Not My Father’s House: A Novel of Old New Mexico

Written by Loretta Miles Tollefson
Review by Loyd Uglow

Teenage bride Suzanna Locke is a city girl, if you can call Taos, New Mexico in the early 1800s a city. Now she’s stuck in a cabin in a high mountain valley several days’ ride from the familiar warmth of Taos. And she’s pregnant. And she’s being watched from the surrounding wilderness by a vicious trapper with a taste for rape and murder. Foiled by Suzanna’s young husband Gerald in an earlier assault on her in Taos, Enoch Jones now bides his time, waiting for a second opportunity, now in a more secluded setting.

Author Loretta Miles Tollefson skillfully portrays the almost palpable loneliness Suzanna experiences in her remote new home, coupled with fear of Jones. It’s difficult to say which emotion wears on Suzanna more. Light and darkness, heat and cold reinforce the young woman’s reaction to the forces arrayed against her. Her high valley home has winter weather and short days eight months of the year, anathema to an avid gardener like Suzanna. Even the windowpanes in her cabin are more a source of darkness than light, being made of barely translucent mica instead of unobtainable glass.

Tollefson handles suspense well through an ebb and flow of tension. Present tense, used throughout, may be more distracting than effective. The setting authentically portrays the distinctive New Mexican culture of the 1820s, as Anglo traders filtered into the predominantly Mexican and Indian area. Suzanna personifies the cultural milieu, being herself a mix of New Englander and Native American, but with feelings and desires common to any race. This novel, one of a series, balances characterization and plot to deliver a story with both excitement and depth.