Outlander starts out like a sweet Sunday afternoon, introducing the MC Claire via a charming holiday in the Scottish highlands with her husband Frank shortly after the end of WWII. Things quickly get interesting when Claire is accidentally transported back through time 200 years by touching the ancient standing stones at Craigh na Dun. There, she meets a number of colorful characters from the era just prior to the rebellion of Bonny Prince Charlie, including the handsome young highlander Jamie Fraser. Claire struggles to survive in a world she doesn't fully understand and plots to find her way back to the stones and (hopefully) her own time.
I love a good romance-rich fantasy and this one certainly delivers. The relationship between Jamie and Claire grows naturally, with none of the instant-love or flawless-partner cliches that set my eyes to rolling. Jamie and Claire are both extremely human, with all the shortcomings that entails, and Gabaldon confronts those flaws head-on. Her brutal honesty about the nature of attraction and the complexities of both love and life are what I enjoyed most about this book. She doesn't hide the main characters inside a pretty romance, she exposes their weaknesses through it, and it makes this one of the richest reads I've had the pleasure of tackling in a long while.