Prince Kiem enjoys the life of a royal, even if some of his more outrageous behavior sends the emperor into displeasure. When the emperor summons the Prince this time, it's not for another dressing down. It's to announce that Kiem will be marrying Count Jainan, the recently widowed husband of Kiem's cousin Taam. The marriage is necessary to maintain the fragile alliance between the empire and the vassal planet Thea. Jainan has been raised to do his duty, and that means being a good husband to whichever partner the empire chooses for him, however difficult that may be. Neither of the men knows just how dangerous their new alliance will prove to be.
I've tagged “Winter's Orbit” as a mystery as well as science fiction. While there's often a puzzle at the core of many science fiction stories, this book definitely revolves around a mystery that unfolds little by little regarding the death of Jainan's previous husband, which was supposedly an accident. It starts out innocently enough, with Kiem trying to sort out why some security issue has cut off Jainan from his family, but slowly unravels into an interplanetary conspiracy. It's a real whodunit worthy of Agathe Christie.
This is also a romance, and it's very much of the slow-burn variety. Both Kiem and Jainan are naturally cool to the idea of the hastily arranged marriage, but they want to do the right thing to ensure the political stability their partnership was meant to foster. It's clear from the start that Jainan has some worrying issues, but the reasons for it all don't become clear until very close to the end.
We do get to know Kiem and Jainan rather well. The outgoing and ebullient Kiem is, on the surface, quite the opposite of the very reserved Jainan, making this something of an opposites-attract kind of story. Early on, it also comes off as a “men don't talk about their feelings” cliche. However, as we learn more about both men, but especially Jainan, their reasons for not sharing become very easy to understand, and even agree with. Jainan's issues, and the actions which created them, are quite complex and revealed in a very natural way by the story line.
“Winter's Orbit” is available from Amazon.