By Kathleen Morris

Published by Dunraven Press, January 2022

ISBN Numbers

E-book 978-17379866-2-1

Paperback 978-1-737866-3-8

278 pages

Reviewed by Charles Johnson

Strong, independent women fare well in the books written by Kathleen Morris, including Big Nose Kate (THE LILY OF THE WEST), Fiona (THE WIND AT HER BACK) and Chastity James (THE TRANSFORMATION OF CHASTITY JAMES).  In FALLEN CHILD, Morris adds another to that list, and her name is Josephina Fallon.

The reader first meets Josephina as a pre-teen in an orphanage in the Old West, somewhere in southeast Arizona.  Wise for her years, she realizes the operators of the facility are not necessarily all that benevolent when she discovers that some of her orphan friends and residents of the place are sent off and away from the orphanage – not to be adopted or to learn valuable trades under the tutelage of some merchant or skilled artisan.  Not at all.  The boys are sent to toil for hours and days and years on end in the dirty underground mines.  The girls find themselves offered for bawdy (and bodily) favors at the saloons throughout the area.  These kids have been Josie’s friends.  She fears the worst as she watches them transported off the grounds in carriages and wagons, headed for a fate they are not aware of.

Josie learns she is very soon to become one of those who has already left the orphanage.  She and her friend Colin formulate a plan.  They manage their escape just minutes before Josie is scheduled to shipped out.  They are chased down by the henchmen of the orphanage.  In the struggle as the henchmen catch up, Josie and Colin (and another who had managed to tag along) manage to disable and/or eliminate their pursuers, requiring them to seek a safe hiding place.

In a nearby ranch, they are taken in by a sympathetic man and his crew.  Under his supervision, Josie and Colin learn skills of staying alive in the deserts and nasty conditions of the southwest, include riding horses and handling pistols and rifles, to name a few.  The ranch is set upon by foes of the ranch owner, forcing Josie and Colin to flee yet again out into the wild and desolate square miles of Arizona.

They pick up a few friends along the way – Billy, for one, who becomes enamored with Josie.  The small rag-tag group learns that there are other orphanages that exist for the same purpose as Josie’s original home, so they decide that their mission is to travel to each orphanage.  Their goal; handle the managers of each site, and then make sure the kids are taken care of.  As a sidelight in the mix, they discover the mastermind behind the whole network is living in Prescott, Arizona, so they decide to make a visit to him as well.  At every site and in Prescott, the skills they learned back on that first ranch come in quite handy – the evildoers are dealt with in ways they deserve – bullets fly and knives flash, and our group escapes on their strong horses.  And all the time, it is Josie who makes the decisions, Josie who leads and inspires them along the trail and it is Josie who mediates when her group squabbles amongst each other.

Of course, their activities attract the attention of the law – wanted posters appear across the state.  Posses track and besiege Josie and her compadres.  More struggles – some violent, some battles of wits – keep the reader guessing as to what comes next.  Ultimately, Josie finds peace, but not without a cost that leaves her with scars to contend with for the rest of her life.

In FALLEN CHILD, author Morris paints the Old West gracefully when she needs to – and harshly, when she needs to.  That applies to her characters, her settings, and her descriptions of the action.  There is a good pace in changes from action scenes where gunfire is common, or nights spent around a campfire as Josie’s crew moves along their trail from orphanage to orphanage.  Some of her characters are highly likable, some absolutely polluted with vile personalities, and some are charming – either as royalty or as snakes in the grass.

Once more, here is another good yarn from the Old West of author Kathleen Morris.