The Scottish Prisoner, by Diana Gabaldon

I eagerly bought this book when it came out in November of last year and it has sat on my bookshelf ever since, until today.  It didn’t sit there because I didn’t want to read it, it didn’t continue to sit there because I forgot about it, it sat there because a part of me was afraid to read it.  Afraid of how much it will make me feel, afraid of what happens to the characters I have come to love, afraid of reading it too fast and not cherishing it, afraid of not having enough time to read as much as I want, but most of all, afraid that once I have read it, there’s no more to read.  Let me explain.  I LOVE this world Diana Gabaldon has created so much that their reality becomes my reality.  I am a series reader above all else because I invest so much into the characters that I constantly want to know what happens next.  I get sucked into almost every series I read.  Most of this is to the fortunate fact that I have read a lot of good series.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not that easily pleased, there are several that I have gotten tired of easily and not wanted to read the next book, if not the next page.  But I have a couple of rules:  always finish a book that I have started; and always give the author a second chance.  To read the book cover for Outlander click here.  To read the book cover for The Scottish Prisoner click here.

The size of a book has never deterred me.  I have flown through the thickest of books (like ones written by Gabaldon) and crawled my way kicking and screaming through the shortest ones (like Catcher in the Rye).  My book count that has accumulated in the past two and a half years is around 485.  That is not counting the series’ that I have read multiple times.  Most of those are different genres of romance novels, and I have come to figure out the general structure.  The characters are presented as individuals that you either like, respect, or are an interesting mystery.  The characters meet and there is some spark between them, but there has to be something that keeps them apart initially.  They eventually get together *wink, wink* (usually against one or both’s better judgment) and then some kind of circumstance or tragedy tears them apart.  Once the problem is resolved, they are back together with their profession of love being the happy ending.  The End.  The shorthand version is:  Introduction, Meet, Evade, Lust, Problem, Solution, Love, The End.  What I love so much about what Diana Gabaldon writes is that her stories don’t fall into that rut of expectation. You never know what is going to happen and she never lives up to your expectations, she surpasses them.

Her novels never quite fit into a single category.  There is a little bit of everything: romance, history, facts, imagination, suspense, drama, comedy, fantasy.  Each character is so well developed, thought out, described, and presented all the way down to each carefully placed word in each sentence.  It is not the easiest of reads, but not hard either.  It is just at a high enough level to command you attention and after a page or two, your respect.  Lol, it makes you feel smarter while reading it!  When I immersed myself in reading her main Series Outlander (7 books or +/- 100,000 pages), I found myself using an advanced vocabulary and a different sentence structure.  I had to carry tissues around at work to hide my tears, find someone to read a funny part to, blush at an intimate part, look up several historical and medical facts, or be amazed at an unexpected event or connection.

I could go on and on about how much I love her writing, but I think that the fact that her series has been published in 27 countries and 24 languages speaks for itself.  It takes her around 3 years to write a book in her main series because it is so thick (~1,300 pages) and because so much happens with so much factual information that it just takes a while to look up and write down.  The novels in the side series, Lord John, aren’t as long (~300-500 pages), but you just never know when one of those will come out since she writes them in between the Outlander series.  So now you can figure out where I am coming from when I say that I was afraid.

I realize that I have written several long-winded paragraphs and have not really talked about the book I meant to talk about.  The Scottish Prisoner is the seventh story in the Lord John (Grey) Series, but half of the book also stars one of the main characters from the Outlander Series, Jamie Fraser.  The Lord John Series takes place between 1756 and 1766, with this one taking place in 1760.  This series can be read after reading the third book in the Outlander Series, Voyager. 

I have only read Part One today (78 pages out of 507) but am already sucked back into her world.  It is painful to read from Jamie’s point of view at this time in his life when he is forever separated from his beloved wife Claire that traveled back to her own time with their child he knew was growing inside of her but never got to meet; and his two year old son that sleeps just yards away that he hardly ever sees and can never claim.  He has to sustain himself with cherished memories of Claire and the few precious moments with his son William.  He is not able to claim William because Jamie is the feared Scottish Jacobite traitor that works as a groom on the Helwater estate of the parents of Lady Geneva Dunsany that blackmailed him into one night of lust that produced his bastard son on the eve of her marriage to the Earl of Ellesmere.  Being that the Earl was old and therefore not able to perform anymore, he was outraged with the birth of the boy nine months after his marriage to his young bride that ultimately killed her.  The Earl threatens to throw the boy from the window when Jamie saves the boy by taking the Earl’s life.  If the boy’s true paternity is know by Lord Dunsany or the staff, it is never voiced because the rule is that if a babe is born by the wife within a marriage, it is considered legitimate.  So in the same day that tiny William is born, he loses his mother and official father in the same day that he gets his Earldom.  He is therefore, raised by his maternal family and in turn Jamie chooses to stay on hand as a groom past his sentence to be close to his son, but never close enough.

Lord John is trying to piece together a task left to him by a deceased fellow officer to court-martial another.  When he and his brother Hal come across a letter written in Erse, a forgotten Highland language, he is forced to ask the help of the Jacobite prisoner that is always on his mind, Jamie.  He hasn’t seen James Fraser in over a year since their last conversation didn’t go well.  Lord John is the one who placed Jamie at Helwater because John couldn’t bear to send Jamie across the ocean to the the savage new world and never know what happened to him and to never see him again.  Why?  Because Lord John Grey, officer in the Royal Army, is gay and in love with James Fraser.  Lord John knows that Jamie will never return his feelings so he has to settle with the fragile breadcrumbs of the friendship that he hopes will form.

Jamie has just received the unwelcoming news that the Jacobite cause is not completely dead, but is still alive in Ireland and is asked to help lead it from an old friend from the past.  Jamie refuses to have anything to do with it for fear of something happening to his fragile freedom and the life he lives on the outskirts of his small son’s life.  He lives in constant fear of his son’s paternity coming out and William being cast out and being denied his title and wealth.  Part One ends with Jamie being escorted off the estate by officers he does not recognize with orders they tell him are to visit the Queen.  I believe this is just a strategy thought up by Lord John because for one, he probably rightfully believed that Jamie would not leave with him or do him a favor, and two, he wants both parties involvement and association to be kept secret.  I will read on and find out…

I have now finished the book and am happy yet sad. I don’t want to spoil anymore of the plot, but let’s just say that all the main characters got to go on with their lives, however they feel about them. There is lots of adventure, mystery, action, and emotion that has become a given in any of Gabaldon’s books. She dove a little deeper into the myth and supernatural aspect than she has in the past. She has incorporated these in previous books such as succubi, changelings, witches, voodoo seerers, and even zombies, but they all came out with a very logical and practical explanation for each. In this book, her myth of choice is the Wild Hunt which she incorporates very cleverly into the story.

In her main series Outlander, several characters have memories that she mentions. These memories have great meaning to the characters and each has their own importance to the story line. However, she does not go into much detail at the time, so the reader is left with only the brief glimpse into the past. In this book she provides the full context of two of those memories: when Jamie finds a lost William in the sudden bog and when Lord John realizes the truth of William’s paternity. She also sets up the reasoning for some of the character’s later choices: Lord John’s marriage, Jamie’s feelings on leaving, and how Lord John and Jamie mend their fragile friendship.

Overall, I loved this book and will eagerly await the next.

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