I like science fiction. I like romance (particularly the trad Regency romances upon which this is so clearly modeled). I like Bujold's Vorkosigan series. So this should have been a slam-dunk, but, oh, what a disappointment this turned out to be!
This book is awkward, charmless, silly, and, well, just aggressively mediocre. So mediocre and so lazy that I almost wonder if Bujold isn't hoping to abandon this series and is using this sub-par book as a way to get fans to detach from it. From the first awkward paragraphs to the last, this is a thin and tiresome book. Nobody here is worth caring about, no one has a single interesting thing to say, and the world depicted is about as nuanced and sophisticated as a primary school cardboard and tempera-paint stage set seen up close (far less attractive, too!). Info dumps are many, real development is scarce, and the plot, such as it is, is hackneyed beyond belief. Even Ivan Vorpatril (never the sharpest or shiniest piece of cutlery in the tray) deserves better than this.