I must say, I have never been so close to rage-quitting a book halfway through since I read The Courtship of Princess Leia. As I write this now, I’m only halfway through it, and I think the only reason I’m going to keep reading it is to find more things I can hate about it.
People have been recommending The Outlander series to me for many many years, and I’d just never bothered to pick them up. Well, I was out of things to read and figured it was about time I do so, and yes, I heard there was a TV series and I wanted to be a book-snob when I watched it. I don’t know how, but somehow I got the impression that the series was, well, weirder. Darker. Stranger. That it was about people who get lost in the cracks, lost in time, yes, but in the dark weird way of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, or Charles deLint novels. I thought the characters would be the outliers to society, people who are foreign wherever they go, who fit nowhere, and so created a land where only the strange was normal. You know…. London Below. Where did I get this impression? I honestly have no idea. Maybe I’m thinking of an entirely different series, and this one just fell into my lap instead.
Anyways, what I was not expecting was a harlequin romance with a lot of extra words and some real history written in as if to make me take it seriously. Even then, I probably would have been okay with it. I’m a big fan of saying as long as a book is entertaining to me, and enjoyable to read, I’ll call it a good book. I don’t necessarily need a deep philosophical message, or a darkly gritty cast of characters, or a unique landscape, or even any originality at all. I can be a big fan of trashy romance novels. I read, and even sort of enjoyed Twilight. That’s right, I’m saying it out loud. She lost me with the later sequels, and I’m not saying its a healthy story for teens or that it should get the attention it’s gotten. But I enjoyed parts of it, and it was not as offensive to me as this book.
Something about this story so far just sets my teeth on edge. I’m only halfway through it, and I had to stop to express my rage while its still this potent. Right, so the main character is Claire. She was living in 1945 with the husband she’d just reconnected with after WWII (he was a soldier, she was a nurse) when wham bam she falls through a time-hole in Scotland and is taken back 200 years.
Where she generally makes trouble by not acting correctly for a woman of the time, and being a mystery in a politically awkward time where people hate mysteries. She finds out that her husband’s ancestor was pretty much an evil dick, and makes friends with a dashingly sexy scotsman who has his own dubious history and dramatic reasons he wants to take revenge on said husband’s ancestor. Whoops, under some very contrived circumstances she is suddenly compelled to marry this sexy scotsman she is so attracted to, to save her own life, of course, yes…. Right, I was totally with you up until that moment. Unbelievably contrived and classic romance novel, sure. Still, I can envision some great costumes, and there’s some fun sex scenes. Sure, the sex scenes make me uncomfortable, because, you know, SHE’S STILL MARRIED TO HER HUSBAND AND ALL. And she dithers, constantly, about oh she misses Frank (husband) but something keeps drawing her to Jamie. His animal magnetism. And, well, she couldn’t NOT have sex with him, they NEED to consummate the marriage or it won’t count and she’ll still be in danger!
But then, of course, given the first time she finds herself alone (really, the FIRST time, in the last three months, that she finds herself alone?) she realizes she can run back to the stone circle where she came through the weird time portal. So off she goes…. and gets captured by the English (and the evil ancestor of her husband). Where he takes her to his office, tries to find out who she’s spying for, and then proceeds to nearly rape her. When (drumroll please) the husband arrives to rescue her! Yipee! Whatever, I’m not entirely enjoying it, mostly because I was expecting something completely different, but it hasn’t lost me yet. My expectations don’t change what’s written, I just have to be in the mood for a romance, so I’ll read it as if I was…
Until of course, the new sexy scotsman husband takes her back to safety and proceeds to beat her. Because its good for her. And she needs to learn the consequences to her actions. Because as her husband its his duty to teach her to right her wrongs, and his men and the soldiers they’re traveling with expect it.
Um, excuse me, what? Oh, she’s angry that he beat her so badly that she couldn’t sit down last night, but then he tells her a story about how his parents beat him when he was a child, and it was very beneficial and helped him learn. And she forgives him, after all, she DID act a bit rashly (by running away from a marriage she was forced into) and she DOES need to think about consequences (like how it made HIM feel to watch her being nearly raped). So yes, she forgive him, for beating her. And then he says, “You should be grateful I went easy on you. I enjoyed beating you so much, I really wanted to have sex with you afterwards. You should be glad I didn’t demand sex from you right then as my husbandly right.”
And she says “Oh, I love you! But if you ever beat me again I will cut your balls off.”
At which point he swears upon his dagger that he will ever be loyal to her, and never beat her again in rebellion or anger (note that he can still totally beat her again if its for her own good), and will she please have sex with him now?
And this is where I stopped reading, so enraged that I needed to get my thoughts down on paper and express my disappointment and hatred RIGHT NOW.
I will keep reading, at least to the end of this book, if not the rest of the series, on the bright side because I want to know if it gets better. After all, so very many people recommended it to me. And on the dark side, because I want to keep finding things to hate about this book.
So far though, I’m mostly curious that the internet has not raged about this book before now. I can’t count the number of hate-filled posts have passed through my tumblr about everything from Twilight, to Frozen, to con girls and costumes and all the rest. And no one has raged out about Outlander before me? Is it just because I wasn’t expecting this and everyone else just already knew about it?