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The Lord John Books and Other Stories

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Hmmmm.  Didn't John only visit the Ridge once, when William was 14 or so?  Were the Ardsmuir men already living on the Ridge at that point?  It's been a long time since I read those books but I definitely do not recollect John coming in contact with anyone else from Ardsmuir, so that makes me think that Jamie had not found any of them yet.  Alternatively, they could have simply elected to keep their distance from a visiting Lord John out of respect for Jamie's friendship with the man, inexplicable as it may have been to them.  He was Mac Dubh, after all -- the man who watched over them while in prison and who had sought them out to give them a home in the new world.  They might be amazed by Jamie's friendship with John but they certainly would not openly express any disapproval of it.  


No, the Ardsmuir men were not on the Ridge yet. John visited them just after their first winter; just as Jamie sent Duncan out to find tenants. I wonder if they even know Jamie is friends with Lord John? I just think it would be interesting to see John come face to face with some of the prisoners now they were free men. I mean, some of those men were children when they went to prison and spent almost more of their lives as prisoners than as free men. It's not John's fault they were prisoners, but I can't imagine how he wouldn't represent that to them anyway. Plus, I think it would be interesting for Jamie to try and explain his friendship with their former jailer. I don't think Jamie even understands how they can be friends, sometimes. 

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Oh man, Gabaldon's love of youths witnessing their parent's deaths and having them recount them while in bed with lovers...John describing finding his father dead, complete with cute little bunny rabbit nibbling at his side, totally put me in the same head space of when Roger told Brianna about his mother flinging him to safety before she died...I did not cry...I did not...I just haven't done the dusting for a while...I do not cry, you hear me! ;) 


Anyway, I really liked The Brotherhood of the Blade. It really opened up John's personal world and helps to link up some other things in the main novels, too. I already knew the backstory of John and Percy was tragic in some manner, but it was nice to have it filled in and gave me a slightly different view of Percy than I had before. I still don't trust Percy and think whatever he's up to with regards to Fergus will turn out to be fiendish in some way, though.


I also really liked the filling in some of the gaps in Voyager for Jamie and John. That final scene of them together when John realizes somebody did make Jamie scream was very enlightening. I've always wondered if John knew where Jamie's hostility, with regards to John being a man of "unnatural" desires, came from.  I always thought it was kind of weird how John agreed to have this almost dishonest friendship with Jamie considering how John conducts himself with other people. It makes more sense now knowing that John has an inkling of where Jamie's coming from rather than it just be John being a sad little wallflower all those years.


I also found it interesting how much of a soldier John was and how much he loved it. I'm thinking this is kinda the turning point for him as a soldier, though. In later books John isn't the impetuous hothead excited for battle he seems to be in these earlier stories. Some of it's probably because he's older, but it just feels like this is where John grew up. On the pure writing side: I found myself enjoying learning how a regiment worked in this time period and this was a rare instance of a battle sequence not feeling tedious to read--not like some in Written in My Own Heart's Blood, anyway. I do wonder if John recovered his beautiful white stallion, though?


What I enjoyed most, though, was the relationship between Hal and John.


Couple connections I've been thinking about now though:

  • As already mentioned, it's probably Harry Quarry who made Jamie a Mason.
  • John's father fought as Sheriffmuir as did Jamie's father.
  • John's father died in 1741 and his mother went to France for "years". We know Jamie and Claire were in France in 1743-1744... .
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I just finished The Haunted Solider. Color me surprised how much I enjoyed reading about how cannons are made. I mean, I do so love to know how things work, but I never considered cannons being something I would give a rat's ass to know anything about.


Anyhoo, overall, this was an enjoyable enough read, but the characters really didn't jump out to me like they did in Brotherhood of the Blade. I've been wondering about John's half-brothers for a while now, but in the end Edgar DeVane is entirely forgettable. However, John's voice continues to be vivid, so it keeps me reading.


I rather loved how John started writing letters to Jamie and then promptly burning them. Needing to work somethings out, but having no one who he could actually confide in. I also liked the image of the shard of shrapnel lodged in John's chest and working it's way free. So, I was right in my assessment of The Brotherhood of the Blade being a turning point for John with regards to soldiering? He is a soldier and he'll keep doing it, but that youthful zeal he once had for the profession seems to be waning. 


You know, I think I'm going to have to re-read Echo in the Bone and Written in My Own Heart's Blood now. There are characters and details whose connections I really didn't pay enough attention to without the background information provided in these books. You definitely don't need it to follow Claire and Jamie's side of things, but these stories do put Lord John's role in those novels in a different light.


Which reminds me, I'm kinda restless to read The Scottish Prisoner, but I'm trying to read them in chronological order; meaning The Custom of the Army is up next. Which as I understand, fills in John's time in Canada and explains who this Cinnamon character is. I'm really not looking forward to John being separated from some characters who I've come to adore--Hal for one--but it should be interesting for John to really strike out on his own.  Decisions, decisions...I guess since I've come this far I should finish it in the manner I started. Right, decision made.

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I've been wondering about John's half-brothers for a while now, but in the end Edgar DeVane is entirely forgettable.

Amen to that.  I completely forgot he existed!



I'm kinda restless to read The Scottish Prisoner, but I'm trying to read them in chronological order; meaning The Custom of the Army is up next.

I'd read them in order but isn't it nice to know that you have the best one (in my humble opinion) to look forward to? And as an added bonus about half the story is told from Jamie's POV.  I think that's more than we get in any of the big books except, perhaps, the first half of Voyager.

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I think these novellas are turning me into a conspiracy loon. I had a strange dream last night involving Frank and Roger. I was thinking about A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows and how Frank met wee Roger. In my dream, Roger turned out to be Frank's biological child--not that I think that's actually the case--but it got me thinking if it will turn out that Frank's main desire to return to Scotland after the war was really to check up on wee Roger? I'm now considering exactly how much Frank really did know?


Amen to that.  I completely forgot he existed!


It's weird because Edgar is described as being gorgeous, but not too smart. I was hoping to find Edgar wasn't really all that dull...but I was wrong. ;)

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Can I just say how much I'm enjoying The Scottish Prisoner? There seems to be a bit of contrived conveniences going on with the plot surrounding the cup of bullshit and all, but the character beats are so good.


Oh, but first, I should mention that The Custom of the Army didn't really do much for me in the end. Seems like it was a string of underdeveloped plot points. I don't know if it was just that Diana had all these ideas for different Lord John stories--the eel party and Dr. Hunter; the "custom of the army" court martial; a fishing and love trip with a Native; the battle of Quebec; Silverly's thieving and misuse of his office; Stubbs and his illegitimate child; etc. Maybe she didn't know how to make them their own books; if it was all just set up for other books; or perhaps she just didn't care enough about them to develop them? Whatever it was, didn't quite work for me. I did, however, rather like the writing of the battle of Quebec--the eerie boat ride, the climb and then the smokey-filled battle itself--it was a well-written battle sequence that didn't get too out of hand, as is sometimes Gabaldon's want. And, as usual, I find I rather adore Tom Byrd and John's voice continues to be strong and interesting.


But, back to The Scottish Prisoner: I loved Jamie getting some time with spoiled wee William. I always thought his time at Helwater and Ardsmuir were sorely underdeveloped in Voyager, so it's nice to have the gaps filled in better for some of that.  Oh, and the anticipation of Jamie meeting Hal and then Harry did not disappoint. Jamie's restraint in the company of his three jailers is remarkable! Nice that Harry offered Jamie satisfaction and I found it very funny John offered to be second for both Jamie and Harry. 


I'm a little wary of this idea of Minnie being a spy--or whatever they're trying to say she was--and her knowing Jamie back in the day. It kinda came out of left field for me so I'll have to wait and see how it develops. It also seems a bit odd that John didn't know who his sister-in-law's father was. However, right now I'm feeling even more wary of the convoluted plot with this Mr. Quinn character and his mission to find his cup of bullshit.  I don't know...


Regardless, it was nice to see von Namtzen again and even though their sex scene was sweet and hilarious at the same time, I kinda wish Diana hadn't gone there with those two. There was just something so rich about their mutual affection and lusting and never being able to act on it. I'm afraid something between them might be lost now. We'll see, I guess.


Anyway, glad I stuck to my ways and read them in order, I'd be lost with this whole plot with Silverly otherwise.

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Oh, and the anticipation of Jamie meeting Hal and then Harry did not disappoint. Jamie's restraint in the company of his three jailers is remarkable! Nice that Harry offered Jamie satisfaction and I found it very funny John offered to be second for both Jamie and Harry.

Aw.  I had forgotten that.  Isn't that just a perfect example of how complicated the Jamie/John relationship is?  Glad you are enjoying the book.

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Aw.  I had forgotten that.  Isn't that just a perfect example of how complicated the Jamie/John relationship is?  Glad you are enjoying the book.


I was considering how much I think Jamie feels he's kinda drawn to John despite him not wanting to be--he's English and "a wee pervert" and a Protestant and his jailer and, did I mention he's English. but yet John, in many ways, is very like Claire. He's cares about people and has a sense of justice and sometimes is rather impetuous in his pursuit of that justice. Plus, things just seem to happen to John, much like they do Claire, leaving Jamie to follow along and try to clean up the mess in their wake. It doesn't hurt that John is also very like Jamie--they're both educated men who are also warriors, fiercely protective of their families and put great stock in their own personal honor. I think it totally throws Jamie for a loop he actually likes John despite him being all those things I mentioned above. Very complicated relationship, indeed.


I'd read them in order but isn't it nice to know that you have the best one (in my humble opinion) to look forward to? And as an added bonus about half the story is told from Jamie's POV.  I think that's more than we get in any of the big books except, perhaps, the first half of Voyager.


I'm glad I did read them in order, but, as much as I loved The Scottish Prisoner for filling in some of the gaps from Voyager, I actually think The Brotherhood of the Blade was the best of the Lord John books--and A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows was probably the best of all the spin-off stories. I still have the zombie one to read and probably shouldn't say that before I finish them all, but went out on a limb there. 


I just think there was too much plot contrivance going on in this book and it felt like a string of things Gabaldon found in research and wanted to use--The Wild Hunt; Wild Geese; the bog body; the royal funeral; etc--rather than a well-constructed story. The strings were far better developed than The Custom of the Army with an actual through line--and the character beats were really good...really very, very good--but as a whole, I was left wanting a bit in the end. Don't get me wrong, though, I did like The Scottish Prisoner immensely, just think I actually enjoyed reading The Brotherhood of the Blade a bit more.


I really think I need to re-read An Echo in the Bone and Written in My Own Heart's Blood. I have so many questions now and having a hard time remembering certain details I didn't pay attention to without some of the background information. For instance:

  • I wonder why William didn't purchase his commission into Hal's regiment? I mean, I can make some guesses--perhaps he wanted to earn his own way; perhaps there was a better chance of glory with another regiment; etc--but just wondering if it was ever actually explained?
  • The Union captain who took John into custody after Jamie punches John in Written in My Own Heart's Blood...did we meet him in The Custom of the Army? I can't remember his name, but I wondered if he wasn't someone we met in one of these novellas?
  • What happened to Tom Byrd in the main novels? He's not with John in Drums of Autumn when he and Brianna are pretending to be engaged and I don't recall hearing anything about him in the main books. 
  • For that matter, where's Harry Quarry when Hal's being held "captive" by Claire and Jenny. Wait, Harry usually stays in London to manage things when the regiment is deployed...right?
Edited by DittyDotDot
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Diana appears to be working on a novella based on Hal's wife Minnie.  She posted this snippet on Facebook.  This scene (which I will put behind spoiler bars) is a scene between Minnie and her father who -- as we learn in the Lord John books -- is something of a spy.


“_Ma chère_, I could smell a man on you a mile away. And even when I’m not here…I’m here.” He lifted the other eyebrow and stared at her. She sniffed, drained her glass and poured another.
Was he? She sat back and examined him, her own face carefully bland. True, he had informants everywhere; after listening to him do business all day behind the Chinese screen, she dreamt of spiders all night, busy in their webs. Spinning, climbing, hunting along the sleek secret paths that ran hidden through the sticky silk. And sometimes just hanging there, round as marbles in the air, motionless. Watching with their thousands of eyes.
But the spiders had their own concerns, and for the most part, she wasn’t one of them. She smiled suddenly at her father, dimpling, and was pleased to see a flicker of unease in his eyes. She lowered her lashes and buried the smile in her wine.
He coughed.
“So,” he said, sitting up straight. “How would you like to visit London, my darling?”
She tilted her head from side to side, considering.
“The food’s terrible, but the beer’s not bad. Still, it rains all the time.”
“You could have a new dress.”
That was interesting—not a book-buying excursion, then--but she feigned indifference.
“Only one?”
“That depends somewhat on your success. You might need—something special.”
That made the skin twitch behind her ears.
“Why do you bother with this nonsense?” she demanded, putting her glass down with a thump. “You know you can’t cozen me into things any more. Just tell me what you have in mind, and we’ll discuss it. Like rational beings.”
That made him laugh, but not unkindly.
“You do know that women aren’t rational, don’t you?”
“I do. Neither are men.”
“Well, you have a point,” he admitted, patting a dribble of wine off his chin with a napkin. “But they do have patterns. And women’s patterns are—“ he paused, squinting over the gold rims of his spectacles, in search of the word.
“More complex?” she suggested, but he shook his head.
“No, no—superficially, they seem chaotic, but in fact women’s patterns are brutally simple.”
“If you mean the influence of the moon, I might point out that every lunatic I’ve met has been a man.”
His eyebrows rose. They were beginning to thicken and gray, to grow unruly; she saw of a sudden that he would be elderly someday, and her heart gave a small lurch at the thought.
He didn’t ask how many lunatics she’d met--in the book business, such people were a weekly occurrence—but shook his head.
“No, no, such things are mere physical calendar-keeping. I mean the patterns that cause women to do what they do. And those all come down to survival.”

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That's interesting WatchrTina, sounds like Hal and Minnie's backstory, but from Minnie's perspective. Hmm...


So, I read A Plague of Zombies last night. It was interesting and confusing all in the same breath. I thought Geillis poisoned her last husband? In fact, I'm not sure what the point of having Geillis in the story at all really was other than she happened to be in Jamaica. I don't know why, but I kept waiting for Lawrence Stern to show up. Oh, and I was really hoping to have the maroons better flushed out to fill in some of the gaps from Voyager, but in the end, I don't feel like I learned anything new about them.  


Still though, an enjoyable quick read, so whatcha gonna do?

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I just finished "The Scottish Prisoner" and I'm surprised how much I enjoyed it. I loved to see so much of Jamie's perspective in it, I loved to read about John and Jamie's friendship and the best was of course Jamie and William.


Now I'm unsure if I should read the other books, too. Is there no Jamie at all in the other books?


Is there a scene where John let's Jamie know that he knows William is his son? 

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There is some Jamie in The Brotherhood of the Blade, but it's all from John's POV and those scenes are few and far between. The other books make mentions of Jamie as he is routinely on John's mind, but he's not physically present in any of the others. 


As far as I recall, John never tells Jamie he thinks William is Jamie's son, it's just another one of those unspoken truths between Jamie and John. 


Personally, I enjoyed all the Lord John stories--some more than others--but if your not interested in John as a character and only reading for Jamie, you'll probably be disappointed. Aside from John, his family and the risk of being a homosexual in a time when it was still a crime to be one, they also detail army practices of the time quite a bit, which is not everyone's cup of tea.


I hope that helps, Andorra.

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Yes, thank you!


Another question though: Do we ever find out how it comes to pass that John marries Isobel and takes William as his adoptive son? He becomes his guardian in "The Scottish prisoner", but nothing points to him marrying Isobel. 

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In Voyager John tells Jamie he's going to marry Isobel, but it's never shown exactly when or how he came to that decision explicitly. It's heavily implied how they got there by the end of The Scottish Prisoner, though.


I've actually been very curious about John and Isobel's marriage--wonder if Isobel knew John was gay, for one--and I wouldn't mind a book that focuses on William and John's time living in Virgina after Isobel's death. Perhaps, now that William knows about Jamie and has become a bigger character, Diana will fill in some of this in some future book? I also would be interested in reading about John's time in Jamaica as Governor. There was a slave revolt going on and cleaning up the mess left by Jamie and Claire has some possibilities.


All of the Lord John novellas thus far focus on John's life as a single man, though. Not sure if Diana has any plans for more short stories with John, but I think she likes to use John as a single man in these short stories because she can insert him into almost any situation without a wife and children tying him to a specific place. He can travel to Canada and have an affair with a Native American without having to try and figure out what to do with a wife and kids.



ETA: As a sidenote, The Scottish Prisoner is actually the second to last book in the Lord John series chronologically. I'm not sure if you're interested in Roger much, but I really liked A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows. It's a short read and tells Roger's father's side of things from Written in My Own Heart's Blood.

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 The couple of times he's let the man he ended up with, know how he feels? Well, it wasn't in private.  With Namtzen (sp?), when John kissed his arm, where it was amputated, the manner of the kiss, was out in the open, where anyone could have seen them, for example. That doesn't sound discreet to me.

Weren't they at the german guy's house?  That's pretty private, assuming that there aren't servants going in and out but I had the impression that they had the house pretty much to themselves. Wasn't it late at night?



Every man he meets ? I tried to list them . Feel free to add others I might have forgotten .Hector ,George Everett ,  unnamed guy in the Lavender House , Percy, von Namtzen (can't remember if they had sex or just heavily flirted around the issue ), Charlie Carruthers, Manoke, unnamed slave of Jocasta ,


Over what period of time does he sleep with all of those people?  At least a decade, right?  That doesn't seem like all that many people to me. 



Well you've seen my comments upthread about that book.  I really enjoyed it even thought there is a Dickensian-style coincidence at the heart of it that I have a hard time swallowing.  If you enjoy the John/Jamie relationship, you will enjoy that book.


I've noticed that all of DG's books are full of unlikely coincidences but I try to get past them. 



  • What happened to Tom Byrd in the main novels? He's not with John in Drums of Autumn when he and Brianna are pretending to be engaged and I don't recall hearing anything about him in the main books. 


He isn't mentioned by name but at least once, but maybe more, John either speaks of or thinks of this great valet he used to have. 

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Weren't they at the german guy's house?  That's pretty private, assuming that there aren't servants going in and out but I had the impression that they had the house pretty much to themselves. Wasn't it late at night?


Well, they weren't inside his house, but it wasn't exactly in the open either. They went out hunting for the day and on the way back, as it was getting dark, Lord John asked to see his stump, kissed it and then asked him to stop trying to kill himself.  So, it was a private estate, but a servant or someone could've come upon them. Regardless, they weren't having sex at that point in their relationship so even if someone had come upon them, it could be easily explained that John just wanted to have a private talk about von Namtzen's recklessness. 


Over what period of time does he sleep with all of those people?  At least a decade, right?  That doesn't seem like all that many people to me.


More like over two decades. Hector was when he was 16, just before Culloden; the unnamed slave would've been, what, 22 or 23 years later. He also had regular relations with his cook when he was living in Virginia. So that brings the total to 8? Granted, the bulk of them were during that period of time after he lost Hector and before he married Isobel, which is, what, 12 years? Still, almost all of these men he had actual relationships with, not just sex, so it doesn't seem that crazy to me.

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I read the Scottish Prisoner. That was okay. It was a bit anticlimactic, but I guess since it's in the middle of Voyager (for the record, I read book 1, and the other I've only read bits and pieces of the others but have not actually read any of them through), I guess there's not a lot of room for huge happenings. I mean was Twelvetrees being a spy supposed to be a big deal? Does this actually come into play in any of the other books? Also, it was good that somewhere in the middle of the book DG realized she overused the word "wame", because it seemed to disappear after being said 12 times.


Does Horace Walpole feature in any of the other John Grey books? I'd be interested in reading more about him.

Edited by ulkis
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In my opinion, ulkis, The Scottish Prisoner is just okay. I mean, I enjoyed it enough, but I didn't think it was particularly well-constructed or written. I preferred The Brotherhood of the Blade even though Jamie wasn't really in it. And, I'd say A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows is probably the best of these novellas. It's short and concise--because she had to stay to a word limit for where she originally published it--and it feels more like a complete thought, IMO.


As far as I recall, Wadpole doesn't show up in the other books. I too could've read more about him. It seems like there's one of these "real" characters that crop up in almost all of the Lord John stories that I thought more could be done with--like Dr. Hunter.


As far as Twelvetrees goes, he's kinda an almost nemesis for Hal in some of the earlier-set novellas, but lurks in the background. Most of the plot of this book is pretty convoluted--in order to get Jamie involved--and didn't strike me as big a deal as Gabaldon made it.

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In my opinion, ulkis, The Scottish Prisoner is just okay. I mean, I enjoyed it enough, but I didn't think it was particularly well-constructed or written. 


Yeah. I thought the prose was fine, for the most part, but the narrative seemed to lose steam towards the end. It probably would have helped if I read the earlier John Grey novels - for instance I felt she killed off Silberly too soon, but maybe if I read the earlier novellas it wouldn't have felt that way. And then nobody really seemed to care who killed him? Everyone was just like, "eh, wasn't John, who cares."


As far as I recall, Wadpole doesn't show up in the other books. I too could've read more about him. It seems like there's one of these "real" characters that crop up in almost all of the Lord John stories that I thought more could be done with--like Dr. Hunter.


Ah, thanks, that's too bad. He was definitely interesting in the brief glimpse we had of him.

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So is the Dr. Hunter that John meets going to end up being Rachel and Denzel's father?  I was hoping for more backstory in one of the Lord John books about how Dottie met Denzel in the first place.  But the Dr. Hunter John met/knew certainly didn't seem like a Quaker.


God, I can't believe I read all of these.  When I finished the first Outlander book and discovered how many more there were, and that she had written all of the LJG books also I thought for sure I'd never be interested/consumed enough to read them all.  HA. 

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So is the Dr. Hunter that John meets going to end up being Rachel and Denzel's father?  I was hoping for more backstory in one of the Lord John books about how Dottie met Denzel in the first place.  But the Dr. Hunter John met/knew certainly didn't seem like a Quaker.


Not Denny's father, but an uncle who took Denny under his wing after his parents died. I don't remember which book it is, but at some point we learn that after Denny and Rachael's parents die, Denny went to England to study with his uncle (Dr. Hunter, who is a real historical figure) while Rachael was taken in by a family of friends. That's how Denny and Dottie meet. I love Denny, so I would love Diana to write more on Denny's adventures in England, too.

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On 6/8/2015 at 2:48 PM, Pestilentia said:

I agree that some of the Lord John series are tedious- the droning on and on of military and battle details bores the crap out of me.
Try The Space Between- it was excellent, the best of any of them IMO!!

I was already leaning towards that one when I saw the list of characters involved, but this clinches it. Thanks!

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Re-reading Drums of Autumn recently has sent me on a Lord John kick. I revisited a couple of the LJ books. The byzantine plots and conspiracies still make my eyes glaze over, but I like the character and his interpersonal relationships, his ruminations and conversations about life and love. 

I'm most fascinated by his marriage to Isobel. The Scottish Prisoner adds a different dimension to her love life, to learn she had some personal experience with romance, with another man.  Also, I picture Geneva being a bit like Bree in being able to sense John's lack of romantic chemistry with women, and gossiping with her sister about him. I'd love to know what Isobel knew, and when, and her thoughts about Jamie.

Edited by Dejana
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I'll try to find the latest #Daily Lines that had something about Hal in 1744 and post it (Diana also posted a two-fer from Book 9, Bees, on


Young Ian and Bree

, but I wanted to mention that in response to a question about this particular non-Book 9 Bees #Daily Lines, Diana stated that it was part of a seven story collection that is coming out next year, before Book 9 is finished.

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#‎DailyLines‬ ‪#‎MinnieAndHalsStory‬ ‪#‎Novella‬ ‪#‎Its1744‬ ‪#‎probably‬ ‪#‎Halis23‬ ‪#‎Johnis14‬ ‪#‎Halshavingaroughtime‬

Hal was still sitting at his desk an hour later. There was progress: John’s letter sat there, squared to the corner of the desk, sealed and with the Armstrongs’ direction in Aberdeen neatly written—with a freshly-cut pen. The quire of parchment had been shaken free of dust, tapped into alignment and put away in a drawer. And he’d found the source of the dead-flower smell; a bunch of rotting carnations left in a pottery mug on the windowsill. He’d managed to open the window and throw them out, and then summoned a footman to take the mug away to be washed. He was exhausted.

He became aware of noises in the distance; the sound of the front door opening, voices. That was all right; Sylvester would take care of whoever it was.

To his surprise, the butler seemed to have been overcome by the intruder; there were raised voices, and a determined step coming rapidly toward his sanctum.

“What the devil are you doing, Melton?” The door flung open and Harry Quarry’s broad face glowered in at him.

“Writing letters,” Hal said, with what dignity he could summon. “What does it look like?”

Harry strode into the room, lit a taper from the fire and lit the candlestick on the desk. Hal hadn’t noticed it growing dark, but it must be tea-time, at least. His friend lifted the candlestick and examined him critically by its light.

“You don’t want to know what you look like,” said Harry, shaking his head. He put down the candle. “You didn’t recall that you were meant to be meeting with Washburn this afternoon, I take it.”

“Wash—oh, Jesus.” He’d risen halfway out of his chair at the name, and now sank back, feeling hollow at mention of his solicitor.

“I’ve spent the last hour with him, after meeting with Anstruther and Josper—you remember, the adjustant from the 14th?” He spoke with a strong note of sarcasm.

“I do,” Hal said shortly, and rubbed a hand hard over his face, trying to rouse his wits.

“I’m sorry, Harry” he said, and shook his head. He rose, pulling his banyan round him. “Call Nasonby, will you? Have him bring us tea in the library. I have to change and wash.”

Washed, dressed, brushed and feeling some semblance of ability, he came into the library a quarter-hour later, to find the tea-trolley already in place and a wisp of aromatic steam rising from the teapot’s spout, to mingle with the spicy scents of ham and sardines and the unctuous sweetness of a currant-cake, oozing butter.

“When’s the last time you ate anything?” Harry demanded, watching Hal consume sardines on toast with the single-mindedness of a starving cat.

“Yesterday. Maybe. I forget.” He reached for his cup and washed the sardines down far enough to make cake feasible as the next step. “Tell me what Washburn said.”

Harry disposed of his own cake, swallowed, and replied.

“Well, you can’t actually be tried in open court. Whatever you think about your damned title—no, don’t tell me, I’ve heard it—“ He held out the palm of his hand in prevention, picking up a gherkin with the other.

“Whether you choose to call yourself a duke, an earl, or plain Harold Grey, you’re still a peer. You can’t be tried by anything save a jury _of_ your peers, to wit, the House of Lords. And I didn’t really require Washburn to tell me that the odds of a hundred noblemen agreeing that you should be either imprisoned or hanged for challenging the man who seduced your wife to a duel, and killing him as a result, is roughly a thousand to one—but he did tell me so.”

“Oh.” Hal hadn’t given the matter a moment’s thought, but if he had, would likely have reached a similar conclusion. Still, he felt some relief at hearing that the Honorable Lawrence Washburn, KC, shared it.

“Mind you—are you going to eat that last slice of ham?”

“Yes.” Hal took it and reached for the mustard pot. Harry took an egg sandwich instead.

“Mind you,” he repeated, mouth half-full of devilled egg and thin white bread, “that doesn’t mean you aren’t in trouble.”

“You mean with Reginald Twelvetrees, I suppose.” Hal kept his eyes on his plate, carefully cutting the ham into pieces. “That isn’t news to me, Harry.”

“I shouldn’t have thought so, no,” Harry agreed. “I meant with the king.”

Hal set down his fork and stared at Harry.

“The king?”

“Or to be more exact, the army.” Harry delicately plucked an almond biscuit from the wreckage of the tea-trolley. “Reginald Twelvetrees has brought a petition to General [ ], asking that you be brought to a court-martial for the unlawful killing of his brother, and further, that you be removed as Colonel of the 46th, on grounds that your behavior is so deranged as to constitute a danger to the readiness and ability of said regiment. That being where His Majesty comes in.”

“Poppycock,” Hal said shortly. But his hand trembled slightly as he lifted the tea-pot, and the lid rattled. He saw Harry notice, and set it down carefully.

What the king giveth, the king also taketh away. It had taken months of painstaking work to have his father’s regiment re-commissioned, and more—much more—to find decent officers willing to join it.

“The scribblers,” Harry began, but Hal made a quick, violent gesture, cutting him off.

“I know.”

“No, you don’t—“

“I do! Don’t bloody talk about it.”

Harry made a soft growling noise, but subsided. He picked up the pot and filled both cups, pushing Hal’s toward him.



The regiment—in its resurrected form—had not yet seen service anywhere; it had barely half its complement of men, and most of those didn’t know one end of a musket from the other. He had only a skeleton staff, and while most of his officers were good, solid men, only a handful, like Harry Quarry, had any personal allegiance to him. Any pressure, any hint of scandal—well, any _more_ scandal—and the whole structure could collapse. The remnants to be greedily scooped up or trampled on by Reginald Twelvetrees, Hal’s father’s blackened memory left forever dishonored as a traitor, and his own name dragged further through the mud—painted in the press not only as a cuckold, but a lunatic.

The handle of his porcelain tea-cup broke off suddenly and shot across the table, striking the pot with a tink! The cup itself had cracked right through, and tea ran down his arm, soaking his cuff.



Edited by theschnauzers
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I read "the Space In Between". On one hand, glad


Saint-Germain pops up again.

On the other, the main plot kinda fizzles out imo. But I do like Michael and Joan. I think it would be nice to get a short story about one of Ian and Jenny's daughters.

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I may be asking for a MOBY spoiler (I'm about halfway through) but does Roger ever find out who caught him? I just finished A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows and it seems like the ending pretty much solves Roger's predestination crisis from book 7. 


I mean, if older Roger had to send Jerry back in time to catch wee Roger which caused wee Roger to be alive to grow up to become adult Roger so he can... etc. etc. it implies to me that in Outlander world there a. is some kind of higher plan and b. the actions of the time travellers are already part of said plan. 

Philosophy aside, I liked it. I liked both Dolly and Jerry. I loved the rant to Frank and I think Jerry's experiences really underlined how lucky Claire was to stumble on Murtagh, Jamie and co. I also liked seeing more about Frank's MI6 days. I'll cautiously say I wouldn't mind if the show fleshed that out a bit (cautiously because as much as I enjoy Tobias M., this isn't supposed to be Frank's story). 

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34 minutes ago, satrunrose said:

I may be asking for a MOBY spoiler (I'm about halfway through) but does Roger ever find out who caught him? I just finished A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows and it seems like the ending pretty much solves Roger's predestination crisis from book 7. 

No, I don't think Roger knows who caught him. If he does, it was never stated in the book. 

This is my favorite of the off-shoot stories. I think Diana really brought both Dolly and Jerry to life and she didn't need 10,000 pages to do it. 

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Confession: I only read The Scottish Prisoner for Jamie. I teared up more than once at Jamie's longing for Claire, especially when Lord John overheard him in his room.

I like Lord John, but not enough to read a whole book series about him.

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On 7.12.2015 at 5:32 PM, DittyDotDot said:


I was considering how much I think Jamie feels he's kinda drawn to John despite him not wanting to be--he's English and "a wee pervert"


I really hope they keep the "wee pervert " in the show . It's such a Jamie'ism 

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I have just finished listening to the audiobooks of The Private Matter and Brotherhood of the Blade and greatly enjoyed them. I have grown quite attached to the narrator's Lord John voice, but his Jamie voice is really bad. Apparently someone else does Jamie's voice for The Scottish Prisoner, and reviews say he is even worse. Has anyone here listened to The Scottish Prisoner, and is the accent terrible? The narrator can make or break an audiobook, and if Jamie is awful I may read the book instead.

I plan to listen to The Hand of Devils next. I am loving von Namtzen and it sounds like he's in one or more of the novellas (I have no idea how to spell his name... I've never seen it written until I came here.)

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Another #Daily Lines excerpt from the forthcoming Minnie and Hhal novella:


#DailyLines #MinnieAndHalNovella #NoItsNotBookNine #NoBookNineIsntFinished #DontWorryIAlwaysWorkOnMoreThanOneThingAtATime



Winstead Terrace was a small row of discreetly fine townhouses [ck.] that faced a similar terrace on the other side of a private park, its privacy protected by a tall fence of black iron and a locked gate.

Hal reached through the iron bars of the fence and carefully broke a twig from one of the small trees that pressed against it.

“What are you doing?” Harry demanded, stopping in mid-stride. “Picking a posy for your button hole? I don’t think Grierson’s much of a dandy.”

“Nor am I,” said Hal equably. “I wanted to see if this is what I thought it was, but it is.”

“And what’s that, pray?” Harry came back a step to look at the twig in Hal’s hand. The foliage was cool on his fingers; it had rained a bit earlier and the leaves and flowers were still wet, water droplets sliding down his wrist, disappearing into the cloth of his frilled cuff.

He transferred the twig to his other hand and shook the water off, absently wiping his hand on his coat. He liked good linen, and a well-fitting suit, but in fact, he wasn’t a dandy. It was necessary to impress Donald Grierson favorably, though, and to that end, he and Harry were both wearing semi-dress uniform, with a discreet but visible amount of gold lace.

“Cockspur,” he said, showing Harry the two-inch thorns protruding from the twig. “It’s a hawthorn of sorts.”

“I thought hawthorns were hedges.” Harry jerked his head toward the terrace, and Hal nodded, coming along.

“They can be. Or shrubs or trees. Interesting plant—the leaves are said to taste like bread and cheese, though I haven’t tried.”

Harry looked amused.

“I’ll remember that, next time I’m in the country and not a pub in sight. Ready, are you?”

Hal might have felt annoyed at Harry’s solicitousness, but his friend was all too clearly honestly worried for him. He drew breath and straightened his shoulders, admitting to himself that in all honesty, he couldn’t dismiss that worry as unfounded. He was getting better, though. He had to—there was the devil of a lot of work to be done, if he had any hope of getting the regiment on its feet and ready to fight. And Major Grierson was going to help him do it.

“There’s something else about hawthorn,” he said, as they reached Grierson’s door.

“What’s that?” Harry was wearing his bird-dog look, alert and intent on the prey to be flushed, and Hal smiled privately to see it.

“The flowers are said to—and I quote—“have the scent of a woman sexually aroused.”

Harry’s intent look switched instantly to the flowering twig in Hal’s hand. Hal laughed, brushed the flowers under his own nose, then handed them to Harry, turning to lift the brass boar’s-head knocker.

_Good lord, it’s true_. The whiff of insinuating musk so distracted him that he scarcely noticed when the door opened. How the devil could something smell…slippery? He closed his fist involuntarily, with the very disconcerting feeling that he had touched his wife.

“My lord?” The servant who had opened the door was looking at him with a slightly puzzled frown.

“Oh,” Hal said, snapping back into himself. “Yes. I am. I mean—“

“Major Grierson is expecting his lordship, I think?” Harry inserted himself between Hal and the inquiring face, which nodded obligingly and withdrew into the house, gesturing them to follow.


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Another of the #Daily Lines excerpts for the Minnie and Hal novella:


#DailyLines #MinnieAndHal #NoItsNotBookNine #BookNineIsFineButThisIsntIt v #MinnieTheSpy #GardenParty


A flash of red caught her eye through the trees, and for an instant, she thought he was an exotic bird, lured by the astonishing abundance of peculiar fruits. Then she heard voices, though, and a moment later he stepped out into the wide graveled patch where the pathways intersected. A soldier, in what must be full-dress uniform—a blaze of scarlet and gold, with shining black boots to the knee and a sword at his belt.

He wasn’t tall; in fact, he was rather slight, with a fine-boned face seen in profile as he turned to say something to his companion. He stood very straight, though, shoulders square and head up, and there was something about him that reminded her of a bantam cock—something deeply fierce, innately proud, and completely unaware of its relative size; quite ready to take on all comers, spurs first.

The thought entertained her so much that it was a moment before she noticed his interlocutor. The companion wasn’t dressed as a soldier, but was certainly very fine, too, in gold velvet, with a blue satin sash and some large medallion pinned to his chest—the Order of something-or-other, she supposed. He did, however, strongly resemble a frog, wide-lipped and pale, with rather big, staring eyes.

The sight of the two of them, rooster and frog, engaged in convivial conversation, made her smile behind her fan, and she didn’t notice the gentleman who had come up behind her until he spoke.

“Are you fond of opuntiod cacti…madame?”

“I might be, if I knew what they were,” she replied, swinging round to see a youngish gentleman in a plum-colored suit gazing at her intently.

“Um…Actually, I prefer succulents,” she said, giving the agreed-upon countersign. She cleared her throat, hoping she remembered the word. “Particularly the, um, Euphorbias.”

The question in his eyes vanished, replaced by amusement. He looked her up and down in a manner that might in other circumstances have been insulting. She flushed, but held his gaze and raised her brows.

“Mr. Bloomer, I presume?”

“If you like,” he said, smiling, and offered her his arm. “Do let me show you the Euphorbias, Miss….?”

A moment of panic; who should she be, or admit to being?

“Houghton,” she said. “Lady Bedelia Houghton.”

“Of course you are,” he said, straight-faced. “Charmed to make your acquaintance, Lady Bedelia.”

He bowed slightly, she took his arm, and together they walked slowly into the wilderness.

There were several glasshouses, linked together, and they passed through minor jungles of philodendrons—but philodendrons that had never graced anything so plebeian as a morning room, with ragged leaves each half as large as Minnie herself, a thing with great veined leaves the color of green ink and the look of watered silk—

“They’re rather poisonous, philodendrons,” Mr. Bloomer said, with a casual nod. “All of them. Did you know?”

“I shall make a note of it.”

And then trees—ficus, Mr. Bloomer informed her (perhaps he hadn’t chosen his alias at random, after all)—with twisted stems and thick leaves and a sweet, musty smell, some of them with vines that climbed the ficus’s trunk with convulsive force, sturdy rootlike hairs clinging to the thin bark. And then, sure enough; the bloody Euphorbias, in person.

She hadn’t known things like that existed. Many of them didn’t even look like proper plants—and some that did were strange perversions of the plant kingdom, with thick bare stems studded with cruel thorns, things that resembled lettuce—but a ruffled white lettuce with dark red edgings that made it look as though someone had used it to mop up blood—

“They’re rather poisonous, too, the Euphorbias, but it’s more the sap. Won’t kill you, but you don’t want to get it in your eyes.”

“I’m sure I don’t.” Minnie took a better grip on her parasol, ready to unfurl it in case any of the plants should take it into mind to spit at her; several of them looked as though they’d like nothing better.

“They call that one ‘Crown of Thorns,’” Mr. Bloomer said, nodding at one particularly horrid thing with long black spikes sticking out in all directions. “Apt.” He noticed her expression at this point, and smiled, tilting his head toward the next house. “Come along; you’ll like the next collection better.”

“Oh,” she said, in a small voice. Then, “OH!” much louder. The new glasshouse was much bigger than the others, with a high, vaulted roof that filled the air with sun and lit the thousand—at least!—orchids that sprang from tables and spilled from trees in cascades of white and gold and purple and red, and…

“Oh, my.” She sighed in bliss, and Mr. Bloomer laughed.

They weren’t alone in their appreciation. All of the glasshouses were popular; there had been a fair number of people exclaiming at the spiny, the grotesque, and the poisonous—but the orchid house was packed with guests and the air was filled with a hum of amazement and delight.

Minnie inhaled as much as she could, sniffing. The air was scented, with a variety of fragrances, enough to make her head swim.

“You don’t want to smell that one.” Mr. Bloomer, guiding her from one delight to the next, put out a shielding hand toward a large pot of rather dull green orchids with thick petals. “Rotting meat.”

She took a cautious sniff and recoiled.

“And why on earth would an orchid want to smell like rotting meat?” she demanded.

He gave her a slightly queer look, but smiled.

“Flowers put on the color and scent they require to attract the insects who pollinate them. Our friend the Bulbophyllum there—“ he nodded at the green things, “—depends upon the services of carrion flies. Come, this one smells of coconut—have you ever smelt a coconut?”

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This is a tad different for the #Minnie and Hal novella. as Diana explains how one sets up a story with its beginning. Whether the "title" is just for the excerpt she uses for this demonstration or the actual title for the novella is unclear, and I've put the discussion in italics in order to distinguish it from the excerpt from the novella:


#DailyLines #AFugitiveGreen #Novella #MinnieAndHal #WritingExample #Beginning


Somebody on Twitter this evening asked me for tips on writing a gripping beginning. I told them that it's all about character--who this person is and what they want. That was all I could fit into a tweet <g>, but there is--of course--more to say, so I wrote a TwitLonger message (which gives you a good deal more space).

Since I know some of y'all are interested in the mechanics of writing as well, I thought I'd repost it for you here:

A FUGITIVE GREEN (Copyright 2016 Diana Gabaldon)

Paris, [month] 1744

Minnie Rennie had secrets. Some were for sale and some were strictly her own. She glanced toward the lattice-work door at the rear of the shop. Still closed, the blue curtains behind it firmly drawn shut. Her father had secrets, too; Andrew Rennie (as he called himself in Paris) was outwardly a dealer in rare books, but more privately, a collector of letters whose writers had never meant them to be read by any but the addressee.

He also kept a stock of more fluid information, this soaked out of his visitors with a combination of tea, wine, small amounts of money and her father’s considerable charm. Minnie had a good head for wine, needed no money, and was impervious to her father's magnetism.

The murmur of voices from the back room didn’t have the rhythm of leave-taking, no scraping of chairs… she nipped across the book-crammed shop to the shelves of tracts and sermons. Taking down a red-calf volume with marbled endpapers titled Collected Sermons of the Reverend George V. Sykes, she snatched the letter from the bosom of her dress, tucked it between the pages, and slid the book back into place.

Just in time; there was movement in the back room, the putting down of cups, the slight raising of voices. Heart thumping, she took one more glance at the Reverend Sykes, and saw to her horror that she’d disturbed the dust on the shelf—there was a clear track pointing to the ox-blood leather spine. She darted back to the main counter, seized the feather duster kept under it and had the entire section flicked over in a matter of moments.

She took several deep breaths; she mustn’t look flushed or flustered. Her father was an observant man—a trait that had (he often said, when instructing her in the art) kept him alive on more than one occasion.

But it was all right; the voices had changed again—some new point had come up.

OK, see how that works? The first thing we know is the character's name--and that she has secrets. The fact that some of them are for sale should (we hope) be intriguing. The next bit gives us the broad outlines; her father deals in information and she's keeping something from him. (Conflict--what's she keeping from him, and what might happen if/when he finds out?)

Now, you don't want to hang out too long in the theoretical backstory or inside someone's head; you need to give the reader a physical focus so they can orient themselves and start to sink into the scene. So the focus changes to the bookstore and we start to see it--the closed door, the blue curtains (and the indication that someone's back there, having a secret conversation...who is it?

(Were this a full-length novel, I'd probably have started with the third paragraph, directly with Minnie and the letter--but I kind of liked the transition from an omniscient viewpoint in the first two paragraphs to the intimacy of Minnie's close third-person--just craft-juggling for the fun of it <g>, but it condenses everything we need to know about the backstory into a very small space, and this _is_ a novella (as it is, it's probably going to come in around 40,000 words, which is pretty hefty for a novella).)

Anyway, see the concrete details that pull us into Minnie's point of view? The shelves, the specific description of the Rev. Sykes's book of sermons (that's a real book, btw; the Rev. Sykes was one of my great-great-great-grandfathers, and the book is on my office shelves),

Note, though, that every paragraph includes either action or an implied sense of conflict--you never do just straight description. And of course, once we've glimpsed the letter, we want to know what's in it, as well as why Minnie is hiding it from her father, as well as what the real relationship _is_ between her and her father (and in the back of our minds, what the heck her father may be up to in that back room).

See? As I said in my short earlier tweet, it's all about the character, but beyond that, it's all about raising questions that the reader wants answered. They don't have to be huge, important questions--just a cascade of tiny, "And THEN what happened?" that will carry you on from one paragraph to the next.

That any help?


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I had a chance to read Virgins (Kindle edition) and what surprised me the most was that Jamie


spoke and read "classical" Hebrew! As well as Spanish, and a mixture of the two similar to Yiddish (German/Hebrew if you don't know). Knowing that there were Jewish communities in the colonies before the time that most of the main novels covered, I'm ,ore surprised this hasn't come up, as the role of Jewish colonists in the American colonies (i/e/. funding the Continental Army and Congress, for instance, ae historically established facts.

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This just in from Diana's Facebook page.  It contains a bit of a surprise revelation if you haven't read "The Scottish Prisoner".

#DailyLines  #AFugitiveGreen  #novella  #MinnieAndHal  #Distraction#ForMyrnaAndAl


It had taken months, months of careful planning, choosing the men among the couriers her father used who might be amenable to making a bit extra on the side, and a bit more for keeping her inquiries quiet.

She didn’t know what her father might do, should he find out that she’d been looking for her mother. But he’d refused for the last seventeen years to say a word about the woman; it was reasonable to assume he wouldn’t be pleased.

Mrs. Simpson. She said it silently, feeling the syllables in her mouth. Mrs. Simpson… Was her mother married again, then? Did she have other children?

Minnie swallowed. The thought that she might have half-brothers or sisters was at once horrifying, intriguing…and startlingly painful. That someone else might have had her mother—hers!—for all those years…

“This will _not_ do,” she said aloud, though under her breath. She had no idea of “Mrs. Simpson’s” personal circumstances, and it was pointless to waste emotion on something that might not exist. She blinked hard to refocus her mind, and suddenly saw it.

The thing sitting atop a pig-skin-bound edition of Volume III of _History of the Papacy_ (Antwerp) was as long as her thumb, and for a cockroach, remarkably immobile. Minnie had been staring at it unwittingly for nearly a minute, and it hadn’t so much as twitched an antenna. Perhaps it was dead? She picked a ratty quill out of the collection in the Chinese jar and gingerly poked the thing with the quill’s pointy end.

The thing hissed like a tea-kettle and she let out a small yelp, dropping the quill and leaping backward. The roach, disturbed, turned round in a slow, huffy circle, then settled back on the gilt-embossed capital “P” and tucked its thorny legs back under itself, obviously preparing to resume its nap.

“Oh, I don’t _think_ so,” she said to it, and turned to the shelves in search of something heavy enough to smash it with, but with a cover that wouldn’t show the stain. She’d set her hand on a Vulgate Bible with a dark-brown, pebble-grain cover, when the secret door beside the shelves opened, revealing her father.

“Oh, you’ve met Frederick?” he said, stepping forward and taking the Bible out of her hand. “You needn’t worry, my dear; he’s quite tame.”

“Tame? Who would trouble to domesticate a cockroach?”

“The inhabitants of Madagascar, or so I’m told. Though the trait is heritable; Frederick here is the descendant of a long and noble line of hissing cockroaches, but has never set foot on the soil of his native land. He was born—or hatched, I suppose—in Bristol.”

Frederick had suspended his nap long enough to nuzzle inquiringly at her father’s thumb, extended as one might hold out one’s knuckles to a strange dog. Evidently finding the scent acceptable, the roach strolled up the thumb and onto the back of her father’s hand. She twitched, unable to keep the gooseflesh from rippling up her arms.

Mr. Rennie edged carefully toward the big shelves on the east wall, hand cradled next his chest. These shelves contained the salable but less-valuable books: a jumble of everything from Culpeper’s _Herbal_ to tattered copies of Shakespeare’s plays, and—by far the most popular—a large collection of the more lurid gallows confessions of an assortment of highwaymen, murderers, forgers and husband-slayers. Amid the volumes and pamphlets was scattered a miscellany of small curiosities ranging from a toy bronze cannon and a handful of sharp-edged stones said to be used at the dawn of time for scraping hides to a Chinese fan that showed erotic scenes when spread. Her father picked a wicker cricket-cage from the detritus and decanted Frederick neatly into it.

“Not before time, either, old cock,” he said to the roach, now standing on its hind legs and peering out through the wicker-work. “Here’s your new master, just coming.” 

Minerva peered round her father and her heart jumped a little; she recognized that tall, broad-shouldered silhouette, automatically ducking beneath the lintel in order to avoid being brained.

“Lord Broch Tuarach!” Her father stepped forward, beaming, and inclined his head to the customer. 

“Mr. Fraser will do,” he said, as always, extending a hand. “Your servant, sir.”

He’d brought a scent of the streets inside with him: the sticky sap of the plane trees, dust, manure and offal, and Paris’s pervasive smell of piss, slightly perfumed by the orange-sellers outside the theater down the street. He carried his own deep tang of sweat, wine and oak casks as well; he often came from his warehouse. She inhaled appreciatively, then let her breath out as he turned smiling from her father towards her.

“Mademoiselle Rennie,” he said, in a deep Scotch accent that rolled the “R” delightfully. He seemed slightly surprised when she held out her hand, but obligingly bent over it, breathing courteously on her knuckles. _If I were married, he’d kiss it_,” she thought, her grip tightening unconsciously on his. He blinked, feeling it, but straightened up and bowed to her, as elegantly as any courtier.

Her father made a slight sound in his throat and tried to catch her eye, but she ignored him, picking up the feather-duster and heading industriously for the shelves behind the counter—the ones containing a select assortment of erotica from a dozen different countries. She knew perfectly well what his glance would have said.

“Frederick?” she heard Mr. Fraser say, in a bemused tone of voice. “Does he answer to his name?”

“I—er—I must admit that I’ve never called him to heel,” her father replied, a little startled. “But he’s very tame; will come to your hand.” Evidently her father had unlatched the cricket-cage in order to demonstrate Frederick’s talents, for she heard a slight shuffle of feet.

“Nay, dinna bother,” Mr. Fraser—his Christian name was James; she’d seen it on a bill of sale for a calf-bound octavo of _Persian Letters_ with gilt impressions—said, laughing. “The beastie’s not my pet. A gentleman of my acquaintance wants something exotic to present to his mistress—she’s a taste for animals, he says.”

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A new #Minnie and Hal novella excerpt #Daily Lines:


#DailyLines #AFugitiveGreen #Novella #partofSevenSTONESToSTANDOrFALL #MinnieAndHal #OutJune27 #2017



“What are we looking for, then?” Minnie asked, pouring tea into her own cup so she could keep her eyes fixed on the amber stream. “In London, I mean.”

“Not we,” her father corrected. “Not this time. I have a bit of business to do in Sweden—speaking of Jacobites. You—“

“There are Swedish Jacobites?”

Her father sighed and rubbed his temples with the forefingers of each hand.

“My dear, you have no idea. They spring up like weeds—and like the grass of the field, in the evening they are cut down and wither. Just when you think they’re finally dead, though, something happens, and suddenly—but that’s of no matter to you. You’re to deliver a package to a particular gentleman, and to receive information from a list of contacts that I’ll give you. You needn’t question them; just take whatever they hand over. And naturally—“

“Tell them nothing,” she finished. She dropped a sugar lump into her own tea. “Of course not, Father, what sort of nincompoop do you think I am?”

That made him laugh, deep lines of amusement creasing his eyes almost shut.

“Where did you get that word?”

“Everyone says nincompoop,” she informed him. “You hear it in the street a dozen times a day.”

“Oh, I doubt it,” he said. “Know where it comes from, do you?”

“Samuel Johnson told me it was from _non compos mentis_.”

“Oh, that’s where you got it.” He’d stopped laughing, but still looked amused. “Well, Mr. Johnson would know. You’re still corresponding with him? He’s an Englishman, I grant you, but not at all what I have in mind for you, my girl. Bats in the belfry and not a penny to his name. Married, too,” he added as an afterthought. “Lives on his wife’s money.”

That surprised her, and not in a pleasant way. But he was entirely straightforward; his tone was the same as he used when instructing her closely in some important aspect of the work. They didn’t fence or mess each other about when it came to that, and she sat back a little, indicating by the inclination of her head that she was ready to listen.

“Mind you,” her father said, raising one ink-stained finger, “many folk would tell you that women have nothing on their minds but clothes, or parties, or what Lady What-not said about Sir Fart-Catcher at yesterday’s _salon_. And that’s a reasonable observation, but it’s only an observation. When you see something like that, you ask what’s behind it? Or, perhaps, under it,” he admitted judiciously. “Push the wine over, sweetheart. I’m done with business for the day.”

“I daresay you are,” she said tartly, and plunked the decanter of madeira in front of him. He’d been out all morning, nominally visiting booksellers and collectors of rarities, but in reality talking--talking and listening. And he never drank alcohol when working.

He refilled his glass and made to top hers up as well, but she shook her head and reached for the teapot; she’d been right about needing her wits.

“Chalk up another woman’s pattern there,” she said, sardonic. “They can’t hold drink in the quantities that men do—but they’re much less likely to become drunk.”

“Clearly you’ve never been down Gropecunt Lane in London after dark, my dear,” her father said imperturbably. “Not that I recommend it, mind. Women drink for the same reasons men do: in order to ignore circumstance, or to obliterate themselves. Given the right circumstance, either sex will drown itself. Women care much more about staying alive than men do, though. But enough talk—cut me a fresh pen, my dear, and let me tell you who you’ll see in London.”


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#DailyLines  #AFugitiveGreen  #HalAndMinniesStory  #ItsDONE  #Hooray#novella  #PublishedJune27  #InSevenSTONESToSTANDorFall



Minnie was perspiring, in spite of the cool morning, and the pin thrust through her straw hat had loosened. She paused, took off the hat, and was dabbing her face with a handkerchief when a male voice spoke in her ear.

“So here ye are!” it said triumphantly. “Jaysus God!” This last was the result of her having whipped the eight-inch hatpin from its moorings and aimed it at his breast.

“Who the blood helly are you, and what do you mean by following me?” Minnie demanded, glaring at him. Then she saw his eyes lift, seeing something over her shoulder, and the words, “…_two body-guards_…” dropped into her mind like pebbles dropped in water. _Merde_!

“Two,” she said flatly, and lowered the hatpin. “Mister O’Higgins, I presume? And…Mr. O’Higgins, as well?” she added, turning toward the other young man who had come up behind her. He grinned at her and bowed extravagantly, sweeping off his cap.

“Raphael Thomas O’Higgins, me lady,” he said. “Blood helly? Would that be a French expression, at all?”

“If you like,” she said, still annoyed. “And you?” She swung back to face the first pursuer, who was also grinning from ear to ear.

“Michael Seamas O’Higgins, Miss,” he said, with a bob of the head. “Mick, to my friends, and me brother there is Rafe. Ye were expecting us, I see?”

“Hmph. How long have you been following me?”

“Since ye left the house, sure,” Rafe said easily. “What was it spooked ye, would ye tell me? I thought we’d kept well back.”

“To be honest, I don’t know,” she said. The rush of fright and flight was fading from her blood, and her annoyance with it. “I just suddenly had a…feeling. Just something at the back of my neck. But I didn’t _know_ someone was following me until I ran into the park and you—“ nodding at Mick, “—ran in after me.”

The brothers O’Higgins exchanged a glance with lifted brows, but seemed to take this at face value.

“Aye, then,” Rafe said. “Well, we were to introjuice ourselves to ye at eleven o’ the clock, and I hear the bells sayin’ that’s just what it is now….so, Miss, is there anything we can be doin’ for you today? Any errands to be run, parcels picked up, perhaps the little small quiet murder on the side…?”

“How much is my father paying you?” she asked, beginning to be amused. “I doubt it extends to procuring murder.”

“Oh, we come cheap,” Mick assured her, straight-faced. “Though if it was to be anything of a fancy nature, beheading, say, or hiding multiple bodies, well, I won’t say but what that might not run into money.”


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#DailyLines  #AFugitiveGREEN  #novella #forSEVENStonesCOLLECTION#OutJune27  #WeHope  #ASpysNotebook#mykeyboarddoesntdoaccentsright

Somebody's doing some spying.  Here are their directions.  

Note, Diana pointed out (in response to a question on Facebook) that this story is set in 1744/45.  That time-frame explains a certain inconsistency in the "facts" stated here regarding a particular death vs. what we learn in other Lord John stories that are set in later years.



Prècis: Harold Grey, Duke of Pardloe

Family Background: Gerard Grey, Earl of Melton, was given the title Duke of Pardloe (with considerable estates) in reward of his raising of a regiment (46th Infantry), which served with distinction during the Jacobite Rebellions of 1715 and 1719, seeing combat at Preston and Sherrifmuir. However, the Duke’s allegiance to the Crown appeared to waver during the reign of George II, and Gerard Grey was implicated in the Cornbury Plot. While he escaped arrest at that time, a later plot caused a warrant for his arrest on a charge of treason to be issued. Hearing of this, Pardloe shot himself in the conservatory of his country estate before the arrest could be made.

Pardloe’s eldest son, Harold Grey, succeeded to the title at the age of 21, upon his father’s death. While the title was not formally attainted, the younger Grey considered the title stained with treason and refused to adopt it, preferring to be known by the older family title, Earl of Melton. Married to Esmè Dufresne (a younger daughter of the Marquis de Robillard) shortly before his father’s suicide.

The present Duke has publicly and violently rejected all Jacobite associations (from necessity), but this does not mean such associations have rejected him, nor that such rejection reflects his true inclination. There is considerable interest in some quarters as to the Duke’s political leanings and affiliations, and any letters, known meetings with persons of interest (list attached) or private conversations that might give indications of Jacobite leanings would be valuable.

Prècis: Sir Robert Abdy, Baronet
Succeeded to the title at the age of three, and while living a personally (and regrettably) virtuous life, became heavily involved in Jacobite politics, and last year, was so injudicious as to sign his name to a petition sent to Louis of France, urging French invasion of Britain in support of a Stuart Restoration. Needless to say, this is not generally known in Britain, and it would not be a good idea to mention it directly to Sir Robert. Neither should you approach him, though he is active in society and you may encounter him. If so, we are particularly interested in his present associations—names only, for the present. Don’t get too close.

Prècis: Henry Scudamore, Duke of Beaufort

The fourth richest man in England, and likewise a signatory to the French petition. Very much seen in society, and makes little secret of his political inclinations.

His private life is much less virtuous than Sir Robert’s, I’m afraid. Having adopted his wife’s surname by Act of Parliament, he sued last year to divorce her on grounds of adultery (true: she was having an adulterous relationship with William Talbot, heir to Earl Talbot, and she wasn’t discreet about it). The lady—her name is Frances—promptly countersued on grounds that the Duke was impotent. The Duke, who is no shrinking violet, demonstrated before several court-appointed examiners that he was capable of having an erection, won his divorce, and is now presumably enjoying his freedom.

_Don’t_ get too close. Associates, names only for the present.


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And now an excerpt from the other brand new novella coming out in June:


#DailyLines #BESIEGED #Novella #ForSEVENStonesCollection #OutJune27 #Havana #1762 #LordJohn



After a wait of some five minutes had failed to produce anyone—let alone his mother or something comestible—Grey left his small, queasy party on the portico and ventured round the house. Splashing noises, sharp cries, and the reek of lye soap seemed to indicate that laundry was being done at no great distance. This impression was confirmed as he came round the corner of the house into a rear courtyard, and was struck in the face by a thick cloud of hot, wet air, scented with dirty linen, wood-smoke and fried plantains.

A number of women and children were working in the vicinity of a huge cauldron, this mounted on a sort of brick hearth with a fire beneath—this in turn being fed by two or three small, mostly naked children who were poking sticks into it. Two women were stirring the mess in the cauldron with huge wooden forks, one of them bawling at the children in Spanish with what he assumed were dire warnings against being underfoot, not getting splashed, and keeping well clear of the soap-bucket.

The courtyard itself looked like Dante’s Fifth Circle of Hell, with sullen gurglings from the cauldron and drifting wisps of steam and smoke giving the scene a sinister Styx-like cast. More women were pinning up sopping clothes on lines strung round the pillars supporting a sort of loggia and still others were tending braziers and griddles in a corner, from which drifted the fragrant smells of food. Everyone was talking, all at once, in a Spanish punctuated by macaw-like shrieks of laughter. Knowing that his mother was much less likely to be interested in laundry than in food, he edged round the courtyard—totally ignored by everyone—toward the cooks.

He saw her at once; her back was turned to him, hair hanging down her back in a long, thick plait, and she was talking, waving her hands, to a coal-black woman who was squatting, bare-footed, on the tiles of the courtyard, patting out some sort of flat bread onto a hot, greased stone.

“That smells good,” he said, walking up beside her. “What is it?”

“Tortillas,” she said, turning to him and raising an eyebrow. “And plaintains and ropas viejas. That means, “old clothes,” and while the name is quite descriptive, it’s actually very good. Are you hungry? Why do I bother asking,” she added, before he could answer, “Naturally you are.”

“Naturally,” he said, and was, the last vestiges of seasickness vanishing in the scents of garlic and spice. “I didn’t know you could speak Spanish, Mother.”

“Well, I don’t know about speaking, so much,” she said, thumbing a straggle of graying blonde hair out of her left eye, “but I gesture fluently. What are you doing here, John?”



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And a second #Daily Lines excerpt:



#DailyLines #BESIEGED #Novella #forSEVENStonesCOLLECTION #OutJune27th #smallspoilerinthis #nothingplotwise




Grey had never seen a black person turn white before. Azeel had gone the color of grimy old bones, and was clutching Rodrigo’s hand as though one or both of them were about to be dragged off by slavers.

“Are you given to seasickness, Mrs. Sanchez?” he asked, making his way to them through the confusion of the docks. She swallowed heavily, but shook her head, unable to take her eyes off the Otter. Rodrigo was unable to take his eyes off her, and was anxiously patting her hand. He turned to Grey, fumbling for English words.

“She…scare…” He looked helplessly back and forth between his wife and his employer. Then he nodded a bit, making up his mind, then looked at Grey while pointing to Azeel. He lowered his hand, indicating something—someone?—short. Then turned to the sea and flung his arm wide, gesturing to the horizon.

“_Africa_,” he said, turning back to Grey and putting his arm around his wife’s shoulders. His face was solemn.

“Oh, Jesus,” Grey said to Azeel. “You were brought from Africa as a child? Is that what he means?”

“Jes,” she said, and swallowed again. “I was…bery…small.”

“Your parents? Were they…” His voice died in his throat. He’d seen a slave ship only once, and that at a distance. He would remember the smell for as long as he lived. And the body that had bobbed up suddenly beside his own ship, thrown overboard by the slaver. It might have been dead kelp or a blood-bleached scrap from a whaling ship, bobbing in the waves, emaciated, sexless, scarcely human. The color of old bones.

Azeel shook her head. Not in negation, but in a vain refusal to think of dreadful things.

“Africa,” she said softly. “Dey dead. In Africa.”

_Africa_. The sound of the word prickled over Grey’s skin like a centipede, and he shook himself suddenly.

“It’s all right,” he said to her firmly. “You are free now.” At least he hoped so.

He had managed her manumission a few months before, in recognition of her services during the slave rebellion during which the late Governor Warren had been killed by zombies. Or rather, by men under the delusion that they were zombies. Grey doubted that this distinction had been appreciated by the governor.

Grey didn’t know whether the girl had been Warren’s personal property, and he didn’t ask her. He’d taken advantage of his own doubt to tell Mr. Dawes, the governor’s erstwhile secretary, that as there was no record of her provenance, they should assume that she was technically the property of His Majesty, and should thus be omitted from the list of Governor Warren’s belongings.

Mr. Dawes, an excellent secretary, had made a noise like a mildly consumptive sheep and lowered his eyes in acquiescence.

Grey had then—as the agent of His Majesty--dictated a brief letter of manumission, signed this as acting military Governor of Jamaica and had Mr. Dawes affix the most impressive looking seal in his collection—Grey thought it was the seal of the department of weights and measures, but it was done in red wax and looked very impressive.

“You have your paper with you?” he asked. Azeel nodded, obedient. But her eyes, large and black, lingered fearfully on the ship.

The master of the cutter, having been apprised of their presence, now popped up on deck and came to the head of the gangplank to meet them.

“Lord John?” he asked respectfully. “Lieutenant Geoffrey Rimes, commander. Your servant, sir!”

Lieutenant Rimes looked about seventeen, very blond and small for his age. He was, however, wearing proper uniform and looked both cheerful and capable.

“Thank you, Lieutenant.” Grey bowed. “I understand that you…er…obliged General Stanley by bringing him here. And that you are now willing to convey me and my party to Havana?”

Lieutenant Rimes pursed his lips in thought.

“Well, I suppose I can do that, my lord. I’m to rendezvous with the fleet here, in Jamaica, but as they won’t likely arrive for another two weeks, I think I can deliver you safe to Havana, then skip back here to make my meeting.”

A small knot formed in Grey’s stomach.

“You…mean to leave us in Havana?”

“Well, yes, my lord,” he said cheerfully. “Unless you can manage your business within two days, I’ll have to. Orders, you know.” He pulled a commiserating face.

“I’m not really meant to be going to Havana, you know,” he said, leaning forward on a confidential manner and lowering his voice. “But I hadn’t any orders to stay in Jamaica, either, if you know what I mean. As written, my orders just say I’m to rendezvous here with the fleet, after delivering the message to [Sir James]. As I’ve already done that…well, the navy’s always willing to oblige the army—when it suits,” he added honestly. “And I’m thinking it wouldn’t do me any harm to have a look at Havana harbor and be able to tell Admiral Pocock about it when he gets here.”

Grey was thinking that Lieutenant Rimes was equally likely to rise to great heights in his service, or to be court-martialed and hanged at Execution Dock, but he kept these thoughts to himself for the present.


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Diana posted this on Monday to help explain some writing questions to a Twitter follower. So she thought we'd enjoy this as well.


#DailyLines #BESIEGED #novella #exposition #withbodylanguage #withquestions #withchangingvisualfocus #forSEVENStonesToStandORFall #OutJune27th

[Was just having an interesting conversation with a Twitter person who's a graphics designer (and illustrator, I think), who was advising writers that huge chunks of exposition "and walls of text" are avoidable, and urging them to let their characters _do_ something besides just talk.

As it happens, I'd just done a small scene that's mostly exposition, so thought I'd post it as an example--and having put it on Twitter, figures I might as well give y'all here the advantage of seeing it as well. <g> (It's not really spoiler-ish, but it does lay out the main conflict of the story--which shouldn't bother anyone, as said conflict is mentioned in every single description of the story.)]



“What do you mean, is it starting already?” Grey said, startled. He stared hard at his mother. “Do you know about the—“ he glanced round and lowered his voice, though no one was in sight and the laughter and chittering from the patio continued unabated. “—the invasion?”

Her eyes flew open wide.

“The _what_?” she said loudly, then glanced hastily over her shoulder toward the open door. “When?” she said, turning back and lowering her own voice.

“Well, now, more or less,” Grey said. He got up and quietly closed the door. The racket from the patio diminished appreciably.

“General Stanley turned up on my doorstep in Jamaica a week ago, with the news that the British navy was on its way to take Martinique, and then—if all goes as planned—Cuba. He rather thought it would be a good idea for you and Olivia to leave before they get here.”

“I quite agree with him.” His mother closed her eyes and rubbed her hands hard over her face, then shook her head violently, as though dislodging bats and opened her eyes again. “Where is he?” she asked, with some semblance of calm.

“Jamaica. He’d, um, managed to borrow a naval cutter while the navy was preparing to take Martinique, and came ahead as fast as he could, in hopes of warning you in time.”

“Yes, yes,” she said impatiently, “very good of him. But why is he in Jamaica, and not here?”

“Gout.” And quite possibly a few other infirmities, but no point in worrying her. She looked sharply at him, but didn’t ask further.

“Poor George,” she said, and bit her lip. “Well, then. Olivia and the children are in the country, staying with a Senora Valdez. She’s the wife of [ ], commander of La Punta,” she added in explanation.

“How far in the country?” Grey was making hasty calculations. Three women, two children, three men…four, with Malcolm. Ah, Malcolm… “Is Malcolm with them?”

“Oh, no. I’m not sure where he is, “ she added dubiously. “He travels a good deal, and with Olivia gone, he often stays in Havana—he has an office in La Punta—that’s the fortress on the [east] side of the harbor. But he does sleep here now and then.”

“Oh, does he?” Grey tried to keep the edge out of his voice, but his mother glanced at him sharply. He looked away. If she didn’t know about Malcolm’s proclivities, he wasn’t going to tell her.

“I need to talk to him as quickly as possible,” he said. “Meanwhile, we must fetch Olivia and the children back here, but without giving the impression that there’s any sort of emergency. If you’ll write a note that will accomplish that, I’ll have Rodrigo and Azeel carry it—they can help Olivia to pack up and help mind the children on the way.”

“Yes, of course.”

There was a small secretaire, rustic in design, crouched in the shadows. He hadn’t noticed it until his mother opened it and swiftly produced paper, quill and inkwell. She uncorked the latter, found it dry, said something under her breath in Greek that sounded like a curse but probably wasn’t, and crossing the room quickly, removed a bunch of yellow flowers from a pottery vase and poured some of the water from it into the empty well.

She shook ink-powder into the well and was stirring the mixture briskly with a bedraggled quill when something occurred belatedly to Grey.

“What did you mean, Mother, when you said, ‘Is it starting already?’ Because you didn’t know about the invasion, did you?”

She glanced up at him sharply, ceasing to stir. Then she took a deep breath, like one marshaling her mental forces, visibly made a decision, and put down the quill and ink.

“No,” she said, turning to him. “George told me such a thing was being quietly discussed—but I left England in September. War with Spain hadn’t yet been declared, though anyone could have seen that it was coming. No,” she repeated, and looked at him intently. “I meant the slave revolt.”

John stared at his mother for the space of thirty seconds or so, then slowly sank onto a wooden pew that ran along the side of the room. He closed his eyes briefly, shook his head and opened them.

“Is there anything to drink in this establishment, Mother?”


[end section]

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#DailyLines  #BESIEGED  #novella  #forSEVENStonesCOLLECTION#OutJune27



Malcolm looked twenty years older than he had last time Grey had seen him. He was still broad-shouldered and thick-bodied, but he seemed to have softened and fallen in on himself, like a slightly decayed melon.

“Grey!” he said, his tired face brightening. “Wherever did you spring from?”

“Zeus’s forehead, no doubt,” Grey said. “Where have you come from, for that matter?” The skirts of Stubbs’s coat were thick with red dust, and he smelt strongly of horse.

“Oh…here and there.” Malcolm beat the dust perfunctorily from his coat and subsided into his chair with a groan. “Oh, God. Stick your head out and call for a servant, will you? I need a drink and some food before I perish.”

Well, he did know the Spanish word for “beer”…Sticking his head out into the corridor as advised, he spotted two servant-girls loitering by the window at the far end, evidently talking to someone in the courtyard below, their conversation accompanied by a good deal of giggling.

Interrupting this colloquy with a brief ‘Hoy!’, he said “_Cerveza_?” in a tone of polite inquiry, following this with scooping motions toward his mouth.

“_Si, senor_!” one of the girls said, with a hasty bob, adding something else in a questioning voice.

“Certainly,” he said cordially. “Er…I mean, _si_! Um…_gracias_,” he added, wondering what he had just agreed to. Both girls curtsied and vanished in a swirl of skirts, though, presumably to fetch something edible. 

“What is _pulpo_?” he asked, returning to the office and sitting down opposite Malcolm.

“Octopus,” Malcolm replied, emerging from the folds of a linen towel with which he’d been wiping dirt from his face. “Why?”

“Just wondered.”


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#DailyLines #BESIEGED #novella #ForSEVENStonesToSTANDorFALL #LordJohn #MalcolmStubbs #inHavana #outJune27th



“But you discovered this plan, and rather than mentioning it to the commandante….”

Malcolm shrugged.

“Well, we are at war with the Spanish, are we not? I met with the two leaders of the revolt and, er, convinced them that there was a better way to achieve their ends.”

“Alone? I mean—you went to meet these men by yourself?”

“Of course,” Malcolm said simply. “I wouldn’t have got near them, had I come mob-handed. Didn’t have a mob to hand, anyway,” he added, turning to Grey with a self-conscious grin that suddenly took years off his careworn face.

“I met Innocencia’s cousin at the edge of the Saavedra plantation, and she took me to a big tobacco-shed,” he went on, the grin fading. “It was almost nightfall, so darkish inside. Lots of shadows, and I couldn’t tell how many men were there; it felt as though the whole place was moving and whispering, but likely that was just the drying leaves—they’re quite big, did you know? A plant is almost the size of a man. They hang them up, up in the rafters, and they brush against each other with this dry sort of rustle, almost like they’re tittering to themselves…put the wind up me, a bit.”

Grey tried to imagine that meeting, and surprisingly, could envision it: Malcolm, artificial foot and all, limping alone into a dark shed to convince dangerous men to forego their own murderous plans in favor of his. In Spanish.

“You aren’t dead, so they listened to you,” Grey said slowly. “What did you offer them?”

“Freedom,” Malcolm said simply. “I mean--the army goes about freeing slaves who enlist—why oughtn’t the navy to be similarly enlightened?”

“I have some doubts that a sailor’s life is noticeably better than that of a slave,” Grey said dubiously. “In terms of food, they may be better off as they are.”

“I don’t mean they’re to enlist, booby,” Malcolm said. “But I’m sure I can persuade either Albemarle or Admiral Pocock that they should be freed in token of regard for their service. If they survive,” he added thoughtfully.

Grey was beginning to think that Malcolm might actually be a decent diplomat. Still…


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And another one......



#DailyLines #BESIEGED #novella #forSEVENStonesToSTANDorFALL #LordJohn #InvasionOfCuba #OutJune27th



The wig would have been much too large, given Malcolm’s round-headed resemblance to an oversized muskmelon, but Grey’s own hair—yellow and noticeable, as Malcolm had so tactfully noted—was thick, and with it stuffed up inside the wig, the horsehair contrivance sat securely, if uncomfortably. He hoped that Malcolm didn’t suffer from lice, but forgot such minor concerns as he made his way through the throngs of people in the street outside La Punta.

There was an air of curiosity in the street; people glanced at the fortress as they passed, clearly sensing some disturbance from its daily routine. But the news had not yet spread; for that matter, Grey wondered whether the news had officially reached the office of the commandante—or his sick-bed, as the case might be. Neither he nor Malcolm had had any doubt; only the most urgent news would have got the cutter past the boom-chain with such dispatch.

The guard at the fortress’s street gate had given him no more than a casual glance before waving him through; as was the case in peacetime, there were nearly as many civilians as soldiers inside the fort, and there were plenty of fair-skinned, blue-eyed Spaniards. The cut of his suit was not in the Spanish style, but it was by no means flamboyant.

He was going to need a horse—that was the first thing. He could walk ten miles, but doing so in his court shoes would be both slow and painful—and making the round-trip of twenty miles on foot…he glanced up at the sky; it was well past noon. Granted, in this latitude, the sun wouldn’t set before eight or nine o’clock, but…

“Why the devil didn’t I ask Stubbs what the word for ‘horse’ is?” he muttered under his breath, threading his way through a small plaza of fragrant market stalls filled with fruit—he recognized plantains, of course, and papayas, mangos, coconuts and pineapples, but there were odd dark-green things that he’d not seen before, with pebbly skins, and lighter green objects that he thought might be custard apples—whatever they were, they smelled delicious. His stomach growled—what with one thing and another, he hadn’t eaten since dawn—his head snapped round, as he smelled something of a distinctly different nature. Fresh manure.


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I know what Diana means when she's trying to finish a manuscript (although mine are now semiannual updates of a work used by lawyers, until mid November that had been annual). In any event this is the most recent #Daily Lines posted March 28th.


#DailyLines #BESIEGED #Novella #ForSEVENStones #ItsDONE #!!! #OutJUNE27th #LordJohn #SiegeOfHavana #1762 #NakedInAMangoGrove



Four days later—it had taken more time than anticipated to find what was needed--Lord John Grey stood naked in the middle of a grove of mangoes, on a hill overlooking the hacienda of the Mendez family.

He’d seen the big house as they rode into the plantation, a sprawling establishment of rooms added over the years, odd wings sprouting from unexpected places, clusters of outbuildings clustered near it in an untidy constellation. _One of the complicated ones_, he thought, looking down on it. _ Cassiopeia, maybe, or Aquarius. One of the ones where you just take the ancient astronomer’s word for what you’re looking at_.

The windows in the main house had been lighted, with servants passing to and fro like shadows in the dusk, but they had been too far away to hear any of the noises of the place, and he was left with a queer sensation of having seen something ghostly, that might suddenly be swallowed by the night.

In fact, it had been, in the sense that the hacienda was invisible from his present situation—and a good thing, too. His traveling clothes lay puddled on the leaf-mold in which his bare feet were sunk and small insects were treating his private parts with an unseemly familiarity. This caused him to rummage his pack first for the bottle of coconut-mint elixir and apply this lavishly before getting dressed.

Not for the first time—nor, he was sure, the last—he deeply regretted the absence of Tom Byrd. He was actually capable of dressing himself, though both he and Tom acted on the tacit assumption that he wasn’t. But what he missed most at the moment was the sense of solemn ceremony that attended Tom’s dressing him in full uniform. It was as though he assumed a different persona with scarlet coat and gold lace, Tom’s respect giving him belief in his own authority, as though he put on not only uniform, but armor and office.

He could bloody use that belief just now. He swore softly under his breath as he struggled into the moleskin breeches and brushed bits of leaf off each foot before pulling on his silk stockings. It was a gamble, but he felt that the chances of these men taking him seriously, listening to him, and—above all—trusting him, would be increased if he appeared not just as a stand-in for Malcolm Stubbs, but as the incarnation of England, as it were; a true representative of the king. They had to trust that he could do what he said he would do for them, or it was all up. For the haciendados--and for him.

“Wouldn’t do the bloody navy any good, either,” he muttered, tying his neckcloth by feel.

Done at last, his traveling clothes bundled into the pack, he heaved a sigh of relief and stood still for a minute to gather himself, settle into the uniform.

He’d had no idea mango trees grew to such a size; this was an old grove, the trees each more than a hundred feet in height, the leaves rising and falling gently on the evening breeze, making a sound like the sea overhead. Something slithered heavily in the fallen leaves near him and he froze. But the serpent—if that’s what it was—continued on its way, untroubled by his presence.

Rodrigo, Azeel and Innocencia were where he had left them, no more than a hundred yards away, but he felt entirely alone. His mind had gone blank, and he welcomed that respite. Windfalls of unripe fruit knocked down by a storm lay all around like pale green cricket balls in the leaves, but the fruit still on the trees had gone yellow—he’d seen it in the twilight as they came up into the grove—and had begun to blush crimson. Now it was dark, and he only sensed the mangoes when he brushed a low-lying branch and felt the heavy swing of the fruit.

He was walking, not having made up his mind to do so nor remembering the taking of the first step, but walking, propelled into motion by a sense that it was time.

He came down through the grove and found Rodrigo and the girls on their feet, in murmured conversation with a tall, spare young woman—Innocencia’s cousin, Alejandra, who would take them to the tobacco shed.

All of them turned to see him, and Alejandra’s eyes widened, gleaming in the moonlight.

“_Hijo_,” she said.

“Thank you, madam,” he said, and bowed to her. “Shall we go?”



Edited by theschnauzers
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Diana gave us another @DailyLines from #Besieged, the newest #LordJohn Gray novella to be published in June:


#DailyLines #BESIEGED #LordJohnGrey #Novella #inSevenSTONESToSTANDorFALL #OutJune27th !



“I see. Why—oh.” He caught sight of Azeel, who had arrived but was waiting respectfully in the doorway to be summoned. “Do come in, my dear; I want you to meet someone.”

Azeel entered but stopped short at sight of General Stanley, the look of happy anticipation on her face turning at once to one of caution. She dropped a low curtsy to the general, modestly lowering her white-capped head.

“General, may I present Mrs. Sanchez, my housekeeper? Mrs. Sanchez, this is General Stanley, my stepfather.”

“Oh!” she exclaimed in surprise, and then blushed—a lovely sight, as the color in her dark cheeks made her look like a black rose. “Your servant, sir!”

“Your most humble, madam.” The general bowed as gallantly as possible while remaining seated. “You must forgive my not standing . . .” He gestured ruefully toward his bandaged foot.

She made a graceful gesture of dismissal and turned toward John.

“This is—your . . .” She groped for the word. “He is the next governor?”

“No, he’s not my replacement,” John said. “That’s Mr. Braythwaite; you saw him at the garden party. No, the general has come to give me some disturbing news, I’m afraid. Do you think you could fetch your husband, Mrs. Sanchez? I wish to discuss the situation with you both.”

She looked both astonished and concerned at this and studied him carefully to see if he meant it. He nodded, and she at once curtsied again and vanished, her sandal heels tapping on the tiles in agitation.

“Her husband?” General Stanley said, in some surprise.

“Yes. Rodrigo is . . . er . . . a sort of factotum.”

“I see,” said the general, who plainly didn’t. “But if this Braythwaite is already on board, so to speak, won’t he want to make his own domestic arrangements?”

“I imagine so. I, um, had had it in mind to take Azeel and Rodrigo with me to South Carolina. But they may be helpful to the present venture, if . . . er . . . if Rodrigo is sufficiently recovered.”

“Has he been ill?” Worry creased the general’s already-furrowed brow. “I hear the yellow jack comes to the West Indies at this season, but I hadn’t thought Jamaica was badly affected.”

“No, not ill, exactly. He had the misfortune to run afoul of a houngan—a sort of, um, African wizard, I believe—and was turned into a zombie.”

“A what?” The look of worry was superseded by one of astonishment.

Grey drew a deep breath and took a long swallow of his drink, the sound of Rodrigo’s own description echoing in his ears.

“_Zombie are dead people, _ Sah_.”

General Stanley was still blinking in astonishment at Grey’s brief description of the events that had culminated in his own appointment as military governor—Grey judiciously suppressing the facts that Azeel had commissioned an Obeah man to drive the previous governor mad and that Rodrigo had gone one step further and arranged to have the late Governor Warren killed and partially devoured—when the sound of footsteps echoed once again in the corridor. Two people this time: the clack of Azeel’s sandals but now walking slowly, to accommodate the slightly limping gait of the booted person accompanying her.

Grey stood up as they came in, Azeel hovering protectively behind Rodrigo.

The young man stopped, taking a deep breath before bowing deeply to the gentlemen.

“Your . . . servant. Sah,” he said to Grey, and then straightened, turned upon his axis, and repeated this process to the general, who watched him with a mixture of fascination and wariness.

Every time he saw Rodrigo, Grey’s heart was torn between regret for what the young man had once been—and a cautious joy in the fact that some of that splendid young man seemed still to be present, intact, and might yet come back further.

He was still beautiful, in a way that made Grey’s body tighten every time he saw that dark, finely carved head and the tall straight lines of his body. The lovely cat-like grace of him was gone, but he could walk again, almost normally, though one foot dragged a little.

It had taken weeks of careful nursing by Azeel—she was the only member of Grey’s household who was not terrorized by Rodrigo’s mere proximity—with help from Tom, who was afraid, too, but thought it wasn’t becoming for an Englishman to admit it.

Rodrigo had been nothing more than a shell of himself when Grey had rescued him and Tom from the maroons who had kidnapped them, and no one had expected that he would survive. Zombies didn’t. Drugged with zombie poison—Grey had little notion what was in the stuff, beyond the liver of some remarkably poisonous fish—and buried in a shallow grave, the person attacked by a houngan woke after some time to find himself apparently dead and buried.

Rising in a state of mental and physical disorientation, they numbly followed the orders of the houngan, until they died of starvation and the aftereffects of the drugs—or were killed. Zombies were (justifiably, Grey thought) viewed with horror by everyone, even by the people who had once loved them. Left without food, shelter, or kindness, they didn’t last long.

But Grey had refused to abandon Rodrigo, and so had Azeel. She had brought him slowly, slowly back to humanity—and then had married him, to the extreme horror of everyone in King’s Town.


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