Deeanne Gist: Keeping Up With the Vanderbilts
A regular bestseller since her debut novel, A Bride Most Begrudging, Deeanne Gist has been honored with much critical acclaim, two Christy Awards and
several Rita Award nominations, among others.With her signature style of charming wit, feisty
heroines, and appealing heroes, Deeanne consistently provides readers with unforgettable
romances. With Maid to Match, Deeanne
transports readers back in time to an intriguing era of American history—
the rich life at the Vanderbilt’s Biltmore estate in North Carolina in the late 1890s. Torn
between her dream of being a lady’s maid and the romantic stirrings of her heart, one
determined and aspiring maid must choose between two paths in life—both are good, but only
one will satisfy the desires of her heart.
1.Why did you set Maid To Match at Vanderbilt’s Biltmore mansion in North
Biltmore is such a national treasure. It was built at the height of the Gilded Age by
George Vanderbilt and, because it is still owned by the Vanderbilt family today, it has
all its original furnishings and décor—which is very unusual for a historical home.
It’s like stepping back in time when you enter it.
The other thing that makes it unique is its sheer size. It was the largest privately
owned home in America when Vanderbilt built it and it still holds that illustrious
title today with 250 rooms and four acres of square footage.
But what fascinated me most was the lifestyle of the Vanderbilts and the staff who
worked for them. There are hundreds of novels set in England where household
servants make an appearance, but we never really see that in America. So, I decided
to pen a story about two servants who work at Biltmore and fall in love.
2. Is it really true that servants like your characters were not allowed to marry?
It is. Romance below stairs was strictly forbidden. This was partly because of the
living arrangements. The female servants lived on the top floor of the house and the
men servants lived above the stable. It wasn’t practical to house married couples
within the mansion.
The other reason was to keep the women from becoming pregnant. A pregnant
house servant just wouldn’t do! As for the men, society at that time felt that a family
man would be distracted by his home front responsibilities and would not give the
job his all.
3. Did servant hierarchies really exist in households in America?
They were extremely important. In Maid To Match, the main character is up for a
position as Mrs. Vanderbilt’s lady’s maid—which is the highest ranking position for
a female, next to housekeeper. But to be awarded that position—and to keep it—she
must remain unmarried.
That becomes a problem when she’s enlisted to bring a mountain man up to snuff
for a position as footman and the sparks begin to fly.
4.Were the Vanderbilts involved at all in the lives of the servants?
George & Edith Vanderbilt were unusual in that they were very progressive about their views of the masterservant
relationship. They referred to their servants as “staff.” They had an open-door policy. They provided
electricity and indoor plumbing for their servants, as well as windows in the basement.
On Christmas Day, they invited their household staff along with those who farmed and worked out on the
estate (and who had families) into their home.Mrs. Vanderbilt had a wrapped present for every single child on
the estate under a big 40-foot tree while Mr. Vanderbilt awarded cash bonuses to the entire staff.
5.What was the most fun part of researching Maid to Match?
Touring Biltmore House and learning about the lifestyles of Gilded Age society. I was so enchanted by Biltmore
that I decided to invite all my readers on a getaway.