Captain Vorpatril's Alliance by Lois McMaster Bujold
I got this book in e-ARC form back in June (you don't have to be a reviewer to get an e-ARC from Baen -- just willing to spend as much for an early electronic edition as you would later for a hardcover). I wanted to read it on vacation, and it was a wonderful book to read while relaxing on a front porch in the north woods of Minnesota.
Of course, since this was five months before the real release, I couldn't TALK about the book because presumably none of my friends were as impatient as I was. BUT IT IS NOW OUT.
BLATANT SPOILERS AHEAD.
STOP READING NOW IF YOU WISH TO AVOID SPOILERS.
About a year and a half ago I started working my way through the Georgette Heyer Regency romances, because so many of my friends seemed to like them a great deal. Also, papersky said she started reading Heyer because of conversations that went like this:
Someone: "Shards of Honor is just like a romance novel!"
Jo: "Where are the romance novels that are like Shards of Honor?"
Lis Carey or some other rational person: "Georgette Heyer."
Jo goes on to give her own ranking of Heyer here, and I have relied heavily on this list. Every Heyer novel I've read has been on Kindle -- they put all the re-released Heyer on sale for Heyer's birthday last year, and I picked up a bunch for $3 a book.
Anyway. One of the very first Heyer novels I read was Cotillion, and in my secret book review journal I described it as follows: "Waiting impatiently for the Ivan book? Pick this book up." The hero of Cotillion is a young man named Freddy, who struck me as profoundly Ivan-like: he's lazy and unambitious but very good-natured and kind, and he also talks a little like Ivan. The plot of Cotillion runs approximately thus: the heroine is stuck somewhere (it's been over a year and now I can't remember the exact setup, but I think she's stuck as a caregiver for a stingy and surly elderly uncle). In order to get out of her unpleasant rural location and to London, where she hopes to actually meet and fall in love with someone, she proposes an engagement to Freddy, promising that she will cry off after a month. He somewhat reluctantly agrees, and merriment ensues.
Sooooooooo the Ivan book.
There's a lady in distress (and Byerly is back -- he's the one who persuades Ivan to attempt to rescue her). Trapped with her in his apartment as the Komarran police force tries to break in, desperately to keep her out of their hands, Ivan proposes marriage, whips out a box of breakfast groats, and weds her with Byerly as a witness. (Thus setting up one of the greatest lines of the Miles & Friends series -- "UNHAND LADY VORPATRIL!") He promises to divorce her once he gets her safely to Barrayar. This goes about as smoothly as you'd expect.
Of course, this is only the beginning of the intricate, complicated, and thoroughly delightful plot of Captain Vorpatril's Alliance. The other thing I really adored about it is that both Ivan and Tej are treated by their families with affection but also more than a bit of scorn: they're the second-rate family members, the underachievers. And they accomplish great things -- without ever adopting the style of their hyperactive overachieving siblings / cousin. They are thoroughly suited to each other and to their own very happy ending.