Minerva Rennie is apprenticed to her father, a seller of rare books in Paris and purveyor of sensitive information. When her father sends her to London to acquire both books and intelligence, she meets Harold Grey, a man who is at loose ends and seems to be slightly insane. When Hal's friend, Harry Quarry, learns of her spy activities, he hires Minnie to find evidence that Hal's late wife, Esme, was cheating on him so as to justify to a board of inquiry Hal's involvement in a duel so that he can, once again, raise his late father's army regiment. As Minnie investigates, she discovers letters between Esme and her lover that make her sympathetic toward Hal. When Hal catches her trying to return the letters, it leads to a passionate encounter that ends with a complication, but Minnie has no intention of staying in London once her work is done.
In the span of a short time, Harold Gray's father committed suicide while facing charges of treason and he discovered that Esme was cheating on him with his best friend. Hal felt he had no choice but to call out his friend who he then killed in a duel, after which Esme died in childbirth. Since then he's been heartbroken and struggling to make sense of things while experiencing spells that leave him debilitated for short periods of time. When he meets Minnie, she's a breath of fresh air and very kind to him, a woman who he could see himself giving his heart to again. He's also trying to raise his father's army regiment but finding it difficult with questions swirling surrounding the duel. Then he finds Minnie in his office returning his late wife's love letters, after which one thing leads to another. Following their encounter, Hal has every intention of calling on Minnie again, but when she disappears, his romantic mission might not be so straightforward.
"A Fugitive Green" is a side novella that relates to both of Diana Gabaldon's series, Outlander and Lord John. It takes place concurrently with events in Dragonfly in Amber when Jamie and Claire are still in Paris in the days leading up to the Jacobite uprising, and Jamie actually appears in a scene early in the narrative. However, it also connects to Lord John in that it tells the story of how John's older brother, Harold aka Hal, met and married his second wife, Minnie. Hal is still reeling from a double scandal in the Grey family. Their father, who was accused of treason, took his own life, and Hal had been the one to find the body. He's now technically the Duke of Pardloe, but he refuses to use his title because he feels it's tainted. As if that wasn't bad enough, just a few months before this story opens, Hal also discovered that his first wife, Esme, was having an affair with his friend, Nathaniel Twelvetrees. As a matter of honor, he called out Nathaniel and killed him in a duel, then Esme died in childbirth shortly after. So Hal is not in a good place. While battling panic attacks, he's trying to get permission from the king to raise his father's regiment again, but finding it difficult with questions regarding the duel hanging over his head.
For her part, Minnie grew up with a single father and never knew her mother, whom she seeks out in the course of the story only to discover a scandal of her own. Her father is a bookseller and dealer in covert information, endeavors with which Minnie helps. He sends Minnie to London on both sorts of business, where she becomes embroiled in a little more than she bargained for but nothing she can't handle. Hal's friend, Harry Quarry, who was a fixture throughout the Lord John books, finds out about Minnie's spy activities and hires her to find solid proof that Esme was indeed having an affair, which would justify Hal's calling out of her lover, so that any doubt in the king's mind of Hal's fitness for service to the regiment he's trying to get reinstated will be erased. There are letters between the lovers in Hal's possession but he doesn't want to turn over something so embarrassing and personal if he can help it. However, Minnie gets her hands on them and the picture they paint is one that makes her deeply sympathize with Hal, so that when she finally meets the man in person, one thing leads to another. But Minnie has no intention of staying in England and never gave Hal her real name.
Throughout the Lord John novels, we learn a lot of the background on the Grey family that is expounded upon in "A Fugitive Green." Hal was always a strong supporter of John's, looking out for his younger brother in any way he could. He's also a staunch military man, but here we get to see a little different side of him. He's vulnerable and reeling from all the scandalous things that have been happening and he's also heartbroken at his wife and friend's betrayal, as well as feeling like he had no choice but to kill his friend. This is the man that Minnie finds when she first meets him and nurses him through a panic attack. From the Lord John books, we find that Minnie has a history as a spy and sometimes still helps broker sensitive information for Hal and John. She's always been a real force to be reckoned with and here she's no different. She fearlessly takes on the work that her father assigns her, but she also decides to take Hal's case that Harry brings to her. Through Hal's letters, she finds herself sympathizing with and perhaps even falling a little for this man who's been so wronged. It stirs her empathy and makes her want to help Hal and find a way to ease his pain if she can. She's an incredibly strong young woman who deals with a lot in a short space of time with grace and dignity, but at the same time, she's a natural nurturer who cares about others, something that I recall seeing in her in the Lord John stories. Minnie is not unlike Claire and I think if the two women had ever met, they'd get on well. I also think she was exactly the person Hal needed after all that he'd been through. While their romance isn't necessarily front-and-center, there's enough of it that I'm comfortable categorizing this story as romance especially since they do get a happy ending. Overall, I really enjoyed this deeper peek into these two characters who were such a big part of Lord John's life.
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