Tara and Tahnee

Age 10

304 pages

148 x 210 mm


  • Children's Novel

Patrick Hertweck

Tara and Tahnee

Lost in the Valley of Gold

In a nutshell:
Sierra Nevada, 1856. Tahnee is battling through the wilderness. She must help her father, who is being chased by bounty hunters. She is constantly thinking about the promise she made to him: she must succeed in getting to San Francisco! She still has no idea that Tara lives there on a grandiose estate, with whom she shares a special fate…

November 1856. Snowflakes are sweeping through the valley of the Sierra Nevada. Tahnee is waiting for her father to return from hunting when suddenly a stranger enters the hut and threatens her with a weapon. Then he pulls out a wanted notice with a picture of Tara’s father on it. The bounty hunter wants to ambush him to take him to San Francisco, where he is to be sentenced to death.  
Her father is a criminal? Tahnee simply cannot believe that. In desperation, she thinks about how she can flee and warn her father. She glimpses a petroleum lamp. In a flash, she sweeps the lamp from the table and flees from the hut.  
Now she is fighting her way through the wilderness. She barely survives a snowstorm, a boat ride through rapids and a steep descent over craggy rocks. She keeps getting unexpected help. First from Pokom, an Indian boy who heals her wounds, then from a friendly dark-skinned man who caters for her. Tahnee always keeps her goal clearly in sight: she must battle her way through to San Francisco and look for the biggest property there on the outskirts to meet a man called Charles Reed. Her father explicitly asked her to do this should they ever be separated.  
Tahnee has no idea that Tara, a girl of the same age, lives on the grand estate. After the early death of her parents, Charles Reed took her in. Tara grows up overprotected and isolated with a grandfather, until one day by coincidence she meets a stranger who looks at her with such horror that she cannot forget the encounter. When the stranger seeks her out at home shortly afterwards, the grandfather suffers a heart attack. Tara suspects that the stranger must have something to do with her parents, the circumstances of whose death her grandfather has always maintained a stony silence about.  
In the meantime, Tahnee is racing against time. She must be in San Francisco on time to rescue her father from the gallows. To make faster headway, Tahnee decides to steal a horse and is promptly caught. The owner threatens to kill her. At that moment, an elegantly dressed man comes unexpectedly to her aid and frees her from the clutches of the horse owner. Tara gratefully accepts the man’s offer to take her with him on his horse. To her great horror, however, he does not take her to San Francisco but directly into the arms of the bounty hunter, who locks her in a prison cell in an abandoned goldmining town. Tahnee tries to escape in vain. It is getting hotter and hotter in the cell and the water supply will soon be exhausted. Then Pokom, the Indian boy, suddenly appears and frees her. He has been following Tahnee the whole time to protect her. Together they get to know Chip, a sailor boy, who takes her to San Francisco with the ship.  
In the meantime, Tara has found out a lot there about her parents’ past. The stranger she met by coincidence was her father. He is not actually dead but fled many years ago with Tara’s mother, because the grandfather wanted to prevent their relationship. When fleeing over the mountains, however, they were caught by surprise by the unexpected onset of winter. The grandfather, who had followed the two of them, found his daughter frozen in a tent. Next to her lay a baby that she had evidently given birth to just before. No sign of the father far and wide. After the grandfather had taken the granddaughter into his care, he made it his mission in life from then on to search for the child’s father to take revenge. He would never forgive him for leaving his daughter behind alone in the snow. When the latter appears unexpectedly in front of his house years later, the grandfather believes his wish will soon be granted. He appoints a bounty hunter to seize him and bring him to the gallows.  
To prevent this, Tara follows her grandfather to the San Francisco prison where her father has been taken in the meantime. However, instead of her grandfather, she encounters the bounty hunter there who to her great surprise looks at her full of hate. Could he be mistaking her for someone? The bounty hunter has her bound up and thrown into the water in the harbour. Fortunately, the Indian Pokom and the sailor boy chip are waiting there for Tahnee to return and are able to rescue Tara.  
In the meantime, Tahnee has reached the estate her father spoke of and is received by Tara’s maid. She stares at Tahnee in disbelief, as she looks mistakeably similar to Tara. Together they rush to the execution site at the market square. Tara and Tahnee reach the gallows at the same time from two directions and are able to prevent the execution of the father at the last minute. They finally face each other in confusion and realise they must be twins.  
The grandfather now finds out that the father of Tara and Tahnee did not by any means abandon his wife cold-bloodedly back then in the mountains, but upon her request took the newly born child to safety at the next camp. He had no idea that she was pregnant with twins and shortly afterwards gave birth to a second baby, the one found by the grandfather.  
The grandfather is devastated to realise how unjustly he has treated his son-in-law and how much grief he has caused.  
And Tara and Tahnee? The two of them are happy to be sisters and to have found a family.


  • Exceptional adventure page-turner with deep undercurrents
  • Fascinating setting: San Francisco after the gold rush
  • Masterfully told, from changing perspectives

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