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Waiting for "Outlander"


New episodes of the great Starz series Outlander finally return to TV on April 4, but for those of us who’ve been waiting since the fall it still feels like an eternity. You’d think I’d be used to waiting for Outlander by now.  Way way back, in 1990, I wandered into a Portland, Oregon bookstore and found a romance novel, set in Scotland, involving time travel and I was hooked! Since then, it’s been a 25 year odyssey of reading (including eight novels, three companion novels, eight novellas/ short stories and one graphic novel) and waiting. Waiting for the next to book come along and waiting for it to be turned into a film or TV series. For fans, like me, it’s been excruciating. I’ve had to find ways to cope: hunt down readalikes and other things to read or watch to fill in the gaps as I waited patiently (ahem). Now for those fans currently waiting and anticipating, I will pass on what I’ve discovered, over the years, to you.  #Droughtlander

First, for the uninitiated, Outlander (by Diana Gabaldon) is an epic tale of adventure and romance set in 18th century Scotland. It opens in the Scottish Highlands of 1946 where Englishwoman and nurse, Claire Randall and her husband Frank are on their second honeymoon. While visiting a circle of standing stones alone, Claire falls through time to 1743. There she meets the British officer ancestor of her husband and becomes involved in local politics which causes her to be forcibly wed to a young highlander named Jamie Fraser. As she tries to figure out a way home, she begins to fall in love with her new husband and tries to stop the uprising that will lead to the tragic Scottish losses at the Battle of Culloden in 1746.

To dismiss it as straight historical romance, is to do it a disservice. Yes, the romance is full of steamy swoon but the characters are more than well matched. The story is epic and full of wonderful, historical details of 18th century Scotland and with Claire, it has one of the best female characters I’ve ever come across. I love the fact that the time travel just happens but I know that it bothers some people. My advice? Just go with it and don’t question it. It eventually gets explained. This is fun, escapist literature at its most educational.

Now lets get started. I've broken down all the reasons why I love the series (and included the series itself) and put together lists of readalikes based on those reasons. It's all very scientific.  The symbol (*) indicates titles not owned by NYPL and non-circulating  titles at NYPL. Hopefully we can remedy this soon!

Outlander series

If you haven’t yet read the Outlander books, start now. Most of them top out at about 800 pages (more or less). They are a treasure trove of epic proportions and take you from Scotland to France to a very new America and span time and history. I also suggest the novellas that flesh out secondary and tertiary characters and related action. I particularly love the Lord John mysteries/ adventures but they do include homosexual love scenes which may not be for everyone. If you start on these books you should be occupied for oh, a few years at the very least! But even this list is incomplete. For more short stories and a timeline of the all the stories check the author's official website.  You should also take look through the author's, newly updated for 2015,  official encyclopedia of the book series The Outlandish Companion. It's a must for veterans and newbies alike!


Susanna Kearsley

I’ve only recently discovered this Canadian author. Her books involve history, romance, mystery and while not strictly time travel, there is a past lives element in many of the stories. Her female characters are usually writers or archeologists and are smart, strong protagonists and the men in them are equally smart and very swoonworthy. Most of them take place in Scotland or England. I adore them. They are the perfect antidote for a cold, winter’s day especially when accompanied by a cup of tea.  Here are a few favorites: 


Scotland-set Romances

I do love a guy with a Scottish accent, maybe wearing a kilt, maybe not... My first kiss at 7 years old was given to me by a 10 year old Scottish boy while touring around a loch on a ferry boat. Looking back, it explains a lot. If I was to list all my favorite Scotland-set romances this post would be ridiculously long. I'll start with a few personal favorite books, series' and authors to get you started. 


Historical Fiction

Historical fiction is probably my favorite genre but I am very specific about what I like in terms of time periods, settings, romance quotient, action, etc...My father tells me that I have very girly tastes in historical fiction..but I’m a girl so..whatever Dad! The books listed here are mainly by female authors and are epic in scope and are full of action, romance, betrayal and political intrigue. For me, they have the feel and pacing of the Outlander novels. 


Time Travel

You’d think the success of the Outlander series would inspire more time travel readalikes. For awhile, in the late 90’s/ early 00’s, they did but there’s been a serious dry spell for about 10 years. Time travel can be either magically or scientifically caused but I do want some real history and romance to come with it. Again, I’m pretty picky with this sub-genre but these are some my favorites.


Scottish History

Oh, the Scots and their rebellions. Outlander deals mainly with the second rebellion of Bonnie Prince Charlie, Culloden and the destruction of the Scottish clan system but I never quite understood all the politics of the why and the how. I’ve tried to find books that fill out the history of Scotland: who the Jacobites were, how it lost it’s independence and how the Stuarts lost the English crown... without it being too dry or boring. Talk about poilitical intrigue, betrayal and dysfunctional families! If you’re interested in filling out your knowledge of Scotland these books and DVDs should do the trick.


Druids/ Witchcraft

Part of the fun of Outlander, is how it delves into Druidic Scotland, magic, standing stones, Celtic lore and witchcraft. I’ve read a fair amount over the years and these are some of the ones that have stuck with me. 


TV and Film

In my lifetime, I’ve watched a lot of Scotland-set TV shows and movies. "Hi, my name is Anne and I'm an addict." If it’s set in Scotland, I’ve probably seen it if only to look at the scenery and listen to the accents. Here are some favorites owned by NYPL. P.S. The first 8 episodes of the Outlander TV series are currently available on Starz on Demand, through iTunes and a newly released DVD: Outlander season 1, volume 1.  



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Waiting for Outlander

This is such an excellent piece. Thank you so much. Have sent it on to both my sisters and they also oohed and ahhed.

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