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.
This book will go on sale on Tuesday and can be purchased at
Barnes and Noble for those boycotting Amazon.
or at Fictionwise where it’s starting off at 30% off retail price.
Thank goodness this is good! I was kind of underwhelmed by LJ and the Private Matter, but I did like the novella LJ and the Succubus, which will be rereleased with two other LJ novellas in December.
I am a bit worried that the only reason why Jamie is there is to draw in the Outlander fans a bit more, because there are plenty of those that don’t like the LJ books.
I really liked Lord John and the Private Matter and didn’t know there was another one out. Must go find it!
(I, too, couldn’t get through the Outlander series, though I liked the first book. In fact, couldn’t put it down.)
Yay! This is the first review I’ve read for this book. I didn’t even know it was coming out until the other day when I was standing in line at Borders and saw it on the “upcoming releases” board. I’m a huge Outlander fan(atic) and I enjoyed the first LJ book. To be honest, I would rather NOT have a lot of Jamie in LJ’s stories because I prefer not to think about all of those years in which he and Claire weren’t together. I kind of prefer to keep LJ stories separate from J&C stories, but ah well. In any event, this is one book that is on my list to look out for. Thanks for the review!
Could I dive right into this one without reading the first book?
Marg, IMHO Jamie really wasn’t needed in this book. He only has a few scenes though so I could deal with it okay. John does recall an earlier scene involving Jamie and Claire that took place when he (John) was a young man in the English Army.
Jorrie, OMG, someone else who doesn’t inhale the Outlander books as soon as they’re released! I’ve always meant to go back and try the next story *Drums of Autumn?” but whenever I think of starting back up with a 700 page per book series, I wilt.
Sula, you’ll have to see if there’s a lot of Outlander references in this book. I kept reading it thinking that fans might catch more of the subtleties of this world than I did but not knowing them didn’t affect my enjoyment. The next installment, Lord John and the Hand of the Devils, includes 3 novells. At 302 pages (yes we have the arc for it too), it’ll be a breeze to whip through. ;)
Keishon, I didn’t have much trouble getting into this novel even though I haven’t read the first one. I did puzzle over John’s older brother’s title and the fact that his widowed mother styled herself as the Dowager Countess instead of Dowager Duchess but it gets explained after a while. Other than that, I was fine.
Since I enjoyed LJ and the Private Matter (was I the only one?), I should really enjoy this one. Then again, I pre-order this woman’s Outlander series in hardcover months in advance.
Jayne, a 302 page Gabaldon? Practically a short story, that. ;) I look forward to reading the LJ book and seeing how much or how little of Outlander comes through. To be perfectly honest, I never really warmed to LJ in his first few outtings (no pun intended) in the Outlander series. Maybe I feel too loyal to Claire to even stand the thought of anyone else wanting Jamie (except for me of course…I’m allowed to want him. lol). But when I read LJ and the Private Matter I quite liked it because he was there on his own terms and not as a small actor in Jamie’s story. Being able to get inside his head and find out what made him tick was fascinating as was the descriptions of gay life in that time and place. Definitely looking forward to this installment.
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.
Now THAT is a wonderful thing for an author to hear! Jayne you make me want to try this one out.
I know Sula, 302 pages is a novella for Gabaldon! I went to her site and she was discussing writing these books and how a publisher asked her to submit something under 300 pages and she thought, (something to the effect of) “Heck at 300 pages I’m just getting started.”
I wish some scenes had been set in the Lavender House (the male brothel) but alas, none were. However LJ does think a lot about his lifestyle and we see him having to make accomodations and think about how he’s going to live and not get caught. And, well, I won’t spoil it but the issue does come “out” in the open later in the book.
I recently read another historical (WWII) that featured some homosexual characters and it was fascinating to read about life in gay NYC during that era. It was called “Fragments of Light” by Vicki Gaia.
Jennifer I love books that completely suck me in. Books that suddenly I’m 200 pages further into it and it feels like no time has passed because I’ve been so totally immersed in it. Ones that when I stop, I have to shake my head and slowly come back to myself and realize I’m not in the world the author has created.