Years may have passed between the close of Outlander and the open of Dragonfly in Amber, but there's no such gap here (well, aside from that approximately two hundred year gap that separates the "modern" storyline and the historical one). We pick up both stories right where we left them -- that is, in 1968 and 1746, respectively. In 1746, Jamie Fraser had just killed his uncle and knew that between having to answer for such an act and the approaching battle of Culloden, there was no way he would survive to protect his wife and their unborn child. So he pushed Claire though the stones at Craigh na Dun so she might find safety in her own time (which is to say, 1948), and she believed that he met his death shortly thereafter. She returned, gave birth to a daughter named Brianna, and remained married to Frank Randall, despite some obvious issues on both sides. He refused to leave a woman in her condition and ultimately stayed because he loved Bree. When Claire returned to Scotland in 1968, she was intent on telling Brianna about her real father, which all came tumbling out to both Bree and their friend, Roger Wakefield. Roger then found evidence to suggest that Jamie survived. Thus ended book two. Book three opens with Jamie, alive despite all the odds, and Claire shocked to the core by Roger's news. She had been in her own time for twenty years. If Jamie also survived twenty years beyond Culloden, then there's the possibility that Claire might be able to go back through the stones to continue her life with him, albeit with twenty years of time passing. But really, when you're talking about your lover who exists 198 years in the past, what's two decades?
So Claire must decide if she can leave the modern world and her daughter to return to eighteenth century Scotland and the greatest love she's ever known. With Bree's blessing, no one should be surprised that Claire takes the chance and does go back to find Jamie. Of course, twenty years is a considerable amount of time to have passed, with both living their lives as though they'd never see the other again. Claire has time to prepare for their reunion, but Jamie is shocked when she suddenly appears. He's desperately in love with her still, of course (it is a romance, after all), but much has changed in Jamie's life, too. It won't be easy for Claire to simply come back from the dead and it will be a heck of a thing to explain to everyone else in Jamie's family.
I won't go into too much detail on that, but suffice to say that there are an abundant amount of complications as Claire learns more about Jamie's life since Culloden. (It's kind of a shame, I think, that Claire's advanced to become a real doctor in her modern time, raised a child, and done any number of things, but naturally it's not quite so adventurous and story-worthy as Jamie's existence. Is it because we don't see the modern age as being dramatic? Because we're more aligned with Claire and therefore more concerned about Jamie's existence? Or because it's historical fiction and the readers and author are more concerned with time as it was as opposed to time now?) The book does go beyond the implications of her return (though they are substantial) and believe it or not, Claire & Jamie eventually strike out for the New World, chasing young Ian (son of Jenny and Ian Murray) after he's kidnapped by pirates. (The clue that this was coming rested in Claire's modern life and a scene featuring a bodice-ripping romance novel with a pirate theme.) Of course, Claire's seen Jamie's gravestone in Scotland, so she believes that they must eventually make it back, but for now it's high seas adventure and discovery of Caribbean islands.
A few points, now that I've read about three thousand pages worth of this Claire/Jamie romance. I feel like I can make bigger comments about the series as opposed to just the books on their own. During the first book, Jamie joked with Claire that he was tired of men trying to rape her and make him watch. During this book, I kind of got tired of every homosexual man trying to have sex with Jamie. I mean seriously, every single one?? The man might be handsome, sure, but enough is enough. At least in this one we get a fellow who isn't depraved like Jonathan "Black Jack" Randall. Speaking of Jonathan, I was a little surprised how he gets so easily dismissed at the beginning, a victim of Culloden and that's that? He was positively evil in the first book and then in the second, Jamie somehow manages to refrain from killing him... and even seems to be sympathetic when Alexander Randall dies and Jonathan goes to pieces. Perhaps this is more an issue that I have with the second book, but I at least hoped for some comeuppance in this one. There's also this issue I have with Claire and Jamie always being able to find each other to the point where even Gabaldon seemed to move quickly through a reunion after Claire is kidnapped and then escapes and finds her way across Caribbean islands to pop up at Jamie's back. Ah well. It's things like this that make me realize there's a charm some writers can cast once they've made it through a significant number of books about characters -- their fans are already sold on everything and as long as you still maintain a decent degree of quality, they'll probably keep reading. Still, I hope we don't see a decline in future books to where she takes this for granted. It doesn't feel as through she would, but even so.
An amusing (albeit easy) thing that Gabaldon does in this book that I haven't much seen before is her having a sense of humor and making a few self-referential jokes. Both Claire and Jamie read some romance novels with some steamy scenes that go far beyond anything Gabaldon does (which is why her books can still claim space in fiction as opposed to romance). There's also a joke about epic novels and how one can manage to read all those pages, and then a further joke about how life holds adventures enough to fill the pages of a novel (or in this case, the pages of seven novels and counting). It's nice to know that Gabaldon clearly has a sense of humor about her enormous novels -- and her fans will probably be delighted to feel in on the joke.
I must confess a sense of dismay at leaving Scotland and striking out for the New World. Even if we do make it back, I'll miss it as the primary setting for the story. I suppose she needs new locations to keep something fresh, though -- it's enough that we know all books will deal with Claire and Jamie, but it must be difficult to come up with continued storylines to keep everyone interested... particularly when we tossed aside twenty years in book two. Clearly, I'm in it for good, now, and I continue to recommend Gabaldon as a writer for those looking to really toss themselves into an epic storyline with quite enjoyable characters who, no matter how ridiculous the adventure might seem, you're always pleased to see them weather any storm.