Laoghaire: a character readers love to hate
Even Diana has commented on this reaction, saying, "I'm always kind of startled (and amused) at the vituperation with which so many readers regard Laoghaire. She may be feckless, impulsive, and somewhat vindictive (not without reason, either), but she isn't a monster."
So, why do so many readers hate Laoghaire? And is that feeling justified by the facts as we know them?
1) The first and most obvious reason is that Claire can't stand Laoghaire. She often makes the claim (unsubstantiated by the facts, as Diana pointed out in a discussion on Compuserve last year) that Laoghaire "tried to kill me" by sending her to Geillis Duncan's house knowing that the authorities meant to arrest Geillie for witchcraft. And Claire repeats this accusation a number of times in the course of the series, usually when she is under emotional stress. I think it's entirely understandable that many readers absorb Claire's prejudices, since the story is being told primarily from Claire's point of view. Still, just because Claire keeps saying it doesn't make it true.
2) Laoghaire married Jamie. I'm sure a lot of readers are outraged on Claire's behalf that anyone at all would marry Jamie, let alone someone who's shown such animosity toward Claire. Personally, I think the marriage was a mistake on the part of both Jamie and Laoghaire (and to some extent a mistake on Jenny's part as well, for her role in arranging it), but I don't really understand the intensity of the hatred that many readers feel toward Laoghaire for having married Jamie, however briefly. Yes, it can certainly be seen as a betrayal of Claire, but after all, Laoghaire thought she was long since dead, and Jamie surely never expected to see her again.
3) Laoghaire shot Jamie, and might well have succeeded in killing him, from the subsequent infection if not from the gunshot itself, had Claire not returned with her penicillin in time to save Jamie's life. I have a hard time forgiving Laoghaire for this myself, but Diana pointed out once on Compuserve that Jamie doesn't seem to hold it against her.
4) The financial settlement imposes a severe burden on Jamie and Claire, forcing them to sell gemstones to pay the money Jamie owes to Laoghaire, while Laoghaire is apparently doing quite well for herself at Balriggan, financially speaking. I don't think it's Laoghaire's fault that she had a very good lawyer on her side (Ned Gowan). But there is no denying that Jamie and Claire's financial situation would be greatly improved if they could stop sending money to Laoghaire.
5) Laoghaire is immature, selfish, and whiny, prone to calling people names (as she does when Brianna shows up in DRUMS). While this is undeniably unpleasant, it's also basically harmless. Personally, I think Alec was right, in OUTLANDER, when he said of Laoghaire that "she'll be a girl when she's fifty."
I think some readers tend to hate Laoghaire so intensely that they resist any mention of her good qualities (for example, Marsali's stories about her mother's home remedies). And I strongly suspect that we will see a side of Laoghaire in ECHO that will surprise all of us (although this is just speculation on my part.*)
What about the rest of you? What do you think about Laoghaire?
*Please note, if you've read any excerpts from ECHO that mention Laoghaire, I ask that you NOT talk about them here. Remember, I don't read ECHO excerpts. Thanks.