Trigger warnings for discussions of rape, and child abuse.
Dragonfly in Amber covers Claire and Jamie's attempt to stop Bonnie Prince Charlie from starting the Jacobite uprising because history tells us that it will end in slaughter for the Highlanders and the destruction of the clan system. The book begins in the 20th century, told fromthe point of view of Roger Wakefield, a historian who Claire visits to try and discover what happened to the fighting Highlanders that she interacted with in the past. Claire, now a doctor and widow of Frank Randall, is determined not only to find out what happened but to tell her daughter Brianna, who her true father is and the circumstances of her birth.
The moment Claire begins recounting her time in France, the POV changes to hers, which is a good thing because much of Roger's commentary obsesses alternately about the beauty and sexual attraction he has towards Brianna and of course, how strong and beautiful he finds Claire to be.
We know almost from the beginning that Claire and Jamie failed to stop the uprising and so essentially,Dragonfly in Amber is the story of their failed political intrigue. It makes it tedious at times to read because there is a strong sense of how the book is going to end. To enjoy this novel, as with the first, one must believe in the relationship between Jamie and Claire.
I wish I could call Claire a strong protagonist. I can clearly see the effort to make her strong with things like having her fight with Jamie over the right to work as a nurse at the hospital during her pregnancy, not content to sit around the house all day while he runs his cousin's shipping business. There is also her defiant attempt to stop Jamie from killing Johnathon Randall, though the man tortured him and raped him, in order to ensure the possibility of Frank Randall's birth. Having made her decision to stay with Jamie, Claire is unwilling to give up the possibility of her marriage to Frank.
Unfortunately, this is where Claire's strength ends. For the most part, she is pretty submissive with Jamie. At no point does she ever say no to sex, even when Jamie says things like wanting to use her. Am I supposed to find that romantic? And when Claire has sex with the king of France, in order to free Jamie from jail, his first thought isn't of the sacrifice she made for him, but a desire to kill her for allowing another man to touch his property.
“Christ!” he said, and sat up suddenly, turning to face me. “Do ye not know what I…Claire.” He closed his eyes briefly, and took a deep breath. “I rode all the way to Orvieto, seeing it; seeing his hands on the white of your skin, his lips on your neck, his—his cock—I saw it at the lever—I saw the damn filthy, stubby thing sliding up…God, Claire! I sat in prison thinking ye dead, and then I rode to Spain, wishing to Christ ye were!” (pg 467)
Does Claire become enraged by Jamie's over possessiveness? Does Claire tell Jamie to go to hell in no short order? Of course not. Claire begs Jamie to punish her for her so-called betrayal.
“I beat you once in justice, Sassenach, and ye threatened to disembowel me with my own dirk. Now you’ll ask me to whip ye wi’ nettles?” He shook his head slowly, wondering, and his hand reached as though by its own volition to cup my cheek. “Is my pride worth so much to you, then?”
“Yes! Yes, it bloody is!” I sat up myself, and grasped him by the shoulders, taking both of us by surprise as I kissed him hard and awkwardly.
I felt his first involuntary start, and then he pulled me to him, arm tight around my back, mouth answering mine. Then he had me pressed flat to the earth, his weight holding me immobile beneath him. His shoulders darkened the bright sky above, and his hands held my arms against my sides, keeping me prisoner.
“All right,” he whispered. His eyes bored into mine, daring me to close them, forcing me to hold his gaze. “All right. And ye wish it, I shall punish you.” He moved his hips against me in imperious command, and I felt my legs open for him, my gates thrown wide to welcome ravishment. (pg 478)
Both Jamie and Claire use the term "mine" to discuss the other but Jamie's possessive commentary is disturbing, given his beating of Claire in the last book and his threats of violence in this one. Are we really supposed to believe this is a love match. when Claire has to constantly remind Jamie of his promise not to beat her again and seems at times to outright fear him?