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Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen
by Lois McMaster Bujold
Baen Books, 344pp, $27
Published: February 2016

A wonderful return to the worlds of the Vorkosigans. This is a sweet romance between Cordelia and Admiral Oliver Jole who was Cordelia’s husband’s close friend and Admiral of the Sergyar fleet. The title refers to nicknames for both of them.

The action takes place all on Sergyar. Cordelia has been widowed for three years but remains Vicereine and still deep in the galactic business of Emperor Gregor.  Admiral Jole is still Admiral of the Fleet.  And both characters are facing/feeling their mortality. Cordelia finally coming to terms with Aral’s death (as much as anyone can) and Admiral Jole finds himself turning 50.

Cordelia decides to utilize some of her eggs (frozen many years ago, before the soltoxin attack when she was pregnant with Miles Vorkosigan her only child). She decides she would like to have some daughters and will use the local reproductive services clinic and a uterine replicator to start the first of six.  Oliver Jole is still Cordelia’s close confident, as he has been for many, many years. When she tells him of her plans, Oliver decides to follow suit and preserve some of his seed so he can start some sons. (He has never married).

What we find out through this gentle tale is Oliver, Cordelia and Aral had a very close and sexual relationship for many years. Time, distance and events did not allow for a great deal of frolic—but the three of them were very tight and the two men were bisexual.  Cordelia has missed their closeness, misses Aral terribly; and so slowly and sweetly, Oliver and Cordelia turn to the other. Oliver’s love for Aral and Cordelia was steadfast and true but he had been the least aggressive of the three.  Cordelia and Oliver’s wonderful “not really dating” meetings are indulged in whenever they can find the time. The two of them really need the other and their romance is an endearingly awkward-in-spots affair.  It is especially entertaining when those around them, especially Miles and his family, finally are in on Cordelia and Oliver’s secret.

There is not a lot of action in this story—save for the big 50-year bash put on for Oliver. This is a nostalgic, autumnal tale. Just the very satisfying construction and voice Bujold brings to her books was fulfilling enough. I really enjoyed it.

If you have followed the Vorkosigan saga at all—this is a real treat. ~~ Sue Martin

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