1772-the eye of the American Revolution. In Boston men lie dead in the streets and in the backwoods of America isolated cabins burn in the darkness of the forest. The colony is in ferment.
Jamie Fraser receives an envoy from Governor Josiah Martin asking for help. The Governor needs someone to unite the backcountry, pacify the seething resentments of the settlers, and keep the mountains safe for King and Crown. Jamie Fraser, everyone agrees, is the man for the job.
But Jamie knows what is to come. His wife, Claire, has travelled back in time from the twentieth century, and she knows that it's only a matter of a few years before the start of the War of Independence, ending with the exile or death of the men loyal to the King of England. Neither prospect appeals to Jamie.
Beyond everything else, though, looms the threat of a tiny clipping from the Wilmington Gazette dated 1776, which reports the destruction of the house on Fraser's Ridge and the death by fire of James Fraser and all his family. Jamie hopes Claire is wrong, for once, about the furture-but only time will tell.