“[A] thoroughly entertaining and wonderfully witty historical mystery set in the richly detailed, occasionally bawdy world of Georgian England.” —Booklist
Lord John and the Private Matter (Lord John Grey Series)by Diana Gabaldon
The year is 1757. On a clear morning in mid-June, Lord John Grey emerges from London’s Beefsteak Club, his mind in turmoil. A nobleman and a high-ranking officer in His Majesty’s army, Grey has just witnessed something shocking. But his efforts to avoid a scandal that might destroy his family are interrupted by something still more urgent: The Crown appoints him to investigate the brutal murder of a comrade-in-arms who may have been a traitor. Obliged to pursue two inquiries at once, Major Grey finds himself ensnared in a web of treachery and betrayal that touches every stratum of English society—and threatens all he holds dear. From the bawdy houses of London’s night world to the stately drawing rooms of the nobility, Lord John pursues the elusive trails of a vanishing footman and a woman in green velvet, who may hold the key to everything—or nothing.
Read an Excerpt
When First We Practice to Deceive
London, June 1757
The Society for the Appreciation of the English Beefsteak, a Gentlemen's Club
It was the sort of thing one hopes momentarily that one has not really seen—because life would be so much more convenient if one hadn't.
The thing was scarcely shocking in itself; Lord John Grey had seen worse, could see worse now, merely by stepping out of the Beefsteak into the street. The flower girl who'd sold him a bunch of violets on his way into the club had had a half-healed gash on the back of her hand, crusted and oozing. The doorman, a veteran of the Americas, had a livid tomahawk scar that ran from hairline to jaw, bisecting the socket of a blinded eye. By contrast, the sore on the Honorable Joseph Trevelyan's privy member was quite small. Almost discreet.
"Not so deep as a well, nor so wide as a door," Grey muttered to himself. "But it will suffice. Damn it."
He emerged from behind the Chinese screen, lifting the violets to his nose. Their sweetness was no match for the pungent scent that followed him from the piss-pots. It was early June, and the Beefsteak, like every other establishment in London, reeked of beer and asparagus-pee.
Trevelyan had left the privacy of the Chinese screen before Lord John, unaware of the latter's discovery. The Honorable Joseph stood across the dining room now, deep in conversation with Lord Hanley and Mr. Pitt, the very picture of taste and sober elegance. Shallow in the chest, Grey thought uncharitably—though the suit of puce superfine was beautifully tailored to flatter the man's slenderness. Spindle-shanked, too; Trevelyan shifted weight, and a shadow winked on his left leg, where the pad of the downy-calf he wore had shifted under a clocked silk stocking.
Lord John turned the posy critically in his hand, as though inspecting it for wilt, watching the man from beneath lowered lashes. He knew well enough how to look without appearing to do so. He wished he were not in the habit of such surreptitious inspection—if not, he wouldn't now be facing this dilemma.
The discovery that an acquaintance suffered from the French disease would normally be grounds for nothing more than distaste at worst, disinterested sympathy at best—along with a heartfelt gratitude that one was not oneself so afflicted. Unfortunately, the Honorable Joseph Trevelyan was not merely a club acquaintance; he was betrothed to Grey's cousin.
The steward murmured something at his elbow; by reflex, he handed the posy to the man and flicked a hand in dismissal.
"No, I shan't dine yet. Colonel Quarry will be joining me."
"Very good, my lord."
Trevelyan had rejoined his companions at a table across the room, his narrow face flushed with laughter at some jest by Pitt.
Grey couldn't stand there glowering at the man; he hesitated, unsure whether to go across to the smoking room to wait for Quarry, or perhaps down the hall to the library. In the event, though, he was prevented by the sudden entry of Malcolm Stubbs, lieutenant of his own regiment, who hailed him with pleased surprise.
"Major Grey! What brings you here, eh? Thought you was quite the fixture at White's. Got tired of the politicals, have you?"
Stubbs was aptly named, no taller than Grey himself, but roughly twice as wide, with a broad cherubic face, wide blue eyes, and a breezy manner that endeared him to his troops, if not always to his senior officers.
"Hallo, Stubbs." Grey smiled, despite his inner disquiet. Stubbs was a casual friend, though their paths seldom crossed outside of regimental business. "No, you confuse me with my brother Hal. I leave the whiggery-pokery up to him."
Stubbs went pink in the face, and made small snorting noises.
"Whiggery-pokery! Oh, that's ripe, Grey, very ripe. Must remember to tell it to the Old One." The Old One was Stubbs's father, a minor baronet with distinct whiggish leanings, and likely a familiar of both White's Club and Lord John's brother.
"So, you a member here, Grey? Or a guest, like me?" Stubbs, recovering from his attack of mirth, waved a hand round the spacious confines of the white-naped dining room, casting an admiring glance at the impressive array of decanters being arranged by the steward at a sideboard.
Trevelyan was nodding cordially to the Duke of Gloucester, who returned the salutation. Christ, Trevelyan really did know everyone. With a small effort, Grey returned his attention to Stubbs.
"My godfather enrolled me for the Beefsteak at my birth. Starting at the age of seven, which is when he assumed reason began, he brought me here every Wednesday for luncheon. Got out of the habit while abroad, of course, but I find myself coming back, whenever I'm in Town."
The wine steward was leaning down to offer Trevelyan a decanter of port; Grey recognized the embossed gold tag at its neck—San Isidro, a hundred guineas the cask. Rich, well-connected . . . and infected. Damn, what was he going to do about this?
"Your host not here yet?" He touched Stubbs's elbow, turning him toward the door. "Come, then--let's have a quick one in the library."
They strolled down the pleasantly shabby carpet that lined the hall, chatting inconsequently.
"Why the fancy-dress?" Grey asked casually, flicking at the braid on Stubbs's shoulder. The Beefsteak wasn't a soldier's haunt; though a few officers of the regiment were members, they seldom wore full dress uniform here, save when on their way to some official business. Grey himself was only uniformed because he was meeting Quarry, who never wore anything else in public.
"Got to do a widow's walk later," Stubbs replied, looking resigned. "No time to go back for a change."
"Oh? Who's dead?" A widow's walk was an official visit, paid to the family of a recently deceased member of the regiment, to offer condolences and make inquiry as to the widow's welfare. In the case of an enlisted man, such a visit might include the handing over of a small amount of cash contributed by the man's intimates and immediate superiors—with luck, enough to bury him decently.
"Really? What happened?" O'Connell was a middle-aged Irishman, surly but competent; a lifelong soldier who had risen to sergeant by dint of his ability to terrify subordinates—an ability Grey had envied as a seventeen-year-old subaltern, and still respected ten years later.
"Killed in a street brawl, night before last."
Grey's brows went up at that. "Must have been set on by a mob," he said, "or taken by surprise; I'd have given long odds on O'Connell in a fight that was even halfway fair."
"Didn't hear any details; I'm meant to ask the widow."
Taking a seat in one of the Beefsteak's ancient but comfortable library wing chairs, Grey beckoned to one of the servants.
"Brandy—you, too, Stubbs? Yes, two brandies, if you please. And tell someone to fetch me when Colonel Quarry comes in, will you?"
"Thanks, old fellow; come round to my club and have one on me next time." Stubbs unbuckled his dress sword and handed it to the hovering servant before making himself comfortable in turn.
"Met your cousin the other day, by the bye," he remarked, wriggling his substantial buttocks deeply into the chair. "Out ridin' in the Row--handsome girl. Nice seat," he added judiciously.
"Indeed. Which cousin would that be?" Grey asked, with a small sinking feeling. He had several female cousins, but only two whom Stubbs might conceivably admire, and the way this day was going . . .
"The Pearsall girl," Stubbs said cheerfully, confirming Grey's presentiment. "Olivia? That the name? I say, isn't she engaged to that chap Trevelyan? Thought I saw him just now in the dining room."
"You did," Grey said shortly, not anxious to speak about the Honorable Joseph at the moment. Once started on a conversational gambit, though, Stubbs was as difficult to deflect from his course as a twenty-pounder on a downhill slope, and Grey was obliged to hear a great deal regarding Trevelyan's activities and social prominence—things of which he was only too well aware.
"Any news from India?" he asked finally, in desperation.
This gambit worked; most of London was aware that Robert Clive was snapping at the Nawab of Bengal's heels, but Stubbs had a brother in the 46th Foot, presently besieging Calcutta with Clive, and was thus in a position to share any number of grisly details that had not yet made the pages of the newspaper.
". . . so many British prisoners packed into the space, my brother said, that when they dropped from the heat, there was no place to put the bodies; those left alive were obliged to trample on the fallen underfoot. He said"—Stubbs looked round, lowering his voice slightly—"some poor chaps had gone mad from the thirst. Drank the blood. When one of the fellows died, I mean. They'd slit the throat, the wrists, drain the body, then let it fall. Bryce said they could scarce put a name to half the dead when they pulled them out of that place, and—"
"Think we're bound there, too?" Grey interrupted, draining his glass and beckoning for another pair of drinks, in the faint hope of preserving some vestige of his appetite for luncheon.
"Dunno. Maybe—though I heard a bit of gossip last week, sounded rather as though it might be the Americas." Stubbs shook his head, frowning. "Can't say as there's much to choose between a Hindoo and a Mohawk—howling brutes, the lot—but there's the hell of a lot better chance of distinguishing oneself in India, you ask me."
"If you survive the heat, the insects, the poisonous serpents, and the dysentery, yes," Grey said. He closed his eyes in momentary bliss, savoring the balmy touch of English June that drifted through the open window.
Speculation was rampant and rumors rife as to the regiment's next posting. France, India, the American Colonies . . . perhaps one of the German states, Prague on the Russian front, or even the West Indies. Great Britain was battling France for supremacy on three continents, and life was good for a soldier.
They passed an amiable quarter hour in such idle conjectures, during which Grey's mind was free to return to the difficulties posed by his inconvenient discovery. In the normal course of things, Trevelyan would be Hal's problem to deal with. But his elder brother was abroad at the moment, in France and unreachable, which left Grey as the man on the spot. The marriage between Trevelyan and Olivia Pearsall was set to take place in six weeks' time; something would have to be done, and done quickly.
Perhaps he had better consult Paul or Edgar—but neither of his half-brothers moved in society; Paul rusticated on his estate in Sussex, barely moving a foot as far as the nearest market town. As for Edgar . . . no, Edgar would not be helpful. His notion of dealing discreetly with the matter would be to horsewhip Trevelyan on the steps of Westminster.
The appearance of a steward at the door, announcing the arrival of Colonel Quarry, put a temporary end to his distractions.
Rising, he touched Stubbs's shoulder.
"Fetch me after dinner, will you?" he said. "I'll come along on your widow's walk, if you like. O'Connell was a good soldier."
"Oh, will you? That's sporting, Grey; thanks." Stubbs looked grateful; offering condolences to the bereaved was not his strong suit.
Trevelyan had fortunately concluded his meal and departed; the stewards were sweeping crumbs off the vacant table as Grey entered the dining room. Just as well; it would have curdled his stomach if he were obliged to look at the man while eating.
He greeted Harry Quarry cordially, and forced himself to make conversation over the soup course, though his mind was still preoccupied. Ought he to seek Harry's counsel in the matter? He hesitated, dipping his spoon. Quarry was bluff and frequently uncouth in manner, but he was a shrewd judge of character and more than knowledgeable in the messier sort of human affairs. He was of good family and knew how the world of society worked. Above all, he could be trusted to keep a confidence.
Well, then. Talking over the matter might at least clarify the situation in his own mind. He swallowed the last mouthful of broth and set down his spoon.
"Do you know Joseph Trevelyan?"
"The Honorable Mr. Trevelyan? Father a baronet, brother in Parliament, a fortune in Cornish tin, up to his eyeballs in the East India Company?" Harry raised his brows in irony. "Only to look at. Why?"
"He is engaged to marry my young cousin, Olivia Pearsall. I . . . merely wondered whether you had heard anything regarding his character."
"Bit late to be makin' that sort of inquiry, ain't it, if they're already betrothed?" Quarry spooned up a bit of unidentifiable vegetation from his soup bowl, eyed it critically, then shrugged and swallowed it. "Not your business anyway, is it? Surely her father's satisfied."
"She has no father. Nor mother. She is an orphan, and has been my brother Hal's ward these past ten years. She lives in my mother's household."
"Mm? Oh. Didn't know that." Quarry chewed bread slowly, thick brows lowered thoughtfully as he looked at his friend. "What's he done? Trevelyan, I mean, not your brother."
Lord John raised his own brows, toying with his soup spoon.
"Nothing, to my knowledge. Why ought he to have done anything?"
"If he hadn't, you wouldn't be inquiring as to his character," Quarry pointed out logically. "Out with it, Johnny; what's he done?"
"Not so much what he's done, as the result of it." Lord John sat back, waiting until the steward had cleared away the course and retreated out of earshot. He leaned forward a little, lowering his voice well past the point of discretion, yet feeling the blood rise in his cheeks nonetheless.
It was absurd, he told himself. Any man might casually glance—but his own predilections rendered him more than delicate in such a situation; he could not bear the notion that anyone might suspect him of deliberate inspection. Not even Quarry—who, finding himself in a similarly accidental situation, would likely have seized Trevelyan by the offending member and loudly demanded to know the meaning of this.
"I . . . happened to retire for a moment, earlier"--he nodded toward the Chinese screen—"and came upon Trevelyan, unexpectedly. I . . . ah . . . caught sight--" Christ, he was blushing like a girl; Quarry was grinning at his discomfiture.
". . . think it is pox," he finished, his voice barely a murmur.
The grin vanished abruptly from Quarry's face, and he glanced at the Chinese screen, from behind which Lord Dewhurst and a friend were presently emerging, deep in conversation. Catching Quarry's gaze upon him, Dewhurst glanced down automatically, to be sure his flies were buttoned. Finding them secure, he glowered at Quarry and turned away toward his table.
From the Hardcover edition.
Meet the Author
Diana Gabaldon is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the wildly popular Outlander novels—Outlander, Dragonfly in Amber, Voyager, Drums of Autumn, The Fiery Cross, A Breath of Snow and Ashes (for which she won a Quill Award and the Corine International Book Prize), An Echo in the Bone, and Written in My Own Heart’s Blood—as well as the related Lord John Grey books Lord John and the Private Matter, Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade, Lord John and the Hand of Devils, and The Scottish Prisoner; one work of nonfiction, The Outlandish Companion; and the Outlander graphic novel The Exile. She lives in Scottsdale, Arizona, with her husband.
- Flagstaff, Arizona
- Date of Birth:
- January 11, 1952
- Place of Birth:
- Flagstaff, Arizona
- B.S., Northern Arizona University, 1973; M.S., Scripps Oceanographic Institute; Ph.D., Northern Arizona University, 1979
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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This book took me about 16 pages to get into. I did have to re-read a few paragraphs, as my mind started to wander. After that, though, I really enjoyed the story. I enjoy Lord John as a character. He has a quick, dry wit. He is kind and considerate of others. He is intelligent and likable. I thought the story went along in true DG fashion, lot's of coincidences and character connexions (as it's spelled in this series). As for it being gay porn, I suppose if you consider the mildest love scene to be porn, then you shouldn't be reading DG AT ALL. The love scenes between her heterosexual couples are much more explicit than the single, short, fade to black scene in this book (I can't comment on subsequent books in this series; I haven't read them yet). Who cares about the fact that the sex in this book is "gay sex"? There is sex in DG's books. All her main characters have it. Lord John is a main character. He is gay. He has sex. Frankly, I had been feeling a bit sorry for him, as he had no love interest, just pining for Jamie Fraser all the time, poor guy. So I was actually happy for him to have got a little "action" so to speak. Moving on... As an aside, as a fan of the Outlander series I was pleased to meet Nessie for the first time with Lord John. She is introduced in the Outlander series in book 7. Dottie is also introduced here as a child. That was fun for me. In closing, I would not recommend this story to my 73-year-old mother (or any of DG's books, for that matter), but I do recommend it to most other historical fiction fans. It's relatively short, and easy to read. And I look forward to the next one!
In 1757, Major John Grey, an aristocrat concludes he must end his cousin Olivia¿s engagement to John Trevelyn because he knows the man suffers from the pox. After consulting on the delicate matter with his military superior, Colonel Quarry also assigns John to investigate stolen ordnance requisitions, which unless recovered will force the English armies on the continent to make costly relocations to avoid massacres. John begins his inquiries with the homicide of soldier Timothy O¿Connell who is the prime suspect. Evidence takes John to a whorehouse and subsequently to a gay gentleman¿s house, Lavender House that he knows intimately from five years ago. He continues to follow the trail that leads to a small specialty wine shop and from there to the murder of a wine maker wearing a dress. As he closes in on the military case, he makes major progress on the personal matter too, but does not realizing the two connect. John forces the end of Joseph¿s engagement to Olivia, but also is drugged by the man. Though readers need to understand that this is not a romance and the likable hero has a gay encounter, the novel still is the typical Gabaldon book. The insightful Georgian espionage mystery is rich with a taste for the era, but not just the typical kind found in mid eighteenth century novels. John, who has appeared in previous novels such as THE FIERY CROSS, is a delightful hero and the support cast adds depth to the era and to the suspense including a rather surprising heterosexual love story. Harriet Klausner
First of all: this is NOT a romance novel, so don't buy it if that is what you are looking for. The book focuses on Lord John Grey, who has returned from his exile only to accidentaly discover that his cousin's fiancé suffers from syphilis. He decides to investigate the afair and, if necessary, prevent the marriage, only to discover that more is amiss... The book is well-written, the plot intriguing and most characters are complex - what's not to love about this book?
I am a fan of Diana Gabaldon. Lord John and the Private Matter is a spin off from her Outlander Series which was recommended to me by a friend. While she has major talent and was going somewhere with this book it fell short. It seems as though it wasn't thoughtfully put together. Seemingly, Lord John is not the character we'd hoped he'd be in this book. There was an expectation to his investigative ability as he is educated and an officer, however, he came off 2D in this book. He only followed clues and was assaulted in some form or another, rather than putting clues together and solving a mystery. The plot is revealed in a run-on sentence in the end and the anti-climax is muddled. I expected more, but won't give up, I will probably read the next in this series just to see if it gets better.
Ms. Gabaldon portrays Lord John in an engaging believable manner. She mixes realistic historical setting with balanced characterizations. Lord John is a well-rounded individual who, while he is gay, is a balanced, healthy protrayal of a man of his time and class.
I expected the same level of character development and plot twists and turns as are in the Outlander series. I kept on reading and finished it, but I never really "got into it". The story just plodded along and never really grabbed me. I don't plan to read the rest of the books in this series.
After devouring the Outlander series I never considered that Diana could bore me. I'm sorry but I couldn't finish this book. I'm eagerly waiting for the next installment of Claire and Jamie.
To be honest, I dislike time travel romances in general, and this author never changed my mind on the matter. However, the books about Lord John are spectacular. I cannot understand why Gabaldon's other fans are not jumping for joy over Lord John's adventures. The mystery is convoluted, yet exciting, and what the reader learns about being gay in the 18th century is thought-provoking. I would much rather read any of the Lord John trilogy than one of the Outlander series.
I found this to be a wonderful read and full of Ms. Gabaldon's signature style. Those who were looking for a romance like her other series could not have read the dust jacket or any of the numerous websites featuring Diana Gabaldon's latest book. This was another of her thoroughly researched stories and the descriptions made me lose myself in another place in time. Again, anyone looking for a rich, detailed story with well defined characters that doesn't fit into the cliches of any certain genre will enjoy this book.
The first thing to know about this book is it is not a romance novel. Nor is it a time travel book. This is a great mystery novel, placed in a historical setting. Diana Gabaldon has done her home work [as always] and has provided a rousing good mystery. The ending was a complete surprise or I may just be out of practice. This book is of the same quality as the Outlander series, covers a great character and mentioned 'dear Jamie'. Just don't come looking for an installment in that series. This book stands on its own and is a very enjoyable read.
This is really a 'must-read' for all Outlander fans - and you can do it in about half the time as this 'short story' is only about 300 pages long!! Lord John has been one of my favorite minor characters throughout the Outlander Series and this book will give you more insight into his true character when he takes center stage in a murder-mystery. This is a nice change of pace and was an exciting shift from the main story line. But, in true Gabaldon style, the seemingly unrelated paths merge and twist into a very surprising ending. She introduces some very likeable characters and others that are of a little more questionable nature - but the ending will leave your mind reeling...
but all comes together at the end. looking forward to the rest of the series
As thrilling as the Outlander series is, Diana dropped the ball with the Lord John series. The plots are endlessly wordy and boring. Its funny that the premise is a good idea but the writing is redundant. Luckily I love the Outlander characters and am reading the books a second time through as years have passed between books so they are like new again.
I loved Gabaldon's outlander series. I couldn't wait to read this new book. I found it boring and had to force myself to finish it. I would have rather had Gabaldon spin off one of the more interesting characters in the Outlander series like Fergus or Ian
This book does not deserve the low ratings others have given it. Yes it is not along the lines of the Outlander Series, but guess what it's NOT suppose to be. This 'short' story for Gabaldon is a twisting mystery set in London and focuses on Lord John Gray. It doesn't go about redeeming the charater, just gives illumitation to him. It's a good short novel to breeze through when the chance is available.
I am a big fan of Diana Gabaldon but did not at all enjoy this book. It was too full of musings and too devoid of emotion. It lacked the humor and delicious nuances that I have come to expect of this author, the book fell far short of my expectations. I feel it failed utterly as a mystery and quite failed to keep my attention at all. It was a chore to finish it, so unlike what I have come to expect from Diana Gabaldon. I found it very disappointing and would not purchase another book based on this character.
If you are a Gabaldon fan and really are interested in reading this book. Get it from your local library don't waste your money on it. It is not at all as compelling at her Outlander series, (and yes I do know that it was not another Jamie and Claire book) nothing at all to sink your teeth into. I couldn't even finish the book, I kept waiting for it to get better, but it never did. I gave up.
True to form, such descriptive writing! (could 'feel' the disgusting slime on Johns' coat), but the content was difficult to follow as there seemed to be too many story lines, with too little time to follow each one. The book simply seemed to be a 'taste' of something to come and left me feeling empty and shortchanged. Lord John Grey is an important character in the 'Outlander' series, but without the time to expound on his own life and history in this book, other than his sexual preference, not much more is learned of him. Moved too fast, too many characters, not enough depth.
I liked this book, but did not love it like I have Claire and Jamie's story thus far (remember I am reading in chronological order!). I thought this story was much better than the first novella regarding Lord Grey as this story answers all the questions, completes the purpose of the story and opens up the path for the next adventure of Lord Grey. As always the writing is rich, complex and very descriptive. I felt I knew the characters, could see the locations, outfits, etc. I appreciated the realism given the scare and horror of having the pox and thought it was a genius way of showing medicine and science in the book through the malaria approach. I enjoyed the introduction of more characters and hope to see more of Lord Grey's mom (she cracks me up). Also the title entertains me immensely upon completing the story! So why did I like and not love the book..well it sounds silly, but I felt it was rushed. There were so many descriptions and details and location and somehow it just was like fixed within a blink of the eye. Also I, as I mentioned before, thought it was odd that so many of the men that so many people know, enjoy other men but it is all nudge nudge wink wink. A more historical approach to addressing if this is factual, just fiction, etc. would be informative. I do appreciate the information at the back of the book that describes where the information such as the lavender house, mollies, etc. comes, but it just seems in Lord Grey's stories that the majority of men like men and nothing else. My confusion could be that most of my reading from that era has been romance where it is the dashing lord, the strong debutante, etc., but who knows, it does add to the story line and tie Lord Grey back into the Fraser stories! Would I recommend this book? Most certainly I think it is well written, richly detailed and creates a more descriptive environment for us to imagine Lord Grey and the Frasers!
I am a big fan of Diana Gabaldon, but this is Gabaldon light.
If you loved the Outlander series, you will enjoy the Lord John series
I love all the characters in the Outlander Series. Lord John is one of my favorites. Diana Gabaldon knows how to write an excellent story. I would read anything written by her!
This book is a must read for any Outlander follower. It gives you a great insight into the life of John Grey and helps you to understand his relationship with Jamie Fraser and his personal life and drives more. I recommend this book highly.