccupied.” He took a step toward me. “I’m sorry, you know things have been crazy at work.” He stopped talking to manically pick up some rose petals that he missed. “I’m sorry, you know clutter bugs me. But I appreciate the effort.” He leaned in to kiss me.
I pushed him away, though not hard enough to send him down the stairs. “Are you serious?”
“No, it just caught me by surprise. Usually, you have on a head scarf and some sweats when I get in.” I was the one surprised when he added, “What’s the occasion anyway?”
I stood waiting for him to break out into laughter. Tell me I was being punk’d, anything. Finally I said, “Today, Greg. Fifteen years.”
The truth finally dawned on him. “Oh, my God, babe. Our anniversary. I am so, so sorry. You know I’ve been swamped at work, and I just completely lost track of what day it was.”
I shook my head in disbelief. The tears I had been holding back made their escape. I had no words as I spun around and marched back to our bedroom.
“Come on, don’t be mad,” he said, following me.
I don’t know why I was even shocked. I decided to turn around and give him a piece of my mind. But before I could speak, I noticed him picking up rose petals in the hallway.
“Ughhh!” I screamed, slamming the bedroom door.
I wanted to leave. I didn’t even feel like taking the negligee off. I just wanted to get away from this suffocating house and away from my inconsiderate and unaffectionate husband.
Our once-a-week sexual escapades had dwindled to twice a month, then to once every other month. It was unreal. I used to think he was seeing someone else. After all, he’d cheated on me shortly after we got married. We’d gone to counseling and, I thought, moved past it. But the past three years especially had been brutal. I felt completely neglected. I’d even hired a private investigator to have him followed. But three thousand dollars later, all I discovered was what I already knew: my husband was simply a severe workaholic.
But tonight was the last straw.
I snatched a maxi dress off the hanger in my walk-in closet, then slipped it over my head. I then snatched a change of clothes and stuffed them in my gym bag. I couldn’t stand to be in the same house with him another minute.
I marched back downstairs. I found my husband actually taking out the garbage. “You can clean up the rose petals in the bedroom now,” I said, whisking past him.
“Babe, come on, don’t be mad at me. I was just taking the garbage out while I gave you a minute to cool down.”
“Well, I’m cool. Cold as ice.”
“Where are you going?”
I ignored him as he followed me out in the garage.
“Felise! I said I’m sorry.”
I continued to ignore him as I got in the car and backed out. I didn’t know where I was going, but at the moment, any place that was far away from Gregory Mavins was exactly where I wanted to be.
Reading Group Guide
This reading group guide for What’s Done in the Dark includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
When is a mistake meant to be? When Felise introduces her old flame Steven to her childhood best friend, she doesn't expect them to date, let alone get married and have kids. More than ten years later, their two families remain as close as ever, but Felise feels miserable and unappreciated in her marriage. When her obsessive-compulsive workaholic husband finally pushes her too far, she flees to a nearby hotel bar hoping to find some clarity—but instead finds Steven, her best friend’s husband.
One too many drinks later, they discover their mutual attraction to each other never quite faded, and fueled by the discontent in their respective marriages, they share a night of forbidden passion. In a dark, devastating twist of fate, Felise wakes up to a dead Steven and a choice. Does she confess her sins to her friends and family and risk losing everything, or leave the love of her life dead in a hotel room and her dearest friend with a million questions?
Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. In What’s Done in the Dark, we’re introduced to Felise and Paula, two best friends unhappy in their respective lives. In what ways are they similar and different? Who do you think has more reason to be unsatisfied?
2. Felise says her husband, Greg, doesn’t “see” her. What does she mean by this? Why do think she’s unable to make him “see” her, even after she tries to plan a romantic evening?
3. Greg only begins to pay attention to Felise and show affection when he’s afraid she wants to leave him. Do you think this would have lasted if the situation with Steven hadn’t interfered?
4. After Felise and Steven’s fateful night in the hotel room, Felise decides to call her sister Fran. Why do you think, of all people, she chose to call Fran?
5. Greg says to Felise, “You water the lawn you have” (p. 192). Do you agree with this sentiment?
6. Do you think Paula’s unhappiness was rooted in her perspective? What aspects of her life did she have control over, and which did she not?
7. Why do you think Felise stopped seeing Steven in college? Why do you think she wasn’t honest with Paula about having feelings for him? If you had been in Paula’s position, would you have trusted Felise when she reassured her she didn’t have feelings for Steven?
8. Fear drives all of the main characters in distinct ways in What’s Done in the Dark. How does fear function as a positive and negative motivation? Do you think fear ultimately drove Felise to settle for someone unfit for her?
9. Is there ever any excuse for a spouse to cheat? In what scenarios would you consider it “acceptable”? What about in Felise’s and Steven’s situations?
10. How would you characterize Greg’s reaction to Felise’s confession? What about his actions at her birthday dinner? Do you think his behavior was understandable given the circumstances? What would you have done in Paula’s position?
11. What kind of role does religion and faith play in What’s Done in the Dark? How does it drive (or not drive) Felise and Paula? What are the major moral takeaways from the book?
12. Felise’s sister Mavis firmly believes God forgives all of our mistakes. Do you think Felise believes this? What do you believe?
13. What choices could Felise and Paula have made early on in their lives that may have led to happier marriages and families? What kind of things do you wish you could redo in your past?
14. How do you feel about Felise’s secret that the author finally reveals on the last page? How do you think Paula will react to the news?
Enhance Your Book Club
1. ReShonda Tate Bilingsley has a knack for exposing her characters’ deepest flaws—but shows that there’s always a path to redemption. Select another title from her collection to read with your book club. Compare and contrast the flaws of the characters with What’s Done in the Dark and analyze through what devices the author communicates these traits.
2. Was there a time in your life when you needed to forgive someone? What about forgiving yourself? During your next book club meeting, ask everyone to share an experience with forgiveness and how it helped bring them peace (or regret).
3. Steven’s heart condition, which ultimately led to tragedy, set off the majority of events in What’s Done in the Dark. Support heart health awareness by scheduling a physical with your doctor or collecting donations from your book club to give to the American Heart Association.
4. It’s book club happy hour! Serve virgin margaritas and piña coladas at your next meet-up for a fun, festive treat—sans booze and bad decision-making.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Brownstone Book Club January 2015 Book Review From a Lady's Point of View: BBC January 2015 End of the Month Review & Commentary When we think of the words, “What's Done in the Dark” the next thought to follow is, “Will Soon Come to The Light” and in reading this book by Author ReShonda Tate Billingsley that sentiment definitely rings true.... I found Author ReShonda Tate Billingsley's new book “What's Done in the Dark” to be a most excellent read from start to finish. This is one of those books that deserves the 5 stars that our book club gave it, as once I started reading it I simply couldn't put it down. Truly a page turner! This book to me was about friendship, marriage, family and most important forbidden lost love.... In the beginning part of the book the author quickly gets to the matter at hand, which basically is about the relationship that never got a chance to develop between Felise and Steven once they went their separate ways to different colleges. Although given that they've managed to remain close friends throughout the years along with their families and respective spouses. As faith would have it on this one given night they bump into one another at a bar at the Four Season's Hotel when they both find themselves dealing with unsatisfying situations within their marriages and spouses. After confiding their current situation to one another, their true feelings for one another and a few to many cocktails they end up getting a room #527 and having a one night sexual rundavoo or so they think? Felise wakes up the next morning only to find out that during that night Steven suffered a heart attack and has died.... Oh, and did I mention that Steven's wife Paula and Felise are best friends and have been since they were knee high to a grasshopper? I know Right,,, that's were the plot thickens!!! Just then I'm thinking this is the end of this book, it's over, I mean where can the author possibly go from this point? What else can Felise do, but stay there in the hotel room and do the right thing? Call the police right? I was wrong. This book is so riveting, from that point the author takes you through a plethora of emotions and situations. A true test of loyalty when it comes to friendship, marriage, family and morality.... If you haven't picked up this book as of yet, I strongly encourage you to do!!! Talk about a Must Read,,, The ending screams Sequel... Tangela D. Fleming Brownstone Book Club Founder/President 5 Stars=Non-Stop Page Turner
ReShonda, you put your foot in this book (What's done in the dark)! This mess shouldn't ever happen; but the reality is that it does (more in married couples than is talked about)! I think it would definitely decrease or even stop if everyone's consequence was what happened in the book! Lol (I was screaming). #NoSpoilers. We openly talk about a woman scorned and how we act; but never address how a man feels. So thank you, for making people, including me, see how mess (some people's reality) affects men (because they don't get over crap like a lot of women do). And I didn't expect the end: that's for the twisters. #AwesomeReadYall and #AwesomeBookClubChoice
There has to be a sequel! I read the entire book in 2 days!!!! Awesome book! I had a tough time sleeping after finishing it because I was so amped up from the drama in this story! And the ending made my mouth drop open!
OMG!! Looking for a good make that GREAT Read than pick up your copy of "What's Done In The Dark" by ReShonda Tate Billingsley. I read this book in less than 24 hours. I haven't been able to read a book that fast in a long time. Never a dull moment. Its FAST-PACED and the story was great and that finish had me "Clutching my pearls". Characters were real and I felt as if I knew them personally.
I enjoyed this book so much. I plan to read more by the author. I could see the characters. I felt like a fly on the wall.
What I discovered in this twist of friendships and love is the selfish and selfless love these characters have for each other and themselves. How others influence things they wanted for themselves through their daughters and sisters.
Couldn't help but love this book! Great 2 day read. In no way was I wasn't prepared for the helluva twist at the end. #straightshocker ?Shana in Chicago
What sample are you referring to? I only had two pages and that was the cover of the book and a review.
It was a 2 page sample, all it let me read was the reviews. Not at all helpful in helping me know if I want to buy the book.
Great lesson. Unexpected ending.
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There are always consequences for your actions! This book is a great read! It is surely a great example of forgiveness.
Awesome!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I love this book. This one by far is the best I've read by RTB. I didn't expect the ending to end the way it did. It shocked me. Truly a page turner.
Great book and the ending caught me off guard!!!!
I have read many books by this author. By far, this is onw of her greatest!!!! Loved it from the first page until the end.