Posts Tagged Vorkosigan Saga

Cordelia Rides Again in Lois McMaster Bujold’s “Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen”

It’s Romance Saturday at SBR!

And as everyone here knows, that means it’s time for a romance. So what could be better than the latest novel by Lois McMaster Bujold, featuring one of my favorite heroines ever, Cordelia Naismith Vorkosigan? (For those new to her, Cordelia was featured in SHARDS OF HONOR and BARRAYAR — later collected as CORDELIA’S HONOR — and had much to say in several other novels in Bujold’s long-running Vorkosigan series, including MIRROR DANCE, MEMORY, and A CIVIL CAMPAIGN.)

Close this windowGENTLEMAN JOLE AND THE RED QUEEN starts three years after Cordelia’s famous husband Aral Vorkosigan’s death. She is now the sole Vicereine of Sergyar, a colony planet of the Barrayaran Imperium, and while incredibly busy with a variety of issues — scientific, political, and economic, she finds herself at loose ends, romantically.

This was not a place she ever expected to be. She’s in her mid-to-late seventies, which for a Galactic is closer to mid-forties in health, so she has plenty of life left to her. Yet her husband, to whom she was devoted, has died…and there are additional complications for her in finding a romantic partner, as both she and her husband are/were powerful personalities with difficult and time-consuming jobs.

Fortunately, there is one man who understands that. His name is Oliver Jole. He’s an Admiral in the Barrayaran Naval Fleet stationed in Sergyar orbit, and he’s well acquainted with both Cordelia and her husband, Aral. (For long-term readers of the Vorkosigan Saga, Jole was a Lieutenant we barely saw in THE VOR GAME; Cordelia and Aral’s son, Miles, comments that Lieutenant Jole is blond and almost too good-looking to be borne — my best paraphrase, as I don’t have the book in front of me.) Oliver is nearly fifty, he has a similar background to both Cordelia and Cordelia’s late husband, is intelligent and funny, and hasn’t dated anyone in many years. And he’s fallen for Cordelia…but he doesn’t know how to get past her formidable reserve.

And on Cordelia’s part, she sees Oliver as attractive, but doesn’t realize he could be a possibility for her. They’ve been friends a long time, but Aral knew Oliver far better — and besides, Cordelia thinks Oliver is gay.

But Oliver isn’t. He’s bisexual.

This shouldn’t throw Cordelia half as much as it does, mind, as her husband was bisexual as well. But because she’s older than Oliver, and because of the history she has with Oliver, it takes her a considerable amount of time to realize that Oliver is indeed a match for her.

Complicating things markedly is the whole issue of biology. You see, Cordelia and Aral were only able to have one son, Miles, during Aral’s lifetime. (Their other son, Mark, was cloned from Miles illegally by an intergalactic criminal; once the family realized Mark was alive, they welcomed him with open arms, but Mark was not raised with Miles or by Cordelia.) However, Aral’s sperm and Cordelia’s eggs were frozen, and now Cordelia has to decide if she wants to bring more children — daughters, she’s decided — into this world.

(Minor spoilers ahead. You have been warned.)

How does Oliver come into this issue? Well, Oliver also had a close relationship with Aral, that Cordelia condoned. (You can see why Cordelia never expected to find something with Oliver now, yes?) This is why Cordelia offers Oliver some genetic material from both herself and Aral, so Oliver might be able to have children as well. (Sons, he thinks.)

Anyway, just as Oliver and Cordelia attempt to make a match of it, Cordelia’s son Miles shows up with his family. Along with all of the expected complications (it’s not that easy to explain to your fully grown son that you’ve taken up with a new, much younger man), Cordelia also has to explain her decision to have more children…and the material she’s donated to Oliver as well, so he, too, can have children of his own.

How will Miles take all this?

(Further reviewer sayeth not.)

This is a phenomenal novel that has it all. Growth. Loss. Grief. New love, all unlooked for. Romance — dear Gods, yes, romance.

I loved GENTLEMAN JOLE AND THE RED QUEEN, and think it is one of Bujold’s best novels — right up there with BARRAYAR, MIRROR DANCE, and A CIVIL CAMPAIGN.

Bottom line: What are you waiting for? It’s Lois McMaster Bujold at top form, and it’s excellent.

Grade: A-plus.

–reviewed by Barb

, , , ,

1 Comment

Romance Saturday Extravaganza: Lois McMaster Bujold’s “Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance”

Lois McMaster Bujold is back in the saddle again.

In CAPTAIN VORPATRIL’S ALLIANCE, the fifteenth volume of Bujold’s saga about the family and friends of Miles Naismith Vorkosigan, we get a chance to spend a goodly amount of time with Miles’s cousin Ivan — the titular Captain Vorpatril — and the unusual galactic woman he marries, Akuti Tejaswini Jyoti ghem Estif Arqua (called “Tej” for short).  This isn’t your ordinary Vorkosigan novel, especially as Ivan is known mostly for his conflict avoidance and for his lack of brilliance compared to his genius biological cousin Miles and his genius cloned cousin Mark.

Anyway, Ivan is a competent soldier and commander who’s achieved the rank of Captain and works for Admiral Desplains in Galactic Operations (or Ops).  And while Ivan’s very, very good at his job (he views it akin to snake handling), the fact of the matter is that Ivan is a paper pusher — or as military types would be more likely to call it, a REMF.  (Don’t try to translate that at home.)

Ivan meets up with Tej on the domed planet of Komarr, one of the Barrayaran Imperium’s three planets, after his disreputable relation Byerly Vorrutyer points Ivan in Tej’s direction.  By, you see, is known to Ivan as an operative of Imperial Security — otherwise known as a spy to you and me — and By’s come calling in his professional capacity.  By believes that Ivan is Tej’s only hope; even though By doesn’t know Tej’s real name and doesn’t know Tej’s real circumstances, either, By actually is proven right with this snap judgment.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Ivan meets up with Tej, who he believes is called “Nanja” and is supposedly a Komarran citizen, at the place where she works — a rather small, dingy ceramics shop.  He buys an ugly vase for his cousin Miles, attempts to make small talk, then tries to pick her up . . . and can’t do it.

But since By told Ivan that “Nanja” needs help, Ivan is bound and determined to give her that help.  He ends up outside her apartment complex, which of course scares her no end; she invites him upstairs, and he thinks, “Wow!  I’ll finally be able to figure out who this Nanja is, and why By wants me to protect her!”

But that’s not what happens at all.

Instead, Tej and her “odd sister,” the blue-skinned, rather exotic Rish, end up stunning Ivan and dragging him up to their small apartment.  This, of course, is a mighty come-down for Ivan as he’s known for his remarkable prowess at womanizing.  Then he gets tied to a chair and left; they go away, presumably to sleep and deal with the problem of Ivan in the morning.

However, some thugs try to break into Tej’s apartment.  Ivan, who’s no fool even when tied to a chair, talks loudly enough to wake the women.  They stun the men, untie Ivan, and go back to Ivan’s apartment as it’s the safest place any of them can think of to be . . . then Ivan goes to work as he doesn’t want to admit any of the last several hours’ worth of events have happened.

All of this, thus far, is farcical and is played that way on purpose.

But things take a darker turn soon enough, as Tej admits to Ivan what’s been going on; her family’s been eliminated in a Jacksonian shakeup, and she and Rish are on the run.  Ivan hides Tej and Rish, then By comes calling again, this time only a bare handful of minutes before the Komarran police show up (as they believe Ivan has kidnapped or perhaps even murdered “Nanja,” whom they know as a Komarran national due to Tej’s excellent false identification).

So what is Ivan’s solution?  He quickly marries Tej in the Barrayaran form, which allows for a minimum of two witnesses (which he has: By and Rish) and must be performed in a circle of groats (which, not so coincidentally, he has, as it’s a Barrayaran staple breakfast food).  Then, as the police break down the door, he yells out, “Unhand Lady Vorpatril!”

None of this is a spoiler as it all comes from the sample chapters Baen Books put up at their own Web site.

How are Ivan and Tej to get untangled after this knotty start?  Well, a lot has to do with the nature of Ivan’s job as aide-de-camp to Admiral Desplains; that Ivan has finally married, much less to such an interesting galactic woman, has intrigued the Admiral, who does his best to facilitate a happy outcome (at least for the time he’s involved in the book).  Next, Ivan’s mother, the formidable Lady Alys Vorpatril, and his quasi-stepfather, the even more formidable Simon Illyan (the former head of ImpSec), do their best to point out that Ivan and Tej are perfect for one another; both are quietly intelligent, capable people who’ve been overshadowed by most of their relatives for most of their lives, but see the value in each other and start to gradually build a life together.

However, then a major plot wrinkle shows up — which I refuse to spoil — and this throws a monkey wrench into Ivan’s marriage.

So will these two end up together?  Or won’t they?  And how does the sinking of the Imperial Security Headquarters building play into it all?

All of these questions will be answered, and more besides, in a book that’s thoroughly satisfying for Bujold lovers yet easy enough to get into if you haven’t read the previous fourteen books in the series.  (A neat trick, that.)

Bottom line: this is a good and involving romance with many farcical turns and a few, surprisingly revealing emotional episodes involving Ivan, his mother Alys, and his new wife, Tej.  Ivan’s a solid character, and Tej’s insights into Barrayar (coming to it as a galactic citizen, as did Miles’s mother Cordelia Naismith before her) are interesting, too.

No, it’s not as good as MIRROR DANCE, CORDELIA’S HONOR (the omnibus of SHARDS OF HONOR and BARRAYAR) or A CIVIL CAMPAIGN, but it’s still a good, involving book that will give you hours of reading pleasure and many, many things to ponder.  (And it’s funny, too!)

Grade: A-minus.

— reviewed by Barb

, , ,