Dragonfly in Amber  - Davina Porter, Diana Gabaldon “For if you feel for me as I do for you - then I am asking you to tear out your heart and live without it.”

Twenty-odd years after Outlander, Claire Randall and her daughter, Brianna, return to the Scottish Highlands. Claire goes to a local historian, Roger, to find out what happened to the men she knew from her time in the 1740’s—and to learn what happened to beloved Jaime Frasier.

I just finished this audiobook, and I’m still scraping myself off the floor. This was a really good book—really long, but really good.

It’s funny; after finishing Outlander, I really had no desire to pursue the story. The book was good, no doubts (Claire was awesome, the chemistry between her and Jaime pretty good, the surroundings amazing), but I was a little disturbed about the focus on abuse and the disappearing plot. Imagine my surprise when, out of the blue, I was craving to read Diana Gabaldon! I have never experienced such a longing to read an author or to go back to a world before (I should probably even amend my Outlander review to include these thoughts!). So I hunted down an audiobook copy (because, damn, does Davina do a brilliant job with this audiobook!) and began.

Boy, was I surprised when the book opened with a third person point of view of a character we’d never seen before with Claire and her 20 year old daughter! I was asking my friends, who had read the books, “Am I reading the right one? What happened to Jaime and Claire?” They told me to hang in there, the book would get to them shortly. And they were right; after about three discs, the book went back to Jaime and Claire and the fun times began again.

Our characters return in all their brilliant glory. In fact, I may love them even more than in the first book, specifically Jaime, whom in Outlander I thought was a decent guy, but here, I really “fell in love” with him. Claire Frasier has got to be one of the best female characters I’ve read. She remains strong-willed, independent, but is still loving, caring, and kind. She doesn’t feel the need to act masculine, nor is she a wimp. With so many books (Breaking Dawn and Shatter Me both come to mind, as I have read both recently) focusing on women who need a man to swoop in a rescue them, it was so nice to see a positive female role model.

Jaime, as I said above, was deliciously charming. I loved his over-protectiveness, and yet he still gave Claire space and respected her, when it wasn’t uncommon for men of the time to treat their wives badly. Sure, there were times he crossed the line, but I think he, overall, was a good example of a man: strong, caring of his wife, but not dominating.

There were tons of other sidelong characters, from Jaime’s sister, Jenny, to Claire’s French friend, Louise, to the little boy that attends Jaime and Claire, Fergus. While I can’t remember all their names, and I often had trouble keeping them straight, they really brought life to the story. Fergus is so adorable; Louise, while “simple”, was a fairly good friend; the Mother from the hospital was another character I really liked. All of them were interesting and didn’t feel clichéd.

What I found remarkable about this book is how Jaime and Claire can be married and are even MORE interesting than when they are single. So many books/series/movies/TV shows base most of their plot on the “will they/won’t they?” but Diana Gabaldon proves that a book can survive without that old plotline. Jaime and Claire are an amazing couple; they have great chemistry, love each other unconditionally (even through a very challenging period, in which they hate each other and are apart for a while!), and work together as a team.

If there are any problems that I had with this installment, it would be with the plot. I didn’t like the opening in modern day; I didn’t like Brianna or Roger. Claire has always been grounded and realistic; she never whined about being ugly, but she never denied she was attractive. Brianna feels like a Mary Sue: she is gorgeous and lovely, intelligent and bewitching. Even given that these descriptions come from Roger’s point of view, it’s still too much. Roger himself is another boring character; he has none of the charm that Jaime has and feels more like a prop, something to hold up the plot.

Back to the plot itself: it was confusing for me (since I didn’t pay attention to the blurb) when I opened the book to be catapulted into “modern day” with a 40-something Claire and her 20 year old daughter. I kept wondering what happened and what I missed. Did I skip a book? If it hadn’t been for my friends, telling me that I was on the right path and would find out shortly, I might have given up reading this all together. The modern day story is boring, constructed only to make finding out what happened “in the past” more interesting and mysterious; only, I wish it had all been jettisoned. Outlander worked fine being all in the past; I’m not sure why the change was made (maybe the mystery thing as I said before?). Even finding out about Geelis at the end didn’t make the modern section any better (though, I did like learning more about her).

Once the plot returns to the 1740’s, it fares much better. It moves along quite nicely, for the most part. I was definitely happy to see the numerous conversations about Jaime’s beatings reduced, along with a few less sexy times (I think the amount here was PERFECT). However, there are parts where the story seems to grind to a halt or just doesn’t go anywhere; it also felt a little too much in places (all the traveling Claire and Jaime do, from Lallybroch to Edinburgh to the front lines, etc.).

Even with its faults, I still enjoyed myself as Davina took me through Scotland. The characters are brilliant, the setting told in amazingly careful detail, and the story was interesting and unique. I don’t know why, but I find myself liking Dragonfly in Amber even more than Outlander. I will definitely be hunting down an audiobook version of Voyager.