Cover image for Lily Nevada
Lily Nevada
Holland, Cecelia, 1943-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Forge, 1999.
Physical Description:
224 pages ; 22 cm
General Note:
"A Tom Doherty Associates book."
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Its 1877, and Lily has made her way alone for many years. Her love of books has earned her a place in one of the many frontier theater companies that the railroad has made possible. Now her company has been engaged to play at the finest new theater in San Francisco, for an indefinite run of Hamlet. But Lily cannot leave her past behind. On the train to San Francisco she encounters the railroad detective Brand. Brand is searching for the man who sent a death threat to the head of the Southern Pacific railroad; and that man may be a member of Lilys company.

Author Notes

Born in Henderson, Nevada, Cecelia Holland was educated at Pennsylvania State University and Connecticut College, where she received her B.A. degree. She has served as a visiting professor of English at Connecticut College since 1979.

Holland's historical novels have received broad critical acclaim. According to one critic, she "proves that there can be more to historical thrillers than swordplay and seduction." (Time) Among her novels is City of God (1979), which is set in Rome during the period of the Borgia family. Told from the point of view of Nicolas, a secretary to the Florentine ambassador to Rome, this novel brings to life the period of the Renaissance, including the political intrigue that characterized Rome at the time. Other works include Until the Sun Falls (1969), a story of the ancient Mongols and their empire, The Firedrake (1966), her first published novel, Great Maria (1974), The Bear Flag (1990), and Pacific Street (1991).

Holland is very adept at capturing the period she writes about, including the clothing, furnishings, and customs of the time. One critic has noted that Holland "is never guilty of the fatuity which plagues most historical fiction: she never nudges the reader into agreeing that folks way back then were really just like you and me, only they bathed less often."

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Detective Brand is dismayed to learn that the man he's after may be a member of Lily Nevada's roving theater troupe. Brand has already killed young Lily's biological and adoptive fathers, both outlaws, in Railroad Schemes (1997), and he is not eager to go after her newfound friends and coworkers. Meanwhile, Lily, along with members of her troupe, is headed for San Francisco to stage Hamlet in a posh new theater. Having lived through the deaths of the two men most important to her, she is used to fending for herself, even though she struggles between her desires to be independent and the dictates of her 1877 male-dominated society. Holland presents one of her sharpest and most likable heroines in her twenty-second historical novel, and paints a realistic picture of late-nineteenth-century San Francisco as a dirty gold rush town in which angry men call strikes against the railroad even as intimations of the city's future as a dazzling international port begin to emerge. --Kristin Kloberdanz

Publisher's Weekly Review

Once again, the charming Lily Viner (aka Lily Nevada) brings a distant world to life: in this adventure it's California of the 1870s. As in the prequel, Railroad Schemes, fiction and history are neatly interwoven, with a central theme being the new railroad connecting the East Coast to the West. Lily is traveling with an acting troupe to San Francisco, where they have been commissioned by a theater, but when Lily sees hard-bitten railroad detective Brand on their train, she's overwhelmed by the painful memories this man evokes. Years ago, Brand killed her outlaw father and foster-father, and now he's after a man who may or may not be in Lily's troupe. Brand is tracking whoever sent a letter threatening the life of Leland Stanford, the former California governor who owns the Southern Pacific Railroad. Meanwhile, the thespians face hard times in San Francisco with a bankrupt benefactor, and Lily embarks on a quest for her long-lost mother, who disappeared when she was a toddler. Lily knows only that her mother's name is Dorothea, and her dark hair and golden complexion make her curious about her mother's ethnic origins. San Francisco's mixed population of Chinese, black, Indian and Mexican residents and laborers opens Lily's eyes to the humanity of the rapidly changing times. There's also a radical labor movement evolving, and troupe members, Brand, Lily and Stanford all wind up involved in the ensuing violence. Holland has created a truly independent, compassionate and headstrong frontier woman in Lily, who's too busy pursuing her art and knowledge of her heritage to establish a love relationship, although a fellow actor's kisses inflame her before he goes over the political edge. Gutsy and gritty, but touchingly vulnerable, she's an exemplary historical heroine. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

YA-Although a sequel to Railroad Schemes (St. Martin's, 1997), this historical novel stands on its own. Lily Nevada, a 20-year-old actress with a mysterious past, seeks her fortune in 1877 San Francisco. The daughter of a notorious outlaw, she knows little of normal life but shows strength of character as she struggles to make sense of the world. Ignorant of her mother's last name or heritage, she searches for her wherever she goes. And when the young woman discovers that she has a major acting talent, it seems a mixed blessing; since her sense of self has not yet fully jelled, she becomes lost in her characters. While her troupe's experiments with Shakespeare are sometimes hilarious, these interpretations also offer clever social commentary. Historical figures such as Leland Stanford and Emperor Norton play a role in Lily's story, and the civil unrest of the time-most of it centered around the railroad and all it stands for-is believably portrayed. Ethnic and racial conflicts erupt among the poor, the world shrinks ("nothing's far away anymore-that's what the railroad's done," Lily explains to a friend), and labor unions gain ground in opposition to the barons of industry. Light in the hands and fast in the reading, this novel will not only fulfill assignments, but should also amuse and delight readers.-Christine C. Menefee, Fairfax County Public Library, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.