Now I know what all the fuss is about!
In the beginning of the story, Claire has been reunited with her husband, Frank, in Scotland. For much of their eight-year marriage, they have been separated due to World War II. Claire, a WWII nurse, is picking flowers at a place called Craigh na Dun, where the stones have been arranged in a circle atop a hill. As she leans down, she hears a buzzing noise coming from between two of the rocks. Claire has somehow come upon a portal and travels two centuries back in time.
At first, Claire has no idea what has happened and believes she has stumbled onto a movie set. Naturally, she is dumb-founded when she finally realizes what has happened. Her nursing skills come in handy, as she is more educated about modern medicines and treatment than even the doctors in that age! Claire treats a young man named James “Jamie” Fraser, who is an injured warrior. She rides with him back to Castle Leoch, which is owned by the Mackenzie Clan. They are very suspicious of her and think that she is a spy. Her knowledge of medicine is her saving grace, and she stays on at the Castle to treat the locals. She takes over the room occupied by the previous doctor and sorts through his cache of remedies. She discards much of the useless folk remedies but finds some herbal medicines to be of value. All the while, she can only think about how to get back to Craigh na Dun so that she can return to Frank.
One of the head of the Mackenzie Clan, Dougall, takes Claire to Captain John Randall (who, coincidentally, is an ancestor of husband, Frank!) so that she can be questioned. It does not go so well, and Claire is ordered to be brought back for further interrogation. The only way to avoid the clutches of Captain Randall again is for Claire to be wedded to a Scotsman. The lucky lady is wed to hunky Jamie Fraser. She eventually develops true feelings for Jamie (who wouldn’t?), and she is torn between staying with Jamie in the 18th century or trying to return to Frank in the 20th century. Her education and skills can be put to good use in this new life of hers, and she feels needed and that she can do a lot of good here. We should all be so adaptable! Claire actually finds that she enjoys this simpler lifestyle and that her work is rewarding. And with yummy Jamie to keep her bed warm, what more could a woman want?
With all the hype about Jamie, I had expected the scenes to be hotter. They are a little tamer than what I am used to from the likes of J.R. Ward and Christine Feehan, but Gabaldon’s scenes are more romantic:
Jamie to Claire: "Does it ever stop? The wanting you?" "Even when I've just left ye. I want you so much my chest feels tight and my fingers ache with wanting to touch ye again."
Jamie to Claire: "And I mean to hear ye groan like that again. And to moan and sob, even though you dinna wish to, for ye canna help it. I mean to make you sigh as though your heart would break, and scream with the wanting, and at last to cry out in my arms, and I shall know that I've served ye well."
Jamie to Claire: "Oh, aye, Sassenach. I am your master . . . and you're mine. Seems I canna possess your soul without losing my own."
Jamie to Claire: “Ye are blood of my blood and bone of my bone I give you my body that we two might be one I give you my spirit till your life shall be done.”
Ahhhhhhhhh, Jamie! What woman wouldn’t want to stay with him? He is quite possibly the most romantic hero that I've ever read! What I loved most about Claire is that she did remain torn between her two lives right up until the end. She clearly is in love with two men, and it eats away at her even though she falls quickly and madly for Jamie. I loved Gabaldon’s scene of Claire’s confession at The Abbey. It was heart‑wrenching to watch Claire grapple with her emotions as she ponders the moral aspects of her dilemma and also for Jamie to come to terms with what has happened to him. It did bother me a bit that Claire could so quickly appear to move on with her life so, for me, this was a much-needed time of reflection. I thought that Gabaldon ended this segment of the tale on the right note!
At this point in my life with young children, I would never be able to find the time to sit down and read this lengthy tome. It is for this reason that I am so thrilled that audiobooks exist! At nearly 33 hours, I was a little reluctant to start this audiobook because I worried that it would not hold my interest for the duration. Boy, was I wrong! Narrator Davina Porter is truly remarkable! Her voice is so rich with emotion. I loved her Scottish brogue, and she is quite convincing in her portrayal of Jamie and the other Scots. Even if you have read Outlander, I recommend listening to the audiobook. You will be captivated by Porter’s performance!
I was hooked from beginning to end, and I can’t wait to dive into the next in the series, Dragonfly in Amber.