REVIEW: Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade by Diana Gabaldon
Dear Mrs. Gabaldon,
A few years ago when the first Lord John book (Lord John and the Private Matter) was released I made a mental note to myself that I ought to try this one out. After all I had enjoyed Outlander (though got bogged down in the next one and never finished it). Alas, a mental note made was all I did and it wasn’t until Jane mentioned all the goodies she picked up at RWA and hadn’t I read the first book because she had an ARC of the second and did I want it? that I decided to get off my arse and give it a go. What followed was an intense four days of me fitting in snatches of reading time whenever I could despite having to work 10 hour days at work and sleep sometimes. I read. I devoured. I inhaled. I had to know what happened next. I cursed when it was the last second I could leave for work and not be late. In other words, I liked the book.
Lord John’s widowed mother is getting ready to remarry and he and Hal are meeting with the groom-to-be and his stepson. John realizes he’s met the stepson and where he met him — at a London male brothel. The stepson, Percy Wainwright, acknowledges John and the two begin, or try to begin, a flirtation. Percy is looking to join the Army and is persuaded to buy into John and Hal’s regiment. John takes him under his wing and the two begin a love affair – one which must remain secret as homosexuality is a capital crime in 1750s England. The regiment is due to set out for Germany (the fighting is part of the global Seven Years War of which the American “French and Indian War” is a part) where disaster strikes. John is injured and returns to England where he begins to wonder if a series of what he thought were random street attacks might have something to do with his father’s long ago suicide. Or was it suicide? And if not, who were the men responsible? And did it have anything to do with the Uprising in 1745? And yes, Jamie shows up a few times. John must try to discover what happened so many years ago while keeping his true nature hidden from family, friends and his enemies. There, I managed to condense 490 (493 if you count the notes) into a short paragraph. Go me.
There are so many things to mention that I like. The book and characters are very realistic. If anyone can make a reader feel s/he is in the midst of mid 18 C Europe, you can. Okay, I mostly like this though Kitty O’Donnell’s wake makes me glad to have air conditioning. Your characters aren’t faux PC — thank you. These people have never heard of being Politically Correct (unless it’s not supporting the Stuart cause) so they’re not!
They’re also not chummy with servants yet you can see that they held them in great affection and trust. It was a mark of the upperclasses- treat servants with respect yet they’re servants, not friends. I like how you show how John and his class were raised and used to moving in Society (as shown in Lady Jonas’s salon scene) and contrast that to John worrying about how Percy will handle these social settings since John knows Percy wasn’t born and bred to them.
I like that the Seven Year’s War is seen through John’s experience – as you mentioned in postscript, this isn’t an overview of the war, just one man’s experience in it. I thought the violence was in context and appropriate for the story being told (hangings, the war scenes, confrontation with a murderer). As for the homosexual aspects –readers have to remember that this was punishable by death in the 18th C. The sex scenes aren’t that explicit (those looking for more modern erotica/romantica style won’t find it here) yet didn’t make me uncomfortable — however, I didn’t need more either.
I like how John refers to his brother in public as “Melton.” First names were for private moments and only for intimates (the Graf, who is good friends with John, only finally uses John’s first name after knowing him for years and even then is hesitant about it). As I said, I haven’t read first book in the series and it took me a little while to come up to speed with Earl of Melton vs Duke of Pardloe — thanks for including information about this and very nicely by using Percy as someone to explain it to.
Olivia’s “giving birth scene” was hysterical. I do wonder what her absent husband will think of the name given to his firstborn son. Also the post-battle scene in the field hospital when Hal warns John “it’s going to hurt a lot” before the regimental surgeon begins picking lead fragments out of John’s chest. “Are…you under th-the im…pression that this is…news to me?” John retorts.
Even though she’s only in a few scenes, the Dowager Duchess/Countess impressed me — she’s a strong character, very reserved publicly — as I would expect an upper-class woman of the day to be — but you can tell she has strong emotions. Don’t get her mad cause she’ll wait decades for her revenge if need be. Though it’s mainly a story about men – men at war, men preparing for war, men at clubs, men getting revenge — Minnie, Olivia and Dowager Benedicta are shown being 18 C women — not running around at night through the streets of London (I imagine they’d sniff and turn their noses up at the thought). The men felt they must protect them (Hal not showing Minnie newspapers that could upset her during her pregnancy) but underneath these ladies were made of steel.
I had to take a few points off because Everybody Loves Jamie — I thought this in reading Outlander and still think it now. John is much more obsessed with Jamie than Jamie is with John. Jamie always takes center stage in every scene. I’m perversely glad that he’s only in a few scenes. Huzzah.
So, you see, I only had to take off a little bit from the grade and since the Outlander series is so popular, I’m sure my perverse reason will not bother most of your fans. A- for “Brotherhood of the Blade” and I am, I swear it, going to make a concerted effort to go back and read what I’ve missed with John.
or at Fictionwise where it’s starting off at 30% off retail price.