Diana Gabaldon never fails. This novella (.5 in the Outlander series) covers a small snippet of time where we meet Jamie Fraser and Ian Murray at around 20 years old. The story picks up right after Jamie received his 100 lashes from Captain Randall and he learned his father had died. Jamie is suffering from the injuries sustained by the flogging; his back is still raw, bleeding, and infected, and he is feverish.
He has just been ushered out of Scotland for his own safety by his godfather, Murtagh, who told him to stick with Ian and stay away from his home at Lallybroch, at least for the time being. Now he has joined Ian in France and the two of them are serving as mercenary soldiers.
They are hired as part of a group of mercenaries to transport a bride, along with her dowry, to her waiting groom. The bride, however, turns out to be full of mischief which sends them on a merry chase.
We see these two in their youth, with their novice skills at soldiering and their curiosity about women. We learn the story behind the secrets these two keep from Jamie’s sister, Jenny, later on in the series; why Jamie has such an aversion to using opium to dull pain; and also the sense of honor and duty to protect the weak that is so strongly instilled in Jamie in later books.
There are also touching moments where we see the loyalty and love between these two, starting from when they were five years old and Ian was first instructed in his duty to always stand on Jamie’s right, since Jamie held his sword in his left hand, leaving his right side unprotected. At one point as they are leaving a church after lighting a candle and praying for those lost to them, they share this exchange:
“Did you not mean to go to confession yourself?” Jamie asked, stopping near the church’s main door. …”It’ll bide,” Ian said, with a shrug. “If ye’re goin’ to Hell, I might as well go too. God knows, ye’ll never manage alone.”
Gabaldon’s use of novellas for her Outlander series is so well done. She uses them in such a clever way to answer questions we have in the big books. This is a great addition to the series.
Virgins by Diana Gabaldon
.5 in Outlander series