(By the way, just want to say I am not profiting AT ALL through this review or your clicking on the widget. Not that anyone thinks I am, but I wanted to throw that out there.)
I am currently in the throes of geek excitement over the fact that the newest book in Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series, An Echo In The Bone, is coming out in just a couple weeks. I LOVE that series. It is a little romance novely, a little fantasy, a little farfetched in premise if I'm being honest - in short, not exactly War and Peace, but it is so well written and so engaging that really, who cares? For those who have never heard of it, the series follows a modern day woman who has fallen through a time hole into the 18th century Scottish Highlands, and who eventually moves with her hot Scottish husband to the new world, where they are sucked into the rising conflict between the colonies and the motherland (I like the term motherland. I don't get to use it enough). The author has obviously put a lot of research into each book of the series, and when I read through them I am not only entertained by the characters but I feel like I am learning a little bit of history despite myself.
It would have been easy for this book to end up as a fluffy little romance novel, I mean seriously, hole in time leading to forced marriage to old fashioned Scottish stud? Really? But it didn't, mainly because the characters actually act in a way that makes sense. Like, there are no heaving bosoms, no smoldering dark threatening yet lustful glances, no feisty declarations of hatred and independence immediately before brutal-yet-melting kisses.
On a side not, my pet peeve with romance novels (which this series isn't, just saying) is that both characters tend to be absolutely hateful towards each other, going so far as to beat, humiliate, rape (they don't call it that but seriously, even if the heroine ends up enjoying it despite herself, no means no) and enslave the object of their eventual affections, and still then call it love. Who falls in love with someone who treats them that way? That's not love, that's Stockholm Syndrome.
Anyway, the Outlander series avoids that trap and makes the leap into authentic historical fiction, with just enough fantasy and romance to appeal to lovers of those genres. The characters are intelligent and likable, and though there are obvious cultural differences faced by the main couple, those differences are discussed and worked through, not just ignored once the author has bled enough drama out of them. It is the ultimate story of star crossed lovers, with deadly enemies, epic battles, injury, torture and heroic rescues, but somehow it is all believable. And it is incredibly moving - I frequently find myself tearing up or laughing out loud while reading through these books. I cannot wait for the next book to come out - sometimes I wish I could just lock all my favorite authors into a tower and force them all to WRITE FASTER DAMN YOU but when those books finally arrive they are worth the wait.