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Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
Orphan Moon: The Orphan Moon Trilogy, Volume 1 is a historical coming of age story written by T.K. Lukas. Barleigh Flanders was nineteen years old when her family's ranch in Texas was burned to the ground by a raiding party of Indians in September of 1860. Her father, Henry, had prepared for just such an event by digging out a hidden cellar in their goat shed, but only Barleigh, her Aunt Winnie, and her new baby sister were able to reach the hidden shelter in time. The bodies of Birdie, Henry's second wife, Uncle Jack and Henry were found among the smoking ruins of their farmstead the next morning. The Indians had taken the family's horses, but their cattle had been shot and left for dead. Barleigh's plans to rebuild and restock the ranch are shattered when Mr. Goldthwaite at the bank tells her that Henry's savings will not cover the taxes that he owed. He could cover those bills providing that Barleigh marry him and sign over the land to him. Barleigh's got a better idea. On her way to the bank, a flyer had been caught up in a gust of wind and landed at her feet. The Pony Express needed boy riders and orphans were preferred. Barleigh's mother died in childbirth and, with Henry's untimely passing, she fitted the job requirements -- if only she were a boy.
T.K. Lukas' historical coming of age story, Orphan Moon: The Orphan Moon Trilogy, Volume 1, is well-plotted, meticulously researched and very entertaining. Barleigh is a marvelous character who is strong, independent and convinced that she can overcome the obstacles to her plans for her sister's and her future. I was spellbound reading about her solitary horseback trip to apply for the job in Missouri, and loved reading about the tryouts for the jobs. Lukas carefully weaves historical data about the cultural limitations and challenges women and slaves faced in the late 1800s into her story. She also covers the role of secessionists in fomenting violence that would be blamed on Indian tribes, as well as detailing their attempts to block the mail from reaching the west coast. The real high points of this book for me, however, were found in Lukas' masterful and exciting descriptions of the Pony Express rides undertaken by Bar and her friend, Stoney Wooten, as they race to get the post through the roughest territories in the west, battling the weather and natural obstacles that made it even more challenging. Orphan Moon is a literate and beautifully written novel that's filled with action and adventure, and stars a most impressive role model in the strong and resourceful Barleigh Flanders. It's most highly recommended.