The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn

Written by Lori Benton
Review by Anne Clinard Barnhill

The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn, Lori Benton’s second novel, is set in the Appalachian Mountains in western North Carolina and Tennessee in the 1780s, right after the American Revolution. This inspirational novel tells the story of Tamsen, a young woman who escapes an arranged marriage to Ambrose Kincaid by fleeing with frontiersman Jesse Bird. Right before she runs away, Tamsen’s mother is killed by her stepfather, but not before her mother lets her know they both carry a secret, a secret that would make marriage to Kincaid impossible. As Tamsen leaves, she takes her mother’s special box with her, a box that will have the answers Tamsen seeks.

As they travel to the Watauga settlement, Jess and Tamsen slowly fall in love, even though they face many hardships on the frontier trail. The love story is predictable, but tension is added when they discover they are being pursued by Kincaid, who believes Tamsen has been kidnapped. As the story progresses, Tamsen is not the only one with a confused identity; for Jess, too, things are not what they seem.

The novel delves into a chapter of American history that might be new to some: the formation of the independent State of Franklin. As Tamsen and Jess travel, their journey is made more dangerous by this smoldering political development, and the addition of this interesting situation enhances what might be an otherwise typical frontier tale. Benton does a good job with writing descriptions of the area, but the Indian names, such as Thunder-Going and Catches Bears, are a bit distracting, especially when Catches Bears is referred to as “Bears.”

Readers who enjoy the colonial period of American history will most likely also enjoy this novel.