This is akin to a miracle for my reading habits this year: I have actually had time to sit and read the past couple of days and have gotten pretty far in Dragonfly in Amber! I’m about two thirds of the way through it right now, and the pace has definitely picked up from the slow days at the beginning of Claire and Jamie’s residence in Paris. Our two protagonists have returned to Jamie’s land, Lallybroch, in the Scottish Highlands and the time of the last Jacobite uprising is fast approaching.
When last I posted, not a whole lot had happened. Now, I actually have a few interesting plot-points to share, and I’m really excited about it. Claire begins to have some bleeding, and at the point she is at in her pregnancy this could be concerning for miscarriage. So Claire puts herself on modified bed-rest, and waits to see what happens next. In the midst of this, Jamie hatches a plan to intercept a ship full of wine on its way to be sold on the behalf of Prince Charles, and divert it for his own profit/the Prince’s detriment. It’s very clever: he has Claire figure out a way to simulate the symptoms of smallpox, and plants Murtagh on the ship as a reason to sell off the cargo before getting to port. See, Jamie’s plan is to meet the ship while at sea somewhere, and offer to take the cargo off the captain’s hands since it’ll get destroyed once the harbormaster sees that they have someone with smallpox on board. The ship departs from Lisbon on an unknown date. The plan is for Murtagh to send a letter to Jamie on the day the ship leaves port, so he can plan his interception. Shortly after Murtagh leaves, Jamie is summoned to a brothel to pay off a debt owed by his warehouse manager, and he leaves. And then doesn’t come home. Claire overhears two of her lady friends talking about Jamie challenging a British captain to a duel “over a whore,” and knows immediately who the British captain is. The last time Jamie tried to challenge Jack Randall to a duel Claire made him promise to spare Randall’s life for a year, for the sake of Frank’s future. Obviously, Claire is furious, and she goes against her self-imposed bed rest to track down where the duel is happening and to go there to stop her second husband and her first husband’s ancestor from killing each other. When she finds the duel, it has already begun. She screams at Jamie during a break in the action, then falls over and begins to hemorrhage and miscarry.
Claire wakes up a few days later in the hospital where she volunteers, septic after the miscarriage. The strange frog-like Master Raymond comes and does some weird magic-y stuff to heal her and then has her scream out Jamie’s name so she could harness her innermost power to finish the healing process. It was odd. Anyway, after she leaves the hospital, and goes to her friend Louise’s (also known as Prince Charlie’s mistress and future mother of his illegitimate child) country estate and lays around for a few weeks missing Jamie and mourning her child. Eventually it comes out that Jamie has not abandoned her after killing Jack Randall; in fact, he’s in the Bastille for dueling. This comes out the same day Claire receives her mail forwarded from the Paris house, and finds the letter from Murtagh telling Jamie when the ship sailed from Lisbon. Claire realizes that their entire plan to keep Charles from making a profit that he can put towards the attempt at restoration. Because if he can’t mount “the ’45,” thousands of Highlanders won’t die for a cause destined for failure. She knows that no matter what her feelings are about Jamie right now (she blames him for the miscarriage and feels that he abandoned her to exact revenge that he had promised to delay for her sake), that she must get him released from the Bastille as soon as possible. Otherwise their plan will fail.
This is how Claire finds herself going to Versailles for a private audience with Louis XV. You can imagine what happens there…. Well, yes, that, and also a trial over which Louis makes Claire preside: a trial of sorcery, with the Comte St. Germain, Jamie’s great business nemesis, against Master Raymond, the man who healed Claire. The end of that interesting story is that Jamie is released, and pardoned of his false crimes in England, and told to get the hell out of France. So Claire and Jamie head back to Scotland, but not before there is a very interesting interlude between Claire and Jamie and some nettles.
Back at Lallybroch, time passes pleasantly enough. Jamie’s sister Jenny is pregnant again. There are potatoes to harvest, and wool to dye, and sheep to round up when fences break. These seem to be the most peaceful months of Claire and Jamie’s marriage. And then…. The world interferes again. The Fraser family learns that Jamie’s name is on the list of Clan chiefs who have promised themselves to Prince Charles, who is arriving on the coast of Scotland any day now. A letter arrives at the same time (mail delivery being spotty at best in the Highlands, a whole month’s worth of mail can arrive in one day) from Prince Charles telling Jamie that he didn’t have time to track him down, but that he just went ahead and forged Jamie’s signature on the contract, and he figured that’d be cool, and he’ll see Jamie when the ships land. And that’s kind of where I am right now. Jamie is preparing to leave, and he and Ian, his brother-in-law, are choosing which of the men of Lallybroch should come with him and which should stay home.
I see the time Claire and Jamie get to spend at Lallybroch as the peaceful center of their marriage. I know they aren’t going to make a whole life at Lallybroch, despite their desire to do so at present. I know that soon they are going to be parted for more than twenty years, give or take an additional two hundred. I sort of want to live with them in these months forever because they are so blissfully happy. But then, would it still be an Outlander book if all that drama were gone? Probably not. But I’ll take six hundred pages of Lallybroch over three hundred pages of Paris Court intrigue and gossip any day.
I think that I’ll be able to burn through the rest of Dragonfly in Amber this weekend. I’ve got a long car ride in my near future, as well as a seven mile jaunt across San Francisco on Sunday morning (that’s right, I’m doing the Bay to Breakers!) to budget time for as well.