I believe Diana Gabaldon's Wikipedia entry says that her books are difficult to classify seeing as they include elements of romantic fiction, historical fiction and science fiction. Yup. I expected purely romantic fiction when I picked this up. Now before everyone jumps all over me for that, I chose this because it is popularly designated a primo example of good romantic fiction. I read my share of terrible romances as a teen and I wanted to see if the genre had anything better.
But, if this is the best that romance novelists have to offer, then I am still unclear whether there is any really good, purely romance fiction out there. Because the Wikipedia entry has it entirely right-- there is, in fact, so much history in this book (and very well researched history to boot) that I think its primary classification should be historical fiction. I have learned oodles about Scotland before England enveloped it, as well as aiding in dredging up memories from grade school when we learned a bit about living in the 1700s.
Don't let that stop you: it's vastly entertaining, not a history lesson. The first half, in fact, is somewhat devoid of history, being spent primarily on setting the stage. I was a little bored and not sure I wanted to continue through this 600-plus-pages novel. It most definitely gets more interesting in the last half. Really surprisingly interesting. However, if you are averse to time travel and its ramifications, avoid this. She spends few words on it but it is there, and since she ends Book #1 with so many unanswered questions, I expect it rears its ugly little head in force in Book #2.