The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn
About This Book
Frontier dangers cannot hold a candle to the risks one woman takes by falling in love.
In an act of brave defiance, Tamsen Littlejohn escapes the life her harsh stepfather has forced upon her. Forsaking security and an arranged marriage, she enlists frontiersman Jesse Bird to guide her to the Watauga settlement in western North Carolina. But shedding her old life doesn’t come without cost. As the two cross a vast mountain wilderness, Tamsen faces hardships that test the limits of her faith and endurance.
Convinced that Tamsen has been kidnapped, wealthy suitor Ambrose Kincaid follows after her, in company with her equally determined stepfather. With trouble in pursuit, Tamsen and Jesse find themselves thrust into the conflict of a divided community of Overmountain settlers. The State of Franklin has been declared, but many remain loyal to North Carolina. With one life left behind and chaos on the horizon, Tamsen struggles to adapt to a life for which she was never prepared. But could this challenging frontier life be what her soul has longed for, what God has been leading her toward? As pursuit draws ever nearer, will her faith see her through the greatest danger of all—loving a man who has risked everything for her?
Lori Benton’s debut novel, Burning Sky, had a stunning, unique and haunting voice in terms of word choice and imagery: it was very powerful and memorable, and it captured the individual personae of her characters brilliantly. I expected more of the same impressive writing in this second novel. From the back cover, I wouldn’t be surprised if this story leaned more toward romance than Burning Sky did, but I still expected a strong historical narrative rich with period detail.
The day after I began reading this book, I was in a car accident (not my fault!). And what bothered me most about dealing with police reports and insurance companies and a sore neck and arms? It was all the time spent away from this book! Even when I was too sore to hold it up for more than an hour, when the ache in my neck wouldn’t let me get comfortable in my favorite reading chair, I still couldn’t put this book down. It. Was. That. Amazing.
Some books are intended to be read fast. This isn’t one of them. Benton writes with a voice that demands each carefully chosen word be savored to its utmost. It’s a slower, richer pace: not a slurpy broth but a chunky, hearty stew of phrases and images so perfect for the characters and setting and history that I can’t help filling up on it and coming back for more. If only I knew her secret recipe so I could write like this!
I thought the trapper Charlie Spencer was a very unusual choice for a third POV character, and I’m not entirely sure he worked for me. He offered some insights into the secondary characters doing the titular pursuing, but just when I wanted his character to rise to the next heroic level, he vanished from the story. And from that point on, when the ending became so thick with backstory revelations that I longed for a third POV character to help unravel who was who and knew what when . . . there was none to be had.
That said, Ambrose Kincaid would’ve been my choice for a third POV. I realize that may have made the story a bit too much like a love triangle, but I think his insights throughout the story would have gone a long way toward decluttering the ending for me. He could’ve provided just a few more breadcrumbs about the Kincaid family history that would’ve made the ending much more of an “ah ha!” than a “say what?” moment. And between him and Jesse, we still could’ve had all the scenes with Charlie and the unique information he provided to keep the story moving forward.
One other thing I wish this book had included was a map. Being the visual person I am, and despite having lived in Tennessee myself for a few years, it really would’ve helped me to see the North Carolina-versus-State of Franklin dispute mapped out. Not that I needed a line showing the exact trails Tamsen, Jesse and Cade followed, but a few pinpoints for the major placenames and rivers would’ve appeased by OCD brain.
I really, really, really, really, really hope there will be a sequel to his someday! Not only do I want to see more of Jesse and Tamsen’s new life together, but I am dying to know what becomes of Catching Bears, Bethany and the Allards, the Teagues, even Ambrose Kincaid himself.
Available April 15, 2014 from WaterBrook Multnomah