Lord Miles Vorkosigan has a problem that all his new power can't solve: unrequited love for the beautiful Vor widow Ekaterin Vorsoisson. Ekaterin is violently allergic to marriage as a result of her first exposure. But as Miles learned from his late career in galactic covert ops, if a frontal assault won't do, go to subterfuge.
Miles has a cunning plan, which, of course, has to be worked out in between District succession scandals and plans for the Emperor's wedding. And if no battle plan survives first contact with the enemy, just imagine what all Miles's friends and relatives can do to his romantic strategy.
The Miles Vorkosigan series of adventures is far and away the most amusing comedy science fiction series ever written. This is the ninth Miles Vorkosigan adventure, and in my opinion the funniest book in the series.
It is slightly different from the other nine books in the series - the first eight and the last one all have elements of action adventure, mystery and detection. This one, on the other hand, can best be understood as a "Regency Romance" style farce set several hundred years in the future on a planet which in some ways is used to high technology and in others is a quasi-feudal militaristic Empire. In other words, it mimics the style, and has a very similar plot, to the popular genre of romantic novels set in Georgian England during the "Regency" period in the early 19th century. Think Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer meet Star Wars with a hint of "The West WIng" thrown in.
The Miles Vorkosigan stories, and four other books set in the the same future universe, can stand on their own. However, a number of them, of which this is one, will give you something extra if you have previously read some of Bujold\'s books set earlier on the same timeline.
If you have not previously met Lord Miles Vorkosigan, he is
1) a brilliant intriguer who at one stage was juggling at least three identities;
2) physically very small, having been injured in his mother\'s womb by poison gas;
3) a former spy for Imperial Barrayan security, former mercenary admiral and present "Imperial Auditor";
4) desperately trying to find a wife; and
5) hysterically funny to read about.
The book is set in the run-up to the wedding of Miles' cousin, the Emperor. The handsome, tall man on the book cover with his bride is Emperor Gregor, and definitely not the hero of the stories, Lord Miles Vorkosigan. Miles is neither tall nor handsome, but he makes up for it in other ways - some of the time, anyway.
Several other people are thinking about love and marriage, including Miles himself, as he is very much in love with Ekaterin who he met in the previous book, "Komarr".
Miles' friend Duv Galeni, his clone-brother Mark, and his cousin Ivan also have their own romantic plans, and their various romantic intrigues collide not only with each other, but with those of various scheming nobles who are fighting over the inheritance of two titles, those of Ekaterin\'s idiotic relatives, and of two luckless Escobarran policemen.
At one point, Miles' mother Cordelia has to sort out the angry parents of Miles' childhood friends the Koudelka sisters. If you want to understand some of the references here, you will have to read the story of how the previous generations of Vorkosigans and Koudelkas got together, which can be found in the books "Shards of Honour" and "Barrayar." These two books have been published separately, and also together as "Cordelia's honour".