I think the ladies I play poker with at a nursing home said it best when summing up the Outlander series from this book onward:
“You actually thought Jamie died? You thought that poor Frank would be able to carry the rest of the books? You silly child.”
When this book first came out, readers were confused as to why Claire was back in her time, why she had a grown daughter, and why they were visiting Culloden Field in Scotland. Readers were expecting the second installment to pick up where the first book left off, but instead they were presented with an odd predicament: twenty years have passed, Jamie is dead, and Culloden did happen after all.
It wasn’t until Claire came across the Fraser clan’s headstone that she became overwhelmed, broke down, and told Brianna the truth about her parentage. Claire, then, began to tell the story of her time travel. The events leading up to the Battle of Culloden take up most of this book and pick up where the first book left off. Jamie and Claire decided not to join his relatives at court in Italy, but instead they went to France to thwart Prince Charles Stewart’s financial and political plans for the uprising. Jamie and Claire played politics and were involved in Parisian intrigue. They encountered a cast of interesting historically relevant characters, as well as made friends and enemies. They also encounter old friends and enemies from the first book, namely Black Jack Randall makes an appearance. They adopted a French boy named Fergus and lived like a family for a while. Claire had a difficult first pregnancy that she lost later on in the book, but then near the end, we find out that she was pregnant again, this time with Brianna. The night before Culloden, Jamie sent a pregnant Claire back through the stones and that’s where Claire’s story ends, leaving Brianna in a state of shock, dismay, and denial.
We find out that Frank had been dead for at least a year and that Jamie is certainly dead, not only because he meant to die at Culloden but because it’s been two hundred years since. However, thanks to the historian Roger Wakefield (the little boy sleeping on Claire’s lap at the beginning of first book), we find out that Jamie might have survived Culloden and there’s a chance he’s still living in his time.
This book is so beautiful and sad, and beautifully written too. When you think of all that Jamie and Claire had lost, you feel that sense of loss deeply because the language is beautiful. The writing brings all the elements of loss and grief together to paint a picture of how much Jamie and Claire had lost. They not only lost time together, but they lost almost a whole lifetime together.