Lord John Grey has completed his governorship of Jamaica and is preparing to depart the island when his stepfather, General Stanley, brings news that England has declared war on Spain and is about to lay siege to Cuba. The only problem is that certain members of John's family, including his mother, currently reside in Havana, so the General has asked for his help in getting them out of the city before England attacks. John travels to the island where he discovers that Malcolm, his cousin-in-law and diplomatic liaison, is trying to play both sides by remaining as friendly as possible with the Spaniards while leveraging an impending slave revolt to coincide with the English invasion and hopefully help them win. Before John can make travel plans for the rest of his family, Malcolm is taken prisoner by the Spanish soldiers, leaving John to meet with the slaves and pull off his daring plan alone.
"Besieged" is a short novella in Diana Gabaldon's Lord John series that takes place nearly a year after the events of "A Plague of Zombies." In it, John's tenure as governor of Jamaica has ended and he's preparing to leave the island. While awaiting his successor, John's stepfather, General Stanley, arrives, telling him that the English are planning a siege of Havana and that his mother is in the city along with his cousin, her husband, and their children. Stanley asks for John's help in getting them all - but his mother in particular - out of Cuba before the fighting starts. Upon arriving in Havana, John meets up with his cousin-in-law, Malcolm Stubbs, who is acting as a diplomat of sorts. Malcolm knows that England has declared war on Spain and will soon be attacking Cuba, so he's leveraged a brewing slave revolt to try to help the English win without appearing to take sides. John's main concern is getting his mother, cousin, and her children out of Havana, but before he can manage that, Malcolm is imprisoned in the Spanish garrison, leaving only John to make sure that the slave revolt happens as planned.
Overall, this was a good story in the series. It begins a little slowly as the reader is brought up to speed on what's happening from a political perspective in Cuba, but from the point where John must take over the operation, things became more interesting, eventually ending in an exciting battle. Sadly, though, a tragedy befalls the Grey family before all is said and done. We also get to revisit a number of characters from the series including Malcolm, who is unfortunately still a philanderer. We learn a little more about John's mother, who is clearly a kind, caring woman with an adventurous spirit. John's zombie (no, not exactly that kind of zombie;-)) servant, Rodrigo, who was introduced in "A Plague of Zombies," along with his wife, Azeel, help John with translations in his dealings with both the slaves and the Spanish inhabitants of the island. And of course, his ever-loyal valet, Tom Byrd, is there to cluck over him like a mother hen. Ultimately "Besieged" wasn't one of my favorite stories in the series, but it was still a pretty enjoyable one. Finishing this novella now brings me up to date with the series. I haven't heard whether Ms. Gabaldon has plans to write any more stories for Lord John, but if she does, I'll gladly read them. Lord John is one of my favorite characters in the Outlander series, so I'll take any excuse to visit with him.:-) "Besieged" can be found in the anthology Seven Stones to Stand or Fall.
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