XOXOAD is so excited to announce a new weekly feature on Wednesdays! The What I’m Reading column will showcase page-turning, I-can’t-put-it-down, ohmigod-what-just-happened,  just-one-more-chapter-I-promise reads straight from sources we trust—our authors, of course! And any voracious reader knows there are so many books out there, it can be hard to choose just what to read next. So what could be better than a hand-picked recommendation from someone in the know? Be sure to check back every Wednesday when the XOXOAD team will sleuth out what some of its favorite authors are reading; today we’ve asked Jenn Bennett, author of Banishing the Dark, book four in the Arcadia Bell series, to tell us!

The Swedes have this marvelous word, skämskudde, which means “shame pillow.” It’s the thing one hides behind when watching something potentially embarrassing unfold, like an awkward program on TV. I’ll be hiding behind my own skämskudde this summer when STARZ airs the Outlander TV series. It could be good…or it could be very, very bad. I’m prepared for anything.

But until that day arrives, I have something better. Say it with me: Written in My Own Heart’s Blood. Now listen. Do you hear that sound? It’s a kajillion readers squealing in excitement over the latest Outlander book (finally!) being published this month. And I’m fangirling right along with them.

Diana Gabaldon’s first Outlander book came out in 1991, when kids wore a lot of flannel and their parents still taped brand new episodes of Murder, She Wrote on their VCRs. Flash forward to 2008, when I started reading the first 870-page installment on the advice of a coworker, who gushingly told me, “It’s historical adventure and romance with a bit of time travel—something for everyone!”

Genre-bending is my weakness. I was so down.

But what my coworker didn’t tell me was just how bloody engaging Jamie and Claire would be, and how wonderfully wry and good-humored the author’s voice was. Or that I would be inhaling the next volume and the next, one after the other, until I’d read every published word.

The series isn’t without its detractors. Diana Gabaldon’s got a bit of a George R.R. Martin thing going on in that she only puts out a book every few years and they’re all heavy enough to flatten small woodland creatures. And, sure, the cast of characters and meandering plot lines can be daunting, especially as the books progress. I mean, even though I’ve reread the series once or twice (okay, four times—DO NOT JUDGE ME!), I sometimes find myself trying to remember just who the hell Comte St. Germaine is. So here are a few spoiler-ific things to bring us all up to speed with the story thus far. Let’s return to 1777, shall we?

Our beloved Claire, believing Jamie to have died while sailing to America, has not only married Lord John Grey (whaaaa?), but has also shared her bed with him in the worst, unsexiest oh-my-God-no! way possible.

  • Our beloved Jamie, not dead after all, has returned in spectacular fashion with half the British Army nipping at his heels, and he’s just found out Lord John slept with his wife. Commence ass-kicking!
  • Meanwhile, Roger, in 1980s Scotland, went through the stones back to the 1700s, looking for the man he believes took his kid, Jem…
  • HOWEVER, Jem is still in 1980s Scotland, along with Roger’s wife, Brianna.
  • Young Ian, former honorary Mohawk, is in love with Rachel the Quaker.
  • And Jamie’s bastard, William, is also in love with Rachel the Quaker. Catfight!

There you have it, minus a few dozen other plots that I can’t remember at the moment. So if you want to know where to find me this summer, I’ll be curled up with my e-reader (and readying my skämskudde), blissfully traveling back in time with everyone else.

Thanks, Jenn! And because we know the rest of you can’t wait, either. How about that trailer for the Outlander series from Starz: