Sunday, October 13, 2019

Not My Father's House

Not My Father's House is book two of a series with a third book being planned.
The readers catch up with newly married characters Gerald and Suzanna Locke as they embark on a new adventure in the 1820's in Old New Mexico. They are headed to a valley in the remote Sangre de Cristo mountains accompanied by Ramon Chavez, Suzanna's godfather. He has agreed to help with housekeeping duties to help Suzanna who has limited experience running a household and assist Gerald who wants to take up farming.

It's helpful for readers to have some backstory from book one Not Just Any Man.

Here readers meet the protagonist Gerald Locke living in New Mexico in the 1800's before it has become part of the United States. He is a son of a free black man and an Irish servant girl, but has traveled west to escape the racial atmosphere that is happening in Missouri. For the most part he is successful as passing himself off as a white man. He never lies about his ancestry, he just isn't forthcoming with the truth. His first winter trapping in New Mexico is an exercise in patience, putting up with the endless chatter of the loquacious Bill Williams. The second winter he joins a trapping company, learning more about the trade, some aspects of which he definitely doesn’t like. Locke makes an enemy of a disturbed man, Enoch Jones, who looks for any excuse to make trouble for Gerald and others, especially those he views as easy prey, male or female. While living in the Taos area, Locke falls in love with the young and beautiful Suzanna. They marry despite her young age of 15. Suzanna's godfather, Ramón Chavez, and Gerald form a partnership. Gerald yearns for a new start, pursuing farming rather than beaver trapping.

The strength of book two Not My Father's House lies in the authentic voice of the author, Loretta Miles Tollefson.

Her descriptive words frame an area she knows well. Loretta Miles Tollefson grew up in the American West in a log cabin built by her grandfather of trees harvested from the surrounding quarter-section. She lives in New Mexico’s Sangre de Cristo mountains, where she researches the region’s history and imagines what it would have been like to actually experience it. She smoothly integrates history and geography into the story line.

Tollefson is adept at crafting sentences vividly capturing what life might be like living in a remote mountain area during the 1820's in Old New Mexico. The harsh landscape, particularly the long winters and lack of light continually set Suzanna into a tailspin trying to cope. She has lived a privileged life of books surrounded by help making her ill prepared for life of isolation in the mountains. She copes trying to master spring planting but her attempts are thwarted with ever changing weather. Her relationship with Gerald is tested with his insistence they remain in the area and try to make a go though his connections to people he has worked with in beaver trapping test his allegiance to his farming dream. Issues of postpartum depression are addressed with Suzanna's two pregnancies.

Right from page one, Tollefson sets an overall sinister tone of impending doom with the emergence of Enoch Jones, Gerald's enemy. Readers will get caught up in the tension which builds up page after page with a threat to Suzanna's well being as Enoch Jones develops a revenge plan. A series of events keeps the reader wondering what will happen next. The culminating last chapter is a suspenseful page turner. 

Not My Father's House is a novel of two people adjusting to married life, the realities of living in a remote area, and the impact of weather while facing a menacing life threat. It's a character driven plot that uses frequent dialogue keeping the action moving along. 

It can be ordered online at Amazon.

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