Review: Finding Fraser by KC Dyer

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Dear Readers,

Before I get to the actual book, let me just tell you how excited I was when I found out there was a book called Finding Fraser (by KC Dyer) based on a woman traveling Scotland to find her own Jamie Fraser.

It sounded awesome.

However, you know what happens when you hype something up in your head. It needs to be perfect and exactly what you want in order to be great even though your own personal emotional state has nothing to do with the actual quality of the book.

That’s where I was when I started this, so to be honest, I was slightly more disappointed than I would have liked. It also meant I ended up walking away from the book for a while before going back to it instead of reading it all in one go. When I was done, I wrote a little snippet for Goodreads (add me!), but I knew I had to come back and write something longer for the blog. So here I am!

There were three things that bothered me about the book, and then I’m going to tell you why I loved it anyway.

So, the first thing I wasn’t super fond of was the portrayal of the Outlander fan. It was often a bit crazy, and definitely made it seem like fans of the show lose all sense of self when someone whispers “James Alexander Malcolm Mackenzie Fraser.”

On the other hand, I haven’t exactly spent any time at Outlander fan groups to be able to say what’s accurate or not. I also perk up any time I hear someone talking about the books or show, use JAMMF as a method of motivation, listen to the Outlander podcast, and have been recorded talking about Outlander on a boat on a river in the rainforest for twenty minutes, and to top it all off, I straight-up entered a Masters program (and possibly will enter a PhD) because of these books, so who am I to judge?

Also, the idea of a stripper dressing up as Jamie Fraser makes me smile, so why the Outlander fan portrayal bothered me can’t be explained by anything more than my own quirks. I imagine there are others that were bothered, but I know just as well that there were people thinking ‘That’s totally true!’

So I guess that one only half counts.

Anyway, bothersome thing number two was how convenient the plot was. Like, of course he’s there, of course she’s able to stay, of course they caught her…. That’s not to say there aren’t any obstacles and she doesn’t have problems (she does), but I wasn’t surprised when anything happened. Also, her ways around Scotland were certainly for convenience sake, considering it’s a bit clear that adherence to Scottish topography was not a top priority.

Third bothersome thing: Emma, the main character, is so clueless and fixated. It reminded me of Harry Potter, where Harry is so clueless but all the characters around him are lovely. I did like Emma most of the time, but some of the moments of cluelessness and holding on were dragged out and thoughts repeated to the point I had to walk away from the book. This was probably amplified by the amount of medieval Irish literature and modern Gaelic folklore I’ve been reading, which gets right to the point and moves on, but I’m also pretty sure some of it could have been removed and the story would have lost nothing.

So, that’s what bothered me. Now let’s talk about the reasons I loved it anyway, because that’s really important.

  1. It’s a book about going to Scotland to find a modern Jamie Fraser. I mean come on. What’s not to love?
  2. The successful romantic interest (who I was pulling for) is definitely within my realm of dream guy and I found him endlessly entertaining. By the end of the book, I smiled whenever he arrived. Modern Jamie Fraser? Maybe not, but certainly a lovely man.
  3. It’s sweet. I can feel the love in the words.
  4. The addition of the blog posts was delightful. They added humor, gave chances for reflection, and helped the pacing of the book.
  5. The fictional adventures through Scotland were fun to witness, especially with ideas of Highland ghosts floating around.
  6. The characters around Emma were, as a whole, charming.

All this said, I would recommend this to anyone that likes Outlander. I don’t think I would have liked it as much, or maybe even at all, without the starting connection to Outlander, but I also don’t think I would have wanted to read it in the first place without that connection. It’s not the sort of literature I would want to form a uni class to discuss, but it is the type of literature that passes the time and gives a few laughs.

And that, my friends, is just as good.

Your Bonnie Celtophile,

Dani

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Michael Newton on the Post-Colonial Fionn

Surely the most popular narratives in the Scottish Highlands in the early modern period were the heroic tales and ballads relating to the warrior Fionn mac Cumhail and his band of superheroes, the Fian (variously called An Fhian, An Fhéinn, na Fiantaichean, etc., in Gaelic). There was a huge selection of material, and on any particular occasion, a performer might recite or sing only a small portion of the adventures that related to the “Ossianic cycle” (or “Fenian cycle,” as it is sometimes called).
It is always the case that once a body of narrative becomes intimately known by an audience, it serves as a vehicle for multiple rhetorical purposes. In other words, it can serve not just as an imaginative story about far-away people and places, but as a means of social commentary about the here and now. Think of “Romeo and Juliet,” for example, and how it has been retold and repackaged to comment on youth gangs in California (as in the 1996 film with Leonardo DiCaprio) or 1960s New York (West Side Story). The many, many retellings of the Arthurian legends provide another example of how the well-kent characters and plot structure have enabled skilled storytellers to comment on power and corruption.
The same was true for Gaelic storytellers in Scotland and Ireland.

via Fionn and the Post-colonial Fian – The Virtual Gael

Dear Readers,

I am currently a future-adult-scholar, in training to be an expert in the field. The man who wrote the above, however, is an adult-scholar, and he’s very good at it.

I suggest reading his blog for scholarly takes on things related to Gaelic literature. His posts are always interesting, and they certainly make you think.

I like the one above because I’ve been taking a class on Fionn, and because I like seeing how circumstances affect the way the stories were told and what sorts of stories were told. I haven’t read that Fionn tale before, either, which is also a plus.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Your Bonnie Celtophile,

Dani

Review: The Lass Wore Black by Karen Ranney

Rating: 2/5 Stars

Dearest Readers,

I really wanted to like this book. The premise of the romance was promising: a woman driven to hide herself from the world under a veil, a male doctor sent in to get her eating again, their romance, and an ex-lover with murder on his mind.

It sounds exciting, doesn’t it?

Unfortunately, The Lass Wore Black just left me constantly wanting more or disappointed. It’s a romance, so it’s meant to allow for suspension of belief and escapism, but even then, I was unsatisfied. Some of the reasons are nitpicky, like the absolutely impossible suggestion that while in a carriage accident, Catriona (the woman in the veil) gasped in pain every time a shard of glass sliced her skin. That would be dozens of times within a couple seconds, and that’s just not happening.

Another thing is the way Ranney included ways of speaking that were ‘appropriate’ for the time, meaning more delicate about sexual matters and more set into gender roles and sexism. I’m not faulting her for that. However, the way it was incorporated was inconsistent and sometimes contradictory.

For instance, the doctor seems to equate Catriona, who went through trauma and is scarred/permanently injured from it, with wealthy old women that are clearly hypochondriacs. He goes from understanding and compassionate to irritated too easily and with little provocation.

By the end of the novel, I still wasn’t invested in the couple. Their big climactic moments, like sex for the first time and her removing her veil, are…anti-climactic. They’re over too soon or just feel strange. He gets described as kissing ‘like a demon’, and he keeps smiling and twinkling a lot at inappropriate moments. Catriona, although not dorky smiling all over the place, is really prideful, which makes her stubborn sometimes but bratty the next. Most of the relationship seems forced.

Even the villain of the tale, the ex-lover with murder on his mind, makes me cringe. He’s tried to kill Catriona multiple times and seems quite intent on doing it. But he waits for months while determining the right time and place, and then for some reason thinks the right time and place is the carriage house a couple days after she was seen there one time because even though she’s being watched all the time, that one-time trek into the carriage house means it’s time to set it on fire.

And then, after trying to stay secret and plotting murder while doing nothing else, he ends up trying to kill her in the middle of a crowded street and getting caught because of course.

Except wait…what? What villain that’s been plotting for months thinks that’s the best course of action?

Also, as far as I can tell, the cover doesn’t have anything to do with the book at all.

The redeeming qualities of this novel were the secondary characters. None were particularly thoroughly fleshed out, but they were more intriguing and worked better with the main characters than the main characters did with each other.

I find that unfortunate. The plot had so much hope, but it just fell short. Not something bad to read to pass time in an airport or something, but for serious enjoyment, I wouldn’t suggest it.

I would say, however, that on Goodreads the book has a 3.71/5 rating as of the end of March 2017, so some people really liked it.

I am not one of those people.

Your Bonnie Celtophile,

Dani