Deeanne Gist hosted a delightful Getaway Weekend to the Biltmore in
Made to Match: Deeanne Gist
Asheville N. Carolina where her book “Maid to Match” was based. To actually see the rooms where the story took place one gets a far better understanding of the depth of Deeanne’s work prior to writing the book. According to her aunt and uncle she researches her books for well over a year before she actually puts pen to paper. To walk the distances between the house and the barn, to actually huff up four flights of stairs and see where Tillie washed the floors every morning and where …..lugged the enormous trunks, was truly taking the story to the fourth dimension.
The details that went into the Getaway Weekend itself were remarkable. To begin the weekend, we had a Gilded Age costume party; many wore true replicas of the gowns worn during the Victorian/Gilded Age era. They acquired them through e-bay or costume shops. Deeanne also had a very special guest, J’neen, who is an expert in the Victorian area and provided several of the dresses, etc. including Dee’s lingerie gown. Dee also had a gown made specifically for the costume party so we could all see the detail that went into dressing the ladies right down to their chemises, and how they needed maids to actually dress them. Their entire day consisted of dressing and undressing. It sounds and looks glamorous until you see the rest of the story; it’s quite grueling.
We learned the “art of the fan”. Ladies during that era were never allowed to approach a gentleman, so they used their fans and parasols extensively to communicate with the gentleman, thanks to J’Nean’s demonstrations.
We all participated in “parlour games” which replicated the games of the Victorian Era. One of the highlights was when all the participants were told to not say a word, except one dainty young woman who was set up and let out a loud “Moo” with all that was in her; the the uproarious laughter of everyone else. She was a good sport and thought it was extremely funny, too.
While the parlour games were going on, there were also stations around the room…the chocolate fountain station, the picture taking station where we all took a sepia toned picture, displays of the different items from the Victorian era, a display of antique items that you selected if you “forfeited” in the parlour games. It was an exceptional evening, and one none who participated will soon forget.
The next day we toured Antler Hill, which used to be the dairy farm for the estate and is now a profitable winery, shopping center.
I had the delightful opportunity to have lunch with Deeanne’s Aunt and Uncle, and found out the inside scoop about Dee. Her aunt and uncle lovingly told about how Dee would organize and the cousins and neighbor children and put on plays that the grown-ups were summoned to watch. Dee also was a journalism major and had stories to tell from the time she was little. What sets Deeanne apart from other authors is the time and detail that Dee puts in, before ever putting a word to paper. It’s not unusual for her to spend over a year just on the research and getting a feel for the places, people she writes about. That has been clearly evident throughout her writing career. Her very first book A Bride Most Begrudging hit the best seller list right off the release date, won the 2006 Christy award, and every book she’s written since always hits the bestsellers list. Her Uncle Harold is one of Dee’s biggest fans and reads every one of her books! He also participated in the Gilded Age Ball with grace and aplomb!
The Biltmore estate is one of the few privately owned estates left and is the largest in the country with over four acres for the footprint of the house, 250 rooms and 43 bathrooms. It had the most up-to-date inventions throughout the home of that era, including a gym, deep water swimming pool with underwater lights, a bowling alley. The fact that pervaded through out our time there was how well the Vanderbilts took care of their servants. Each year at Christmas Mrs. Vanderbilt would hand select a gift for each person and their families and celebrate the opening of the gifts in the grand dining hall where a 40 foot tree stood. that tradition is still held today by the current Vanderbilt heirs.
Dinner in the stable was quite an event. The food throughout the weekend was five star, and this dinner culminated the weekend as one of the best meals of all. Deeanne had her uncle give the blessing and by this time the forty participants all knew one another quite well (not a complainer in the bunch) and the laughter and love floating between the tables was palpable.
From there we were given a private tour of the Biltmore Estate, with Deeanne and her sister Gail leading the two groups. As were on the tour, both sisters gave all these delicious tidbits about the estate, what went on in the rooms, the editing Deeanne had to do, the rooms where Deeanne set the scenes for different parts of the book. As a fiction author, Dee thought she made up a room called the “Paris room” only to discover that there really is a “Paris room” within the Biltmore estate.
God put together this amazing group of women and had His hand in the celebration from beginning to end. It was a remarkable opportunity to experience this Getaway Weekend. And one I’ll not soon forget! Thank you to Deeanne Gist, Gayle Evers and the wonderful publisher Bethany House for making this such an extraordinary event.