Feature: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

outlander book coverOutlander, or as it was called in the UK, Cross stitch, is my desert island book series. I bought the book on its release day back in summer of 1991, and I havent looked back since.

For twenty odd years these books have been my companion and every summer like clockwork, I re-read the whole series. At the present there are only seven books. Seven books in twenty years doesn’t sound a lot does it? But if you have read any of the books then you will know 1). Each book is like a thousand pages each and 2). The incredible historic details that goes into it.

This year, on March 25, 2014 a new book is released titled “Written in my own hearts blood”. I am very excited about this, as you could probably tell and those who know me well have probably been gifted with the book at one time or another.

Outlander is normally associated with being a woman’s romance novel. I don’t agree with that, so I forced my good friend Randall Melton to read the book and tell me what he thinks from a male perspective. This is what he has to say:

timeslotGOTNormally, I must have some encouragement to pick up a popular piece of fiction. I am not one just to pick up and book and read it because everyone else is.  I am choosy and very selective. In this case of Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, I picked the book to read because of its impending adaption to the small screen. That was my only motivation.

However, once I started reading, I was pleasantly surprised. I like stories that are told from the first person, from the main character of the story. And this story did not disappoint.

Claire’s character was fleshed out almost in the first ten pages of the story. I got a lot of insight on what made Clair tick and what motivation her. Funny that most men are attracted to strong female characters. Claire clearly spoke her mind from the beginning. And that character trait carried all the way through the book.

I did like that way the book transitioned from one time period to the next. No flashy technical gadgetry, flashing lights, wormholes, or any of the clichéd ways of time travel. I like how Claire was left to her own wits through the first several chapters. It was interesting to the way she finally came to the determination that she was no longer in the 20th century.

kiltmemeI love the style of writing that Diana uses to captive the feeling and the mood of the period. The characters really do seem to come alive off the page. I am encouraged by the freshness of the writing. I will definitely continue to read other books in the Outlander series. I hope that the screenplay adaption for television holds up to the same style as the book.

If you are still not convinced you should be reading this book, this is the official blurb:

Claire Randall is leading a double life. She has a husband in one century – and a lover in another.

In 1945, Claire Randall is back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon in Scotland. Innocently she walks through a stone circle in the Highlands, and finds herself in a violent skirmish taking place in 1743. Suddenly she is a Sassenach, an outlander, in a country torn by war and by clan feuds.

A wartime nurse, Claire can deal with the bloody wounds that face her. But it is harder to deal with the knowledge that she is in Jacobite Scotland and the carnage of Culloden is looming. Marooned amid the passion and violence, the superstition, the shifting allegiances and the fervent loyalties, Claire is in danger from Jacobites and Redcoats – and from the shock of her own desire for James Fraser, a gallant and courageous young Scots warrior. Jamie shows her a passion so fierce and a love so absolute that Claire becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire, and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.

milanBeverley Eikli author of The Maid of Milan popped in for a chat and I had the opportunity to ask her a few theme based questions:

EPBR: If you could travel back in time what time would you go to and why?
BE: I’d love to experience for myself the patriotic fervour and bloodlust of The French Revolution. Not because I relish bloodshed but because I find the events of those few years totally incomprehensible, even after all my research for my recent Choc Lit Napoleonic espionage romantic suspense, The Reluctant Bride.
So, where the history books have failed to adequately provide me with an understanding of the various psyches, I’d want to be a confidante of key figures in the changing factions which held sway – though in the knowledge  that I wasn’t going to suddenly be on the side that was out of favour and so lose my head.
Reluctant Bride cover
For months I immersed myself in Robespierre’s life and his Reign of Terror, but without knowing the man (who started off so seemingly well-intentioned), it’s hard to understand how the streets of Paris could literally run red with blood, and how 40,000 poor souls could be guillotined in what was murder, sanctioned by the State. This is the horror into which my heroine, Emily, in The Reluctant Bride was born, only to face, as a young woman, the challenges of the Napoleonic Wars in which she was branded a spy.
EPBR:If you could visit one event in history, which would it be?
BE: Picture of Coronation courtesy of Wikimedia Commons) Well, having travelled back to the dangerous and uncertain times of the French Revolution, I think George IV’s Coronation Banquet would have been a nice contrast. It was held on July 19, 1821, which was 18 months after the death of his father King George III whose bouts of madness ceded power to his son who stood in as Prince Regent for nine years.( ‘Prinny’ – as the Prince Regent, later King George IV, was known – loved to plan great celebrations.)
Picture of Coronation courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Picture of Coronation courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Of course, I’d have had to have been well kitted out in the latest fashion, and have looked forward to the event with as much enthusiasm as my heroine, Adelaide, in my just released ‘The Maid of Milan’. Boy, she knew how to party! Well, that is until she made a terrible error of judgement which led to her awful mother shackling her to a lie to explain her ‘past’ which sucked the joy out of her.

EPBR: What is your favourite time travel film or book?
BE: I have a favourite time travel book by an Australian historical author called Alison Stuart.
She mostly writes English Civil War stories but she’s written a fantastic “Downton Abbey with ghosts”-style book called ‘Gather the Bones.’ It’s about a A WW1 returned soldier who becomes entwined with a Regency-era young woman who was murdered.
GATHER THE BONES has been nominated for the following awards 2012 Australian Romance Readers Awards, the 2012 CRW Award of Excellence, the 2013 GDRWA Booksellers Best Awards and the 2012 RONE Awards!

War leaves no heart untouched

In the shadow of the Great War, grieving widow, Helen Morrow and her husband’s cousin, the wounded and reclusive Paul are haunted not only by the horrors of the trenches but ghosts from another time and another conflict.

As the desperate voice of the young woman reaches out to them from the pages of a coded diary, Paul and Helen are bound together in their search for answers, not only to the old mystery but also the circumstances surrounding the death of Helen’s husband at Passchandaele in 1917.

As the two stories become entwined, Paul and Helen will not find peace until the mysteries are solved.

 “Written in my own hearts blood” available everywhere on March 25th 2014, if you can’t wait here are few Outlander novellas, a spin-off series and even a graphic novel:
devils trail leaf zombiesbookcover


Another gret time travel/parallel universe book are the “Bright Empires” series by Stephen Lawhead.

skinmapIt is the ultimate quest for the ultimate treasure. Chasing a map tattooed on human skin. Across an omniverse of intersecting realities. To unravel the future of the future.

Kit Livingstone’s great-grandfather appears to him in a deserted alley during a tumultuous storm. He reveals an unbelievable story: that the ley lines throughout Britain are not merely the stuff of legend or the weekend hobby of deluded cranks, but pathways to other worlds. To those who know how to use them, they grant the ability to travel the multi-layered universe of which we ordinarily inhabit only a tiny part.

One explorer knew more than most. Braving every danger, he toured both time and space on voyages of heroic discovery. Ever on his guard and fearful of becoming lost in the cosmos, he developed an intricate code—a roadmap of symbols—that he tattooed onto his own body. This Skin Map has since been lost in time. Now the race is on to recover all the pieces and discover its secrets.

But the Skin Map itself is not the ultimate goal. It is merely the beginning of a vast and marvelous quest for a prize beyond imagining.

The Bright Empires series—from acclaimed author Stephen R. Lawhead—is a unique blend of epic treasure hunt, ancient history, alternate realities, cutting-edge physics, philosophy, and mystery. The result is a page-turning, adventure like no other.

“Anything but ordinary . . . Dynamic settings are mixed with unpredictable adventures [and] parallel worlds.” —BookPage

Please remember to visit the FaceBook page for more book recommendations, films, review, competitions and freebies. Here is another Scottish treat just for you to put you in an Outlander mood:

shortbreadPetticoat Shortbread


12  ounces  plain flour
4  ounces  caster sugar
8  ounces  butter
extra caster sugar, for sprinkling

1 Mix the flour and sugar together in a large bowl, and then rub in the butter – as if you were making shortcrust pastry. Use the tips of your fingers and ensure that all the butter has been rubbed in — it should resemble sand!
2 Then start to knead the paste, pushing it together to form a smooth dough – the heat of your hands whilst kneading helps it form.
3 Petticoat Tails:.
4 Divide the shorbread dough into two equal parts and shape them into balls, then flatten them out into two rounds – using the heel of your hand, to about 7″ in diameter and 1/4″ thick.
5 Mark the top into equal portions – triangular in shape, and then prick the tops all over with a fork – making patterns if you wish! Crimp the edges as you would a pie crust to make a decorative edge and place them onto a well greased baking tray or cookie sheet.
6 (You can also use a greased and lined 7″ or 8″ fluted edged round sandwich/cake tin – preferably with a loose bottom for ease of taking the shortbread out. Press the dough into the tin and mark out as above).
7 Shortbread fingers:.
8 Roll out the shortbread dough, and shape into a rectangle, about 1/2″ to 3/4″ thick. Place onto a well greased baking tray or cookie sheet as before, and mark into “fingers” — prick over with a fork again. You can also press the dough into an 8″ square baking/sandwich/brownie tin – and then mark out the fingers as above.
9 (Please Note: The fingers are always thicker than the petticoat tails and shortbread rounds).
10 Shortbread Rounds:.
11 Roll out the shortbread dough and using a biscuit or cookie cutter, cut into rounds of about 2″ to 3″ in diameter, about 1/4″ in thickness. Place them on a well greased baking tray or cookie sheet.
12 Wooden Shortbread Mould:.
13 You can also place the dough into a decorative wooden shortbread mould, before turning it out on to a greased baking tray. Traditional Scottish wooden moulds can be bought online and usually have a Thistle design with heavily fluted edges.
14 Bake the any of the above shortbread biscuits in a pre-heated oven 160C/325F/Gas Mark 3 for between 20 to 30 minutes, or until they are pale and golden – but NOT brown!
15 Sprinkle extra caster sugar over the top as soon as they come out of the oven if you wish.
16 Allow the shorbread bicuits to cool slightly on a cooling rack, before cutting into fingers or “petticoat tails”.

Receipe owned by food.com

Review: Maid of Milan by Beverley Eikli

milanI have to be honest, when I got this book I thought it was going to be another fluffy Regency bodice ripper romance with some rake in mole skin trousers. Was I

This book is nothing like you would expect. The only way I can describe it, is as a Regency version of Dynasty. It has everything, secrets, lies,blackmail, love triangles, death, drug addiction, jealousy, affairs, scandals, oh and some bodice ripping too- the only thing it is missing is Joan Collins. However, I think Mrs. Henley, Adelaide’s mother runs a close second.

Mrs. Henley forces Adelaide to go along with the story that she created in order to save Adelaide, but all it does is eats her away from the inside. She is later put in a position that the only way to get out of one lie is to tell more. No one is who they seem in this book, except for Tristan. Tristan is truly honourable man with a moral compass who repeatedly saves Adelaide.

Adelaide’s only real crime is being young and in love and obeying her mother. Time after time, her loyalty to her mother and her husband are tested. In the end, you learn who the true villain is and why.

The book has a genteel opulence of Anthony Trollope’s The Palliser’s but underneath the waving fans it is all gritty intrigue.This is the first book I read by Beverley Eikli and I can say I am now a fan.

The Maid of Milan gripped me from the start and kept me there. I read it in a day, I just couldn’t put it down. I highly recommend this unique book.

Also by Beverley Eikli:


Reluctant Bride coverCan honour and action banish the shadows of old sins?
Emily Micklen has no option after the death of her loving fiancé, Jack, but to marry the scarred, taciturn, soldier who represents her only escape from destitution.

Major Angus McCartney is tormented by the reproachful slate-grey eyes of two strikingly similar women: Jessamine, his dead mistress, and Emily, the unobtainable beauty who is now his reluctant bride.

Emily’s loyalty to Jack’s memory is matched only by Angus’s determination to atone for the past and win his wife with honour and action. As Napoleon cuts a swathe across Europe, Angus is sent to France on a mission of national security, forcing Emily to confront both her allegiance to Jack and her traitorous half-French family.

Angus and Emily may find love, but will the secrets they uncover divide them forever?


Here are some great things they are saying about The Reluctant Bride”:

“Eikli creates a enchanting sense of time and place, real emotional conflict and lots of drama.”

“The Reluctant Bride is intriguing, compelling and one that I really enjoyed – I’m very much looking forward to more from Beverley Eikli.”

” This is a tour de force from my favourite regency romance writer, delivering well beyond my expectations.”