Lily Anne of San Francisco by J.Y. Flynn
Publisher & Release: Homefires Press, April 26, 2016
Time and setting: 1904-1936, San Francisco
Genre: Historical Romance
Length: 405 Pages
Heat Level: 1.5 Flames
Rating: 3 Gold Crowns
In 1904, Lily Anne O’Brien arrives in San Francisco, a city teeming with promise, not unlike the twelve-year-old herself. Captivated by the curiosities of North Beach, Chinatown, and the wicked Barbary Coast, she reciprocates by beguiling San Francisco society with her angelic singing voice and seductive beauty.
The Great Earthquake of 1906 destroys her home. To remain in San Francisco, she scandalously marries Kevin O’Riley, a twenty-seven-year-old gambler. At age 15, she gives birth to a daughter, Charlotte, who is destined to live in the shadow of her mother’s beauty, talent, and limitless self-regard.
Based on actual people and events known to the 91-year-old author, Lily Anne’s story is rich in historic detail and covers five decades of the love affair between the flamboyant woman and her vibrant city. She transforms from reckless teenager, to divorced single-parent, to successful entrepreneur, and ultimately becomes an eccentric relic of a by-gone era.
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I received a request from the author’s daughter to read Lily Anne of San Francisco in exchange for an honest review. The book description was fascinating, so I accepted it for review. I must say Lily Anne was an interesting character. This is definitely a biography of her life from twelve years old until her death.
Lily Anne O’Brien starts her life adventure on a train traveling to San Francisco. Her family is moving to the area for her father’s health. When she arrives in the city, she immediately falls in love with it and makes up her mind she will never live anywhere else.
Lily has an angelic voice and is lovely beyond words. Although the weather in San Francisco does not help her father, and her parents move to San Jose area, Lily Anne stays in her beloved city with her aunt and uncle so she can study for the opera, even though, she does not really want an operatic career.
She meets Kevin Riley and he falls madly in love with this very young girl. During the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906, he has the opportunity to help her get out of the city. They have been meeting secretly for quite some time. He convinces Lily Anne and her father to allow them to marry, even though, she is only fourteen. By the time she is fifteen–on her birthday by the way–she gives birth to Charlotte.
As a gambler, Kevin ends up having to leave to avoid arrest. Lily Anne has no intention of leaving San Francisco and the couple divorce. She goes on the successfully start a hat shop and continues going to parties and singing.
The reader sees all Lily Anne’s good points and bad. She has an indomitable will that leads her to make careless and thoughtless decisions throughout her life. I found her one of the most narcissistic individuals I have ever encountered. She is a master manipulator and will step on anyone to get her own way, even her daughter. She controls Charlotte by telling her if she disobeys, Lily Anne will end up in heaven singing with the angels. There are other things she tells her child to keep her under her control, but I do not want to give away everything.
There are many colorful characters in this book, from Kevin, the gambler, to Walter Sherman, the doctor who delivers Charlotte and saves Lily Anne’s life. I loved her cousin, Peggy, and Brenda the nurse who worked for the good doctor.
Now, this is why I gave this book 3 Gold crowns. There is constant head hopping from one sentence to the next. Almost every character has a point of view. I found that very distracting. Ms. Flynn goes into too much detail in describing the costumes and the character’s surroundings to the point it became annoying.
Now I did enjoy the detail involving the earthquake that made for fascinating reading. All in all, I did enjoy Lily Anne of San Francisco, and I’m glad I had the opportunity to read it. If you can overlook the mechanics of Ms. Flynn’s writing style you will enjoy this book. Happy reading!