It is taking longer and longer to read the books from this series…not just because the books are getting longer but because they are getting more tedious to read. The first book was exciting and emotional. I laughed at a lot of things Claire did and thought because she had a strange sense of humor but the subsequent books have lost a lot of that humor and the sentiment that drew me to the series in the first place. It now reads like someone’s day to day journal from the 18th century. I keep reading the series because I feel like I am invested in the story now and have to stick with it. The story is still interesting but it has lost some of its original appeal to me.
The book begins with Brianna and Roger in Scotland at Lallybroch in 1980, about two years after they had returned to the future from the past which was approximately 200 years ago give or take a few years. They had been forced to return because their newborn daughter, Amanda, needed a heart surgery and would have died without it. The book doesn’t explain exactly how they had the money to buy Lallybroch but it sounded like Claire and Frank had left Brianna enough funds to be able to live comfortably for a while.
Brianna gets a job as an inspector of some hydro-something-or-other…sorry, I am not a technical person and I just skipped over the details. On her first day, the men working for her played a prank on her because they were upset about her being a woman but she was able to get through it and earn their respect. One man who works for her, Rob Cameron, starts popping up everywhere she and Roger go. He has a nephew in the school where Jem goes. He’s in the masonic lodge with Roger and to Roger’s annoyance, Rob sings and has a good voice too. Now…I know a lot of people in Scotland have the same surnames but I kept thinking that Rob Cameron shares a last name with Hector Cameron who was Jocasta’s husband and thought maybe he has a connection somehow. I just couldn’t figure out why this wanker would try to weasel his way into their lives so hard.
Jem and Amanda tell Brianna and Roger about a scary man on the property who said he was a Nuckelavee, a mythological monster originating from the Orkney Islands. Brianna and Roger look for the man but couldn’t find him but they did start locking up their house at night.
Roger brings in a box full of letters from Jamie and Claire. I guess before they had left the 18th century, Roger and Jamie had discussed ways to communicate between the centuries so Claire and Jamie had written letters, sent them somewhere and had them stored somewhere but the book didn’t make it clear where…maybe a bank or museum. Brianna and Roger decide to read the letters in order but not all at the same time. They grab a letter here and there and read it. Of course, the letters coincide with the events of the past while the readers learn of the adventures of Jamie and Claire.
Claire, Jamie and Ian are getting ready to leave the ridge to go to Scotland to get Jamie’s printing press. Their house had burnt down in the last book so they are living with a lot of other people in Brianna and Roger’s old two room cabin through the winter.
In the last book, they had discovered Mr. and Mrs. Bug had come to the ridge under false pretenses and were responsible for stealing Jamie’s Aunt Jocasta’s gold from River Run. When Jamie found this out, he asked them to leave the ridge. When they find a butchered pig, they believe Arch Bug is up to something. They know it is him because it looks like the pig was killed with an axe and Arch Bug is an expert with an Axe. He can throw it from far away and hit his target even though he is over 80 years old. One night, Jamie and Ian catch someone trying to go under the burnt house. They think it is Arch Bug and the figure shoots and hits Jamie in the leg but Ian shot his arrow and killed the person before they could shoot again. Unfortunately, it was Mrs. Bug. She was trying to get beneath the burnt house. It was where they had hidden the gold.
At the funeral, Arch Bug came up and Ian tried to apologize and even offered to let Mr. Bug take his life for the life of Mrs. Bug but Arch refused. He told Ian that one day, when Ian had someone who he really loves…other than his dog, Rollo…he will take them from him. Throughout the book, people meet up with Mr. Bug as he follows Ian through the countryside. We just get glimpses like when William meets an old man on a road in the middle of nowhere, who is missing fingers and asks if he knows Ian Murray and if he knows where he is.
The book gives the point of view of William Ransom, the 9th earl of Ellesmere aka Jamie’s illegitimate son for the first time. He is in America fighting for the British. He goes on a few missions to gather intelligence. On one such mission, he travels with someone named Captain Denys Randall-Issacs to Canada but Randall-Isaacs is shifty and ends up leaving William in Canada over the winter with the excuse of some urgent business. The name rings warning bells all over and I knew this had to be the son of Mary Hawkins and Jack Randall’s brother. Jack Randall being the man that tortured and raped Jamie over 20 years before and then killed by Jamie in the Battle of Culloden. I was right, of course, and the name Isaacs came from Mary’s second husband, a Jewish man.
William keeps getting into weird situations. Once, he got lost in a forest called the Great Dismal Woods. He wandered for a while and was almost killed but Ian found him and saved him. They remembered each other from years ago when William visited Fraser’s Ridge with his step-father John Grey. William went into delirium and woke up in the home of Rachel and Doctor Denny Hunter, brother and sister…both Quakers. The Hunters help him heal and then they ride north with William until they had to split up because the Hunters were going to join the Continental Army as surgeons while William was headed to join the British troops. William started developing feelings for Rachel Hunter.
Ian also developed feelings for Rachel Hunter when the Hunters joined the Continental Army. Although Quakers abhor violence and war, the Hunters choose to follow the Continental Army, not to fight but as healers. Denny as a surgeon and Rachel as his assistant.
Claire, Ian and Jamie end up at Fort Ticonderoga. They had tried to sail to Scotland but through a strange series of three ships fighting each other, Jamie somehow was inducted into service for the Continental Army at Ticonderoga for a certain amount of time. Claire knew through Brianna’s history lessons that the British ended up with the fort but she isn’t an American so she never paid much attention to the history so she isn’t sure when they will invade and she is afraid they’ll be at the fort when that happens. And they were but most everyone was able to evacuate before the British fired upon them.
The Hunters were with them at the fort and traveled along with the army to Saratoga where there were two more battles in which the British ended up surrendering. William, Jamie’s son was one of the soldiers with the British Army. In one battle, a cousin of Jamie’s, Simon Fraser, was shot and killed. He was a high ranking officer for the British so one of the conditions to the surrender was that Jamie had to accompany his body to Scotland for burial which suited Jamie just fine since he wanted to go anyway.
Before they leave, a man comes up to their tent and tries to blackmail Jamie. He met a man who had been with Dougal MacKenzie when Jamie killed him and the man told him about it. The teller of the story had died but the man decided it was a useful story and went to find Jamie. He told Jamie to give him any money he had now and that would do for now but he made it clear that he would keep blackmailing them. Before anything else could happen, Ian killed the man but there were witnesses so Ian had to run. His dog, Rollo got hurt in the struggle and had to stay with Rachel Hunter. She promised to keep Rollo safe.
Meanwhile at Lallybroch, Brianna and Roger discover who the Nuckelavee is. It is William Buccleigh MacKenzie, the man who caused Roger to be hanged by mistake. He said that he was traveling with his wife when the cart broke down near Craig na Dun. He had walked up to the standing stones and heard them screaming and when he went close, he ended up being in a different time. He had tried to go back once he figured out that he was in a different time but had started on fire and stopped before he died. Brianna and Roger actually let him stay at their home but watch him closely.
Roger had been writing about how to time travel and jotting down things that might be important like gems and maybe blood but he put a question mark after “blood” because he wasn’t sure about that. It was just that Geillis Duncan had used a sacrifice to time travel and had written it in her notebooks that Roger kept in his study near the box with the letters from Jamie and Claire.
One night, Amanda starts screaming and tells them that Jem is gone and the rocks keep yelling at her. She said that Rob Cameron had taken Jem. Jem was spending the night with a friend so Brianna called the parents who said that Jem was gone and they looked down the road where Rob Cameron lives and his pickup was gone. Roger and Buccleigh (I’m calling him Buccleigh because there is already a William and I don’t want to get them confused) drive to Craig na Dun with gems from an old broach. Rob’s pickup is there but neither he nor Jem is there. They think that Jem and Rob went through the stones and I think they went through the stones also.
Claire, Ian and Jamie go to Scotland and find that Ian Sr. is dying of consumption. We get to meet up with Laoghaire again who is as mean and nasty as ever. Jenny thinks Claire is a witch and can heal Ian but when Claire tells her she can’t, Jenny tells her she has no soul. Laoghaire gets a letter from her daughter, Marsali, in Philadelphia who tells her Henri Christian is having trouble with his tonsils and adenoids. They are so swollen that he stops breathing at night when he is sleeping so she and Fergus take turns staying awake with him to start him breathing again. She asks her mother to find Claire and ask if she will return to America to operate on him. Claire and Ian leave Lallybroch but leave Jamie behind so he can say goodbye to Ian Sr. when he dies. Ian leaves with Claire because he wants to get back to Rachel before crazy Mr. Bug finds her.
When Ian passes away, Jenny decides to leave Lallybroch. Her son, Jamie, is the new owner of Lallybroch and she doesn’t want to interfere with he and his wife running the place. Jamie and Jenny travel to France and then from there they pay for passage on ship to go to America. Jamie writes to Claire to tell her what ship they will be on and when they should be in America but the captain took their money and sailed without them so he and Jenny had to get another ship. The first ship wrecked and everyone died. Claire hearing this believes Jamie to be dead and is grief stricken.
She had been delivering and handing out rebel propaganda. A Captain Richardson tells Lord John Grey that he is about to arrest Claire as a spy just after they got the news about Jamie’s ship sinking so Lord John Grey tells Claire that the only way he can save her from being arrested and to save Marsali and Fergus too is for her to marry him so she marries him.
And I am going to leave it at that. I don’t know what will happen with Jem, Ian and Rachel or Jamie and Claire but I was more excited at the end of the book than the entire book so I’ve downloaded the next book to see where it leads.