North Carolina beach trip with the fam…and Jamie Fraser?!

Fort Johnston Garrison House, Southport, NC

I just returned from a relaxing week of vacation with my family on the beautiful coast of North Carolina. My grandparents own a house just outside of Southport and we’ve been going each summer for as long as I’ve been alive. This year we did the usual stuff: daily walks on the beach, lounging around in the sun, reading, and eating lots of delicious food. (Thai Peppers = Greatest. Food. Ever.) We broke from the norm this year, however, when my Mom suggested renting bicycles and cruising around historic Southport for a day. We had also seen signs for a Farmer’s Market by the water and wanted to check it out as well.

The Market was held in front of the Fort Johnston Garrison House, which was built in the early 1800’s on top of what remained of Fort Johnston. Fort Johnston was burned down during the Revolutionary War in 1775. As I was strolling around, sort of mindlessly admiring the food and crafts for sale, I noticed this historic marker. I read it and snapped a picture and paused for a moment. I felt this nagging feeling in the back of my mind, like I was familiar with the names on that plaque…Josiah Martinthe Cruizerwhere do I know that from?…and then it hits me – A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES!

Naturally, I was extremely excited about this realization and I immediately started blabbering about Jamie Fraser. It went something like this:

me: “OH MY GOD!!! THIS IS WHERE GOVERNOR MARTIN BROUGHT CLAIRE??? THIS IS THE FORT THAT JAMIE FRASER HELPED BURN DOWN BEFORE RESCUING HER!!!!!”

my husband: “OH MY GOD. Jamie Fraser IS NOT REAL.”

my mom: “Oh! Is that the man from that book you like so well?”

me: “Yes Mom *rolls eyes* the one that you still haven’t even started reading even though you’ve had it for 3 months now! HOLY CRAP, I HAD NO IDEA THAT THIS IS WHERE IT HAPPENED!!! I LOVE SOUTHPORT EVEN MORE NOW!!! ”

my husband: *shaking his head in disgust* “This is where the fort was burned down and where the Governor fled, but since Jamie and Claire Fraser are NOT REAL PEOPLE, they were not here.”

me: “This is where Jamie rowed out to rescue Claire from the ship! Can you imagine looking out across the water RIGHT HERE to see him rowing out of the smoke?!! *clutching bosom* Then he boards the ship and rips her cap off, tosses it into the water and fluffs her hair before giving her a deep, romantic kiss! *swoon* It was one of my favorite parts of the book!!!” *squeeeeeel*

my husband: *turns around and walks away*

Well, the hubs clearly didn’t see the significance of this unexpected, yet AMAZING surprise. And just for the record, I do realize that Jamie and Claire are fictional people, but the prospect of getting to see or experience actual locations discussed in my favorite books (or any book that I’m reading, and not just the Outlander series) gives me the sense of knowing the characters that much better. It enhances the intimacy of the relationships by giving me another perspective from which to view the story, as well as adding to my precious cache of mental imagery. Of course, everything is magnified when it comes to Diana Gabaldon’s characters since they are already so incredibly vivid and realistic to me.

I took lots of photos and made a panoramic of the view from Fort Johnston, looking out into the waterway where the mouth of the Cape Fear River meets the Atlantic Ocean (please ignore my lackluster photo-stiching skills). This is where Jamie would have gotten into a boat after helping set fire to the fort and rowed out to rescue Claire from the Cruizer, which was anchored just offshore (if they were real people, of course). Very exciting for us Jamie fans!

Waterfront view from Fort Johnston Garrison House

Actually, I shouldn’t act like that was the first time that the Fraser’s were mentioned during this trip. En route to the beach, we drove through Asheville, NC and I couldn’t help but declare “Just think, Jamie and Claire made this trip across the state many times to Jocasta’s house, but they had to do it on horseback! Can you imagine?” (This statement was met with a car-full of chirping crickets.) I also joined Twitter so that I could follow Diana G and I cheerfully kept my eager family (note the extreme sarcasm) up to date on her postings.

In addition to the aforementioned exciting events, September 22 was the anniversary of our wedding in 2007. We didn’t do anything extravagant since being at the beach and getting to eat at my favorite restaurant of all time was celebration enough. I had time, however, to pause and remember that fateful proposal on the top of Roan Mountain. The hubs gets mad props for his chosen location for said event, he put a lot of thought into it to make sure that it would be a place that was near and dear to my heart. We had just found out that my Dad had sold his house on top of Roan Mountain and that he would only be in possession of the house for one more weekend (I think Pops had “forgotten” to mention that he sold the house because he knew I would be upset about it, thus we found out at the last-minute.). We hastily made plans to travel to East Tennessee and spend the last weekend there. Before we left though, he told a minor fib about going to help a friend move a washing machine while he was really rushing out to buy a ring (since he was wasn’t expecting the Roan Mtn house to be going anywhere anytime soon). We hiked to the top of the mountain, he proposed and we watched the sunset. It was very romantic.  

Husband, if you are reading this…look away now! (Trust me…don’t go any further!) As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I can connect my wedding proposal (and so much more) to Jamie and Claire Fraser (mad skills, I tell you). Claire mentions in Drums of Autumn that she can see Roan Mountain from Fraser’s Ridge, so when I think back to the gorgeous view from atop the mountain, I can’t help but think of how Jamie and Claire were looking at the same beautiful scenery :)

Actual view from proposal spot on Roan Mountain...Breathtaking!

Musings on A Breath of Snow and Ashes and the amazingness that is Diana Gabaldon

I finally finished A Breath of Snow and Ashes last night. And I’m feeling a little weepy.  I already cornered the husband this morning and spent 20 minutes telling him all about the ending. (He knows practically the whole storyline now and even has his own theories as to what will happen next – “did they capture Jamie and put him on a ship back to England yet?”- not that he would admit that to anyone.)  

I don’t know how to write a review of this book, or any book from the Outlander series, for that matter. There is just too much detail and the storylines are so convoluted and complex that there is no way to summarize without giving too much away. Also, when I start to talk about these books, my mind slips into that happy place where I unconsciously clutch my bosom,  my eyes drift skyward with a dreamy glaze, and a huge goofy grin spreads across my face and the only adjective that seems to come to mind is “amazing.” Well, this book is definitely amazing.

So far, Drums of Autumn is still my favorite in the series, but I must say that  A Breath of Snow and Ashes is a close second. There is a rescue scene (don’t worry, there will be no spoilers in this post) in this book that is easily one of the most dramatic things I’ve ever read. Diana Gabaldon is truly in a league of her own when it comes to making the reader feel completely immersed in the storyline and as if the things you are reading are REALLY HAPPENING. I’m getting chills just thinking about it.

There is non-stop action in this book, which is an abrupt departure from The Fiery Cross, and honestly, it sort of wore me out. I get really emotional when things happen to the Frasers and the MacKenzies. During the horrendous scene with Roger in The Fiery Cross, my heart was beating so fast that I was having trouble breathing and I practically had a heart attack, followed by piteous weepage. Seriously. I’m going to lay all my nerdiness out on the table here and say that I am so attached to the characters in these books that I truly feel like they are living, breathing people. To me, these characters have souls. When I’m not reading, I rest assured that they are just living their day-to-day lives in North Carolina, going about their business until I get back to the book.

I had a minor panic attack at work a few days ago when it hit me that Jamie Fraser is probably going to die very soon. Possibly in book 8. He’s already old in book 6 and he’s clearly breaking down physically (don’t get me wrong, he’s still as heroic as ever, but it’s much harder on him). And what is the life expectancy for someone in the 1700’s? Especially for someone who has lived through the abuses that Jamie has had to endure? Even though Claire is older, I feel pretty confidant that she will outlive Jamie, which means that she will have to bury him, which means that it will be the most tragic scene to ever exist. I had to talk to someone about it, but since I can’t talk to Bridget or Angela because they’re so far behind me in the series (pick up the pace, ladies!!), I broke down and called my dear, sweet, most-patient-human-being-ever husband. He was clearly miffed about being forced to endure my premature anxiety about a fictional character, but he took it like a champ and cracked me up by concluding the phone call with “Wow. Um. Well, I guess I’m glad that I could be here for you(??).” Love ya, babe.

So now that I don’t have book 6 constantly calling my name, I have no more excuses and I really must attend to the so-far non-existent squid costume that has to be finished by tomorrow night (my own personal goal). Dragon*Con is in less than a week!!! (As a side note, my boss cracked me up yesterday by asking what dragons had to do with squid and I had to laugh and say “I don’t really know, I’m just rolling with it.”) I know that I must sew…but I REALLY want to start An Echo In the Bone…(fist waving in the air) damn you, Jamie Fraser!!!