Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (My All-Time Favourite Series of Books)

Outlander by Diana GabaldonBook Review
Title: Outlander
Author:  Diana Gabaldon
Publisher: Seal Books
Released: October 9, 2001
Pages: 896
ISBN-10: 0770428797
ISBN13: 978-0770428792
Stars:  5.0

Like millions of other Outlander fans, I’ve been watching the new Starz television series of the same name and LOVE it! I think the producers have done an excellent job of staying true to the book and I’m sure that’s because author Diana Gabaldon is a consultant for the series. The casting of Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan as Claire & Jamie Fraser and Tobias Menzies as Frank/Black Jack Randall is perfect, and even though the casting of Dougal MacKenzie seems wrong because Graham McTavish doesn’t look like Dougal and seems too old for the part, he is doing a great job with it. I can’t wait to see what comes next…although having to wait for April 2015 to see the second part of Season 1 is PAINFUL!!

Needless to say the Outlander series of books are those which fans read over and over again. While I’m not a super-duper obsessed fan, I have always named Diana Gabaldon as my favourite author since I read the first four novels in the late 90’s. Then, like everyone else, I waited and waited and waited for the next books to be written and in the meantime, I had theChristine Bode meets Diana Gabaldon for the second time great pleasure of meeting Diana Gabaldon twice at book signings…once after the release of A Breath of Snow and Ashes (2005) and once after the release of Lord John and The Brotherhood of The Blade (2007).

I own all of her novels but I haven’t read the last two books in the Outlander series yet and that’s because I decided that I would have to make the time to re-read the series in order, back to back, so that everything would be fresh in my mind. I read A Breath of Snow and Ashes when it came out and haven’t read another of her books since. So, now is the time! The television series has inspired me and the next year will be the year of Diana Gabaldon for me. And what a sensational year of reading it will be!!

I finished reading Outlander for the second time at 3:00 am this morning. It took me two weeks and two days, and that’s with reading at least a couple of chapters a day. These mammoth tomes are hard for an engaged reader to put down so that they can sleep, work or just get on with their day. I know they’re very long novels, but I swear that every chapter is captivating.

Although there have been an army of authors who have tried to replicate the success of these novels for themselves, no one else has come close to the popularity of Diana Gabaldon’s novels. This very intelligent woman, who happens to hold three science degrees including a PhD in Quantitative Behavioral Ecology, has sold over 25 million copies (the books have been published in 26 countries and in 23 languages) and continues to live happily with her husband in Scottsdale, Arizona. Diana Gabaldon is an extremely smart, charming, witty and beautiful woman and that’s why her books have stolen the hearts of so many people.

I’m going to reiterate what Outlander is about using Diana’s own words:

“In 1946, after WWII, a young Englishwoman named Claire Beauchamp Randall goes to the Scottish Highlands with her husband, Frank. She’s an ex-combat nurse, he’s been in the army as well, they’ve been separated for the last six years, and this is a second honeymoon; they’re getting re-acquainted with each other, thinking of starting a family. But one day Claire goes out walking by herself, and comes across a circle of standing stones—such circles are in fact common all over northern Britain.  She walks through a cleft stone in the circle…and disappears. Back into 1743, where the first person she meets is a gentleman in an 18th-century army officer’s uniform. This gentleman, Jack Randall, looks just like her husband Frank—and proves to be Frank’s six-times-great-grandfather. Unfortunately, he also proves to be a sadistic bisexual pervert, and while trying to escape from him, Claire falls into the hands of a gang of Highland Scots, who are also trying to get away from Black Jack Randall—though for other reasons.

In order to avoid being handed over to Captain Randall, Claire is obliged to marry one of the young clansmen. So she finds herself trying to escape from Castle Leoch and her Scottish captors, trying to get back to her husband Frank, trying to avoid being recaptured by Captain Randall—and falling in love with Jamie Fraser, the young man she’s been forced to marry. The story rolls on from there…”

And what an amazing, fantastic, romantic, adventurous, historical story it is!!

There’s not much more that I can add about Outlander except to say that if you haven’t read this series yet, do it! Now!! Before you die, you have to read at least the 8 novels that are currently in print (if you skip the Lord John Grey novels, you’ll be forgiven, but you should read them too) because I guarantee you, that if you love romantic, historical, adventurous, fantastical stories, no finer have ever been written. And no ladies, Jamie Fraser does not actually exist. A man like that is purely a fictional creation! Amen.

NOTE: Chapters Kingston is now selling the Outlander series (except for Written In My Own Heart’s Blood) for 2 for $15!

 

Through The Fire: Colonial Frontier Romance by Beth Trissel

Book Review
Title: Through The Fire
Author: Beth Trissel
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Released: 2008
Pages: 332
ISBN-10: 1601544715
ISBN-13: 978-1601544711
Stars: 3.0

First of all, I’d like to apologize to Historical and Paranormal Romance Author Beth Trissel for the ridiculous amount of time she’s had to wait for this review. She’s a lovely person with quite a respectable following and has written no less than 8 books that are available through The Wild Rose Press. I am not a huge fan of traditional romance novels – I prefer contemporary chick lit or historical romantic adventure novels like those of Diana Gabaldon – so I’m an admittedly tough critic in this instance, but I’ll share my thoughts with you and let you decide for yourself.

Through The Fire is an old-fashioned colonial frontier romance set in June 1758 in the Allegheny Mountains of Western Virginia. Its heroine is a feisty, stubborn and beautiful blond-haired, blue-eyed English lady named Rebecca Elliot. Rebecca is an unusual woman for her time, and along with her younger sister Kate, they escape the clutches of their abusive, alcoholic father in England by traveling to the New World with Rebecca’s husband, Captain John Elliot, Lieutenant McClure and a group of British soldiers.

The story opens with them trekking through a forest near the Shenandoah Mountain in Western Virginia, en route to join Rebecca’s uncle, Henry McCutcheon, in the safety of a nearby fort before either the French or the Indians take them prisoner or worse. Rebecca is grieving the recent loss of her husband but before you know it (page 6), a tall, handsome, black-haired Indian warrior jumps right in front of her path and is so taken with her fair beauty that he’s driven to distraction. It doesn’t take long for Rebecca – who falls from her horse – to become separated from Kate, while a Shawnee clan who is allied with the French, take Rebecca and her escorts, prisoner.

Shoka, a half-Shawnee, half-French warrior, speaks perfect English. He was a guide for them and was taught many of their ways by the mysterious Father Andrew, who we come to know a bit better, along with the white wolf “Gabe” near the end of the story. While he’s a loin-stirring character, the relationship between Shoka and Rebecca develops so quickly that it’s a bit unbelievable. At first, Shoka’s plan is to sell Rebecca to the French for the cost of a new rifle, but after a few blood-boiling arguments stoked with sexual tension and many tears shed by Rebecca, she is falling into his arms, kissing him and declaring her love for him, all during what seems to be only a couple of days. Their entire relationship is carried out on their trek to the fort and there’s only one somewhat sizzling love scene between them in the entire book (to be fair it was quite good) while during the rest of the story they’re either fighting off a rival tribe of Catawba Indians, the French, their own English soldiers, or arguing amongst themselves.

“Shoka knew he shouldn’t be off by himself with Rebecca Elliot, let alone holding her. The last thing he wanted was to lose his head and already shredded heart to yet another beautiful woman…this one with blindingly blue eyes. So why was he sitting her cradling her? He knew that too. Even wrapped in a blanket, she was so soft and curved. Sweet perfume clung to her, but she’d given him a blistering taste of her fury. Not only that, she was English. Worse – a lady and totally unsuited to his way of life.” (pg. 19)

Rebecca’s character waffles between being outspoken and assertive and scared to death and ready to faint at any moment. Every man who comes into contact with her is seemingly unable to resist her beauty and if they don’t outright fall for her – letting her get away with scandalous behavior from a lady of that time – they want to steal her away from Shoka with brute force. Shoka nicknames her Peshewa (the devil cat) and by Chapter 2, Rebecca is already stirred by her emotions for him although he maintains that he must make her his wife before he can bed her.

Rattlesnakes, freezing cold streams, torrential downpours, soaked petticoats, and evil Catawba warriors are just some of the trials and tribulations faced by Rebecca and Shoka on their journey to the fort. We are led to believe that Rebecca’s strength in the face of adversity comes from her having endured cruel beatings by her drunken father who left her back covered in scars. Shoka is a more interesting character and I would have liked to have known more about his history. There are also a couple of secondary characters that are interesting including Meshewa, Shoka’s young cousin who succumbs to Rebecca’s spell, Capitane Marc Renault, a charismatic French soldier who wins the totally naïve Kate’s heart, and Tonkawa, a fierce Catawba warrior whose mission it is to kill Shoka and claim Rebecca for himself. We know none of their histories either. I can’t help but feel that the book needed to be considerably longer in order for Trissel to have the opportunity to fully realize these characters.

Through The Fire, for me, was tedious at times but Beth Trissel writes well (her descriptions of the scenery were vivid and visceral), if not cautiously and conservatively, and over all, the story isn’t bad, it’s just not great. There’s nothing unique or exciting about it that makes it memorable and the ending gets a little preachy for my liking. Traditional romance fans will probably appreciate this book more than I did.

His Woman by Diana Cosby

Book Review
Title: His Woman
Author: Diana Cosby
Publisher: Zebra Books
Released: 2008
Pages: 356
ISBN-13: 978-1-4201-0109-6
ISBN-10: 1-4201-0109-9
Stars: 3.0

I am not a woman who has read a lot of romance novels in my life although I am a diehard romantic (albeit a cynical one currently) at heart. Only within the last two years have I begun to read a fair amount of romance and chick lit because of the authors I have become acquainted with online. Although my bedroom walls are lined with prints of knights and fair maidens painted by Edmund Blair Leighton, Sir Frederic William Burton and Sir Frank Dicksee, I have never known such love as is depicted in those legendary paintings, and perhaps that is why I am so drawn to medieval history and historical romance. My favourite novels are the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon and my heritage is German/Celtic. My maternal grandmother was of Scottish heritage and her maiden name was Clyde. Braveheart is one of my all-time favourite movies.

So, it was with great eagerness and curiosity that I looked forward to reading His Woman by Diana Cosby – a historical romance set in 1297 Scotland when the rebel and martyr Sir William Wallace still lived. His Woman is the often frustrating and eye-rolling story of Lady Isabel Adair and her one true, but supposedly unobtainable love, Sir Duncan MacGruder.

The story begins with Isabel having sacrificed her life’s happiness to save her father’s life by becoming the mistress of the evil, English Earl, Frasyer, who having known her betrothed Duncan since childhood and being intensely jealous of him wanted nothing more but to have Isabel so that Duncan could not. When Isabel’s father, Lord Caelin, succumbs to alcoholism and gambling after his wife’s death, he loses so much money that his home will be lost and most likely his life, unless he agrees to pay the debt with Isabel as his currency.

While this book is pleasurable to peruse, as well as passionate, Lady Isabel Adair is a bit of an infuriating character for most of the story because her behaviour and the choices she makes present her as foolish in so many ways. I just wanted to slap her most of the time. She wasn’t a heroine I could identify with in any way because she didn’t feel she could trust the man she professed to love.

“Exhaustion weighed heavy on her soul. She was so tired of lies. Of living in a veiled prison unable to help those she loved. She hated feeling torn, aware that the truth would shatter what little feelings Duncan held toward her.

How else could he react when he learned she’d turned away from him in the face of a personal tragedy. A man as proud as Duncan would not see her actions as saving his life, but an issue of trust.

A fragile trust she’d chosen to break.”

Duh! Of course he would.

This is the basis of the entire novel. Using the main characters, Cosby repeats questions over and over again and anyone who has half a brain could figure out the answers to them without knowing the twist that the ending holds. That part is quite good, I must say.

Sir Duncan MacGruder and his brothers Seathan and Alexander are interesting, dynamic characters and I loved the description of their grandmother’s tower chamber in Lochshire Castle with all its faery splendor and magic. However, just because Isabel has whisky hair, amber eyes (features which are nauseatingly repeated too frequently), a slim curvy figure, and they were childhood sweethearts, doesn’t seem to be enough reason for Duncan’s willingness to risk his life over and over for her sake once his promise to her dying brother Symon has been fulfilled. Why was resisting her impossible? I don’t get that part. The whole adventure starts to seem quite far-fetched and I found myself rolling my eyes more than once.

Not until near the end of the novel is there any sex that might correspond with a cover that depicts the hard, broad chest of a naked man with a castle in the background. However, when Cosby does get to the major sex scene between Isabel and Duncan, its’ description, while rather delicious, is nothing that I haven’t read before.

The last third of the novel is the best part and if you have the patience to read that far, you won’t be sorry that you finished it.

I would read more of Diana Cosby’s work because I think she has the talent to produce something far superior to His Woman and I’ll wait for it.