On its own merits, this book probably deserves only two stars, but I'm a fan of Jamie and Claire so I gave it an extra one. This series seems to become more and more plotless as it progresses. Ostensibly it's about the prelude to the American Revolution, but really it's just a chroncle of life on Fraser's Ridge. If we didn't already know and love the Frasers, that wouldn't count for much. Abductions, deaths, marriages, infidelities, pregnancies, gossip, mishaps...it's the same old same old. These things happen one after another after like a series of side-plots. Which would be fine if there was actually a main plot running concurrently, but there isn't. Things just happen briefly and then we move into the next random episode.
The mark of a good story is that everything described contributes to plot and character development. In this book, very little seems necessary, and some scenes that might be actual opportunities for character development are skipped over entirely. I don't think any of these characters have grown or changed at all over the entire series. It's a good thing, then, that Jamie and Claire are so endearing to begin with.
If you classify these books as being in the "romance" genre, then I can see why they might seem like the cream of the crop. I tend to think of them as historical fiction, a genre with a much higher literary standard (in my opinion). Just because your books contain more words on average than any other series in history doesn't make you a better writer. In fact, the length of these books makes them a tedious undertaking. You expect a book this long to have an epic storyline, but it barely has one at all. So why did I bother to read it? Well, it's because after spending so much time with this cast of characters, they've become like family and it's comforting to come back to them. And also because with each new book in the series I keep hoping Gabaldon will manage to recreate the magic of the original Outlander. She hasn't quite done it since Voyager, but when it comes to books, I'm an optimist.