Review: Lord John and the Private Matter by Diana Gabaldon

Trouble befalls Lord John Grey (fresh from minor roles in Gabaldon’s bestselling Outlander novels) when he accidentally discovers that the Hon. Joseph Trevelyan, his cousin’s betrothed, may have what those in 1757 termed “the pox” or “the French disease” syphilis. Before he can figure out an appropriate way to handle this delicate matter, he becomes involved in the investigation of the mysterious and grisly murder of a military colleague suspected of being a spy.

Review by Erastes

I actually read this in one sitting, which surprised me, it’s quite rare that I do that. It was, as you can guess by it’s unputdownableness a good read and an intriguing and interesting “mystery.”I quantify that word because it was about as much as a mystery as an episode of “Columbo” as in it was fairly obvious what was going on from the first chapter but I enjoyed the rather circuitous path that DG sent her protagonist.

Lord John is an officer in the Jacobite period, and he’s a bit of a detective. He was, I understand, a minor character in her larger sagas “Outlander”, “Cross Stitch.”

As a period piece it was pretty good, and as an British historical written by a non-Brit she does a pretty good job. There are points in the book where I felt she was rather too heavy handed with the period feel and I was jolted out of “being in the time” to “being taught” but they were few enough and didn’t spoil the enjoyment.

As a slashy piece it was nicely done. She writes a homosexual character in a mainstream book and writes the sex in a dot dot dot way that is very sexy, leaves a lot to the imagination and the fanficcer, without really upsetting the sensibilities of people who DON’T want to read about throbbing cocks. I have been wondering whether I should split my writing into erotica and less-so, to appeal to the mainstream a little more. I haven’t decided yet. Lord John is an interesting and nicely angsty character, but I didn’t feel that there was enough of the essential “him” in this for me to get to know him. I know that a lot of people who pick up this book will have already met him in other works, but I hadn’t so I didn’t even know what he looked like and it wasn’t till about half way through the book that I discovered that he had blond hair and I was rather shocked, she’d left it so long that I had already put a face and appearance to him. I would have liked a description earlier on. Sharpe is described at the beginning of every book, as far as I can remember, for those readers who have picked up the books out of order.

The writing is good, a fine mix of period and yet doesn’t leave the reader struggling through run on sentences worthy of Austen.

If I have any one quibble about it was it’s predictability. The whole plot didn’t give me any surprises – it led (for me) inexorably to one fact to another. I think that she COULD write something that would make me say “OMG I didn’t see that coming” in the way that George RR Martin always manages to do, but she didn’t manage it in this book, and if she’s setting Lord John up to be an historical detective then it’s something she will need to do, or Lord John will be as predictable as Jessica Fletcher.

All in all I’ll give it a 7 out of 10. I’ll get the next Lord John books, but I’ll probably get them from the library rather than buying them.

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