When I was in college, I discovered the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon.
Given the choice between romantic historical fiction and textbooks, I chose the former, and got hooked immediately. My addiction quickly progressed to alarming levels -- skipping class, and staying up all night, turning down invitations for normal social interactions. I probably needed an intervention.
I tore through the first five books (each around 1,000 pages) in less than a year, somehow managing to simultaneously obtain decent grades, hold down a job, snag a boyfriend, and occasionally see my living, breathing friends and family members.
The series focuses on a 20th-century British nurse, Claire Randall, who time travels to 18th-century Scotland and finds adventure and romance with the dashing Highland warrior James Fraser. If you had a conversation with me during my junior or senior year of college, I probably referred to "Jamie and Claire" as if they were not only real people, but dear friends.
I've relaxed a little bit in the past 10 years, and actually haven't even read the final two books in the series yet. But recently I decided to pull another book off my shelf: Lord John and the Private Matter.
Lord John Grey is a recurring secondary character in the Outlander series. Secretly homosexual in a time when that particular predilection could get one hanged, Lord John has been called "one of the most complex and interesting" of the hundreds of characters in Gabaldon's Outlander novels.
Lord John and the Private Matter is the first full-length Lord John novel. Set in 1757 England, it follows Lord John's attempt to resolve a delicate situation involving his cousin's betrothed, while meanwhile searching for the murderer of a fellow soldier suspected of espionage and recovering missing military intelligence.
I know, it sounds boring, and definitely not like something I would typically read. But I swear, Gabaldon is a genius story teller! In this historical mystery, she really brings eighteenth-century London to life in a world of vibrant settings and unforgettable characters. I was pulled in immediately by the scandal, spies, murder and mystery, following the twists and turns of the story in anticipation until the very last page. And at less than 300 pages, Lord John and the Private Matter was much less of a commitment than a typical Outlander novel.
I quite enjoyed it.