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Like a butterfly breaking free from its confining cocoon, Tillie Reese emerged from the barren, tan-colored servants' hall into the opulence of Biltmore's main level. These predawn hours were her favorite. All was dark, no one stirred, and she had the entire floor-easily a half acre in size-all to herself.
She'd walked this path many times and could navigate it without candle or lamp. For just a moment, she imagined herself mistress of the chateau. Elegantly dressed, gliding across the parquet and trying to decide whether to have Chef prepare petites bouchées or puits d'amour. Whether to spend the morning reading Yeats, Browning, or Dickens. Whether to call the carriage round for a drive through the country or ride one of the thoroughbreds waiting in the stable.
Tightening her grip on her housemaid's box, she inhaled deeply. The polish she'd made of linseed oil, vinegar, turpentine, and wine tickled her nose. She allowed herself a sneeze-something strictly forbidden were anyone about.
The click of her heels echoed throughout the vast, wide-open area as she skirted the sunken atrium filled with palms, exotic plants, blooming shrubs, and a large fountain sculpture yet to be turned on. She finally reached the tapestry gallery and paused, listening to the silence, enjoying the anonymity of the dark.
Let there be light.
She pushed the familiar white button. Electric lights flared, illuminating a room so long it could hold two modest houses. Several groupings of sage brocade sofas and chairs filled the area. Huge tapestries lined one wall. Opposite them stood a wall of windows and French doors.
The soft hum of the Edison bulbs bid her good morning. The thrill and miracle of the electric lights never failed to stir her. But this morning something else warred for her attention, and suddenly, the light made her feel exposed, vulnerable, naked.
She touched the black button. Darkness slammed back down like a closing trunk lid. All was quiet again. Not a whisper of sound.
She held her breath. Felt her heart hammering in her breast. And allowed the thought she'd been hiding since last night to fully form in her head.
Bénédicte was leaving. Returning to France. Leaving the new Mrs. Vanderbilt without a lady's maid.
A lady's maid. Next to housekeeper, the highest-ranking position for a woman. The servant who had morning tea brought to her by the first housemaid while the second housemaid made up a fire in her room.
The servant who was free to take a bath as often as she liked. Who traveled with Mrs. Vanderbilt. Who read books-books!-aloud to Mrs. Vanderbilt. Who was required to dress in the same fashions as Mrs. Vanderbilt. Best of all, a lady's maid earned quite a bit more money, so she could help her family and others in the community who were in need.
Tillie, as head parlormaid, would surely be considered for the position. The housekeeper had requested a private audience with her before breakfast. Lord willing, it was to discuss just that.
After hugging the thought one last time, she carefully returned it to the recesses of her mind. Dawdling in fantasies when she should be setting the gallery to rights was no way to put her best foot forward.
Pushing the white button, she again flooded the room with light. If the entire first floor was to be in complete readiness before the master and his bride descended for the day, she'd best get busy.
* * *
Chatter, laughter, and the clinking of plated ware filled the servants' dining hall, but Tillie participated in none of it. She avoided eye contact with the long row of liveried men sitting opposite her and the equal number of uniformed women beside her. She took particular care not to glance her brother's way. One look at Allan and he'd know something was up.
The dining hall servant, a young girl of sixteen, refilled Tillie's glass of milk. "Is everythin' to your liking, Miss Tillie? You've barely touched your liver and bacon."
"It's fine, Nell. Delicious, actually."
Nell glanced at the clock but said nothing as its minute hand jumped a step closer to the half-hour mark.
Tillie took a large bite of potatoes. She'd have to eat quickly if she was going to finish before eight-thirty. But after her meeting with the housekeeper, her stomach had lost its ability to digest.
"May I have your attention, please?" From the head of the table, Mrs. Winter made her request only once, and just that quickly, a hush fell over the room of servants. As housekeeper, she was second only to the Vanderbilts, outranking even the butler.
Her gaze briefly touched the butler's at the opposite end of the table; then she surveyed the long rows of men and women between them. "As you know, Bénédicte has decided to return to France as soon as a replacement for her can be found."
All eyes turned to Mrs. Vanderbilt's lady's maid. She sat immediately to the right of Mrs. Winter and across from the hallboy, underbutlers, and footmen. The dark green fabric of her gown strewn with pink and yellow blossoms caused her olive skin to glow.
From what Tillie had been told, between the language barrier and the isolation of Biltmore, Bénédicte could not adjust. She wanted to go home.
Next to Bénédicte was Tillie. On Tillie's right, the head chambermaid, then the first housemaid and so forth all the way down the table to the laundresses and scullery maids.
"Rather than importing someone from France or England, or even from Newport," Mrs. Winter continued, "Mrs. Vanderbilt has decided to award Bénédicte's position to one of our current staff members."
The attention immediately shifted to Tillie and the three girls to her right-the leaders of the domestic corps.
"After much consideration, she has narrowed the choice to either Tillie or Lucy."
Dixie Brown bent over her plate, capturing Tillie's attention. The excitement and delight on her friend's face was unmistakable.
Tillie offered her a slight smile, then glanced at her brother. Allan's brows had converged. His thoughts unreadable.
Mrs. Winter took a sip of coffee. "While Mrs. Vanderbilt is deciding, Tillie and Lucy will be called upon to take on a few of Bénédicte's duties. As a result, some of you will be required to take care of whatever chores they leave behind."
To Tillie's immediate right, Lucy Lewers sat tall and confident, her caramel-colored hair coiled neatly beneath a snowy cap, which was nothing more than a piece of frilly cloth resting on the crown of her head. Long lashes framed eyes the same caramel color as her hair. Her skin held no blemish, her profile no flaw. With the slightest lifting of her chin, she looked down the table at all the underlings, as if her appointment to the position was imminent.
"Finish up," Mrs. Winter admonished. "The day is calling."
* * *
Allan cornered Tillie on the way to morning prayers.
"Why didn't you tell me?" Grabbing her by the arm, he propelled her into the canning pantry and closed the door. He stood a half foot taller than she, with wide shoulders and hair every bit as thick and black as her own.
"I only found out myself just before we sat down to breakfast." She rubbed the place he'd squeezed.
"What are you going to do?"
She cocked her head. "Do? I'm going to work my fingers to the bone and beg God for His favor. What do you think I'm going to do?"
He pinched the bridge of his nose. "It'll change everything. You'll be one of them, the swell set."
She smiled at the term referring to the butler, chef, lady's maid, and valet. "But I want to be one of them. Can you imagine all the opportunities I'll have? The pay? The clothes? The privileges? The travel?"
"Travel? You can't so much as look at a carriage without getting sick. How, exactly, do you plan to manage that?"
She stiffened. "I'm older now. I'm sure the motion won't affect me like it did when I was little. Besides, think of the freedom I'll have every single day. I'll be able to-"
"Freedom?" he scoffed. "There's no such thing as freedom with that job. You'll be at her ladyship's beck and call all hours of the day and night."
"But that's just it. I'll be confidante to Edith Stuyvesant Dresser Vanderbilt!"
"You won't be on the fourth floor with Dixie and all the other girls. You'll be stuck on the second floor with her and the high-and-mighty Mrs. Winter. You won't be able to have dessert, or tea, or gossip with the rest of us. You'll have to retire to Mrs. Winter's room with the swell set."
"And partake of the same desserts the Vanderbilts are having!" Tillie shook her head in mock sorrow. "That will certainly be a burden."
He tightened his mouth. "You won't be able to get married."
She frowned. "None of us can get married. Not unless we want to lose our jobs."
"You could get married. It would just mean you couldn't work in the house. You'd have to work on one of Mr. Vanderbilt's farms or in the dairy or something like that."
"Why would I want to do that when I can work here? Are you crazy?" She reached for the door.
He pressed his hand against it. "A lady's maid position will eat up the best years of your life, Tillie. Then the minute a gray hair pops up or a tiny wrinkle forms, out you go. Only the young and beautiful can be ladies' maids."
"Gray hairs? You're talking to me about gray hairs? I'm eighteen."
"I know how old you are."
"Then what are you so worried about? I'll be careful with my earnings. And when the time comes, leaving my job won't be a concern because I'll have enough to live on for the rest of my life."
"Alone. With no one to keep you company. And not at all in the style you'll have become accustomed to."
Rolling her eyes, she crossed her arms. "I thought you'd be happy for me. If I get this position, Mama will think she's died and gone to heaven."
"Conrad's in love with you."
She stilled, then slowly lowered her arms. "Conrad? The footman?"
She pictured the gangly young man who was so skinny he stuffed his stockings in order to give himself shapely calves.
"You know any other Conrads?" Allan asked.
Anger surged through her. "Well, he'd better put me right out of his mind. I'm not caring which nor whether about him nor anybody else, and if he jeopardizes this for me, I'll have his head on a platter." She hammered a finger against her brother's chest. "You understand me?"
"You don't even like him a little? All the girls flirt with him."
"They'd better not let Mrs. Winter catch them or they'll be the ones sacked, not him." She took a deep breath. "I want this job, Bubby. I want it more than anything I've ever wanted in my life. You tell Conrad to stay clear of me. You hear?"
Sighing, he released the door. "I hear."
Excerpted from MAID to MATCH by DEEANNE GIST Copyright © 2010 by Deeanne Gist . Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted September 20, 2010
Maid to Match is a historical romance novel written by Deeane Gist. Set in the late 1800's, Maid to Match is a story about Tillie Reese, a maid at the Biltmore mansion. Coming from a lower-class family, Tillie has been working her way up the ladder of success since childhood. She is on the verge of getting everything she ever dreamed of, a position of lady's maid to the lady of the house. A life of adventure, prestige, wearing fancy clothes, traveling, reading, a life that is everything she has ever wanted. Or so she thought. When Tillie is enlisted to help tame Mack Danvers, a mountain man turned footman, she finds that her heart has opened up to new dreams. Torn between the world she has always wanted and the world she has never known, Tillie must choose which path she will follow.
As with all historical romance novels, competition is fierce and originality nearly impossible. Love is the universal language, and therefore will always carry a semblance of cliche. It has happened a million times before :) This book is no exception. However, despite it's general failings as a genre, I enjoyed reading this book. It was interesting, moving, and even inspiring. I liked the reality of Tillie's mother. Her human failings, her hopes and dreams she has placed in her daughter, and her attitude towards Tillie's end choice. They gave the book a ring of authenticity. Based on historical facts, Maid to Match was a great book for a rainy day.
Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoy's this genre, or as a gift for any woman aged 14 and up. A message of following your heart, it promises to uplift you and leave you smiling at the end.
**I received a free copy of this book through Graf-Martin Publishers
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Posted February 6, 2011
I was so completely enchanted by this novel that I was sad when I finished. In fact, I didn't even know that I was close to the end until I turned the page and there wasn't any more text. When I requested this novel from Goodread's book swap, I didn't expect to love it so much. I'm not a fan of Christian novels, but I didn't even know that it was such until I looked up more about the author. There were numerous references to the Christian god, and the character's relying on him for strength and guidance. However, the story was more about the characters and their relationships rather than their god.
I immediately fell in love with the characters. Tillie was so simple in her ambitions that I couldn't help but envy her. All she wanted in the entire world was to be a lady's maid and help those less fortunate than her. Then there is Mack, whose only concern is getting his sister out of a horrible orphanage and returning to his home in the mountains. Both Mack and Tillie have their own agendas and they don't plan on letting anything ruin those plans. In fact, in the beginning when Tillie discovers she is up to lady's maid, she tells her own brother that not even someone in love with her is going to stop her from attaining the position.
Things don't exactly happen that way. Through determination and some sacrifice both end up getting what they wish, but by then, they aren't sure it is what they really want.
Gist delighted me in so many ways. The characters were simple in their aspirations yet had such much....well character. The world as we know it wasn't threaten by anything more than man's selfishness. The heroine wasn't some great hero who had amazing powers or was the only one who could save the world. I loved Gist's style. She really knew how to say something so perfectly to give it a certain feel or to come across a certain way.
I was surprised I loved this book as much as I did, but it was a treasure I couldn't believe I found. An instant favorite.
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Posted December 30, 2011
Posted April 5, 2011
First off, I have been to the Biltmore...and I aboslutely love it!! It is any Hopless Romantic's dream, and when I saw that this novel took place in it I just could not resist it. Filled with pent up emotion you will find yourself talking to the two main characters and living in the beautiful mansion that they reside in. I didn't want it to end, and I thank the author for allowing me to visit the Biltmore even from states away!
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Posted October 7, 2010
I don't like to fly but was en route from Orlando to Sacramento. My flight was delayed due to severe weather, and I didn't have a book with me. When I found Gist's latest title, MAID TO MATCH, in the airport bookstore, I was thrilled. Her tale transported me to the turn of the century at the breathtaking Biltmore Estate, and I forgot all else as I devoured her captivating story. I loved her characters. Neither the Vanderbilts' parlor maid, Tillie, nor their newest footman, Mack, are perfect people, but both endeared themselves to me from the start, and I enjoyed watching them learn important life lessons. Gist is a gifted storyteller, and I savored her rich descriptions, her historical details so accurately portrayed, and her clever dialogue. I highly recommend this wonderfully written romance.
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Maid to Match is a competely enjoyable book from the first page to the last. The history of the Vanderbilt's life style and home 'Biltmore' provides a excellent contrast to the hopelessness and struggles of the less fortunate. As always, Deeanne Gist creates strong characters that bring the story to life and make you want more. I'm hoping she writes a sequel to this book, since the end of this story is the beginning of another. I have read several of Ms. Gist's books and have loved them all.
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Posted October 19, 2014
Posted October 17, 2014
RowanBerry pads inside behind her brother, eyes twinkling in anticipation. <p>
<p>DuskFall silently leads his sister, gazing around.
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Posted October 17, 2014
Posted May 7, 2014
Posted September 4, 2013
This book is set at one of my favorite places on earth: the Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina. Having been there several times, I can attest to the accuracy of Mrs. Gist's description. She is not lying about the opulence and grandeur of the family's living quarters. She is not lying about the servants quarters either. Each room was furnished with a wrought iron framed bed. Their servants looked to be treated very well. The descriptions used throughout the book really make you feel like you're standing in the house or the mountains of Asheville.
Tillie Reese is in the running for the coveted lady's maid position. She gives her all to her job. After all, she's been training for it her whole life. She is kind, compassionate, and a little (ok, a lot) stubborn. She is a Christian, as well, and believes she is following God's will for her life. That is, until Mack Danver shows up. Mack is a ruggedly handsome mountain of a man (hehe) who falls in love with Tillie the moment he sees her. He is a smart, well-educated, God fearing (and did I say handsome) man. So, of course, Tillie is also attracted to him. But does he jeopardize the very thing Tillie wants the most?
The plot, along with the romance, is expertly written. Deeanne Gist knows how to build a story that sucks the reader in from the beginning and doesn't let them go until the end. In the midst of the romance (there are some "steamy" PG scenes), is a well-thought out and developed plot about the town orphanage. Her description of the orphanage makes you cringe along with Mack and Tillie. The Sloop's attitudes and actions make you angry, right along with Mack and Tillie. The story is not preachy; Mrs. Gist weaves in the spiritual element seamlessly and effortlessly. You root for Mack and Tillie in their struggles to do discern God's will for their lives and overcome their own desires and dreams.
Overall, I can't say enough good things about this book! I absolutely loved it! FIVE out of FIVE stars! Go read it!!!
Posted August 18, 2013
Having visited Biltmore 3 times and taken an "extra cost" tour the last time too, I LOVED reading about places in and around the home in this book. I could just "see" the settings as I read them.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 19, 2013
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Posted December 25, 2012
I picked up this book when visiting Asheville a few days ago. I honestly couldn't put it down! Such a good read! It makes me want to go back to the Biltmore already! I would recommend this book to anybody. I look forward to reading more from the author.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 28, 2012
Posted July 20, 2012
I am from the Asheville area & I really enjoyed reading this book based at Biltmore. Readers should enjoy the book for its ease of reading & very nice imagery. :)Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 29, 2012
I loved this book! I wanted to live a day of the Vanderbilts after visiting Biltmore. This book was just that! I think it would make a great movie...or better yet a tvseries. I envision a family-friendly similar to Little House. I love the historical facts at the end also. I did not want it to end! A+