Welcome to this week’s chapter of Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. Here, we look at what works in a bestselling story.
Chapter 23: Return to Leoch
Summary: Claire wakes with a start, realizing she never asked Jamie how his meeting went with Horrocks. Blearily rousing, Jamie tells her that Horrocks informed him that Randall was actually the one to kill the man Jamie is accused of murdering. Too, a message has come from Colum summoning Dougal back to Leoch. The Duke of Sandringham is coming to visit, and Dougal thought it might be beneficial for Jamie and Claire to come too, as Sandringham might be able to swing a pardon for Jamie.
But Sandringham is the man Randall works for.
When they reach Leoch, Jamie carries an exhausted Claire into the castle and creates quite a stir when he tells Mrs. Fitz and Colum that they’re now married. Colum is clearly not entirely pleased, but he reminds Jamie that there are things now due to Jamie as a result, including a portion of the MacKenzie rents.
Jamie takes Claire up to their new bedroom where she practically collapses in exhaustion, then he heads out again. It occurs to Claire that he might be going to the girl who he’d previously kissed before they left Leoch, the girl who was quite shocked that Jamie came back wed. In short order, Claire works herself into quite a fit, upset over Jamie, thinking he just married her to get the rent money, thinking he might now be making nice with the other girl, realizing that she’ll be deeply upset if she ever gets back to her own time and has to leave Jamie, realizing too that she can no longer remember Frank’s face.
Jamie returns later looking happy, and this upsets her further. She alludes to the other girl and tells Jamie that, as she has no claim on him he can take his pleasure where he likes. Jamie loses his temper at her and hauls her off to the bed to take his pleasure where he likes. Claire fights him and accuses him of being as bad as Randall. Jamie releases her and tells her that if she really believes that, she can leave and he won’t stop her.
She stares at him, realizing he means it, then chooses to stay. The tension diffuses a little, and Jamie asks the meaning of some of the words she’s hurled at him. Too, she confesses what actually most upset her, that he married her just to get money. He laughs hysterically at this, then confesses that his share of the rents barely amounts to the cost of half a cow in a whole year. But with it, he’s bought her a wedding ring. She’s touched to tears and agrees to wear it, and with that and their following lovemaking, she becomes even more entangled than before.
Writer Comments: There are two primary things I want to point out in this chapter. First, the reference to Sandringham. Gabaldon drops the name only a few times so far in the book, before Claire goes back in time and later while she’s in Randall’s office. However, Gabaldon reminds her readers of Sandringham during the scene between Claire and Randall, undoubtedly in part to prepare the events that are coming. When a character or event is important later in the story and is only mentioned at the beginning, it helps to remind readers of it shortly before its appearance.
Second, the issue of who Claire’s heart sides with is a crucial one in this chapter. She accepts Jamie’s ring, is jealous over another woman, wants Jamie to want her, and allows herself to be taken in, met soul to soul, with Jamie in a way that deepens their relationship significantly and, I would venture, takes her to realms she never reached with Frank. This is crucial because the story is in part about a war within herself between two world and two men. Gabaldon must raise the steaks to make this conflict increasingly compelling. By drawing Claire more deeply in emotionally, she raises the stakes.