Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace
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Friday, April 10, 2015

Historical Book Review: Tiffany Girl by Deeanne Gist


I had the extreme pleasure to read an advance copy of Deeanne Gist's new book, Tiffany Girl. Mark your calendars, because it releases in just a few weeks! It was a fascinating read, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

ABOUT THE BOOK


As preparations for the 1893 World’s Fair set Chicago and the nation on fire, Louis Tiffany—heir to the exclusive Fifth Avenue jewelry empire—is left without a staff when glassworkers go on strike just months before the unveiling of Tiffany’s hyped mosaic chapel at the Fair’s grand opening. Desperate and without another option, Tiffany turns to a group of female art students to finish the job. Flossie Jayne answers the call, moving into a New York City boardinghouse with high hopes of making a name for herself as an artist and defying those who say the work can't be completed in time—least of all by a set of young, inexperienced women. As she flouts polite society’s restrictions on females and becomes a Tiffany Girl, her ambitions are threatened from an unexpected quarter: her own heart. Who will claim victory? Her dreams or the captivating boarder next door?

Tiffany Girl (Howard Books, May 5, 2015, ISBN 978-1-4516-9244-0), by international bestselling author Deeanne Gist, is the heartwarming story of the impetuous Flossie Jayne, whose parents are scandalized that their daughter will not only be employed but living and working in a man’s world.
With visions of her paintings hanging one day in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Flossie cheerfully sets out to impress the enterprising Tiffany with the exceptional talent she has always been told she possesses. Bringing her characteristic charm and enthusiasm to the task, she also dedicates her significant energy and unflagging optimism into reshaping her boardinghouse into a cozy respite from the harsh realities outside its doors, and into transforming its boarders into one big happy family.

Reeve Wilder, a cynical journalist from the school of hard knocks, scoffs at Flossie’s efforts and warns her that he and the other residents aren’t and never will be her family. Determined that she will prevail, Flossie embraces her new life and the colorful residents with vigor, but soon learns that the world is less welcoming than she had anticipated. New Women are groped, propositioned and scorned.

Against his better judgment, Reeve finds himself wanting to protect her from danger, and even from herself. For he sees what she can’t: Her talent is average, and there’s bound to be heartache ahead for her as a Tiffany Girl.


As challenges mount, her ambitions are threatened from yet another quarter: her growing attraction to Reeve. There is no future for her with him, for married women are not allowed in the workforce. A traditional life with Reeve would dash not only her life as a New Woman, but her lifelong dreams of becoming a renowned artist.

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MY REVIEW

Gist's newest novel, Tiffany Girl, is eye-opening and heart-warming tale regarding women's rights in the late nineteenth century, and the struggles for women's independence, self-discovery and love.

Flossie, aka Florence Rachel Jayne, is a young unmarried gal, (twenty-one I believe), who lives at home with her parents. She's been attending art school while helping her mother run her seamstress business. But it occurs to her, that she's working awfully hard and not getting to keep any of the money she's earned. After suggesting to her mother that instead of giving all their hard earned money to her father (who is squandering it--but he's not a bad guy, I promise!), she and her mother get into a disagreement, which sets Flossie's goals in motion. She wants to be able to work, earn her money and keep it. But, this is an entirely unacceptable concept for the times. In fact, unmarried women who live and work on their own are considered scandalous. They are titled New Women which comes with a lot of stigma, most of it not good.

But, when an opportunity strikes for Flossie to work for Mr. Tiffany on his stained glass chapel that will be featured at the World's Fair, she grasps it and rushes headlong into her life as a New Woman--despite her parents reservations. She has a very strong character and a determination that is refreshing. From the first page, I was rooting for her. When she arrives are her new boarding house, we get to see her from an outside perspective--one of her new housemates, Reeve Wilder, a cynical journalist. And guess what he writes about??? NEW WOMEN! He is entirely against the idea of the New Woman, and having Flossie, full of life, breeze into his life is extremely annoying to him.

She does make some bad choices, and sometimes her thinking is very naive. But because we're in her head, we don't always see it until its too late! Or, we're worried while she's thinking and doing something, or we see it from Reeve's perspective (which is hilarious).

The antics that ensue!!! Let me just say, I laughed, I cheered, I gasped in horror, I gasped in surprised, I speculated, I worried, I hoped. I loved. At one point about 6/8 of the way through the book, I was certain everything was going to hell in a hand basket and that it wasn't a heart-warming tale after all, but one meant to inflict pain...on me. All this, because I was so emotionally invested in the characters and they were having some serious conflicts. Needless to say, I was completely emotionally involved in the story. A test of a truly amazing author--when they can elicit that kind of emotion from their readers!

I've always been fascinated with life in the late nineteenth century New York and how the working class lived (and the poor). My family actually came from Ireland to NY in 1898 (a few years after this book takes place), so I was fascinated by the way she showed "real life", not all the glitz and glam. It literarily was history coming to life. The amount of research that went into the creation of this novel is impressive. The imagery and feel for society and nineteenth century American culture leapt from each page. I could see the glass. I could see the street cars. I was in the boarding house. I could see every painting. But anyways, back to my review...

One of the things I loved so much about this book is that we see huge transformations as individuals with Flossie, her parents, and Reeve. And then we also see how their character transformations change the way they view and interact with each other. I loved the journey and it led to a very satisfactory ending.

Gist has a gift for writing and for engaging the reader. The characters in Tiffany Girl are compelling and lovable. They are flawed, they are perfect. Her prose is surrepticioulsy fast-paced--and what I mean by that is, that 100 pages will go by without you realizing it.

I thoroughly enjoyed Tiffany Girl and was left with that truly wonderful satisfying feeling you have after reading an amazing book about life, love, hope, change. I highly recommend it!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Deeanne Gist has rocketed up the bestseller lists and captured readers everywhere with her very original, very fun historicals.  Add to this four RITA nominations, two consecutive Christy Awards, rave reviews, and a growing loyal fan base, and you’ve got one recipe for success.

With three-quarters of a million trade books sold, her awards include National Readers’ Choice, Book Buyers’ Best, Golden Quill, Books*A*Million Pick of the Month, Romantic Times Pick of the Month, Award of Excellence, and Laurel Wreath.

She has a very active online community on her blog, on Facebook, Pinterest, and on her YouTube channel.


Gist lives in Texas with her husband of thirty-one years and their border collie. They have four grown children.

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