Western North Carolina, 1787- To escape a threatening stepfather and an unwanted marriage, Tamsen Littlejohn enlists the aid of Jesse Bird, a frontiersman she barely knows, to spirit her away from Morganton, North Carolina, west beyond the Blue Ridge Mountains. Trouble pursues, as the two men intent on seeing her recovered prove relentless in their hunt. Trouble awaits in the form of a divided frontier community. Across the mountains the State of Franklin has been declared, yet many settlers remain loyal to North Carolina. Chaos reigns, thwarting Tamsen and Jesse’s hastily cobbled plan to keep her safe. With her pursuers ever nearing, the region in turmoil, neighbors grown suspicious of her presence, Tamsen’s safety is soon put in greater jeopardy. Gaining the freedom she longs for will mean running yet again, to the most unlikely refuge maginable—the Cherokees, a people balanced on the knife edge of war. But the biggest complication may prove to be Tamsen’s growing bond with her knight in greasy buckskins, Jesse Bird. Falling in love was never part of the plan.
- Amazing story. One of the best of the year for me.
The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn by Lori Benton
This book was quite a surprise to me.
First, I thought it was about a romantic pursuit... such as Tamsen is a woman that a man, maybe several men, are romantically wooing. Couldn't have been more wrong. This was a hunt...as in she's running, and men are traveling hither and yon to catch and return her.
Second, the story is based in the very area I live. I glazed over names like Sycamore Shoals, Roan Mountain, Watauga, Jonesborough, and when it mentioned Nolichucky River and John Tipton, I knew it couldn't be anywhere else. These places are all around me, all within minutes. In fact, when I first moved to Tennessee, I lived in Jonesborough, 5 miles from my current home.
I learned quite a bit about my new state... For 5 years Northeast Tennessee was called the State of Franklin, an attempt to secede from North Carolina. In the story Tamsen, Jesse and Cade were inadvertently caught in an actual historical battle (about 7 miles from my home). Jesse and Cade were injured, taken to Tipton's home. I wonder now if Ms. Benton is from this area.
Location: North Carolina and State of Franklin, currently Northeast Tennessee
Tamsen Littlejohn: Young woman escaping a certain wretched future
Jesse Bird: Tamsen's rescuerCade Bird: Pa to Jesse
Hezzekiah Parris: Tamsen's stepfather
Ambrose Kincaid: Wealthy rancher whom her stepfather planned for Tamsen to marry
Charlie Spencer: Trapper who helps in the pursuit
I can't even imagine how to make this brief, because there was so much to this story and so detailed! Might be a bit of a spoiler, so read on if you don't mind...
[Jesse, picked up as a toddler by Indians who found him alone at the site of a burnt farm, was raised by Shawnees, and eventually by a large half-breed also taken in by the same tribe. After leaving the tribe they lived as father and son in a mountainous area of Tennessee as trappers, farmers and cattle drivers. At Morganton, NC, the end location the current cattle drive, Jesse comes across a beautiful young woman in turmoil, hurrying away from her stepfather. When a tragedy happens the next day, and she needs to run for her life, she finds Jesse as a willing guide to get her out of there, to be hidden where she cannot be found. No time to pack, only grab the box her mother gave her with vital information inside, and a cloak.
This starts a mountainous trek from North Carolina northward to the area Sycamore Shoals (current day Elizabethton, Northeast Tennessee). Along the way there is talk of marriage, not that she had any feelings for him, although she was learning to trust him, but Tamsen thought it the solution to her particular predicament.
At an area they stopped, a trapper comes upon them. He could see something wasn't right and asked where they were headed. He kept this information until he reached Morganton where he was to do some trading. Around town he heard talk of a murder and abduction, and that there were two men showing a photograph of a girl, asking if anyone saw her leaving town. After seeing the picture, he offers himself as a guide to find her. So, with her stepfather, and the man he intended for her to marry, they set off "pursuing" her. (hide spoiler)]
The arduous travels, harrowing adventures, snow storms, Indian friends, peace, then more pursuit, near captures, injuries, gunfights, the "box", and oh yes, I didn't mention romance...(whew, there's romance!) all make for a story you'll have difficulty putting down.
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