Miles In Love, by Lois McMaster Bujold
Among all of the omnibus collections of Bujold’s Vorkosigan saga that I have read , I believe that this one will long be my favorite, for reasons that are personal and perhaps a bit selfish. This particular collection combines two of Bujold’s novels, Komarr  and A Civil Campaign  and combines them with a delightful romantic mystery short story titled “Winterfair Gifts” that I had not read before about how Sergeant Taura and the insecure Armsman Roic team together to discover a plot against Lady Ekaterina before the wedding with Miles, finding mutual respect and tender affection in the process. As Bujold comments in her typically insightful and helpful afterword, Komarr is a romantic drama, where Miles finds an unlikely ally in the battered housewife of a dishonorable man, and awakens her desires for romance by being a decent if somewhat troubled person. What follows in A Civil Campaign (whose title was inspired by a Hayer regency romance) is a romantic comedy where Miles’ attempt at a smooth romance is foiled but where despite a lot of very complicated drama love prevails for several couples. “Winterfair Gifts” adds some lighthearted romance of its own, with a hint of mystery added to the usual melange of genres that Bujold works with. The result is a satisfying and sizable (my copy of the book clocks in at about 850 pages) read that might get added to my list of books to reread on occasion when I feel inspired to muse on romance.
As a whole, this omnibus reflects a very wise author with a keen eye towards story arc. Since Miles has had a young adulthood of high drama and faced death and disaster, and is now over thirty years old, the author very wisely decides that he has suffered enough and needs to settle down and find a wife. Of course, there has to be a lot more drama and difficulty first. There are a few fascinating elements of this, especially the fact that Bujold provides Miles with a very suitable partner, a woman of courage and bravery equal to his own but of a different kind. Although there are times in the series  where the author’s political agenda is a bit too heavy-handed, this collection of novels manages to capture the quiet heroism of a brave and idealistic woman married to an abusive man whose public reputation she seeks to loyally defend even as he shows himself immensely dishonorable in private. Miles, for all of his flaws, is a gallant man who views women and children with respect, and manages to inspire the loyalty of many and awaken the love of the affection-starved Ekaterina, who shows herself brave enough to face the trouble that comes from being married to a man whose restless energy and intense curiosity creates endless drama and trouble. I can relate.
These novels demonstrate that romantic love need not involve a death or absence that frees someone to love again (at least not for everyone), nor does it mean that someone becomes entirely without interest because they have found a lifelong partner. Given that Miles is a fictional character a lot like me in some essential character traits, seeing the drama of his life end in married bliss with a worthy and brave woman is a bit of encouragement, because if a human author can take a fictional character like me and create a happy if dramatic and complicated successful romance, then surely the author of my destiny can do the same thing despite my own lack of competence in courtship, a lack of competence that is sadly obvious to all. Yet despite this, reading about romantic bliss, and the complications of living an honorable and difficult life, can sometimes be a comforting thought in fiction, even if it is not yet the case in my own life. Consider this book a job well done, and well worth a read for those who have read its novels separately.
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