An offshoot of the original Outlander series, the Lord John novels deal with Lord John Grey, a British nobleman, a soldier and a patriot in the time of the Seven Years War in 18th century Europe. He is also a secret homosexual, at a time when coming out would not only destroy his career, his reputation and that of his family, but would very likely lead to his exile, jailing, or possibly even execution. Despite the fact that homosexuality is pervasive during these times, and the networks of “molly houses” catering to homosexuals are an open secret, it is publicly abhorred, and especially so within the political and military waters in which Lord John swims.
While the matter of Grey’s homosexuality is both a constant undercurrent that runs throughout the book and a source of sexual titillation for those readers looking for that sort of thing, the Lord John series in fact present an intriguing slice of the history of the period. Gabaldon has done her homework, and the constant wars of domination in Europe and spy-versus-spy machinations are presented with just the right mix of public history and personal drama. Betrayals, both on a political and personal level, abound and the only thing Grey is sure of is his love of country and family. And his love of pretty young men. Complicating his personal relations, of course, is his unrequited adoration of Jaime Fraser, the very straight, very Catholic and very Scottish hero of the Outlander series where we first met Grey before he branched off into his own series of adventures.
The plot of this Lord John novel revolves around the planned re-marriage of Lord John’s mother and the re-surfacing of the scandal that surrounded his father’s apparent suicide 17 years’ earlier. Pages from his father’s missing final journal appear, Grey is subjected to unexplained attacks on the street, and it is Jaime Fraser who appears to hold the key of whether or not his father was a Jacobite traitor, as so many believe. The action goes from the salons of the nobility to the private rooms of the Lavender House, from Newgate prison to the bloody battlefields. The horror of a hanging, the humor of an untimely birth, and the poignancy of betrayed friendship are all deftly portrayed by Gabaldon. A fun read, all in all.