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Literature: Outlander
A series of novels by Diana Gabaldon. Claire Beauchamp Randall is taken back in time from 1946 to 1743, where she marries and begins a passionate love affair with Jamie Fraser, a Scottish Highlander. They face many dangers and political intrigues as they attempt to prevent the tragic battle of Culloden from happening. And that's more or less just the first two books. The later books span more than twenty years, expanding the focus of the novels beyond just the main couple to their families, their close friends, and the historical situation in general. Depending on who you ask, they're romance novels of the upper 10% under Sturgeon's Law or Historical Fiction — or a bit of both. Absolutely nothing to do with that film. Also not to be confused with Johji Manabe's manga series from the 80's (and the subsequent anime adaptation) titled 'Outlanders'.

The books in order:

  • Outlander (published as Cross Stitch in the UK)
  • Dragonfly in Amber
  • Voyager
  • Drums of Autumn
  • The Fiery Cross
  • A Breath of Snow and Ashes
  • An Echo in the Bone
  • Written in My Own Heart's Blood

The main series has a spinoff of sorts, the Lord John series, focusing on the life of a secondary character featured in later books, Officer and a Gentleman (and Straight Gay) Lord John Grey.

In 2013, Starz announced a TV adaptation with Ronald D. Moore at the helm. The series premiered on August 9, 2014. The works page for the television series is here.

Tropes Used:

  • A Man Is Not a Virgin: Averted and subverted. Jamie is indeed a virgin before his wedding night, and Claire is the one who shares her experiences with him
  • Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder: In their twenty years apart, neither Jamie nor Claire is exactly celibate (Jamie has one-night stands with a local woman and the daughter of his master, and later ill-advisedly marries Laoghaire at Jenny's prompting, and Claire stays married to Frank). But their hearts never truly stray (Aww.)
  • The American Revolution: The later books begin to overlap with this time period. The Battle of Saratoga and the occupation of Philidelphia are covered in some detail.
  • Awesome McCoolname: James Alexander Malcolm McKenzie Fraser.
  • Babies Ever After: Later books have elements of this, paired with Badass Family.
  • Badass Preacher: Roger.
  • The Baroness: Geilis Duncan (or Mrs. Abernathy, or whatever she's calling herself in this decade) has some traits of this trope: fervent militarism, strange sexual habits.
  • Beta Couple: Bree and Roger. Marsali and Fergus, Lizzie and the Kedzie twins. Everyone and everyone else. There's a lot of marrying.
  • Big Damn Heroes: There are quite a few of these, with at least one in each book. A particularly vicious one occurs in Breath when Jamie and company rescue Claire from a kidnapping; when he realizes that she was raped, Jamie calmly orders his men to kill all the survivors of their attack.
  • Bishōnen: Lord John. Mention is made on how pretty and petite he is (being blonde and around five foot six).
  • Black Widow: Geilis Duncan.
  • Circle of Standing Stones: Claire Beachamp Randall uses stone circles to travel between the 20th and 18th centuries.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Randall in Wentworth Prison, Jamie's shattered hand. Claire is somewhat upset, in later books, with Jamie's manipulative interrogation of a sixteen-year-old John Grey; she's inclined to take pity on John due to his age and innocence, despite him having made a credible attempt to kill her husband. Jamie, however, does not see this as anything but fair play during wartime.
  • Converting for Love: Dottie decides to convert to the Quakers in order to marry Denzell Hunter; on the other end of the spectrum, Rachel appears to have decided to marry Ian without either of them converting to the others religion.
  • Covers Always Lie: Overlapping with Contemptible Cover in some printings.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The body in the beginning of Voyager, among others.
  • Christianity Is Catholic: Averted. While several characters, including Jaime and Claire, are Catholic there are also significant characters who are Anglican (like the Greys), Presbyterian or Quaker. In fact the tensions and interactions between the various sects are an important sub-theme throughout the series.
  • Cliff Hanger: Too many to count. The most egregious ones are at the end of Echo: Jem is kidnapped, Roger mistakenly went back in time to get him(he was really hidden in a tunnel where Brianna works), William just found out he's Jamie's bastard and is off to do something rash, Jamie has 'kidnapped' Lord John(to get back to the Continental Army lines) and John just confessed he slept with Claire.
  • Cultured Warrior: Lord John. Very intelligent and well-read, and an extremely competent soldier.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Due to a truly epic series of miscommunications about who Roger is, he and Jamie get into a fight in Drums. Roger initially reasons that he'd have the upper hand, being fitter and quite a bit younger. He quickly realizes, however, that while Jamie is a good fifteen years older, Jamie is used to fighting to kill, not to win.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Period attitudes are captured quite fairly. Even the time travellers aren't magically enlightened. As Claire herself says at one point, all she has is "a bit of knowledge".
  • Depraved Bisexual: Jack Randall is an equal opportunity rapist and sadist.
  • Did Not Do the Bloody Research: Mostly averted. Gabaldon did. And then some. However, only after the first couple of books did she acquire the help of a Gaelic speaker, so there were some early problems in that area, as noted by her in The Outlandish Companion.

    Some of her French sentences have some problems as well, eg. "Reste d'retour! Oui, le tout!" in A Breath of Snow and Ashes, chapter 56, which doesn't mean "Stay back, all of you!" as Gabaldon mentions (but rather something like "Rest back! Yes, all!" which makes little sense) in French.
  • Distress Ball: Claire's attempt to escape to Craigh na Dun and the 20th century, Brianna's ill-advised visit to Stephen Bonnet's boat.
  • Disposable Husband: Played straight and averted. Claire chooses to remain with Jamie initially, but later returns to her own time and spends 20 years with her husband Frank.
  • Domestic Abuse: Jamie beats Claire in a memorable scene in the first book. Their different values concerning this issue cause several subsequent arguments. Since Claire's a doctor, cases of severe domestic abuse occasionally come to her attention elsewhere, and she usually does her best to stop it, with Jamie's backing. (An in-universe example of Values Dissonance occurs with this - when Claire speaks of beating one's wife, as it's used in her time, Jamie sees nothing unusual with it, but the thought of a man using his fists on his wife is disturbing and alien to him.)
  • Door Stopper: Don't drop any of the hardcover copies on your foot. Especially not Breath.
  • Downer Ending: Dragonfly, as well as Breath, do not have especially happy endings. Neither does Echo for several characters.
  • The Dreaded: Stephen Bonnet is this for Brianna; not only did he rape her and get away with it(and this is after he repaid her father's kindness by robbing and beating him), but he is possibly the father of her son and has a tendency to show up out of the blue at the absolute worst possible times, and threatens to kidnap Jem. He does eventually get captured, and Brianna doles out a Mercy Kill(saving him from his worst nightmare, death by drowning), with a gunshot to the head in Breath. Arch Bug becomes this to Ian after Ian mistakenly kills Murdina; he refuses to admit that Ian acted to save Jamie's life and says that he will wait until Ian has "something worth taking", and he shows up to menace Ian several times. He finally learns about Rachel Hunter and tries to kill her, but Ian and Rollo put up enough of a delaying struggle that William Ransom arrives to save the day with a musket shot.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Uh, Jamie. And Lord John. And Fergus.
  • Everyone Is Related: Even across centuries.
  • Expy: Word Of God has it that the author based Jamie Fraser on Jamie McCrimmon from Doctor Who, a character played by Frazer Hines.
  • Eye Scream: Breath has someone getting a needle jabbed in their eye to remove pressure from built-up fluid. Fun times. Also, in Voyager, Claire ... assists a young man with a parasite that keeps moving back and forth between his eyes.
  • Fingore: Jamie's hand post-Randall.
  • Fish out of Temporal Water
  • Future Slang: Played with, in that the one doing the swearing is Claire, a 20th century woman. She manages to baffle those around her with her anachronistic, and so confusing, use of "fucking", "sadist" and in what becomes a plot point at least once, "Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ!")
  • Good People Have Good Sex: Do they ever.
    • And sometimes, they have less-than-good sex, though Jamie does usually feel bad about it.
  • Happily Married: Jamie and Claire seem to be settling down into this, despite a lot of conflict going on around them.
  • Healing Touch: A couple of minor characters have this
  • Hollywood Voodoo
  • Hook Hand: Fergus.
  • Identical Grandson: Roger's eyes and Geilis Duncan, his great-great-great-great grandmother. Also, hello, Frank Randall and ... all of the ancestral Randalls, it would seem. Jack Randall's physical resemblance to her spouse makes Claire very disturbed at multiple points. Even though the biological father of Frank's ancestor was actually Jack's brother Alexander. Several characters also note how much Brianna resembles her paternal grandmother, Ellen Fraser. When Brianna accidentally jumps back a bit too far in Written in My Own Heart's Blood, her grandfather, Brian Fraser, mistakes her for his wife.
  • I Didn't Mean To Turn You On: Jo and Kezzie with Lizzie, Phaedre with Duncan, and Jamie himself with Lord John. Only in the last example does nothing come of it.
  • I Owe You My Life: Slight (and serious) example of this between Lord John and Jamie, and later between William and Ian.
  • Jerkass: Pretty much every single one of the main characters acts like a Jerkass at one point or another, so singling any out seems counterproductive.
  • Jungle Drums: When Claire is kidnapped in Breath, her captors panic when they hear what they think are Indian drums from the darkness surrounding them. Claire has to fight back relieved laughter because she can tell it's really the sound of a bodhran (Scottish-Irish hand drum) and further recognizes that only Roger is a good enough player to make those particular beats.
  • Long Distance Relationship: Brianna and Roger, for a while, both before and after they go to the past. Jamie and Claire kind of redefine the trope too. Two centuries is quite a long distance indeed.
  • Magical Native American: An old woman who acts as a not-quite mentor to Claire.
  • Mama Bear: Geilis Duncan learns too late that threatening Brianna is not a smart thing to do in front of Claire.
  • Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: When they meet up in 1769, Brianna and Roger 'handfast' (a traditional old Scottish common-law marriage rite) and have sex. Two days later, Brianna's attempt to get Claire's wedding ring back hits a snag and she is raped by Stephen Bonnet. When she later realizes that she's pregnant, she assumes that the baby is Stephen's, since she and Roger had practiced coitus interruptus. When Brianna tells Claire this, Claire rather dryly remarks that there is a term for people who use that form of birth control: parents.
  • The Medic: Claire, World War II nurse who became an MD in the 1950s and took some modern medical instruments (including a supply of penicillin) back to 1765 with her.
  • Multiple Demographic Appeal: Gabaldon mentions several times on her podcast that this is the case - she used to be able to pitch the book to absolutely anyone she encountered at promotional appearances. It's a romance novel. No, it's a straight-up historical. No, it's time travel, and therefore science fiction! No, the subtle supernatural elements make it Magical Realism! It's military history! (It apparently has some following among people actually in the military - in no small part due to the fact that the books are very, very long and very, very detailed, which can be convenient for those deployed and bored.)
  • Multiple Narrative Modes: When the focus is on Claire, the narrative is in first-person. On the rare occasion when it isn't, it shifts to third-person.
  • Narrative Profanity Filter: Claire sometimes does this, especially with Gaelic curses, although she more frequently reports curses (and says them herself) without any filter.
  • Nature Adores a Virgin:
    • Jamie was a virgin on his wedding night. Claire wasn't. Not that either of them really seemed to mind.
    • Subverted in Voyager when Jamie beds a young girl, under coercion. She resists and cries out in pain, and Jamie wonders aloud why anyone would ever want to sleep with a virgin.
    • Brianna was a virgin when she and Roger married.
  • Nobody Over 50 Is Gay: The entire cast is getting quite old, so Lord John may still avert this. Of course, there's the Duke of Sandringham, but his age is unstated.
  • Not Quite Dead: Jamie after Culloden. Randall, after the first book. Geilis, after her supposed burning. This happens so often, it's best to assume nobody is dead until Claire has examined the corpse.
  • Ontological Inertia: The reason Claire and Jamie can neither prevent the Battle of Culloden from happening, nor help the Scots to win. Fear of this not being true is part of why Claire attempts to keep Jamie from killing Jack Randall outright - he's an ancestor of her husband from her own century, and she fears all kind of disturbing time paradoxes (though in this case, it turns out that Frank was actually descended from Jack's younger brother Alexander; Jack married Alexander's beloved as a last request so that she and the child would be provided for).
  • Overprotective Dad: Jamie beats up Roger and sends him to be Indians' slave because he thinks he raped Brianna. (He's mistaken, but his reaction is sort of justified because Brianna had really been raped.) Lord John as well, in some regards in Echo.
  • Polyamory: Lizzie and both Beardsley twins.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Roughly 50% of the problems that the core characters experience could have been avoided if they would just talk to each other.
  • Portal to the Past: The rocks at Craigh na Dun, Ocracoke Island, and implicitly at least one similar place in the Caribbean.
  • Psychic Children: Both of Brianna's kids have a psychic link to their family members and can track them by it. Mandy is especially strong in this.
  • Rape as Drama: There's quite a lot of rape, mostly threatened for female characters but executed fairly even-handedly among the genders. Jamie, Fergus, an attempt on Jenny, Brianna, Claire herself, and in backstory, Lord John, come to mind.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Being from the 20th century, Claire feels this way and is quick to let Jamie know it when he tries to assert his "husbandly privileges"; she loses it and tells him that if he forced her he'd be no better than Randall, causing Jamie to back off in horror. While he tries to talk her into sex quite a bit after this, he never attempts to force her again.
  • Redheaded Hero: Jamie.
  • Redheaded Stepchild: Literally. The redheaded Brianna is raised lovingly by Frank, who was 200 years too late to the party to be her biological father, (not to mention infertile). Also Brianna's son Jemmy, whose paternity was questionable due to her rape by Stephen Bonnet, although Roger raises him as his own and it is eventually proven that Jemmy is his.
  • Running Gag: Jaime's inability to blink.
    • Everyone's astonished reactions to the news that Lord John is going to be/was married.
  • Saintly Church: They pop up, here and there, at a contrast with some of the truly rabid and unkind believers Claire encounters.
  • Scarpia Ultimatum: This one happens at least twice, allowing Jamie and Claire each to make the Sadistic Choice. When Jamie is held captive in Wentworth Prison by Jack Randall, Claire tries to rescue him and is caught by Randall. Jamie offers to let Randall torture him in whatever way he wants - including rape/coerced sex—for Claire's freedom. Later in the story, when Jamie is in a French prison for dueling (with Randall of course), Claire makes a bargain with the king, exchanging sex for her husband's release. (A third, variant version occurs with Bree and Stephen Bonnet — for the sake of a plot-important wedding ring.)
  • Scars Are Forever: Notably, Jamie's whipping, but injuries and their repercussions are played out in glorious full. Roger's scar from being hanged also never goes away, and his larynx and voice are permanently damaged.
  • Set Right What Once Went Wrong: This drives the plots of several of the books.
  • Settling the Frontier: The Ridge
  • Shout-Out: Jamie is named after Jamie McCrimmon, who was played by Frazer Hines.
  • Shown Their Work: It's a very well-researched series, and it shows. There are several details that seem to have been added simply because Gabaldon discovered them and thought they were cool.
  • Shotgun Wedding: Mostly in the parts of the novels set in rural America.
  • Someone to Remember Him By: Claire leaves Jamie at the end of Dragonfly, and goes back to the 20th century pregnant with Brianna. Of course, once she figures out he's still alive, she comes back.
  • Spy Speak: Or rather, time traveller speak. Whistling the tune to Yellow Submarine, at one point, and the name "Ringo Starr" at another.
  • Stock Ness Monster: The plesiosaur version, encountered by Claire.
  • Street Urchin: Young Fergus.
  • That Old Time Prescription: Claire Beauchamp demonstrates even more knowledge when she comments that willow bark tea can make bleeding take longer to stop while discussing the healing properties of herbs with the keeper of Castle Leoch's herb garden.
  • Time Travellers Are Spies: one of the main sources of conflict in the first book. It turns up in the second book too, when the Duke of Sandringham is unclear on her alliance because of her future knowledge based behaviour.
  • Time Travel Tense Trouble: Occasionally. Used in a way when Claire describes her marriage to Frank:
    • "He is not alive"
  • Trapped in the Past: Donner believes he is.
  • Triang Relations: Jamie, Claire, and Laoghaire form a type 4 triangle, with Laoghaire as Alice and Jamie as Bob. Later, Lord John takes up the mantle as a much less bitchy Alice.
  • Virginity Makes You Stupid: The 18th century isn't treated as a more innocent time, but there are a few young and exceptionally sheltered female characters.
  • Warrior Poet: Jamie shows a tendency towards this.
  • Wooden Ships and Iron Men: Setting of Voyager.
  • Uncanny Family Resemblance: The Frasers seem to have particularly strong genes. Randells too.

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