Thursday, June 2, 2016

Deeanne Gist - Maid to Match

From the day she arrives at the Biltmore, Tillie Reese is dazzled—by the riches of the Vanderbilts and by Mack Danvers, a mountain man turned footman. When Tillie is enlisted to help tame Mack's rugged behavior by tutoring him in the ways of refined society, the resulting sparks threaten Tillie's efforts to be chosen as Edith Vanderbilt's lady's maid.
But the stakes rise even higher when Mack and Tillie become entangled in a cover-up at the town orphanage. They could both lose their jobs...and their hearts.

Comment: I got this book recently, because I've been enjoying all the books I've read by this author. This title is part of the author's backlist which means it's closer to her older style and more inspirational themes rather than her latest stories which go more towards historical fiction with romance. But I was still intrigued and wanted to read this one.

In this story we meet Tillie Reese, a young woman who wants to be a lady's maid to ms Vanderbilt. Tillie knows the position will exist soon and she tries her best to be chosen. But the tasks of her work and the demands of what she does don't give her much confidence, especially when a sort of test is put in her path. And things got even worse when Mack, the new footman, seems to get under her skin, no matter how much she knows a relationship would mean the end of her dreams.
But Mack makes her realize she doesn't only dream of being a lady's maid and when children in danger must be helped, can Tillie be the person that could make a difference?

After having read the two types of books the author has written, the more inspirational and the more historicals I have to confess I prefer her more recent type of books... there's a certain sense of elegance and perfection in the story's evolution that her older books don't seem to have a much because characters are more worried about religious matters.
Not that an inspirational is wrong, only that the narrative she writes seems to flow better when religion isn't the focus.

In this book, despite the inspirational label and certain obvious references to God and society rules and obedience and so on, I don't think anyone that reads this book will think this is preaching. I suppose this is why the author's style appeals so much to me. It's never in your face and I appreciate the subtlety, which can makes us make up our own minds.
Tillie is a well behaved person, she tries her best to be good and proper and do the right things and I applaud her, but I got the feeling most of actions are led by the belief her life can change for the better and she can help her family, not because God put her on that path. The religious references happen mostly towards the end where, you've guessed it..., Tillie has to make a choice.

Tillie is a maid. She has a unrewarded job and must do things we wouldn't accept easily nowadays (the intimacy of helping a lady with her more personal habits, for instance). But what made me angry was how this was just expected, the way things were. Because she was poor and had to work, she could be treated like that. Yes, in real life that happens all the time too...but to read about it, it's difficult.
I think the historical facts presented were quite realistic and close to what really happened at the time, but it certainly gave a sense of despair because it's something we can't change. Even in the idea of romance, Tillie wouldn't miraculously become someone totally different, which is something we can hope for when we read other types of romances. The romance here is just a tool, in a way. The focus isn't about Tillie's romantic relationship, it's about her facing her choices and what could be better for her.

Mack is an interesting hero. He has all the good aspects to convince us he would be the best husband ever, but at the same time he felt too aloof and dispassionate about other things except his siblings. Not that this isn't commendable, but the way he thought of Tillie wasn't always as romantic as that. 
And this is why this book didn't feel the best one ever, the hero and heroine liked each other, could fall in love but because of the inspirational idea, it seemed their connection was only circumstantial. I just didn't feel their love, no matter how cute their few kisses were or how well they could be matched.

Now that I can compare differences between the author's work, although both have their time frames and purposes, I have to say the older ones feel less meaningful in terms of emotional descriptions, of purpose... and of all the inspirational ones, this looked sadder and with less positive aspects overall to seduce me into being glad I was reading. The HEA helped but isn't the whole book.
Still, an interesting read. But I'll look for to read more of her recent work now.
Grade: 6/10


  1. This was the first book I read by Gist and I really loved it at that time. All the historical details! The romance between two servants! But in hindsight? I agree with you. While she was never preachy with her inspirational elements, I find that I'm preferring her more recent books that are more historical fiction w/ romance or what I call "gentle Americana."

    Fun fact: I actually won a contest the author had and got to go the Biltmore! We toured the whole house and a huge chunk of the grounds. It was so amazing (there is a hotel on the grounds and their afternoon tea service was divine) and seeing the estate that featured so prominently in the book - well, it really brought the book to life for me. One of these days I want to go back :)

    1. That must have been amazing! Did you think about all the poor maids that had to work all the time and were considered less than human? I think that was what stood out the most for me in this book...I can't just focus on the brighter parts!

    2. (Sorry I'm so late in responding!)

      I was struck by how nice the servants quarters were at the Biltmore. Nothing fancy, but nice. They even had indoor plumbing (!) - granted it was a shared bathroom at the end of the hallway but they had indoor plumbing installed for the servants (!).

      Gist said she started her research at the estate and by all accounts they treated their servants well (even installing modern amenities to make the work safer - I recall something about the laundry presses?) She first thought "yeah sure they treated their servants well" until she verified with third party sources. Class differences were obviously in play, but it sounds like there would have been worse places to find employment.

    3. Yes, things there must have been better but in general... it pains me to read books with so much realism because I always think about the unfairness of so many things...