I'm not quite sure how to describe my love affair with the works of Lee and Miller. I know they're not perfect; indeed, I can discuss their flaws in great detail. Nevertheless, I read everything by them that I can get my hands on, and the main sequence of Liaden Universe stories are among my most prized "comfort books" that I re-read repeatedly. I certainly don't consider them in the class of "guilty pleasures" like David Weber or Anne McCaffery or Christopher Anvil; perhaps "flawed gems" is more apt -- like the ring that figures so prominently in the stories.
So what have they written?
Nearly all of their works fall into the "Liaden Universe", a complex future-history in a universe forcibly severed from our own. The main sequence of novels is the "Agent of Change" sequence:
Agent of Change
Conflict of Honors
with its two prequels
and its extreme prequel duology
And ~20 short stories published in annual chapbooks, now collected in The Liaden Universe Companion, vols 1 and 2
Two forthcoming paired novels, Fledgling and Saltation, published in draft online using the "storyteller's bowl" model of patronage.
And the expanded novella Balance of Trade
Mostly, these tell the story of Clan Korval, the foremost trading clan of Liad, where they are both the highest of high society and the despair of society. I love the nuances of the mannered society in which the books are set, and the subtleties of language, and the way Liaden-Terran interactions work (and don't work). I like the pilots' subculture, and the language of bows. I love the characters -- each distinctive, each interesting, each real. I like the interpersonal relationships. And, of course, I love the 9-foot ancient wise turtles, though that's a bit indulgent. The combination of flagrant SF (space ships, interstellar trade, unobtainium-powered death robots) and magic (yes, magic) and True Romance and swashbuckling makes these genre-defying, or perhaps all-genre-encompassing.
The plots are fun in a Rafael Sabatini kind of way, if you don't look too closely and can tolerate the occasional ridiculous coincidence. The dialog is superb. I read them to be with the characters and share their experiences, as much as to find out what happens next. The main sequence books and the first 2 prequels are considerably stronger than the farther-afield prequels, though each book has its moments. Balance of Trade feels incomplete; the original novella stopped at a reasonable spot, but the novelization stops in the middle, unresolved.
Let me be clear -- these are desert island books for me. If I could only take 5 series to my island, this would be one of them, warts and all. Perhaps that says more about me than about the books.
I generally recommend that new readers start with Conflict of Honors. If you don't like it, you probably won't like the rest of the series either. If you do like it, you are somewhat insulated against the atypical opening of Agent of Change, having met Clan Korval "at home" as it were, and been insulated to the magical aspects of the plot. If Shan yos'Galan doesn't charm you, you aren't the right reader.
Professor of Story Problems, emeritus
Rationalist with sombrero