Ramblings from the Desert

The man who trades freedom for security does not deserve nor will he ever receive either. ~Benjamin Franklin

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Location: New Mexico

Author of the urban fantasy novel, The Music of Chaos, and the paranormal romance, The Canvas Thief.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Outlander


Redheaded men, as a rule, don't do much for me.

I can't even think of a redheaded actor that I find attractive. Outlander's very redheaded Jamie Fraser, on the other hand...is, um, yummy.

Diana Gabaldon's Outlander is frequently recommended by commenters and bloggers over at Romancing the Blog: The same place I got a recommendation to read Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dark Hunter books. Right. I'm still awaiting surgery to remove the fork, the fork I drove into my eye midway through one of the Dark Hunter books.

So, I picked up a library copy of Outlander with a good deal of suspicion, expecting another tiresome romp into the land of boy meets girl; they pant over each other like pheromone-crazed weasels; copious sex happens and because their parts fit, "It must be love." I mean, sheesh, the premise of Outlander has all the makings of a cheesy bodice ripper: A 1940s era Englishwoman is transported to 18th Century Scotland, where she is forced to marry a hot young Scotsman.

And yet, it works. First, Gabaldon introduces an unusual complication--Claire's husband Frank, still back (forward?) in 1944 England. Second, she gives Claire a suitable backstory to explain her ability to adapt to 18th Century Scotland. Claire served as a battlefield nurse during WW II, and growing up, had a rather nomadic existence, raised by her uncle, an anthropologist and living all over the world. The result is that Claire isn't the typical virginal, twittering romance heroine and she doesn't spend hundreds of pages whining about how much she hates the past. Or worst yet, denying that it is real. God, I hate women with the Scully Syndrome.

And Jamie is hot. Claire, however, doesn't immediately take all that much notice of him, except as a patient. On arriving in the past, she is first captured by Jack Randall--an ancestor of her "modern" husband--and then "rescued" by Scottish clansman Donal McKenzie. The Scots and English are doing what they do best, trying to kill each other and Claire ends up using her nursing skills to put Donal's nephew, Jamie, back together.

How cool is that? A love story where the reader is not burdened by pages and pages of this--"He was so hot. So sexy. She wanted him. She needed him."-- five stinking minutes after the hero and heroine meet. Suspected of being an English spy, Claire isn't instantly blessed with many friends and spends time with Jamie because he is one of the few friendly faces in the McKenzie estate. And Jamie doesn't seem to object much.

But neither is swooning at the sight of the other. Claire, of course, is a tad preoccupied with the idea of getting back to her 20th Century husband. Jamie is technically an outlaw, wanted for a murder he didn't commit and not in position to be looking for a wife.

By the time the forced marriage rolls around, they have a friendship of a sort and there are enough undertones of sexual tension to make the idea not totally unpleasant for either. And did I mention Jamie was hot? And funny? If you find yourself trapped in a sudden marriage, it may as well be to a tall, sexy guy in a kilt with a great sense of humor.

And there's the whole "archetype on its head thing." Prior to their marriage, when Claire asks Jamie if he objects to her not being a virgin (hoping he won't marry her), he quips, "Reckon one of us should know what they're doing." Heh. The virgin bridegroom.

The per capita sex in Outlander is high. They're newlyweds after all. Fortunately, the text doesn't rely on detailed anatomical descriptions and I didn't have to read about Jamie's Schlong of Unusual Proportions every time sex happened.

The violence, a complaint among the folks over at Amazon, is why I liked the novel. I'm so tired of the sanitized, happy-happy crap that characterizes romance novels. Scotland at the time wasn't a peaceful place (Jacobite Rebellion and all that) and death, ugly violent death not all that unusual. If the English weren't killing the Scots, the Scots were probably killing each other.

A lot of people got their panties in a knot over the ending, particularly because of perceived homosexuality. Most, stupidly, confuse rape with sex and feel the hero's sexuality is somehow impugned. A few think the antagonist's homosexuality casts gays in a bad light. Get over it. Rape is rape, is rape. Women get raped all the time in novels. This time around, it's the heroine who rescues the hero, which I think is mighty cool.

The books been around since 1991, so as usual, I'm the last person to join the party. I don't think, however, I'm rushing out to read the sequels. As much as I liked both characters--I will buy a copy for the keeper shelf--I'm rather content to leave Jamie and Claire where they are now. Maybe because I've been burned by too many great series gone bad. Jamie and Claire have a happy ending of a sort in Outlander and that's good enough for me.

P.K.

 

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