I made a mistake when I first started this series: I was browsing the New Releases section at the bookstore and saw Drums of Autumn sitting on the shelf. I decided to get it because it was a really thick book and looked interesting, something I could lose myself in while I sat in one waiting room after another when my mom was going through her various treatments to fix a broken jaw. It wasn't until I was about 10% or so into that book that I realized it was part of a series and looked again at the front pages to see what order in the series it was. It was fourth. Since I had no idea when I'd get back to the bookstore (ah, the days before Amazon and kindles - well, this would've been Amazon's infancy, but still before I had an Amazon account), I decided to just finish the book and if I liked it, I'd go back and read the previous three. Well, I liked it. It was ridiculous. It was silly. It was over-the-top romance and shenanigans. It had some dark themes because of the time period, but the characters were engaging and complex. It was just what I needed to get my mind off my own troubles.
So I went back and got the first three books as soon as I could and read them. Now, this was back when I was just out of high school, so I was about 17/18 when I first read these. (Wow, has it really been that long? No wonder I feel so old.) I was a more forgiving reader back then, more willing to overlook things that today would annoy me now. Like meandering storylines that don't really go anywhere even if they fill in the corners of who these characters are. Honestly, I'd probably be a bit bored if I were picking these up for the first time today, but nostalgia helps. A lot. (And as some may know, I haven't read the latest book yet and have put any interest in this series on hold until the author actually finishes it. I'm not convinced at this point that she can. I've also gotten sick of the number of times she uses rape in her books. I've reached my saturation point on that count.)
I didn't like Jamie overly much back then and thought him a heathen and a brute for obvious reasons (the man does kill a lot of people). I thought Claire was a bit touched in the head to be so taken with him, and certainly for forgiving him as easily as she did after That Scene. He mellows out a lot over the series and as he gets older, and it was probably knowing from reading the books out of order that he does indeed keep his vow to never punish Claire again that helped make That Scene not so bad for me. I understand the controversy over it. I think Claire should've made Jamie grovel a hell of a lot more (like she does in the show, and it's one of the changes that I really liked and appreciated about the Starz adaptation). I totally understand why that would be a deal breaker for a lot of people. However - I was spanked when I was a kid; I was never beaten. There's a difference and this book acknowledges that in many hundreds of examples and instances even before That Scene happens. Plus, violent times and all that. Does that make it okay? Perhaps not for some. Does that mean I can live with it? Yep. (I do take issue with the first sex scene that follows this though, and again, I'm very grateful that Starz made the changes they did there, as they gave the power back to Claire. I'll just pretend that's the way it actually happened.)
Davina Porter is amazing, which I'm sure I don't need to tell anyone who has listened to these audiobooks. She's got a great range of voices for all the characters, her accents (to my non-native ear) sound authentic and spot on, and she gives such a performance here that it brings the book and the characters to life. Her vocal range is right in the middle, so she can do both the male and female voices without straining herself or the listener's ear. For thirty+ hours, she narrates this book to perfection, and if they have awards for audiobook narrators, she should get them all.