A few weeks ago I reviewed Lori Benton's BURNING SKY. I liked the novel well enough that I sought out another title by her, THE PURSUIT OF TAMSEN LITTLEJOHN. Set in Tennessee between 1784 and 1789, Benton's novel introduces readers to a mostly unknown time in Tennessee's history when the same area was under two disputing factions: Tennessee and the state of Franklin.
I can't say that I completely understand the politics of this situation any better after the novel, but I certainly enjoyed the story of Tamsen Littlejohn and Jesse Bird. Young and attractive Tamsen is expected to make a marriage that will benefit her controlling, cruel stepfather. He has indulged her with a gorgeous blue silk dress, not out of goodness or caring, but because he intends to show her off to a possible suitor Ambrose Kincaid. Although wishing to defy her stepfather at every step, Tamsen agrees to his plan, knowing that if she doesn't her mother will suffer at the man's vindictive hand.
When Tamsen does meet Ambrose, she finds someone almost acceptable until he shows his indifference to a slave's suffering. Never could she marry such a man.
After witnessing the true extent of her stepfather's cruelty, Tamsen flees with the help of Jesse Bird, who sees her distress. Jesse Bird lives a nomadic life, helping his adopted father bring cattle to market. As a child Jesse was kidnapped and raised by Native Americans. Although Jesse cannot remember his parents, he does remember a fire and being taken out of it. When as a child, his adoptive Indian parents die, he is taken care of by Cade Bird, who is half-Delaware Indian. Within days of helping Tamsen escape, Jesse realizes that they are being hunted by both Ambrose Kincaid and Tamsen's stepfather; and it appears that authorities believe that Jesse has taken Tamsen by force.
Of course romance blossoms between the two, and the Tennesse mountain setting enriches the story.
The rugged lives Jesse and Cade have lived adds much, as do the people who are their neighbors, both friend and foe.
Even half way through this book, I never expected that the story would have multiple twists at the end, creating an ending that I never expected. To experience the first chapters of this book, check out Lori Benton's website http://loribenton.blogspot.com/p/loris-books.html You can also read the first chapters of Lori's most recent book THE WOOD'S EDGE which again features the interrelationships between settlers and natives. THE WOOD'S EDGE will be followed next spring by a sequel FLIGHT OF THE ARROWS. I obtained my copy from the Winnefox library system.