The Fiery Cross is the fifth installment in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. The stories feature time-traveling 20th-century doctor Claire Randall and her 18th-century Scottish Highlander warrior husband, Jamie Fraser, including historical fiction, romance, adventure, and fantasy themes.
Claire and Jamie Fraser join the Gathering at Mount Helicon, in the colony of North Carolina, where the story left off in Drums of Autumn. At the same time, their daughter Brianna is planning her wedding to Roger MacKenzie and their son Jeremiah’s christening. Naturally, things go wrong, but after a long day, young Jem is christened, Roger and Bree are married, and the villagers of Fraser’s Ridge return home, with Jamie carrying a letter from the Governor asking him to form a militia. That he does, and he sends his men off to enforce the King’s mandate, but Jamie and Claire are diverted by a visit to the Beardsley homestead, where they find a man in desperate need of help, as well as his strange wife. After resolving this tense encounter, the militia returns home after being released by the Governor before any serious war can occur, and they return home once more.
The Frasers and MacKenzies travel to River Run to attend Jocasta Cameron’s wedding to Duncan Innes. There are several threads of intrigue: a missing bridegroom, a slave, found drugged and unconscious in the bushes, and the obnoxious Mr. Wylie, a sort of freelance British soldier eager to meet with Jamie, and several guests butting heads in favor of and against those who call themselves “Regulators.” The wedding takes place, but a slave is found murdered, leading Claire to suspect murder. During their inquiry, she and Jamie had a brief brush with Stephen Bonnet, and they spent the night questioning Phillip Wylie, who was seen with the famed smuggler. They also uncover a long-kept secret from Jocasta, who understands exactly what a gang of burglars means when they demand to know where the “Frenchman’s gold” is hidden.
As tensions between the government and the Regulators increase, the militia is called into service a few months later.]
The little insurrection is crushed, but at great expense to the MacKenzie family and Roger’s health and spirit.
To heal, the families return to the Ridge. They are not, however, left alone for long. Thrilling lightning storms and forest fires, reports of a man-eating ghost bear in a nearby Indian town, or information of Stephen Bonnet’s whereabouts, which Jamie has been tracking for months. Roger demands that Jamie teach him how to fight, implying that he wants to murder Bonnet himself, and Jamie agrees to assist him, albeit with reservations about the wisdom of doing so. Jamie is bitten by a dangerous snake while on a hunting trip, and he has no hunting companions but Roger to wait with him through the night until aid arrives. The men get a greater understanding and admiration of one another due to the ordeal – which Jamie survives, though it’s a close call. At the same time, everyone at the Big House is startled by the appearance of their former prey.
While Jamie is recuperating, Roger sets up a few new tenants on the Ridge, including Thomas Christie, a man who was imprisoned with Jamie at Ardsmuir, and his son and daughter. Meanwhile, Claire comes upon an intriguing note in Dr. Rawlings’ medical diary – his care of Hector Cameron and his wife, Jocasta, several years ago – and Jamie sets up a complex encounter with Stephen Bonnet. They drive to Wilmington, where the women and children will stay while Roger and Jamie go to Wylie’s Landing to meet Bonnet. Things don’t go as planned, and Claire, Brianna, Marsali, Jemmy, Germain, and little Joan are forced to face Bonnet while Jamie and Roger struggle for their lives against two long-suspected but now confirmed opponents.
Jamie and Claire proceed to River Run, fearing for the safety of the residents, while the young families return to the Ridge. They discover a man has been murdered on the premises, and Jocasta is compelled to fill in the gaps in her earlier account about the Frenchman’s gold. They finally return home, performing the customary agricultural tasks, despite not knowing whether Stephen Bonnet is still alive. While Jamie and Roger are working on the property, they are attacked by a wild boar, but are saved by the opportune arrival of Young Ian, who has been exiled with the Mohawk. He brings the writings of Robert Springer, also known as Otter-Tooth, with him. They discover more about the time-traveling phenomenon and wonder about Jemmy’s talent as they read his Latin-encoded script. Finally, Roger promises that he and his family will remain on the Ridge, standing by Jamie and Claire as strife and battle loom ever closer.