In 1968, Claire Randall brings her daughter Brianna to Scotland on holiday, and introduces her to the young historian Roger Wakefield, for whom Claire has a few research requests concerning the Jacobite Rising of 1745. Roger's curiosity grows as he begins to sense that Claire is hiding something from him and from her daughter, until finally she begins to tell her extraordinary story of finding herself transported two hundred years into the past. Claire recounts the time she spent with Jamie Fraser, the Scottish Highlander she married and fell in love with, their intrigues in Paris and Prince Charles' inner circle during the Rising, and their struggle to alter the disastrous course of history in Scotland.
Claire returns to Scotland with her twenty-year old daughter, Brianna, hoping to find out what happened to the men of Lallybroch after the battle of Culloden. After discovering Jamie Fraser's gravestone in an abandoned churchyard, Claire ends up breaking the news of Brianna's true paternity to her and Roger Wakefield. She begins to tell them the story of how she accidentally traveled more than two hundred years into the past to 1743, and the consequences of her decision to stay there for three years.
After Claire revealed her pregnancy, and as Jamie began the healing process in the Abbey, he left it up to Claire to decide where they should go – stay in France, go to Italy, even return to Scotland – knowing what they do about the coming Jacobite Rising. After learning that Charles Stuart has left Rome for France, possibly seeking the favor of his cousin, King Louis XV, they travel to Paris. There Jamie agrees to work for his cousin Jared, running the wine business in Jared's absence.
In his new position, Jamie is well-placed to cultivate relationships with several powerful players in Paris, inquiring after the level of interest in a potential Jacobite rising. Claire and Jamie quickly learn the delicate art of subterfuge, putting their skills to the test over dinner parties and balls at Versailles. Jamie also befriends Charles Stuart, even as he hires an orphaned pickpocket to intercept His Highness' correspondence, and uses the intelligence gained to thwart Charles' attempts to raise money for a rebellion. While Jamie is busy with Jared's business, Claire spends much of her time volunteering at L'Hôpital des Anges, a charity hospital headed by the redoubtable Mother Hildegarde, and befriending the strange, mysterious apothecary Master Raymond.
Even as they toe the line between loyalty and treason, the Frasers face additional, unanticipated threats: the Comte St. Germain, bent on revenge against Claire for a huge loss of profit; a would-be assassin that chases Jamie through the streets of Paris; masked rapists who desist at the sight of "La Dame Blanche"; and the startling appearance of Alexander Randall, whose resemblance to his older brother nearly sends Jamie over the edge.
Ultimately, it is the apparent resurrection of Jack Randall that presages tragedy. Despite promising Claire that he would spare Randall's life in order to save her twentieth-century husband, Frank Randall, Jamie challenges Randall to a duel in the Bois de Boulogne. Claire, who has been experiencing worrying symptoms during her sixth month of pregnancy, runs desperately after them, but arrives too late to stop the fight. While watching the duel, Claire collapses as the pain in her belly worsens, and experiences a miscarriage. She drifts in and out of consciousness until awakening in L'Hôpital des Anges, where she suffers from a life-threatening fever. The nuns believe she will not recover, but Master Raymond secretly enters Claire's room and helps her to step away from the abyss, and begin to heal – physically, at least.
Claire's friend, Louise de La Tour, whisks her away to Fontainebleau, where Claire lives ensconced in a protective numbness, unwilling to confront her grief. When Claire learns that Jamie has been sent to the Bastille for dueling, she briefly returns to Paris to seek the King's favor for Jamie's release – for if she does not, Jamie will fail to meet up with Murtagh during a crucial attempt to derail Charles Stuart's fundraising activities. After a bizarre meeting with the King, Master Raymond, and the Comte St. Germain, as well as a brief interlude in the King's bedchamber, Claire returns to Fontainebleau, intending to resume her aimless existence.
Three months after that fateful day in the Bois de Boulogne, Jamie finds Claire at Fontainebleau, and they reconcile themselves to their grief and to each other. With Jamie's pardon in Scotland secured, and orders from King Louis to leave France as a condition of Jamie's release from prison, the Frasers leave France to return to Lallybroch.
Scotland, 1745 and the RisingEdit
Once in Scotland, Claire and Jamie settle in to farm life at Lallybroch with Jenny, Ian, and their family. After a year of peace and healing, however, Jamie receives a letter from Charles Stuart announcing his attempt to retake the throne of Scotland. There is no escape, as Charles has had Jamie's name on the letter as one of his supporters. The Rising has begun.
Seeing no option but to fight for the Stuarts, Jamie gathers the men of Lallybroch to join the Stuart army. They fight and win at the Battle of Prestonpans, but the luck doesn't last for the Jacobites. Jamie continues to advise the Prince, often to little effect, as well as his uncle Colum MacKenzie, who must decide whether the MacKenzies of Leoch will support the rebellion. Before he can declare himself, however, Colum dies and leadership of the clan reverts to his brother, Dougal, who immediately brings men to join the army. Meanwhile, Claire meets with Jack Randall, who proposes to pass on intelligence about the governments forces, in exchange for Claire's caring for his sick brother, Alex.
Charles, believing that Jamie influenced Dougal's decision to pledge his support, sends Jamie to secure the support of his Fraser relatives as well. He and Claire travel to Beauly and meet Simon Fraser, Lord Lovat, Jamie's grandfather, whom he has never met. While there, Claire diagnoses the Old Fox with prostatitis, and the man uses this excuse to not lead his men himself to join the Prince's army; instead, he sends his son and heir, Simon Fraser, Master of Lovat, which leaves him an out if the rebellion goes sideways – he can insist that his son went without his knowledge, and he never intended to aid the rebellion.
The Frasers return to Lallybroch, but immediately receive news that the men of Lallybroch have been arrested for desertion. They return to Edinburgh so that Jamie can negotiate their release. It is not long before the Jacobites press on to Stirling.
In a skirmish before the Battle of Falkirk, Claire is taken hostage by the government forces, who ultimately bring her to the Duke of Sandringham. There, Claire learns that it was the Duke, not the Comte St. Germain, who had tried to have her and Jamie killed in Paris. While Jamie and his men work to rescue Claire, Hugh Munro, Jamie's friend, is caught by the Duke's men and executed right at his estate. In retaliation, Murtagh beheads the Duke and delivers his head to Munro's widow.
The Frasers return to Edinburgh to find that Alex Randall is on death's door, and they agree to see him. There is nothing Claire can do to help him, but he requests they stand as witnesses to the marriage of his lover, Mary Hawkins, to his brother, neither of whom have attention to spare for anything or anyone but Alex, as he dies. After Jamie leads Jack Randall back to his quarters, he and Claire go to their own lodgings.
On the eve of the disastrous Battle of Culloden, Jamie and Claire discuss whether they should kill the Prince in a last ditch effort to save the Highlanders. Dougal overhears them and tries to kill Claire, which ends in Jamie killing his uncle. Knowing he will be killed either by the British or the MacKenzies, Jamie takes Claire and heads for Craigh na Dun, where he insists she travel back to her own time, to spare her the battle's aftermath. She doesn't want to leave him, but Jamie tells Claire that he knows she is pregnant again, and she agrees to go, for the sake of their child. After sending her through the stones, Jamie returns to Culloden, intending to die.
After finishing her story, Claire explains that Frank had asked her where she had been during her absence – that she had told him, and he refused to believe her, thinking she was mentally unstable. Freshly bereaved, Claire had tried to make Frank leave her, but he insisted on staying, asking only that Claire allow him to be Brianna's only father during his lifetime. Though Roger is fascinated by the story, if not yet totally convinced it could be true, Brianna is infuriated by her mother's revelations and storms out in a rage. After a moving scene, Roger tells Claire that he believes her story, and he resolves to try to sway Brianna's mind on the matter.
Claire admits to Roger that telling Brianna about Jamie wasn't the only reason she had brought her daughter to Scotland – she was also seeking out an old acquaintance by the name of Gillian Edgars. She explains that Roger himself has a stake in whether or not Claire finds Gillian, and what might happen if they do.
After a harrowing experience at Craigh na Dun, Brianna becomes a believer, and Roger's faith in Claire is affirmed by their collective trauma on that mysterious hill. Returning to the manse, the group recuperates while a decision weighs on Roger's mind. Ultimately, he decides to tell Claire and Brianna his suspicions – that Jamie Fraser had survived the slaughter at Culloden.