For the record, I am not a romantic person. Passion, I got an extra dose of, but the girlygirl I-want-to-make-a-scrapbook-of-photos-cut-out-of-Bride Magazine romantic gene? Uh, not so much. I especially can’t stand contrived romantic gestures. I despise Valentine’s Day, which I see as a commercialized Hallmark agenda aimed at making people in relationships feel pressured and single people feel crappy. Candlelit dinners at fancy restaurants make me want to burp the alphabet as loudly as possibly and talk about nasty fungal infections. And although I am above-average happily married, I don’t enjoy celebrating anniversaries. One year, we were driving somewhere and passed a blinking sign that read “Traffic delays expected today, August 18.” As if in a race, my husband and I both hurried to say, “Happy Anniversary!” That is exactly how I like to celebrate an anniversary. Seriously. And don’t get me started about how I feel about receiving fancy gifts. My poor husband can’t walk into a jewelry store without suffering a spasm of PTSD.
But I am only human, not some heartless she-devil. Sometimes I stumble onto something I find so deeply romantic I want to write a song about it. There are moments that turn me into a puddle of mush, for sure. A funny-sexy turn of phrase, a smokin’ hot thought, and every cell of Michael Franti. Romantic comedy movies are a weakness too. I’ve already taken plenty of sh*t when I confess my cinematic romantic Achilles heel is “Notting Hill.” (Shut up. I love it. And no, I don’t think “A lot Like Love” or “Love Actually” are better. Seriously. Shut up.) Another confession: I’ll save the New York Times “Vows” article for a special, quiet moment to be savored with cookies and tea. (Last week’s was tasty, both the biscotti and the love story.) And my final, ooey-gooey, love-muffin confession is a literary guilty pleasure I’ve been enjoying over the last decade, Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series. I squealed like a schoolgirl when I found the seventh book in the series, An Echo in the Bone, on the shelf of our library.
The Outlander books are big, thick hunks of passion, historic fiction, sword fighting, arse grabbing and plain good storytelling. They tell the story of Jamie Fraser, a Scotsman from the 18th Century. His wife is Claire Randall Fraser, an English doctor from the 20th Century. Yes, there is time travel involved in this romance. I know people who automatically reject any book involving time travel, but if Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger didn’t alter this sweeping literary litmus test, then kindly move along to another book. Your loss.
Although in real life my taste in men runs in toward slender, funny geeks, James Fraser is a splendid literary lover. He is a hulking, redheaded, kilt-wearing vat of testosterone who secretly is a kitten on the inside. He is utterly devoted to his woman. For instance in Outlander, Jamie says stuff like “When I hold ye between my two hands and feel you quiver like that, waitin’ for me to take you…Lord, I want to pleasure you until ye cry out under me and open yourself to me. And when I take my own pleasure from you, I feel as though I’ve given ye me soul along with my…” well, you get the picture. He can slice a man in half with his sword and then hold a woman like baby bird. It’s not as Harlequin Romance-y as it sounds, and for some reason Gabaldon makes it work by mixing in enough strong female kick-ass characters with smart historic fiction and solid plotlines.
After ten years of dedicated readership and all 848 pages of Echo in the Bone, I can’t wait for the eighth juicy offering in the Outlander series. And if that makes me a hopeless romantic in your eyes, well, I have only this to say to you: