Jamie Fraser is an eighteenth-century Highlander, an ex-Jacobite traitor, and a reluctant rebel in the American Revolution. His wife, Claire Randall Fraser, is a surgeon -- from the twentieth century. What she knows of the future compels him to fight. What she doesn't know may kill them both.
With one foot in America and one foot in Scotland, Jamie and Claire's adventure spans the Revolution, from sea battles to printshops, as their paths cross with historical figures from Benjamin Franklin to Benedict Arnold.
Meanwhile, in the relative safety of the twentieth century, their daughter, Brianna, and her husband experience the unfolding drama of the Revolutionary War through Claire's letters. But the letters can't warn them of the threat that's rising out of the past to overshadow their family.
Another outstanding entry in the Outlander series, covering the years 1776 to 1778, and 1978 to 1980 in modern times. Because of Claire's knowledge of the future, Jamie knows which side wins in the war. His intent is to return to Scotland to get his printing press and take up arms with a pen rather than a sword. But as is usual with this duo, things do not go smoothly. Thanks to an aborted sea voyage, Jamie, Claire and young Ian end up with the Continental army at Fort Ticonderoga and the Battle of Saratoga. The behind the scenes look at life with the army was fascinating. As the army moves south, other battles are fought and life and death are dealt with. The inclusion of actual historical figures such as Benedict Arnold and Nathan Hale add depth to the events.
Eventually Jamie, Claire and Ian make it to a ship, thanks in great part to Jamie's relationship to British general Simon Fraser. Jamie is asked to escort the general's body back to Scotland. They arrive in Scotland only to discover that big Ian is dying of consumption and have arrived in time to say their farewells. There are some extremely emotional scenes, especially between Jamie and Ian as both come to terms with Ian's mortality. I especially loved the part with Jamie's finger and his request of Ian. I also loved young Ian's reunion with his parents. He has some excellent conversations with his father, and receives some much needed advice regarding his love life. There is also a wonderful scene with Laoghaire as she and Claire face off. Eventually Claire and young Ian head back to America ahead of Jamie, as she is needed for a medical problem with Fergus's son Henri-Christian.
Arriving in Philadelphia, not only does Claire have Henri-Christian to take care of, but Lord John also begs her help for his nephew Henry. John is in Philadelphia as a diplomat, but also as young Lord William's stepfather. William, who was captured as part of the surrender of Burgoyne's army at Saratoga, is on parole in Philadelphia, marking time until he is sent back to England. Meanwhile, Lord John's niece Dottie arrives, ostensibly because she is in love with William, but actually as part of a deception cooked up between the two of them. She is actually in love with Denzell Hunter, the Quaker doctor we first met in the previous book. Meanwhile, Ian is in love with Denzell's sister Rachel, as they try to reconcile his part in the war with her Quaker beliefs.
Then word comes that the ship Jamie and Jenny were sailing on to return to America has been lost at sea. Stunned by the loss of her love, Claire moves through the days in a haze of grief. Then John brings the news that Claire is to be arrested on charges of treason. The only way to save her is for her to marry John, thereby becoming a British citizen (shades of Outlander!). Claire suddenly finds herself as stepmother to Jamie's illegitimate son, who has no idea of the truth of his paternity. Then in a confluence of events worthy of a comedic play, Jamie shows up at John's house looking for Claire, just a William arrives. One look at Jamie and the truth becomes clear even to him, and he doesn't take it well. At the same time, a British messenger comes looking for John and is followed by soldiers who had been looking for Jamie. Jamie takes John hostage and they escape the soldiers with John as his prisoner. There's a confrontation between the two as John makes a confession to Jamie, who retaliates as expected. Claire is left in Philadelphia wondering what is happening with both her husbands, and has to deal with the fallout.
Meanwhile, back in the twentieth century, Roger, Brianna and the kids have purchased Lallybroch and are living there. Mandy has had her life-saving surgery and is thriving. Roger is floundering a bit, trying to figure out what to do with his life now. Brianna has found a job working as an engineer at the local dam and is dealing with the attitudes of the men around her, especially Rob Cameron. Cameron befriends Roger, inviting him to join the local Lodge, and showing an interest in Roger's knowledge of Gaelic. But there's more to his actions than either Roger of Brianna suspects.
Jem and Mandy, who love roaming the land around Lallybroch, are full of stories of the Nuckaleevee, and mysterious character hanging around the caves. Eventually Roger discovers that it is none other than Buckleigh MacKenzie, the man responsible for Roger's hanging back in Fiery Cross. He somehow eneded up coming through the stones and is desperate to find a way to get back to his own time. He is there when Jem turns up missing. They believe that Rob Cameron somehow found out about the stones and has kidnapped Jem in order to make him reveal the location of the Spaniard's gold. Roger and Buck head through the stones to try to find Rob and Jem. Then we see that Jem is made prisoner in one of the dam tunnels and Rob plans to hold him hostage to gain Brianna's cooperation. We are left with Jem in the tunnel, Rob threatening Brianna, and Roger and Buck gone to the past.
There are many threads woven throughout the book, making a complicated and endlessly fascinating story. I loved seeing the maturing of William as he experiences all the horrors of war. But there is still the hint of the boy who idolizes his stepfather and has vague memories of the groom who was a big part of his life. Finding out the truth of his parentage throws his whole sense of self into question. There is also young Ian's story, as he deals with the grief of the end of his marriage to Emily. His fledgling relationship with Rachel gives him a new hope, but it is tempered by the conflict of their beliefs. I really loved her pragmatic approach to life, and acceptance of her feelings for Ian. She knows there will be challenges but she accepts him for who he is. Then there is the whole Jamie, Claire and John triangle. There is no doubt of the love that is between Jamie and Claire. Their need for each other is bone deep. They are there for each other throughout their journey, battles and marches and all. Claire is fierce in her protectiveness, as is shown by her rescue of him from the battlefield scavengers. Her grief over his "death" is all encompassing, as she just goes through the motions of living, even after her marriage to John. The scene as they comfort each other is as heartbreaking as it is disturbing, and she has to deal with her feelings in the aftermath. I also enjoyed following the adventures of Roger and Brianna as they adjusted to life back in modern times. Brianna's strength of will can be good, but also can get her into trouble. I loved the link they had back to the past as they read the letters that they had found from Claire and Jamie.
I was quite frustrated by the cliffhangers of this book. Thank goodness with my second reading I can move right on to the next book and hopefully get resolution to some of them.