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on 20 August 2014
Let me start by making one thing perfectly clear - if the TV series is anything like the books, do yourself a favour: book a root canal, paint the wall and watch it dry; anything but waste your time on this tripe.

I shall try to summarise the main issues. Be aware - spoilers abound.

1. I'm only 44% into the first book on kindle and already I can feel my life getting longer because it feels like I've been reading the blasted thing forever! But there is one thing I've learned - only nurses or otherwise medically trained people are vulnerable to timeslips. It must be some strange kind of occupational hazard of the medical profession, falling through timeslips into mediaeval Scotland; it only seems to happen to them. Gives them a handy way of worming their way into some people's good books, of course - and leaves them blatantly wide open for the utterly predictable charges of witchcraft.

2. The heroine is annoying. It's hard to imagine anyone more in need of a slap. She spends a few chapters in 1946 trying to rekindle her marriage after 6 years of war blah blah blah... Insomnia cure..... THEN she is mysteriously transported back 200 years to 1743. For some reason, this is not the nice, neat 200 years she keep referring to as being the usual time slip in these matters. Within six weeks, she's married to the Highlander every female near and about (or possibly aboot) is swooning over - and he's younger than her, and a virgin to boot - supposedly against her will, but damn me she's a game bird and improvises wonderfully in the face of such a terrible fate.

3. The hero - the strapping 6 foot something 23 year old red haired brawny Adonis - is called Jamie. Of course he is. All Highland heroes are called Jamie. It's in the rules. If Scotland gain Independence, I fully expect it to be in the Constitution.

4. Leave her alone for 5 minutes and someone will try to rape her. It doesn't matter who - Scots Highlander or Redcoat, they're all hiding behind every blade of heather just waiting for the opportunity of exposing one heaving bosom or the other and grabbing her creamy white thighs.... Give it enough time, I fully expect the Aberdeen Angus to try to rape her. In fact, when the Loch Ness Monster makes an appearance (I kid you not. I wish I did, but I'm serious) I thought he would be next to jump on board ...Zzzzzzz....

And don't get me started on the Gaelic.

Where was I? Oh yes - 5

5. Despite being a magnet for ever priapic male in a 50 mile radius, she still keeps getting it into her head (when she remembers that she supposed to be married to the increasingly dull sounding Frank) to try to get back to the stone circle to get back to her first (or second, chronologically) husband, Frank. Who is the direct descendant of the main Redcoat dubiously described as a possible homosexual who, we subsequently learn, can only get it up if they're screaming.

The Redcoat, that is. Not her 1946 husband.

In fact, he's the slightly less obvious homosexual character than the other one - the Duke - who even rejoices (if possible) in an effeminate voice. Oh joy. Because that's not tiresomely stereotypical at all. And neither one appear to be able to get willing companions, having to force their attentions on staunchly heterosexual youths, preferably underage. It could be insulting - it should be insulting to the intelligence if nothing else - but it could insult if it weren't written quite so badly as to be bordering on pantomime.

6. After rescuing her - yet again - from - yet another - attempted rape, her 1740 something husband decides he has to impose some discipline as she keeps risking the lives of everyone around her, and announces she going to get her backside paddled for not staying put where she was safe and for wandering off again into yet another gang of gangbangers. Not unreasonably, he points out that justice must not only be done but must be seen to be done. However, she just kicks and screams like a spoiled brat and generally refuses to accept that maybe - just maybe - she really should stop doing what she keeps doing.

It's at this point that you consider that 1946 husband Frank has probably packed his bags and is clapping his hands at having disposed of the original high maintenance pain in the neck.

Of course, she can't stay angry with him for long - his name is Jamie after all, so obviously he's the hero. But she still insists on forcing an apology out of him before grudgingly accepting that maybe - just maybe - when he tells her to stay there because it's safe that - maybe - she should just stay there cus it's safe!

Jamie then somewhat sullies his heroic status by pointing out to her that she can't say no to him, then proceeds to prove the point quite violently, despite her refusal and despite her telling him he's hurting her. But that's okay because it turns out she enjoys it really... Which is quite simply the most terrifying scene I've ever read. Stephen King pales into nursery-rhyme insignificance compared to the sheer horror that is badly written rape mistaken for rough sex.

But that's okay because she heals really really quickly. Even after a flogging.

And despite pining something awful for her beloved Frank for nigh on six years during the War and never so much as giving another man a second look, give her six weeks of Jamie and she probably wouldn't recognise her other husband in a line-up.

As for describing certain intimate areas as slippery as some kind of seaweed - well, that's a mood spoiler if ever there was one.

Poor old Ken is conspicuous by his absence until about 30% in, then all of a sudden, he's everywhere. Everywhere you look people are kenning that they ken what they ken, ye ken?

Oh, and she really likes showing off all her research. Info dumps abound. Shame her research is pretty uninspired surface-only stuff. It makes Braveheart start to look like historical re-enactment. I can't believe there's more than one of these books; I can't believe one got published, never mind a whole series.

Save yourselves. It's too late for me, I'll never get these wasted hours back. Don't look back; don't hesitate; don't blink (oh wait, that's something else). Either way, just don't.

Unless of course there's a really really ridiculously good-looking bloke in it.
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on 8 June 2008
Ok, I gave into the hype and after seeing the US version had over 1000 very good reviews I decided that i would buy it. After all, people accused Karen Marie Moning of ripping off these books in her highlander series, and I adored her books and devoured them all in a few weeks. So i was desperate for a new author.

I can only say how VERY dissapointed I was.

Firstly, call me narrow minded, but i DETEST books written in the first person. So to anyone out there like me ( I wish someone had written this in a review before i bought it) ITS WRITTEN IN THE FIRST PERSON!!

Secondly: I'm really not into ginger haired, virgin heroes that are described as the "young lad" and are all of 23 years old poverty stricken and constantly get hurt. its just not sexy.

Call me shallow i dont care. Nothing against ginger hair, but I just hate it in my heroes and heroines, yet writers constantly give them ginger hair and think by describing it as auburn or golden sunlight or many other trite euphemisms, that it will be gorgeous. Sorry, but with red hair comes millions of freckles and ginger pubes. My imagination cant assimilate it.

The story was boring, no explanation of how the hell she got sent back in time. She's married to two people at the same time. Great role model.

Either do an historical novel and make it exciting, like Ken Follett, or stick to romance and make it that. Romance. There is nothing romantic about not having a bath for months and having twigs in your mane of curly frizzy hair. And no matter what the author says, the smell of man sweat and earth (dirt) is NOT condusive to a good romantic read.

At 800+ pages, i was ready to hang myself by the end of it. It felt like a life sentence. I just wanted it to end. The descriptions went on for pages. Who cares what the hell the castle looked like from every angle, and the view from the hill, for that matter. Just get on with the blooming story woman.
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on 22 January 2008
Firstly I was looking for a new book to read and for once I thought I'd let the star rating and the amount of reviewers guide me. 380+ reviewers 5 star rating ? Has to be good right ? Well unfortunately no. Let me first stress ... In my opinion this is a woman's romance novel. The book is extremely slow paced and the attention to irrelevant detail is tremendous. The florid descriptions of flower pressing and weather etc. in the initial parts of the book had me wondering what I'd bought. I went back and re-read some of the reviews and I'm now at a loss as to how this book reviewed so well. For good quality engrossing writing I can think of many better authors. Gemmel and Feist immediately spring to mind as being vastly superior. For pace and action almost any other author I have read is better. So what's going on here. Well the answer is I've never read women's novels before and maybe this is the style of writing they like. I prefer Fantasy and Science Fiction. I like Historical and real world events and thrillers. So.... all I can assume is this book has a massive female following and... don't get me wrong.... but if you're a bloke with typical male interests and writing then this book is going to leave you cold. I wish I'd known what it was I was buying .. but hey... that's my fault...i took a chance and didn't read the reviews. The only reason I'm marking this 1 star is hopefully to warn others by making them note the low score and wondering why. I think overall it won't effect the 5 star rating but it may help someone to NOT make the mistake I did.
One last thing. I have to wonder if the author has ever been to Scotland especially the East coast ... I'm Scots myself and I think most of her protrayal came from watching "Highlander" "Rob Roy" and other stylised AMERICAN hollywood creations mixed with a day dream of a shortcake tin and the obligatory highlander on the front in a Kilt. The language has been researched a little but the way they speak and react just doesn't come across right. Kind of like when Kevin Costner played Robin Hood. It was good, but it didn't in any way capture authenticity. Maybe she should have spent some time with the 'Fit Loons' of Scotland to understand what I mean. (Anyone from North-East Coast of Scotland will get this reference immediately :D )
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on 16 November 2007
I think new readers deserve a wee bit o' the Gabaldon's deathless prose tae entice them in tae this masterpiece for all time, oh aye! Sae here ye are! (I especially like "spangled my eyelashes with rainbows" and "You - you can really ask that?")

Jamie made a fire in a sheltered spot, and sat down next to it. The rain had eased to a faint drizzle that misted the air and spangled my eyelashes with rainbows when I looked at the flames.
He sat staring into the fire for a long time. Finally he looked up at me, hands clasped around his knees.
"I said before that I'd not ask ye things ye had no wish to tell me. And I'd not ask ye now; but I must know, for your safety as well as mine." He paused, hesitating.
"Claire, if you've never been honest wi' me, be so now, for I must know the truth. Claire, are ye a witch?"
I gaped at him. "A witch? You--you can really ask that?" I thought he must be joking. He wasn't.
He took me by the shoulders and gripped me hard, staring into my eyes as though willing me to answer him.
"I must ask it, Claire! And you must tell me!"
"And if I were?" I asked through dry lips. "If you had thought I were a witch? Would you still have fought for me?"
"I would have gone to the stake with you!" he said violently. "And to hell beyond, if I must. But may the Lord Jesus have mercy on my soul and on yours, tell me the truth!"

There ye go! (or maybe, gae). If ye like that... read on (or oan).
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on 17 May 2015

I chose to read this book because I saw that Gabaldon had come top in a survey of the most popular historical novelists. I soon understood what the winning formula was. Lots of sex and plenty of violence, in roughly equal measures!

If you can accept the premise that a woman in 1946 can walk between a pair of standing stones on a remote Scottish hillside and find herself transported back 200 years to the time of the Highland Rising in support of Bonnie Prince Charlie, the story rips along with enough action to keep you turning the pages; but as I read I became increasingly aware of a strong thread of sadism running throughout the book. The repeated accounts of beatings and floggings and other forms of torture climax in the truly horrendous account of the treatment meted out to Jamie, the main male protagonist, (I hesitate to call him the hero for reasons which will become apparent) by Randall, the villain of the piece. Admittedly, Randall is a sadist and is portrayed as such, but he is not the only character in the book to take pleasure in inflicting pain. Jamie is quite capable of that himself.

One of the passages that I found most disturbing is the one where he beats Claire, the heroine, savagely and then rapes her. It was not his action, so much as her response that I found hard to believe. Perhaps a woman of that period and that society might have accepted that that was the natural way of things, but Claire grew up in the 20th century. She does not have the psychological profile of a needy woman who returns again and again to her abuser. She is intelligent and tough minded and spent the war years as an army nurse. To my mind, for such a woman treatment like that would be unforgivable. Yet Claire not only accepts that probably she 'deserved' such punishment, she can't wait to get the man back into her bed. True, she has no option but to submit at the time. He is stronger than she is and she depends on him for her survival, but I find it hard to believe that she could continue to desire and, in fact, to love him. So much so that when she has the opportunity to return to her own time and the civilised husband whom she is also supposed to love, she chooses instead to stay with Jamie. More disturbing still is the passage in which Jamie cheerfully recounts how is father used to beat him as a child and apparently proposes to treat any children he may have with Claire in the same way – and she seems to accept this.

I also found my credulity increasingly stretched by the superhuman resilience exhibited by both protagonists. Again and again they suffer physical and psychological damage which would reduce normal human beings to puddles of helpless PTSD, but within hours they have recovered enough to move on to the next adventure. I finally ceased to believe when Claire wrestles a ravening wolf and kills it with her bare hands. Admittedly, his suffering at Randall's hands does bring Jamie to the brink of collapse, so much so that he longs for death, but after some unorthodox treatment at Claire's hands, which involves forcing him to relive the trauma, he bounces back and is soon ready to make love to her again.

It is this conflation of sex and pain that I found so distasteful and I find it hard to understand why apparently so many women in this age of feminism enjoy these books. This is, of course, the first book in a series. I shall not be reading the sequels.
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on 18 May 2014
I read three or four books per week and I particularly like reading fantasy fiction. My interest was piqued when I saw that the TV series was being filmed near where I live. One article I read described the series as being the next Game of Thrones. I read several amazon reviews and convinced myself to download. Sorry folks I just do not get this at all on any level. No depth, paper thin story and repetitive theme. One of the worst books I have read for long time. 20 million people cannot be wrong so clearly I am in the minority. The only good thing I can say is that I am pleased for the boost to our local economy.Sadly I will not be rushing for any more of this series.
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on 15 October 2017
Where do I start? I bought this as a friend convinced me that it was brilliant. Hmmm, is it me? For a start, I found it poorly written; the "hero" Jamie calls the "heroine" Claire "Sassenach" so many times, - practically in every sentence he says to her - it becomes teeth grindingly irritating. I found myself reading and saying aloud, "Yes, we get it, she's English and you're Scottish". Then there are the sex scenes. Believe me, I am no prude, having read my fair share of Wilbur Smith and other such rousing full blooded books, but this, this to me was gratuitous and I asked myself what the author was trying to prove by constantly writing about the (very) rough sex between the couple, which degenerated into wife beating and rape. Every time they had sex, we were subjected to a full blown and detailed narrative about it. Once again, I was speaking aloud - "OK, I get it, they have a lot of sex and he, in particular likes it" - MOVE ON. The fact that Claire doesn't seem to mind that he beats her was particularly disturbing. She comes to terms with it and seems to accept that she "deserved it" for not obeying her Laird and master's instructions, and within no time can't wait to get him back in bed for another rough session!!!

However, the piece de resistance was where she single handedly fought off a wolf without any weapons - oh please.

After this, we are treated to a sadistic detailed description of how Jamie suffered at the hands of Randall, the "baddie" English Captain. The account of this torture and rape is repeated in various guises several times, which convinced me that the author was getting some sort of kick out of keep rehashing it.

Nope, I did NOT enjoy it, I thought it was trash and I cannot believe that it has become not only a bestseller but a TV series, but then, 50 shades of grey was also a bestseller. Go figure
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on 17 August 2013
This book was recommended to me by a friend - and I'm now questioning that friendship! It was THAT bad!

If you're tempted, simply buy a packet of Scots Parage Oats, stare at the stereotypical rugged, red-headed, kilted man on the front of the packet and make up any old soft porn you like.

Many reviews refer to the level of detail - they certainly cannot be referring to the scenery, because its very clear to me that the author researched this from books and has never set foot in Scotland.

Claire steps into 1743 and is taken by the McKenzies. The seat of the McKenzies is Eilean Donan Castle. It's one of the most beautiful and iconic places in Scotland and appears on almost every calendar and shortbread tin ever sold - and yet, she never mentions the location of the castle in such terms. The McKenzie lands stretch over the North-West of Scotland, from Loch Assynt to Lochalsh - it's the most stunning scenery in Scotland, looking out over the Western Isles. If you had ever been there, you would never forget it. The sunsets are so memorable.

I guess Claire was simply too busy having sex with Jamie to even notice it.

At one stage in the book, he asks her if 'the wanting ever ends'. I was desperate for the writing of this 'wanting' to come to an end!

I can only imagine that the author wrote this book for a cheap TV series (which could be easily filmed in two rooms, therefore low budget, no location shots required). I could not shake the notion that Jamie will be a big, brawny American with dyed red hair and a really bad Scottish accent.
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on 1 August 2015
I bought this book wondering what all the hype around the book and TV series in North America is about. Several weeks later, my boredom threshold breached, I have abandoned the book while only half way through its 860 pages. I can now fully understand why the major British and European networks did not buy the series for viewing over here.

The dialogue in the book is ludicrous One could be forgiven for thinking that these uneducated, 1740's highlanders were speaking perfect Oxford English, with long and complex sentences with big words correctly spelt, except for the continual and irritating use of the word “ye” instead of “you”.

Neither of the main characters are either likeable, or realistic. Claire accepts easily, and in an almost light-hearted fashion, her flip back 200 years in time. 6 weeks later she is fully expecting her 1940's husband to be still searching high and low to find her, while for her part she not only accepts with ease a forced marriage, but from the outset puts great energy and enthusiasm into educating her virginal young highlander in the art of lovemaking. He accepts these lessions with equal enthusiasm, but also admits to taking pleasure from beating her “half to death”.

Even in the sex scenes, Gabaldon fails to achieve reality or consistency. She describes whole families sleeping in one room, and our young hero admits to having witnessed rife prostitution while billeted with French soldiers, yet during his first lesson with Claire says "I didna realize that ye did it face to face". We are also told that in those days "Women generally do not care for it", so presumably the female O lay undiscovered until the 1940's.

It is hard to understand exactly who this book is aimed at. The “science fantasy” time travel element is pretty much over 100 pages in. We then have small elements of graphic sex, violence, inaccurate history and travelogue, interspersed with long stretches of waffle, strteched out to fill 860 pages. The scene where Claire makes eye to eye contact with the Loch Ness Monster, reassuring a dumbfounded highlander with the words“Its only a wee monster” could be from a child's book, yet a few pages further on we have gratuitous wife-beating!

400 pages in, and not yet half way, struggling to pick the book up due to simple to lack of interest, I consigned it to my waste paper recycling. Life is short, and there are so many books out there that are hard to put down.
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on 22 September 2012
It is, of course, nonsense, but what glorious nonsense!

Glorious, because Diana Gabaldon has, like Ellis Peters before her, created a complete world out of pure cloth.

I am now halfway through the third Outlander book in a week - and that alone shows the power of Gabaldon's ability to create characters and to describe events in a way which is not easy to leave, once you have been sucked inside this other world.

I have, am having and will have much enjoyment from this wonderful series. But there are some flaws.

The first flaw is, like the Cadfael books, Outlander idealizes its characters. In the Cadfael canon, there is always a dewy-eyed maiden and a noble knight. Similarly, Outlander provides the "knight" in Jamie and the maiden in the shape of Claire herself. Would 18th century Scotland be likely to produce such characters? One doubts it and, further, it is the "non-ideal" characters - such as Rupert MacKenzie or the "auld goat" Lovat, which are much more interesting.

The second flaw is that far too little attention is paid to the one whom, from an historical point of view, is the principal character, i.e. Prince Charles Edward Stuart - or (as Billy Connolly has observed, "the only man in history to be named after three sheepdogs") "Bonnie Prince Charlie". He is, at best, a walk-on character, depicted as a drunken sot, a womanizer and a dreamer - duplicitous and uncaring of his military supporters. All of this may be - and probably is - true, but one could have wished for a portrait of Charles Stuart in much greater depth and, in particular, the relationships with his generals and advisors - not just that with Claire (ooh, he didn't like her, did he?) and Jamie.

The third flaw is the rather amazing and constant dwelling on corporal punishment throughout the series. We hear - frequently - how Jamie was "strapped", as a boy, by his father, we see how Jamie thrashes Claire for disobedience, we have graphic detail on the various whippings Jamie suffers, we are forced to endure the pornographic detail of Jack Randall's sado-masochistic abuse of Jamie and, if all of that were not enough, the bit I have just read describes Jamie and his nephew thrashing each other at the family gatepost. Now, is it me, or does all of this sound somewhat strange to you?

The fourth flaw is inconsistency. For example, there appears to be some confusion between Books 1 and 2 as to whether Claire first disappears in 1946 (Cross-Stitch) or in April 1945 (Dragonfly in Amber). If the latter, why are Claire and Frank in Scotland at all? This is meant to be post-war and April 1945 is NOT post-war. Similarly, the disappearance of Geillis Duncan (Gillian Edgars) is either 1967 or 1968 - you pays your money and you takes your choice. Also, the occasional Americanism which creeps in and the constant American English spelling - e.g. "honorable" as the speech of an 18th-century Scot who also says "ye" and "lassie" are jarring. And, while we're about it, I really would question the rendition of English as spoken by 18th-century Scots Highlanders. The speech given is much more like lowland Scots of that period. It's too late now, but it would have assisted Ms. Gabaldon to have first read "Whisky Galore" by Compton Mackenzie. Finally, the various episodes where Scots highlanders are arguing with each other in English (e.g. between Callum -who, confusingly for a non-Gaelic audience - appears later as "Colum") - so, presumably, to aid the understanding of the English Claire - are, quite frankly, unbelievable.

The fifth flaw is illogicality- and this is really what I meant by describing the series as "nonsense". By "nonsense" I don't mean the time travel - one must accept this premise or reject the entire series at the outset - I mean that the concept was not fully developed. On the first occasion Claire is transported back to the 18th-century, she is taken completely be surprise - all well and good. But, do you not think that, on the second occasion, she might have taken a little more with her than her (designer) gown, her daughter's photos, her bag of money ("Wi' gold in her pocket and wi' siller in her purse...") and her peanut butter sandwich. Did it not strike the doctor from a Boston hospital to bring back with her - say - some antibiotics - or even some aspirin? For all she knew, she might have found her true love, Jamie, in a state of collapse through an infection and have nothing to offer him save her "embraces". Having had 20 years to think about it, a curious lack of foresight would you not say?

Gentle reader, none of the above should prevent you from buying the first book in the Outland series, "Cross-Stitch". (Do not buy any other first or you will be totally confused.) These are, in the scheme of things, minor gripes in a VERY entertaining series.
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