Sometimes, you read a book, and it far exceeds your expectations. Rebecca Bradley's "Lady In Gil" is one such book.
On the face of it, I expected a light, simple comedy. It's not an uncommon story: an unlikely hero is recruited when no better candidate is available, and bumbles his way in the general direction of success. But the tone of this particular novel - and its narrator - is immediately endearing, a very personal and engaging sense of humor. More than that, the book is somewhat miscast by its cover blurb: it's humorous, true, but it's also dark, grim, with gritty and uncompromising descriptions of what the conquered people are suffering. This a tough balance, and excellently struck.
The romance story in this novel is beautiful. It's by turns predictable and unexpected, familiar and heart-wrenching. You can see the mistakes the narrator is mistaking and want to hit him over the head, without quite getting disgusted - which again, for me, is quite a balancing act, because I'm jaded with the familiar romantic subplots.
Overall, the plotline shines. There are some aspects you see coming - you know they have to be there - and then there are bends that go in a completely different direction. There are few black and whites in the story: every character falters, every noble character has a flaw; every situation is imperfect, every solution a little painful.
Anyhow - yes. Loved it. This is going on my Recommended Reads as soon as I figure out a shorter desc.