I am unequal to the task of summarizing over 9,000 pages of conflict into a concise paragraph to set up where The Scottish Prisoner fits in the whole of Gabaldon's massive canon of delicious tomes.
Let's just say: 1) read the Outlander series; and 2) the events in this latest Gabaldon take place during a gap in Voyager, and is in itself a continuation of Lord John Grey's story. This book has the exquisite double-whammy of featuring both Lord John and our favorite Highland warrior, the strapping Jamie Fraser (the Scottish prisoner of the title), who currently is serving his sentence as a traitor to the Crown as a groom at the estate of friends of Lord John.
The last we saw Lord John and Jamie together (in the sequence in which this story fits) was in an uncomfortable scene in a stable in which an angry declaration of desire was made, a punch was thrown, a well-formed nose narrowly avoided smashing, and readers blushed in libraries and living rooms across the world. That is: Lord John declared and defended his passion for the decidedly non-reciprocating Jamie Fraser, who threw a punch that would have crushed Lord John's handsome face had he not wisely checked himself at the last second, and RachelKiwi blushed on her love-seat.
Now, Lord John, who spends his life spying, soldiering, solving mysteries, and pining over Jamie Fraser, has again found himself embroiled in a criminal investigation. His current case will undoubtedly result in the court-martial of a high-ranking military man, but on closer investigation, the case seems entwined with a Jacobite conspiracy. This is where our (and Lord John's) favorite Jacobite comes in. Jamie is summoned to translate a Gaelic poem that may have an encoded message about another imminent Rising, with the goal of reclaiming the English throne for the Catholic Stuarts. Jamie and Lord John must forge an uneasy alliance--each with his own motivation--to untangle the web of murder, politics, and espionage.
Lord John and Jamie--though in effect master and slave, conquerer and conquered--once had a cautious friendship founded on mutual respect, which was ruined by John's passionate avowal of love for Jamie. (This must prove, once-and-for-all, that Jamie is indeed irresistible.) In The Scottish Prisoner, what has been sundered is tentatively repaired, leading Jamie and Lord John back to a fragile friendship.
Readers of the Outlander series will remember that Lord John raises Jamie's illegitimate son, William. The sacrifice, trust, and heartache of this situation make the eventual deep friendship between Jamie and Lord John one of the most moving relationships of the series. Despite the obvious difference in orientation, they are remarkably alike. Both were born to be lords, though Jamie's lordship was taken from him after the English conquest of the Highlands. They are military men with great courage and leadership qualities. And both men are fiercely loyal and honorable. A promise is a promise. And when Jamie entrusts his only (known) living child into his friend's keeping, he knows that William will know the love of a good man. Happily, The Scottish Prisoner explores the flowering of that friendship in its infancy--finally, they can embrace friendship as equals. TSP answers some of the tantalizing how? why? and when? questions that readers may wonder over after Voyager.
The Lord John books feature His Lordship in swashbuckling adventures, solving mysteries, and wielding swords in battle. Great adventure reading, to be sure, but what was particularly glorious about The Scottish Prisoner was being transported again into the muscled arms of Jamie Fraser. Um, I mean into the intricate and interesting world Gabaldon has created and populated with such unforgettable and lovable characters.
Grade: 4/5 stars. This was a great fix to fuel my Gabaldon addiction until the publication of Written in My Own Heart's Blood.