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Tiffany Girl

A Novel

About The Book

From the bestselling author of It Happened at the Fair and Fair Play comes a compelling historical novel about a progressive “New Woman”—the girl behind Tiffany’s chapel—and the love that threatens it all.

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—seizes the opportunity to unveil his state-of-the-art, stained glass, mosaic chapel, the likes of which the world has never seen.

But when Louis’s dream is threatened by a glassworkers’ strike months before the Fair opens, he turns to an unforeseen source for help: the female students at the Art Students League of New York. Eager for adventure, the young women pick up their skirts, move to boarding houses, take up steel cutters, and assume new identities as the “Tiffany Girls.”

Tiffany Girl is the heartwarming story of the impetuous Flossie Jayne, a beautiful, budding artist who is handpicked by Louis to help complete the Tiffany chapel. Though excited to live in a boarding house when most women stayed home, she quickly finds the world is less welcoming than anticipated. From a Casanova male, to an unconventional married couple, and a condescending singing master, she takes on a colorful cast of characters to transform the boarding house into a home while racing to complete the Tiffany chapel and make a name for herself in the art world.

As challenges mount, her ambitions become threatened from an unexpected quarter: her own heart. Who will claim victory? Her dreams or the captivating boarder next door?


Tiffany Girl


New York City, 1892

Twenty-two Years Later

Your father has decided to withdraw you from the School of Applied Design.”

Flossie Jayne looked up from the muslin in her hands, her fingers pausing, her needle protruding from the cream-colored fabric. “What do you mean?”

Mother secured a porcelain button to a short basque waist of a Louis Seize brocade in rich shades of burgundy and claret. The buttons had miniatures painted onto them. Miniatures Flossie had put there with her own brush.

“I mean,” Mother said, “when your current winter session at the design school is over, you will not be going back.”

Flossie lowered the bodice lining to her lap. The whalebone sandwiched between the two pieces of muslin slipped. “But, why? The painting classes won’t be complete until next summer.”

“Your father is aware of that.” She snipped the end of the thread, then picked up another button.

“Has something happened?”

Mother said nothing. Her hair was no longer as black as Flossie’s, but had softened with silver strands and was pulled up into a twist.

“Mother, I . . . I live for those lessons. Painting is the only thing that gets me through this endless sewing.”

Even though Mother was working, she had dressed with extreme care. Her emerald gown was not as fancy as the ensembles she sewed for the upper echelons of New York society, but it was certainly nicer than that of most barber’s wives. When customers came by the house, they’d see what a fine figure she cut and would often order something similar but significantly more expensive. Thus, she and Flossie both dressed exquisitely and in the very latest fashions no matter what their plans were.

“The sewing we do is not endless,” Mother said. “Endless sewing is what those poor unfortunates in factories and sweatshops do. You and I work in our warm, cozy sitting room and handle all manner of silk, velvet, mink, lace, and jewels.”

“We sew from first light until last light, until our eyes hurt and our heads ache. We stop only to do the cooking and cleaning.” The thought of sewing without interruption was bad enough, but to give up her passion, the one thing that not only offered her a reprieve but infused her with renewed energy, was not to be borne.

“You stop every afternoon for your lessons,” Mother said.

“Which is my whole point.”

Mother tsked. “You should be happy we have the work. With so many men losing their fortunes, many seamstresses are finding themselves with fewer and fewer customers.”

“You will never lose your customers.” Flossie once again worked her needle along the edge of the whalebone, boxing it in with neat stitches. “Not when every gown you make is nothing short of a work of art.”

Mother allowed herself a small smile. “Your pieces are not far behind.”

“Even if that were true, the difference is you love to sew. I hate it. No, I loathe it. The only thing that keeps me in this chair is knowing that if I want to attend the School of Applied Design, Papa said I’d need to bring in the income myself. But if he’s not going to let me go, then what’s the point?”

The fire in the grate popped, its heat warding off December’s chill. Flossie used to love this room, with its northern light and view of Stuyvesant Park. Its mauve floral walls and Baghdad rug had hosted many a happy occasion. The sense of warmth and well-being it once induced, however, had long since dissipated, leaving dread and drudgery in its wake, for this was where she and Mother did their work week after week, day after day.

She pushed the floor with her toe, setting her rocker in motion. “He went to the races again, didn’t he?”

Mother tied off the last button. “You really did do a lovely job painting these miniatures. Mrs. Wetmore is going to be very pleased with them.”

“How much did he lose this time?” Flossie rued the day her father had been invited to the races by one of his customers. What should have been a day of leisure ended up becoming a consuming passion. He’d even started to close the barbershop on Saturdays in order to go to the racetrack.

“It’s not for you to question how your father spends his money.”

“What about how he spends our money?”

“Hush.” Mother glanced at the door as if someone might hear, but they didn’t have a maid anymore, nor a cook. “You and I don’t have any money. It’s all his.”

“Why is that? We’re the ones doing the work. We’re the ones designing the clothes. We’re the ones taking care of your clients. Why don’t we get any of the money? Why do we have to hand it all over to him?”

“Because we do.”

“What if we don’t?”

“That is quite enough.”

“I mean it, Mother. What if we simply told him no? Told him he couldn’t have it?”

Standing, Mother shook out the bodice, then held it up by its shoulders, the light glinting on its gold-braided trim. “These buttons will become more popular than they already are once the senator’s wife wears this. Perhaps tomorrow you should paint some more.”

“Let’s go on strike.”

Glancing at her sharply, Mother draped the bodice over the back of her chair. “What on earth are you talking about?”

“Let’s tell Papa we refuse to do any more work until he gives each of us a percentage of our earnings.”

Narrowing her eyes, Mother snatched up tiny scraps of fabric littering the worn oriental rug that had been in her family for generations. “You’ve been reading too many newspapers. If you’re not careful, your father will disallow it.”

“You ought to read them, too. The New York World gave a very detailed account of the feather curlers when they went on strike. It brought the entire feather industry to a standstill. By the end of it, night work was abolished and the women had won. Well, they’d won the first skirmish, anyway.” She scooted forward in her chair. “Don’t you see? If we both told Papa we wouldn’t work another day until he agreed to give us each a percentage of our work, he’d have no recourse but to give in to our demands.”


“Then let’s just keep a portion and not tell him. They pay you, so he’d never know.”

Mother studied Flossie, her brown eyes catching the fire’s light. “Look around you, daughter. The rocker you are lounging in, the cup of tea at your elbow, the very walls that protect you from the cold . . . these are all a product of your father’s hard work. Surely you remember we haven’t always lived so well. It has taken him years to provide such nice things for us. If he wants to give himself a little treat, then I will not begrudge him and neither will you.”

“I remember we lived much more modestly until you started to take in sewing. Until you discovered you had a talent—no, a gift—for creating gowns of the highest caliber. I remember Papa being so delighted that he hired a maid and then a cook so you could devote more of your time to your sewing.” She folded the muslin lining. “Everything was wonderful at first, but it was never the same after we moved here and away from all our friends. Papa opened his new shop with fancy chairs and even fancier equipment. He joined those clubs. He stayed out late. He went to the races. He fired the help.”

Mother stood stiff, her lips drawn.

“I’ve heard you crying, Mother.” She looked down, picking a loose thread from the muslin. “I’m not a young girl anymore. I’m one-and-twenty. Old enough to see that something is very, very wrong.”

“We’re just going through a bad spell right now. Everyone is.” Her voice wavered.

Setting her sewing aside, Flossie stood. “But we shouldn’t be. Your business is booming and so was his, but he hardly ever opens his doors anymore. He simply takes the money we make and spends it.”

“He enrolled you in the School of Applied Design.”

“Only because you made him. And the reason I didn’t feel guilty about it was because I earned every penny of the tuition.” She bit her lip. “But as sure as the sun rises, I know that as long as we keep handing everything over to him, he’ll never change his ways. Why would he?”

“Your father’s a wonderful man.”

“He is. And I love him—very, very much. But what he’s doing to you—to us—is wrong and I’ll—I’ll not be party to it. If you want to work yourself to death and give it all to him, you are certainly free to do so, but not me. If I do the work, then I’m going to keep a portion of the wages.”

Mother closed the distance between them and lowered her voice. “You will not.”

“It’s time, Mother,” she said, matching her quiet tone. “Well past time.”

Mother slapped her.

Gasping, Flossie fell back, covering her stinging cheek. Tears sprung to her eyes. Never in her entire life had either of her parents raised a hand to her.

“We are women.” Mother’s hands trembled. “You can read all you want about unfeminine women who want to be treated like men, but no matter how hard we try, nothing will change the facts. We aren’t men. Not now, not ever. And if those women aren’t careful, they just might get what they are asking for, and then where will we be? Do you wish to load your own steamer trunks onto a wagon? To shovel snow from the sidewalk? To drive six horses? To fight in wars? To wear trousers? Well, I don’t, and I will have no such talk in this house. Have I made myself clear?”

Still cradling her cheek, Flossie ignored the tears spilling onto her fingers. “Crystal clear.”

Turning, she fled from the room and up the stairs. Flinging herself onto her bed, she buried her face into her pillow and sobbed. Not just for herself, but for her mother and all the other women who didn’t see that men—even the ones who loved them—were very careful to keep the fair sex in a state of subjection and complete subservience.

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Tiffany Girl includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Deeanne Gist. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.



The heir to Tiffany’s jewelry empire is left without a staff when glassworkers go on strike just months before the opening of the much-anticipated 1893 Chicago World’s Fair and the hyped mosaic Tiffany Chapel. 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 that the work can’t be completed in time—least of all by a set of young, inexperienced women. As Flossie flouts polite society’s restrictions on females, her ambitions become threatened from an unexpected quarter: her own heart. What or who will claim victory? Her dreams or the captivating boarder next door?


Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. What is the historic significance of Louis Comfort Tiffany’s idea to hire women workers as replacements for the striking glasscutters? Do you think the move would have been as controversial had their employer and his project been of lesser notoriety? Would it have been as significant? Why or why not?

2. On page 6, Flossie compliments her mother: “every gown you make is nothing short of a work of art.” Do you think Flossie’s glass cutting or Aggie’s foil wrapping are merely supportive to Tiffany’s art or are they art forms in and of themselves? How would you define what is and is not art?

3. Why is Flossie’s father so upset about her living in a boarding house? Explore the concept of a lifestyle that is “appropriate” for a woman of her station. What types of behaviors, tasks, activities, and even purposes are clearly designated as belonging to the world of women in the novel? What about the world of men? Do you find these boundaries logical, or are they rooted in something else? If you can, use examples to support your opinion.

4. It’s clear all along that Tiffany has created an enormous opportunity for both the Tiffany Girls and for the greater “New Woman” movement, but in doing so also creates enormous tension. After all, the women’s opportunity comes at the expense of the “hundred-plus men who were striking for reasonable hours and better wages” (p. 38). How does this factor influence your feelings about the situation? Imagine yourself in Flossie’s shoes—what would you do?

5. What is it about the New Woman that so threatens and offends men and women alike? How do you feel about the reasons characters give in opposition to the movement?

6. Flossie “merely wanted to be paid for her labor so she could go to art school. She had a hard time seeing how that was going to lead to the deterioration of the entire human race.” (p. 84) Reeve’s arguments against the women’s liberation movement were drawn from actual articles written at the turn of the century. How do his opinions differ from Flossie’s parents’ or the striking protesters? If you had to take a position against Flossie, would you go with Reeve’s, Papa’s, or the strikers?

7. Identify some of the ways in which Flossie and other New Women suffered for their efforts to step outside of their prescribed roles. Discuss the dichotomy of the men in the novel who are against the women’s movement because they want to respect and protect the “fairer sex,” yet they mistreat the working women and even students. How did you expect Flossie to react to the men who harassed her? If you were a nineteenth-century woman, what would you have done in her place?

8. Reeve acts out of deep hurt caused by abandonment and isolation in his childhood. In what ways does he re-create these familiar environments and feelings as an adult? Why do you suppose present-day society is accepting of depression, yet loneliness is taboo?

9. Why do you think Reeve has such affection and feelings of obligation toward Mrs.  Dinwiddie? What is  it  about  Flossie that at first drives him mad and then later drives him mad with love? Discuss these two primary relationships in Reeve’s life and consider their differences and similarities.

10. Despite Reeve’s initial impression of the New Woman, he comes to understand that there are many reasons a woman may choose to take on a “man’s responsibilites.” For example, when he visits his childhood home he finds himself discussing finances with Mrs. Gusman. How does this make him feel? How does he ultimately come to grips with the situation? Identify some of the circumstances in the novel that necessitates women taking on roles commonly ascribed to men.

11. When Nan goes home ill, Flossie takes it upon herself to make new choices for the glass panels she will cut to use in a nativity scene, and the results are not as she expected. What does this experience teach Flossie about her work and about herself?

12. Reeve thinks Flossie is spoiled. Do you agree? Why or why not? When Flossie berates herself for being selfish on page 320, do you think she’s finally getting clarity or is she being too hard on herself? Do you think a modern woman would assess herself the same way? Would you?

13. Reeve seems to suffer from two main “walls”: the emotional one that maintains his isolation, and the one that bars his understanding of what the New Woman truly wants and why. What begins to open his eyes to the realities that girls like Flossie face? What instigates the first trickle of empathy for their cause and how does he react to this revelation? Did his reaction surprise you? Why or why not?

14. Flossie decides before ever moving into the boardinghouse that all the other borders will become the large family she never had but always longed for. What series of events cause Flossie to realize that her “family at 438” is not what she thought? How does this realization change her? Do you think it’s for the better, or for the worse? Why?

15. When Flossie discovers that Reeve is the infamous I. D. Claire and that he has based his protagonist on her, she is furious because she feels he’s made a public fool of her. But Reeve protests that she and his fictional character Marylee are not the same person. At what point does Reeve himself begin to understand this distinction? Later, how does Flossie identify with Marylee?

16. In many ways, this novel plays with the theme of perception, or how you see yourself versus how you are seen by others. What do you think the novel says about the weight you give to what others think of you? Do you believe there is value in questioning perspectives and ideas, either about others or about yourself? Why or why not? How might the story have unfolded differently if Flossie did not challenge her own perspectives, or Reeve’s his?

17. In the end, Reeve has what he always wanted—a home where he belongs. What is it that Flossie wants most, and do you think she gets it? Why or why not?


Enhance Your Book Club

1. One of Deeanne’s passions is learning about the period clothing worn by her characters. She even hired a historian seamstress to sew her an authentic Victorian gown so she could experience what it was like to wear all those layers. (See pictures and videos of her in an article that appeared on the front page of the Wall Street Journal at Since taking “old time” photos—sepia or black-and-white—of yourself in period costume has become a worldwide amusement, you might be able to find a novelty photo studio near you where you, alone or with your book club, can take photos in Victorian dress. Check out your local listings or visit the Antique and Amusement Photographers International website at Be sure to send your pictures to Deeanne or post them on her Facebook page. She’d love to see them!

2. In order to create bonds among her new family at the boarding house, Flossie writes insightful and sometimes light-hearted questions for the boarders to ask one another over dinner. Host a dinner for your book club members. Have each person write one question on a slip of paper, then before everyone comes to the table, place them randomly underneath the plates. Enjoy listening to each other’s answers and see if you don’t know everyone a bit better by dessert!

3. On   her   website    (, the author reveals celebrity and modeling photos that inspired her to create her characters for each novel. Before visiting the link, cut out photos that reflect how you envision characters like Flossie, Mr. and Mrs. Trostle, Reeve, Mrs. Dinwiddie, and more. Paste them on a board or piece of paper and share your choices with your book club. Did your picks match Deeanne’s? Were you surprised by the ones she chose?

4. If you enjoyed reading about the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, Deeanne’s last two releases, It Happened at the Fair and Fair Play, are set in Chicago at the actual fair (as opposed to in New York the way Tiffany Girl is). Read and compare those stories to that of Flossie and Reeve in Tiffany Girl. How are they similar? How are they different?

5. Do you wish you could go back in time and visit the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair? During your book club meeting, connect a laptop to the host’s TV, then go to Deeanne’s website and play her interactive animated four-minute game, “A Romp Through 1893,” where the hero from It Happened at the Fair becomes separated from the heroine and has to find her. At the end of each 60-second vignette, your club will have to make a choice about what the hero should do to resolve a dilemma he finds himself in. The object of the game is to get through the adventure without making a wrong turn. You’ll find the adventure at Don’t let your group spend too much time making a choice, though, because you only have a few seconds to click an option! For an extra bonus, have the host of the group go (in advance) to Deeanne’s “Insider Information” link on her website and pull photos of Deeanne and her family members and print them out. Then show them to the group and have a contest to see who can spot Deeanne and her family members’cameo appearances during the video game.


A Conversation with Deeanne Gist

This is your third novel to feature aspects of the Chicago World’s Fair. What is it about that event or moment in history that so attracts you?

The breadth and scope of this particular fair not only wowed the world back then, but it would wow today’s most jaded visitor. It had something for everyone of every age and every nationality. It was not just an event, it was the event of the century—a watershed moment in our country’s history. It’s where the inspiration for today’s American products, industries, corporations, and cultural movements began. And even though I camped there for three novels, I still only touched the tip of the iceberg.

When did you first learn the story of Louis Comfort Tiffany’s chapel and the “Tiffany Girls?” What compelled you to write a novel about a fictional woman rather than one of the actual Tiffany Girls?

The discovery of the Tiffany Girls is brand-new. Everyone has always assumed Louis Tiffany was the exclusive designer of all his iconic objects. Then in 2005, scholars uncovered a trove of letters written by Clara Driscoll. Those letters made it abundantly clear that she and other Tiffany Girls were the principal designers of a vast majority of iconic lamps, windows, and other pieces produced by Tiffany Studios.

I found out about them in 2011 when my mom was watching a documentary on PBS. As soon as the show was over, she sent me the following email:

“Dee, Louis Comfort Tiffany was planning a crucially important display of his stained-glass windows for the Chicago World’s Fair. Not of his lamps, but I think a fairly new direction for him at this time. Anyway, his glass artists (an all male profession) went on strike. He went to the art schools and recruited female artists and taught them the process. They became known as the ‘Tiffany Girls.’ About a dozen of them, I think. This is the first time women were given the opportunity to enter the commercial art profession according to the PBS program I was watching. This information was from a PBS History Detectives episode that was focusing on one of these girls who was originally from Duluth, Minnesota, and was somebody’s grandmother. I didn’t get the name of the collection of information on the ‘Tiffany Girls,’ which I think is in the archives in a church in NYC. They have a number of stained-glass windows by these women done through the years. Anyway, if you haven’t picked your heroine’s career, this is a unique point in women’s career opportunities and, of course, Tiffany is a fantastic name and tradition. I was fascinated, even though this info was peripheral to the program. Love, Mom”

I knew as soon as I read her email that I’d one day write their story. I fictionalized my girl so that I would have more creative freedom with the storyline while still giving an inside glimpse of the real Tiffany Girls, their department head, Clara Driscoll, and their accomplishments.

As the bestselling author of ten historicals, have you developed a unique approach to blending truth and imagination? Tell us about your writing process and how you decide when to stick with the facts and when to let your imagination take over.

I spend months and months on research. I interview experts. I visit historical societies. I explore museums. I read newspapers of the time. I spend days in the city where my book is set. And I read a great many books and articles. I make notes in the margins of everything I read, then index those notes so the information will be at my fingertips during the writing process.

I do this because I very much want to get the historical facts correct. Sometimes, however, the facts don’t fit in with the timeline of my story. For instance, in 1893 the Tiffany Girls had not started designing the iconic lamps they became so famous for. That didn’t happen until several years later. Still, I could not bring myself to write an entire novel about the Tiffany Girls and not give the lamps a shout-out. So, I bent the timeline a little and had Clara Driscoll design one of her most famous—the dragonfly lamp. In the very first novel I ever wrote, I did this kind of thing with a handful of details and received emails from readers who were unhappy with me about it. So now, I always include an Author’s Note where I confess to the details I’ve cheated on so the reader will know fact from fiction.

How has your background in education and journalism influenced your work as an author? Has it helped with the nonwriting activities as well, like speaking to groups or promoting your work online?

The background in journalism helped me learn how to meet word counts and deadlines. The education background helped me with organization. As for speaking to groups, I have a minor in Theatre Arts. If I hadn’t found true love and married the week after I graduated from Texas A&M, I’d planned to head to Hollywood and give it a whirl. I have no regrets, though. I got me a keeper. We celebrated thirty-two years of wedded bliss a few months ago.

You donned appropriate period garb for the making of your video adventure, “Romp Through 1893: The Invitation.” Though the video was created to promote your previous novels, the clothing must have been pretty similar to what was worn in the period of Tiffany Girl, also set in 1893. Did you love wearing the clothes? Hate it? Was there anything about the experience that surprised you?

I will find ANY excuse to play dress up. I love costumes. I love pretty gowns. I love fancy hats. The reason I had a period gown made for the video adventure is because I thought we were going to shoot it with live actors. For a lot of different reasons, we ended up animating it instead, but the historial clothing helped the artist Monica Bruenjes, who did the stop-animation. For Tiffany Girl, since Flossie is an artist, Bruenjes took on the heroine’s role so that “Flossie’s” illustrations could be sprinkled throughout the novel. It was a real treat for me to see sketches and paintings I made up in my head become a reality.

On your website you have a fun feature where you reveal the photos of real people—many of whom  are celebrities—that you used as inspiration for your characters’ appearances. Who did you have in mind when you created Flossie Jayne and Reeve Wilder? Do you find photos for your secondary characters as well?

For each novel I write, I put together a thick, thick binder where I keep copious notes on the characters, the plotting, the setting, and the research. In the “character” section, I have written notes about eye color, hair color, hobbies, talents, personality traits, family members, goals, regrets, internal conflicts, and all kinds of things. I also find a real person to use as visual inspiration for my characters. This helps me be consistent throughout the novel when I am picturing them in my mind (and then describing them in the book). For Flossie, I used Sandra Bullock as my inspiration. For Reeve, I envisioned a muscular and tall Jude Law minus the receding hairline. (When it comes to my male protagonists, they are predominantly tall and muscular with a head full of hair. So I usually just use a real man’s facial features for inspiration.)

I found several group photos of the Tiffany Girls, but the images weren’t very clear. So other than Clara, I used random tintype photos for those girls. Jean Dujardin was the inspiration for Monsieur Bourgeois. For the boarders, my inspiration came from the following: Betty White for Mrs. Dinwiddie; Hugh Grant for Mr. Oyster; Richard Gere for Mr. Holliday; Melissa Sue Anderson (who played the older sister on Little House on the Prairie) for Mrs. Holliday; Jerry Stiller (with a goatee) for Mr. Trostle; Maggie Smith for Mrs. Trostle. I used old tintypes for Annie Belle, Mr. Nettels, and Mrs. Klausmeyer.

You begin the story with a Prologue that shows us Reeve as a small boy viewing the body of his dead mother. Why did you choose to open the novel—the main themes of which involve women and women characters—this way?

Basically because Reeve acts like a bit of a jerk at the beginning of the novel and I wanted the reader to know that deep down he was a good guy and it would be okay to root for him. Showing this scene was the quickest, cleanest, and most compelling way I could think of to do this.

You and your husband have four children. What was it like for you to get inside the minds of Victorian parents like Mr. and Mrs. Jayne, who love and want the best for their daughter, but whose ideas about what’s best are very different from Flossie’s? Do you find that much of your life ends up in your novels, or do you prefer to use fiction as a way to explore experiences that are different from your own?

For this facet of the novel, I read several resource books about the only-child and collected notes about what many of them have in common. An overwhelming majority of them have parents who devote a lot of time and attention to the child and who also, often inadvertently, put a lot of pressure on them. In addition to that, many sources explored what they call an epidemic in our country of kids who are told they didn’t misspell a word on their test but simply spelled the word “creatively.” Or kids who get trophies for simply showing up. As a parent, when I read these books, even though I have four children, I was guilty of doing many of the things depicted. I had the best of intentions, but the end result wasn’t always the healthiest. In Tiffany Girl, I decided to explore some of these themes and therefore assigned to Flossie and her parents some of the characteristics I read about.

At first, Flossie is overjoyed to live among so many people in the boardinghouse—perhaps Reeve would say that she is simply enjoying her role as the sun around which they all orbit. But in the end, he seems to have been right when he chastises her about mistaking their fellow boarders for family, as they become less congenial to her as soon as her role shifts from boarder to housemaid. Did you intend a lesson for readers in all this?

I actually based this part on things I’d read in journals from the time period and other resources. Because boardinghouses were so suspect, reputable boarders attempted to “pretty them up” by trying to turn them into homes—albeit unsuccessfully. I found that fascinating and decided I’d have Flossie do that very thing. So her actions (and the results thereof ) were based on historical data as opposed to a “lesson” of some kind.

Mr. Jayne seems committed to ignoring his role as the instigator for Flossie’s venture into New Womanhood, not to mention the financial ruin his gambling problem causes for his family. Despite that, you’ve portrayed Mr. Jayne as a man who loves his family and who in general seems to be a decent person. Was it challenging for you to balance his flaws as a provider with his charms as a father? What were the biggest challenges of writing this book?

In the general scheme of things, I’ve found that be it villain or hero, no one person is all bad or all good. We humans are a complicated mixture of both. There are a lot of fathers (and mothers, as well) who love their children, but who make disastrous personal decisions that adversely affect the ones they love most. I’d certainly like to go back and change a few choices I made along the way. So that wasn’t so much of a challenge. For me, the biggest challenge of writing this book was finishing it after the sudden loss of my own father. Sitting down day after day, pushing my grief to the side and finishing my pages was, my friend, one of the toughest things I’ve ever done in my life.

In your Author’s Note, you explain that for many of Reeve’s essays you used actual newspaper clippings and other writings from the 1890s so as to accurately reflect the opinions of the day. How did you feel sifting through these opinions? Did you find what you expected?

I knew the views were strong, but to see it in black and white like that was quite startling. Some of the things I read I intentionally left out of Reeve’s writings because they would have made him so unheroic I was afraid the reader would find him unworthy of holding the male lead of the story. I really came to appreciate just how hard my female forbearers had to fight to overcome the prejudices of the time. I also saw that the motives of the men were not nefarious or self-serving. They truly thought they were protecting the women, society, and all of humankind. So at the end of the day, it was hard not to extend them a little grace.

In an interview with RT Book Reviews, you described your journey from being the “bad girl” of inspirational fiction to being a “good girl” now that you’ve crossed into the general market. Do you find that your writing is significantly different now that your audience has broadened? Why or why not?

My writing hasn’t really changed all that much. When I wrote for the inspirational market, my editor simply pointed out the parts she thought might be troublesome, and together we figured our what parts to keep in and what parts to take out. And even though I have a very deep faith, I feel a book can be inspirational without proselytizing. My editor agreed and always allowed me to incorporate the inspirational aspect of the story in a way I felt comfortable with. For me, it was like weaving a fine gold thread into a colorful plaid—it wasn’t anything that dominated or jumped out at you, but was instead something that added a bit of beauty in a very subtle way. With my general market books, both the hero and heroine still have Christian worldviews—which is very true to the times—but there isn’t an underlying faith element.

Flossie seems happy that Marylee Merrily marries Mr. Bookish, but disturbed and unhappy that Marylee gives up her photography career, secretly wishing that the heroine could have had both. Though Reeve agrees to  Flossie’s  proposal that all their earnings be “our money,” it isn’t clear that she will continue working, especially since Tiffany has a policy against employing married women. Did you imagine that Flossie would work after marriage? Why or why not?

As much as I wanted Flossie to continue working after marriage, it would have been grossly inaccurate from a historical perspective, especially if she was a Tiffany employee. His stance on this issue was well documented and adhered to. Even Clara Driscoll had to leave his employ after marriage.

In the ending of The Merry Maid of Mumford Street, Mr. Bookish might have been willing to let his wife continue with photography, but he would not have allowed her to earn wages doing it. My concession for Flossie in Tiffany Girl was that even though Mr. Tiffany would not keep her on as an employee, Reeve was perfectly willing for her to earn—and keep—any wages produced through her painting. It might not have tied everything up in the pretty little bow we often long for, but it was as much as I was willing to compromise on the historically accurate scale.

About The Author

Photograph by Korey Howell Photography

Deeanne Gist has rocketed up bestseller lists and captured readers everywhere with her very fun, very original historical novels. She has won the National Readers’ Choice Award, Booksellers’ Best Award, USA Best Books Award, and stellar reviews. With a background in education and journalism, Deeanne has written for People, Parents, and Parenting magazines. Visit her online at and at

Product Details

  • Publisher: Howard Books (May 5, 2015)
  • Length: 544 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781451692440

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