In her much-anticipated new novel, the New York Times bestselling author of the Outlander saga brings back one of her most compelling characters: Lord John Grey--soldier, gentleman, and no mean hand with a blade. Here Diana Gabaldon brilliantly weaves together the strands of Lord John's secret and public lives--a shattering family mystery, a love affair with potentially disastrous consequences, and a war that stretches from the Old World to the New. . . .
In 1758, in the heart of the Seven Years' War, Britain fights by the side of Prussia in the Rhineland. For Lord John and his titled brother Hal, the battlefield will be a welcome respite from the torturous mystery that burns poisonously in their family's history. Seventeen years earlier, Lord John's late father, the Duke of Pardloe, was found dead, a pistol in his hand and accusations of his role as a Jacobite agent staining forever a family's honor.
Now unlaid ghosts from the past are stirring. Lord John's brother has mysteriously received a page of their late father's missing diary. Someone is taunting the Grey family with secrets from the grave, but Hal, with secrets of his own, refuses to pursue the matter and orders his brother to do likewise. Frustrated, John turns to a man who has been both his prisoner and his confessor: the Scottish Jacobite James Fraser.
Fraser can tell many secrets--and withhold many others. But war, a forbidden affair, and Fraser's own secrets will complicate Lord John's quest. Until James Fraser yields the missing piece of an astounding puzzle--and Lord John, caught between his courage and his conscience, must decide whether his family's honor is worth his life.
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August 27, 2007
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Excerpt from Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade by Diana Gabaldon
All in the Family
London, January 1758 The Society for Appreciation of the English Beefsteak, A Gentlemen's Club
To the best of Lord John Grey's knowledge, stepmothers as depicted in fiction tended to be venal, evil, cunning, homicidal, and occasionally cannibalistic. Stepfathers, by contrast, seemed negligible, if not completely innocuous.
"Squire Allworthy, do you think?" he said to his brother. "Or Claudius?"
Hal stood restlessly twirling the club's terrestrial globe, looking elegant, urbane, and thoroughly indigestible. He left off performing this activity, and gave Grey a look of incomprehension.
"Stepfathers," Grey explained. "There seem remarkably few of them among the pages of novels, by contrast to the maternal variety. I merely wondered where Mother's new acquisition might fall, along the spectrum of character."
Hal's nostrils flared. His own reading tended to be confined to Tacitus and the more detailed Greek and Roman
histories of military endeavor. The practice of reading novels he regarded as a form of moral weakness; forgivable, and in fact, quite understandable in their mother, who was, after all, a woman. That his younger brother should share in this vice was somewhat less acceptable.
However, he merely said, "Claudius? From Hamlet? Surely not, John, unless you happen to know something about Mother that I do not."
Grey was reasonably sure that he knew a number of things about their mother that Hal did not, but this was neither the time nor place to mention them.
"Can you think of any other examples? Notable stepfathers of history, perhaps?"
Hal pursed his lips, frowning a bit in thought. Absently, he touched the watch pocket at his waist.
Grey touched his own watch pocket, where the gold and crystal of his chiming timepiece--the twin of Hal's--made a reassuring weight.
"He's not late yet."
Hal gave him a sideways look, not a smile--Hal was not in a mood that would permit such an expression--but tinged with humor, nonetheless.
"He is at least a soldier."
In Grey's experience, membership in the brotherhood of the blade did not necessarily impute punctuality--their friend Harry Quarry was a colonel and habitually late--but he nodded equably. Hal was sufficiently on edge already. Grey didn't want to start a foolish argument that might color the imminent meeting with their mother's intended third husband.
"It could be worse, I suppose," Hal said, returning to his moody examination of the globe. "At least he's not a bloody merchant. Or a tradesman." His voice dripped loathing at the thought.
In fact, General Sir George Stanley was a knight, granted that distinction by reason of service of arms, rather than birth. His family had dealt in trade, though in the reasonably respectable venues of banking and shipping. Benedicta Grey, however, was a duchess. Or had been.
So far reasonably calm in the face of his mother's impending nuptials, Grey felt a sudden drop of the stomach, a visceral reaction to the realization that his mother would no longer be a Grey, but would become Lady Stanley--someone quite foreign. This was, of course, ridiculous. At the same time, he found himself suddenly in greater sympathy with Hal.
The watch in his pocket began to chime noon. Hal's timepiece sounded no more than half a second later, and the brothers smiled at each other, hands on their pockets, suddenly united.
The watches were identical, gifts from their father upon the occasion of each son's twelfth birthday. The duke had died the day after Grey's twelfth birthday, endowing this small recognition of manhood with a particular poignancy. Grey drew breath to say something, but the sound of voices came from the corridor.
"There he is." Hal lifted his head, evidently undecided whether to go out to meet Sir George or remain in the library to receive him.
"Saint Joseph," Grey said suddenly. "There's another notable stepfather."
"Quite," said his brother, with a sidelong glance. "And which of us are you suggesting . . . ?"
A shadow fell across the Turkey carpet, cast by the form of a bowing servant who stood in the doorway.
"Sir George Stanley, my lord. And party."
General Sir George Stanley was a surprise. While Grey had consciously expected neither Claudius nor Saint Joseph, the reality was a trifle . . . rounder than anticipated.
His mother's first husband had been tall and dashing, by report, while her second, his own father, had been possessed of the same slight stature, fairness, and tidy muscularity which he had bequeathed to both his sons. Sir George rather restored one's faith in the law of averages, Grey thought, amused.