By Deeanne Gist
Howard Books May 2015
Read via Netgalley
Flossie Jane has decided to become an independent woman. She leaves the life she has known with her parents and moves into a boardinghouse with a colorful cast of characters including a stern landlady, a kindly old woman, and a handsome yet infuriating newspaperman. Flossie is an artist, so she is thrilled when Mr. Louis Tiffany himself attends her art class and asks her and several other classmates to come work for him. Tiffany is in crisis as his workers go on strike and his deadline to create beautiful stained glass windows for the 1893 World's Fair is approaching. He takes the unconventional route of hiring women to take the place of his men, hoping that they can complete the difficult work in time. Flossie and her companions must prove to Mr. Tiffany and the world that they are artists, all the while proving to their families and peers that they are capable of running their own lives and determining their futures.
Tiffany Girl went just about exactly as I would have predicted. There aren't really any twists or turns in this story. Flossie is outspoken but with an innocent heart of gold. She, of course, attracts the begrudging attention of her fellow boarder Reeve Wilder. He is a writer for a local newspaper with a tragic backstory. Reeve finds the whole concept of "new women" to be ridiculous and takes great pleasure in mocking Flossie and eventually writes a satire based on her. Obviously he thinks it is irritation, but the reader (and some of the other characters) are able to see that Reeve is actually falling head over heels.
While I found the story totally predictable, I have to commend Gist for finding the balance between being a modern writer imagining men and women of the past. Oftentimes in historical fiction, characters have attitudes and beliefs that seem much more at home in 2010 than in their own time periods. While Flossie and her coworkers are pioneers for their time, they have to deal with heckling from men on the streetcar and the ones who are picketing in front of the Tiffany building, judgement and condemnation from many of their families (including Flossie's), and the knowledge that their jobs may very well be temporary because they are still seen as less than the male workers. In fact, a handful of Flossie's peers leave the company because they get married and while it is upsetting for a single woman to have a job, it is downright unacceptable for a married woman to have one.
Sometimes we just crave a nice, sweet story where we know all will end well and everyone will live happily ever after. If you are looking for such a book with a glimpse into life in 1890s New York too, Tiffany Girl would be a perfect pick.