Captain Vorpatril's Alliance, by Lois McMaster Bujold, 2012
I received a gratis review copy of this book from Baen.
Last year, I expressed a bit of worry about the long-awaited Ivan book. Thankfully, the things I worried about didn't (quite) come to pass, though it's still excessively heterocentric. Sigh.
The curtain opens on Ivan, on a trip to Komarr with his boss for routine military stuff. Byerly Vorrutyer pounds on his door with a plea for help: befriend a woman who's the target of kidnappers, so they can't nab her. Ivan agrees (grudgingly--he has a typical Hobbit's lust for adventure).
Tej is on the run from Jackson's Whole with her half-clone-sister (it's complicated) Rish, aka Lapis Lazuli. She's working in a shipping store to try to get some money so they can make it to their planned destination. Ivan comes in to have a hideous vase shipped back to Miles on Barrayar, as a pretense to meet her.
Things don't go quite as Ivan planned, and he ends up tied to a chair in the woman's living room. After a series of misunderstandings, and the local Komarran police charging Ivan with kidnapping and Tej with illegal immigration, Ivan offers a spur of the moment solution: temporary marriage. It protects him from the kidnapping charge and her from the immigration problem (as a Barrayaran dependent), and they can divorce when they get to Barrayar.
The first half of the book is almost a comedy of errors. The second half is a heist. It's great fun, and Ivan is quietly competent (he's no fool, he just wants to keep his head down and out of the line of fire). The romance is woven through both halves (naturally, they fall for each other for real).
It's great fun, and while it may not be my new favorite Vorkosiverse (that would be Memory), it's in strong contention with The Vor Game for number two. I read it again right after I finished it the first time, which I think is a new re-read record for me.
If you haven't read any other Vorkosiverse books, I think you could read this (though you'd get spoilers for Barrayar and Memory). There are some in-jokes and references you might not get, but there's a lot of explanation of how Barrayar works (in somewhat clearer detail than across the other 14 books, on occasion), because Tej is befuddled.
If you have read other Vorkosiverse books and enjoyed them, you'll enjoy this.