In book four of the Outlander series, Jamie and Claire are in North Carolina, on their way to see Jamie's aunt, Jocasta Cameron. They are penniless and looking for a relation on the colonies. Jocasta is the mistress of a large plantation and in an excellent position to give her nephew a leg-up. On route to Jocasta's place, Jamie, Claire, and Ian are robbed by Stephen Bonnet, a pirate whose life Jamie helped save only days earlier. Bonnet gets away with just about everything - including Claire's gold wedding band from Frank. Ultimately, Jamie's unsatisfied with the prospect of life on his aunt's plantation and he and Claire set out with Ian to make a place for themselves in the North Carolina mountains - at Fraser's Ridge.
Meanwhile, in "present day," Brianna and Roger are growing closer and finally admit their mutual feelings for one another. But something is pulling them apart - Roger finds a death notice for both Jamie and Claire and decides to hide it from Brianna in an effort to spare her feelings. Brianna, however, finds the same notice on her own and makes the decision to go back through the stones and find her parents. Roger, figuring out what she's done, follows her through the stones, then from Inverness to the colonies where the pair are handfast and consummate their relationship. Only hours later, Brianna finds out about Roger's deception and stalks away, angry. Roger, promising to return for her, sets off to find the pirate he crossed the Atlantic with - one Stephen Bonnet - from whom he plans to steal a gemstone that will enable Roger and Brianna to return to their own time. It's Brianna who encounters Bonnet first, though, spying him with her mother's wedding ring from Frank Randall. Brianna plans to meet with Bonnet the following day in order to reclaim the ring for her mother, but is raped at the meeting.
After that point, it seems a whole dramedy of errors. Brianna confides in Claire about the rape, giving her mother the wedding ring back as proof of her meeting with Bonnet, but makes her promise not to reveal the name of her attacker to Jamie. Brianna also reveals that she is pregnant - though who the father is is unclear. Jamie, meanwhile, knows that Brianna is waiting for Roger, but he has his men searching for Roger Wakefield, not Roger MacKenzie. He knows that Brianna is pregnant, but is under the impression - thanks to Brianna's maid, Lizzie - that Roger took advantage of Brianna. So, when Roger Wakefield turns up in search of his wife, Jamie and Ian beat him and sell him to the Indians.
To be honest, I skim-read the last 250-300 pages because I just couldn't take it any longer. The truth comes out, Brianna is furious, and Jamie goes off in search of Roger. Brianna retreats to Cross Creek to stay with her aunt Jocasta and meets John Grey. The pair become friends and even announce that they are engaged to be married in an effort to stop Jocasta's misguided matchmaking. Having found Roger, Jamie, Claire, and Ian work to gain his freedom. In the process, there's a fight and an Indian warrior is killed. As is custom, the Indians seek to "adopt" a white man into the tribe to replace the man who is now gone. Roger and Jamie think it'll be one of them, but Ian volunteers, coming to say goodbye to his uncle and aunt in a very touching scene. He begs them to remember him to his parents home in Scotland, and tells them that, from this time on, he is only allowed to speak in the tounge of his new tribe. Jamie leaves his plaid - the plaid of the Fraser clan - with Ian as a farewell. Claire and Jamie tell Roger about Brianna's condition and he sends them on ahead of him to Brianna, saying that he needs time to think if he can love and accept both Brianna and the baby she is carrying, knowing that the child's parentage is unknown.
Having delivered her child - and broken her engagement to John Grey - shortly after being reunited with her parents, the family returns to Fraser's Ridge. Roger arrives, wounded, and claims the child as his own. The fragile relationship is still fractured, though, and both Brianna and Roger have to decide if they are to go their own ways - she to stay at Fraser's Ridge, and he to return to his time through the stone circle nearby - or if they are to remain together there.
Oh, my, but this book gave me a run for my money. At over 800 pages, I was shocked that it took me about two months to read. I just couldn't get pulled in by this entry in the Outlander series. I felt it was slow and even (dare I say it?) a little boring. And yet . . . I'm eager to plunge ahead in the series. Maybe I'm just a glutton for punishment, but there is something about these stories and these characters that is entrancing; it pulls you back and keeps you thinking about the events - no matter how frustrated or aggravated you had been feeling. In any event, I think I'm going to wait at least a week or so before entertaining the thought of The Fiery Cross.
Next up: Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman. What's everyone else reading these days?