Thursday, March 31, 2011

Review: Maid to Match

 Maid to Match 
by Deeanne Gist 
Bethany House Publishers
2010

From the back cover:
Falling in Love Could Cost Her Everything.

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 proper servant etiquette, the resulting sparks threaten Tillie's efforts to be chosen as Edith Vanderbilt's lady's maid. After all, the one rule of the house is no romance below stairs.

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, their aspirations... and their hearts.

I read Gist's first book, A Bride Most Begrudging, years ago and enjoyed it, but this book's setting drew me in first and foremost. I'm a sucker for anything set in the Appalachians. If it's the Blue Ridge of North Carolina, all the better. Historical? Well, that's just about perfect. Add in the fact that a.) Gist's hero, Mack Danvers, is a tall, rugged, fiery-tempered mountain man, with a strong sense of justice and responsibility that compels him to defend those weaker than he, and b.) is possessed of a smoldering physical presence that Tillie couldn't possibly overlook, though Mack's the identical twin to a footman she already works with and isn't the least attracted to*--and it makes for a very compelling hero.

From the moment Tillie first sees Mack, engaged in a brawl with a townsman (who deserved far worse comeuppance than he ever got), there was only one face I could put on him. This one (who played a well known character also introduced to the viewer in the midst of... you guessed it...a fist-fight).

*I found the contrast between the brothers, and Tillie's response to them, an interesting angle to explore. Though they look enough alike that they're sometimes confused for each other, Mack and his brother, Earl, are very different men. This served to make Tillie's attraction to Mack come across as far deeper than the physical, since his brother Earl is every bit as handsome. The romance between these two made sparks fly off the pages, which you don't always find in CBA romances.


I've never visited the Biltmore Estate, near Ashville, NC, but Maid To Match has made me want to. An aspect of this story I greatly enjoyed (being a fan of the recent British drama Downton Abbey) is a look inside the lives of the large servant staff of an American mansion at the turn of the 20th century, and the differences between them and their British counterparts.

Some of the services Tillie had to perform for a certain rich visitor to the estate, as a trial run for a lady's maid position, were so revolting and the treatment she received so humiliating, at first I wondered why Tillie would still want to pursue this goal after such an experience, especially when she has another offer on the table that seems overwhelmingly appealing (to me!). Gist provided enough sound motivation for Tillie to believe this is the path she needs to pursue, no matter the cost, and to make me believe she could believe it, as well as showing just how good Tillie would be at the job; patient and hard-working and humble, in contrast to the experience of her rival for the ultimate lady's maid position, Lucy.

Another plot line I found engaging was that of the children in the orphanage in the town of Asheville. It was wonderfully and sometimes heartbreakingly utilized through the story to bring Mack and Tillie together... as well as keep them apart. Mack's character, in particular, is allowed to blossom through the use of this orphanage setting and the plight of the children therein.

As a writer I found myself rereading phrases throughout the book, wishing I'd written them. As a reader, this is the first book I've read in quite some time that I didn't want to put down. Yet it was more than a page-turner. Watching Tillie and Mack struggle to hear God's voice, to find the setting and role where their dreams could be realized, their gifts and talents used, and the yearnings of their hearts be fulfilled, was a pleasure. While the ending was predictable, the journey to their fulfillment was well worth it and I hated to see the story end, to say good-bye to Tillie and Mack. I would have gladly read on through their lives, since their company was a great joy. Which is, in my opinion, the final litmus test of a good book.
 

9 comments:

  1. Wonderful review, Lori! I visited the Biltmore Estate once as a kid, and I've been longing to go back. I may have to check this book out for the setting alone. :)

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  2. Ruth, I just tried to post a comment on your review of Mesu Andrew's novel. Blogger is acting up for me today, not letting me post. Apparently it wants more cookies. :) Hopefully on my own blog it will let me have my way.

    Anyway, I read your review and ordered a copy of the book straightaway. Beautiful and breathtaking. I'll be back by later to try again.

    Thanks for commenting on mine. :)

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  3. Lori, you're the second person to tell me this week they've had trouble commenting on my blog. WEIRD. And ANNOYING. :P If you don't mind, see if Blogger will let you leave a comment on any entry...much appreciated. :)

    Thank you again for the review feedback. :)

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  4. I really liked this one, too! I enjoyed your review. :)

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  5. This sounds like a great book, especially since I just finished Downton Abbey as well!~ ;)
    I've always thought the Biltmore estate was very intriguing, I think I once saw a christmas special about the house and it was just so...over the top with its grandness! This was a great review~~

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  6. I came into the challenge just today and am enjoying seeing the variety of books being read by bloggers. This is another good one.

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  7. Mystica, thanks for stopping by. If you get a chance to read it, hope you enjoy!

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  8. I've always enjoyed Deeane Gists' books, but I hadn't got around to this one yet. Your review has encouraged me to get my hands on a copy. Thanks.

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  9. I hadn't read any of Deeanne's books since her first one, but now I want to go back and read them all.

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