The beauty of the Outlander saga is that it’s not any one thing. Sure, its main heroine travels through standing stones by way of some sci-fi magic. And yes, she does find L-O-V-E with a Scottish super-hunk who has an arsenal of heart-cracking zingers—but it’s also much more than that.
Throughout the series, the 20th-century Claire Randall and 18th-century Jamie Fraser must grapple with what it means to lose the people you love and how to carry on in the wake of that loss. They also have front-row seats to landmark moments in history—whether that’s the Jacobite Rebellion, the 1968 moon landing, or the American Revolution—all while trying to find their places within it. The fact that they're always down for a quickie is just an added bonus (and bless 'em for it).
If you ask us, the wait for the ninth installment has been excruciating—but there are other genre-bending books like Outlander to see you through it. From sweeping romances to historical epics to time travel adventures (in some cases, all three!), they're the sort of stories that will induce Jamie-Claire levels of feels.
Lady of the Glen
Catriona “Cat” Campbell is just a young, gangly thing when she first meets Alasdair, the son of a MacDonald chieftain. Despite her awkwardness—and the even more awkward fact that they’re sworn enemies—Dair sees Cat for who she is: the love of his life. But their Romeo-Juliet romance comes at a tumultuous moment in Scotland’s history, as their respective clans act according to their respective loyalties. While Cat’s people back the current king of England, Dair supports the plot to place a Stuart usurper on the throne (Bonnie Prince Charlie’s grandfather, mind you). As tensions rise in 17th-century Scotland, both Cait and Dair must choose exactly where their allegiances lie—their blood, or their hearts?
Lady of the Glen focuses on the Massacre of Glencoe—the failed MacDonald uprising in 1692—which partly fueled the 1745 rebellion that separated Jamie and Claire in Dragonfly in Amber (*shakes angry fist*).
Where or When
Instantaneous love. Separation. Longing. Infidelity. As with the first three Outlander books, these themes play a central role in Shreve's novel, which follows the later-in-life reunion of two childhood "soul mates." When Charles stumbles across a photo of Sian, his first love-turned-published poet, he decides to send her a letter. Thirty years have done nothing to dull his feelings for her, and it seems that Sian feels similarly. She quickly writes back, kicking off a correspondence (and affair) that reaffirms the belief that their love isn't just powerful, it's fated. But both of them have established adult lives—including marriages, albeit unhappy ones, and children—that their romance could irrevocably destroy. Though perhaps a little darker than Diana Gabaldon’s series, Where or When is a story of sexuality and time, love and lust, duty and obsession, that will strike a chord with anyone who hasn't fully recovered from the first half of Voyager.
For more standard romance fare, try Hannah Howell’s Highland Warrior: Fiona is a tomboyish healer who isn’t here for any man’s BS—particularly when it comes to her obsessive suitor. Hoping to avoid an unwanted marriage, she sets out for the Scottish hills, where a series of misturns leads to a confrontation with Ewan MacFingal. Taking her captive for ransom seems simple at first, but Ewan soon learns that his tiny charge has big claws. In fact, Fiona has so many concealed weapons he gives her the nickname “Fiona of Ten Knives.” He'll give his own name when, bound by duty and a sense of honor, Ewan has no choice but to take her as his lawfully wedded wife. The love story that ensues isn’t without its roadblocks—there’s the matter of Fiona’s hidden identity, Ewan’s previous heartbreak, and other clan enemies—but, of course, this 15th-century couple does get their happy ever after.
The heroine of Blue Asylum could use a few pointers from Claire, who’s a real pro at handling accusations of witchcraft and insanity. After being wrongfully convicted of madness, Iris Dunleavey—and her unladylike opinions—are shipped off to an isolated Florida asylum. Sanibel is a far cry from her gorgeous plantation home, just as her favorite fellow patient is nothing like the husband she left behind. Confederate soldier Ambrose Weller is haunted by flashbacks of the war—though the color blue, combined with Iris’ love, eases the pain of his memories. But as Iris becomes increasingly disenchanted with the facility’s practices, escaping becomes more necessary than ever. Can she and Ambrose find a way to attain their freedom? And once they have it, can they build a life out of the ashes of war?
Set during the Civil War, Blue Asylum has plenty of things for Outlander fans to love: a kickass heroine, an emotional love story, and insight into historic medical philosophies that would fascinate (and totally infuriate) Dr. Claire.
The Night Mark
Newly divorced and still grieving the death of her greatest love, Will, Faye Barlow eagerly accepts a photography gig in South Carolina. While on assignment, she becomes enchanted by the legend of the local lighthouse, which has ties to a woman’s long-ago drowning. By a stroke of magic (you know how these things go), Faye then finds herself inhabiting the body of that very same woman—thrust all the way back to 1921 and into the arms of the lighthouse keeper, Carrick Morgan. Not only does Carrick look exactly like Will, but Faye bears a striking resemblance to the woman Carrick loved and lost so tragically...
Outlander fans should know that while a plot might sound a little frivolous, there's a whole lot more going on beneath the book jacket. Such is the case with The Night Mark, a gorgeous time travel romance-slash-mystery about loss, healing, and destiny.
Letters from Skye
In 1912, 24-year-old poet Elsepth Dunn has never ventured beyond her home in the Isle of Skye. But a fan letter sent by David Graham, an American student, promises to open her world to something she's only dreamed and written about. Their relationship soon leaps off the page, evolving into a real-life romance that is tested by expectations, other obligations, and the dangers of World War I. Fast forward to 1940, and Elspeth is much older—and a little wiser in the ways of love. Her daughter, Margaret, is now involved with a Royal Air Force pilot, much to Elspeth's unexplained disapproval. The discovery of Elspeth's old letters—and the disappearance of Elspeth herself—puts things into a clearer perspective, inciting other shocking revelations about Margaret's mother's past and her own.
Jessica Brockmole's epistolary novel has not one but two major romantic plots—plus some baby daddy drama straight out of the Randall household—that form an atmospheric, uplifting escape for anyone anxiously awaiting Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone.
The River of No Return
Like Outlander, The River of No Return is a fun genre-bender—a historical love story, an espionage thriller, and a sci-fi driven romp all rolled into one. We begin when Lord Nicholas Falcott, approaching death on the battlefield, is inexplicably pushed from 1815 to the 21st century. Now stuck in the future, he becomes indoctrinated into the Guild, a shadowy organization that helps wayward time travelers adjust to their new surroundings. But in an uncharacteristic disregard for the Guild's #1 rule—that a traveller cannot return to his or her own time—they send Nate on a mission back to the 19th century. His quest brings him to Julia Percy, a woman mourning the recent death of her time traveling grandfather. As Julia uncovers her own powers and seeks freedom from her overbearing cousin, she must also join Nate on his search for the mysterious "Talisman." Cue lots of intrigue, adventure, and ro-oh-oh-mance.
The Rose Garden
When it comes to a Diana Gabaldon alternative, Susanna Kearsley should be your go-to girl. The Rose Garden, in particular, shares a lot with your favorite series: After scattering her sister’s ashes in their Cornish stomping grounds, Eva War has strange visions of their childhood estate. But these glimpses of Trelowarth House circa the 18th century aren't mere hallucinations—they're moments in which Eva has unwittingly traveled to the past. As she flits back and forth between her time and 1715, her growing love for smuggler Daniel Butler also deepens her involvement in the Jacobite Uprising. Suddenly, Eva is threatened on all sides—from the violence of war to the scorn of nonbelievers—though her greatest enemies are history and time itself.
The Clan of the Cave Bear
Recently voted one of America’s top 100 books, the Earth's Children series transports readers to a time long before Jamie Fraser ever walked the Scottish Highlands: the Ice Age. It opens when the arrival of Ayla, a sickly Cro-Magnon girl, bewilders a group of Neanderthals. Though her “otherness” is a bone of contention among the clansmen and women, they restore her back to health and raise her as their own. The Clan of the Cave Bear launches a wild, six-book journey that sees Ayla transition from girlhood to womanhood, find a passion in medicine and romance, and navigate a treacherous world that doesn’t always accept her differences.
Fans of Outlander books 4-8—when the series turns into a family adventure saga—and Gabaldon’s incorporation of real history will enjoy this epic about love, home, and survival carried by an unforgettable heroine.
Featured still of "Outlander" (2016), via Sony Pictures