Molly's Reviews

The CaballerosThe Caballeros of Ruby, Texas
Cynthia Leal Massey
Panther Creek Press

Interesting read ... Recommended ... 5 stars

The wealthy family we met in Fire Lilies is reintroduced a generation later in Writer Massey's "The Caballeros of Ruby, Texas" as we follow Alicia Martinez' son Miguel. Don Miguel is a successful businessman, the father of six children and not too faithful husband of wife Beatriz. When Don Miguel's contracting business fails he is forced into bankruptcy. The move to California's Salinas Valley is first viewed as a fresh start. However many of the problems besetting the family follow them. Don Miguel's marriage collapses, his children marry, the life he faces in California does not resemble anything he had hoped for.

Writer Massey presents her narrative from the viewpoint of three of the daughters: Isabel's story runs from 1948-1953, Terre's 1942-1955, and Marta's 1956-1959. Each of the daughters views life from the perspective of her own personality and sibling position. Isabel believes the trials the family face are a result of her father's bankruptcy. When the money available for her to finish her college education is gone Isabel is not too unhappy. She didn't much care for school and goes to work before she falls in love with the man she marries. Isabel is determined that her marriage will not follow the patriarchal constraints followed by her parents. Isabel's portion of the story ends in 1953 when she as a young married mother of a three year old leaves Ruby with her husband as he completes his military duty in Kansas. Terre's tale begins in 1942 when her sister Marta is born, it is the year Don Miguel took 'that woman' with him on a business trip to Mississippi. Terre is unable to reconcile her father's infidelity with his love for his family. When her own fiancée proves untrue she makes up her mind that she is not going to live as her mother did. At first neither parent can believe that Terre is adamant when she breaks her engagement on days before the wedding. Marta's segment is told from the standpoint of a younger child. The move to California does not prove to be the salvation of the family. If anything it only worsens the situation. Don Miguel's drinking and womanizing continue, Beatriz faces the stress in the only way she can, at last she takes her Elliie, Lupita and Marta and returns to Ruby. Beatriz went right to work in a tomato packing shed and then began selling cosmetics door to door. Beatriz has found her calling soon has a thriving cosmetics business underway. Marta married in 1962. She and Daniel moved to California and lived with Don Miguel for a time before moving back to Texas where Daniel became a successful grocer with a chain of stores. Raul the only son became an officer in the Air Force.

"The Caballeros of Ruby, Texas" is a poignant tale presenting an engaging glimpse into the ethnicity and way of life of a significant portion of our society. Writer Massey illustrates the restraints felt by both young and older Hispanic women living here in the United States during the years following World War II. Massey demonstrates how these restrictions work both to the hindrance and advantage of the women involved. Of the ministrations of a patriarchal husband or parent can be repressing, but
especially for daughters there is security to be had when dad has the final say in many aspects of her life.

Massey has a canny knack for taking the mundane and weaving a tale of outstanding proportions. The Caballero family is like so many I have know from my growing up days and early teaching days in the San Joaquin Valley, California.

Writer Massey only improves her skill as a writer. "The Caballeros of Ruby, Texas" is a charismatic, well-written work filled with powerful, well fleshed characters. Each of the women is a person in her own right. Massey adroitly captures the spirit ound in all family situations whether good, bad or somewhere in between. I like Massey's presentation with the three daughters each speaking from their own viewpoint. No one perspective really presents a true picture of anything. The story of Don Miguel and his doleful downward slide is much more believable when seen through the eyes of his three daughters.

Excellent read, happy to recommend

Fire LiliesFire Lilies
Cynthia Leal Massey


As Fire Lilies opens Delores Guzman Porras determines to help men imprisoned by her petty autocrat husband Francisco. Little does she realize the implications the act of rebellion will have. The year is 1902, Chihuahua, Mexico. A chance meeting with Antonio Rommel Ramos sets in place a chain of events Delores could not have imagined here in this nearly deserted part of the country far from her parents and large family of sisters and 2 brothers. In Monterrey Delores' parents and siblings continue their lives as always with Papa the overbearing director of his children's fate. Ahead of Delores' marriage she and her sister Alicia had been very close. The one bright point for Delores is the birth of her son Gabriel.

Before long the cry of revolution fills the air. Delores is freed at last from the hold her tyrant husband held over her, however the return to her family is filled with more pain than she anticipated. Delores' subsequent marriage to a man who adores her and the birth of beloved daughters gives Delores some measure of joy despite too much intrigue, too much betrayal and far too much stress.

Fire Lilies is the historic tale of three generations of an upper class family living in Mexico during the years spanning 1902 - 1926. The family suffers through the Revolution in 1910. Life is never the same for any of them after that. Writer Massey's inspiration for the gripping novel came as she browsed some old family photos. Massey's grandfather appeared as a young man dressed in expensive clothing and sitting in the exquisite courtyard of a Mexican hacienda. Massey's interest was piqued when she learned her ancestor had lost both his position and wealth during the Revolution.

This well researched novel is historically sound; the characters of the Guzman family are fiction. Fire Lilies, a fast paced, action filled work is filled with rich attention to detail. Writer Massey weaves an opulent fabric replete with fascinating characters, vibrant dialogue, deceit and machination. Filled with the same careful exploration into historical truth as is found in Eric Balkan's well researched City of The Tears Fire Lilies offers as well much of the quixotic setting and romantic interlude as we read in Diana Garcia's Stardust.




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© 2005 by Molly Martin