Outlandishly Bad

Pay no attention to the 14,000 five-star reviews of this book: it’s nothing but a trashy romance novel!

I made the mistake of trying to read Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon, because it came with so many strong recommendations. And 14,000 five-star reviews??? It turns out that, yes, 14,000 people can be wrong.

It also turns out that I should really pay more attention to a book’s descriptions and reviews before I try to read it. If I’d just done a little bit of preparatory reading, I would have discovered this was not the book for me. You see, I can’t stand trashy romance novels. Not that I haven’t given them plenty of chances, mind you. I do like the idea of a well written, fun-filled, action-packed romance. This particular book claimed to be all of that, with a smart, witty heroine who ends up traveling back in time and must figure out how to fend for herself in 18th century Scotland. Sadly, this book has gross, sexual violence for its action, it’s absolutely no fun, and it’s another reminder that the concept of a well written romance appears to be a paradox.

We start with a moronic character who is not likable in the least. And I tried to like her! I really did give this book a chance because, first, I didn’t realize right away that it was a trashy romance, and second, the plot had sounded so interesting. For some reason, the author sets the book in post-WWII Scotland where an ex-nurse and her husband are taking a second honeymoon after spending all their war years apart. I don’t have a clue why the author chose this time period because she wrote the main character (whose name I’ve already forgotten because she was that awesome) as someone with a very modern mindset, especially about things like sex and women’s equality (apparently she slept with quite a few men before getting married, which I don’t think was that common in the 1930s). On top of that inconsistency, the author wrote this woman to be a complete a jerk. For example, she asks her academic husband questions about his research and then gets irritated when he tries to take the time to answer them. She also goes on and on about how he’s the love of her life, but then forgets him pretty easily when she goes back in time.

So let’s go back in time with her. She’s so brilliant that it doesn’t dawn on her how ridiculous and underdressed she’d appear in her 1940s dress to someone in the 18th century (this was something that bugged me for a couple chapters, until someone finally put her into proper attire). Fortunately, she gets picked up by a group of military men who decide that even though she’s dressed scandalously, they should take care of her. Then, she gets a chance to use her nursing skills to help one of them, for which they’re all grateful, and it doesn’t occur to her that being able to cure people might make them think she’s a witch. The witch part comes up later. First, she falls in love with the man she helps that first night, and then she decides not to go back to her own time and her husband, and instead she marries this 18th century man. Because that totally seems reasonable. She clearly doesn’t understand how dangerous it is to change the course of history by going back in time (if only she’d taken a basic physics course).

I think the moment where the book really went downhill for me (and it started so low as it was), was when she and her new husband try to have sex in the woods, and they get waylaid by two British infantry men. The men try to rape our heroine, but she manages to kill the guy who’s on top of her, and her new husband takes out the other guy. Their response to killing these two men who’d want to kill and rape them, is to laugh and then go back to having sex. There’s also the scene where our hero husband spanks/whips her with his belt because she’d caused so much trouble (she had put quite a few lives at risk because she’s too stupid to function), and after being angry for a while, she admits that she might have deserved it. She’s accused of being a witch soon after this and has to be saved yet again. And this is the kind of drivel that gets 14,000 five-star reviews.

I didn’t finish the book. Based on the reviews that I finally got around to reading, I gathered the story just got worse and worse. But then, that’s what I get for accidentally trying to read a trashy romance. Hopefully I will prove to be smarter than the heroine and learn from my mistakes.