I just completed Diana Gabaldon's Outlander. I have to say that I was not dissappointed. I can see why it usually is categorized as romance, but I think Historical Fiction with a touch of Sci Fi would be a more appropriate category.
She writes very well. Prior to reading this book, I had had the opportunity to listen to a few mystery audio books by some popular authots, notably Evanovich and Picoult. Evanovich was funny but I could only take so much. Picoult, I have to say, can tell a story, but you either like her literary voice or you don't. Sometimes with the Jodi Picoults, and others, of the world, you get the sense that they are writing a sophisticated tale but dumbed down to an 4th grade adult ed level. Now, for Picoult, again, she is a great story teller with a very good descriptive sense, but I felt that she was writing in order to be accessible to as many people as possible.
Gabaldon, I find, (I am now reading Dragonfly in Amber-the sequel to Outlander), writes on a literary level. Her writing is what you'd expect from the 12 year Professor of Marine Biology that she was. She doesn't try to make the novel accessible, rather, she writes and invites you to step up to the prose. There's nothing wrong with the writing for the masses, but there is something rewarding about writing on your own terms.
I found myself comparing Outlander to Daimant's Red Tent, in the sense that both tell a historical story from the woman's point of view. Red Tent is definitely Her-story in the fullest sense of the word. Outlander is less that. With Gabaldon, you are made increasingly aware of a unique POV missed by a male-tinged history, but there is no inherent animosity towards maleness. I felt thoroughly told-off after reading Red Tent, which I enjoyed by the way. With Outlander, I felt like I had been reminded that there were other aspects of a story that need to be told.
The pace of Outlander is puzzling. There are places in the book where the story moves and is totally engrossing and then you fall into long stretches that make you ask "what's the point?" But again, this is the point about writing on her own terms. Everything she writes adds to the story and understanding about the characters, so that you can learn about them and their lives and get involved in them. She clearly blocked out the contemporary movie compulsion to create a fast-paced action packed story, fit for the big screen. What she has written is a book and meant to remain as such.