The book begins in August 1878. The young Lily Cassidy and her family, and Emmett Moss, the cattle king of the Panal, were neighbors — if you can call the open plains of southeastern New Mexico a neighborhood. Lily and her family moved from Texas in 1866 to this area that was 20 miles east of Union, a fledgling village of six stores and a dozen homes. Her father established a gristmill, the only one within many miles. Theirs had begun as a large family, but misfortune had taken all of the Cassidy children except Lily and her brother, Theo, who was crippled.
Lily was 15 years old and “homely as a gunny-sack,” but she could “ride, rope and shoot as well as most men, and bake and sew nearly as well as her mother, read and cipher better than most grownups.” And she was a confidante of Emmett Moss, the biggest rancher and wealthiest man in the Territory.
Some years ago, Moss had moved to New Mexico from Texas, driving a large herd of cattle with him. Eventually he established a large ranch and a fine headquarters at Bosque Grande on the eastern plains, and an even larger reputation as the most powerful man in the Territory.
When Emmett had settled in southeastern New Mexico, his brother, Andrew Moss, remained in Texas. He and his wife had two children, Claire — a delicate beauty raised to be a genteel young lady, and Andy — known as a dreamer or a fool, but he was a fine piano player of classical music, which to some, like his uncle, made him even more of a fool.
When Andrew Moss’ wife died, his subsequent drinking problem caused him to lose everything they had — their store and their home. Emmett invited his brother, niece and nephew to come live with him at Bosque Grande.
When the book begins, Lily’s father had been murdered; Moss, whom she respectfully addressed as Uncle Emmett because he was much older than she, took her into Union to watch the murderer hang. Lily was flattered that her father’s long-time friend treated her as an adult and an equal. Still, she knew the one being hanged wasn’t the only one guilty of the deed.
After her father’s funeral, Lily left the house and rode aimlessly, ending up lost and outside an occupied cave. Inside camped Jasper Stone, a young man with a reputation of a killer and a spoiler of women. He had already killed more than once but, Lily believed, always in self-defense.
Jasper invited her inside the cave to get dry and warm. She huddled close to Jasper’s fire, undressed under the blanket he loaned her, while her clothes were spread out to dry. She felt attracted to him unlike anyone she had ever known, but Jasper showed his honorable side by kissing her only once (a kiss she would always remember) and encouraging her to soon leave, to her disappointment.
Jasper Stone and Emmett Moss were already declared enemies. Each had reason to resent the other. For starters, Jasper resented Emmett for moving onto and staking a legal claim to the land that the Stone family had first settled and then had to abandon; and Emmett knew Jasper and his associates, perhaps including Whit, were rustling his cattle, which was a hanging offense.
Many locals also knew Jasper’s friend, Whit Cantrell, as a cold-blooded killer. He too had killed more than once in self-defense. Besides living hard and fast and a fast draw with a gun, he was an outstanding piano player, an odd talent for anyone in this desolate area of the southwest, but especially for a tough like him. That talent-in-common endeared him to Andy, nephew of Emmett Moss. Because Whit rode with Jasper, Moss was not pleased when he learned of their friendship. He was even less pleased when he learned that his niece, Claire, had fallen in love with Whit.
Emmett was 50 years old, never married, and decided it was time to take a wife, someone who could give him children, who was mature, responsible, strong, who did not waste time on silly feminine airs as Claire did, and who was fully capable of running the ranch after he was gone. He knew no one who fit that description except young Lily Cassidy. After she recovered from the shock of the proposal, she agreed to marry him provided he promise to avenge her father’s death.
That is only the beginning of this 416-page-turner, a complex novel based upon real-life historical characters who played leading roles during the Lincoln County War. It is a book of heart-breaking tragedy, but also of triumph.
The plot has many twists, some that will totally surprise the reader.
Even when writing of fictional events, people and places, Fackler does her homework and they are authentic and based on fact. None of her characters are one-dimensional; the author has a talent for creating strong, multi-faceted and sometimes conflicting characterizations. Her primary female character, Lily, is a power to be reckoned with, not only by her powerful and sometimes cruel husband, Emmett Moss, but by the other characters in the book. Through Fackler’s writing, Lily comes alive. She is someone you admire and intimately know — her feelings, her thoughts and her reactions to the many curves thrown at her by life. Long after you have finished the book, Lily lingers on in your memory as someone you once knew.
The only criticisms I would make are Fackler’s choices of two names. I wish she’d chosen a different name besides “Union” for the fictitious county of this book’s setting in southeastern New Mexico, because there is a non-fiction county of that name in the northeastern corner of the state. And the name of her book, Texas Lily, seems a bit misleading since it is not about Texas. Lily spent most of her life, certainly the most important part of it, in New Mexico. But, to paraphrase the old Bard, what’s in a name? A book (like a county or a flower-named girl) by any other name is still as good.
(Elizabeth Fackler Sinkovich was born and grew up in Michigan, lived in Texas and moved to Roswell, New Mexico where she still lives with her husband, Michael. She has published 12 novels — nearly all in both hardback an paperback. Two were based upon real characters. Besides Texas Lily, she wrote Billy the Kid: the Legend of El Chivato. The hard-cover version of Texas Lily was published by St. Martin’s Press, NY NY and it has also been published twice in paperback. The character of Texas Lily is based upon Lily Casey; Emmett Moss is based upon John Chisum. They knew each other in real life and, in this book of fiction, Fackler imaginatively joined them in matrimony. Billy “the Kid” Bonney is also a fictionalized character in this book.
Many of Fackler’s books can be found in the public library. To learn more about the author and her books, visit her website at http://www.elizabethfackler.com/ Copies of her books may be purchased, through her site, at Amazon.com. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Joyce Abrahamson
I’m starting my diet tomorrow, because
it’s the first day of the week.
you can’t start a diet on Sunday
if a sleek figure you seek.
I’m starting my diet tomorrow, I think,
unless I’m invited for lunch.
It’s hard to stay on a diet
with all those goodies to munch.
I’m starting my diet tomorrow, maybe,
if I don’t bake for my kids.
There’s nothing like chocolate chip cookies
to put a good diet on skids.
I’m starting my diet tomorrow, I hope,
if nothing else gets in my way.
Oh! I’m having friends in for dinner, well,
tomorrow will be a good day.
I’m starting my diet tomorrow, for sure,
but now the weekend is near.
If it’s not one thing it’s another.
Maybe I’ll wait ’till next year.
by Joyce Abrahamson
In the cantina the music is loud,
it tries to be heard o’er the sounds of the crowd.
The guffaws of laughter, the voices so bright,
friends meeting friends are happy tonight.
The Dos Equis bottles with wedges of lime
mean everyone’s having a really great time.
The chilled margarita with salt on the rim
brings forth a smile on a face that was grim.
Strolling mariaches, their guitars they strum,
sing from the heart and you can’t help but hum
and sing along with them the sweet Spanish song;
you’re in Mexican heaven right where you belong.
The nachos with salsa on which we all munch
are a hot crunchy prelude to dinner or lunch.
Tacos, tamales, good Mexican fare,
Enchiladas, burritos; you’re glad to be there.
Dinner is over, it’s now time to go,
to leave this cantina of Old Mexico.
To the real world when we go out the door;
please leave it open, we’ll be back for more.