Book Review: Hearts of Oak by Eddie Robson

Title: Hearts of Oak
Author: Eddie Robson
Publisher: Tor
Publication date: March 17, 2020
Length: 272 pages
Genre: Science fiction
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley
Rating:

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The buildings grow.

And the city expands.

And the people of the land are starting to behave abnormally.

Or perhaps they’ve always behaved that way, and it’s normality that’s at fault.

And the king of the land confers with his best friend, who happens to be his closest advisor, who also happens to be a talking cat. But that’s all perfectly natural and not at all weird.

And when chief architect Iona wakes from a long period of blindly accepting the status quo, she realizes there’s a mystery to be solved. A strange, somewhat bizarre mystery, to be sure, but no less dangerous for its improbability.

And the cat is almost certainly involved!

How does a book featuring a king with a talking cat turn into science fiction?

I’m not telling!

But I will say this: Hearts of Oak is all sorts of awesome, and was exactly the sort of punchy, engaging read I needed this week.

The setting is weird and perplexing. We’re in a city where everything seems to be made of wood, and the entire focus of the city is building. Architects are practically rock stars, and the only city functions that seem to matter are building and planning.

And then there’s the king (and his cat Clarence), who observe the growth of the city from their window in the king’s tower, reading daily reports and signing off on plans, but really not doing much of anything else.

Everything seems to change when chief architect Iona is approached by a woman asking to be tutored in architecture. Something about Alyssa seems off, and her presence starts to bring forward words and images that Iona associates with her odd, recurring dreams.

And I’m not going to say what happens next! There are plenty of cool twists, and I actually laughed out loud over certain developments — like, OH, so THAT’s where this is going!

Seriously, this book just needs to be read! It’s great fun, full of surprises and really amazing and inventive elements, and I just could not put it down. I can see returning to Hearts of Oak and reading it again from time to time — it’s that good!

And a final great thing — it’s worth taking a closer look at the cover! I love the detail!

Audiobook Review: Becoming by Michelle Obama

Title: Becoming
Author: Michelle Obama
Narrator: Michelle Obama
Publisher: Crown
Publication date: November 13, 2018
Print length: 426 pages
Audio length: 19 hours, 3 minutes
Genre: Memoir
Source: Purchased
Rating:

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era. As First Lady of the United States of America—the first African American to serve in that role—she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history, while also establishing herself as a powerful advocate for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world, dramatically changing the ways that families pursue healthier and more active lives, and standing with her husband as he led America through some of its most harrowing moments. Along the way, she showed us a few dance moves, crushed Carpool Karaoke, and raised two down-to-earth daughters under an unforgiving media glare.

In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her—from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it—in her own words and on her own terms. Warm, wise, and revelatory, Becoming is the deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations—and whose story inspires us to do the same. 

I grew up with a disabled dad in a too-small house with not much money in a starting-to-fail neighborhood, and I also grew up surrounded by love and music in a diverse city in a country where an education can take you far. I had nothing or I had everything. It depends on which way you want to tell it.

Michelle Obama tells it all beautifully. In this powerful memoir, our former First Lady narrates her life with grace, dignity, and intelligence, from her childhood in the South Shore neighborhood of Chicago to her life in the White House. It’s quite a journey, and by listening to the audiobook, I was able to hear the author’s own voice, and it was amazing.

There’s so much to love about this book. Michelle Obama is plain spoken as she shares her love for her family, talking about her parents, brother, and extended family, their challenges and their optimism, their dedication to making sure that no doors would be closed to them.

I really didn’t know much about her background prior to reading Becoming, and found myself impressed over and over again while hearing about her early education, her determination, and her hard work, as well as her devotion to the friends she met along the way.

The early stages of her romance with Barack Obama are simply charming, and I appreciated her no-nonsense approach to their story, getting across their mutual love and respect while also giving a sense of their challenges and where they differ as people.

Hearing more about the campaign trail and life in the White House was also fascinating, and I couldn’t help but admire the Obama’s commitment to raising their daughters with as normal a life as possible despite living in the ultimate fishbowl.

Becoming is a wonderful book, a moving memoir and an inspiring depiction of what two people dedicated to improving the world around them can accomplish. It also made me a little sad, missing the grace and intellect that the Obamas brought to the presidency, and made me wish for a time when doing good would mean more than political power.

Highly, highly recommended — and the audiobook experience is a treat.

Shelf Control #209: Over Sea, Under Stone (The Dark Is Rising, #1) by Susan Cooper

Shelves final

Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

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Title: Over Sea, Under Stone (The Dark Is Rising, #1)
Author: Susan Cooper
Published: 1965
Length: 196 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

On holiday in Cornwall, the three Drew children discover an ancient map in the attic of the house that they are staying in. They know immediately that it is special. It is even more than that — the key to finding a grail, a source of power to fight the forces of evil known as the Dark. And in searching for it themselves, the Drews put their very lives in peril. This is the first volume of Susan Cooper’s brilliant and absorbing fantasy sequence known as The Dark Is Rising.

How and when I got it:

We’ve had a copy of this book in my house for at least 15 years or more!

Why I want to read it:

I was looking for something relatively happy and light for this week’s Shelf Control post (to contrast with how dismal and dark real life is these days…) — and while this doesn’t exactly scream sunshine and roses, it’s a classic children’s fantasy series, which sounds like lots of fun.

True confession time — I actually started this with my son about six years ago, and we quit after the first few chapters. Neither of us felt much interest at the time, but that may be because it just didn’t suit our mood or wasn’t a great pick to read aloud together. In any case, we put it aside, but I’ve always felt like I should go back to it and see it through.

What do you think? Would you read this book? 

Please share your thoughts!

__________________________________

Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments!
  • If you’d be so kind, I’d appreciate a link back from your own post.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

Top Ten Tuesday: Top ten books on my TBR list for spring 2020

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is about our spring reading plans. So many great books to look forward to! Here are ten I’m especially excited for:

1) The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix

2) Defy or Defend (Delightfully Deadly, #2) by Gail Carriger

3) The Book of Koli by M. R. Carey

4) Of Literature and Lattes by Katherine Reay

5) Devolution by Max Brooks

6) Beach Read by Emily Henry

7) 500 Miles From You by Jenny Colgan

8) The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner

9) Red Sky Over Hawaii by Sara Ackerman

10) The Jetsetters by Amanda Eyre Ward

What books will you be reading this spring? Share your links, and I’ll come check out your top 10!

The Monday Check-In ~ 3/16/2020

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

Life.

It’s hard to focus on reading and blogging when real-life feels like something out of a sci-fi novel. So while reading is always my favorite distraction, I was actually too distracted to do more than a bit of reading this week.

What did I read during the last week?

The Deep by Alma Katsu: I’d been so looking forward to this book… but unfortunately, just didn’t enjoy it very much. My review is here.

The Last List of Miss Judith Kratt by Andrea Bobotis: My book group’s pick for March — which I actually managed to finish before our discussion date! My review is here.

Pop culture — Outlander, season 5:

Hey, hey — go me! I actually watched Outlander early enough on Sunday that I was able to write up my reaction post the same day! So, here’s the latest:

Episode 505, “Perpetual Adoration” (3/15/2020) – here

And here are my posts for the earlier episodes:
Episode 504, “The Company We Keep” (aired 3/8/2020) – here.
Episode 503, “Free Will” (aired 3/1/2020) – here.
Episode 502, “Between Two Fires” (aired 2/23/2020) – here.
Episode 501, “The Fiery Cross” (aired 2/16/2020) – here.

Other TV watching:

I finished my Gilmore Girls binge! Whew. What a ride! And I have feelings about it all, which I’ll attempt to write up sometime this week. I’m going to take a little pause before watching A Year in the Life… I think I need to allow a little time to pass.

Fresh Catch:

No new books this week… unless you count the few new Kindle books I scooped up!

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

Hearts of Oak by Eddie Robson: Just started late Sunday — it sounds weird and wonderful, and I love the cover!

Now playing via audiobook:

Becoming by Michelle Obama: Excellent! I have just a few hours of listening left.

Ongoing reads:

The Space Between by Diana Gabaldon: The latest in Outlander Book Club’s group read-alongs. A very fun re-read.

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes: My book group’s newest classic read is now underway. We’re reading and discussing two chapters per week.

So many books, so little time…

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Insta-Reaction: Outlander, Season 5, Episode 5

Season 5 is here! I’ll be writing an “Insta-Reaction” post for each episode soon after viewing, to share some initial thoughts, questions, reactions — you name it.

Warning:

Spoilers

I may be talking about events from this episode, other episodes, and/or the book series… so if you’d rather not know, now’s your chance to walk away!

Outlander, episode 505: “Perpetual Adoration”

The official synopsis (via Starz):

Jamie and his militia arrive at Hillsborough to learn that Governor Tryon has proposed a rather unorthodox solution to deal with the threat posed by the Regulators and to resolve the growing political crisis.

My take:

Major plot points:

It’s Adso, y’all! Can we just ignore the rest of the episode and focus on this adorable ball of grey fur?

No?

Okay… here’s what happened in this episode:

  • We spend some time with Claire back in the 1960s, after Frank’s death but before her trip to England and Scotland when she discovered that Jamie had survived Culloden. She has an encounter with a patient that has had a huge impact on her.
  • In the main timeline of the show, Jamie and his militia ride into Hillsborough, only to discover that the governor is pardoning all the Regulators.
  • Lt. Knox learns about Jamie’s past and his connection to Murtagh… and Jamie straight up murders him!
  • Claire performs tonsil surgery on the Beardsley twins, after discovering that she’d finally made penicillin.
  • Bree and Roger have some trouble over Bonnet, but they work it out.
  • Jamie comes back to the Ridge WITH ADSO. So he and Claire can have the cutest reunion ever.

Insta-reaction:

Okay, I just need to say this.

JAMIE FRASER IS NOT A MURDERER.

Maybe the show thought it was adding intrigue and tension, but I do not for a minute believe that MY Jamie would have murdered Lt. Knox like that. He might have tried to get the papers from him, or mislead him, or do something sly to throw him off his track, but Jamie has too much honor to behave as he did in this episode.

Ugh.

Here’s where keeping Murtagh alive (instead of having him die at Culloden, as he did in the books) is starting to backfire. Once Murtagh showed up as the leader of the Regulators, I knew this could not be good for the story. Sure, it’s dramatic having godfather and godson on opposite sides, but it felt like a reinvention of Murtagh’s character to me, and is leading to Jamie acting in ways that Jamie never would. I’m more than annoyed by this turn of events. And then Jamie goes back to the Ridge and is all smiles and happiness when he sees Claire — no soul-searching or tormenting himself over the sin he just committed? This is not working for me. At all.

But other than that…

I pretty much liked Claire’s storylines in this episode — her ruminations on the nature of time, and how all things connect. How if she hadn’t encountered her Scottish patient, Graham Menzies, and then ended up taking a leave of absence after his death, her path would not have intersected with Roger’s, and she might never have made her way back to Jamie again. And the ripples go on from there — Bree and Roger wouldn’t have met, Bree might never have learned the truth about her father, and she and Jamie would never have had the opportunity to know one another and form a relationship.

Marsali is so full of win on this show. Her adorableness over the penicillin was superb. The surgery scene was gross but great, and I think Lizzie’s face was probably all of us at the moment when Kezzy was wide awake and Claire was cauterizing his throat.

Can we just ignore the whole Regulator storyline? Basically, the governor is going to pardon all the Regulators except Murtagh, who is public enemy #1 and must be caught and hanged for treason. Great. And then there’s the Ardsmuir business and the murdering business, and I just get mad again.

On the home front, Roger and Bree get cuddly, but later fight when he finds the gemstone Bonnet gave to Bree at the jail and learns that a) Bonnet is alive and b) Brianna told Bonnet that the baby she was carrying was his. And how dare she, when she’s never said as much to Roger? I think Roger was a bit of a jerk here, to be honest. He’s not the victim! Eventually, they make up, and Roger talks again about going back to their own time, once they figure out if Jemmy can time travel. Which is not a bad idea — because let’s be real, they’re really not safe where they are.

So yeah, I’ll stop talking about how pissed off I was by the end of the episode and just focus on what’s important, i.e., all the cuteness of Adso.

Insta-reaction wrap-up:

Why, show, why did you do this to Jamie? I don’t like what this might mean for the plot going forward, and I don’t believe that good, honorable Jamie would behave the way he did in this episode.

So, all the cuteness and Claire’s medical victory and the glimpses of the past/future are pretty much overshadowed for me by the murder.

Although I did really dig seeing mod 60s Dr. Claire again!

And three cheers for The Impetuous Pirate!

 

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Book Review: The Last List of Miss Judith Kratt by Andrea Bobotis

Title: The Last List of Miss Judith Kratt
Author: Andrea Bobotis
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Publication date: July 9, 2019
Length: 311 pages
Genre: Historical fiction
Source: Purchased
Rating:

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Some bury their secrets close to home. Others scatter them to the wind and hope they land somewhere far away.

Judith Kratt inherited all the Kratt family had to offer—the pie safe, the copper clock, the murder no one talks about. She knows it’s high time to make an inventory of her household and its valuables, but she finds that cataloging the family belongings—as well as their misfortunes—won’t contain her family’s secrets, not when her wayward sister suddenly returns, determined to expose skeletons the Kratts had hoped to take to their graves.

Interweaving the present with chilling flashbacks from one fateful evening in 1929, Judith pieces together the influence of her family on their small South Carolina cotton town, learning that the devastating effects of dark family secrets can last a lifetime and beyond. 

Miss Judith Kratt has lived in the imposing family home in Bound, South Carolina all her life. Now in her mid-70s, she lives contentedly with Olva — an African American woman who seems to be both servant and companion, the two women having spent their entire lives together. Judith has the idea to start an inventory of the house’s objects, all of which seem to hold a piece of the family history.

The Kratt family rose from nothing with Judith’s father, a bully of a man who strong-armed and cheated his way into a fortune in the cotton and mercantile business. He ruled his family and his town with an iron fist, inspiring fear and obedience whever he went.

In alternating chapters, we visit Judith’s memories of her teen years, going back to the fateful year of 1929 when her family’s fortunes changed dramatically.

Meanwhile, in the present of 1989, a local man and his six-year-old daughter take shelter in the Kratt home after being pursued by the grandson of Daddy Kratt’s former business partner. We see the cycles of hate and violence being carried through the generations, as the descendants of the grown-ups from Judith’s childhood still carry their forefathers’ handed-down grudges.

Judith seems odd and standoffish at first, but the more we learn about her childhood, the more her strange life starts to make sense. There are powerful family secrets buried in her and Olva’s pasts, and these secrets are still weighty enough to change lives all these years later.

As Judith makes her inventory, we come to understand the meaning of all the difference objects in her house, and how they relate to the family tragedy. It’s a clever and strangely moving approach to showing the weight of memories, and how those can add up to an entire life defined by the past.

The Last List of Miss Judith Kratt isn’t exactly what I expected, especially based on the book cover (which was what originally caught my eye). The image made me expect a work of historical fiction, maybe 1950s era or thereabouts, about Southern belles and their families. That’s not this book at all, though.

Instead, The Last List of Miss Judith Kratt is about a 15-year-old girl and the older woman she becomes, and the family secrets that shadow her entire life. This book is my book group’s pick for March, and I can wait to hear what everyone else thought and to pick apart the tangled web of secrets with them. Definitely a recommended read!

Book Review: The Deep by Alma Katsu

Title: The Deep
Author: Alma Katsu
Publisher: G. P. Putnam’s Sons
Publication date: March 10, 2020
Length: 432 pages
Genre: Horror/Historical fiction
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley
Rating:

⭐⭐⭐

Someone, or something, is haunting the Titanic.

This is the only way to explain the series of misfortunes that have plagued the passengers of the ship from the moment they set sail: mysterious disappearances, sudden deaths. Now suspended in an eerie, unsettling twilight zone during the four days of the liner’s illustrious maiden voyage, a number of the passengers – including millionaires Madeleine Astor and Benjamin Guggenheim, the maid Annie Hebbley and Mark Fletcher – are convinced that something sinister is going on . . . And then, as the world knows, disaster strikes.

Years later and the world is at war. And a survivor of that fateful night, Annie, is working as a nurse on the sixth voyage of the Titanic’s sister ship, the Britannic, now refitted as a hospital ship. Plagued by the demons of her doomed first and near fatal journey across the Atlantic, Annie comes across an unconscious soldier she recognises while doing her rounds. It is the young man Mark. And she is convinced that he did not – could not – have survived the sinking of the Titanic . . .

I had high hopes for The Deep, but sadly, I finished the book feeling underwhelmed after struggling throughout to stay engaged.

Partially, this may have been due to mistaken expectations. I expected a story about something coming from the deep to menace the Titanic and the people on board. I mean, based on the cover and the title, that’s reasonable, right? But that’s not really the story here, not exactly.

The Deep reads mostly like a fictionalized recounting of the Titanic’s doomed voyage. We meet the famous real-life first class passengers, including the Astors and Guggenheims, and see the luxury of their accommodations. At the same time, we’re introduced to the fictional Annie Hebbley, a stewardess working in the first -class cabins, as well as several other fictional passengers.

Much of the story is a straight-forward narrative of upper class and lower class, the gossip and intrigue that ensues by having so many people of privilege in this exclusive setting, and the below-stairs pressure on the ship’s serving crew. We don’t actually spend any time in steerage, coming closest in the presence of two boxers who charm the first-class passengers while running cons and planning for a new life in New York.

The supernatural elements creep in as weird things happen involving Annie, her strange connection to a couple and their baby, and some unexplainable interludes with a few of the top tier passengers.

The Titanic scenes alternate with scenes on board the Britannic four years later, where Annie works as a nurse to wounded soldiers, and which undergoes its own nautical tragedy.

Look, a novel about the Titanic has to hit certain beats. It needs to follow the historical events, present some of the real-life characters, and give a sense of the scope of the tragedy. The Deep is only partially successful here. The scenes amongst the first-class passengers focus on their petty interactions, but as a whole fail to really captivate or give a sense of the grandness of the sailing. And there’s more or less a complete disregard for the passengers in steerage. They’re referenced in passing, but we really don’t get any sense of their experience.

As far as the iceberg and the sinking, these are told through the eyes of the characters we’ve come to know, but again, the main events seem just like backdrop.

I ended up interested in the ghost-story twists revealed toward the end of the book, but that’s not enough to rescue what was mostly a struggle to stay interested. The supernatural elements are scattered throughout the story, but not strongly enough to create any sense of suspense or horror.

Perhaps the ghost story would have been better served by being set on an anonymous, fictional ship. You don’t need the Titanic for the story that was ultimately told, and that piece of the narrative just isn’t grand enough to have an impact on what we know of the true tragedy of the Titanic and its passengers.

I’ve read other works of fiction set on the Titanic which hew very closely to the real events and yet manage to bring us up front and center. The two that come to mind most strongly are Every Man For Himself by Beryl Bainbridge and The Midnight Watch by David Dyer. Both are excellent.

For me, The Deep was not a great reading experience. And it’s up to you whether you’d consider this a plus or a minus, but I’ve had images of Titanic (the movie) firmly embedded in my brain ever since starting the book. And obviously, Celine Dion’s soundtrack has been haunting me ever since…

Shelf Control #208: The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

Shelves final

Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

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Title: The Paying Guests
Author: Sarah Waters
Published: 2014
Length: 599 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

It is 1922, and London is tense. Ex-servicemen are disillusioned; the out-of-work and the hungry are demanding change. And in South London, in a genteel Camberwell villa—a large, silent house now bereft of brothers, husband, and even servants—life is about to be transformed, as impoverished widow Mrs. Wray and her spinster daughter, Frances, are obliged to take in lodgers.

With the arrival of Lilian and Leonard Barber, a modern young couple of the “clerk class,” the routines of the house will be shaken up in unexpected ways. Little do the Wrays know just how profoundly their new tenants will alter the course of Frances’s life—or, as passions mount and frustration gathers, how far-reaching, and how devastating, the disturbances will be.

Short-listed for the Man Booker Prize three times, Sarah Waters has earned a reputation as one of our greatest writers of historical fiction.

How and when I got it:

I bought a copy when it first came out.

Why I want to read it:

Fingersmith is one of my all-time favorite books, and while I haven’t loved other Sarah Waters books quite as much as I love that one, I think she’s an amazing writer. Fun fact: Way back when I started doing Shelf Control posts, a Sarah Waters book (Affinity) was the 4th book I featured! And before you ask — no, I haven’t read that one yet either. Sigh. In any case, I do want to read The Paying Guests — I really want to know what the disturbances are that the synopsis mentions! I guess I just haven’t yet found myself in the mood to start this book, despite reading several really good reviews.

What do you think? Would you read this book? 

Please share your thoughts!

__________________________________

Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments!
  • If you’d be so kind, I’d appreciate a link back from your own post.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

Insta-Reaction: Outlander, Season 5, Episode 4

Season 5 is here! I’ll be writing an “Insta-Reaction” post for each episode soon after viewing, to share some initial thoughts, questions, reactions — you name it.

Warning:

Spoilers

I may be talking about events from this episode, other episodes, and/or the book series… so if you’d rather not know, now’s your chance to walk away!

Outlander, episode 504: “The Company We Keep”

The official synopsis (via Starz):

Roger leads Jamie’s militia to the trading post of Brownsville and finds himself embroiled in a bitter feud. Jamie and Claire arrive to find that Roger’s unusual strategy may have cost them the loyalty of the militia.

My take:

Major plot points:

  • Roger leads the militia into Brownsville, kicking off a local feud.
  • Claire and Jamie consider what to do with Fanny Beardsley’s baby.
  • Roger has mixed results as a captain of the militia.
  • Brianna suspects that Bonnet is around, and is scared to death.
  • Jamie sends Claire back to the Ridge with the Beardsley twins to do some doctoring.

Insta-reaction:

Once again, I’ll keep things on the brief side.

This episode mainly takes place in the (dismal and depressing) town of Brownsville, founded and led by the Brown brothers, Richard and Lionel. We don’t know much about them at this point, but they don’t exactly come across like sunshine and roses. (And if you’ve read A Breath of Snow and Ashes, you’ll forgive me for feeling a deep hatred for them as soon as they appeared in this episode.)

Roger rides into Brownsville with the militia while Jamie and Claire are dealing with the Beardsley mess — and immediately starts getting shot at. One of the men in the militia, Isaiah Morton, has apparently “dishonored” Alicia Brown, and her father is having none of it. Because of their illicit relationship, Alicia Brown’s betrothal to a wealthy man has been called off, and the Brown family is not pleased. Roger makes peace by breaking open a cask of whisky and allowing Isaiah to be detained, which doesn’t sit well with all of the militia men, some of whom leave.

Jamie arrives to clean up Roger’s mistakes, berating Roger for not showing more loyalty to one of his men. He refers to Roger as “professor” rather than “captain”, which is a pretty serious Jamie burn. Poor Roger! But at least Roger gets in some good singing, so there’s that.

Meanwhile, Claire’s been caring for Fanny’s baby, Bonnie, but the baby obviously needs some mother’s milk. A local woman nurses the baby and takes a liking to her, and several of the women ask Claire if she’ll let them have the baby as their own and raise her. Later, drunk, Jamie asks Claire if she wants to keep the baby, since they never got to raise Bree together and he’d like to give Claire that opportunity if she wants it. She doesn’t, though — she loves her life with Jamie, and feels that the baby will be well treated in Brownsville, especially as she’s the heir to the Beardsley property.

There’s more drama around Isaiah and Alicia… the short version is that Claire and Jamie are suckers for a good love story, and eventually help them escape together, Jamie having created a diversion by setting the town horses free to gallop down the main (mud) road.

Roger is to travel back to the Ridge as Claire’s escort, along with Josiah and Kezzie, so she can take care of their infected tonsils. And after the surgery, she’ll rejoin Jamie and the militia once again.

Back at the Ridge, we get a few brief scenes with Brianna. After a trip to town, she finds a coin in Jemmy’s basket, and learns that an Irish gentleman placed it there. She fears that this means that Bonnet is around, and later has a small freak-out when she can’t find Jemmy. Marsali consoles Bree later and gets her to calm down and even smile again, but the show makes it clear that Bree’s fears are well-founded.

Insta-reaction wrap-up:

It’s not every day that we get to see Jamie Fraser perform a Highland fling! What fun.

This was a very cute scene, and Claire was so obviously smitten. These two. So adorable.

Overall, “The Company We Keep” was another well-done episode, but Brownsville gives me the creeps. I liked the little character moments for Roger, Fergus, Marsali, and Bree, and even seeing a little more of Mrs. Bug was nice. On the whole, I’m enjoying the time with the Fraser clan this season, but knowing what a lot of the action pieces will center on makes me a little apprehensive about where the season is going.

 

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