Monday, May 4, 2015

A letter to Deeanne Gist and a review of Tiffany Girl!

I just wanted say that I have read every one of your books, including Tempest in the White City. Which obviously isn’t as hard as writing all those books but I’m proud none the less. I’ve been a die hard fan for a really long time. Okay, I'm done being fan-girly. All the talk about you crossing over in to to the secular market had made me nervous. I had a serious heart to heart with myself before finishing the book. I told myself it didn’t matter how much I loved to get my hands on the newest book Tiffany Girl if it didn’t glorify God. 

So you will understand my surprise when I decided to finish it and found that other than two other books this is by far one of my favorite books. The others, by the way, are A Bride in the Bargain and Hi Honey, I’m Home by Linda Windsor. The only thing I've noticed any different about Tiffany Girl than your other books is that it’s slightly more “edgy”.  But I've come to love that edginess about your books. I’d like to give a little background information on myself and then I’ll follow up with my review.

I grew up reading. Loved books. I remember the Dear Dragon books from elementary school. I totally ate books such as The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle and Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing (Thanks Mr. Wright) during my accelerated reader years. But sometime around middle school and high school I picked up Harlequin novels. I was obsessed. They became my companions because we moved a couple times. I had my favorite author and, as is my way, I read all of her books. After high school, I went to a Christian college and we passed my books around the dorm. During, my freshman year one of my friends was getting married and was "studying up" as she called it to prepare for marriage. Sometime during a chapel service, I felt convicted and I ripped up and threw out all 150 of my collection. It was really hard and I suppose some people wouldn’t see that. But I love books. Thinking back now, if I'd found books that were more like yours when I found these books I'd have probably have been more of a positive influence at the time. After that time, I couldn't find anything to read for the rest of college. It’s really hard to call yourself a book lover and reader while not reading. I met the love and best friend of my life and was married my junior year. My heart broke as I saw book after book that my husband read and I still couldn't find anything. I really felt that for that time God took away my love for books. To this day, I say God wouldn’t let me read.

After my first child was born a friend offered me her collection of Lori Wick’s books. I devoured them. I now own every one. The stories were funny and the love stories were warm and comforting. But after a time, I realized they didn't even come close to the love I felt for my husband. There wasn’t as much passion. Our story isn't dramatic but it's real. We have deep emotions and we make decisions that aren't necessarily the best but learn from them. So for a time, again, I wasn’t fully enjoying my life of reading.

I happened upon A Bride in the Bargain at the local rinky dink library where we lived. I haven't looked back.  It's my favorite book of all time. The characters were very real. The tension was real. I fell in love with the Pacific Northwest and lumberjacks :-) And I could not wait for the next book. I continued reading other things but they all paled in comparison. In all honesty, the only ones I didn’t enjoy were Deep in the Heart of Trouble and Courting Trouble. The reason I didn’t was because of the sin that Essie allowed in her life. Which, by the way, is just a reality for lots of people. And to be honest it was just because of the sin that I saw in others that were close to me that I rejected those books. The story didn’t suffer but my heart was broken for Essie. So, for the sake of argument, I did learn something from reading those 2 books even if they weren’t my favorites.

I’ve read all of them. I’ve enjoyed every other one in some way. I’ve learned from the stories of these women who put themselves out there. I’ve cried with them and laughed out loud. I’ve been so encouraged by the talent that is behind these books and by the passion of the woman who continues to author them. So, when I heard that after all these year that you had crossed over...I was sad. I was concerned for someone I’ve come to know (from a distance) as a friend. I thought…Why? When you obviously have this gift from the Lord. Why would you use it for the secular audience? Were you going to “Leave the Door open”? Were you somehow hurt by the Christian industry? There were lots of questions bouncing around in my head. What on earth was I going to read?

The thing is though, that after seeing you so humbly come before your fans and saying what you felt was what God had called you to, I could not find blame. I could not find fault. I found courage. God has not called us to witness to the Christians; He calls us to reach those that don’t know Him. If we spend too much time worrying about what other Christians think, when do we have time to reach those who really need to hear the Good Word? I’ve felt this for a while now. Not just in the books arena but also in other outreach arenas. There is a very popular Christian play/production that has repeat performances and is always packed out. But it always occurs to me that what’s the point if only Christian people come to see it? But I digress.

Thanks Deeanne for all your beautiful works! I have always been and will continue to be one of your biggest fans. I hope you continue to crank out these works of wonder and romance. I appreciate all the details of fashion, architecture, historical research and wonderful settings that go into making every one of your books (even the Essie ones) just really danged awesome.

Your admiring fan and sister in Christ,

Now for the review:

This brings me to Tiffany Girl . This is the 3rd book in the World’s fair series. The first 2 books are It Happened at the Fair and Fair Play. All 3 of these books have given me a new research project. I honestly had no idea there was a World’s fair back then. This book is nothing less than what I’ve come to expect. A strong-headed and very human female lead. A strong and very human male lead. A setting that you can see in your mind. A very flushed out history lesson. You have moments when you seriously want to slap both lead characters and moments when you just want to yell “Kiss her already!”.  The characters are very real.

Flossie is what I was and lots of girls are at that age: headstrong, arrogant, driven, emotional and naive. She’s a bundle of energy. She’s creative and she has the ability to fill up a room with joy, for those willing to abide in it. Reeve is also headstrong, arrogant and driven but he’s seen enough of the world to know that it’s not all that great. He’s lived a somewhat sheltered life but he knows how the world works. He’s willing to stay in his safe corner and he doesn’t want some free-spirited chirping woman messing with his safe life.

In spite of their similarities and differences they both evolve and grow. Reeve learns that he doesn’t so much mind the chirping magpie. He actually becomes quite fond of her and realizes that her ideas aren’t completely bonkers. He learns to see people as something other that stories. Flossie comes to some realizations that shatter her ideas about who she is as a New Woman, a daughter, a friend, an artist and how the world works. This story is one of discovery, love, hope and redemption. It takes you through what is actually a short amount of time in the grand scope of two lives. But in that time, you and the characters learn so much that you find that you’ve both changed. That’s time well spent. I highly recommend this book and all the others to anyone and everyone who loves a good love story.

***Slight spoiler alert***

Now as to the controversial parts, I only found myself wondering finding 3 things that might push the envelope and make you feel slightly uncomfortable if you haven't read any of Deeanne's books before. Reeve does notice the way Flossie’s arms were hugging her breast. Typically, I think chest or bodice or something like that would be used. Reeve does “french kiss” Flossie. Which, by the way, was just a great scene and my favorite chapter in the whole book. And a final chapter of the book is a honeymoon type scene. It’s very tastefully done but it’s there, just fyi. There are mentions of the way the New Women are treated throughout. But none are overly detailed. So honestly, if Deeanne hadn’t mentioned the change in publishing house, there’s a chance I’d have never noticed.

Get your own copy of the book on Amazon!


Brittni said...

Loved your review of the book, but was concerned about your feelings for Courting Trouble and Deep in the Heart of Trouble. I'm a little confused why you were so heartbroken for Essie, especially when she was forgiven by God and eventually forgave herself. In the follow up, she fell in love with a man of God, who loved her despite her past sin (especially since he had sins of his own to deal with). I'm sorry I'm on the defensive about this, but I felt these were the best books that Deeanne Gist has written because of the great amount of grace and forgiveness present in most of the characters.

Elizabeth said...

Sometimes I can see things coming and it hurts. I do agree that she was forgiven but the reality of her giving herself to a man before they were married was heartbreaking for me. I've seen this occur with so many of the girls I grew up with as well as with family members. It is a reality for lots of people. I'm not saying that I don't like the message of grace and forgiveness, I'm just saying that for me it's hard to watch that happen so often when it doesn't necessarily have to. As far as being the best Deeanne has written I'll have to disagree with you :) I still feel that A Bride in the Bargain is one of the tops. But that's fine. She's got lots of books and we all have our own personalities. I think Deeanne's readers are as different as the characters she writes. Thanks for commenting!