Ivan was always presented as the dumb, pretty one in the Miles Vorkosigan stories, so I was fascinated by the idea of his character being able to sustain a Barrayar novel (and a thick one too) and had to have it for my collection.
Yes, I'm a fan of the Barrayar saga, and was saddened when Miles' story finally came to an obvious end. So read accordingly.
This story takes place about four years or so before the events in Cryoburn, the "last" Miles novel I spoke of, and concerns the upset caused on Komarr when a passle of trouble lands in Ivan's lap in the shape of a girl tuned to press all his buttons and her striking blue companion. There follows a series of believable events involving the unsavory and dissolute rake Byerly Vorrutyer that land Ivan in a quandary somewhat of his own making, resulting in his return to Barrayar with a new (albeit temporary) wife.
The rest is perhaps a little formulaic and maybe a bit predictable in the "everyone yells at Ivan" scenes, but the rest of the novel is so well plotted and so well written that I found myself aching when Ivan realizes that he isn't quite ready to let his "wife" leave him but sees the signs he has grown skilled at reading that she is working an exit strategy. You see, I found myself liking Ivan in this novel.
Things get complicated by various plot twists I won't spoil except to say that the in-laws are problematical on every level.
The temptation to write Ivan's point of view a-la CJ Cherryh "Resune" was, I am glad to say, not a factor, and Ivan is shown to be a strong and skilled individual without the crippling ennui-baggage the lead azi characters of "Resune" worked with. He isn't as smart as Miles by a long chalk, and is unskilled at the complex business of reading political situations from people's actions in a given context, but he has his own inner strengths and they are shown to good effect here, including a scene where he impresses Illyan (retired ImpSec commander and now companion to Ivan's mother) with his deductive capabilities.
The fact of his proximity to the Barrayaran throne is also gone into a little more deeply than in the Miles books, with a small digression into how that complicates Ivan's life and has perhaps dictated why he is the person he is.
One might complain that the central plot here matches that of A Civil Affair with different characters, but that is pretty much the template for romance stories.
I liked this one a lot. I should four-star it because of the various weaknesses I mentioned, and the fact that occassionally I wince at the fact that all the stories I'm reading from this saga are about privileged uber-upper class millionaires, but it was so damned enjoyable that I'm looking forward to the re-read and what the heck, five stars for making me be like that.
If you haven't yet read a "Miles" book, for my money by far the best of them all is "Cetaganda", though I should say I've never hated a Miles book and they are all of a very high standard.