While Outlander follows a few basic tropes of the romance novel, it deviates from them just as often, and could be accurately described as a work of historical fiction, science fiction, and adventure, among other genres. Diana Gabaldon has asserted that the series as whole is the story of a long, successful marriage, so while Outlander certainly involves the typical courtship story of a romance novel, it is the only installment of the series to do so.
Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp Randall Fraser: The story's protagonist, a WWII combat nurse who finds herself transported to 1743 while on a second honeymoon with her husband in the Scottish Highlands. Married to Frank Randall in the 20th century, she is forced into marrying Jamie Fraser in the 18th century. Claire is a naturally gifted healer, practical and independent, although prone to becoming entangled in unforeseeably dangerous circumstances.
James "Jamie" Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser: Heir to the Lallybroch estate, son of Brian Fraser and Ellen MacKenzie, Jamie is a strapping twenty-two-year-old redhead with a complicated past, an aptitude for politics, and a disarming sense of humor. Jamie is intelligent, principled, educated, and worldly, having gone to university in Paris and soldiered with the French army before returning to the Highlands. Jamie volunteers to wed Claire when her life is threatened.
Franklin "Frank" Wolverton Randall: Claire's husband in the twentieth century; a history professor with a deep interest in his genealogy and heritage. Frank and Claire were married a short time before the outbreak of World War Two, and were separated for six years by the war.
Jonathan "Jack" Wolverton Randall: The primary villain of the story. He is Frank's six-times-great-grandfather, and a British cavalry officer. He is also known by the dashing nickname of "Black Jack," although according to Jamie Fraser the black refers to the color of his soul rather than his darkly handsome complexion.
Colum MacKenzie: The Laird of the MacKenzie clan. He is also Jamie's maternal uncle, and shelters Jamie and Claire from the English threat. He suffers from Toulouse-Lautrec Syndrome.
Dougal MacKenzie: Colum's hotheaded younger brother and Jamie's onetime foster father, Dougal is part of the group of Scottish clansmen Claire first meets upon her arrival in the 18th century.
Geillis "Geilie" Duncan: Wife of the procurator fiscal; a mysterious woman who is widely thought to be a witch. Her knowledge of herbs and plants and quick sense of humor help her to become fast friends with Claire.
Janet "Jenny" Fraser Murray: Jamie's older sister who is very devoted to him. Very loyal to her family and quick-tempered. Married to Ian Murray, Jamie's best friend.
Ian Murray: Jenny's husband and Jamie's best friend since childhood. He lost part of his leg during battle but hasn't let it hold him back. He is very close to both his wife and best friend. Very friendly and caring towards his family.
Timeline of Significant Events
May 2: Claire lands not far from the stone circle, disoriented and confused. She immediately notices a large group of men in kilts nearby, and concludes that she's wandered into the middle of a film set. However, she is immediately accosted by a man in a very realistic English officer's uniform who attempts to rape her. Even more unnervingly, the man, who identifies himself as Captain Jonathan Randall, looks alarmingly like Claire's own husband Frank.
Claire is rescued by Dougal MacKenzie, a local clansman. Upon meeting Dougal's men, Claire recognizes that one of them, Jamie MacTavish, has a dislocated shoulder and deftly treats it. Dougal, believing Claire to be a spy, decides to take Claire to Castle Leoch, seat of Clan MacKenzie.
At Castle Leoch, Claire participates in castle life and takes up a role as healer in an attempt to gain the trust of Dougal and his brother Colum MacKenzie, laird of Clan MacKenzie. However, Claire finds a friend and ally in Jamie MacTavish, who seems to be a fellow outsider.
Dougal MacKenzie decides to take Jamie, Claire, and several other men along in order to collect rents for Clan MacKenzie. Claire learns that Dougal is also raising money for the Jacobite cause, which she knows is tragically doomed. Meanwhile, Claire grows closer to Jamie, who has suffered at the hands of the English and whose scars Dougal shamelessly uses as an example of English cruelty.
Black Jack Randall learns of Claire's whereabouts and violently questions her. Dougal extricates Claire from Randall's custody, but tells her that in order to avoid returning to Randall, Claire must marry a Scot. Namely, Jamie Fraser, alias Jamie MacTavish, a fugitive who has himself had terrible encounters with Black Jack Randall.
Though Claire is highly reluctant, she consents to the marriage and is touched by Jamie's considerate and respectful nature. The pair repeatedly consummate their marriage.
Still traveling with the rent party, Claire and Jamie are having sex in a quiet glade when they're surprised by a pair of English deserters who threaten to kill them both. Jamie kills one, Claire the other. Both Claire and Jamie are disturbed by the incident and a distance forms between them.
A few days later, Jamie leaves Claire alone in order to search for a man who may be able to exonerate him. Claire realizes that she's only a few miles from Craig Na Dun, and unable to resist, makes a run for it. However, English soldiers catch her and Jamie is forced at great personal risk to rescue her.
Jamie rebukes Claire for apparently needlessly risking her own and other's safety. That night, much to Claire's consternation, he beats her with his belt. Claire later tells him that if he ever does so again, she'll "cut his heart out and fry it for breakfast," and he agrees.
Jamie and Claire return to Leoch as a married couple, much to the surprise of the castle residents and to the dismay of Laoghaire MacKenzie, a young girl with whom Jamie once had a fling.
Back at Leoch, Claire grows closer to Geillis Duncan, wife of the local fiscal and a woman with herbal and medical knowledge matching Claire's own. Jamie warns Claire to be careful around Geillis, a warning which comes to fruition when Geillis's elderly husband Arthur drops dead of what Claire suspects is poison.
October 18: Claire is arrested while visiting Geillis and both women are accused of being witches. Claire learns that she was framed by Laoghaire MacKenzie who also gives evidence at the trial. However, Geillis boldly announces that Claire isn't a witch, but she herself is, sacrificing herself to give Claire time to flee with Jamie. A tearful Claire tells Jamie about her real past.
Jamie takes Claire to his childhood home, Lallybroch, where Claire encounters Jamie's headstrong sister Jenny and her husband Ian Murray. Claire and Jamie begin to settle in at Lallybroch, with Jamie taking on the role of Laird occupied by his late father.
Late November: Jamie is arrested by the Watch, an informal police force in the area. Claire and Jenny set out to rescue Jamie.
December: After a month of searching, Claire learns that Jamie is being held at Wentworth Prison and scheduled to be executed on December 23rd.
December 23: With help from Jamie's godfather Murtagh Fraser and several others, Claire attempts to break Jamie out but is caught by Randall. Randall agrees to spare her in exchange for being able to raped Jamie. Claire is able to free Jamie, but not before he's been severely injured and violated by Black Jack Randall. Claire is forced to painfully reset his hand.
December 24: Claire and the men take a weakened Jamie to the Abbey of Ste. Anne de Beaupré, where Jamie's uncle Alexander is the abbot.
Jamie seems to lose interest in living, and tells Claire to leave him. However, Claire refuses to let him give up, and despite a near-fatal infection, Jamie begins to recover.
January: Claire confesses her story to Father Anselm who tell her not to feel guilty for choosing Jamie, and that "perhaps it is only that God has seen fit to bless you with another, that may be richer and fuller.”
Claire and Jamie decide to go to Rome in an attempt to prevent the ill-fated Jacobite rebellion, and Claire tells Jamie that she's pregnant.
April 1946: English ex-army nurse Claire Randall, recently returned from her service in World War II travels to Inverness with her husband of six years Frank Randall.
Frank and Claire visit an old friend of Frank's, Reverend Reginald Wakefield who lives with his adoptive son Roger Wakefield and his housekeeper Mrs. Graham. While Frank discusses genealogical research with Reverend Wakefield, Mrs. Graham reads Claire's tea leaves. Claire is slightly unnerved to be told that her future appears uncertain and unresolved.
While gathering botanical samples, Claire sees an ancient stone circle known as Craigh na Dun. When she tells Frank of the circle, he tells her that on Beltane, a group of local women perform an ancient Druid ceremony at the stones. The pair resolve to watch the ceremony in hiding.
The following day, Claire returns to Craigh na Dun to collect a few more samples, but finds herself drawn to the stones. She touches one, and immediately falls through time.
It's the spring of 1945, and Claire Randall, an English ex-army nurse, has come to the Scottish Highlands on a second honeymoon with her husband, Frank, from whom she's been separated during the war. While Frank spends his time researching his ancestors, Claire pursues an interest in botany. One of the locals agrees to show her around Inverness' plant life, and he brings her to an ancient circle of standing stones. When she tells Frank about the stones, he is intrigued, saying he had heard that the circle is still in use by a local group of women who celebrate the "old ways" there. In the dawn of the ancient Feast of Beltane, Claire and Frank creep up to the circle to see the women dancing and chanting, calling down the sun. The couple steal away unseen but later Claire returns to the circle to get a closer look at an unusual plant she had seen growing there. This time, however, Claire is overcome by a strange buzzing sound that seems to be coming from the large cleft stone in the circle. When she touches it, she is enveloped in a sudden vortex of noise and confusion.
Disoriented and half-conscious, she finds herself on the hill outside the circle and slowly makes her way down, only to find what she assumes is a film shoot in progress at the bottom: kilted Scotsmen dashing about, being pursued by red-coated British soldiers. Claire carefully skirts the scene, so as not to ruin the shot, and makes her way through the woods until she stumbles into a man in the costume of an eighteenth-century English army officer. This doesn't disturb her as much as the man's striking resemblance to her husband, Frank.
The man introduces himself as Captain Jonathan Randall – the name of Frank's ancestor, the notorious "Black Jack" Randall of whom Frank had often told her. While very similar in appearance to Claire's twentieth century husband, Jack Randall unfortunately does not share his descendant's mild-mannered personality – Black Jack earned his nickname through force of character and deed, and makes short work of harassing and assaulting Claire.
Claire is rescued from Black Jack's clutches by one of the Scotsmen she had seen earlier, who takes her to the cottage where his fellows are hiding, waiting for darkness in order to escape. One of the men, Jamie, has been wounded and Claire treats his wound as best as she can, all while trying to come to terms with the apparent truth of where – and when – she is. Bemused not only by Claire's peculiar attire – fashionable in the 1940s, Claire's dress more closely resembles 18th-century undergarments – but by the sheer impossibility of an Englishwoman wandering the Highlands unaccompanied, the Scotsmen decide to take her with them when they decamp under the cover of darkness. On the road, their travel is interrupted by a brief skirmish with some more redcoats, and another stop to treat Jamie's latest wound.
Arriving at dawn at Castle Leoch, seat of the Clan MacKenzie, Claire meets the clan's laird, Colum MacKenzie. A courtly man whose legs are badly deformed, Colum is both intrigued and suspicious of Claire. He listens politely to her story of having been beset by robbers, but he plainly has reservations and ensures that Claire remain at the castle until more about her identity can be determined.
The Scots see Claire as a sassenach – an English person, an outsider to Scottish Highland culture – though she earns their respect through her skills as a healer. After the clan Gathering, Dougal takes both Claire and Jamie along for the yearly rent collection on the MacKenzie lands.
Jack Randall wishes to talk again to Claire and seeks her out. After an argument between Dougal and Jack over Jack's mistreatment of Claire, Dougal refuses on Jack's further request to let Claire be questioned. He is informed by Ned Gowan, the clan's lawyer that the only solution is to make her a Scotswomen by marriage. Dougal tells her to wed Jamie, yet suggests other men when she refuses. Claire tells Dougal she can't marry anyone, but admits she isn't married, struggling internally with the fact that technically Frank hasn't even been born yet. Dougal ignores her. She gives in and marries Jamie in the same church where she married Frank. After the ceremony, Claire is touched to learn that Jamie insisted on finding her a decent gown to marry in, and grateful that he demanded a private room in which to consummate their marriage. Still hesitant about fully committing to this plan to protect her own life, Claire draws Jamie in to telling her about his family, and they talk for several hours. Eventually, after consuming a large amount of wine, Claire gives in to the inevitable and she and Jamie make love. Although she is very much attracted to Jamie, and they enjoy a strong intimacy over the following days, Claire begins to feel guilty both for her betrayal of Frank, as well as the necessity of deceiving Jamie and planning to leave him.
The level of suspicion Claire endured before her marriage to Jamie has lessened considerably upon their return to Castle Leoch, but her ignorance of local superstition and a young woman's jealousy towards her lead to a charge of witchcraft. Thrown into the thieves' hole with another accused witch, Geillis Duncan, Claire endures a long and eventually life-threatening interrogation until Jamie rescues her. Just before her escape, she notices that Geillis has a smallpox vaccination scar on her arm, a sure indication that she, too, is from the future.
When Jamie asks her to explain everything, Claire initially insists that he won't believe her, and he might as well just call her a witch for all the sense that the truth will make to him. Still, Claire breaks down and confesses her whole story to Jamie. Shocked by Claire's explanation, he takes her to the stone circle and tells her to return to Frank – seeing for himself that Claire is telling the truth. Jamie leaves her there to decide if she wants to return to Frank or stay with him. He is overjoyed with her decision to stay and he takes her to his home, Lallybroch, but their happiness doesn't last.
Jamie has a price on his head and is betrayed by Ronald MacNab, one of his tenants. Jamie is held at Wentworth Prison and sentenced to hang. Sadistic Jack Randall is also at Wentworth and takes the opportunity to torture Jamie. Claire breaks in to free Jamie, but is caught by Randall. Jamie will allow Jack to torture him if he frees Claire. Jack agrees and in revenge Claire tells Jack she is a witch cursing him with the gift of knowledge that he will marry and have a son but will die before the child's born, giving him the date of his death.
Aided by Sir Marcus MacRannoch – a former suitor of Jamie's mother, Ellen MacKenzie Fraser – Claire and Jamie's relatives and men employed by Sir Marcus rescue Jamie. She patches him up and and they escape to the Abbey of Ste. Anne de Beaupré in France, where Jamie's uncle Alexander Fraser is abbot. At Ste. Anne's, Claire tries healing Jamie but discovers broken bones are simple compared to repairing the damage done to his spirit. Claire also learns more about her faith – she was christened a Catholic but not raised as one – and receives absolution from a friendly monk. He describes her as a shipwrecked traveler, forced to survive in a strange land as best she can. He describes her marriages as something she should leave in God's hand as nothing can be done about them.
After Claire uses unorthodox methods to break Jamie out of his tormented fever dreams, Jamie tells Claire that his life is hers, that she should decide whether they stay in France, go to Italy, or even back to Scotland. Claire tells Jamie what she knows about Charles Stuart and the Rising, and they agree to go to Paris to see if they can influence the Bonnie Prince there. At last as they emerge from the healing waters of a sacred hot spring under the Abbey, and Claire reveals that she is pregnant with their first child.
The first novel in the Outlander series was adapted for television, whose first season aired from August 2014 to May 2015. It consisted of sixteen hour-long episodes.
Outlander: The Musical
On 1 August 2010, a CD song cycle telling the story of the first book in the series was released under the title "Outlander The Musical". The 14 songs were written by Kevin Walsh (music) and Mike Gibb (lyrics) with the words for one of the tracks being provided by author Diana Gabaldon. The CD has been highly successful, especially in America, Canada and Germany, and a libretto for a full scale stage musical is currently under consideration by a number of theatres. The writing team of Walsh and Gibb earlier produced the work "Clarinda the Musical" while playwright Mike Gibb has produced a string of plays and musical plays on Scottish themes.
Outlander is the only novel in the series to be narrated exclusively from Claire's point-of-view. She remains, however, the only first-person narrator throughout the series; all other narrative points of view are written in third-person.
Diana Gabaldon began writing what would become Outlander on March 6, 1988.