4 of 5 stars to ‘Mr Impossible’ by Loretta Chase

Mr Impossible

Intriguing setting

Reckless, handsome Rupert Carsington has been relegated by his family to Egypt in an effort to keep him out of trouble. Widow and scholar Daphne Pembroke rescues Mr Carsington from the consequences of his troublesome actions and employs him to help find her kidnapped brother. As the two of them traipse across Egypt in search of Daphne’s brother, they find themselves thrown into many dangerous, exciting and adventurous situations that force them together.

Having visited Egypt, I found the descriptions and references to a pre-commercialised Egypt fascinating. The politics and total disregard for priceless artifacts by treasure and fame-seekers was both disturbing and intriguing to read about.

The characters were not my favorite. While Rupert did have a roguish streak, I found both him and Daphne a little too stuffy. That said, their behavior was very appropriate for the time and added to the authenticity of the historical setting. If you’re looking for a light historical romance, this is a wonderful choice.

5 of 5 stars to ‘Written in my own heart’s blood’ by Diana Gabaldon

WIMOHB

So invested

James Fraser has come back, presumably from the dead, to find that his wife has married his best friend. William has discovered that he is really the illegitimate son of General James Fraser. Oh, and did I forget to mention that they’re in the middle of the American revolution? But at least they know their only daughter is safe, back in the twentieth century…or is she?

If there was ever a cliffhanger in the Outlander series, ‘An echo in the bone’ was it. I’ve been dying to find out what happens to Jamie and Claire. The story picks up right in the thick of the action, and the blunders, misunderstandings and consequences make for entertaining reading. Once again, I found the war and camp scenes tedious at times, but that really just made it more authentic.

The storyline with Roger was fun, but I’m not sure it really added much to the story. The plot with Brianna was understated. I was a little surprised by this, as Gabaldon is not one to shy away from what could have been a seriously thrilling encounter. It was a little too vague for my liking.

I enjoyed seeing a more ‘human’ side to Claire in this installment. She’s been through so much and always appears so strong and put together. Sometimes she can come across as hard because of her efficiency, so this softer side was endearing.

I’ve never before stuck with a series for so long. Usually by book four, I find the story begins to repeat and the characters start to annoy me, but I can honestly say that I’ve never been more invested in a set of characters as I have been – and continue to be – with the Frasers. Another pearl from Gabaldon!

5 of 5 stars to ‘An echo in the bone’ by Diana Gabaldon

Echo in the bone

What a cliffhanger!

James Fraser knows what the outcome of the American rebellion will be, and yet his knowledge may not be enough to get him and Claire through the raw realities of daily life in a country at war. Then, there is the fact that he may end up on opposite sides of the battlefield to his illegitimate son.

Claire and Jamie have been separated from their children and grand-children across the wide expanse of time. Can they, and can Bree and Rodger start afresh in this messy time?

I’ll be honest – I’ve been seriously contemplating giving this series up, but Gabaldon keeps throwing in new reasons to keep me reading. This installment was all about new beginnings. There was a point in the novel where I began to feel that the story was lagging with its descriptions of life in the war camps of the American revolution. Yet that sense of ‘lagging’ really added to the stark reality of the depressing conditions under which the Americans fought for their independence so many years ago.

The trip back to Scotland inserted some nostalgia into the story and heightened the emotional impact. It made me realize how amazing Gabaldon’s writing is. I haven’t read many books that cover entire lifetimes of characters, and those I have read were pretty boring. Gabaldon, however, consistently adds new, daring, frightening and exciting adventures to keep the lives of her characters tumultuous and interesting.

With the cliffhanger in this one (or should I say cliffhangers) there’s no question as to whether I will continue this series. I simply MUST find out what happens to Claire and Lord John after the bomb he dropped on Jamie at the end and I NEED to know what Bree is going to do about her son.

5 of 5 stars to ‘A breath of snow and ashes’ by Diana Gabaldon

A breath of snow and ashes

An uncertain future

The American revolution looms before the Frasers. Jamie walks the tight-rope between the crown and freedom, but will soon have to jump, plunging his entire family into war. Many decisions will have to be made, and consequences faced as Jamie’s time-travelling family adjust to life in these harsh times and make the ultimate decision – stay or go?

Every time I close an Outlander novel, I think: what more could these people live through? I am astounded at the extent of Gabaldon’s imagination. Claire and Jamie have lived through every possible adventure, tragedy and joy – and yet I know that Ms Gabaldon will find even more amazing adventures for them in the next book. Never have I felt as invested in the lives of character as I do with the Frasers.

The first part of this installment was charming in it’s descriptions of life in the times. I thoroughly enjoyed the politics and ebb and flow of life on Frasers Ridge. Just when I thought I’d reached a point where the story was starting to slow, Gabaldon threw Claire into a new adventure that Jamie had to rescue her from, and the rest, was a tumultuous race to the end.

There was a wonderful sense of family and the purity of a simple life on Fraser’s ridge. The Mackenzies added depth, variety and freshness to the story, without detracting from Claire and Jamie’s stories. Gabaldon very cleverly played with the questions of morality and predestination once again, with particular use of Roger’s character.

The end was quite a shocker, unravelling the carefully laid foundations of the last few novels. I feel as though I’ve been thrown back into the beginning with Claire and Jamie – and I’m excited to find out what they are going to make of their new and uncertain future.

5 of 5 stars for ‘The Fiery Cross’ by Diana Gabaldon

The fiery cross

More danger, romance and intrigue

It’s 1771, and Claire and Jamie Fraser know that war is coming. Once, years ago, they had to walk the fine line of politics between the Brits and Scots. Now, they must walk that line again in this new land they have chosen to call home. The stakes are high. Jamie is now responsible for an entire settlement of families, not to mention that of his own blood. Will Jamie and Claire ever find the peace they crave?

Once again, Diana Gabaldon has excelled. Her diverse storytelling skills have enabled her to successfully span months and years in the lives of Claire and Jamie in each novel. Now, Diana slows the story down, focusing on a shorter timespan and delving deeper into the relationships and politics of the characters and times.

The beginning of this novel was funny in a way the other novels haven’t been. Usually, there is so much drama, and very little light-heartedness, so it was a nice change to have a bit of humor in this one. There were two distinct parts where I felt the story had taken a Sherlock Holmes twist and I have to say, that it felt a little forced, unlike Gabaldon’s usually, flowing style. But then I fell into the story again and it didn’t seem to matter. There were the usual, heart-warming moments, some nail-biting twists and dramatic climaxes. I don’t know where Ms Gabaldon finds the inspiration for some of these incidents, but I LOVE reading about them!

This series is possibly one of my favorite of all time. I am addicted to the characters of Claire and Jamie and have loved following them through their adventurous, traumatic lives. Yet I find myself at a crossroads. Carry on the series? It’s never even been a question in my mind – until now. I’m not sure I want to see Jamie Fraser grow old. I think I like the idea of the strong, fierce, Scottish warrior. While I have grown to like Brianna and Roger, I’m not sure I’m invested enough in their story to continue it.

So, I need some good advice from those of you who may have read “A breath of snow and ashes”. Should I continue?

5 of 5 stars to ‘Drums of Autumn’ by Diana Gabaldon

Drums of Autumn

Another sterling installment 

Claire Randall is happily living her life alongside her husband Jamie Fraser two hundred years ago – or so Brianna thinks, until she discovers a newspaper clipping from the past. Now she must choose between staying with the man she loves, or risking everything to change the past.

I’ve got to admit that every time I start another book in the Outlander series, I’m expecting the worst. I keep thinking: what more could happen and how could Ms Gabaldon possibly hold my attention through another couple of hundred pages after the thousands I’ve already read? Yet without fail, when I read the last sentence of each novel, I’m left holding my breath, wanting more.

This installment focuses greatly on one of the most interesting issues raised by the series – the question of whether it is possible to change the past, whether doing so is morally correct, what effects changing the past has on the future and whether the fates are truly fated. This issue is of particular importance with the character of Bonnet and it is fascinating and heart-breaking to watch the Frasers reap the consequences of their timeline interferences.

The relationship between mother, daughter and father is heart-warming. Each character is so human and the dynamics between them are so realistic and yet so right for the time period. In a time when women were married and became mothers in their early teens, I particularly enjoyed the freedom and maturity of interaction between Brianna and her mother. Claire is always there for her daughter, but she allows her to experience her own life and reap the consequences of her own actions.

What I found really interesting, is the way in which Ms Gabaldon created a relationship between two characters who never meet – James and Frank. The effect each one has on the other through the characters of Claire, Rodger and Brianna is fascinating to behold.

The historical setting is once again unique, realistic and rustic. Ms Gabaldon’s descriptions of untamed America are sweeping, beautiful, wild and fresh. I’m astounded by the ease with which she can switch settings from Scotland to France, Jamaica to America and can only assume that she has done her research well and travelled too!

This is still one of the best series I’ve ever read!

5 of 5 stars to ‘Voyager’ by Diana Gabaldon

Voyager

Beyond the shores of Scotland

Twenty years after Claire left Jamie Fraser at the standing stones, she returns to Scotland to share the truth with her grown daughter Brianna. In divulging her history, she discovers that her true love did not, in fact, die on the battlefield at Culloden. Now she must choose between a future with the daughter she loves dearly, or one with the man she has pined for all these years apart.

There are very few writers who can carry off a series of more than three books and still keep the reader begging for more. I must admit to being skeptical after ‘Dragonfly in Amber’ – I mean, Jamie and Claire have lived through it all already, haven’t they? Yet Ms Gabaldon has managed to once again create a heart-breaking, riveting, dangerous adventure.

In this installment of the Outlander series, Gabaldon takes us beyond the shores of Scotland in the seventeenth century. We get a taste of the trade routes, colonies and dangers of overseas travel, contrasted starkly with the amenities and ease of travel of the nineteen sixties.

The real hardships of Jamie’s life seem that much greater against the comforts of Brianna and Claire’s time and yet their emotional distance and turmoils appear equal. These are two souls that have truly become one. I was concerned that the time apart and separate experiences would have created an irreconcilable rift between Claire and Jamie. But their love is true enough to span centuries. In fact, the time apart made their reunion that much sweeter. I loved getting to see Jamie and Claire fall in love all over again and get to know the new people that they have become.

Rich history, offset by sweeping descriptions of the natural beauty of the new colonies and heart-wrenching emotional dilemmas, interspersed with century-spanning romance and heart pounding action, makes ‘Voyager’ a must-read for any self-respecting Scot-lover, historian or book addict.