Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Why, yes – I WILL have an order of cheese with my book!

A scene from the upcoming Starz
series, Outlander... featuring
gratuitous shots of men in kilts...
Here’s some embarrassing stuff… I’m completely addicted to something you probably don’t even know exists! It’s a genre of “literature” called Highlander Time Travel Romance. Well, I don’t know if that’s the official name of it, but that’s what it is. Romance novels about people who get transported to another period of Scottish history and meet big burly, super-buff Highland warriors. I know – super cheesy!

I guess the time travel element is because a modern gal such as myself won't find many kilt-clad Scottish warrior types in the present day... and I’m not sure why kilted Scottish men seem so exciting – maybe because something in my Scottish genetics is drawn to them? Is it because they’re “bad boys”? After all, the Romans did wall off Scotland because its inhabitants were particularly violent. Much easier than trying to conquer it! 

...AND shirtless men in kilts!
Anyway, the granddaddy of this genre is Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander. This baby is a hefty read about Claire, a WW2 nurse who gets sucked back to Scotland in 1743 or so - just before the Jacobite rebellion. The characters, history and descriptions of everyday stuff are great – especially how she tries to fashion modern remedies from the materials at hand – but what really revs my rocket is her new BF Jamie — a tall, handsome, strong, red-headed, smart, funny, kind dude – IN A KILT. Nothin’ hotter. 

This is the wall the Romans
built to keep the Scots out!
They have adventures; they fall in love; they have sex. It’s an addictive read. Thank goodness there are so many of them. It just keeps getting more and more interesting as they come to America, settle in North Carolina (where I live!!) and participate in the war of independence. I can hardly wait for the next one to come out - JUNE 10, 2014!!!!!! Nor can I wait for the STARZ series premiering in August!

Of course I prefer my books to be well-written and chock full of historical details and well-fleshed out characters, as Gabaldon's books are, but… I’m not terribly picky. In pursuit of a bracing, lusty read, I’ve devoured many a bad-to-mediocre tome. Fortunately there are other authors who do a fair job of it. Karen Marie Moning writes books involving chiseled Highland warriors AND fairies! I love fairies! Oddly enough, her fairies are also perfect, beautifully-muscled guys as well. 

“...his lips were pink
and firm and
sensually full.”
Of course they were.
Here’s a description of a guy from one of her books: “He had the sculpted physique of a professional football player, with wide shoulders, pumped biceps and pecs and washboard abs. His hips beneath her were lean and powerful.” And of course, his face is “savagely beautiful” with “dominant male virility.” That’s right. “Black lashes swept his golden skin, beneath arched brows and a silky fall of long, black hair. His jaw was dusted with a blue-black shadow beard; his lips were pink and firm and sensually full.” 

Yes. That’s exactly what it says in Moning’s Kiss of the Highlander. And I read this crap. How many men do you know that warrant this description? Not many. It actually has occurred to me…. “This is ‘man porn.’ ” I mean, it’s not gross porn like you pay for on the computer, but it does sell an unrealistic picture of men. It’s a good thing guys don’t read these books. I hope they don’t anyway. They might get complexes - like women do when they see skinny models in fashion magazines. Or like I do when I read the description of the perfect woman in Proverbs 31.*

Two of my favourite things:
Liam Neeson. A kilt.
In addition to looking like male models wrapped in tartan plaid, these guys sweep the heroines off their feet and into their velvet-curtained feather beds, loving them FOREVER with a gusto that would be quite difficult to maintain over the long term. I guess if the books were longer we might see the couple settle into a more comfy, sweat-pants kind of relationship... The Outlander books actually venture into this territory... at a certain point Jamie and Claire become grandparents and purchase spectacles in Edinburgh. But for the most part, that’s not what this genre is about. It's about Highland adventure and rescuing and romance and fresh-smelling**, well-choreographed love-making that satisfies everyone completely EVERY TIME. Sometimes several times in a row!

Even when the text points out a man’s flaws, it’s something dumb like … he’s tone deaf, or he doesn’t know how to wink. Or maybe he’s too bossy and treats women like … well, like a man from whatever century he’s from. But even then… well, apparently some women crave the dominant male – these books exist, after all. (And I’m reading them…?!) 

Somebody PLEASE
put a kilt on this guy!
(Not that he needs it to
tickle my tartan...!)
That said, if my husband acted toward me as if he were from the eighteenth century, we’d be seeking counseling and FAST! And since we’re talking about my husband - well, he could actually pass for a Highlander. Though not exactly chiseled (who is these days?), he’s fairly fit, and an imposing figure of a man – 6'2", red(dish)-headed and ruddy complexioned. Put a kilt on him*** and you’ve got a bruiser straight outta these books – and full of strength and honor and loyalty and justice and protective instincts. But... I guess his uncut body qualifies him as more of a side character – one of the hero’s trusted companions… or maybe he's our hero once the lovers have relaxed into the comfy, sweatpants phase of the relationship. 

And that’s just fine with me! ‘Cos that’s where we are! And you know what? I love sweatpants! Especially this lovely soft, comfortable, cozy, worn-in-all-the-right-places pair! Not that it’s never romantic and sexy – because it actually is...**** But it’s also sublimely real in a way that these books just… aren’t.

We might be comfy like that
perfect-fitting pair of sweats,
but we've got a good 

amount of fire, too!
*On my last read-through of Psalm 45, I wondered if the impossible guy it commemorates is the men's corollary to Proverbs 31.

**The men in these books are usually described as smelling like different combinations of the following: sunshine, whiskey, leather, horses, musk, sweat, heather, grass, fresh-tilled earth, etc. And even if they smell like horses and sweat, the heroine finds it appealing! Huh? I personally love a dude who smells like himself and Dial soap.

*** PLEASE put a kilt on him!!!! That is a sight I wouldn't mind seeing!

**** 'cos you know, you can wear sweatpants really low down on your hips, right?