In July 1767, Jamie travels with Claire, Ian, Fergus, and Duncan, with the intention of getting Ian on a boat back to his parents. Upon arriving in Charleston, South Carolina they witness the hanging of Gavin Hayes, a former inmate of Ardsmuir Prison.
While tending to the burial of Hayes, the group finds they have a stowaway in their wagon. Stephen Bonnet, an escaped prisoner claiming to have a friendship with Hayes, barters his way into the help from the Frasers in getting away from Charleston and the authorities.
Once rid of Bonnet, the group continued overland to Wilmington, where Jamie and Claire dine with Governor Tryon in hopes of finding a buyer for one of their gemstones. However, Jamie finds that the Governor has a different kind of offer for him in the way of a land contract.
The group is set upon by pirates, including their erstwhile companion Stephen Bonnet, on the Cape Fear while en route to Jamie's aunt Jocasta Cameron's plantation, River Run; the pirates make off with the rest of the gemstones and Claire's gold wedding band. The whole situation leaves Jamie feeling at blame because it was he who chose to save Bonnet's life in Charleston.
Instead of arriving with any amount of money or belongings to call their own at Jamie had wanted, they arrive with nothing but the clothes on their backs. They are welcomed warmly just the same.
Jamie quickly realizes that his aunt has plans for him. With the death of her husband, Hector Cameron, she has been trying to run the plantation and keep off suitors that just want her land. And to keep them at bay she is more than willing to use Jamie to deter them.
An incident at the sawmill summons Jamie and Claire to assist. Later that same evening Jocasta goes through with hosting a dinner party in honor of Jamie & co's arrival. While reading for the event Ulysses makes Jamie aware that his aunt plans to announce over dinner that he shall be named her heir, something Jamie doesn't want. Jamie asks that Claire make a distraction if he gives the indication, even if it meant stabbing someone sitting next to her. Claire however ended up not having such a need at the sudden arrival of a very drunk, John Quincy Myers. Her public surgery on Myers serves as a well timed distraction to prevent Jocasta's announcement.
While discussing with Claire about Jocasta's plans and what they should do about it, Jamie mentioned he needed to go to the mill to fetch the now deceased foreman's belongings. Upon entering they find a woman at the mill, left to bleed to death from a botched abortion. Her last words were "Tell Sergeant". Final words that Jamie wanted to know more about. His checking into this bringing him to question Sergeant Murchison, a former guard of Ardsmuir Prison.
In August, Jamie and Claire travel with Ian and Myers to help the slave, Pollyanne, escape to the Indians. Jamie battles a bear while camping with Claire, eventually killing it, after which three Indians come upon them. This battle with the bear earning him the name "Bear Killer" among the Indians. Having decided to take the land contact from Tryon, Jamie shows Claire the land they will settle upon, noting the strawberries that grow there and the plant's connection to the Fraser family name.
In September, work on establishing shelter and winter provisions begins on the Ridge. Myers and Duncan Innes arrive with more provisions, and join in blessing the hearth of the new cabin. Jamie bids Duncan find as many Ardsmuir men as he can, and invite them to settle on the Ridge.
In October, Nacognaweto brings his grandmother, Nayawenne, along with his wife Gabrielle and her daughter Berthe, to meet the Frasers.
In December, Jamie throws out his back while away hunting and is found by Claire.