FIERY STAR was beautiful. I hated saying goodbye to Emma and Company. I was kept guessing through all the twists and turns of the plot, and was moved by its characters, especially the storyteller, young Emma Lightfoot, whose courage will stay with you long after you finish FIERY STAR.”
Kelley Weir, actress, director and teacher

“The glow of FIERY STAR lingers long after the last page. What better way to be immersed in the drama of an 1856 Gold Rush acting troupe than through the words of young Emma Lightfoot’s journal? Finding the exact turn of phrase, Emma’s descriptions enliven the interplay of haunting characters, California Gold Rush towns, and the mysterious fires that shadow the troupe’s departures.”
Shirley DicKard, Editor, The Camptonville Courier

“A colorful world of actors and outlaws comes to life in a debut historical novel from Rivers. Sixteen-year-old Emma Lightfoot lives in 1856 Placerville, California, one of many towns spawned by the Gold Rush. Her mother and siblings are dead, but she adores her father and closest companion, C.E. “Emmett” Lightfoot. They write and print the local newspaper, the Placerville Rattler, and at the book’s opening, they both look forward to attending and reviewing the touring Star Troupe’s play featuring Edwin “Ted” Booth, son of renowned actor Junius. But tragedy strikes when Emmett gets a splinter that becomes infected. Within a matter of days, Emma is the sole living Lightfoot. Saddled with her father’s secret debts, Emma tries to turn a one-day gig as the theater company’s washerwoman into a season-long engagement, and the troupe’s iron-willed but kind co-manager, Hattie Burnham, brings her on after a strange fire destroys much of Placerville. Emma’s new theatrical “family” includes brooding and handsome Booth; Hattie and her loutish husband, Ben; charming and privileged Harry; coquettish teen actress Sophie; 7-year-old “Fairy Star” Louise; and other eccentrics. The troupe tours the camps and towns of the Sierra Nevada foothills, experiencing great triumphs—largely thanks to Booth’s creative brilliance—and enormous setbacks. Most troublingly of all, a string of destructive fires points to a possible “firebug” in the troupe’s ranks. The novel’s large, colorful supporting cast demands readers’ engagement. Each character is distinct and troubled in his or her own way, such as Emma’s resilient best friend, Evangeline, turning to prostitution after her parents’ death; Hattie’s battling about finances with her gambling husband; or Booth’s struggling with the shadow of his famous father...scenes and plotlines stand out for their tension and intrigue—a section describing a rescue attempt during a massive, town-consuming fire is knuckle-whitening...shines thanks to its compelling...cast and vividly constructed world.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Reading FIERY STAR is like being lifted back in time. You quickly find yourself dashing through the streets of Nevada City with young Emma Lightfoot, hailing the colorful characters who lived there in the rugged days of the Gold Rush.”
Alaria Z. Bliss, author of The Young Centaur

“How refreshing to read Leslie Rivers’s riveting novel of dauntless courage during the California Gold Rush, when “family” meant everything. Packed with illuminating historical details, FIERY STAR takes you on a journey to 1850's California through the eyes of a plucky, orphaned 16- year-old girl earnestly searching for what makes life honorable and right. Rivers’s descriptions of the countryside, towns, and theatrical performances sing. A seasoned theater artist herself, her knowledge of theater is boldly evident in her sparkling, humorous dialogue and central characters, actors in a touring troupe. Based in intriguing historical fact, FIERY STAR is stunningly visual and emotionally moving.”

Karen Ingenthron Lewis is author of the memoir, I MARRIED A MUNSTER, an Epic Love Story, and several plays. Former radio host of WBAI- NY's Al Lewis Lives, Karen regularly conducted listener-guided book reviews. She is a writer, actor, teacher, and owner of Ham ‘n Cheese on Wry, a small press book development company.

“Leslie Rivers presents a deliciously descriptive, deeply felt, and authentically articulated journey to California’s roots through the eyes of a young heroine, Emma Rose Lightfoot. Rivers offers marvelous behind-the-scenes glimpses into California Gold Rush era theater, mixed with great humor, rich sensitivity, and her own powerful theatre arts acumen. Rivers’s characters and relationships are palpable, and her story-telling is impeccable.“
Virginia Drake, actress and director

FIERY STAR is packed with adventure, comedy, tragedy, romance - and most thrillingly, at its heart is an original new heroine, Emma Lightfoot. It is Emma, a girl of 16, whose diary draws us in and leads us on an incredible journey! Emma captured my heart and imagination. FIERY STAR is full of life because Emma Lightfoot breathes life in so deeply!

FIERY STAR begins in 1856 when Emma is orphaned, left completely alone in the small town of Placerville in the foothills of California's Sierra Nevada Mountains. Emma chooses to throw in her lot with a traveling troupe of actors, including the broodingly handsome, future Shakespearean star, Edwin Booth. As Emma labors as a wardrobe mistress, she finds kindness, cowardice, deep evil -- and her new family!

FIERY STAR has ranked among my "constellations" of favorites. I wait anxiously for the further adventures of the thespians, desperadoes, lovers, true friends, true villains and, of course, Emma Lightfoot. Emma has taken her place in the gallery of great American fictional (but oh, so true) characters.”
Michael Wells-Oakes, author of A Cold December, Breath to Breath, Grace

Fiery Star is published by Sierra Muses Press, Nevada City, CA