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    Review of LORD JOHN AND THE PRIVATE MATTER by Diana Gabaldon (see her website)

    Delacorte Press, October 2003

    When he happens to notice a syphilis sore on his prospective cousin-in-law's member, Lord John Grey faces a problem. First, he shouldn't have been looking. Second, breaking the engagement threatens to ruin his young cousin's reputation. And third, Lord Grey has other issues to deal with--like finding whether one of his sergeants was, in fact, a spy for the French. Somehow he's got to figure out a solution to the spying issue and save his cousin from a dreadful fate--all before his regiment is transferred to India or France or wherever it will next be assigned during the seven-years war then raging between Britain and France.

    Author Diana Gabaldon is best known for her huge time-travel/romantic adventures. Lord John appears in the OUTLANDER universe, but this book is completely historical. It's also a relatively short novel (300 pages in the hardback issue) that Gabaldon claims she wrote intending for it to be a short story. In some ways, Gabaldon is correct. LORD JOHN could use a bit more action. Still, Gabaldon's writing engages the reader and her discussions of 18th century British whorehouses, homosexuality (there was a reason Lord John was checking out Trevelyan's member) and disease are all fascinating. Fans of historical fiction will appreciate the details of Gabaldon's research and the skillful and unobtrusive way she weaves it into her plot.

    I would have preferred to see a bit more deeply into Lord John Grey's character. His secret homosexuality certainly would have created problems for him during that period. Gabaldon choses to tread lightly here, keeping the attention on the mystery rather than on the characters. I did appreciate the way she presented Trevelyan, who seemed a more troubled but possibly more thoughtful foil to the protagonist, Lord John.

    Three Stars

    Reviewed 10/29/03

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