Scotland the Brave
So the very, very basic plot is that Claire and her husband, reunited after World War II is over, are taking a second honeymoon in Scotland when Claire, collecting plant samples at a circle of standing stones on the feast day of Beltane, accidentally travels two hundred years into the past (it's always two hundred years in the fairy stories). She ends up marrying Jamie for protection, they fall madly in love, everything is hard/great. When she tells him where she's from, he takes her back to the stones, but she can't leave the love of her life. Blah blah lots of problems, the biggest of which is that Claire's first husband was a historian, so she knows about the Rising of (17)'45 to come, and that it is doomed to fail. Can you change history? They try, but I don't think I'm giving too much away when I say that in the end, all of Scotland gets punished for the ambition and pigheadedness of Prince Charles Stuart.
I'm really thinking most about the cold winters in Edinburgh right now, boring as that may sound. And the winters in the Highlands, harsher still. At the start of the third Outlander book, our fair hero, after seven years living in a hole on his own estate, has one of his tenants give him up so that his people can collect the price on his head. He's sent to Ardsmuir prison, in the north of northern Scotland, where a new commander has just arrived as well. To be posted at Ardsmuir prison, in the far north of the godforsaken highlands, on a peninsula jutting out into the cold, cold sea, is a punishment. The landscape is composed of forbidding crags and treacherous bogs. Communication with England is slow. Worse yet, there's no Society with a capital S out there, just a small Scottish village, the usually drunk soldiers, the prisoners, and loads of whisky—cheap for an English soldier willing to use the power of his red coat.
In some silly way, this made me think of my good friend Emma's mother, who moved from the proper, civilized, beautifully seaside East Coast out to savage, grey, flat, boring Michigan right after getting married and has been stuck living here ever since. People in Michigan have a sick fascination with the weather. People in Michigan get sinus infections. Everything is wrong. I, obviously, think this is all nonsense, although last winter was horrible and the rainy fall is horrible, et cetera et cetera, but Michigan is also my home, and I like it, and I think there are great things about it. But it certainly lacks the romance and excitement of old Scotland. I know part of it is that when I'm looking for dramatic, engaging novels, I'm usually looking for something pre-1800. Michigan barely existed then. Our written history is shorter. But the French came long before the colonizing Americans hopped over the Appalachians. There were the Objibwa and Ottawa and Potawatomi. Where are our exciting novels? The Young Voyageur: An Exciting Historical Novel of Mackinac, which Emma and I were forced to read in fifth grade (assuming it was part of the Michigan curriculum and not the Explorers curriculum), is definitely not it. That book enraged us. I don't really know why, besides that the text was printed green, and it was probably boring, but I know that it is for children, not compelling, and I will probably never open its cover again. I did read some interesting things about voyageurs and how they were the first people to penetrate the continent and all, but that was just in some history/memoirs about how railways built America and Canada. They were great books (I liked the Canadian one better), but somewhat lacking in excitement, and the author skipped Michigan altogether. (Sure he traveled every track in the country, of course the ever-late Wolverine line from Chicago to Detroit doesn't exist, and I haven't made my way to Detroit alone since crashing my car. Nope.)
The last book set in Michigan that I both remember reading and remember liking—and I'll admit that I may have forgotten something because there must have been something in the intervening decade—was That Wild Berries Should Grow by Gloria Whelan (who I think my mom knew somehow at some point, weirdly), but that was in fifth grade, and about a little girl growing up during the Depression, and that doesn't really fit what I'm looking for.
Excitement. History. Romance (not necessarily bodice-ripping!). Strong characters, strong plot. Plus Michigan. Does it exist?