The Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon

*Warning: this post contains spoilers.*

I finished The Scottish Prisoner last night and it’s definitely my favorite in the Lord John series. I’m going to forego a lengthy summary of the book and instead focus on the biggest impressions it had on me.

In a nutshell: it’s 1760 and Lord John is obligated to complete a task asked of him by an army comrade on his deathbed. LJ involves his brother, Hal, who then decides to involve (or rather, use) Jamie (still being held prisoner at Helwater); thus setting up the reunion of LJ and Jamie and their subsequent journey to Ireland in which they must work together to catch the bad guy and mend their own tattered relationship along the way.

While this book is actually quite sad and nothing swoon-worthy happens (which usually does when Jamie Fraser is involved), I ultimately found it to be perfectly paced, simultaneously heartwarming and heart wrenching, and above all, a treasure trove of answers to the myriad of questions surrounding Jamie’s time at Helwater.

Peat bog in Ireland

On the surface, it may seem like a fortuitous dalliance or a random snapshot into the past, but to those of us who are fully invested in the characters, it is a very important revelation of what got those characters where they are today (or, er, in 1781…) and I would say that this book is the most important – regarding character development – of all the Lord John books. Scottish Prisoner is required reading if you want to be in the Outlander fan club!

Jamie Fraser and Lord John Grey are two of my favorite characters (ever). I actually love these men. DG knew exactly what she was doing by devoting an entire novel to them…I daresay she couldn’t go wrong. Jamie and LJ are like golden retrievers: tried and true, an all-around classic. While there may be a few cliques or stereotypes surrounding them, you can’t go wrong with this breed because you’ll always have a loyal, overall good dog (who is pretty to look at) at the end of the day.

I was dying to know what happened after that infamous scene in Brotherhood of the Blade and the niggling thought of how the heck did they ever get past that? was ALWAYS floating around in the back of my mind. Therefore, I am so grateful to finally have an explanation, even though I am still amazed that Jamie did get past it. (Most. Awkward. Situation. Ever.)

This book gave me even more respect for Jamie. The expression “be the bigger man” kept popping into my head because Jamie was always doing just that. He had so much sadness weighing on him and the rawness of his longing for Claire, even after 14 years, was truly gut-wrenching. The fact that he was able to keep his head up and carry on despite the degradation to his name and character (even going so far as to help those who unjustly looked down upon him), further proved that he is a true gentleman.

One scene that I found particularly moving was when Lord John and Lord Dunsany went for a leisurely ride, towards the end of the book. Dunsany describes how the other grooms don’t make things easy for Jamie and that he keeps to himself. Things have never been easy for Jamie, but he stands strong and perseveres. But it was his relationship with William that I found most heartbreaking. He’s been removed from his family, lost his wife and child (without even laying eyes on her), lost his title and rightful authority, and on top of all this, he is forced to watch his only son (the only thing he has left in his life) from a distance and always through a veil of secrecy. And yet he cherishes the small moments and forgoes any chance of freedom to continue that shard of a relationship.

I came away with mixed emotions regarding Lord John’s position in relation to Jamie. While Jamie has the power to make him weak in the knees, LJ is still his master and (by the end of this book) holds authority over his only son as well. In the final pages, when LJ finally realizes that Jamie is in fact, William’s father, I almost got the impression that he happily saw it as another way of lording over the man. But I’m not positive of that, because I can see it many ways: it gives him an excuse to see Jamie (which he was always looking for), and even further, a lifelong connection to him. Not to mention the fact that if he were to give William the best upbringing and education possible (which we actually know to be the case), then Jamie would forever be in debt to LJ for doing what he could not. On the other hand, LJ loves Jamie and cares for him deeply, and would see in William an opportunity to show Jamie how much he loves him, since he can’t actually (physically)show him, which he would very much like to do (don’t we all). As you can see, I’ve not made up my mind on the matter just yet, but Lord John is a very complicated man, which is of course, why I love him ;)

Ruins on Inchaleraun Island, Ireland

Another storyline that I found very enlightening was that of Isobel Dunsany. I have always wondered about her marriage to Lord John, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that this book sheds a little light on the subject. After carrying on in a decidedly snotty and childlike manner, she experienced a very cruel and unfortunate lesson on the importance of choosing an honorable man. Luckily, it was Jamie to the rescue, but I have a feeling that Lord John’s role in comforting her and his vow to keep her secret (especially considering that this followed relatively soon after their poignant scene in Brotherhood) probably resulted in her seeing LJ from a new perspective.

In the end, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and deep down feel like it was “for the fans,” if that makes any sense. It’s kind of crazy to think that I’m saying that about a book that doesn’t have Claire in it (!), but…so many answers! I love answers! Even if you haven’t read the other Lord John books, you really must read this one.

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Lord John Grey Tea!?

Well, hello! I’m back! Not really…briefly…just long enough to say that Diana G. posted this on her website and that I had to share. The Old Wilmington Tea Company now has a Lord John Grey tea (click here)! I think I must have this, especially since Lord John and I are now good friends. No, seriously, what an awesome gift!? Husband, are you reading? *wink, wink*

I’ve got a visual on Lord John Grey…

The entire time I was reading the first 6 books in the Outlander series, I had a very vague mental image of Lord John. And it wasn’t good. For whatever reason, I pictured him as small, weak, blonde-verging-on-gray, and sort of old. Several of my Outlander-obsessed blogging friends cast actors as the characters in the books and it seems a lot of people agree that Jude Law would make a good Lord John. After having read the Lord John series, I now feel wonderfully relieved to have my own mental image…and he’s hot! I’ve decided to play my own hand at the casting game. 

Several months ago, my husband and I rented The Crazies. (I know, it sounds ridiculous, but it actually wasn’t bad.) I found myself being utterly blown away by the gorgeous blue eyes of the actor who played the deputy, so much so that I looked him up. I realized that he was the same actor who played Henry Austen in Becoming Jane (amazing movie, I guess I was too distracted by James McAvoy to notice anyone else in the film). His name is Joe Anderson and while I was becoming reacquainted with Major Grey during the Lord John novels, it hit me that he fits the description perfectly! Shorter stature, lean build, blonde hair, English, slightly feminine yet still a head-turner, and beautiful, big, blue eyes. What do you think? 

This is exactly how I imagine Lord John. Sexy man overload in these pictures!!

 

 

The Lord John Series by Diana Gabaldon

I started reading Echo in the Bone back in late August and decided to stop *gasp* after I continued to have the nagging sensation that I needed to read the Lord John series before I went any further. So that’s what I did. I read Lord John and the Private Matter, Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade, and Lord John and the Hand of Devils.

Overall, they were okay. Pretty solid, as my brother would say. (I found these books to be much like every Kings of Leon song I’ve ever heard: they start out with a lot of  promise, but never really seem to go anywhere. I hope that wasn’t too snarky? I still love you, Diana G!) On the bright side however, I did develop a definite attachment to Lord John, whom I had always been fairly indifferent towards while reading the Outlander novels, as well as a concrete image of what I think he would look like.

Lord John and the Private Matter begins with LJ accidentally catching a glimpse of what appears to be a pox mark on the manparts of his cousin’s fiance. LJ feels that it’s his duty as an honorable man to do some sleuthing to determine the true character of said fiance in enough time to cancel the wedding. The premise makes me giggle, but I kind of had to force myself to get through this one, and truthfully, I can’t even remember much of what happened. I kept waiting for some juicy Jamie bits, but alas, there wasna any. I did enjoy learning about the mollyhouses and I love Tom Byrd to death, but I don’t really feel that this book is critical to the series.

Lord John and the Hand of Devils is a collection of 3 novellas that each have a supernatural twist, and it turned out to be a great book to kick off the start of October. I actually really enjoyed these short stories, Lord John and the Hellfire Club being my favorite…very, very strange…but strange in a good way. I suppose my overall favorite however is Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade. It’s by far the most substantial of the 3 books (around 500 pages) and I felt that I got the most out of it (a.k.a. it has juicy Jamie bits), and that’s what I’m going to focus on here.

It’s the heart of the Seven Years War and someone is sending pages from the diary of  Lord John’s deceased father to members of his family. His father, the Duke of Pardloe, is believed to have committed suicide after being accused as a Jacobite agent when LJ was a boy.  John has harbored a secret regarding his father’s death for many years and now wants to clear his good name, as well as recover the missing diary. Meanwhile, his mother is preparing to wed General Stanley and John is introduced to his soon-to-be step-brother (and so much more), Percy Wainwright. John and Percy have a bit of an awkward “introduction” since they have met once before during a mollyhouse one night stand (in the Private Matter). Percy joins the army and they begin a passionate affair that lasts throughout the majority of the book until John (and several other army officers) accidentally catch Percy with another man. LJ is then faced with a moral dilemma: to testify to what he saw and potentially sentence Percy to death, or lie in court and free Percy, but put an end to his own good word. The timeframe of the novel coincides with Voyager, when Jamie is working as a groom at Helwater. Lord John receives notice that his beloved friend Geneva Dunsany has died and leaves at once to help console the family, thus seeing Jamie Fraser in the first of many visits throughout the book.

I found it very interesting to see the other side of the Dunsany/Helwater debacle from John’s perspective. Grey had known the Dunsany’s since the early days of his commission, where he became good friends with their son, Gordon. Gordon was killed during the Jacobite Rising and as a result, the family adopted Grey as a sort of foster son. John had known Geneva from the time she was 4 or 5 and Isobel since birth. There is a touching scene where John comes across a rain-soaked and grief-striken Isobel preparing to jump out of the window. He pulls her down and in an attempt to comfort her, confesses that he took to smashing things while mourning his father. He gathers some objects for her to throw out the window and offers to take her out to shoot clay pigeons. It was a very sweet scene, especially knowing  that they would end up as husband and wife. (I would love to hear Isobel’s thoughts on that marriage.)

On the night before the funeral, John walks to the family chapel to sit with Geneva’s body one last time before she is buried. Upon entering the room, he is shocked to find Jamie lying on the freezing floor, in nothing but his shirt, keeping watch. Jamie sounds like he has been crying and John realizes that he must have been performing an act of penance, which leads him to believe they were lovers. (LJ later pays a visit to the new Earl, expecting to find a head full of tell-tale red hair.) Jamie serves as a pallbearer to the Earl of Ellesmere at the joint funeral (scandalous!) and apparently the other manservanst are fearful of him. He sits completely alone while most of the congregation openly gawk at him. John is keeping a careful watch on him as well, and notices that Jamie is clearly showing signs of distress during the funeral, and he wonders if it’s Geneva that he is mourning, or his dead wife.

Later, while still attempting to clear his father’s name, John offers to release Fraser from the provision of his parole if he can provide names of the prominent Jacobites from England during 1741. Jamie becomes very agitated when LJ mentions that he needs the information in defense of his father’s honor, and goes on to give this chilling speech:

I am not merely defeated, nor only imprisoned by right of conquest. I am exiled, and made slave to an English lord, forced to do the will of my captors. And each day, I rise with the thought of my perished brothers, my men taken from my care and thrown to the mercies of sea and savages – and I lay myself down at night knowing that I am preserved from death only by the accident that my body rouses your unholy lust.

One thing that I found a little confusing was the dynamic of Jamie and John’s relationship. Based on Voyager, I had the impression the two had grown to be good friends as a result of spending so much time dining together at Ardsmuir. In Brotherhood of the Blade, however, I felt like Jamie was consistently hostile and unfriendly towards John; and at times, I got the impression that perhaps John felt more lust than actual love for Jamie.

It was very intriguing, albeit a little strange, to see Jamie through a different set of eyes (other than Claire). For example, check out LJ’s description of Mr. Fraser upon first approaching Helwater…

The lines of neck and spine, the solid curve of buttock and columned thigh, the sun-darkened flesh of his throat, sun-bleached hair of his arms- even the small imperfections, the scars that marred one hand, the pockmark at the corner of his mouth- and the slanted eyes, dark with hostility and wariness. It was perhaps no surprise that he should feel physical arousal; the man was beautiful, and yet dangerous in his beauty.

I don’t remember Claire mentioning any pockmarks, but I can definitely appreciate a fresh take such as that. Basically, Jamie is the center of John’s world.  Oddly enough, instead of this making me angry (like it did in Voyager– I suppose it was the idea that John was potentially competition, or maybe just a major complication, for Claire?) it actually just strengthened my notion of the love between Jamie and Claire. I realized that Jamie always had eyes for only Claire, and that Lord John was fully aware of this.

There is one scene in the book that does sort of bother me though. It’s towards the end, when John is desperately torn about what to do during Percy’s impending court date. John travels back to Helwater specifically to consult with Jamie to get the counsel of a truly honest man (Grey also says that Jamie is the only person in the world to whom he can speak frankly). Grey admits that he cannot see Percy hanged for a crime whose guilt he shares. At this, Jamie refers to Percy as Grey’s “catamite” and implies that John is preying on young boys. Tempers flare rapidly and a heated argument ensues about whether or not men can love one another (Jamie saying the thought of it “curdles my wame”), the climax of which occurs when the following exchange takes place:

Jamie: “Draw on me and be damned, armed or no, ye canna master me.”

John: “You think not? I tell you, sir – were I to take you to my bed – I could make you scream. And by God, I would do it.”

(Yowza!! My jaw totally dropped at that one!) Anyhoo, what happens next is very vague, but basically Jamie throws a punch, John is disoriented and stumbles out of the barn (they were in the barn because Jamie always seems to be pitching hay in this book), ripping at his flies…next thing you know, “desperate fisting” ensues and a “drained” John sinks to his knees. I realize there are a multitude of reasons why this scene should be vague, but I have a lot of questions, the most significant being whether or not Jamie witnessed what was taking place?! It only seems logical to me that if he was in the midst of a fight, and his opponent walked away, he would at least watch to see what his next move would be, right? I would like to think that Jamie wouldn’t have stayed to watch the public indecency take place, but he had to have known what was going on? It was crazy, to be sure.

So, in summary, I am glad that I took the time to read this series and I definitely have a new-found appreciation for Lord John Grey. I officially like him now. While I pretty much just covered all the parts involving Jamie, I would recommend that any Outlander fans should at least read Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade. I heard that Diana G is writing a new story involving Lord John and zombies and I’m actually most excited to get my hands on that!