Review: Virgins

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

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
Goodreads
five-stars

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.

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five-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
Goodreads
four-half-stars

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.

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four-half-stars