Tag Archives: Diana Gabaldon

My Favourite/Favorite Romance Novel Heroes and Heroines

There are books and novellas that I recommend. There are novels I loathed.

Inspired by a commenter’s request, these are my favourite romance novel heroes and heroines, and I have a separate post for my couples. Ranking them would take too long, so I haven’t.

If you’re uncertain, I suggest leaning towards the couples list for a starting point.

Favourite Heroes

Ashley, Jennifer Many Sins of Lord Cameron  – GUILTY PLEASURE
Ashley, Jennifer The Wicked Deeds of Daniel Mackenzie
Balogh, Mary Only Enchanting
Bowen, Sarina The Understatement of the Year M/M clarification: Graham
Callihan, Kristen The Game Plan
Dare, Tessa Three Nights with a Scoundrel
Dare, Tessa A Week to Be Wicked
Enoch, Suzanne The Rake
Florand, Laura The Chocolate Touch
Florand, Laura The Chocolate Temptation
Gabaldon, Diana Outlander  OBVIOUSLY, plus the series
Kelly, Carla Libby’s London Merchant
Kelly, Carla The Surgeon’s Lady
Kleypas, Lisa Where Dreams Begin
Kleypas, Lisa Lady Sophia’s Lover
Kleypas, Lisa Secrets of a Summer Night – Top 5 Hero
Kleypas, Lisa The Devil in Winter 
Kleypas, Lisa Tempt Me at Twilight  TWO REVIEWS
Kleypas, Lisa Smooth Talking Stranger
Lauren, Christina Wicked Sexy Liar
Linden, Caroline Blame It on Bath
Long, Julie Anne What I Did for a Duke  CLASSIC
Milan, Courtney Unveiled – I’d marry him.
Milan, Courtney Unraveled FAVE
Milan, Courtney A Kiss for Midwinter  CLASSIC
Quinn, Julia An Offer from a Gentleman
Zapata, Mariana Kulti 

My Favourite Heroines

Bryce, Megan To Tame a Dragon
Chase, Loretta Lord of Scoundrels  CLASSIC
Dare, Tessa One Dance with a Duke
Florand, Laura The Chocolate Touch
Gabaldon, Diana Outlander  OBVIOUSLY, plus the series
Heyer, Georgette Venetia
Jenkins, Beverly Indigo She’s amazing.
Kleypas, Lisa The Devil in Winter 
Kleypas, Lisa Scandal in the Spring 
Kleypas, Lisa Mine till Midnight – I’d marry her.
Lauren, Christina Beautiful Player
Milan, Courtney This Wicked Gift
Milan, Courtney The Countess Conspiracy
Milan, Courtney The Suffragette ScandalI want to be her.
Quinn, Julia Romancing Mr. Bridgerton 
Quinn, Julia It’s In His Kiss
Reid, Penny Neanderthal Seeks Human
Thorne, Sally The Hating Game CLASSIC

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful or my  streamlined recommendations list.

Florand

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My Favourite/Favorite Romance Novel Couples

There are books and novellas that I recommend. There are novels I loathed.

This list is my favourite romance novel couples and there is a separate one for my favourite heroes and heroines as individual characters. If I put them in order, I’d never get this list published, so they aren’t.

If you’re uncertain, I suggest leaning towards the couples list for a starting point.

Balogh, Mary Slightly Dangerous CLASSIC
Bowen, Sarina Blonde Date novella  CLASSIC
Bowen, Sarina and Elle Kennedy Him
Bryce, Megan To Tame a Dragon
Chase, Loretta Dukes Prefer Blondes  – LOVE THEM
Cole, Kresley Dark Desires After Duska guilty pleasure THUNDER SEX™!
Dare, Tessa One Dance with a Duke
Dare, Tessa Any Duchess Will Do
Duran, Meredith Fool Me Twice
Florand, Laura All’s Fair in Love and Chocolate
Florand, Laura The Chocolate Kiss
Florand, Laura The Chocolate Touch – Top 5 romance and couple
Florand, Laura The Chocolate Heart Whoops! One of my least favourite couples.
Florand, Laura Chase Me
Gabaldon, Diana Outlander  OBVIOUSLY, plus the series
Garwood, Julie The Gift – Old School
Hoyt, Elizabeth The Ice Princess
Kelly, Carla The Lady’s Companion
Kelly, Carla Marrying the Captain
Kennedy, Elle The Deal
Kinsale, Laura Flowers from the Storm
Kleypas, Lisa Dreaming of You
Kleypas, Lisa Where Dreams Begin
Kleypas, Lisa Again the Magic
Kleypas, Lisa Secrets of a Summer Night
Kleypas, Lisa The Devil in Winter 
Kleypas, Lisa Love in the Afternoon
Lauren, Christina Beautiful Player
Lauren, Christina Dirty Rowdy Thing
Linden, Caroline One Night in London
Long, Julie Anne Like No Other Lover
Long, Julie Anne What I Did for a Duke  CLASSIC
Long, Julie Anne A Notorious Countess Confesses 
MacLean, Sarah One Good Earl Deserves a Lover
McNaught, Judith Almost Heaven  OLD SCHOOL
Milan, Courtney The Duchess War
Milan, Courtney The Suffragette Scandal  IF YOU READ ONLY ONE…
Parker, Lucy Act Like It
Phillips, Susan Elizabeth Natural Born Charmer
Quinn, Julia An Offer from a Gentleman
Quinn, Julia Romancing Mr. Bridgerton
Quinn, Julia It’s In His Kiss
Reid, Penny Neanderthal Seeks Human
Reid, Penny Beauty and the Mustache
Spencer, LaVyrle Vows
Thorne, Sally The Hating Game CLASSIC
Willig, Lauren The Seduction of the Crimson Rose 

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful or my  streamlined recommendations list.

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The Exile: An Outlander Graphic Novel by Diana Gabaldon, Illustrated by Hoang Nguyen

“Experience Jamie’s Side of the Story!”, the cover cries and who am I to turn down any Outlander material? I suppose that this graphic novel might be a good starting place for people curious about the book series who also like this format; moreover, Outlander is entirely from the heroine’s perspective and The Exile mostly from the hero’s which is something lacking until much later in novels and a welcome change.

If you haven’t read Outlander , and you really should, it’s AWESOME, here is a bastardized summary from my review: In 1946, Claire Randall is on a second honeymoon in the Scottish Highlands. She visits a local henge and through the magic of fiction is able to walk between the two halves of a broken stone slab and end up in the same place, but in 1743.  As an outsider, Claire is regarded with suspicion and is thus pulled into a protective relationship with the chief’s nephew, Jamie Fraser… and thus an epic historical adventure and love story begins, spanning decades, leaping centuries, and continents, with eight novels and still going.

The Exile shares the beginning of the story from Jamie’s perspective both before and after becoming involved with Claire. It also includes some back story on other significant characters and adds one that is either new or I have forgotten. Even with pictures (and like the book and TV series) I had trouble keeping all the craggy men straight. Overall, it was a quick read that left me flat.

I’m no judge of the artwork, but it seemed competent in a simplified, shorthand way, i.e. the dress is long and she’s wearing a corset tied over it, so it must be historical. Really, this means that, in keeping with my perception of female depictions of women in graphic novels, all the ladies are running around in their underclothes or that which simulates same. There are a lot of boobs on display, such many boobs. Magically, heaving two-dimensional boobs in that distracting “my clothing can barely withstand the pressure” way of boobs in fiction. Squished and/or overflowing boobs, not only for Claire (apologies for the picture quality),

exile 1

exile 2but supporting characters as well,

exile 3

Clearly, The Exile is not made for what is considered the usual Outlander audience: women. If Claire had been given a frequently savoured comely backside, I could have understood it more as her arse is frequently appreciated in the books.

Graphic novels have simply never been part of my reading. I read some religious Archie comics that one time I spent 10 days at bible camp (never to return), but the whole world of comic books was not a part of my formative years and as such they leave me cold. The most interesting part of the book for me was the brief Afterward in which Gabaldon shares her correspondence with the illustrator about what Jamie and Claire look like. You can check out the book to see, but to get the idea just look up some combination of “Gabriel Aubry Jamie Fraser” and apparently you will be quite close. (Self-congratulatory aside: That’s pretty much what my Jamie looks like, too. My Claire is entirely different though.)

My reviews of the books in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series can be found here.

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.

The Complete Reading List by Author

Short Version: Recommended books are in bold, reviewed books are linked, these are ruthlessly streamlined recommendations lists –

So You Want to Read a (Historical) Romance
Ten Great Romance Novellas to Get You Started
Plus just for funsies: The Worst Romance Novels I Have Ever Read

I have more content based lists over there on the right  –>

Annual Reading Tallies & Author Commentary 2012 – 2017
On reading romance: Emotional Version and Pseudo-Intellectual Version.

My AUTOBUY List (Links Will Take You to a Summary of the Author’s Catalogue)
Tessa Dare (on double-secret probation right now actually)
Laura Florand
Lisa Kleypas
Julie Anne Long
Courtney Milan – The. Very. Best.

-A-
Albert, Annabeth Waiting for Clark (Bryce/Clark)
Alexander, R.G. Ravenous novella (Declan/Trick/Jennifer)
Alexander, Victoria Love with the Proper Husband (Marcus/Gwen)
Alexander, Victoria Lady Amelia’s Secret Lover novella (Robert/Amelia)
Alexander, Victoria The Prince’s Bride (Rand/Jocelyn)
Alexander, Victoria The Importance of Being Wicked (Winfield/Miranda)
Alexander, Victoria Lord Stillwell’s Excellent Engagements novella (Winfield/ Felicia&Lucy&Caroline)
Alvarez, Tracey In Too Deep (West/Piper)
Andre, Bella The Way You Look Tonight (Rafe/Brooke)
Ann, Jewel E. When Life Happened (Gus/Parker)
Ashe, Katharine In the Arms of a Marquess (Ben)
Ashley, Jennifer The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie (Ian, not surprisingly/Beth) – GENRE OUTLINE
Ashley, Jennifer Lady Isabella’s Scandalous Marriage (Mac/Isabella)
Ashley, Jennifer Many Sins of Lord Cameron (Cameron/Ainsley) – GUILTY PLEASURE
Ashley, Jennifer The Duke’s Perfect Wife (Hart/Eleanor)
Ashley, Jennifer Mackenzie Family Christmas: The Perfect Gift (Ian, Mac, Cam, Hart)
Ashley, Jennifer The Seduction of Elliott McBride (Elliott/Juliana)
Ashley, Jennifer The Untamed Mackenzie novella (Lloyd/Louisa)
Ashley, Jennifer The Wicked Deeds of Daniel Mackenzie (Daniel/Violet)
Ashley, Jennifer Scandal and the Duchess novella (Steven/Rose)
Ashley, Jennifer Rules for a Proper Governess (Sinclair/Roberta “Bertie”)
Ashley, Jennifer A Mackenzie Clan Gathering (Ian/Beth)
Ashley, Jennifer Bodyguard (Shifters Unbound) novella (Ronan/Elizabeth)

The list has gotten SO VERY LONG, please click on the jump.

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The Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon

*OUTLANDER SPOILERS* BUT ONLY IF YOU HAVEN’T FINISHED VOYAGER  *OUTLANDER SPOILERS*

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Dragonfly in Amber, Voyager, Drums of Autumn, The Fiery Cross, A Breath of Snow and Ashes & An Echo in The Bone by Diana Gabaldon

This review concludes my frantic devouring of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. How frantic? When I started this review, it was of books 2 and 3, but now includes the rest of the published series as noted below. I covered book one in a previous effort. The 8th volume, Written in My Own Heart’s Blood, will be released in 2013.

1. Outlander
2. Dragonfly in Amber
3. Voyager
4. Drums of Autumn
5. The Fiery Cross
6. A Breath of Snow and Ashes
7. An Echo in the Bone
8. Written in My Own Heart’s Blood

Theoretically, each Outlander book stands alone, but, really, it’s just one very, very long story. Once a reader is drawn into the series (there is quite a subculture out there), I imagine they are in it for the long haul and not just randomly picking up the books out of order. I also believe that if they do, they will want to go back and find out what they missed. Gabaldon incorporates call backs to situations, conversations, and characters with such aplomb that she must have them planned out several books in advance. Events and references lie dormant for thousands of pages and may be only incidental to the story, but recognizing when these elements are reincorporated brings my reading experience a little extra joy.

In Outlander, Claire Randall was on a second honeymoon with her husband, Frank, in the Scottish Highlands, after a six year separation during World War II. She visited a local henge and through the magic of fiction walked between two standing stones and ended up in the same place, but in 1743 where/when she was taken in by the MacKenzie clan. As an outsider, she was viewed with suspicion and forced into a protective marriage with the chief’s nephew, Jamie Fraser. What started as a marriage of convenience quickly developed into a profound bond between the two. It is a time of growing political unrest in Scotland leading inexorably to the Jacobite rising of 1745 which ended with the infamous Battle of Culloden. The ensuing books continue to trace their lives and relationships over time.

The historical elements of the books, specifically the day-to-day details, are of particular interest to me. The political elements play out largely as forces beyond the characters’ control, and elaborate machinations interest me neither in fiction, nor in real life. With the time travel element, of immediate import is how a modern person comes to live in the past and must cope with the challenges it presents culturally and practically. Having present day events and traveling with a “modern” character back in time gives the reader an anchor in the historical immersion process. It’s a tougher and more restricted world from which none of the inhabitants come away unscathed. Gabaldon’s willingness to subject her characters to the ugliness and strife of the 18th century, as well as its pleasures, holds the books together for me.

If you are here looking for book recommendations: Read these books. Are they Great Works of Literature? No, but they are engrossing, well-written, and highly entertaining. “Begin at the beginning,” The King said gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: Then stop.”, and wait for the next book to be published. I bought all SEVEN Outlander books in one impetuous and financially guilt-racked gesture while reading volume 3. The large paperback versions. Though they seem perfect for a Kindle given their weight, I needed to have them to hold onto, and it’s a great forearm workout. All my e-reader ever gave me was a numb hand and a serious case of Kindle Klaw™. I’m going to present the books in a kind of review summary/cluster with self-indulgent maundering about them. If you find my company as delightful as I do yours, and laugh in the face of extremely vague spoilers, please follow me …

ARE YOU JUST JOINING ME FROM THE CANNONBALL READ SITE? PLEASE START HERE:

Dragonfly in Amber , book 2, takes place in two timelines. We’re still not at Culloden, but we are coming to the precipice. Opening in the new present,1968, Claire and her daughter, Bree, are visiting Scotland on a historical hunting expedition. After the brief introductory chapters, the book mercifully moves back in time to the 1740s with all due haste. Not too much haste mind you, just enough non-haste to leave me writhing in anticipation of Jamie Fraser’s first appearance. Here, the story picks almost exactly where the last book ended and follows Claire and Jamie’s lives in the Paris Jacobite expat community as history wends its way inexorably to the infamous battle. Gabaldon wisely expands her narrative perspective to include an omniscient narrator. It would be hard to imagine a book of this scope without one, and it is crucial to expanding the character roster and plot development.

This is where any plot revelations get a soupcon spoiler-y :

The third book, Voyager, continues Claire’s historical search for Jamie as we learn his fate in an extended flashback. I can’t reveal the crux of the book, so I’ll just say this for the initiated: The wait nearly killed me. The anticipation, resolution, and aftermath were delicious. This book has up to three story lines going at once with present day events, quick flashbacks for background details and extended past/present story lines. It sounds complicated, but it isn’t really. It also takes the show on the road, as it were, and the Frasers are flung farther afield, sometimes literally. The book is harrowing, often in an overly episodic way, but somehow it all works because, despite the tendency towards frequent cliffhangers, the character interactions are so compellingly written that other sins can be forgiven.

It was during Voyager that I realised my willing suspension of disbelief has been comprised by my atheism. I told Mr. Julien these books made me wish that I still believed in God because then I could believe in magic, and that would add another level of enjoyment to the story. I’m not bothered by the time travel framing device, since I have enough cursory knowledge of physics to recognize that time is a construct and theoretically malleable, it’s some of the other elements that are too much for me, specifically the occasional indulgences in esoteric spirituality.

The timelines meld and go forward as one with Drums of Autumn . The action has moved, seemingly permanently, to a new location and provides a prolonged view of everyday life in another time. Claire and Jamie are mature characters now and it lends a weight to their interactions. The highlight of every book is the time these two share as a couple; their marriage is familiar and comfortable, as are their personalities. They still have fire, but the supporting characters start to take up some of the weight of the reckless passion they once shared. My only complaint about this book comes from my reading experience: It was hot, so hot, Abu Dhabi hot, that weekend, and the story was taking place in a similar climate, thus leaving me feeling even warmer and praying for the onset of narrative winter. Mercifully, the next volume starts on a cold November day.

I slowed down, relatively speaking, when I got to The Fiery Cross to help dispel the fog of a story that is thousands of pages long. Gabaldon, bless her, does a good job of bringing readers up-to-date on things that happened somewhere in the preceding thousands of pages, but while reading them in a burst helps one keep track, there were times in The Fiery Cross when I couldn’t remember what the hell she was talking about. It seems minimizing to say this book was “more of the same”, but it was and that sameness was what I was reading it for. Still, there were two notable elements in The Fiery Cross, first, that the opening 200 pages or so take place over the course of a single day. (You know a book is long when you say “the first 200 pages”). Gabaldon is writing such a sprawling work that I can appreciate the desire to try something like this, and it works well to lay the foundation of past events, the current book, and the rest of the series. The second stand out item was the rare and welcome inclusion of Jamie’s full perspective and thoughts. It was startling to realise that virtually his entire character arc had been related by Claire, or in the third person, but without revealing his inner monologue. The reader met him as a young soldier and outlaw, and watches him mature through seemingly unendurable trials. In many ways, his character arc is more complex than Claire’s, and it is fascinating to follow through the years.

That sameness I mentioned, the lovely sameness, of this epic disappeared with A Breath of Snow and Ashes . Diana Gabaldon seemed to get her second (22nd?) wind and I again found myself vibrating in my begreyed cubicle waiting for chances to read. I thought I had read enough to know, basically, where the story will and will not go. At the very least, history was pointing very strongly in one direction. There would be enough surprises in the personal relationships to keep me interested. I wanted to stay with the Frasers, and their extended family, to see where it all ended up and how it gets there; however, this book hunkers down with Jamie and Claire and mostly stays there. It’s a smart choice and a captivating one. I suspect it is also a product of Gabaldon’s maturity as a writer. The characters’ lives are just as fraught as ever, but she is so at ease in her storytelling by this point that any rough edges have been smoothed and she is willing to take the time she has given herself to let things development more organically.

Replete with enjoyment of A Breath of Snow and Ashes , I actually delayed starting An Echo in the Bone as it would be the last new volume for a while (and to combat my obsessing). Now, I started reading these books on June 10th and it’s only 5 weeks later, so “delayed” is an extremely relative term and in this case means “one week”. The main plot is built around a war and Gabaldon has included major characters on both sides. It’s the luxury of writing such a long work, if you plan it well, and aren’t afraid of convenient coincidences, everyone and everything can come around again. The drawback is that the reader might not be equally interested in all of the characters and that was certainly true for me; however, the book gained steam over the last 150 pages and crescendos in a trio of cliffhangers that set up the next book and ties up one storyline with a bow to give the reader a sense of completion.

A 6500 page story has time to explore ideas, to develop characters, and, yes, to fill. Amazingly, most episodes when I started thinking “Get on with it, Gabaldon!” the story took a turn, or the character interaction got particularly interesting, and my impatience was lost. Occasionally, it could feel like the Perils of Pauline with multiple Paulines, and I’d ask, “Really? You have this major crisis PLUS these 3 other things happen just to ratchet things up a bit? You need an editor my friend, with a red pen and the will to wield it!”. There are also a lot of coincidences and a tendency towards deus ex machina in times of crisis, but I read every single word anyway. “Really,” you ask, “every single word? You didn’t skim at all?” Okay, I skimmed a little. A very little, mostly while muttering, “Okay, peril, peril, politics, peril, there we go back on track. Where’s Jamie? “ because he is the soul of the books, and their heart is his relationship with Claire.

The Outlander series is a grand adventure, but don’t be fooled by the time travel, the politics, or the panoply of characters. Trust me, in many ways this is the biggest, baddest romance novel of all time, an expansive story played out over time and against a backdrop of politics and tremendous upheaval; however, like all the best books of any supposedly-limited genre, it transcends itself and inevitably moves into a territory with far broader and more satisfying range.

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

I finished Outlander this morning and will go to the library on my way home from work to get the next two books in the series. I am vibrating with anticipation in my begreyed cubicle. Although uncertain of whether I will read all eight, I am sufficiently motivated to make sure I have enough of the books in my hot little hands to prevent anyone getting in my way. In order of publication, the series includes

1. Outlander
2. Dragonfly In Amber
3. Voyager
4. Drums of Autumn
5. The Fiery Cross
6. A Breath of Snow and Ashes
7. An Echo In The Bone
8. Written In My Own Heart’s Blood

Also by Diana Gabaldon and falling in between Dragonfly in Amber and Voyager is The Scottish Prisoner.

[Interjection: I took a break from writing this review to read the first chapters of Dragonfly in Amber on Amazon, and now I am desperately trying not to cry at my desk.]

After a six year separation during World War II, Claire Randall is on a second honeymoon with her husband, Frank, in the Scottish Highlands. She visits a local henge, Craigh na Dun, and through the magic of fiction is able to walk between the two halves of a broken stone slab and end up in the same place, but in 1743. Despite being an “outlander”, or “Sassenach”, she is rescued by the MacKenzies and participates in clan life as a healer (she was a field nurse during the war) and gardener. It is a time of growing political unrest leading inexorably to the Jacobite rising of 1745 which ended with the infamous Battle of Culloden. As an outsider, Claire is regarded with suspicion and is thus pulled into a protective relationship with the chief’s nephew, Jamie Fraser. The compelling bond between these two characters is the core of the book and the fulcrum around which the story moves.

Outlander is a ripping good yarn. Diana Gabaldon creates a fascinating world for her characters and story. Claire’s first person narration gives the reader someone “modern” to latch onto and adds a layer of intricacy to the novel that asks more questions than it answers. There were some elements of the book that I was unimpressed with, but the story so clearly had me in its clutches that I can’t be bothered to complain. If I can get past a time portal, I can live with irksome details. The book is not really science fiction as the only element that can be thought of as such is the portal through which Claire passes, and there are no other comparable elements in the book; moreover, even with the unforgettable relationship between Claire and Jamie Fraser, it is a disservice to call the story a romance; rather, it is an epic adventure story enfolding love, intrigue, and socio-political history.

[Interjection: I went the library at lunch and got the next two books because I could NOT wait another second. I brought Dragonfly in Amber with me to my desk just in case, well, I don’t know what, but I wanted it to hand.]

Coming into a series such as Outlander late is really enjoyable because so much of it is already available to you. With seven books published, there is enough to keep me busy through the summer, especially if I focus on my actual responsibilities instead of flopping down on the chesterfield with a book for three hours every evening. The other advantage to being a latecomer is that there is a ready-made community of people cheering you on with “DID WE TELL YOU OR WHAT?”, and “Jamie will RUIN you for all other fictional men,“ as you progress through the books.

Thank you to my friend Mswas for her persistence in recommending this book to anyone who would listen.

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.