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Literature / Outlander

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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 whom you ask, they're romance novels 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 '80s (and the subsequent anime adaptation) titled Outlanders. Don't confuse it with the 2011 game Outland or the 1992 game Outlander, either.

The books in order:

  1. Outlander (published as Cross Stitch in the UK) (1991)
  2. Dragonfly in Amber (1992)
  3. Voyager (1993)
  4. Drums of Autumn (1996)
  5. The Fiery Cross (2001)
  6. A Breath of Snow and Ashes (2005)
  7. An Echo in the Bone (2009)
  8. Written in My Own Heart's Blood (2014)
  9. Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone (2021)

In July 2019, Gabaldon said on social media that an as-yet unstarted tenth book would be "the last of the main series."

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.

These books provide examples of:

  • 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.)
  • Affectionate Nickname: Oh, there's plenty.
    • "Sassenach" ("outlander") — Jamie to Claire (though as he points out, it's usually a derogatory term for English people)
    • "Mo cridhe" ("My heart") — Jamie to Claire
    • "Mo chusile" ("my blood") — Jamie to Jemmy
    • "Ah charaid" ("my friend") — Jamie to numerous people
    • "Bree" — Roger and Claire to Brianna
    • "Coz" ("cousin) — Ian to Brianna
  • Ambiguous Syntax: Black Jack's last words (to Jamie) were "Kill me. My heart's desire." Whether he was referring to Jamie as his heart's desire or Jamie's killing him as being that is an unanswered question which still troubles Jamie decades later.
  • Attending Your Own Funeral: Geillis gets that chance to do this.
  • Arranged Marriage: Jamie and Claire, though it works out quite well for them. On multiple occasions, Claire makes a comment against arranged marriages at which point Jamie loves to remind her that their marriage was basically a Perfectly Arranged Marriage.
  • Artistic License – Geography: In Drums, Governor Tryon makes reference to Cross Creek (where River Run is located) as being near the foothills and mountains of North Carolina. This is completely wrong, as Cross Creek (modern Fayetteville) is in Cumberland County in the southeastern part of the state, while the Appalachian foothills begin to rise in the western part, over two hundred miles further inland.
  • Babies Ever After: Later books have elements of this, paired with Badass Family.
  • Badass Preacher: Roger. He feels called to be a lay (unordained) Presbyterian minister, then later becomes fully ordained. In-between and after, he manages to square his conscience with taking part in battles of the American Revolution, either fighting or simply providing support for the troops.
  • The Baroness: Geillis 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 Beardsley twins, Denzell Hunter and Dorothea Grey, Ian and Rachel Hunter. 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.
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: The MacKenzie siblings (Ellen, Colum, Dougal, and Jocasta). The MacKenzie's as a whole are said to be "charming as larks in the field, and sly as foxes with it". Colum is an extremely smart laird who favors keeping the clan's options open; Dougal is openly pleasant (when it suits him) but can be harsh and callous, with pronounced Honor Before Reason Blood Knight tendencies; Jocasta is manipulative and autocratic, with a ruthless streak which could give Dougal a run for his money. Even Jamie's mother Ellen had her moments: she didn't want to marry the man her father was thinking of, so her solution was to sleep with Brian Fraser and intentionally get pregnant outside of matrimony, forcing her family to accept their marriage or take a hit to their social reputation from her actions.
  • Black Widow: Geillis Duncan, also known as Gillian Edgars, Geillis Abernathy, Melisande Robicheaux, or Geillis Isbister. And those are just the ones we know about. When Claire asks her how many husbands she's had, she pauses for a minute to count, then says she's had five husbands since she came to the past. So that's not even counting Greg Edgars. When Claire seems shocked, Geillis casually caresses an arsenic bottle in her store room and tells Claire that the tropics are a "very unhealthy atmosphere for an Englishman." In Plague of Zombies, it's suggested that Geillis murdered her husband and told everyone the plantation had been attacked by the nearby maroons.
  • Burn the Witch!:
    • Claire and Geillis come frighteningly close to coming to an end this way.
    • The persecution of Claire for Malva's murder also has elements of this. Though she's technically accused of being a murderess, not a witch, multiple people label her as a witch or seem to find her medical skills suspicious.
  • But Liquoris Quicker: Claire isn't one to let being drunk stop her from enjoying herself.
  • But Not Too Gay: Played with. Lord John discusses past partners - Hector, his cook, and Percy Wainwright, but almost always uses subtext and euphemisms to do so. The reader never sees the relationships first hand. Entirely averted in the Lord John spin-off series.
  • The Cassandra: Claire. Sometimes due to her historical knowledge, though she's generally wise enough to keep her knowledge to herself in public. In the later books, Claire often finds herself trying to impart live-saving 20th-century medical knowledge to a not-always receptive 18th-century audience.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The body in the beginning of Voyager, among others.
  • Christianity is Catholic: Averted. While many of the main characters are Catholic (Jamie, Claire, Brianna, Ian), there are also significant characters who are Anglican (like the Greys), Presbyterian (Roger, Duncan Innes) or Quaker (the Hunters). In fact, the tensions and interactions between the various sects are an important sub-theme throughout the series.
  • Circle of Standing Stones: Stone circles are used to travel between the 20th and 18th centuries.
  • Cliffhanger: Too many to count. The most egregious ones are at the end of Echo: Jem is kidnapped and Roger mistakenly went back in time to get him (he was really hidden in a tunnel where Brianna works). William just found out Jamie is his biological father, not Ludovic Ransom, 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.
  • Clothing-Concealed Injury: After Fergus loses his hand, he usually wears a hook - but on an occasion where he has to attend a high society ball, he dons a glove filled with grain so as to look 'real'.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Jack Randall in Wentworth Prison, Jamie's shattered hand. Jamie threatens this with a sixteen-year-old John Grey, but is reluctant to fully carry it out, mostly due to his age. Claire is still somewhat upset.
  • Conveniently an Orphan: Both Claire and Roger. Claire's parents died when she was 5, leaving her to be raised by an older uncle who dies in World War II. Subsequently, Frank is her only family. Roger's parents were also killed when he was relatively young, and both his great-uncle and his father's housekeeper (both of whom he considers to be parental figures) died several years before Dragonfly begins.
  • Converting for Love: Played with. Dottie decides to convert to the Quakers in order to marry Denzell Hunter; on the other end of the spectrum, Rachel decides to marry Ian without either converting to the other's religion. Neither Roger nor Brianna converts for one another. Their children are raised mostly Catholic, but with a fair amount of influence from their Protestant minister father.
  • Cultured Warrior:
    • Lord John. Very intelligent and well-read, speaks several languages, and an extremely competent soldier.
    • Also Jaime, who fits precisely the same descriptors. Both are essentially nobility and highly educated for the time, which allows them to become friends while John is the commanding officer of Ardsmuir Prison, where Jaime is Inmate in Chief.
  • Daddy Had a Good Reason for Abandoning You: Jamie, with both of his children, to ensure their well-being. In Brianna's case, he urges Claire to return to the safety of modern life with Frank because their own circumstances in the 18th-century are dire — he will be hunted by both the British and clans and the Battle of Colluden is about to start. In William's case, Jamie stays with William for as long as he can but when people start to notice the resemblance between himself and William, which could lead to the realization that William is not the legitimate son of the late Earl of Ellesmere, Jamie leaves to ensure William's safety. Jamie asks Lord John to be a father to his son in his place.
  • Damsel in Distress: Played straight a few times, but Claire is more than willing to subvert this trope when necessary. Jamie uses her to make a 16-year-old John Grey think she's about to be raped. Later in the books, Claire (rather more willingly) pretends to be a hostage so that the English soldiers will allow her "captors" to depart unharmed.
  • Death of a Child: Multiple babies die over the course of the series, including the supposed changeling, Faith, Petronella Mueller's newborn, and several other babies on the Ridge.
  • 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". Claire and Brianna are fairly blasé about Brianna being pregnant out of wedlock, but Jamie, Jocasta, and other characters regard it as a serious impediment.
  • December–December Romance: Several, including Lizzie's father and Monika Berrich. To a lesser extent, Jamie's aunt and Duncan Innes.
  • Dented Iron: Jamie becomes this over the course of the series due to aging and various injuries.
  • 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.
      • There are strange usages of both French and German that stem from the evolution of those languages since the 1700s.
  • 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.
  • Doesn't Trust Those Guys: Claire's memories reveal Frank to have been quite racist, at least in his later years. He falsely implies she's been having an affair with her coworker and (totally platonic) close friend Joe Abernathy, and is enraged by the idea of Brianna possibly dating — much less having sex — with Joe's son (even though they literally grew up together and are said to view each other as siblings).
  • Domestic Abuse: Jamie whips 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, he 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 pistol shot.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: While Jamie isn't able to travel through time or 'hear' the standing stones, he does occasionally somehow connect to Brianna and her family in the future; shortly after they leave, he dreams of them going to Reverend Wakefield's house (describing so many details of its furnishings that Claire is legitimately shaken), and some time later, dreams of a danger near Lallybroch, where the family has moved.
  • Dropped in the Toilet: While attempting to shoot a snake behind the outhouse, William and Young Ian are so startled by the snaking lunging up at them that Young Ian bumps into William, accidentally knocking him into the chest-deep waste pit, covering the boy head to toe in human waste. Young Ian is forced to go get the adults, who playfully mock the mortified William as they work to find a way to get him out. However, when they realize that the boys also dropped Lord John's very expensive military pistol (hard to replace in Colonial America) in the muck, they make Young Ian go in to retrieve it in spite of his complaints that the pit will destroy his clothes and take days to get the smell off of his skin. Even 10 years later (6 books later in the series), William is still embarrassed when he recalls having fallen into in the waste pit.
  • Eternal Sexual Freedom: Averted, for the most part. Claire and Brianna are certainly more liberal than most in the eighteenth century, but even their views on things like John's sexuality seem conservative to a modern audience. And when Claire finds out Brianna and Roger slept together before marriage, she's primarily concerned about Brianna's pregnancy. Jamie, on the other hand, is furious, even though he knows Brianna was raped by Bonnet not long afterward, making the question of Brianna's virginity something of a moot point. As Brianna's due date grows closer, both she and Claire are blase about Brianna being an unmarried mother, while Jamie and Jocasta go to great lengths to find her a new husband.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Claire realizes this when she sees how devastated Jack Randall is to learn that his younger brother Alexander is dying.
  • Everyone Is Related: Even across centuries. Given that Brianna's grandmother was the sibling of Roger's great-great-great-great-great-grandfather, this makes Roger and Brianna 2nd cousins, 6 times removed.
  • Expy: Word of Diana Galbadon is that she based Jamie Fraser being a kilt-wearing Highlander and his first name on Jamie McCrimmon from Doctor Who after seeing the serial Tomb of the Cybermen, although the similarity between Jamie Fraser's surname and the first name of Jamie McCrimmon's actor Frazer Hines was a coincidence.
  • 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. In Blood, Claire has use her fingers to reach into Lord John's eye socket and rotate his eye back into place.
  • Feeling Their Age: Jamie, particularly. He's still a powerful fighter with sharp reflexes, but his back tends to give out at inopportune moments.
  • Fingore: Jamie's hand post-Randall.
  • Fish out of Temporal Water: Claire is absolutely this, especially at first. Though she settles in after a while, she continues to be seen as unusual, as much for her outspoken nature as for her medical skills. Donner even lampshades this in Breath, telling Claire that he suspected she was a time-traveler because she wasn't sufficiently afraid of the other men. On the other hand, by later books she seems far more at home in the 18th century than she was in the 20th. Certainly she's more comfortable in the 18th century than Donner himself.
  • Forced to Watch: When John Grey tries to "rescue" a well-born English lady from a group of Scottish barbarians, Jamie threatens to ravish the lady in front of John and even share her with his men. This is a winning tactic with John, a young and naive 16-year-old with a strong sense of honor. It's only after John shares crucial knowledge in exchange for the lady's safety that Jamie reveals that the well-born English lady is his wife.
  • Foster Kid: Jamie to Dougal, by the Scottish definition. Fergus to Jamie later in their relationship.
  • From Dress to Dressing: Claire does this on several occasions, mostly because a scrap of her dress happens to be more sanitary than the alternatives.
  • 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!")
  • Going Commando: Truth in Television, as what we call "underwear" didn't really exist in the 1700's. Given a saucy twist when Roger and Brianna go back to the 1970's and she tells him that, having gotten out of the habit during their sojourn in the past, she now only wears underwear if she's planning to seduce him, i.e. for him to take off. Later lampshaded at one point when Brianna makes a joke to several women on the Ridge about an uptight male character having a secret collection of women's underwear, leading them to ask confusedly if she means "shifts and stays." Realizing she's misstepped, Brianna hastily talks about lacey French things.
  • Going Native: Inverted and then played straight across the generations. Claire never loses her twentieth-century British way of talking, despite spending years in the past. But when Brianna joins her, within a few months the younger woman is learning Gaelic and peppering her speech with talk of "stramashes" and "skellochs."
  • Good Adultery, Bad Adultery: Played with. In theory, Claire was effectively trapped at Leoch and forced to marry Jamie out of necessity. And she genuinely did attempt to go back to Frank. This seems to puts her squarely in the "Good Adultery" category. However, both Claire and the reader know that Claire isn't exactly reluctant, especially as she becomes closer to Jamie. She later consults Father Anselm, who assures her that her situation was out of her control and rationalizes that chronologically, the marriage to Jamie came first, therefore it's not adultery. That's enough for Claire.
  • Hat Damage: Jamie shoots off the hat of a young officer during the Battle of Bemis Heights, only to later realize that he had come within a hair's breath of killing his own son
  • Happily Married: Jamie and Claire settle down into this, despite a lot of conflict going on around them, as do Roger & Bree later.
  • Harmful Healing: Claire cringes when she sees other doctors with dirty hands or tools.
  • Healing Hands: A couple of minor characters have these. Claire begins to learn how to do it in Bees'.
  • Heal It with Booze: Played with and referenced a few ways:
    • When Claire first arrives in the 18th century and asks for a disinfectant for Jamie's wounds, the men stare at her in confusion until she finally asks for alcohol, at which point they give her some scotch.
    • Alcohol is shown to be an integral part of Claire's medical treatment, though a non-trivial number of people seem to resent the loss of perfectly good booze. Even Jamie, who knows that alcohol disinfects germs, isn't thrilled when Claire uses top quality brandy to treat his gunshot wound.
    • When Claire herself has to have an open wound washed out with alcohol (she protests, but Jamie has by this point come to believe in the importance of doing so, and insists), she recounts it as the most agonizing experience of her life, even over giving birth (and she later describes labor with Brianna being so difficult she thought she was going to die). She notes that battle-hardened Highland warriors, who could sit totally stoic as she set their bones or sutured cuts, would shriek like banshees when she used alcohol to disinfect a gash.
  • Hollywood Voodoo: Geilis Duncan's "zombie" servant Achilles; Ishmael's summoning of the loa; Sipio Jackson's recounting of his grandmother's healing skills.
  • Hook Hand: Fergus.
  • Identical Grandson: Roger's eyes and Geillis 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 Just Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Lord John to Jamie. John is deeply in love with Jamie and would like nothing better than for Jamie to return that love, but he knows it is impossible. He instead takes solace from being the recipient of Jamie's true friendship and on several occasions goes out of his way to help Jamie, even though were his involvement found out the cost to himself would be scandal at best and possible imprisonment at worst.
  • 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.
  • Is There a Doctor in the House?: Claire's immediate response to this and the subsequent disbelief of everyone present is practically a running joke at this point.
  • 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.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: In one book, a woman refuses to help her abusive husband after he has a stroke, leaving him to simply rot on the floor.
  • 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.
  • Marriage Before Romance: Played with. Claire married Jamie for protection, he married Claire because he was attracted to her from the start. Claire shows some signs of interest even pre-marriage, but is too distracted by Frank to consider acting on them.
  • Magical Native American: An old woman who acts as a not-quite mentor to Claire. Later, a Mohawk Sachem who can see ghosts shows up.
  • Mama Bear:
    • Geillis Duncan learns too late that threatening Brianna is not a smart thing to do in front of Claire.
    • Do not abduct Brianna's child and then show up at her house. She will kick you in the jaw and break as many bones as she can.
    • Learning that there's a conspiracy to kidnap or harm William sets Lord John off quite efficiently as well.
  • 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. Eventually the mystery is cleared up via congenital features and it is revealed that Jem is Roger's son.
  • Meanwhile, in the Future…: Drums,Echo and Blood cut between Brianna/Roger in the 20th century and Claire/Jamie in the 18th century.
  • 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.
  • Mistaken for Cheating:
    • Averted, mostly. In TFC, Phillip Wylie kisses Claire and she leaves angrily. When she goes back to the party, Jamie asks her what on earth she's been doing and seems oddly annoyed. They have a short conversation before Jamie finally asks Claire why Phillip Wylie's fake beauty mark is stuck to her cheek. Thankfully, he knows better than to assume that Claire and Phillip Wylie are having a torrid affair, though he's still furious at Phillip Wylie for making a pass at his wife.
    • Averted again in Echo when Jamie confesses that Bird has been sending young women to his bed. Claire nearly breaks a rib from laughing so hard.
  • Mistaken for Pregnant: Happens to Bree three times.
    • First, when she recreates matches and tries to tell the family, Mrs. Bug assumes it's a pregnancy announcement, which pisses Bree off to the point of calling her an "interfering old busybody"; this in turn angers Mrs. Bug, who storms out after serving dinner and doesn't return until the next morning.
    • It then happens twice in Bees. When Claire is trying to diagnose her heart problem, she initially asks if Bree is pregnant, which Bree denies. Then a few months later when she's trying to tell Roger about her heart, he makes the same mistake.
  • Mistaken for Prostitute: Happens to Claire upon reuniting with Jamie in Voyager. Young Ian believes her to be a prostitute and is completely scandalized by his uncle's association with her, and even more scandalized when Claire casually admits to knowing Ian's father for "quite a long time."
  • 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, though he is later shocked to learn that she also wasn't a virgin when she married Frank.
    • Subverted in Voyager when Geneva Dunsany manipulates Jamie into sleeping with her (and taking her virginity) the night before her wedding. She is uncomfortable 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, and while she ended up enjoying herself by the end, the description of her behavior at the beginning makes it clear that she was in quite a bit of pain .
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Due to a truly epic series of miscommunications about who Roger is, he and Jamie get into a fight when they first meet 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".
  • No Periods, Period: Averted. There's everything from Lizzie's menarche (first period) to Claire's menopause (last). Several times during the books, it's shown that Jamie has a habit of subconsciously keeping track of Claire's cycle, which she finds odd as it isn't something a man from her time would usually do. There's also little of any man being shown as uncomfortable with these events; Jamie, as noted; and Ian, who after all had several older sisters.
  • Not Quite Dead: Jamie after Culloden, and then again after the Battle of Kings Mountain. Black Jack Randall, after the first book. Geillis, after her supposed burning. This happens so often, it's best to assume nobody is dead until Claire has examined the corpse.
  • Older Than They Look:
    • Claire in the past, especially her second sojourn, into the 1760's. She's 49 at that point and with the benefits of twentieth-century nutrition and health care, looks younger than many women of that time who are in their twenties or thirties.
    • Lampshaded at one point when Roger mentions that Hiram Crombie's elderly mother-in-law had died in her sleep, and comments that she must have been at least 80. Claire dryly tells Roger that "Old Mrs. Wilson" was only five years older than Claire herself (in her late 50s at the time).
  • Omniglot: Practically a running gag with the number of people who know multiple languages. Jamie and Lord John are both fluent in English, French, German, Ancient Greek, and Ancient Latin, though Jamie outdoes him with additional fluency in Gaelic, proficiency in Spanish, and being conversational in Cherokee. Roger is fluent in English, Gaelic, Ancient Greek and Ancient Latin (from his studies); Ian in English, Gaelic, Mohawk and a few other Indian languages; Jenny in English, Gaelic and French; and Claire in English, French, and limited Gaelic (she understands more than she can speak). Fergus, Marsali and their children are implied to be fluent in English, French (from Fergus) and Gaelic (from Marsali). Inverted with Brianna, who apart from English only speaks Gaelic and what is referred to as "bastard" (rough) French.
  • 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, who was dying of tuberculosis; Jack married Alexander's beloved as a last request so that she and their child would be provided for).
  • Open Heart Dentistry: Claire is a former combat nurse and later a trained surgeon, so her medical knowledge is pretty broad. That said, things like making her own penicillin and pulling teeth weren't exactly part of her formal training. But she makes due. It becomes more believable when Brianna brings her a medical manual from the late 70s, which contains over a decades worth of new information than what she had.
  • Papa Wolf:
    • Jaime for his kids by blood (Brianna and William), for the children he is a Parental Substitute to (Fergus, Marsali, and Joan), and he is likewise protective of his nephew Ian. Jamie beats up Roger and sends him off with an Indian man to be sold to the Iroquois because he mistakenly thinks Roger was the man who raped his daughter Brianna, unaware at this point it was Stephen Bonnet who raped her. When Jamie catches Jonathan Randall molesting Fergus as a child, he challenges Randall to a duel to the death. Jamie kills Ellesmere without a second thought when Ellesmere threatens to drop his newborn son William out a window.
    • Frank for his adoptive daughter Brianna. In Written, Brianna finds a letter that Frank left for her when she was fifteen, and in it he states that even though he doesn't know whether or not to believe Claire's stories, his investigations have convinced him that Brianna herself could be in danger from people who do, and that he intends to confront and "neutralize" them. Given that Frank was a member of MI6 (the British Secret Intelligence Service), Brianna understands he was more than capable of killing someone to keep her safe.
  • Perfectly Arranged Marriage: Jamie and Claire, obviously.
  • Plot Armor: Both in-universe and in general. After finding out that Roger and Brianna saw an article about Claire and Jamie dying in a house fire in 1776, Jamie begins to wonder whether it's possible for history to change, or whether Claire and Jamie are fated to survive until that time.
  • 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.
  • Pretty Boy: Lord John. Mention is made on how pretty and petite he is (being blond and around five foot six).
  • Professional Sex Ed: Ian receives this, as does Fergus and likely a few other characters.
  • 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 anger. While he tries to talk her into sex quite a bit after this, he never attempts to force her again.
  • Real Name as an Alias: All of Jamie's aliases seem to derive from his actual name, James Alexander Malcolm Mackenzie Fraser.
    • At Helwater, he uses "Alexander Mackenzie".
    • As a printer, he uses "Alexander Malcolm".
    • As a smuggler, he uses Jamie Roy (literally, Red Jamie).
    • John Grey does this too, using his second and third names (Bertram Alexander) as an alias when caught by the American militia.
    • Geillis Duncan seems to have a weakness for this, she changes her surname frequently but used the relatively uncommon first name "Geillis" with at least two husbands if not more. "Geillis" also sounds remarkably similar to her birth name, "Gillian."
  • 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 wink, 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: Governor Tryon grants Jamie a huge swath of land to populate and run as he sees fit, and the struggle to do so while having virtually no hard currency with which to buy things (most commerce in the backcountry is barter) eventually leads to the founding of the area known as Fraser's Ridge.
  • Ship Tease: Brianna/Roger was teased a lot in Dragonfly in Amber, with Roger and Bree being instantly attracted to one another and Claire even assuming that they would eventually start a relationship together. Her main comfort in leaving Bree to go back to Jamie was that she knew that Roger would be there to look after her. They were eventually upgraded to Official Couple status come Drums of Autumn.
  • 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.
  • Sin Eater: In A Breath of Snow and Ashes, a sin-eater makes an appearance at the funeral of Mrs. Wilson, Hiram Crombie's mother-in-law.
  • 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.
  • Statuesque Stunner: Brianna, who is described as being beautiful, and is just a bit under Jamie's height (being about 6' 1" to Jamie's 6' 4"). She's tall even in her own time, and in the 18th century surrounded by malnourished people, she's practically a giantess. When she gets into a confrontation with Laoghaire at Lallybroch, she manages to interrupt the argument simply by getting to her feet, with the prose observing that she "was as tall as any of the men, and towered over the women."
  • Stock Ness Monster: The plesiosaur version, encountered by Claire.
  • Street Urchin: Young Fergus.
  • Surprisingly Happy Ending: After all the fighting and death in Written In My Own Heart's Blood, the end sees Jamie, Claire and family (Jenny, Ian, Rachel, Germain and new addition Fanny) ensconced contentedly back at Fraser's Ridge, with the assorted families left behind (the Higgenses, the Beardsleys, and the Weymess') all doing quite well. Then as a literal last scene, Jamie and Claire are sitting outside and down the road come Brianna, Roger, Jem and Mandy.
  • Tempting Fate:In Bees, when Claire finds out about Brianna's health problem (the latest experience of time travel damaged her heart) she inquires whether Bree could be pregnant, to Bree's vociferous denial. Near the end of the book a year later, Bree has in fact conceived and borne a third child.
  • 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.
  • The Gift: For years, Claire has felt that healing is her calling, whether it's as a nurse or as a surgeon. She's shown to be talented and empathetic doctor in 60s/70s Boston. By 18th century standards, she appears almost supernaturally gifted.
  • The Only One I Trust: Brianna goes back to Boston in Written and tells Joe and Gail Abernathy her plan to find Roger. When Joe asks if there is someone in Scotland that she can trust, she flatly says that they are the only two people left that she knows she can trust.
  • Time Travel: The premise of the books.
  • 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."
    • Jem seems to vacillate between past and present tense when referring to his grandparents when living in modern Scotland.
  • Trapped in the Past: Most of Wendigo Donner's actions (joining a group of bandits, theft, burglary) come from his desperation to get his hands on a gemstone, without which he doesn't dare risk making a trip through the stones back to the 1960s.
  • 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.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: In the first book, Frank sees a traditionally clad Highlander shortly after he and Claire get to Inverness. It hasn't been brought up again in the books, but in June 2019, Gabaldon tweeted that it was Jamie's ghost.
  • Wooden Ships and Iron Men: Much of Voyager takes place with the characters on various sailing ships, from merchant vessels to British men-of-war.
  • Uncanny Family Resemblance: The Frasers seem to have particularly strong genes. Randalls too.