Four stars (of five)
Gabaldon moves the Lord John series forward in this wonderful novel, which opens in 1758, as the Seven Years War continues pulling Britain into the fray, now fighting for Prussia. Lord John and his brother, Hal, enjoy life as soldiers. When the discussion turns to the death of their father, both begin to remember the events that led to that fateful day. Seventeen years earlier, Lord John’s father, the Duke of Pardloe, died from a pistol shot and accusations of being a Jacobite sympathiser swirling around him. When Hal receives excerpts from the Duke’s missing diary, the mystery resurrects itself and leaves both Greys to wonder if the secret will become public knowledge, tainting their respective images. These secrets taunt Lord John and his family, leaving him to consult a known past Jacobite and his former prisoner, Jamie Fraser. Frissons on both sides reveal a little more about this Ardsmuir-based relationship and help the reader understand both men that much more, based on their encounters in Gabaldon’s VOYAGER. Amidst these concerns, Grey’s mother is set to wed again, bringing a new and exciting step-brother into his life. Percy Wainwright piques Grey’s interest on many levels, forcing the two young men to explore their magnetism and deep-seeded passions. While the reader is left with little doubt about Grey’s proclivities, it is Wainwright who is trapped in a bit of military hot water when he is caught and charged with sodomy after an encounter with a Prussian. Will Grey stand by Wainwright and ensure he is kept from punishment or will he continue to hide his own passionate interests, which have included Wainwright himself? What assistance might Jamie Fraser bring to permit Grey to solve his family mystery and remove the stain from the Duke’s reputation? Gabaldon has done well to paint many important pictures in the Lord John series, which answers some queries, but open new and exciting doors for future instalments.
Gabaldon, who has already spun many wonderful tales with her Outlander series, creates a much thicker and convoluted backstory for Lord John Grey, especially in this novel. While past mentions of Grey’s personal life leads the reader in a certain direction, little doubt is left from hereon in, especially with Percy Wainwright crossing paths with our protagonist. While some readers may find this trivial or useless in the larger storyline, I would argue to its essential nature. While Claire and Jamie’s passionate encounters are not the motivating factor in OUTLANDER, it does play a key role in better understanding the characters. Lord John remains a mystery to many, but with more novels of this nature, light is shed and the reader finds themselves more drawn to learning even more. With Jamie Fraser as a strong bridge between the two series, there is sure to be a great deal the reader can learn and will leave many flocking to digest these massive missives.
Kudos, Madam Gabaldon for this revealing LJG novel and helping the reader procure a greater understanding of the issues that pull at his heartstrings on a regular basis.