Sunday, November 13, 2011

My Weekend At The Biltmore Estate

From the book 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 chose 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.

My thoughts:
This book has been on my 'To Read' list since last September when I visited with my friend, Jeanene, in South Carolina.  She took me to Asheville, NC to tour the Biltmore Estate...and while we were there, she mentioned this book that her sister-in-law had just read.  I have looked for it each time I visited Barnes and Noble, and it finally showed up on the shelf a few weeks back.  I must say, as I read the accounts of the estate I could envision so beautifully the Tapestry Gallery with it's many conversation areas; the wall of windows that floods the basement servant's area with light; the laundry room with its many drying racks; and my favorite, the overflowing library that literally took my breath away with it's beauty.  (I might have even shed a tear at its glory!)

Though this is a Christian romance title, it is not 'heavy handed' with the religious aspect like I sometimes find them to be.  The faith of the main characters, while obvious, was described in personal relationship with the Lord rather than public displays of religion.  The novel dealt with a few tough topics without going into details, which I like in a book.  I don't need to read every detail of an injustice to feel its effect.  I do have to warn you though that the description from the book jacket is not exactly accurate.  Tillie has been serving at Biltmore for some time when we meet her at the beginning of the book.  In fact, she has moved up to become Head Parlormaid.  And Mack (who begins as Useful Man and then moves up to Footman) doesn't make the scene until Tillie has been chosen to try out for the position of Lady's Maid to the new Mrs. Vanderbilt along with Lucy, the Head Chambermaid.  And the part about being 'entangled in a cover-up at the town orphanage' is better described as 'uncovering'. 

I can't imagine a life in which servants stream to and fro constantly cleaning and cooking and dressing the guests of a large home.  Nor can I imagine being a 'lady's maid' as a life calling that is seen as a huge accomplishment.  However, I felt for Tillie as she struggled between fulfilling her mother's dream for which she had worked so hard over the years and following her own heart to a destiny that many considered a step backwards. 

All in all, I really enjoyed this book and will probably read another of Deeanne Gist's novels.  Perhaps it was the familiarity of the setting that drew me in...but I don't think so.  I think it was just a well crafted story! 

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