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During the first part of the book, when Ekaterin has been hired to design a garden for Miles, she thinks of him as her employer. Bujold writes, for instance, "Having, apparently, accidentally routed her employer out of bed, Ekaterin wondered if it would be too rude to dash out again immediately." (89) The narrative's conflict between Ekaterin and Miles is constituted precisely on the terrain of his employment of her. Ekaterin discovers that the terms of her employment are false, in the sense that they are undertaken simply to put her within easy proximity of Miles. Miles, of course, wants to have it both ways: wanting to employ her to increase his access to her, while at the same time claiming he hired her because of her special talents as a designer (albeit formally untrained), when in fact he created the position solely because it served his primary (and more devious) purpose.
I may be overly sensitive to the figure of fiance/husband as employer (having recently heard a husband in an upper-middle class USian divorce case claim that his wife of thirty years had been an unsatisfactory employee and not an equal partner with him, and thus not entitled to split the proceeds of their marital partnership), but this sense of Miles' courtship of Ekaterin as a sort of headhunting operation lurks around the edges of the story for me throughout the book. I'm not sure why. Perhaps it is because Ekaterin is at least nominally Miles' employee at the very time he's trying to parlay one job description (landscape designer) into another (Lady Vorkosigan). Perhaps it's because Ekaterin's attempt to discuss Miles' character with his previous boss, Simon Illyan, gets curiously transformed into Simon's concluding that Ekaterin must be right for the "job" of Lady Vorkosigan if Miles has picked her for it. Or perhaps it's because Miles makes no attempt at sexual courtship, throwing his actual pursuit (all the while he tells everyone what a wonderful Lady Vorkosigan Ekaterin would make) into a curious light. We, the readers, know Miles is in love with Ekaterin; we know they are both physically attracted to one another. And yet the narrative centers more on the wife question rather than on describing a buildup of sexual tension, which would be typical of the Heyer-style romance plot. Passion, curiously, takes a back-seat to dynastic arrangements. Which may be very Vor, but leaves me feeling as though this book is all about courtship as dynastic personnel headhunting.

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