By Diana Gabaldon, 1992, Time Travel Romance
Delacourte Press, $24.95, ISBN #0-385-30231-2
Second in the Outlander series, comprised of:
Outlander, Dragonfly in Amber, Voyager, Drums of Autumn, and The Fiery Cross
I spent a year and a half staring at the four installments of this story, sitting neatly on one of my shelves. Diana Gabaldon’s books are filled with plot devices I had always shied away from in romance novels. "They’re written in the first person, the heroine’s older than the hero, they’re huge," I whined, and whined and whined. To make things worse, when I did begin the series, I picked up Dragonfly In Amber first by mistake and began to read it, and was horrified to discover a twenty-year separation between the hero and heroine, and a cliffhanger ending to boot. But after reading Outlander, I couldn’t well just stop there.
Dragonfly in Amber follows two storylines. The past line, where we see Jamie and Claire playing every card they have in order to stop Bonnie Prince Charlie’s doomed uprising against the English in 1745, and when those efforts fail, doing everything they can to ensure that he will succeed. The present line is where we find out that Claire returned to her own time when Jamie realized that his Sassenach was pregnant, and on the eve of the Battle of Culloden, sent her forward home to a safer time, in a raw, furiously heart-wrenching scene filled with love, tears, blood, and sex.
After giving up the man she loved with all her heart and soul, Claire couldn’t bring herself to find out what his fate was at Culloden Moor, despite the fact that Frank Randall, her first husband was, of all things, a Jacobite scholar. It is only twenty years later, when Frank is dead, that Claire is absolved of the promise she made to him - the promise to both allow him to raise Jamie’s daughter, Brianna, as his own, and to tell her nothing of her true parentage. Frank was, by all accounts, a devoted father, and Brianna, who worships his memory, stubbornly refuses to believe her mother’s fantastic tale of living with a Scottish Highlander in the 1740s for three years.
Regardless, Claire decides that now is the time to find the truth. Helping Claire in her quest is Roger Wakefield, whom we met in Outlander as the five-year-old adopted son of the Reverend Wakefield. Roger, who will play a very important role in this and the following novels, walks a fine line between his scholarly fascination with the fate of the men who were such an integral part of Claire’s life, and his attraction to Brianna Randall. In the end, it is his discovery of a document (a real life document which, according to master-of-research Gabaldon, was the one that finally gave the character of Jamie his last name) and the information in it that close the book, paving the way for Voyager, the next installment in the series.
Claire, resourceful as ever, moves easily from the rough conditions on the road to the warmth of Jamie's family life at Lallybroch, to the gilded royal court in pre-Revolutionary France. She is filled with sensual delight when it comes to Jamie. In modern times, she finds joy in her tall, redheaded, stubborn, Viking-boned daughter, and continues to mourn the loss of her gallant Highlander.
Jamie is as intense and striking a charcter as you will find in any novel. His love for Claire is so deep and strong that he finds death a preferable fate to life without her, and resigns himself to dying honorably at Culloden. Loyal, strong, intense in every emotion, Jamie Fraser is the redheaded stuff of which dreams are made.
Their relationship is never given a respite; it grows because of, and despite, the extreme and varied circumstances in which they find themselves. Claire demands much from Jamie, especially in an incident involving the evil Jack Randall, a fact Jamie throws back at Claire, reminding her of the hell he went through at the man’s hands. Jamie, in turn, reacts violently when faced with his worst demon, and his actions nearly cost Claire her life. His ability to hide his emotions is matched by Claire’s inability to disguise what she is feeling, and overriding all, is the overwhelming passion they feel for each other.
Other characters in the novel are well rounded, adding to the story and never distracting, some of them even having more lives than they deserve. Take Geillis Duncan, the time-traveling witch who was burned in the past, and who is also Roger’s direct ancestor. The pickpocket Claudel, whom Jamie baptizes with the more manly name of Fergus, and adopts as his son, not to mention Charles Stuart, the Bonnie Prince himself, these are all people we could recognize in the street. From far, far away, in the case of Jack Randall.
This is definitely not a stand-alone book, and after reading Outlander, I couldn’t well just stop there. It is a testament to Gabaldon’s extraordinary skill that Dragonfly In Amber manages to lure us all the way back in, and we are only too willing to follow.
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