Review: Written in My Own Heart’s Blood by Diana Gabaldon

written in my own hearts blood by diana gabaldonFormat read: ebook purchased from Amazon
Formats available: ebook, paperback, hardcover, audiobook
Genre: historical fiction; time travel romance
Series: Outlander, #8
Length: 849 pages
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Date Released: June 10, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

1778: France declares war on Great Britain, the British army leaves Philadelphia, and George Washington’s troops leave Valley Forge in pursuit. At this moment, Jamie Fraser returns from a presumed watery grave to discover that his best friend has married his wife, his illegitimate son has discovered (to his horror) who his father really is, and his beloved nephew, Ian, wants to marry a Quaker. Meanwhile, Jamie’s wife, Claire, and his sister, Jenny, are busy picking up the pieces.

The Frasers can only be thankful that their daughter Brianna and her family are safe in twentieth-century Scotland. Or not. In fact, Brianna is searching for her own son, who was kidnapped by a man determined to learn her family’s secrets. Her husband, Roger, has ventured into the past in search of the missing boy . . . never suspecting that the object of his quest has not left the present. Now, with Roger out of the way, the kidnapper can focus on his true target: Brianna herself.

My Review:

The title is much too long, but completely evocative of the story, assuming that the heart in question belongs to Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp Randall Fraser (and briefly Grey).

outlander mediumIf the above recital of names requires explication, please start this series at the very beginning, with Outlander. If you enjoy historical fiction, you’ll be extremely glad you did.

Consider all of this as spoilers to the Starz Outlander TV series that starts next month. Just as with The Game of Thrones, someday, if the series is successful, TV will catch up to the books.

By the time of this particular story, it is 1778, and Claire and Jamie are caught in the midst of the American Revolution. Even though Claire is a time traveler, she only remembers the bare outlines of 18th century American history. The Colonials obviously won in the end, but who won which battle is not something she ever studied in medical school.

Claire and Jamie live their 18th century lives one day at a time, doing their best to survive. Life, however, has a way of throwing them curveballs, ones almost as big as the trip through the standing stones that brought Claire back to the 18th century in the first place.

scottish prisonerWritten in My Own Heart’s Blood begins just where An Echo in the Bone left off, five years ago. (Waiting for the next book in this series is awful).

At the end of Echo, Jamie has just returned to the colonies after a trip to Scotland, a trip where he was reported dead. Claire is married to Lord John Grey (see The Scottish Prisoner (reviewed here) for more on Grey) as a way of being protected from accusations of sedition against the British. As Grey is homosexual, it was assumed that this would be a marriage entirely of convenience. It was, mostly, emphasis on mostly.

So Jamie comes back to find out that his wife has married one of his best friends, and takes Grey out to beat him to a pulp. A beating that Grey feels he not only deserves, but actively encourages. The results, however, leave Grey wandering around the Pennsylvania countryside with severe injuries. He finds himself batted, and battered, back and forth between the rival Colonial and British forces as he alternately conceals and reveals his identity in an attempt to return home.

Meanwhile, Jamie returns to Philadelphia and gets dragooned into the Colonial Army as a General, based on his experience in Europe as well as in the Colonies. Claire follows him as a surgeon while they repair their slightly strained relationship.

And in the 20th century, their daughter Brianna faces multiple kidnap attempts as she tries to figure out where and when the best place will be to raise her children, all while her husband in lost back in the 18th century on a wild goose chase for their son.

All anyone wants to do is go home, if they can just dodge the armies and other forces against them; and if they can figure out exactly where that elusive “home” might be.

Escape Rating A+: Okay, I’ll say upfront that I love this series, and have since the very first book, over 20 years ago. This series is sprawling and awesome and sprawlingly awesome.

Written in My Own Heart’s Blood was the perfect book to read on a 5-hour flight. I didn’t finish the 800+ pages, but I was enthralled every step of the way, both mine and Claire’s.

After 8 books in the series, what continues to fascinate, at least this reader, are the closely intertwined relationships among all the participants. Family and friendship make incredibly strong bonds, and in this story we see how close everyone has remained, even across three centuries and three generations.

The story encompasses not just Jamie and Claire, but also his nephew Ian, his natural son William, Bree and Roger in the 20th century, and every member of both families. And it’s all so enthralling that each person plays their own separate and completely needful part in the narrative. Including John Grey and his family from the British military side.

Not only is every story part of every other, but we get a glimpse at the time before Outlander started through Roger’s wild goose chase in the 1730s, and we see the genesis of characters who have fallen by the wayside. Even Bree’s 20th century stepfather manages to send an important message back from the grave.

Following the American Revolution from the ground is bloody, gory, frightening and amazing. Claire’s perspectives of the battles, from her position as a medico, give the entire scene a “you are there” feeling that keeps you on the edge of your seat. We meet some of the towering figures of the Revolution, like Washington and Benedict Arnold, only to discover that they were human and fallible (especially Arnold!) but still amazing.

I hope that Claire gets to meet Ben Franklin, I think it would be hilarious.

But speaking of hilarity, the story definitely has it’s lighter moments. The humor and occasional sarcasm laced through Claire’s 20th century observations of the 18th century are often snort-chuckle funny. The characters are so familiar that the humor in many situations comes through wonderfully.

If you have an interest in any of the periods that this series covers, if you enjoy historical fiction laced with romance and in the midst of a sprawling family saga, try Outlander. (If the size of the books alarms you, the first seven are available in an ebook bundle.)

I can’t wait to visit with Claire and Jamie again. The story does not (thankfully) end on a cliffhanger, but one is left with the intense feeling that there is much more yet to come!

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

A Look Forward: My Most Anticipated Reads for 2014

2014 numbersWhat a difference a year makes!

It was surprisingly easy to pick the books for this list. I know exactly which books I’m dying for this year. Well, the first ten, anyway. I wasn’t planning on fourteen, but Cass jumped in and rounded out the list. (Thanks, Cass!)

Then I took a look back at last year’s list, and my eyes crossed a bit. There are two repeaters. I don’t mean series where the next book in the series is on the list, although that happens too, but two books that were delayed in publication. So I’ve waited a whole year longer than originally planned. (Not that I didn’t find plenty to read instead)

And a couple of things I thought I would read as soon as they came out, I didn’t. (Best laid plans, etc., etc.)

So here’s this year’s set of newly laid plans. Let’s see how it goes. Why do I hear a “bwahahaha”, coming from somewhere in the shadows?

skin game by jim butcherSkin Game by Jim Butcher is the 15th Harry Dresden book. I can’t believe the series has been going on that long. I fell in love with Harry because he started out as a hapless and frequently luckless wizard in my favorite former hometown, Chicago. But I still love his trademark snark, even as Harry has gone from being a two-bit wizard-for-hire to the Winter Knight to the Queen of Air and Darkness.

Damnation by Jean Johnson is the fourth book in her Theirs Not to Reason Why military science fiction series. I heard her read from Damnation at WorldCon in San Antonio, and I can’t believe I have to wait until August to finally get the next chapter in Ia’s story. There have been moments in this series that have sent chills down my spine. This entire series has been awesome.

guild by jean johnsonThe Guild, also by Jean Johnson, is the third book in her Guardians of Destiny fantasy romance series. Her military sf is kick ass, but I found her through her fantasy romance, and she’s utterly marvelous. The second book in this series, The Grove, was on my 2013 best list. She does fantasy romance where the fantasy worldbuilding is top notch and her heroines are always the absolute equals of her heroes. Her women have friends who talk to each other, and the plot of the fantasy is as important as the romantic happy ending. Her stories are always a treat!

Cast in Flame by Michelle Sagara is the tenth of the Chronicles of Elantra, and I can’t wait for Kaylin to get back to the city. She belongs there. Removing her from the city and the Courts for two books was interesting and told a lot about her friends among the Barrani, but took away from Kaylin as the center point. I want Kaylin back where she belongs!

silver mirrors by aa aguirreSilver Mirrors by A.A. Aguirre is the second book in their (A.A. Aguirre is the joint pseudonym of Ann and Andres Aguirre) Apparatus Infernum series. The first book, Bronze Gods, was one of my best of 2013. The world is just such an awesome mixture of steampunk and “magic goes away”, with an urban fantasy/detective duo that is something special.

Death Defying by Nina Croft has been the biggest tease for the end of December. It’s also the third book in her Blood Hunter series. I loved the first two books (Break Out and Deadly Pursuit) in that science fiction romance series so damn much that I gave Break Out an SFR Galaxy Award. I’ve been waiting since then. Death Defying almost made it into 2013, but not quite. What is so cool about the Blood Hunter series is that Croft figured out a plausible way for vampires and werewolves to make it into space. So along with a science that has granted immortality to a privileged few, there are vampires, who are also immortal. And it makes sense.

shield of winter by nalini singhShield of Winter by Nalini Singh is lucky 13 in her Psy-Changeling series. I still love this series, but it’s pretty obvious that the overall arc of the worldbuilding is drawing to a conclusion. The Silence Protocol will fall, the questions revolve around what is going to take its place; order or anarchy. I think I’ve become as or more fascinated with the big story than the individual romances. And I simply can’t express how grateful I am that the cover design has improved with Heart of Obsidian and Shield. The previous US covers were simply abominable.

Lock In by John Scalzi. Honestly, I wouldn’t care what the summary said on Goodreads. It’s by Scalzi, and I’m going to get the eARC from Edelweiss as soon as it pops up. But seriously, it sounds cool, but not one of his funny ones. This looks like one of his big idea books mixing virtual-reality, epidemiology and the misuse of power. Wow!

And now for those books that I hoped to see last year, but were delayed in publication…

written in my own hearts blood by diana gabaldonWritten in My Own Heart’s Blood is the eighth doorstop in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. The Outlander series has been described, and it sounds about right to me, as “historical fiction with a Moebius twist”. The past and the future intertwine in a way that has to be read to be believed. Her 18th century is like you are there, and in a way you are, because you are experiencing it through the eyes of a 20th century woman who found the love of her life in 18th century Scotland. Outlander is the standard by which all other time travel historical fiction and romances are judged. I can’t wait to lose three days in the next one.

One-Eyed Jack by Elizabeth Bear is the continuation of her completely splendiferous Promethean Age series. They are portal fantasies, where Faerie exists next door to our world in a way that means events can, and do, affect both us and them, usually to the detriment of one or the other. And whoever scored last has a nasty tendency to strike back. The original cover sucked, and it went back for a better one. At least, that’s what the author said at WorldCon. (The first cover really, really does suck, we’ll have to see about the second one when it gets here. I just want the damn story)

Two books I should be anticipating but aren’t exactly…

Wicked After Midnight by Delilah S. DawsonWicked After Midnight by Delilah S. Dawson and Rex Regis by L.E. Modesitt Jr. These two books have nothing to do with each other, except that they are both January books, and I would normally be chomping at the proverbial bit to get at them. However, I have ARCs. I’ve already read Rex Regis, and can’t recommend it, and the entire Imager Portfolio series, highly enough to anyone who loves epic fantasy.

I started Delilah S. Dawson’s Blud series after I met her at Dragon*Con in 2012. The series is steampunk with a slightly creepy twist to it, but they are darkly enchanting and I scoop up each book as soon as they are available. I know Wicked After Midnight is going to be a treat.

And now for a few words from the Alaskan delegate. Here’s Cass!

tropic of serpents by marie brennanThe Tropic of Serpents by Marie Brennan! Clearly. I invented a new rating system for Book #1 Then I preordered Serpents 6 months before it’s release. I’ve NEVER preordered something so far in advance. I have no idea what edition it is (hardcover? paperback?), what the cover art looks like…nada. Doesn’t matter. Don’t care. WANT BOOK NOW.

Symbiont by Mira Grant. Argh! I have to see what is happening with the Tapeworm Uprising! And then find some anti-parasitcs to ingest, thus purging my body of our future Tapeworm Overlords.


Wyrd-Sisters by Terry Pratchett new coverThe Discworld Collector’s Library. Holy shit these covers are gorgeous. ( I’ve read the covers off several of my favorite Terry Pratchett books, and I upgrades. Particularly the Death, Cultures of Discworld, and Witches Collections. I am only interested in certain Unseen University and City Watch books.

Untitled by Connie Willis. Connie read the first chapter from an untitled (and as yet unfinished) book at WorldCon and I have no idea when it is coming or what it will be called by I am waiting. Credit card in hand. Just give me a sign Connie…..

And there you have it. A few of the books we are looking most forward to in 2014. Of course, there will be more. Lots, lots more.

Which books are you looking forward to the most in 2014?

13 for 2013: A Baker’s Dozen of My Most Anticipated Reads

“Love looks forward, hate looks backward, and anxiety stalks NetGalley and Edelweiss for early review copies.” That is not the way the saying goes, but it works for me.

I’m also hoping that there will be review copies of the Spring books at least on the American Library Association Midwinter Exhibits floor–especially since I won’t need to worry about what I carry home with me. I’ll be home. The conference is here in Seattle this year.

So, what books are at the tippy top of my wishlist for 2013?

Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris, otherwise known as Sookie Stackhouse’s last hurrah. Even though the last few books in the series haven’t been quite up to the high bar set by the early entries, I have to know how Sookie’s story ends. Don’t you?

Written in My Own Heart’s Blood by Diana Gabaldon is the 8th doorstop in her giant, world-traveling, era-spanning Outlander series. The series has been described as “historical fiction with a Moebius twist,” and that’s the best short summation I’ve read for the damn thing that makes any sense. What they are is the best way to lose about three days, every time there’s a new one–and I can’t wait.

The Second Rule of Ten by Gay Hendricks and Tinker Lindsay. I’ll confess that I have this one because I did stalk NetGalley for months after reading The First Rule of Ten, but the official date of publication is January 1, 2013, so it’s on the list. Tenzing Norbu is interesting as a detective because he is just different enough to see the world slightly askew, and it helps him solve crimes. The world he solves crimes in is itself slightly askew. Of all the places for an ex-monk to end up, Hollywood? Really? Marvelous!

Cast in Sorrow by Michelle Sagara will be number 9 in her Chronicles of Elantra. I just finished book 8, Cast in Peril, last week, and I’m already jonesing for my next fix. It doesn’t help that Cast in Peril ended in the middle of a very dangerous journey, not that Kaylin ever manages to stay out of trouble for long. So this wait is even more cliffhanger-esque than normal.

Imager’s Battalion by L.E. Modesitt Jr. When I finished the first trilogy in Modesitt’s Imager Portfolio, I thought he was done. The story was marvelous, but his hero’s journey was over. Little did I know he had a prequel in mind. Quaeryt’s journey from bureaucratic aide to military leader reads a bit like Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. And that’s not bad company at all.

Untitled Psy-Changeling #12 by Nalini Singh. I hate this. The publisher and the author are being particularly coy about this one. Even the title is supposed to be a huge spoiler for some shocking secret mystery. As annoyed as I am about this, I adore the Psy-Changeling series, so I can’t wait for the book. Whatever it’s called.

Tuesday’s Gone by Nicci French is the second book in French’s new mystery series featuring therapist Frieda Klein. Something about the first book, Blue Monday, absolutely grabbed me. I think it had to do with how much Klein wanted to keep the case at arm’s length, and how personal it all turned out to be.  Blue Monday was chilling and I want to see if Tuesday’s Gone is just as good.

One-Eyed Jack by Elizabeth Bear is something I’ve wanted for a long time, but never expected to see. It’s a continuation of her utterly wondrous Promethean Age series. The Promethean Age books were urban fantasy of the crossover school, something that isn’t done well nearly often enough. In the Promethean Age, Faerie exists alongside our world, and events can effect both, sometimes with disastrous consequences.

Wicked as She Wants by Delilah S. Dawson is the second book in Dawson’s absolutely yummy Blud series. The first book, Wicked as They Come, was dark, creepy, sensual and extremely eerie. At the same time, the love story was hauntingly beautiful. And I want to see more bludbunnies. Any writer who can come up with piranha rabbits has to have more tricks up her sleeve.

Calculated in Death  and Thankless in Death by J.D. Robb. I still want to know how Nora Roberts does it. Calculated and Thankless are the two In Death books scheduled for 2013. I have a hard time believing that they are numbers 36 and 37 in the series. Odds are that one will be close to awesome, and one will be a visit with old friends, which is still not bad. I’m going to buy them both anyway and read them in one gulp the minute I get them.

The Human Division by John Scalzi is Scalzi’s first novel in his Old Man’s War universe since Zoe’s Tale in 2008. Old Man’s War is military science fiction, with a slice of social commentary, and just a hint of a love story. It’s also just plain awesome. And anything new by Scalzi is automatically great news. Even more fascinating, The Human Division is going to be released as a digital serial, starting in January. So the only question is whether I get it in bits, or do I wait for the finished novel? Or both?

Heart Fortune by Robin D. Owens is the twelfth book in Owens’ Celta series. In Celta, Robin D. Owens has created the kind of world that readers want to live on, as well as experience vicariously through her stories. I’ve read the entire Celta series, and they are one of the few romance series I’ve read that manages to make the “fated mate” concept work–probably because she occasionally subverts it.

Blood and Magick by James R. Tuck. This is the third book in the Deacon Chalk series, and I love them. I found Deacon because it’s getting to be too long a wait between Dresden Files books (and it looks like 2013 will be a year without Harry). Deacon Chalk mostly takes out his demons with guns. Lots and lots of guns. But he knows some on the side of the righteous, too. Deacon Chalk is urban fantasy of the purely kick-butt fun school.

River of Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay will be my birthday present this year, or close enough. Kay writes fantasy mixed with a large helping of historical fiction. The result is a magical blending of history as it might have been. Beautiful, complex, breath-takingly poignant. Kay writes worlds of awe and wonder. I can’t wait to be awestruck again.

These are the books. For 2013 it seemed fitting to choose a baker’s dozen, or 13, books that  I’m looking forward to the most.

If you’re curious about what happened to last year’s “Anticipateds” stop by Book Lovers Inc. on Thursday.

What books are you looking forward to the most in 2013?

12 for 2012: The Best Dozen Books of My Year

It’s surprisingly difficult to decide which books were the absolute best from the year. Not so much the first few, those were kind of easy. But when it gets down to the last three or four, that’s where the nail-biting starts to come into play.

Looking back at the books I reviewed, I gave out a fair number of “A” ratings–but not very many “A+” ratings. And that’s as it should be. But there were also a couple of books that I read, and loved, but didn’t review. I bought them and didn’t write them up.

Love counts for a lot.

And there were a couple that just haunted me. They might not have been A+ books, but something about them made me stalk NetGalley for the rest of the year, searching for the next book in the series. Something, or someone that sticks in the mind that persistently matters.

This is my list of favorites for 2012. Your list, and your mileage, may vary.

Cold Days by Jim Butcher (reviewed 11/30/12). I started reading the Dresden Files out of nostalgia for Chicago, probably my favorite former hometown. But I fell in love with Harry’s snark, and stayed that way. Some of the books have been terrific, and some have been visits with an old friend. Cold Days is awesome, because Harry is finally filling those really big shoes he’s been clomping around Chicago in. He is a Power, and he finally recognizes it. And so does everyone else. What he does with that power, and how he keeps it from changing him, has only begun.


The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny (reviewed 8/29/12). Louise Penny’s Chief Inspector Gamache series are murder-mysteries. They are also intensely deep character studies, and none in the series more deeply felt than this outing, which takes the Chief Inspector and his flawed second-in-command Jean-Guy Beauvoir to a remote monastery in northern Québec. The murder exposes the rot within the isolated monastic community, and the interference from the Sûreté Chief exposes the rot within the Sûreté itself, and within Gamache’s unit.


The Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon (reviewed 6/20/12) The latest volume in Gabaldon’s Lord John series, which is a kind of historical mystery series. Lord John Grey solves military problems that tend to get wrapped up in politics. The Scottish prisoner of the title is Jamie Fraser, the hero of Gabaldon’s Outlander series, and takes place in the gap between Drums of Autumn and Voyager. The Scottish Prisoner has to do with an attempt by Lord John and his brother to prevent yet another Jacobite Rebellion by working with Jamie. If you like the Outlander series at all, this one is marvelous.


Cast in Peril by Michelle Sagara (reviewed 12/26/12) is the latest in Michelle Sagara’s Chronicles of Elantra series. Elantra is an urban fantasy, but the setting is a high fantasy world. The emperor is a dragon, for example. But the heroine is human, and flawed. She is also a member of the law enforcement agency. It just so happens that her desk sergeant is a lion. The commander is a hawk. Her best friends are immortal, and one of them is the spirit of a tower.  Kaylin’s striving each day to make the world better than she began it changes everything, even the unchanging immortals around her. Her journey fascinates.


Scholar and Princeps by L.E. Modesitt, Jr. I didn’t write reviews of these, and I should have, because I loved them both. Scholar and Princeps are the 4th and 5th books in the Imager Portfolio. The first three books, Imager, Imager’s Challenge, and Imager’s Portfolio were so good I practically shoved them at people. These new ones are in a prequel trilogy, but equally excellent. What’s different about these series is that Modesitt’s heroes in both cases are coming into their powers without it being a coming-of-age story. They are adults who are adjusting to new power and responsibility. It makes the story different from the usual epic fantasy.


The First Rule of Ten by Gay Hendricks and Tinker Lindsay (reviewed 1/6/12). This book was an utter surprise and delight. A former Buddhist monk leaves the monastery, becomes an LAPD detective, and eventually, a private investigator. What a fascinating backstory! Tenzing Norbu, known as Ten, retains just enough of his outsider perspective to be a fascinating point-of-view character. I stalked NetGalley for months waiting for the next book in this series to appear, because I wanted more!


The Fallen Queen (reviewed at BLI on 7/3/12) and The Midnight Court (reviewed 8/14/12) by Jane Kindred. I said that Jane Kindred’s House of Arkhangel’sk trilogy reminded me of Russian tea, initially bitter, often and unexpectedly sweet, and filled with immensely complicated rituals. Also incredibly satisfying for those who savor a heady brew. Take Hans Christian Andersen’s tale of The Snow Queen and cross it with the history of the House of Romanov. Leaven it with the most complicated pantheon of angels and demons you can imagine, then stir well with the political machinations and sexual proclivities described in Kushiel’s Dart. Only with more heartbreak.

About Last Night by Ruthie Knox (reviewed 6/8/12) had me at hand-knitted straight-jacket. But it’s way more fun than that. Also more complicated. It’s the story of a formerly bad girl trying so damn hard to make up for her past mistakes, and unable to forgive herself, and one man who has tried much too hard for much too long to live up to his family’s expectations, in spite of the fact that what his family wants has nothing to do with what he wants for himself. They make a glorious mistake together, that turns out not to have been a mistake after all.


Taste Me (reviewed 12/11/12) and Chase Me (reviewed 12/12/12) by Tamara Hogan. The Underbelly Chronicles were a complete surprise, but in an absolutely fantastic way. They are paranormal romance of the urban fantasy persuasion, or the other way around. Every supernatural creature that we’ve ever imagined is real in Hogan’s version of Minneapolis, but with a fascinating twist. They’re real because they are the descendants of a wrecked space ship. That’s right, the vampires, and werewolves, and sirens, are all E.T. And when they find the wrecked ship’s black box after a thousand years, it phones home. The family reunion is coming up in book three. In the meantime, there is a lot of yummy interspecies romance.

The Girl Who Disappeared Twice and The Line Between Here and Gone (reviewed at BLI 6/19/12) by Andrea Kane. I disappeared into The Girl Who Disappeared Twice and didn’t reappear until the end of The Line Between Here and Gone, although I still find the title of the second one more than a bit incomprehensible. Just the same, the Forensic Instincts team that solves the extremely gripping and highly unusual crimes in this new series by Kane is a force to be reckoned with. They have that kind of perfect balance that you see in crime-solving teams with the best chemistry. They are a fantastic “five-man band” which makes it a pure pleasure to watch them work, no matter how gruesome the crime they were solving.

Blue Monday by Nicci French. I’m currently stalking Netgalley for the next book in this series, Tuesday’s Gone. Which is not here yet, so it can’t be bloody gone! This is a mystery, but with a more psychological bent, as the amateur sleuth is a forensic psychologist. This one gave me chills from beginning to end, but it’s the protagonist who has me coming back. Because her work is so personal, she’s both strong and fragile at the same time, and I want to see if she can keep going.


And for sheer impact, last and absolutely not least…

The Mine by John A Heldt (reviewed at BLI on 9/28/12). There are surprises, and then there are books that absolutely blow you away. If you have ever read Jack Finney’s classic Time and Again, The Mine will remind you of Finney. Heldt has crafted a story about a boy/man who accidentally goes back in time to America’s last golden summer, the summer of 1941. All he has is a few stories of Seattle in the 1940s that his grandmother told, and a fortunate memory for baseball statistics. What he does is fall in love, with a woman, a time, a place, and a way of life. And then he learns that he can come home, and that he must. No matter how much damage he does by leaving the people he has come to love, he knows that he will do more harm if he stays. The Mine will stick with you long after you finish.

That’s a wrap. I could have gone on. I though about adding honorable mentions, but that way lies madness. Definitely madness! I did list my Best Ebook Romances for 2012 on Library Journal again this year. There are a couple of repeats from that list to this one, but the qualifications are different. LJ has lots of other “best” lists, if you are looking for a few (dozen) more good books.

I’m dreaming of next year.


Dual Review: Timeless Desire by Gwyn Cready

Format read: eARC provided by publisher
Release Date: 18 July 2012
Number of pages: 384 pages
Publisher: Astor and Blue
Formats available: ebook, paperback
Purchasing Info: Goodreads, Author’s Website, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Astor and Blue


Two years after losing her husband, overworked librarian Panna Kennedy battles to distract herself from crushing Grief, even as she battles to deal with yet another library budget cut. During a routine search within the library’s lower levels, Panna opens an obscure, pad-locked door and finds herself transported to the magnificent, book-filled quarters of a handsome, eighteenth-century Englishman.

She soon recognizes the man as Colonel John Bridgewater, the historic English war hero whose larger-than-life statue loomed over her desk.However, the life of the dashing Bridgewater is not at all what she imagined. He’s under house arrest for betraying England, and now looks upon her a beautiful and unexpected half-dressed visitor as a possible spy.

Despite bad first impressions (on both sides), Bridgewater nonetheless warms to Panna, and pulls her into his escape while both their hearts pull the other headlong into their soul-stirring secrets.Very quickly Panna is thrown into a whirlwind of high-stakes intrigue that sweeps her from Hadrian’s Wall to a forbidding stone castle in Scotland. And somewhere in the outland, Panna must decide if her loyalties lie with her dead husband, or with the man whose life now depends on her.

Our Thoughts: 

Stella: I am a big fan of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series and have been on the lookout of similar time travel/historical romances, so when I heard of Timeless Desire I was excited to read it. I think the biggest disservice but also what gets people’s attention is that it is marketed as “an Outlander love story”, and the comparison arises, and unfortunately it’s not in Timeless Desire’s favour.

Marlene: I am also a fan of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, so when I saw the subtitle of Timeless Desire, I jumped on it, and for the same reasons you did, Stella. I wondered if it was anything like Gabaldon’s classic. It’s not. The closest one could say is Outlander-lite, in size, scope and depth.

Stella: I agree Marlene. When I saw that Timeless Desire was “an Outlander love story” I was expecting an epic love story just like Claire’s and Jamie’s, but Panna and Jamie’s (yes, the hero is Jamie as well) romance lacked the depth and heart-squeezing intensity Outlander delivered. It was fluff. No problem with that if it is not compared with its namesake predecessor. I found both Panna and Jamie’s character lacking depth and development, they remained sketched, neither really went through any character evolution, and their love was lukewarm. Nice but nothing sizzling or memorable. And speaking of the main characters, Panna is a librarian just like you Marlene, what was your take on her, was she really an authentic one?

Marlene: First, there are two names in romance that probably authors just shouldn’t get near with a barge-pole. Any barge-pole. It’s probably going to take two or three generations before it’s safe to name a romantic hero Roarke, especially if he’s Irish. And never name a Scotsman Jamie, especially not if his wife is a time-traveler. Just don’t go there. Jamie Frasier is going to stand very tall for a very long time.

Stella: Couldn’t agree more. It’s really an author-suicide, or at the least crazy brave…

Marlene: However, Panna sounded and talked like a librarian. I read her inner dialogue about her work, and she sounded like “one of us”. The budget problems and service issues and the balancing act she had to do were very real. And I have library stories to match hers. I’ve even worked in a Carnegie library, and I worked in a town that had an old Carnegie donation story almost as strange as the one she told.

Stella: That part then must have been fun for you 😀 Regarding the plot I found that there was too much happening: the historical plotline combined with their romance and all the secondary characters and their happenings, Jamie’s parentage story, the rebellion, etc. was too much for the 380 pages (no wonder Diana Gabaldon needs 1000 or so for everything she wants to pack in one novel). I found the story fractured as the narrative jumped around, each chapter bringing a change of scenery as we witnessed different characters and their POVs.

Marlene: There was a LOT happening, but I only felt like I was following three characters; Jamie, Panna or Adderly. What was hard to follow was the shift to to the Scots side of the border. That entire storyline wasn’t resolved until the very end.

Stella: Besides Panna, Jamie and Adderly there was Clare and Undine that I can also remember. Would have preferred to stick to just the hero/heroine’s POV. As to the writing, while it flew smoothly, I had a problem with the ton of quotes. Although at first I found it an entertaining quirk, soon I found the many quotes peppered in the story were too much and made me lose interest.

Marlene: Panna’s self-talk did come out as a bunch of quotations, but it didn’t really bother me. There were times when I felt like she was talking to herself as a way of keeping herself sane, or because there wasn’t anyone else who could understand her frame of reference. (Or maybe I talk to myself in my head a lot, too. Mmm, that’s an odd thought. I’ll have to think about that one some more…)

Stella: I didn’t mind her inner monologues or even out loud pep talks, those were just a part of her characterization, what I meant was that her monologues were often full of quotations from poems or famous plays: Pope, Shakespeare, etc. Maybe I noticed that because I tend to note down quotes from books I like and it really popped out to me how many she referenced. And if I already mentioned the quotes I found too much, let me tell you about my other complaints about the plot. I felt that the attempted rape scene felt forced and even improbable, as I wouldn’t imagine guards in a castle attempting to rape the wife of their employer’s grandson.

Marlene: If you mean the scene I’m thinking of, by that time his grandfather was out of power, and the English and Scots didn’t think of each other as the same people. The family ties don’t seem to have been too strong. I think the real problem, as you point out Stella, is that the scene was just plain unnecessary. It doesn’t seem to serve any particular purpose in the story.

Stella: Exactly Marlene. The guards are working for the grandfather, who as their employer gave them an order to bring him his grandson and wife and besides this family tie, there was also the time restraint: the guards only had a couple of minutes to take them upstairs. I just felt that this scene was forced into the story to draw another parallel to the attempted rape scene in Outlander. And I wasn’t too happy with the resolution of most of the plotlines, I especially found the way Jamie’s parentage was neatly tied up way too convenient and rose-y…

Marlene: I had an entirely different issue with this resolution–I’ve read it before. There’s another very long saga of historical fiction about the Scots border country, The Lymond Chronicles, written by Dorothy Dunnett. One of the major plot points concerns the hero’s parentage, and is resolved (after 6 very long books) in extremely similar fashion to Jamie’s. In the Lymond Chronicles, that resolution has a LOT more emotional weight than it did in Timeless Desire, but it takes an enormous amount of reading to get there. But if you love historical fiction, Lymond is definitely worth the investment (sorry, no time-travel). Start with The Game of Kings.

Stella: Thanks Marlene, I’ll take note. There were plenty of similarities/references to the original Outlander by Diana Gabaldon: both heroes are called Jamie, a secondary character is named “Clare” as clear reference to Gabaldon’s heroine who is “Claire”, the forced marriage for political reasons, the attempted rape scene, the strained relationship between Jamie and his family/kinsmen, his forced oath, etc. and though these could have been like a tongue in cheek humour for the Gabaldon fans, I find it rather disappointing that Gwyn Cready didn’t go on a completely untravelled road but instead chose to follow exactly in Outlander’s footsteps. Any others that jumped out at you Marlene? And how did you feel about them?

Marlene: I also saw the similarities to Gabaldon’s Outlander, and whenever they came up, I could generally predict that Cready would take the opposite tack from Gabaldon. There was a sense that she wanted to explore some of “the road not taken”, but not go too far down the path. Undine the witch is good instead of evil like Geillis Duncan. No virgins on the wedding night (hallelujah!). Panna is a widow, and is not leaving a husband behind. Jamie comes forward in time instead of Panna going back. At least Cready did not use the standing stones as her time-travel device (Double hallelujah on this one)

Stella: Hm.. I still found too many similarities to the “original” one.


Stella: I expected an epic love story and instead got fluff. The characters remained flat and two dimensional, and though the story was nice it remained rather lukewarm and forgettable. Timeless Desire though marketed as “an Outlander romance” is a very different kind of story: even though the premise sounds similar, Timeless Desire is a lighter and less layered story. If I hadn’t read Outlander first I might have enjoyed Timeless Desire more, but as it is I found it a light and average romance.

I give Timeless Desire 3 stars.

Marlene: I expected fluff, so I wasn’t surprised when I got it. Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander is 688 pages, and you need the first three books to complete the initial saga, so Outlander plus Dragonfly in Amber plus Voyager equals 2320 pages, I just checked. Timeless Desire is very, very lite, and very, very fluffy. But I found it a lot of fun for what it was.

And as a librarian, I loved the shout out to libraries as places where you really can travel in time and space. Admittedly, you normally do it through the pages of books using your imagination, and not by walking through a door into a rip in time. But what the heck. I adored the concept. I always wanted the TARDIS to stop in my library. Still do.

I got caught up in Panna’s story. I give Timeless Desire 4 stars.

 ps. Marlene has already reviewed Timeless Desire at her blog but we couldn’t resist the idea of having a duelling chat here, so if you’d like to check out more of Marlene’s thoughts click here.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Interview with Author Gwyn Cready on Playing with Time

Gwyn Cready is my guest today at Reading Reality. Of course, Gwyn’s not really here to talk about reality, she’s here to talk about time-travel in romance. I’ll confess that the heroine of her latest time-bending romance, Timeless Desire, has an extra-special place in my heart, because Panna is not just a heroine, she’s a librarian! What could be more awesome? (The story is terrific, too. Check out my review and see for yourself)

Now let’s hear Gwyn talk about time-travel and Pee-Wee Herman…but not, thank goodness, at the same time.

Marlene: Introduce yourself to us. Tell us a little bit about Gwyn Cready, and what she does when she’s not writing.

Gwyn: I love movies. My husband and I pop out to films all the time. One of our favorite theaters is a single-screen theater in Dormont, Pennsylvania, called the Hollywood. They pop their own popcorn, and they even have a balcony. You just don’t see that a lot anymore. We just saw the third Indiana Jones movie there. Next up: PeeWee’s Big Adventure!

Marlene: You’ve written several time-travel romances. What draws you to time-travel romances in particular?

Gwyn: I love the idea of playing with time. It opens up so many possibilities for characters. In a romance—at least a properly written one—you know the story is going to end with the characters in a happy ever after. But a time travel romance adds a whole other layer of tension for the reader by making you wonder which time period will win out for the couple and how. Moreover, you want your hero and heroine to clash. What could be more clash-inducing than coming from different eras?

Marlene: And what inspired you to choose the Scots border in the early 1700s for Timeless Desire?

Gwyn: A lot of my books have characters from or action that takes place in the borderlands of England and Scotland. The dawn of the 1700s was a very interesting time. Scotland is teetering on the edge of losing its independence. The Age of Enlightenment is pushing the men who live and die by their swords into a world where thinking and science are revered. The clans are at their peak. And, of course, the kilts.

Marlene: Libraries are gateways to magical worlds, but was there a specific library (or librarian!) that you were thinking of when you set the modern-day parts of the story in a public library?

Gwyn: To be fair, I’ve been helped by so many librarians over the years. This was a little shout-out to all of them. I know a lot of people, including me, who think librarians are among the luckiest people on earth, since they spend all their time around books. My cousin, Donna, is a librarian, and she always seems aglow when she’s at work. Another close friend, Manuel, is a music librarian at UC Berkeley. He’s my go-to person for special research needs—and not just ones involving music. Many an article that resulted in an interesting plot twist or essential character attribute have come winging their way into my in-box from him.

Marlene: What do you think about the inevitable comparisons between Timeless Desire and Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander?

Gwyn: Outlander is the book that inspired me to become a romance novelist. No writer will ever come close to creating the world and hero that Gabaldon did. That won’t stop us from trying.


Marlene: Who first introduced you to the love of reading?

Gwyn: My mom loved to read. Her two great joys in life were reading and playing bridge. I think I failed her on the bridge front, though. I do not have the brain for bridge. My husband, a casual player, will be watching me struggle to figure out which card to play. He’ll finally say, “For goodness sake, please play the jack. Everyone knows you have it.”

Marlene: Who influenced your decision to become a writer?

Gwyn: My younger sister, Claire. It was her unexpected death at age 31 that make me want to become a writer.  She was the artsy one in the family—a poet and photographer. I was the upright businesswoman. I wanted to do something to honor her memory. I started writing the month after she died. Eleven years later, my first book was published. It’s dedicated to her.

Marlene: What book would you recommend that everyone should read, and why?

Gwyn: Outlander, of course. Jamie Fraser is the most romantic, honorable and well-crafted romance hero ever written. The entire Patrick O’Brian Master and Commander series. The New York Times called it “the best historical fiction ever written.” I agree. I’ve read or listened to each of the twenty books at least three times.  And I’d throw The Time Traveler’s Wife on the list as well.

Marlene: Speaking of good books, there’s something in Timeless Desire that made me wonder about this. Have you read Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond series?

Gwyn: I have not. And now I’m very curious as to what made you wonder that.

Marlene: Can you tell us a little bit about your next project? What is next on your schedule?

Gwyn: I have two next projects (ah, a writer’s life, eh?) One is a memoir about losing my sister and finding her again through her friends. The other is a time travel romance trilogy about three extraordinary women on—where else?—the borderlands of England and Scotland.

Marlene: Now can you tell us 3 reasons why people should read your books?

Gwyn: Location, location, location? Kidding. First, the heroes are always smart, wry and totally dedicated to the heroine’s happiness. Second, the heroines are real-world, kick-ass women, very much like the women who read my books (and me, might I add.) Third, there’s always that hint of Colin Firth in the air.

Marlene: Coffee or Tea?

Gwyn: Oh, coffee. Perfect cup for me: an ancho chile mocha latte. Ooh, I can almost feel my tongue tingling.

While I never did quite get Colin Firth, I’m totally behind The New York Times on Patrick O’Brian’s series, also known as the Aubrey-Maturin series. 

All I’ll say about Lymond is that Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles are also set in the Scots border country, and at a period a bit earlier than Timeless Desire. But the endings have something in common. And I’ll leave it at that. 

Thanks so much for answering all of my questions. Being a librarian myself, I just had to know every pesky detail!

Review: Timeless Desire by Gwyn Cready

The Urban Dictionary defines an “outlander” as:

Any individual who does not belong in a social setting; an intruder; an interloper

But for readers of time-travel romance, using the subtitle “An Outlander Love Story” as Gwyn Cready does on the cover of Timeless Desire, and specifically setting that romance on the Scottish border in the early 1700s, is bound to invoke comparisons to Jamie Fraser and Clare Randall.

Search Google for “outlander”, and Jamie Fraser’s name comes up as a related search, along with Diana Gabaldon (duh), the unrelated 2007 movie, and the Mitsubishi SUV.

But the heroine of Timeless Desire is Panna Kennedy, not Clare Randall. She’s a librarian and not a nurse. A time-travelling librarian who is the heroine of a romance novel. Okay, I was hooked from the description right there.

Totally incapable of an unbiased opinion, mind you, but completely hooked.

Panna thinks, acts and sounds like “one of us”. Us librarians, I mean. Her budget is being slashed, her staff is under-appreciated, her library is underfunded, and as much as she loves being the head librarian in a small town, occasionally she wants to escape.

Mostly she escapes into a good book. Her husband died two years ago, and she still hasn’t gotten over it. Panna’s spirit of adventure seems to have died with him.

Until she goes searching through the under-basements of the library for something to sell. Something that might keep the budget axe from chopping quite so close to the bone. And she sticks her hand through a locked doorway and into blackness. Not darkness. Blackness like her hand has been cut off, except she can still feel it, she just can’t see it.

She pulls it back like it was on fire. But the fire is back in her soul. She has to see what’s on the other side of that formerly locked door. Was it real? Is she crazy? Why is it there?

There’s a statue in front of the service desk in her library. Colonel John Bridgewater, the founder of the library, or at least the funding angel. (One gets the distinct impression that the statue, albeit fully clothed, is nearly anatomically correct–Panna has certainly fantasized about Bridgewater often enough!)

Panna goes back to the library in the evening and steps through the door into nothingness. She finds herself in the 18th century. What’s more, she’s in England, on the Scots border. She can see Hadrian’s Wall. The library she left behind was in Carlisle, PA. In the USA.

The first person she meets is Colonel John Bridgewater. In the very warm and living flesh. And he thinks she’s a whore. Not to mention a spy. It’s not a very auspicious start to their relationship.

And what a relationship it turns out to be. Nothing on the Scots borders is ever simple. John Bridgewater is the son of two countries. His father is an English Earl and commander of the English forces on the Border. But John was forced to make his own way in the world, because his father neglected to marry his mother, who was the daughter of a Scots clan chief. John’s loyalties are divided.

Each side is sure he must be a traitor. All he wants is peace. Or at least, less pointless bloodshed.

He sees Panna as either an angel or a temptress. John makes Panna feel alive again. But as they drag each other deeper into the tangle of secrets and lies, he discovers that she is telling the truth, and that there is more danger in the knowledge she holds than he ever imagined.

Escape Rating B: There are two ways of looking at this story. One is to attempt to consider how it works on its own merits, and the other is to look at how it deals with the long shadow cast by Diana Gabaldon’s classic tale, Outlander.

Timeless Desire is a solid time-travel romance. Panna’s desperation to solve the budget crisis was very real, and rang true (Been there, done that, and I’ve known too many library folk in that same boat). Her grief over her late husband also “felt” right. Everyone grieves in their own way and time.  Going back in time, while contrived, made for a terrific adventure. It shook Panna out of her rut in every way possible. Fighting for your life will do that. And because the circumstances were extreme, falling in love happened fast and hard.

It was easy to get caught up in Panna’s story.

On the other hand, the title invokes one of the truly great stories, Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander, and that’s a dangerous comparison to make. Jamie Fraser is positively beloved. The two romance heroes whose names I wouldn’t get near with someone else’s barge-pole are Jamie Fraser and Roarke. Naming another Scots hero Jamie in a time-travel romance is simply bad juju. IMHO.

There were a few too many times when I read a scene in Timeless Desire and knew what was going to happen because either the same thing had happened in Outlander, or it happened before but with an opposite twist. (Spoiler alert) For example, the wedding was in extremely similar circumstances, although Bridgewater was not (thank heavens!) a virgin. The ending worked opposite but had a lot of similar characteristics. In this case it depended on who had a home to go to in which time.

As Outlander-lite, Timeless Desire works very well.

Lord John and The Scottish Prisoner

June is Audiobook Month according to the Audio Publishers Association. So it’s absolutely right and proper that one of my reviews this month be the audiobook version of the latest entry in one my favorite series.

I listened to The Scottish Prisoner over the last week or so, and I was sorry to see it end. While this is the third in her Lord John series, it could be counted as the tenth, or tenth-ish, in one of my favorite reads, the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. (For more on my long-running love of this series, read my Lovestruck post)

But where the main line of the Outlander series can either be classified as historical fiction, time-travel romance or some lovely stew mixing the two, the related Lord John series is something else again.

Lord John Grey is a character in the Outlander series. He’s a member of the English aristocracy. He is an officer in his brother’s regiment. He’s a younger son, for which he’s quite grateful, because it means that he will not be expected to provide the family with an heir to the title.  Lord John is homosexual at a time when that was a crime. His family, or at least his brother the Duke of Pardloe, is certainly aware, but the understanding is tacit and not spoken. They are gentlemen.

Lord John Grey meets Jamie Fraser, the hero of the Outlander series, when he is in charge of Ardsmuir Prison, after the Jacobite Rising of 1745. As Laird of Lallybroch, Jamie is the highest ranking prisoner. They are, after a fashion, equals. They are not friends, but perhaps frenemies.

Until John betrays that almost-friendship by not merely letting his secret slip but by revealing that he desires Jamie–who is beyond appalled. And Jamie never trusts him again. Not even after John saves his life. With Jamie’s wife, Claire, gone back to her own time and lost to him, Jamie’s not sure he wants to be alive.

John Grey’s life centers around his military service. A younger son, with no family of his own, his career is as a army officer. He serves in his brother’s regiment. And that’s where he keeps getting himself into trouble. Because John solves, not mysteries quite, but problems. Usually military problems wrapped up in politics.

In the case of The Scottish Prisoner, the problem is that a friend, one of John’s exes, was a military attache in Quebec. He found evidence of military peculation, meaning that a high-ranking officer was cheating the Crown, and shortchanging his men, by selling off equipment and supplies. The officer in question was making oodles of money, but that practice is highly illegal. Treasonous, in fact.

John’s friend assembled the evidence, painstakingly, painfully, and died in Quebec. Entrusting John to see that justice was done to the bastard. Said bastard, naturally, being not just high-ranking in the military sense but also well-connected.

And holed up on his Irish estates. Ireland was practically a foreign country in the 1750s. Somehow, the military embezzlement was mixed up in something else, too. Rumors of an Irish Jacobite Rebellion.

That’s where Jamie came in. He was a prisoner, very loosely speaking, working as a groom on an estate in the Lake District. John needed someone familiar with the Jacobites to go with him to Ireland. His brother the Duke decided that Jamie was the perfect person, in spite of the fact that Jamie and John weren’t speaking.

If Jamie kills the aforementioned bastard, the Greys will have complete deniability. Jamie is, after all, a convicted traitor.

But he goes anyway. Because he’s afraid there might be a rebellion brewing. And he wants to prevent it. Jamie knows it will fail.

By the end, Jamie Fraser and John Grey discover that starting with the truth builds a better beginning for respect than a comfortable lie. But everything else they started out with was dead wrong. They began in an attempt to do the right thing. It turned out that they hadn’t a bloody clue about what that might be.

Escape Rating A+: I did not want to see this one end. Not at all. I wanted to find out how it all worked out, but I didn’t want it to be over.

Because I listened to this instead of reading, there are two “tracks” to this review, story and interpretation.

The Outlander story has a twenty-year gap, where Claire is in the 20th century, and she thought Jamie died at Culloden. We know where the gap has to end at, the trick for Gabaldon is to fill in the blank. This works. Jamie’s pain at Claire’s absence is like an aching wound, she is there in spirit, and we see the effect she still has on his life. But he’s still alive. And we see Jamie and John work their way back from loathing on the one hand and unrequited desire on the other towards the mutual respect they finally achieved by the time Claire reappears in Voyager. It was a very rough road.

About the reading. I am beyond pleased that Recorded Books used two narrators. The story has two very distinct points of view, John’s and Jamie’s. They resisted the temptation to have one actor voice both parts and had Jeff Woodman voice Lord John Grey and Rick Holmes portray Jamie Fraser. Based on the descriptions of these men in the series, they are such completely different physical types that they shouldn’t sound anything alike. Having two different actors voice them ensured that they didn’t in the reading.

The Scottish Prisoner will have to tide me over until Written In My Own Heart’s Blood, the next installment in the Outlander series. The projected release date is early 2013.

Lovestruck Giveaway Hop

I’ve been lovestruck again. And it’s not the first time. It probably won’t be the last, either.

But this time I not only have to confess, I get to share. Why? Because I’m participating in the Lovestruck Giveaway Hop, hosted by Under the Covers and Bona Fide Reflections.

My mission is to share a series that has left me smitten. One that nothing else has ever managed to live up to. And I have one.

Have you ever read Outlander? Let me try that again. Have you ever lost yourself in Outlander? Not Highlander, I mean Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon.

It has everything. Time-travel, romance, history, and oh yes, it does have highlanders. But it isn’t a Highlander romance. Outlander takes place later than that. It’s more about the failed Jacobite rebellion, in 1745. And did it ever fail! But that’s part of the story.

Do you love century-spanning love stories? Well, Outlander definitely does that. from 1946 to 1743 and back. Ever wonder what a 20th century woman would think of 18th century life? (And 18th century men in kilts?) It’s all there.

But it’s the story.

Outlander isn’t just a love story. It’s history and romance and tragedy and passion.  It is the beginning of an amazing epic.

It is also the intimate story of two people. Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp, a World War II combat nurse who walks through the standing stones in Cragh na Dun in Scotland in 1946 only to find herself in 1743.

And James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser, the man she is meant to love. A Highland laird, and an outlaw, a Jacobite, a intimate of kings and princes, and a leader of the doomed rebellion.

But they marry to keep Claire from becoming an English prisoner. Doubly ironic, because the English officer who wants to question her is her 20th century husband’s distant ancestor–and because the sadist has already flogged Jamie near-death, once. And because Claire truly is English, but 20th century English, not 18th century English. What she is not, is a French spy.

Jamie doesn’t know what she is, not for quite a while. When they discuss it, Claire asks him,

“Aren’t you afraid I might kill you in your sleep some night, if you don’t know who I am?”
He didn’t answer, but took his arm away from his eyes, and his smile widened. His eyes must be from the Fraser side, I thought. Not deepset like the MacKenzies’, they were set at an odd angle, so that the high cheekbones made them look almost slanted.
Without troubling to lift his head, he opened the front of his shirt and spread the cloth aside, laying his chest bare to the waist. He drew the dirk from its sheath and tossed it toward me. It thunked on the boards at my feet.
He put his arm back over his eyes and stretched his head back, showing the place where the dark stubble of his sprouting beard stopped abruptly, just below the jaw.
“Straight up, just under the breastbone,” he advised. “Quick and neat, though it takes a bit of strength. The throat-cutting’s easier, but it’s verra messy.”
I bent to pick up the dirk.
“Serve you right if I did,” I remarked. “Cocky bastard.”
The grin visible beneath the crook of his arm widened still further.
I stopped, dirt still in my hand.
“I’ll die a happy man.”

But Jamie doesn’t die, of course. Instead, they have two years together, until the Rebellion of 1745. In an act of love and desperation, Claire and Jamie part just before the battle of Culloden, because they both know how it’s going to end. Claire through history, and Jamie because he’s no fool.

Jamie expects to die on that field. But he sends his hope for the future through the stones. Claire leaves for the 20th century pregnant with his child. He tells her to name the boy after his father.

Claire spends the next 20 years of her life becoming a doctor and raising Jamie’s child, with her 20th century husband Frank. A man who knows full well that whoever impregnated his wife during her two missing years, it bloody well wasn’t him.

Only after Frank’s death is Claire willing to hire a genealogical researcher to look at what happened to the men of Jamie’s clan, to see if any of his family survived. Because she knows that Jamie intended to die.

But he didn’t.

Whenever I read a time-travel romance, I compare it to Outlander. Especially if the author uses one of the standing stone circles like Stonehenge to do the traveling. Gabaldon probably wasn’t the first author, but to me, she was the best.

Every time a new book in this series comes out, I fall in love all over again. The latest is  Lord John and the Scottish Prisoner, a book in the Lord John side-series. The Scottish Prisoner in this case is Jamie Fraser, and the book takes place after 1745. Jamie’s longing for Claire is heart-rending.

So, for my part in this Lovestruck Giveaway Hop, I want to share my love of the Outlander series. The winner of the giveaway from Reading Reality will get one copy ($10 or less, print or ebook) of any book in the series (Outlander, Dragonfly in Amber, Voyager, Drums of Autumn, The Fiery Cross, A Breath of Snow and Ashes, An Echo in the Bone, Lord John and the Hand of Devils, Lord John and the Private Matter, Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade).

If you are an international winner, and you choose a print copy, you need to be somewhere that Book Depository ships.

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On My Wishlist #10

On My Wishlist is a way for us book bloggers to showcase books that we haven’t read, bought, or borrowed. Or at least, we haven’t, yet. But that we really, really want to.

They might be books that we’ve just found out about, or, as in the case of the two on my list for this week, they might be new books that haven’t come out yet.

The “On My Wishlist” meme was started by Book Chick City, but a little bit ago they passed the baton to Cosy Books.

L. E. Modesitt Jr. is famous (or infamous) for his long fantasy series, The Saga of Recluce. And as much as I love fantasy, and as much as a very good friend has recommended it to me, I’ve never read it. By the time I received that recommendation, I think the series was probably on book 10-plus, and I just wasn’t in the mood. I have The Magic of Recluce, (book 1) and I swear I’m going to read it. Someday.

But the recommendation stuck. So when Modesitt started a new series not long ago, I was more than willing to start it with him. That was Imager. And I’m so glad I did. Imager is not a typical high-fantasy coming-of-age magic series. Oh, it’s a magic series. But the hero doesn’t come-of-age when he learns his magic. He’s an adult. He thinks he’s going to be doing something else with his life entirely.

Then it turns out he’s a magic-user. In the case of the Imager Portfolio, an Imager. And an adult learning magic in a system meant to teach children makes for a very different perspective on the system and the story.

To make a long story not so short. The first three books in the Imager Portfolio, Imager, Imager’s Challenge and Imager’s Intrigue, were all marvelous. And yes, the author absolutely committed trilogy.

Scholar starts a new story, or I think it does. It’s in my TBR pile. Princeps, the book after Scholar, comes out this Tuesday. I want it. It’s on my wishlist.

The other book on my wishlist this week is also a new story in a continuing series. Diana Gabaldon is releasing the latest story in her Lord John Grey series on May 21. At least The Custom of the Army is only a novella, so it’s short! Lord John Grey was a character in Ms. Gabaldon’s Outlander series who took on a life and series of his own. In Outlander he sometimes seems to be a villain, but as we examine the world through his eyes, he is much more sympathetic, and of course, not a villain at all.

Lord John provides the perspective of an upper-class British officer on the political conflicts and military campaigns that Jamie (and later Claire) must face and survive. In addition to the ties to the Outlander series, the Lord John books are always terrific historical mystery/thrillers.

And just as with the Modesitt book, the most recent book in the Lord John series, The Scottish Prisoner, is also on my TBR pile.

I fall in love with many too many books!

What about you? What’s on your wishlist this week?