Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon

The basics

Title: Drums of Autumn


Series: Outlander #4

Outlander (1991) – also called Cross Stitch
Dragonfly In Amber (1992)
Voyager (1993)
Drums Of Autumn (1996)
The Fiery Cross (2001)
A Breath Of Snow And Ashes (2004)
An Echo In The Bone (2009)
Written In My Own Heart’s Blood (2014)
Book 9 (201-?)

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Goodreads Summary:

It began at an ancient Scottish stone circle. There, a doorway, open to a select few, leads into the past—or the grave. Dr. Claire Randall survived the extraordinary passage, not once but twice.

Her first trip swept her into the arms of Jamie Fraser, an eighteenth-century Scot whose love for her became a legend—a tale of tragic passion that ended with her return to the present to bear his child. Her second journey, two decades later, brought them together again in the American colonies. But Claire had left someone behind in the twentieth century—their daughter, Brianna....

Now Brianna has made a disturbing discovery that sends her to the circle of stones and a terrifying leap into the unknown. In search of her mother and the father she has never met, she is risking her own future to try to change history ... and to save their lives. But as Brianna plunges into an uncharted wilderness, a heartbreaking encounter may strand her forever in the past ... or root her in the place she should be, where her heart and soul belong....

Read a full summary of Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon below. If you can’t remember what happened in Drums of Autumn and you need a refresher, then you’re in the right place.

in short

This is Roger and Bree’s book, really.  He follows her through the stones on her quest to reunite with her parents.  When they meet up, they commit to one another (finally) in a handfasting ceremony.  They go their separate ways, intending to meet up at Jamie and Claire’s homestead.  Brianna is raped by pirate and new antagonist, Stephen Bonnet, and finds herself pregnant but unsure of the father.  Severe miscommunication leaves Roger badly beaten and sold to the local Indian tribe, from whom he is eventually rescued by a repentant Jamie but at the cost of Young Ian, who agrees to go live with the Indians.  Brianna safely delivers her son, and Roger returns, pledging to acknowledge the child as his own.

what happened in Drums of Autumn?

Charleston, 1767 – The gang attend the hanging of one of Jamie’s former Ardsmuir comrades.  While burying him in the churchyard, they aid a smuggler-come-pirate by the name of Stephen Bonnet in his own escape from the noose.  Ian wins a dog, Rollo, in a dice game.

  • Boston, 1969 – Bree has returned to Boston after Claire’s trip through the stones.  Roger comes to visit and the two of them play with the prospect of furthering their relationship through a weekend at a Scottish festival, and a moon landing viewing party, before Roger returns to Scotland.
  • Charleston, 1767 – Jamie, Claire, Fergus and Ian make their way North to River Run – a plantation owned and run by Jamie’s aunt Jacosta Cameron.  Along the way they are set upon by pirates, none other than Stephen Bonnet and his gang, who steal the gemstones Jamie and Claire had taken from Geillis.  Claire also loses her gold wedding band in the ambush.
  • Jacosta takes Jamie and Claire on a tour of River Run.  Jamie is pulled unwittingly into a meeting with the Royal Navy, in an attempt to get them to leave River Run alone and stop trying to acquire the land.
  • Jamie is called out to preside over an escalating situation between a white man and a slave.  The slave has drawn blood and must die for his crime, but Claire aids him in a swift death under the guise of tending his own wound.
  • Jamie receives a letter from Jenny and Ian asking for Young Ian to stay in the Colonies with them, in the hopes he will not join the militia.
  • Jacosta’s manservant, Ulysees, tips Jamie off that Jacosta wants Jamie to take over the running of River Run.  Jamie doesn’t want this and is thankful when Myers arrives in the middle of dinner, drunk in preparation for his hernia surgery.
  • Jamie and Claire find a slave girl dead, after what looks like a botched abortion.  Jamie investigates and find ex Ardsmuir Sergeant Murchison could be responsible.
  • Jamie, Claire, Ian and Myers escort runaway Pollyanne to live with the Tuscarora Indians.
  • After the others have travelled on, Jamie and Claire are attacked by a bear.  A group of Indians, Nacognaweto, approach them after the bear is dead.
  • Jamie decides to take up William Tryon’s offer of land for his services in the militia after he and Claire come across a good portion of land, growing strawberries no less, and start to establish a homestead.
  • Nacognawaeto visits with his wife, her daughter, and her grandmother, Nayawenne.  Nayawenne prophesises that Claire will come into her full healing power when her hair turns completely white, and also that death will come but that it’s not Claire’s fault.
  • When Jamie doesn’t come home one night, Claire ventures out in the snow to find him.  He’s hurt his back and the two of them spend the night out in the wilderness.
  • Oxford, 1970 – Roger comes across a new article proclaiming the deaths of Jamie and Claire in a fire in 1776.  He decides not to tell Bree.
  • Fraser’s Ridge, 176? – Duncan has returned to the ridge with new settlers.  On the way home from a medical house call, Claire is caught in a storm.  She takes shelter and finds a man’s skull (Tawineonawira – Otter Tooth) and a large opal.  She also sees the man’s ghost – and, plot twist, the fillings in his teeth.
  • Claire stumbles across a twelve year old boy by the river.  She recognises him instantly, despite never having met him.  She escorts William, Jamie’s son, back to the house where Lord John is already waiting.
  • Claire still has a strong dislike for John, or more specifically, his feelings towards her husband.  He jokes he did not come to seduce Jamie away from her.  No one but John seems to find this amusing.
  • Under Ian’s watch, Willy falls into the privy – much to the amusement of both of his fathers.
  • John and Ian both contract smallpox.  Jamie takes Willy to visit the Indians to keep him from being infected, while Claire stays behind to nurse them.  She and John talk and become civil, if not always friendly toward one another.
  • Jamie finds that the Tuscarora have suffered devastating losses to smallpox, including Nayawenne.
  • Oxford, 1970 – Roger receives a crate of Brianna’s things and realises she has journeyed back to find her parents at Beltane.  He travels immediately to Inverness but doesn’t want to risk a journey of his own until the next fire feast, Midsummer.  With Fiona’s help, Roger studies Geillis’ journal-come-time travel handbook and learns of the importance of gem stones.  He takes his mother’s garnet locket and makes an attempt at Craigh Na Dunn, but is unsuccessful.  With Fiona’s diamond wedding ring, he makes a second, successful, attempt.
  • Lallybroch, 1769 – Brianna visits Lallybroch and comes to know her family.  Ian and Young Jamie help her to secure passage to America, now with maidservant, Lizzie Wemyss, in tow.  Laoghaire is horrible as per usual.
  • Inverness, 1769 – Roger signs on to work on a ship, The Gloriana, bound for America.  The captain is none other than our friend, Stephen Bonnet.  Roger takes a special interest in helping Morag MacKenzie and her baby survive the journey, which makes her husband jealous.
  • Wilmington, 1770 – Brianna nurses Lizzie through another malaria attack and learns Jamie is close by.  Roger finds her one evening, and the two of them become handfast and spend the night together in a shed.  They argue and in the morning, Lizzie assumes Brianna was raped by ‘MacKenzie’.
  • Roger travels to steal the gemstones from Bonnet, while Bree and Lizzie head off to find Jamie at Fergus’ court hearing.  Murchison is stirring up trouble, but the case is thrown out and they all return to the Ridge.
  • Brianna discovers she is pregnant, and reveals to Claire the baby is likely not Roger’s, but Stephen Bonnet’s – whom she came across in a tavern using Claire’s original wedding ring as abetting chip.  When she approaches him offering to buy the ring, he takes her as payment.
  • Lizzie tells Ian and Jamie that Brianna was raped by ‘MacKenzie’ (Roger) who has been seen in the area asking after Brianna.  The two of them head Roger off, and while Ian wants to shoot Roger where he stands, Jamie settles for beating him to a pulp and then selling him to the local Indians.  (Poor Roger)
  • Weeks turn to months and there is still no word of Roger Wakefield anywhere is the surrounding area.  Bree draws up a broadsheet at Jamie’s suggestion, and it becomes clear that Roger Wakefield, and ‘MacKenzie’ are one and the same.  Jamie, Claire, and Ian head off into the wilderness to bring him home.
  • Six months pregnant, Bree spends her time at River Run trying to avoid being married off by her Great Aunt Jacosta.  Lord John puts in an appearance and after a little bit of bonding and a little bit of blackmail, he agrees to stage an engagement until Roger returns.
  • Roger attempts an escape from his Indian captors but injures his foot badly in the process.  He is traded to the Khanyen’kehaka and befriends their travelling Priest.
  • Jamie, Claire and Ian arrive, and the Priest is put to death.  (One event has no bearing on the other.)  A fight breaks out, a man is killed, and Roger is accused of the murder.  The Indians agree that ‘a man for a man’ is sufficient repayment, and though Jamie says it must be he who goes with the Indians, Ian volunteers.
  • John discovers Stephen Bonnet is set to hang for his crimes. Bree demands to see him, but when they arrive things go quickly awry.  Bonnet and Murchison are in league with one another, and have rigged the building to explode.  Murchison has his throat slit, and John is attacked and presumed dead, but Bree forces Bonnet to carry his body out as they flee.  Bonnet leaves them with a ruby and make his escape.
  • On the trip back to the Ridge, Jamie and Claire explain to Roger that Bree is pregnant, but that the child may not be his.  He agrees to follow them once he makes his decision about whether to stay or go.

how did it end?

Jamie and Claire return to River Run.  Claire doctors John and safely delivers Brianna’s son.  Weeks later, back at the Ridge, Roger returns and makes a blood oath, claiming the baby as his own son in front of everyone.  He and Brianna are distant at first, but come together again over time.  The gang attend the Highland Gathering.  The baby finally receives his name – Jemmy – and it is revealed that Geillis’ son, William Buccleigh MacKenzie, is the jealous husband of Morag MacKenzie, from the Gloriana.  (Important information going into book five.)  Roger tells Jamie that the gravestone Claire saw in Scotland was placed there by Frank, in the hope of giving Claire closure and helping her to heal.  A letter is received from Young Ian announcing his marriage to Emily (Wakyo’teyehsnonhsa), and Lizzie’s father arrives as an indentured servant.  Roger and Brianna’s handfast “expires”, but happily, Brianna agrees to marry Roger properly, in front of a priest.


extra information (terminology etc.)


Charleston, Virginia 1767

Wilmington, North Carolina 1767/1769

Fraser’s Ridge, North Carolina 1767-1770

Lallybroch, Scottish Highlands 1769

River Run Plantation, North Carolina – 1770

Boston, Massachusetts 1969

Inverness, Scotland 1969/1970

Oxford, England 1970


PoV Characters

Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp Randall Fraser (age 51 – 54)

James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser (age 46 – 49)

Brianna Ellen Randall Fraser (age 20 – 21)

Roger Jeremiah Wakefield MacKenzie (age 28 – 29)


Gaidhlig Phrases

Balach Boidheach – Beautiful Boy

Eisd ris! – Hear him!

Tannagach – spirits

Luaidh – give praise to

Banlighiche – female physician, healer

A charaidh – friend

A leannan – sweetheart, child

A mhic mo pheathar – son of my sister, nephew

Droch aite – bad place

Oidhche mhath – Goodnight

Balach Mhath – Good boy

Slan leat, a charaid choir – Good luck to you, dear friend

Mo ghille – my boy, lad

M’annasachd – my blessing

Ciamar a tha tu, mo cridhe? – How are you, my darling?

Tha mi gle mhath, athair. – I am well, Father.

An e’n fhirinn a th’agad? – Do you tell me true?

Mi gradhaich a thu, athair. – My love to you, Father.

A bheanachd – my blessing

Caisteal Dhuni! – Castle Dounie, the Fraser’s war cry

Cuimhnich – Remember

A Ruidh – the Red One

This is a full plot summary of what happened in Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon. Check out our recap list for more recaps. If you can’t find what you need, you can request a recap from us!

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