Book Review: Lord John and the Private Matter

I don’t know why I didn’t post an entry about this book when I first read it, because I was impressed enough at the time to make an icon 🙂 But today I’ve ordered the sequel; ‘Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade’, so it seemed appropriate to catch up with a review of the first one. I think this is definitely one for you!

When Lord John Grey accidentally discovers that his young cousin’s fiancé has the pox he must discover a way to break off the engagement without causing a scandal. This task is made more difficult because the fiancé is a very powerful man. As if this was not enough, he must also solve the mystery of the murder of Sergeant Timothy O’Connell – a member of his own regiment – who looks increasingly as though he might have been a spy. The deeper he looks into the murky underworld of Georgian London, the more the two problems become entangled – and the more he risks exposing his own criminal secret; he is a gay man in a society where this can get him hanged.

I freely admit that I am not a fan of Diane Gabaldon’s ‘Outlander’ novels. Gabaldon is a very good writer – her prose is strong and elegant and reads like a joy. But I find the characters and plots of the Outlander series overwrought, and it irritates me that everyone; male and female, good and bad alike, instantly falls in love with the hero, for no discernable reason other than his lovely hair. So I was not expecting a great deal from this.

How wrong I was! I loved it instantly and re-read it often. Lord John himself is my favorite sort of hero – quietly witty, intelligent, cultured but not squeamish, well dressed and gay. He is lower key than the characters of the Outlander series, and is thus, to me, more likeable. Similarly, all the other characters are beautifully drawn, complex and intriguing; believable as real people but never boring. Lord John’s mother in particular is delightful, but then so is his valet!

The setting is impeccable; from the snuff boxes to the Molly Houses everything is almost tangible, and it was a complete treat to be taken on such an intricate tour of parts of Georgian London no other book has dared touch. If you ever wondered about the homosexual subculture of the 18th Century, this book is for you. John’s time in Lavender House in particular is a gorgeous, slow, constant escalation of sexual tension that ends with a fade to black more sensual than many sex scenes I’ve read.

The plot is easily involving enough for me, though it is the weak point of the book. I guessed the identity of the lady in the green dress long before John did, and I tutted in exasperation when John employed the time honored Bond method of solving the crime. Namely, getting captured and having the villain explain everything, before staging an implausible escape.

But to be honest I wasn’t reading it for the plot. It was a total immersion in a time more elegant than our own, and with people who I really enjoyed being around. I love Lord John, and I can’t wait for the sequel!

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