The Messenger-Press
a Packet Publication

Thursday, July 25, 2002

Discovering the Ladies of Lallybroch
Crimson Comments column, written solely by Rose McGlew

I am 35 years old and, until my birthday in February, I had never read a romance novel.  My girlfriend, a trusted pal since age 12, sent me a book with the admonishment that I  MUST read it.  I thought this was very strange because a)  we never exchange birthday presents and b)  she was never this adamant about any reading material.  She warned me ahead of time it was the kind of stuff I don’t usually read.  Again, a strange item, as I am very eclectic in my reading material.  I’ll read anything from the cereal box to WAR AND PEACE and appreciate the intrinsic value of each.  I was intrigued to think that Tracy had come up with something that was outside my realm of  reading experience.  She phoned several weeks before my birthday to inform that the gift was on its way, but she sounded very conspiratorial about the whole thing, not giving many details, just saying that I had to read it and that I would thank her for it.  Also, she suggested that I go ahead and buy at least the next book in the series, if not all of them, as I was going to be devastated when it was over and would want to jump right into the next one.  Okaayy…  I felt compelled to grill her further on the content of this series and she dodged me as long as possible before blurting out, with some apology, that they were historical romances.  Historical romances?  Like Harlequin romances?  Is that what she meant?  “Oh no,” I told her.  “You must be kidding.  You know I won’t read that stuff.  I’m pretty open minded, but…come on.”  She kept reassuring me that this series was good, it was worth my time, it was….well, it was just different.  “Okay,” I finally agreed.  “I’ll try it.”

The package arrived several days later and, already knowing what it contained, I eagerly opened it and lifted the weighty trade paperback out of its tissue paper bedding.  The royal blue cover with a crown thistle on the front seemed very tasteful.  No bodice ripping, no overbuilt muscle guys catching a wasp-waisted damsel in distress.  Maybe Tracy had been kidding.  I flipped through the first few pages and realized that, if this was indeed a romance novel, it was far different than what I had anticipated.  The type was small and the book itself was not the kind you could easily tuck into your purse to read while waiting on line at Motor Vehicle.  Even the title was subdued…OUTLANDER.  The author’s picture was not a Glamour Shot; she was standing near a stone circle, possibly Stone Henge, and she looked like a nervous American tourist.  I sat down in my usual reading spot and opened to the first page.  I had to give it a shot.

Fast forward approximately a week.  My children have not eaten a hot meal in days, we have about four pairs of clean underwear left in the house, the dust bunnies are organizing a labor union in my living room and I think I may have showered twice.  My face is swollen from crying and my phone bill is going to have to be hidden next month to cover all the calls to Tracy in Virginia.  I have read close to 5,000 pages of material regarding the now completely believable story of Jamie, a rugged 18th century kilt-wearing Highlander, and Claire, a 20th century doctor with curly hair and a can-do spirit.  I have begun to wonder what my husband would look like in a kilt and have looked into Gaelic lessons through Berlitz.  I also have begun surfing the Net for any and all sites related to the OUTLANDER series and its genius author, Diana Gabaldon.  The site I return to time after time is the Ladies of Lallybroch (,  a name taken from Jamie’s ancestral home.

The Ladies of Lallybroch (LOL) is a community unto itself.  There’s a main web page with lots of cool links but the bulk of the site is a series of message boards which are hosted through VoyForums and they address any and all concerns regarding the OUTLANDER obsession that so many of its readers seem to develop.  There’s a Social Board, where many people just post anecdotes about their daily lives, kids, gardens, etc.  There’s the Literary Forum where fledgling and hopeful writers can post material for critique.  The Kirk addresses emotional and spiritual issues.  For instance, people may post requests for prayers for a sick relative, questions about depression, advice on a child’s behavior.  There’s a joke board, a reading recommendation board, a board that discusses the possibility of a mini series and, oh yeah, a board that actually takes quotes from and discusses THE BOOKS.  They also host several chats per week, most of which have little, if anything, to do with the original reading material.  Most nights end up like most social gatherings of women…lots of discussion about kids, husbands, sex and food.  It is a spirited crowd, but one that also cares deeply for its members.  A fellow “hoser” (what LOLers call themselves…you have to go to the site to find out why) who had battling illness for a long time died recently in Vancouver.  There was such an outpouring of generosity from the online community that his wife was able to cover the cost of the post-funeral reception and make a sizable charitable donation in his name with the proceeds.   These people are dedicated to one another in a strange but fulfilling way.

The OUTLANDER series is not for the faint of heart or for the casual reader.  All five volumes, OUTLANDER, DRAGONFLY IN AMBER, VOYAGER, DRUMS OF AUTUMN, and THE FIERY CROSS are each over 500 pages.  They are meticulously researched and are amazingly historically accurate, from the Jacobite uprisings in Scotland to pre-Revolution America, to World War II England, to 1960s Boston.  Gabaldon has written a read-along book, THE OUTLANDISH COMPANION, which gives insight into the stories, research methods and corrections that have been brought to her attention.  It is an interesting read for those trying to tide themselves over until the next volume is published in approximately two years.  Gabaldon plans at least two more volumes in the series and readers are already hypothesizing about what will happen next.  I, in the meantime, have a much tidier house and clean laundry (most of the time).  But I have seen flyers for reasonably priced cleaning services and am filing them away, just in case.

Rose McGlew

© Rose McGlew, 2002
Reprinted with permission


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