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  • Nicole Hill 4:00 pm on 2017/11/20 Permalink
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    Outlander Season 3 Episode 10 Recap: Heaven and Earth 

    As you’ll recall, at the end of last week’s episode, Claire was in the middle of being commandeered by a ship full of authoritative teenagers. Her services will be used to treat the rampant typhoid fever aboard that vessel.

    But try selling that noble purpose to Jamie, furious aboard his own ship, at the sight of his wife sailing away. He nearly comes to blows with Captain Raines before being shoved below decks to fume. Though at least on his ship, below decks isn’t covered in puke, pus, and fecal matter.

    Claire is making do on her hell barge, instructing all the crew members who aren’t dead on proper sterilization techniques. Naturally, there’s a fair number of men chafing at taking orders from a woman—particularly when she starts distilling the ship’s rum for disinfecting alcohol.

    The men, she’s informed, won’t like that one bit. Never one to hold her tongue, Claire responds with (perfectly reasonable) sass: “Would they prefer to die?”

    She meets more resistance when her sleuthing leads to the presumed source of the disease: an infected galley hand. One way to anger a beleaguered cook? Accuse him of spreading plague. I think that was the plot of Ratatouille. I don’t really remember.

    Jamie is not faring so well either, locked up without Mr. Willoughby’s acupuncture treatments and without Claire’s minimally effective ginger tea. Between heaves, he tries to persuade Fergus to spring him, so they can mutiny and take the ship. (This seems like a poor repayment of Cousin Jared’s favor, I’ll grant you, but Jamie’s not thinking clearly.) He ends up alienating Fergus instead.

    As a brief aside: if there is one bright spot in this episode, it is the fact that Jamie and Claire both have stumbled upon some of the fiercest hats they’ve had since France.

    But back to the rampant misery. Have I mentioned that this ship is called the Porpoise? I’m not sure if that lessens the blow of the epidemic or makes it more whimsically tragic. Claire prefers to compartmentalize. “If you let yourself be affected by every death, you’ll never save a life,” Claire explains to her young officer friend, Elias Pound.

    This is moments before her patience reaches its breaking point, upon the discovery that the ship’s gunner has poisoned himself on her alcohol disinfectant. (His wife, meanwhile, stands horrified near the goats she oversees.) Nearby, Claire discovers a Portuguese flag, which sends her upstairs to peer through the captain’s logs. Fortunately or unfortunately, the flag did not come from the ship that took young Ian. But there’s something else in the logs: someone on board recognized Jamie, which is as dangerous as any disease.

    Claire’s got a lot on her plate, and it’s worthwhile to remember that no small part of this is Laoghaire’s fault. (Her alimony spurred Jamie’s bizarre treasure hunt, which resulted in young Ian’s capture.) So, it’s still kind of annoying to watch her daughter’s romance with Fergus, who’s so uncomfortable with everything about his situation that he squirms at Marsali’s sexual advances. He vowed to Jamie he wouldn’t bed Marsali until they’re properly wed, after all. Not to mention, he’s preoccupied with spying on the captain and his officers and all the hot and unflattering ship gossip.

    Claire’s on her own quest to find Harry Tompkins, the man who ID’ed Jamie. Do you know who Harry Tompkins is? He’s the fiend who fought with young Ian and started the fire in Jamie’s print shop. Harry Tompkins has a lot to say on the matter of Jamie’s misdeeds—it turns out Sir Percival’s men found the body of Claire’s attacker in the cask of crème de menthe.

    Proving she’s learned a few tricks in her many adventures, Claire has the scoundrel thrown in the brig on charges he’s the second source of the outbreak. Hallelujah, she’s playing dirty!

    She’s still worried, however, about what awaits Jamie when they reach Jamaica. That niggling fear dampens her enthusiasm about the apparent end of the typhoid outbreak—that and the death of young Elias, her cherubic helpmate. RIP, Elias, he did not know the show he signed up for.

    Things look up, however, when Claire finds a scheming partner in the aforementioned gunner’s wife, Annekje Johansen. Nearly out of drinking water, the ship stops when they find land. Annekje tells Claire her “goats need grass,” which is code for, “You can escape when we let the goats out to roam.”

    The plan is thwarted, however, by the obnoxious young Captain Leonard, who catches Claire cresting a hill. He knows the information she found in his logbook and he refuses to let her run off to warn her husband. (This kind of thing is why the British lost the empire, young man.)

    Fergus and Marsali have secured Jamie’s release. They’ve gotten the captain to agree to free Jamie in exchange for his word not to mutiny. Sure, it’s a bit of a deus ex machina, but it redeems Marsali and forces Jamie to give the pair his blessing, resolving that source of tension. Let’s roll with it.

    Meanwhile, Annekje has tried again to secure Claire’s release—albeit in a more dramatic fashion. She helps Claire fashion a makeshift raft and persuades her to jump overboard as another island appears on the horizon.

    Where this waterlogged Sassenach winds up, we’ll find out next week. All we know is that she did not grab her tremendous hat before she took the plunge, which is a loss in and of itself.

    The post Outlander Season 3 Episode 10 Recap: Heaven and Earth appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Nicole Hill 3:00 pm on 2017/11/13 Permalink
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    Outlander Season 3 Episode 9 Recap: The Doldrums 

    There have been a number of search-and-rescue missions throughout Outlander’s three seasons. Rarely, though, has the target in need of rescuing not been Claire or Jamie.

    In “The Doldrums,” the two have a chance to work together in their quest to retrieve young Ian, with whom pirates absconded at the end of last week’s tumultuous episode. Last week’s relationship issues seem to have been resolved, at least temporarily, by the crisis at hand.

    Cousin Jared has secured passage aboard a fine vessel. Jamie is wearing a verrah fine tricornered hat. And they think they know where the ship that took Ian was headed. Strap on your finest trusses and gird your aching loins: we’re going to Jamaica.

    One note before we set sail: Jenny and Ian still think Claire and Jamie 1) have their son and 2) are on their way to France. Jamie claims he’s sent them a letter to explain everything, but I have my doubts this will assuage Jenny’s fury.

    Meanwhile, Jamie is quickly beset by ferocious seasickness, an ailment not helped by an extra surprise. Young Fergus has brought another passenger along for the voyage: Laoghaire’s spirited eldest daughter, Marsali. The two are young and in love. Additionally, Marsali is determined to stay with Fergus because someone must be around to insult Claire endlessly. Laoghaire’s going to haunt Jamie like an attic wife clinging to Mr. Rochester.

    For what it’s worth, Fergus’ puppy-love pleadings are pretty adorable, even if Jamie’s too nauseated to appreciate them. All Fergus wants is Jamie’s blessing to marry Marsali, a desire not easily satisfied, and not just because Jamie can’t stop puking.

    The captain of this vessel takes Jamie’s infirmities as an opportunity to mansplain the sea to Claire—because, again, it’s been too long since the last time a man was infuriating at her. He tells her she must respect the crew’s superstitions. Plus, it could be worse: he hasn’t forced her to go topless. After all, it’s common knowledge a woman’s bare breasts calm an angry sea. This seems a convenient superstition that exists on boats full of lonely men riddled with scurvy, but who am I to question the wisdom of generations of boats full of lonely men riddled with scurvy?

    As a non-sequitur, Mr. Willoughby is apparently also on this boat and stops by Jamie’s quarters to suggest cutting off his testicles to cure his seasickness. (Mercifully, he actually treats Jamie with acupuncture.)

    “It reminded me of a simpler time,” Claire says of her days and weeks tending wounds and making medicine. And there is plenty of time to do both. In the middle of its journey, the ship “loses the wind.” Becalmed for weeks, Claire and Jamie enjoy snuggly time under the stars, but the crew soon grows jittery.

    Their solution: throw someone overboard. The preferred target of this rage is one of the good-hearted dinguses Jamie brought with him. Jamie goes full Errol Flynn as he tries to prevent his pal, Hayes, from throwing himself from the mainsail. He’s successful, but he’s unable to calm the crew. That honor falls to Mr. Willoughby, who holds everyone’s attention with the impassioned spoken-word poetry of his life. At the end of his recitation, he throws the pages of this story into the wind—and suddenly, there is, in fact, wind.

    Lest you roll your eyes, Mr. Willoughby quickly reveals why his performance worked. He noticed a bird just off the ship’s bow, and its flight pattern indicated a storm was brewing. He knew the wind was coming, but he gave the men aboard the mystical confirmation they needed.

    With the wind gusting and the rain falling, Claire and Jamie sneak belowdecks for the first bit of love-making of this episode. The afterglow is so sweet, we’ll ignore the fact that there were most assuredly drowned rats in the same place earlier.

    Of course, things can’t continue going right for too long. They never do. A British vessel pulls up alongside their ship. The (roughly) 12-year-old captain boards and begs for a surgeon. He says there’s been an outbreak of “the plague” and they need medical attention and supplies. After documenting the symptoms, Claire’s able to diagnose the disease instead as typhoid fever, an illness for which she’s been inoculated.

    Claire agrees to help the ship treat and contain the outbreak, a move that turns out to be a humanitarian mistake. The young captain kidnaps Claire to keep her on board and hopefully mitigate the death toll. At the least, however, he promises to deliver her to Jamie when both ships arrive in Jamaica.

    The hospitality never ends in this show, I tell you. It never ends.

    The post Outlander Season 3 Episode 9 Recap: The Doldrums appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Nicole Hill 4:00 pm on 2017/11/06 Permalink
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    Outlander Season 3 Episode 8 Recap: First Wife 

    There’s no reason to beat around the bush: “First Wife” is a frustrating hour of television. It’s frustrating for a number of reasons, not least of which is the Rock of Gibraltar that is Jenny Fraser’s heart.

    Part of Jenny’s charm has always been her toughness, and she’s a real tough act to please in this episode. Not only has Jamie returned her runaway son (after harboring him behind her back), but he’s brought with him a “stray” in Claire.

    Jenny’s got little patience for this stranger she used to know, keeping Claire at a distance. It’s a reasonable reaction to a woman who’s dropped in and out of her life, nearly at random and often with a prophecy about potatoes. When Claire tries to explain herself, she’s dismissed.

    “Oh, well, maybe we should all gather round the fire if there’s a tall tale to tell,” Jenny says with a bite so harsh Claire might as well be a haggis platter.

    Jenny’s equally dismissive of Jamie’s explanation for Claire’s absence after Culloden—which he’s apparently making up on the spot. “The Claire I ken never would have stopped looking for you,” she tells him.

    The only positive outcome of this initial family reunion is that Jamie manages to save young Ian from a thrashing. Instead, he has the boy’s parents assign to him a more unpleasant task: muck-kneading, by the looks of it. (I don’t know, man. I guess it’s a thing.)

    Home Sweet Hell
    Has there ever been a time in Claire’s recent history where she hasn’t felt like a fish out of water? Now’s surely not it. She confides in Jamie later that night about her fraught encounters with his sister, once her bosom buddy.

    The two then spend an intimate evening reminiscing about the last miserable 20 years, which is all well and good and heart-warming until it leads to a long-overdue admission—and an unexpected guest. Gird your loins, dear viewer: it’s the return of Laoghaire.

    Jamie’s mysterious other wife, the one that he was just working up the nerve to tell Claire about, is Laoghaire, the ghost you least wanted to see from Season 1. The only thing that could make this worse is Dougal MacKenzie lurking behind that door.

    As we find out after the fireworks are over, Jenny dispatched her daughter to bring Laoghaire and her daughters to Lallybroch. Hell hath no fury like a sister kept in the dark. Claire, of course, has a meltdown upon 1) seeing the woman who framed her as a witch and 2) learning of Jamie’s dirty little secret. Her wrath is lessened by less than a percentile when Jamie explains the little red-haired girls are purely Laoghaire productions.

    “Well, there are other red-headed men in Scotland, Claire,” he explains, before digging himself further into the hole. “You’re the one who told me to be kind to the lass.”

    Claire reminds her husband that being kind to a young woman is a long way from marrying her. The arguing continues, though, eventually, it leads to a hate-fueled makeout session, doused only by a bucket of water from Jenny, annoyed at their “fighting and rutting like wild beasts.”

    Everyone’s angry with everyone, and, as usual, Ian is the only pillar of level-headedness around. He chides his wife for denying her own brother a modicum of happiness. To her credit, when has anyone ever allowed Jamie a modicum of happiness?

    Shots Fired
    Speaking of misery, Laoghaire comes ‘round again the next morning, presumably to kill Claire. Instead, she accidentally shoots Jamie. With her brother bleeding on her dining room table, Jenny seems genuinely shaken for the first time this episode—perhaps regretting her own efforts to stir the pot of passions last night.

    Meanwhile, Claire’s forced to play surgeon, which distracts her from her own anger for just a bit. Really, Claire sewing up an incapacitated Jamie is these two at their best.

    Once he rouses, Jamie tells the story of how Laoghaire became yet another Mrs. Fraser. This involves an extended Christmas Carol-esque flashback with dancing, figs, and joyous Scots. It seems Laoghaire’s two darling girls sweetened the pot; Jamie longed for a chance finally to be the father he’d never been.

    But it was not to be. In a brief moment of sympathy, we learn that one of Laoghaire’s first two husbands abused her. As Jamie says, she was afraid of his touch. So, he struck off to Edinburgh to live apart and all was quiet—until, of course, the Sassenach came back through those stones.

    Ned Gowan, a much more charming callback to Season 1, pops by Lallybroch to go over the legal matters of Jamie’s matrimonial dilemma. Laoghaire can only be satisfied with a substantial amount of alimony—or Jamie’s castration, whichever’s easier.

    A Plan to Forget
    Forgoing Option No. 2, Jamie concocts a preposterous plan to raise the sum she demands, and it reads more like a road trip of Claire and Jamie’s greatest hits than an actual scheme. They’ll go to Selkie Island, where Jamie found the box of jewels after his escape from Ardsmuir. (Young Ian will do the swimming, though, no one explains why he can’t just take a rowboat.) From there, they’ll take the jewels to France, to Cousin Jared to trade for usable currency. Flawlessly imagined as usual. Somehow, though, Jenny and Ian acquiesce to this plan, having finally forged a peace with Claire, the ghost of their past, and Jamie, the maker of many bad decisions.

    As we watch young Ian start his swim to the island—again, not sure how he’s going to swim back with the jewels—Claire and Jamie have one of their trademarked relationship talks.

    “I’m just not sure if we belong together anymore,” Claire admits. She has some fine points: both she and Jamie had functional lives in their respective timelines, though Claire seems to forget the substantial amount of prison time it took for Jamie to find that life. (Also, marriage to Laoghaire stretches the definition of “functional.”)

    “When has it ever been easy?” Jamie quietly tells her. Also, a valid point.

    Claire doesn’t have much time for a rebuttal because, to the surprise of literally no one, Jamie’s expertly improvised plan falls apart. A rogue ship pulls up beside the island. Jewels in hand, young Ian is nabbed by unknown ruffians, dragged to their rowboat (!), and taken aboard their ship.

    Yes, on his first parentally approved field trip with his nephew, Jamie’s lost his charge to pirates. Really puts Brianna’s bikini pics into perspective, doesn’t it?

    The post Outlander Season 3 Episode 8 Recap: First Wife appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Tara Sonin 4:00 pm on 2017/11/03 Permalink
    Tags: ashes in the wind, belgravia, , , epic stories, , john galsworthy, julian fellowes, , , , page to screen, penmarric, , sara donati, , susan howatch, the forsyte saga, the pillars of the earth,   

    8 Books Perfect for Poldark Fans 

    Waves crashing against the rocks, linen skirts blowing in the wind, furtive glances in candlelight, and secrets hidden in the mines are just some of the images that come to mind when thinking of fan-favorite historical drama, Poldark. The story of a soldier returning home to his mining village after defeat in the Revolutionary war only to find that the love of his life has become engaged to someone else, the romantic tension in Poldark is riveting, as over the past three seasons we’ve watched our favorite love triangle—Ross, Demelza, and Elizabeth (and our favorite villain, George)—tangle for the upper hand, and for one another’s hearts. The Season 3 DVD is available soon (check out the trailer below!) and here are eight romances you can read while you wait to binge watch!

    Devil in Winter, by Lisa Kleypas
    Just like Poldark’s Elizabeth and Francis’ marriage is one founded on convenience—to keep money and property in the family, when they assumed Ross was dead—so must Evangeline find a way to secure her future, only this time away from her family. She turns to the infamous Viscount Sebastian St. Vincent, but what begins as a method of escape turns into a marriage of passion.

    Into the Wilderness, by Sara Donati
    Another sweeping epic of unexpected romance begins when Elizabeth Middleton departs England for New York in the 18th century. Just as Poldark confronts the injustices set upon the mine workers in Cornwall, Elizabeth must confront slavery and ill-treatment of Native Americans in the new world…and one man who confounds and ignites her.

    Ashes in the Wind, by Kathleen Woodiwiss
    A classic romance novel about the ramifications of war, in which Alaina escapes turmoil dressed as a boy only to find herself ensnared in the arms of the enemy. Cole, a union soldier, can never know the other secret that rests beneath Alaina’s disguise…that she was accused of spying, and is running for her life. If you love the mystery aspects of Poldark, this one will be hard to put down.

    Wicked Intentions, by Elizabeth Hoyt
    When the London slum of St. Giles is threatened by a savage murderer, it takes a rake equally as savage to uncover the truth, and Lazarus Huntington, Lord Caire, is the perfect man for the job. But when he finds himself in cahoots with Temperance, a widow searching for a way to find the killer and save her St. Giles home, he discovers that no mystery has ever been more compelling than the one woman he cannot have. If George Warleggan and Ross Poldark’s ongoing battle for power over and possession of Elizabeth strikes your fancy, don’t miss this romance.

    Penmarric, by Susan Howatch
    Penmarric may as well be Poldark’s sibling; it takes place in the same English town, Cornwall, and involves a devastating conflict over a great family estate. Penmarric is Mark’s birthright, but sometimes getting everything you think you deserve brings misery upon those you claim to love. Secrets, passion, and mystery run amok in this gorgeous epic.

    The Forsyte Saga, by John Galsworthy
    Also an epic romantic drama turned into a mini-series, this book introduces readers to the Forsytes, who are just as mysterious, secretive, and at times, villainous, as the Poldarks. Soames Forsyte narrates the drama as he falls for Irene, a woman who does not love him—and the tragedy that results spans generations.

    The Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett
    In the fictional town of Kingsbridge during the English Middle Ages, a saga is born with the building of a cathedral. One might think construction might not cause the drama, suspense, romance and devastation that it does, but when the book begins with a woman cursing her beloved’s executioner, you know it’s going to be good. A heartbreaking epic of feudalism, ambition, and love.

    Belgravia, by Julian Fellowes
    Historical fiction fans will no doubt be familiar with Downtown Abbey as well—and this novel from its creator lives up to expectations. Set in the 1840’s when the class divide between the old and new money began to collide, conflict erupts between families that the changing tide of society can never undo.

    What novels would you recommend to Poldark fans?

    The post 8 Books Perfect for Poldark Fans appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Nicole Hill 2:00 pm on 2017/10/30 Permalink
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    Outlander Season 3 Episode 7 Recap: Creme de Menthe 

    After last week’s homage to love-making, it would be easy to forget the ugly final moments of the episode, with Claire left at the hands of an unknown intruder. Unfortunately, we pick up this week at that moment, in which Claire is struggling with her assailant.

    To her credit, she gets a good jab in with her knife and, ultimately, she forces the guy off-balance. He stumbles and slams his head on the bottom of the fireplace. If things were that simple—if he died that easily—this episode would be far less complicated and frustrating.

    A Life to Save
    Things are not that easy, and the intruder clings to life with a brain injury that Claire is bound and determined to treat. This is to the befuddlement of Jamie, who returns home to find his wife (wielding a knife) and the prone body of a man on his floor. He gets more confused when Claire starts barking orders to people for the supplies she’ll need to operate on him.

    “Because I’m a doctor,” she offers as an explanation. Jamie responds gently, “Sassenach, let God take him.”

    I’m on Jamie’s side here, because this is not a complication any of us need. The man on the floor is identified as an excise man, “a crooked agent of the crown.” His presence indicates Jamie’s arrangement with the local authorities—namely, the fussy Sir Percival we met last week—is faltering.

    Fergus and young Ian are dispatched to sell the telltale whisky currently stored in the brothel cellar. Claire dispatches herself to the apothecary to pick up a few items for impending brain surgery. There, she makes a promise to another customer in exchange for cutting the line. (We’ll get there.)

    As she sets up her brothel-side O.R., Mr. Willoughby scrubs in as a most skeptical assistant. Jamie misses all the skull-drilling and bleeding because he’s downstairs diffusing a situation with Percival, here to search the premises for the illegal whisky. Mercifully, the whisky has been moved and Percival does not go upstairs.

    What Claire means to do with the man on her operating table once he’s on the path to recovery is unclear. Ask him to pinky promise not to rat them out? Retrain him as a physician’s assistant? Speculate as you will because we’ll never find out. The patient does not survive the operation.

    The tension here, however, is about more than a goon with a head wound. Claire’s spent the past 14 years training and serving as a doctor. Now, she’s returned to a place where she can’t practice those skills in any reasonable way. She’s essentially lost her livelihood, and she’s thrown a wrench into Jamie’s as well.

    “Sassenach, you came thousands of miles and two hundred years to find me,” Jamie reassures her. “I’m grateful you’re here, regardless of cost.”

    Secrets, Secrets
    Fergus and Ian are having a better go of it. Ian turns out to be a master salesman, and they celebrate a profitable day with a couple of pints, lessons in seduction, and the revelation that Fergus once had a threesome. When Ian manages to woo the “bonnie” pub waitress, it’s clear this will not end well. No one can remain happy on Outlander—particularly when one of Percival’s men is watching from a nearby table.

    Claire makes good on the promise she made at the apothecary, popping in to treat one poor Ms. Campbell. Margaret and her brother Archie are “fortunetellers,” which primarily means Archie uses his sister’s mental illness to line his pockets. It’s a depressing reminder both of the state of women and the perception of mental illness at this point in history. Claire prescribes some calming teas and departs, as we all are, slightly disappointed in the human condition.

    All roads in this show lead to the brothel, and the latest weary traveler is old Ian, looking for his runaway son. Apparently, he and Jenny are unaware their son has been conscripted in the family business of smuggling. Jamie lies flatly, claiming he hasn’t seen the boy. Ian’s bewilderment at the sight of Claire helps conceal the lie.

    The deception, however, sparks another spat between Claire and Jamie, with Claire upset at Jamie’s rogue decision-making and Jamie defensive about accusations against his parenting wisdom.

    Burn Notice
    This fight is interrupted, though it surely will continue, by a firefight—at the print shop. Remember when I said young Ian’s tryst would not end well? It did na. While it’s nice to see his spritely partner inform the boy that there is more than one sexual position, the two inevitably are interrupted.

    One of Percival’s men is rifling through the shop, still looking for contraband. His dispute with Ian turns disastrous when a bullet hits one of the many flammable liquids lining the shelves. The fiend runs off and Ian’s trapped in the blaze. Fortunately, the Edinburgh social network gets word to Jamie quickly enough that he’s able to rush in for an heroic search and rescue. He’s able to retrieve Ian, but the shop itself is done for.

    Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like a good thing that Jamie’s warehouse of sedition has been disposed of. Though, Percival’s man did make off with a handful of treasonous papers, which Fergus is sent to intercept. Claire also wins. The only sensible thing to do at this juncture is to leave the city, and that means there’s no reason not to return Ian home to his worried parents at Lallybroch.

    Lest you think this episode is wrapping up too neatly, Fergus drops a bomb during the hushed whispers of planning outside the burning shop. “The lady does not yet know about your other wife?” he casually asks Jamie. Oh, the trip to Lallybroch is going to be a doozy.

    The post Outlander Season 3 Episode 7 Recap: Creme de Menthe appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
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