Time Travel Romance
Before Outlander was a hit TV show, it was a beloved series of novels by author Diana Gabaldon. I was first introduced to the series by a work colleague back in the 90s. We were producers of a current affairs talk radio show. As we were finishing up discussing what news of the day to book for our show, she said to me, “I’m reading a book I can’t stop thinking about. It’s about time travel. A World War 2 nurse goes back in time and falls in love with a Scottish Highlander. I know that sounds cheesy, but it’s a fantastic book. I can’t wait to read it every night.”
It sounded amazing. But this tough, current affairs producer was struggling with being attracted to writing that was fantastical and outside the realm of news or reality. Here’s the thing though – romantic love is fantastical. It’s strange and wonderful. It can make you feel like your whole world has changed. It can make you feel like you have been transported to another plain of existence. Romantic love can stop you in your tracks and nothing that comes after it is ever the same. If that love is threatened in some way, it can turn the mildest among us into warriors who will go to battle for the sake of that love.
Paranormal Romance can be used to explore the deep impact of romantic love on us mortal beings. When you feel like you love someone so much that it transcends time and space, how do you convey that in words? Enter the time travel romance. Diana Gabaldon is a master of the genre. Her characters Jamie and Claire simply must be together. It doesn’t matter if they were born in different centuries. Love will find a way.
Jamie and Claire Forever
The novel could be viewed as a love triangle because the series begins after World War 2 with Claire Randall married to her husband Frank. They were separated during the war and are having a tepid reunion. They are affectionate with one another, and neither one are complaining, but their romance is lying flat on the page. Then Claire walks through the magic stones and is transported back in time to 1700s Scotland. There she meets the heroic, young Highlander Jamie Fraser. She has to quickly enter a marriage with him in the interest of her safety. Again, neither one of them are complaining. Their chemistry is electric. Diana Gabaldon writes beautiful, steamy romance scenes for her characters. Their romance story doesn’t end at the wedding, it’s the leaping off point. Their bond and passion deepens. It’s impossible to imagine anything tearing these two apart.
(SPOILER ALERT) Something does tear them apart. Time. At the end of the first book Claire is forced to go back through the magic stones to her own time. After I devoured Outlander I was at the book store as soon as the second in the series came out Dragonfly in Amber. I grabbed a book off of the display to quickly read the back cover to see what had happened to my favorite couple. Surely, they would not have been forced to be separated for too long and Claire and Jamie could resume their love. I read through the synopsis and I started crying. The lovers were separated for twenty years. They had been denied the love that lit them up. When we meet Claire again she is back to being tepid.
When Diana Gabaldon brings her characters back together again, she captures the impossibility and gratitude of second chance love. It really is something like time travel to connect again with someone you knew when you were younger. You see them as their younger selves and that is how they see you. When Claire and Jamie are reunited all the tepid and painful years apart don’t matter. They have the now and it has leaped across centuries.
Diana Gabaldon is a regular presenter at the Surrey Writer’s Festival and I have taken a couple of workshops with her. I attended one on the art of writing a love scene. She read and analyzed the work of some other authors. The scenes were not just about the physicality of the love scene. It was about the layers. The scenes brought the reader in to profound and life-changing love stories. She used Paranormal Romance scenes as an example. To capture one of the most magical experiences of being human, it helps to write in a world where magic happens.