The Measure of a Lady: A Novelby Deeanne Gist
Rachel van Buren arrives in Gold Rush San Francisco with two wishes: to protect her younger siblings and to return east as soon as possible. Both goals prove more difficult than she could imagine as her brother and sister are lured by the city's dangerous freedom and a missionary-turned-gambler stakes a claim on her heart. Rachel won't give up without a fight though, and soon all will learn an eloquent but humorous lesson about what truly makes a lady.
Speak Politely. Even when you're the only respectable woman around, protesting the decadence of a city lost to gold fever.
Dress Modestly. Wear your sunbonnet at all times. Ensure nobody sees your work boots muddied by the San Francisco streets.
Remain Devoted to Family. Protect your siblings from the lures of the city, even against their wishes.
Stand Above Reproach. Most difficult when a wonderful man turns out to be a saloon owner.
Rise Above Temptation. No, not even just a little kiss....
When these rules become increasingly difficult to uphold, can Rachel Van Buren remain a beacon of virtue in a city of vice?
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Read an Excerpt
The Measure of a Lady
By Deeanne Gist
Bethany House Publishers
Chapter OneThe shack had no door. Nothing. Not even a cloth covering. Steps away from the hotel's threshold and built with the roughest of planks, the structure listed a bit to the left.
Rachel missed Lissa's abrupt halt, bumped into her back, then had her own heels trodden by Michael.
With a flourish of his hand, Mr. Parker indicated entrance into "the best place in town."
None of them moved.
Glancing from one to the other, he cleared his throat. "Perhaps I should light a lantern first."
He disappeared through the doorframe, and light spilled forth almost immediately. She heard the unmistakable sound of objects being shuffled to and fro before their host reappeared. Again, he indicated entrance. "Please."
She nudged Lissa, and the three of them filed in. Scarcely registering the crackle of the straw-covered floor beneath her feet, she gave the ten-by-twelve room a quick perusal.
A giant bedstead took up most of the room, so solid and heavy it must surely have been pieced together at that very spot. A hodgepodge of materials and old clothing stitched in haphazard fashion formed its tick. No pillows. One small blanket. And a deep indention from where its owner had last slept.
Her gaze shied away and moved to a fireplace built of stones and mud. She'd never seen a chimney finished off inside a room, yet layers of stones, rough sticks, and rude mortar reached clear to theceiling. The mantel, considered the crowning glory of a parlor back home, was no more than a beam of raw wood covered with strips of ready-made tin cans-cut open and laid flat, labels of their former contents still intact.
Mr. Parker had set their valises beneath a window, or rather, a two-foot hole in the wall. He now grabbed some flint and began to light the pre-laid kindling situated in the fireplace. "The washstand is there in the corner. I'll show Michael where to fetch some fresh water."
Rachel turned to the corner, noting an empty vegetable bowl sitting atop a trunk with a common dining pitcher in place of a ewer. "I see," she murmured.
A warped piece of wood nailed to the wall held an assortment of books. Fashion plates from magazines hung about the room, offering a bit of decoration. Women with impossible waists and miraculous bosoms dominated the collection.
Michael drifted to a little round table flanked by a pair of spindly chairs, a chessboard decorating its top. Picking up a chess piece, he examined it, turned fiery red, then quickly set the piece down.
Mr. Parker chose that moment to finish his task. "Do you play chess, Michael?"
"Um, yes, sir. Um, some. I'm, um, I'm not very good at it, actually."
"Well, we'll have to play us a game."
Michael nodded, looking as if he'd swallowed his tongue.
"If there is nothing else, then, Miss Van Buren, I really need to get back to the hotel."
The fire popped, though its warmth had not yet permeated the shack. Rachel summoned the energy for a polite smile. "Of course. You've been far too generous already. I don't know what to say nor what we would have done."
He nodded. "Not at all."
"Michael? Why don't you go ahead and have Mr. Parker show you where to fill the ewer." She lifted her brows. "If that is acceptable, that is?"
Michael grabbed the pitcher and followed Mr. Parker out the doorway, the contrast between brawny man and skinny boy striking Rachel anew and reminding her again her young brother was quite without a father to guide him in his ways.
The unique blend of their voices, one deep, one all over the scale, drifted into oblivion before the sisters turned to each other.
"There's no door and no window covering," Lissa exclaimed. "Whatever are we to do?"
"I guess we'll be safe enough. At least that seemed to be the consensus." Rachel eyed the open doorway and window. "It might be prudent to look for a spare cloth to drape over them, though."
"Was the shack leaning or was it my imagination?"
"Shadows, I think."
"Um." Lissa scrunched up her nose. "The chimney's inside the house."
Rachel looked at the mess of mud and stones. "Well, not entirely. The flue still goes up through the roof, and it looks to be working properly."
"But have you ever?" Lissa moved to the fireplace, examining the tin-covered mantel. "Seems your Mr. Parker is partial to peas."
"He's not my Mr. Parker and it was extremely kind of him to offer up his room."
"Is his family back east?"
She began to unbutton her coat. "He's unmarried."
Lissa blinked. "But look at that bed. Why, all three of us will easily fit on it. Whatever would he need with such a large bed if he hasn't a family?"
Frowning, Rachel studied the mammoth structure. "I'm not really sure, but I'm too tired to think."
She considered the window without panes or drapes, the entry without door or lock. She bit the inside of her cheek. The safety and security of her family now rested on her shoulders. And the best she could do was rely on a total stranger.
* * *
Something was different. Rachel opened her eyes to sunshine and a room that didn't sway like a ship. All came rushing back. The muddy city, the appalling excuse for a hotel, the rough patrons, the decadent statue, the young boy who lost his fortune, the hotel owner who held it.
A bit confounding, that. A man who would fleece a young boy of gold, yet would give up the use of his home to a pitiful group of orphans.
She noted Michael at some point had moved to sleep by the fireplace, leaving the bed to Lissa and her.
The articles of clothing they'd tied together and draped over the doorway lay in a heap on the floor, as did the ones by the window.
She tucked the covers up about her neck. The cabin looked even more pathetic in the light of day, though the fire chased the chill from the air. Michael must have stoked it then fallen asleep at its hearth.
After putting off the inevitable, she finally edged her feet to the ground, scurried to the washstand, and splashed water onto her face. Its frigid temperature stole her very breath but removed the last vestiges of sleep.
Retrieving her hanky, she patted the water from her cheeks, lips, eyes, and forehead. She still couldn't quite fathom a washstand with no towel, but such was the case.
She glanced at the open entry. Covering it up again would require help, and she hated to wake Michael just yet. Moving to a corner of the room, she managed to put her garments on without exposing anything of importance, all the while cringing at having to once again wear yesterday's mud-caked dress. Slipping out the doorway, she tied her bonnet strings and made her way back to the hotel.
Mr. Parker sat in the small kitchen that separated the hotel proper from the back door. He looked different this morning. A blue flannel shirt, dark cotton trousers, and high boots replaced the fancy attire of last evening. So absorbed was he in his newspaper he didn't appear to have heard her approach.
She allowed herself a precious moment to study the cozy little alcove. It wasn't a conventional kitchen, of course, though cast-iron pots, frying pans, and Dutch ovens lay strewn across the stove. The room-hardly big enough to turn around in-held cheek-by-jowl preserved meats, a bag of beans, a pork barrel, and a heap of clean clothing. The overwhelming odor of what must be coffee assaulted her nose. A far cry from the soothing smell of Papa's brew.
Shoved against the wall, the dining table was nothing more than a semicircular board laid on top of a sea chest, surrounded by three chairs, none of which matched. The top of the table had cleats to hold the dishes so they wouldn't slide off-not because it was a seafaring table, but, she assumed, because the slope of the floor was so terribly uneven.
Mr. Parker, sitting in one of the chairs with a tin mug in one hand and a newspaper in the other, must have sensed her presence. He looked up, stood, and bowed. "Good morning."
"Forgive me. I didn't mean to disturb you."
"Not at all." He folded his paper and snagged another tin cup out of a candle box. Before she could protest, he filled the cup from the coffeepot at his elbow and offered her a seat.
She really needed to secure passage back home, but the man had been more than generous-with her, anyway. So she settled herself down as best she could. "Thank you."
Reaching for a jacket from the heap of clothing on the floor, he shrugged it on and sat down beside her. The wrinkled jacket did little to disguise the breadth of his shoulders and the strength in his arms.
She disliked taking refreshment with a man minus the protection of a chaperone but had been forced to do so since her father's death. And Mr. Parker, with his dark, curly hair and square, angular jaw, exuded a kind of raw masculinity that enthralled and intimidated all at the same time.
She warmed her hands around the perimeter of her cup, her mother's admonitions repeating themselves within her mind.
The man of "perfect manners" is calmly courteous in all circumstances, reliable as a rock, judicious in every action, dependable in trifles as well as large affairs, full of mercy and kindness, affectionate and loving. His brain must be as fine as his heart.
There had been no such man on the ship ... after Father died.
Mr. Parker lifted his cup to his lips, swallowing some of its contents without ever taking his eyes from hers. "You slept well, I trust?"
"Yes. Thank you. And you?"
Silence. She braved a sip of the black brew. Never had she tasted anything so ghastly. Eyes watering, she swept the room with a glance, looking in vain for evidence of sugar or cream.
She set her cup down. Both started to speak, both stopped, both started again. Mr. Parker indicated her with a nod of his head. "Please."
"I was just saying my family and I will be purchasing tickets for our passage home this morning. So rest assured, you won't be inconvenienced any longer."
"There aren't any ships going out."
"Once the vessels arrive, the crews abandon ship in favor of searching for gold."
She pursed her lips. "And how long does that take? A couple of days?"
He harrumphed. "No, miss. The easy gold is gone. All that's left will require months and months of back-breaking work and, even then, there are no guarantees."
Frowning, she tilted her head. "But the papers back home said one simply needed to go up to the hills, pick the gold out of the streams, and within a few days, a fortune could be accumulated."
"Elizabeth, New Jersey."
"And do all the good people of Elizabeth, New Jersey, believe everything they read?"
She stiffened. "President Polk verified the rumors."
"He may have verified the rumors that gold had been discovered. And, I will admit, that just after the discovery up at Sutter's Mill, the gold lay like pebbles in the stream. But that was the exception, not the rule."
She twirled her hand in the air dismissively. "Well, the availability of gold is neither here nor there. It is the ships that I am interested in, and never have I heard of a port where ships travel in only one direction. Why, it's simply too preposterous to even consider."
He said nothing. Just took a sip of coffee, his light blue eyes, with a knowing look, studying hers.
She recalled the captain urging her to go to shore last night instead of waiting until morning. Because he wasn't sure his crew would return once they reached land.
She swallowed. "Isn't it against the law to abandon ship?"
She sat back. "Well, then. The sailors must be arrested and forced back into duty."
"We don't have any officers of the law."
"What? Why not?"
"We're a brand new territory. There are no police, no laws, no jail. Once those men reach the shore, there is no way to get them back."
She fingered the three hundred dollars in the false pocket of her skirt. It was all they had in the world. Father had assumed that money would not be an issue once they arrived. Never had it occurred to them the newspaper reports were false. Nor had they considered the possibility of losing Papa.
She took a deep breath. "But if no ships leave and more arrive-which they most certainly will-the harbor will fill up with ships, one stacked on top of the other."
He nodded. "A rather daunting thought, isn't it?"
She rubbed her forehead. "Well, I will still go down to the docks and see if I can secure passage home. If I cannot, then I will have to find a place to live temporarily until I can figure out what to do."
He said nothing.
"Do you have any idea where I might find a suitable place to lodge?"
"I've been giving it quite a bit of thought, actually." He rested his forearms on the table. "The boardinghouses that come to mind are nothing but a mess of square berths with about six bunks per berth. The area's so confined, they leave just enough room between bunks for a man to stand."
"Perhaps I could rent out an entire berth."
He shook his head. "You would have to pay for all six bunks, which go for about twenty-two dollars each, not to mention the person who sleeps on the floor."
"The bunks are twenty-two dollars a month?"
She frowned. "That much?"
"I'm afraid so. You'd have no privacy at all."
"Are there any shacks for rent?"
"Not like mine. Most rag houses are no more than four sides of light lumber topped with a canvas roof. Every time it rains, the whole place gets wet."
"How often does it rain?"
"The entire winter. That's why the streets are so muddy. We're just on the other side of the rainy season, though, so the streets will turn back to dirt in no time."
"Do you know how much these rag houses run?"
He shrugged. "Anywhere from two to three hundred dollars per month would be my guess."
She moistened her lips. "What about real estate?"
He reached for his paper. "I was just looking over that very thing." Folding the paper in half, then in half again, he slid it toward her. "Lots are running about fifteen hundred."
She leaned over the paper, not to look at the prices, but to try and corral her desperation.
"How much money do you have?"
She gasped. "Mr. Parker."
"This is no time to be standing on ceremony, Miss Van Buren. You are what, about twenty years of age?"
She neither confirmed nor denied his estimate, though he was dead on.
"There are upwards of three thousand men in this town," he continued. "With your father gone, you'll need some guidance."
She stiffened. If there was one thing Mama had instilled in her at an early age, it was a distaste for men who automatically assumed a woman had no power within her brain. Though an unpopular view in the East, it was one that had begun to gather momentum amongst the women in Mama's circle.
"And what, sir, makes you my self-appointed guardian?"
He stilled. "Your pardon. I didn't mean to presume." He stood. "If you will excuse me?"
She blanched at his rebuke. Clearly, he'd offered out of kindness, misplaced or not, and she'd responded without thinking. Before she could recover, much less apologize, he had left the room.
* * *
Leaving instructions for Michael to look for employment and for Lissa to stay in the shack to receive their trunks as soon as someone could be found to transport them, Rachel headed straight to the wharf. The ship they had arrived on, along with dozens of others, sat silent and empty in the bay.
There would be no vessels leaving San Francisco anytime soon. Former farmers, professionals, and ruffians poured through the streets buying picks, shovels, and pans before heading upriver. Abandoned, their trunks sat on the beach beside a hodgepodge of dilapidated chairs, soiled provisions, and empty liquor bottles. The two partially finished wharves jutted out into the water, pointing to the deserted ships.
Muddy ochre hills dotted the southern and western borders of the village, bare but for low scrub and chaparral, yet protecting the community from the wind whipping off the bay.
Rachel climbed back up the hill. Unpainted shacks and vast numbers of tents dotted the landscape. And at every footfall was a gaming hall. That these saloons were not only open for business at this early hour but bulging with customers produced a great deal of consternation within her.
Their canvas walls shook and swayed as if the tents themselves were intoxicated. One such structure with grimy muslin stretched between its wooden posts sported a sign that read "Boardinghouse, $24 a week".
Approaching the open doorway, she slipped in for a closer look. The smell of cigars, liquor, and unwashed men filled her nostrils. Cards slapped, bottles clinked, men guffawed.
In the corner a fiddler ground out "Old Dan Tucker." Beside him a Spanish-looking woman with unbound curly hair danced to the music, her skirt hiked well above her ankles, displaying bare feet and the absence of pantalets.
Excerpted from The Measure of a Lady 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.
Meet the Author
Deeanne Gist--known to her family, friends, and fans as Dee--has rocketed up the bestseller lists and captured readers everywhere with her very original, very fun historical & contemporary romances. Add to this four RITA nominations, two Christy Awards, rave reviews, and a growing loyal fan base, and you've got one recipe for success. She has a very active online community on her website at IWantHerBook.com and at Facebook.com/Deesfriends.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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This book was great. I was hooked on it within the first few chapters. It is a wholesome and pleasant read.
In an attempt to review this book, I am a little bit at a loss for words. For those of you who know the other books that I read, recommend and love, I can tell you that the humor is something similar to that found in novels of my beloved favorite author Mary Connealy. The drama is amazing and the characters rip out your heart.
Easily, this novel is powerful, funny, and full of thought-provoking plot. Throughout the entire story, I felt like I was right there along with our protagonist. In so many of the situations, while she worked to finding a solution to a current dilemma, I would have just sat down and cried. Through these three hundred pages, author Deeanne Gist has really woven together a story that makes you think about what you do in your own walk with Christ and realize the bits and pieces that might need a little more tweaking and a bit more Bible Devotion.
There are people who will not appreciate this book because it may make them uncomfortable. But it does it in a way that is really attempting to show what is the purpose behind our God breathed lives and I praise this book fully for what it is capable as accomplishing as a tool for good.
I highly recommend this book to young women and older women alike. Especially those entering the romantic scene. For younger girls however, I would not say to avoid the book, but to read it and be able to discuss it with a mother, sister, or older friend.
The writing is incredible and will leaving you thirsting for more. At one point I had to put down the book while I was highly frustrated with a few particular characters and then I found myself irritated with my husband because of misplaced anger. A book that can lead on into my own life is obviously powerful enough to make me think.*grin*
4 1/2 Stars! I really enjoyed this book. There were times I laughed out loud at the banter between Johnnie and Rachel. There is heartbreak among the trials and tribulations of living in San Fransisco in the mid 1800's but also dreams realized. The character development is fantastic and I felt as if I knew them. It is easy to imagine that these characters truly existed in this time and place in history. An especially great read for anyone that loves historical fiction.
I have read five of this author's books and I am very pleased with her style: Lots of humor, lots of realistic romance (yes, we Christian woman who love God do actually have the same feelings and yearnings) and lots of accurate history. As far as I am concerned, that is a win...win...win.
I'm completely envious of the author's liberties in writing fiction. I loved her first book A Bride Most Begrudging , but in some ways I think I like this book even more. Not necessarily because it's more interesting. I think Bride takes first place in that regard. However, to me The Measure of a Lady stands out because of the underlying message. While Lady had some less than stellar moments, overall I found it quite enthralling. I enjoyed the subtle undertones (and sometimes not-so-subtle) of self-righteous thinking, and how the author made the scenarios quite exceptional and thought-provoking. The author beautifully illustrated how fallout can occur when appearances take precedence over people and relationships. I enjoyed how the author laid out the issues and debated them within the context of the gold rush in 19th-century San Francisco. I also enjoyed Rachel's moral dilemmas. To serve or not to serve...and just how should a Christian serve? How does a lady determine when to avoid any appearance of evil, and when to not even eat with sinners--and then on the flip side...When to reach out to the fallen in love and genuine concern with the hopes of blessing any of those who will listen. And what about forgiveness? For me this story was much more than a romance (though I do adore how Gist shows the honest thoughts of virile men--something often sorely lacking in most Christian fiction.) Oh, and to my relief the heroine had a desperate attraction/strong feelings for the hero. Thank you Deeanne for showing that women have feelings and drives as well--that it's not just a masculine trait. That poor heroine Rachel had read that women generally didn't have sexual feelings for men and if they did there was something wrong with them. How sad, yet pervasive was that teaching in the 1800s. Oh, and the scene at the beach! What a sizzler. I loved Rachel's epiphany and I thought the ending was beautiful. I really enjoyed the story and highly recommend it for readers who want a story with an inspirational message but that isn't so sterile that it seems unrealistically pure. Enjoy!
Those who love A Bride Most Begrudging will be delighted to discover that Deeanne Gist has done it again with The Measure of a Lady. San Francisco in 1848 is no place for a decent woman. Even if one manages to contend with the ankle-deep mud, the daily ruckus of gunfights, and noisy saloons, there's no place to sleep unless you quarter with the men lured west by the stories of gold. Should a lady find herself in this indecent shantytown, her best option for survival is to either marry one of the miners or become a woman of ill repute. Going home isn't an option. As soon as the ships pull into port, the sailors abandon their duty and join the city's riotous ways. It is into just such a city that twenty-five-year-old Rachel Van Buren disembarks with her two younger siblings in tow. She has no intentions of remaining one second longer than necessary, but while they wait for a ship, she isn't going to allow her charges to become corrupted. Neither is she going to wed, and if she has any say about it, she single-handedly is going to oversee that all of San Francisco improves their morality. But San Francisco isn't without its own allure. Her younger sister is tempted by the flirtations of the men, her brother is attracted making money, and the virtuous Rachel Van Buren is having a hard time remaining upright when around saloon owner Johnnie Parker¿a man not about to let morality get in his way of becoming a millionaire and wooing the woman he loves. As Rachel clings to the high standards of a lady, everything spins out of control, forcing her to decide what is really of value and what isn't. Deeanne Gist's novels are the perfect medium for crossing over from the Christian market into the general market. Readers who appreciate romance will find themselves delighted with writing that is filled with delightful characters and vivid imagery. ¿Recommended.
the book was very good, in the beginning I got frustrated with Rachel's attitude.
The Measure of a Lady is one of Deeanne Gist’s historical stand-alone novels, and is such a fantastic and sweet story! I’m not entirely sure what I was expecting when I picked this book up, although I did assume it would be wonderful since I’m a pretty big fan of Deeanne’s, but I just didn’t think the storyline would evolve the way that it did! I’m definitely not saying that is a bad thing by any means, it just took me by surprise. While I might not have thought the story would turn out that way, I’m most certainly glad it did because I can’t think of a single thing that would have made it better! Deeanne did an amazing job of weaving this plot together, and I’m so glad I had the time to read it last week! Rachel Van Buren is such a sweet, innocent character, whom I love dearly though she has some of the most warped views of purity and morality! It is completely adorable, I promise you, although I feel so much compassion for her because of all the pain she causes herself! She has somehow adopted the idea that she, as one of the only good Christian women in all of San Francisco, is to be the model of virtue for the entire town, and that is too big of a weight for anyone’s shoulders. Everyone makes mistakes, and she is no exception, and beyond that her ideas of what morality is are a little skewed. Despite all of that though, I really loved her throughout the whole course of this book, and I really enjoyed seeing her come to grips with what true morality and good Christ-like love actually look like. On top of everything I’ve already mentioned, I also just really enjoyed just getting to live in this story. There were so many twists and turns I’d never expected, some good, some bad, and I loved getting to see how both Rachel and Johnnie (you’ll meet him later) learned all about love and Christianity and what’s really right and wrong. Deeanne did a wonderful job of pulling all of that together without making this book seem preachy or like a sermon in any way, and that fact has helped to make this one of my favorites of her novels. All in all, I really loved this book, and I’m now an even bigger fan of Deeanne’s than I was before. I can’t imagine not giving this book all five bookshelves, and I’m so glad I picked it up the last time I was at the library. This sweet story captivated me from beginning to end, and I highly recommend it as a fantastic beach read (I read it on the beach this past week so that’s why I’m mentioning that). Deeanne is a wonderful author and if you haven’t yet read any of her novels, I strongly suggest that you do! If you like historical novels, I recommend Love on the Line or Maid to Match, but if you’re more the contemporary type, Beguiled is the novel for you!
Great Book!!! I loved this book it was funny, historical, and many things that keep me very entertain. It is a must read book!!! :)
What a wonderful story. All about Love, forgiveness, and learning not to judge a book by it's cover. Rachel along with her Sister Lissa and Brother Michael. Come to San Fran for the gold rush but on the way their father passed away. So they are left in a place where women are scarce and what women there were worked as prostitutes. Rachel always wanting to do the right thing and in the process pushes away her family. In come in a Saloon owner and a Naturalist who caught Rachel's attention. Who does she love back? What happens to her family because of decisions that were made on both sides. And how will Rachel grow in this battle where women are loose and men gamble and drink away all their hard earnings. This is a truly inspiring book to love and forgive those around us. We may not agree with their life choices but to treat them no worse than you would treat royalty.
I read this book a few years ago and it became one of my favorites. A few days ago I decided to read it again and it was so enjoyable! I have decided it is my all-time favorite book and for an avid reader...that's a huge compliment! It is such a great story that is filled with passion, love, dedication, and forgiveness. I was touched by the transformation in Rachel and Johnnie's faith. Not only that, but the humor woven in this story was a joy. This is a must read! Deeanne Gist is such a gifted author!
At first I didn't think I would get into this book. The place, setting, and time period were very different from my normal reads. However, I completely fell in love with the book! I loved the love story and how the author developed each character, I truly felt as if i were there.
I have read this book about five times and it new gets boring. Great author.
All of her books are great! American historical ficton in different time periods. Cant go wrong with Dee!
This was the first book i read by this author and i really enjoyed it, so worth the money!
Great story with a lesson to learn.