Historical fiction has been hot for a while, as we see with several historical fiction series premiering on cable the last decade. Romance novels always sell and don’t go through cycles like other genres. When you couple historical fiction and romance together, you’ve got a winner. American author, Diana J. Gabaldon, probably never imagine her story would become such a huge success when she set out to write a historical novel strictly just “for practice.” She received inspiration for Outlander’s storyline from the movies War Games and Doctor Who. As most writers can tell you, the pen has a mind of its own. The straight historical novel Ms. Gabaldon started to write turned into something more, a multi-genre novel blending historical fiction with romance, mystery, adventure, science fiction, and fantasy. But four central tenets of historical romance—hero and heroine, once-in-a-lifetime love, conflict, and resolution—is present throughout the story.
Although Ms. Gabaldon wrote Outlander in 1991, twenty years later it’s become a popular television franchise on Starz network. For those of you not familiar with Outlander, Claire Randall, a 20th-century nurse, accidentally falls through a menhir (standing stone) into the past, 18th-century Scotland. She stumbles into danger, adventure, and meets the love of her life, Jamie Fraser, a dashing Highland warrior.
The storyline is captivating. You can’t stop reading or watching, wondering how a well-educated, medically gifted, sharp-tongued woman from 1945 will survive in 1743, a time without electricity and modern medicine. And more frightening, Claire has time-traveled to an era where women are considered second-class citizens and could be accused of witchcraft for acting unconventionally. With finesse, Claire navigates her way through Scotland’s archaic social norms, while concealing her knowledge of the future, for apparent reasons, that could lead to witch burning or hanging. Ms. Gabaldon is not afraid to explore the beauty and the grotesque of history. She details base issues of a past era—wife beating, male rape, and other sexual exploits—that may be hard for some to watch on screen.
Given historical romance novel’s fan base, it isn’t surprising that viewers are predominantly women. However, Outlander isn’t a chick-flick but a dramatic TV series which captivates both men and women. Besides time-travel and steamy sex, cinematic Scottish battlefield scenes, dueling Frenchmen, and clansmen’s camaraderie will hold men’s interest.
Struggles between Scottish clans and 18th-century British sovereignty will intrigue history buffs. The author provides detailed accounts that are visually stunning to watch on screen. In season two, Ms. Gabaldon takes you from the highlands of Scotland to the streets of 18th century Paris. She juxtaposes France’s grand architecture and decadent colorful lifestyles against the poor and downtrodden on filthy Parisian streets. In season three, which is currently running on Starz, we see Claire and Jamie again heading on another dangerous adventure on foreign land.
If you’re a fan of historical fiction, check out Ms. Gabaldon eight book series before season four begins.
- Outlander (1991)
- Dragonfly in Amber (1992)
- Drums of Autumn(1996)
- The Fiery Cross(2001)
- A Breath of Snow and Ashes(2005)
- An Echo in the Bone(2009)
- Written in My Own Heart’s Blood(2014)
Every Sunday night at 9 P.M., you can watch Outlander on cable television. The show premiered on Starz network August 9, 2014, and is in its third season. With five more books to produce, it appears this will be a long-running show, at least five more seasons. If you’re looking for an outstanding binge watch, Starz’s currently offers season one through three.