Review: Drums of Autumn

Review: Drums of AutumnDrums of Autumn (Outlander, #4) by Diana Gabaldon
Series: Outlander #4
Published by Delta on August 7, 2001
Genres: Historical, Time Travel
Pages: 880

FINAL DECISION: I ended up enjoying the story of Claire and Jamie establishing themselves in the American colonies. This feels like a transitional book getting all the characters in the right place and time, but I enjoyed the personal stories of Claire and Jamie and Brianna and Roger.

THE STORY: This book begins after the events of VOYAGER. Jamie and Claire have ended up in the colonies and begin building a new life together there as the settlers begin to have conflicts with the native inhabitants. In the future, Brianna has to deal with the loss of her mother. She and Roger also rekindle their romance but the discovery of a clipping announcing the death of Jamie and Claire due to a house fire forces Brianna and Roger to make a decision.

OPINION: While this book is filled, as all Outlander books, with various adventures, what attracted me most to this book was the personal relationship between Claire and Jamie. Here, the two are building a life together for the first time. The boring, daily details of life — cooking, cleaning, preparing the land — are what the two have to deal with (punctuated by various adventures). For the first time, the two have to learn to live together after so many years apart. This book feels like a settled and romantic couple which I really loved. In the daily living, true love is shown. And for the first time, there is no question that Jamie and Claire will be together throughout the book.

What I really didn’t expect was how much I would love the story of Brianna and Roger. With Claire and Jamie on a less extreme emotional path, the torch of young love is passed to Brianna and Roger. I ended up loving both of these characters and I look forward to seeing their relationship develop.

As the series has progressed, I’ve become more acquainted with the historical events which form the pillars of the stories where these characters exist and with each book, I have enjoyed the historical parts more. Perhaps because we have moved into more familiar territory for me, I found the historical events and tidbits here fascinating.

As with all the books in this series, parts of the story are resolved and then parts are left for future books.

WORTH MENTIONING: The book depicts a graphic rape.

CONNECTED BOOKS: DRUMS OF AUTUMN is the fourth book in the OUTLANDER series. The book assumes knowledge from the previous books and therefore the books should be read in order.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.


Review: The Scottish Prisoner

Review: The Scottish PrisonerThe Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon
Series: Lord John Grey #3
Published by Bantam on May 29, 2012
Genres: Historical
Pages: 518

FINAL DECISION: More Jamie than Lord John, this story is a type of buddy book with John and Jamie having to work together to solve a mystery involving a possible Jacobite group. I loved seeing Jamie for an extended period even though my heart hurt for him missing Claire.

THE STORY: This book takes place in the time period covered by VOYAGER (and there are spoilers). Here Lord John Grey finds himself the recipient of a mysterious message written in the Scottish language. He reluctantly realizes that Jamie might be able to translate the message. (The two have had a serious falling out during an earlier Lord John story.)  Jamie is suffering from the loss of Claire but watching over his illegitimate and unacknowledged son. But he is also approached with echoes from the past by Irish remnants of the Rising. These events send Jamie and John Grey on an adventure to discover the truth of what is happening.

OPINION: This is my favorite of the Lord John series, but it feels closest to Outlander because of Jamie’s presence. But the reason that I like this as a Lord John book is because Lord John is best when he is interacting with Jamie and not just thinking about him.

This book definitely takes it shape from the Lord John Grey series. It is a mystery that John goes to investigate. Here, because Jamie is such a central character, we get more of the interaction between John and Jamie. Their relationship is strained but this book is part of their journey to becoming friends again — and this time a more honest friendship.

I really enjoyed the story which was political drama, a roadtrip adventure, historical download and a story of unrequited love all in one. I also enjoyed getting to see more of John’s brother and sister in law (a couple I enjoyed in their own story).

This book enhanced my Outlander understanding and also managed to be the best example of the Lord John books.

WORTH MENTIONING: This novel is told by alternating Jamie’s story and Lord John’s story as the stories overlap. It takes place in the space of when Jamie and Claire are apart VOYAGER.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE SCOTTISH PRISONER is the third book in the Lord John Grey series. This series is a spinoff of the Outlander series. While it is not necessary to have read the other books in the Lord John Grey series to read this book, I believe it is necessary to read VOYAGER to appreciate this book.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.


Review: Lord John and the Hand of Devils

Review: Lord John and the Hand of DevilsLord John and the Hand of Devils by Diana Gabaldon
Series: Lord John Grey #0.5, #1.5, #1.5, #2.5, #2.5
Published by Delta on November 25th 2008
Genres: Historical, Mystery
Pages: 336

This is a collection of three novellas about Lord John which have all been previously published. The stories about Lord John are a spinoff of the Outlander series.

LORD JOHN AND THE HELLFIRE CLUB: Lord John is approached by a man who bears a resemblance to Jaime and agrees to meet with the man about a political problem. The man is soon murdered and Lord John investigates and is drawn into the Hellfire Club. This is a very short story (around 40 pages) which gives a glimpse into Lord John’s life and a quick investigation, but it didn’t really stick with me. Neither the mystery, nor the life glimpse seemed that grand. Okay story for fans, but not a necessary read. Rating 2.5 stars.

LORD JOHN AND THE SUCCUBUS: Lord John is in Prussia and encounters another murder. This time the suspect is a succubus (female demon). Lord John investigates the death. This is a longer story (about 100 pages) and has a bit of supernatural flare which won’t surprise readers of the Outlander series. The mystery was intriguing to be because of the supernatural possibilities mixed with possible prosaic answers. The closeness of the possibility of supernatural answers feels really time appropriate. The story was enjoyable and I liked the resolution. Rating: 3.5 stars.

LORD JOHN AND THE HAUNTED SOLDIER: Lord John is engaged in an inquiry as to the explosion of a cannon during battle. Through a series of events, Lord John ends up with the only evidence that the cannon was poorly constructed, perhaps even criminally so. The novellas in this series have so far not interested me as much as the previous novel. I was interested in the investigation but perhaps the parts of this novella that overlap with the Outlander series was the most interesting part to me. Rating: 3.5 stars.


Review: Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade

Review: Lord John and the Brotherhood of the BladeLord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade (Lord John Grey, #2) by Diana Gabaldon
Series: Lord John Grey #2
Published by Delacorte Press on August 28, 2007
Genres: Historical
Pages: 511

FINAL DECISION: A winding walk through 18th Century England with Lord John Grey who is investigating the truth of his father’s allegiances, preparing his troops for war, and trying to live his life as a gay man where dangers threaten at every turn. The character of John is so vivid here, that I enjoyed this journey.

THE STORY: In the mid 1700s, Lord John and his brother are both soldiers in the Seven Years’ War. As their mother prepares to marry again, secrets from their father’s death and questions of whether he was a Jacobite traitor arise again. Lord John looks into the matter and someone seems to be taunting the family and threatening Lord John int he process. At the same time, Lord John’s new stepbrother is attracting Lord John’s attention.

OPINION: This book rests almost entirely on the character of Lord John. I enjoy reading of his life and how he deals with the complications of his family, his sexuality and just how he fits into the historical events of his time. He is a complex character. He has an unrequited love for Jamie Fraser, but he continues to live his life.

This book is driven by the mystery surrounding Lord John’s father’s death and whether he was a Jacobite sympathizer. However, while that is the framing of the story, this book is also about relationship and family and the dangers and events that Lord John experiences in his historical time period.

I enjoyed this book quite a bit and am more and more impressed with the historical depth of Gabaldon’s books.

WORTH MENTIONING: Jamie makes a couple small appearances here in a book that happens during the events of VOYAGER.

CONNECTED BOOKS: LORD JOHN AND THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE is the second book in the Lord John Grey series which is a spinoff of her Outlander series. I don’t know if people read these books apart from the Outlander books, but I think that this book assumes a reader already knows who these characters are so I would only recommend this series if a reader is familiar with the Outlander books

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.


Review: Lord John and the Private Matter

Review: Lord John and the Private MatterLord John and the Private Matter (Lord John Grey, #1) by Diana Gabaldon
Series: Lord John Grey #1
Published by Delta on October 26th 2004
Genres: Historical, Mystery
Pages: 334

FINAL DECISION: A dense and intriguing political and social mystery. The tone of this book is different from the Outlander books because it is focused on the mystery, but there is plenty of historical doings. And I love the character of Lord John Grey.

THE STORY: Lord John Grey has got a family matter on his mind (he’s concerned that his cousin might be betrothed to a man with the pox) when he is tasked with investigating the murder of a comrade who might have been a traitor. He can’t turn away from either so he works on finding the truth on both matters.

OPINION: For readers looking for another OUTLANDER, it will not be found here. However, some of the same elements from that series — a sense of historical presence, intriguing tidbits from history and compelling characters.

This book also is simply fun in many ways with Lord John investigating a murder and also investigating his cousins betrothed. I really liked his character here as we are treated to seeing his cleverness, his determination and his essential kindness.

We get to see how Lord John struggles with his homosexuality — not who his is, but how he has to hide himself where society will destroy him because of who he is. We see him dealing with how to live his life when he has to live his truth in the shadows.

But mostly this book is about Lord John’s investigation, the political intrigue and murder. Lord John travels the underbelly of society in order to talk with people. The books feels like the genre of mysteries of Agatha Christie based very much on the talking and personalities of the people with a few physical clues dropped in. I have a fondness for these types of mysteries and liked this one.

WORTH MENTIONING: Jamie doesn’t appear in this book but is mentioned.

CONNECTED BOOKS: LORD JOHN AND THE PRIVATE MATTER is the first novel in the Lord John Grey series. This is a spinoff of the Outlander series. It is not necessary, however, to read the Outlander series to enjoy this one and the genre and tone of this series is very different as the books focus on mysteries/crimes to be solved.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.


Review: Voyager

Review: VoyagerVoyager (Outlander, #3) by Diana Gabaldon
Series: Outlander #3
Published by Dell on October 26th 2004
Genres: Historical, Time Travel
Pages: 1072

FINAL DECISION: Very enjoyable entry in the Outlander series as Claire and Jaime spend their 2 decades apart but find their way back to one another — both physically and emotionally.

THE STORY:  This story begins after the events of DRAGONFLY IN AMBER. Claire returned to the 20th century pregnant with Jaime’s child and resumes her marriage to Frank. Now that twenty years have past, she has learned that Jaime did not die at Culloden as she always thought. Determined to find out what happened to Jaime, Claire and her daughter search the past. In the 18th century, Jaime lives a life without the woman he loves and attempts to build some life for himself.  Claire and Jaime will be reunited before this book ends (not really a spoiler since there are plenty of other books in this series about Claire and Jaime).

OPINION: This book reflects the journeys that Claire and Jaime take.  First the journey of loss where each tries to rebuild their lives after their separation. How do they live their lives where the other half of their soul is gone? Are they supposed to be alone for the rest of their lives? Although the two spend two decades apart and a lot happens for each of them, it is a time of pain for both Jaime and Claire. It does feel like forever as I waited for the inevitable reunion. Of course, Jaime and Claire have no hope for a reunion during those years so each makes the best of those years.

For me, the story really begins when Jaime and Claire are reunited. The journey becomes how do they find one another again emotionally. Because just as the two had to live alone, they have changed from the two people who were in love decades before. Not only have the years changed them, but both have had experiences which bring a challenge to the love they share. Yes, they still feel that love for one another, but the question here becomes how do they deal with the changes and experiences each has had to rediscover one another.  In that way, the physical journey to come together again is only a pale reflection of the emotional journey that challenges them.

This book continues the Outlander tradition with the intriguing mix of history, adventure, time-travel, and romance. Old story threads are picked up as well which makes me wonder if there is an overarching storyline in this series beyond Jaime and Claire’s romance. (I’ve only read to the third book, so I know there is much more to go).

WORTH MENTIONING: There is a long wait in this book until Claire and Jaime are reunited so be prepared.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  VOYAGER is the third book in the Outlander series. As this series tells the ongoing story of one couple (well actually many couples but one main one), the books should be read in order.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.


Review: Virgins

Review: VirginsVirgins (Outlander, #0.5) by Diana Gabaldon
Series: Outlander #0.5
on April 8th 2016
Genres: Historical
Pages: 86

FINAL DECISION:  An enjoyable little vignette, this story gives some background for events of the series readers know but haven’t seen before.  It is an interesting view of Jamie before he appears in OUTLANDER.

THE STORY:  In this prequel to OUTLANDER, a young Jamie Fraiser is in France recovering from injuries from the English and mourning the death of his father.  In France, Jamie runs into a friend, Ian Murray.  Both virgins, their status becomes complicated when they are hired to escort a doctor’s grand-daughter to her arranged marriage in Paris.

OPINION:  Like so many of the Outlander books, this novella has something to say about culture clashes, sexuality and politics along with human relationships.  I enjoyed this look into Jamie’s life in France after his whipping by Randall and the death of is father. Gabaldon has managed to depict two young men who are working out their views about sex in an especially interesting way.  I thought the story was funny and intriguing.

For fans of the series, it is worth reading just to get another story about Jamie.

WORTH MENTIONING: This novella was previously published in the DANGEROUS WOMEN anthology.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  VIRGINS is a prequel to OUTLANDER.  While it takes place prior to OUTLANDER, I think it is better to read that book first.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

Review: Dragonfly in Amber

Review: Dragonfly in AmberDragonfly in Amber (Outlander, #2) by Diana Gabaldon
Series: Outlander #2
Published by Bantam on August 7th 2001
Genres: Historical, Time Travel
Pages: 743

Political Intrigue and Romance With Claire and Jaime

FINAL DECISION: I ended up liking this one better than OUTLANDER itself. The story seemed tighter, the relationship between Claire and Jamie more complex and although there is plenty of death and pain in this book, it felt more civilized after the events of the first book. And I ended up in tears for most of the end of this book.

THE STORY: After the events of OUTLANDER, Jaime and Claire have fled to France. There they will try to prevent the coming battle of Culloden in order to prevent the destruction of the Highlanders culture. Their scheme requires them to participate in Eighteenth Century French court politics and intrigues with Bonnie Prince Charlie and the King of France. There are still repercussions from Jamie’s torture and rape at the end of OUTLANDER. Intrigues, danger and the past threaten to tear Jamie and Claire apart even at the point where they share joy at the coming of their child.

OPINION: I liked OUTLANDER, but I liked DRAGONFLY IN AMBER more. OUTLANDER was about Jamie and Claire discovering one another and falling in love. This book is about letting their love and marriage mature. In OUTLANDER Jamie and Claire ran the gauntlet of danger. This book is a slow burn. Things are quieter, more outwardly civilized and yet even more complicated and dangerous. Politics, society and intrigue take up the majority of this book.

For those readers who read OUTLANDER but don’t know more about the series, they will be surprised by the beginning of this book. (I don’t want to give it away, but it is a clever story device to begin the narrative there instead of being strictly chronological). The book feels fresh and different after OUTLANDER. The characters have grown and changed (not always for the good) and there are lots of new characters to get to know. Old friends and enemies also have returned so there is a good reason to review the events of OUTLANDER if you haven’t read it in a while.

Jamie is more remote in this book after the events with Jack Randall in OUTLANDER. He is still struggling with the aftermath and the pressures of trying to save the entire Highlands. Being involved in the political intrigue means that he and Claire spend less time together and thus immense pressure is placed on their relationship.

Claire is also struggling to find her role in this new situation. The new life in the Court of France has new conflicts and restrictions upon this twentieth century woman. She has to use her imperfect knowledge of the past to help avoid Culloden while know knowing whether such a thing is possible. She is also struggling with her relationship with Jamie. She gave up her entire life to be with him and now she has to deal with those consequences.

On a more philosophical point, the book also investigates the idea of changing the past. Is it even possible for Jamie and Claire to change the events that lead to Culloden or does everything they do actually cause that event to happen? Can the past be changed at all? These are universal themes in time travel stories and this book examines those issues with complexity and subtlety. Even better, there are no real answers.

I began reading OUTLANDER when the television series started because I always want to read the books first and I began reading this one in preparation for Season 2. I don’t know if I have been influenced by the series, but I felt that this book went more quickly and the events were clearer, the characters more defined and the outcome more devastating. I cried through the end of the book because it was incredibly well written and sad. At the end of this book, I desperately wanted to begin VOYAGER (book 3) to find out what happens.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book ends on a cliffhanger.

CONNECTED BOOKS: DRAGONFLY IN AMBER is the second book in the Outlander series. It can be read as a standalone, but why do that. Read OUTLANDER first to really appreciate DRAGONFLY IN AMBER.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.



Review: Outlander

Review: OutlanderOutlander (Outlander, #1) by Diana Gabaldon
Series: Outlander #1
Published by Dell Publishing Company on July 26th 2005
Genres: Historical, Time Travel
Pages: 896

Epic Scale Romance

“For where all love is, the speaking is unnecessary. It is all. It is undying. And it is enough.”

THE STORY: Claire Randall and her husband Frank have been separated by war for years. They are having a second honeymoon when Claire finds herself transported back in time two hundred years. There, she meets Jamie Fraser, a young Scotsman. Although Claire wants to return to her time and her husband, she keeps finding herself in dangerous situations. To save her life, she ends up having to marry Jamie. As Claire begins to know and have feelings for Jamie, she is torn between the two men she loves.

OPINION: OUTLANDER is an epic romance. It is larger than real life and has a grand and sweeping landscape. Jamie is adorable and I really liked the story of how Claire eventually decides to stay with Jamie. I thought that her confusion in being torn between two men as well written. My one complaint was that after Jamie and Claire get married, I found that the plot of the story got more and more complicated and I got bored in places. I really just wanted to get to the parts with Claire and Jamie. I thought the character of Jamie was especially well written and although the book is told from Claire’s point of view, at times I felt that I understood Jamie better than Claire.

WORTH MENTIONING: There is a graphic novel called THE EXILE which tells the story from Jamie’s point of view. It was an interesting companion after reading this book.

FINAL DECISION: I liked this book although I did get tired of it somewhere after the wedding. I persevered and ultimately really did like the book. This is a book where I liked the main characters more than I was interested in the plot.

CONNECTED BOOKS: OUTLANDER is the first book of the Outlander series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.