Drama / Historical Fiction / Romance

13 Swoonworthy Books Like Outlander

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Who’s excited for more Outlander? That’s right, after a seven year wait, the ninth installment in the series: Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone is hitting the shelves in November 2021! I absolutely will be telling the bees this momentous news. Diana Gabaldon’s seminal time travel romance series is one of the best-selling book series of all time and an undeniable cultural phenomenon. With a hit TV series, a graphic novel, reams of fanfiction, and even a musical to keep you busy, there’s plenty of Clare/Jamie content to tide you over until publication day. But in case you need more time travel romance in your life, here are 13 swoonworthy alternatives to Outlander you can try.

1. Beautiful Wreck, by Larissa Brown

Forget standing stones, a malfunctioning Virtual Reality machine is the time travel MacGuffin of Beautiful Wreck. Our heroine is Jen, a 22nd century Old Norse expert working on a Viking VR simulation who finds herself flung into the past and the arms of our brawny hero. The glimpse we get of the sterile, entertainment-obsessed future is tantalizing and Brown teases out themes of authenticity and performance. But what really matters, of course, is the romance. Jen/Ginn and Heirik, her Viking love interest, are well-matched; she’s out of her time, he’s a leader “cursed” by the gods. Together, they’re worthy successors to Jamie and Claire. On top of that, Iceland’s stark beauty is a magnificent setting for their love story, and Beautiful Wreck’s historical detail is on point.

2. The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger

As a genre, romance doesn’t always get the respect it deserves, but occasionally a book will come along that shakes up all the stereotypes. Outlander was one and The Time Traveler’s Wife was another. Both fused genres, the latter bringing time travel and romance into the lofty realm of literary fiction. Published over a decade apart, both revived interest in time travel as a plot device and delivered compelling, emotionally-charged love stories about couples battling time. In this case, our time traveler is Henry, a man whose genetic condition causes him to jump through time uncontrollably. How he meets Clare and the non-linear romance that follows has inspired many imitations, but nothing quite beats the original.

3. Passenger, by Alexandra Bracken

For a Young Adult alternative to Outlander, try Alexandra Bracken’s piratical adventure. Passenger imagines a hidden world of time traveling families warring for control over passages through time. Etta Spencer is the last of her line and completely oblivious to her heritage… until she’s literally shoved into the past. Trapped in the 18th century, she can get home, save her family, and thwart a rival family’s attempt to control history — if she can decipher the clues in a treasure hunt for a lost time travel device. Luckily, she’s got an ally in Captain Nicholas Carter, a dashing African American pirate and fellow time traveler. But can she really trust him? Expect intense chemistry between the leads, split loyalties, and satisfying worldbuilding.

4. Legend, by Jude Deveraux

If time traveling garments and the Old West sound right up your alley, look no further for your next romance read! On the eve of her wedding, Kady Long tries on her antique wedding dress and finds herself whisked away to Legend, Colorado—just in time to thwart a public hanging. Cole Jordan is charming, handsome, and very grateful to his rescuer. Which is just as well, as he may be the only person who can help Kady find a way home. But after getting to know Cole, will she still want to go? Star-crossed (time-crossed?) lovers and timey wimey surprises make Legend a romantic mind trip. 

5. What the Wind Knows, by Amy Harmon

Anne Gallagher is a modern American woman who gets more than she bargained for when she travels to Ireland to scatter her grandfather’s ashes. Waking up in 1921, she is mistaken for her grandfather’s missing mother and has no choice but to assume her identity, all while falling for his guardian, Dr. Thomas Smith. That would be messy enough, but as the struggle for Ireland’s independence intensifies, Anne will have to decide if she’s prepared to risk it all and join Thomas in the fight. A modern-day heroine getting mixed up in historic conflicts and losing her heart to a freedom-fighting love interest? What the Wind Knows is like an Irish version of Outlander

6. The House on the Strand, by Daphne du Maurier

A drug that enables mental but not physical time travel is the M.O. of Daphne du Maurier’s dip into the trope. The scene is set in a crumbling Cornish mansion where Dick Young agrees to test an experimental drug that allows his mind to travel to the 14th century. There he becomes drawn into the drama, derring-do, and romances of the beautiful Isolda and her paramours. The House on the Strand isn’t exactly a conventional romance, but it is charged with longing as Dick is pulled deeper into the past. Drug-induced time travel adds an interesting layer of peril, as Dick’s body is free to roam around while his mind is literally elsewhere. Coupled with the infamously open-ended conclusion, this is definitely not a feel-good read, but it is an atmospheric gothic romance.

7. The Sterkarm Handshake, by Susan Price

Highland clans are replaced by 16th century Scottish Border raiders (or “reivers”) in The Sterkarm Handshake. Still, the romance is just as intense, even if it is aimed at teenagers. Andrea is a translator for FUP, a ruthless 21st century corporation that uses a time machine to plunder the past. It’s Andrea’s job to placate the Sterkarm clan while her employers steal their natural resources. But none of them count on Andrea and Per Sterkarm, son of the chieftain, falling in love… Divided loyalties is a classic time travel trope and Price pulls it off with aplomb. Besides the romance, The Sterkarm Handshake is exciting and fast-paced with a generous dose of social commentary. And the saga continues with A Sterkarm Kiss, which brings feuding families and parallel universes into the mix.

8. Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson

If you could, would you change the past? Kate Atkinson takes the concept and runs with it in Life After Life, the story of Ursula Todd, a woman who lives and dies on repeat, retaining just enough memories of her past lives to slightly alter her present ones. It’s not time travel as we see it in Outlander, but it’s still “fixing” the past—or should that be present? Either way, it’s definitely fascinating to trace the ripple effect of each tiny change in Ursula’s life. And that’s before we even get to her ultimate dilemma: should she use the memories of her previous lives to prevent World War II from ever happening? It’s the ultimate time travel trope, but not as you’ve seen it before.

9. Time After Time, by Lisa Grunwald

Lisa Grunwald was inspired by the real legend of a ghostly girl to pen Time After Time. Said girl becomes Nora, a 1920s flapper who finds herself trapped in New York’s Grand Central Station—and transported to 1937. There she meets Joe and they instantly form a connection… until she vanishes. Nora and Joe will have to find a way to live their lives and forge a relationship in snatches, all within the walls of the train station. The mystical potential of Manhattanhenge adds a little extra spice to this wistful romance and love letter to Grand Central. If The Terminal was a historical romance, it might look something like this.

10. Finding Fraser, by K. C. Dyer

K.C. Dyer does for Outlander megafans what Austenland did for Pride and Prejudice stans. Emma Sheridan has found the love of her life—too bad he’s a fictional character. Honestly, who can’t relate? But Emma is convinced there’s a real life Jamie Fraser out there for her and so embarks on an outlandish road trip to track him down. Finding Fraser may not feature any actual time travel, but it’s pure romcom fluff that ends up being more about personal growth than true love. Still, it’s entertaining and managed to score Diana Gabaldon’s seal of approval, so fellow Jamie fans can settle in for some pure indulgence. 

11. The Night Mark, by Tiffany Reisz

You know how in time travel movies, the protagonist always meets an “ancestor” who looks like a carbon copy of themselves or someone they know? Like Frank/Black Jack Randall in Outlander? That’s what we get in The Night Mark when Faye Barlow is swept into the sea in 21st century South Carolina and resurfaces in 1921, rescued by the spitting image of her late husband, Will. Except Faye’s rescuer Carrick Morgan, the lighthouse keeper of Bride Island, might not be the only doppelgänger around. And what does Faye have to do with the local legend of the Lady of the Light? Second chance romance or identity theft? You decide! Either way, Carrick is a dreamboat and his lighthouse by the storm-tossed sea is a terrific setting for a melancholy romance.

12. A Stitch in Time, by Kelley Armstrong

As a child, Bronwyn Dale loved visiting Thorne Manor, where she got to play with William, a boy born two centuries before her. Now an adult, she’s sure he was a figment of her imagination. So she’s understandably shocked when she returns to her childhood home and finds William waiting for her. And he’s not happy with her for ghosting him all those years ago. Kelley Armstrong may be better known for her werewolf books, but she brings her paranormal know-how to this time slip romance packed with haunted house chestnuts. Yes, actually, they will be confronting the ghosts of their pasts. Not to mention more than a few mysterious deaths and disappearances. Don’t worry though, there’s a sweet friends to lovers romance to balance out the gothic Victorian melodrama. 

13. The Winter Sea, by Susanna Kearsley

No reading list for Outlander fans would be complete without another Jacobite yarn. Susanna Kearsley’s Slains trilogy fits the bill, though its first installment is set almost 40 years before Claire and Jamie meet. The Winter Sea introduces Carrie McClelland, a novelist who has turned to Slains Castle and the failed Jacobite invasion of 1708 for inspiration. Yet the more she writes, the more her words reveals knowledge she shouldn’t have. Is she somehow remembering another life? And if so, what secrets lost to history will she uncover? The dual narrative flips between Carrie and her ancestor, Sophia Paterson, as she lives through the historic events. It’s a novel approach to “time travel” full of swashbuckling intrigue, treachery, and burning romance. 

About Author

Alexandra has traveled the world and lived in the UK, France, Portugal and Taiwan, but would still rather live in a good book. She has been gushing about books to her friends and now the internet for around thirty years. Fantasy, sci-fi, historical fiction, YA, graphic novels, literary fiction, she will read anything, even the weird stuff (looking at you, paranormal romance). She's also a freelance editor and writes reviews (for money) and fanfic (for fun!). She blogs about nerdy things and writes nonsense with her friends in her spare time.

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