A Civil Campaign is near the end of Lois' Vorkosigan series and thus one might think it would be better to read some or all of the earlier ones first. Actually Lois does a good job of making each book stand reasonably well on its own. In this case although I suspect that reading the immediately previous book (Komarr) might make some sense, I do not believe it to be necessary and from personal experience I can say that I was hooked on this book without having read the other earlier books in the series.
The description of this book in the back cover blurb as "A comedy of biology and manners" is entirely apt. This is the book where Lord Miles Vorkosigan, Lois' short but hyperactive hero, finally starts to settle down or at least try to. The problem is that he has learned from approximately age 2 that in order to compensate for his physical disabilities it is a good idea to manipulate his fellows by various forms of mental judo and of course, as eny fule kno, manipulation is emphatically NOT the way to win the heart of your lady. Matters are not exactly helped by the fact that said lady is recently widowed from a husband who was a scumbag and the fact that while Miles wishes to respect his love's desire for soem months of reflection before re-entering the lists of love his fellow Vor males (who outnumber Vor females by a significant amount) are less willing to let such an eligable potential mate hang around.
This is just the main plot, there are plenty of sub plots which cover other problems that are likely to occur when genetic engineering is just that - engineering. For example we have the problems of inheritance and the definition of the heir and parenthood when GE can produce children by cloning and can let people change sex and, moving away from the human sphere, there is the problem of artificially created species and the age old conflict between untility and beauty. All in all, while there are numerous potential couples the Wodehousian imperative that as many eligable ladies and gentlemen as possible successfully hook up with their soulmate means that romance is never far from the scene even when things seem to be going horribly wrong.
The book is strongly reminiscent of both Wodehouse at his Blandings or Wooster best and Dorothy L Sayer's Wimsey books, particularly Gaudy Night, and there are echoes back to 19th century romances such as the works of Jane Austen. But while romance is certainly a large part of the book it also appeals on many layers. As with any good SF work it has some philosophical underpinnings that make the reader think. In this case there are two, the aforementioned effects of Genetic Engineering and, as with much of the Vorkosigan oeuvre, the meaning of personal honour and integrity. This latter area is the subject of numerous epigrams such as "Reputation is what other people know about you. Honor is what you know about yourself." and "the trouble with oaths of the form, death before dishonor, is that eventually, given enough time and abrasion, they separate the world into just two sorts of people: the dead, and the forsworn." In the current age where the concept of a man's word being his bond seems to be considered hopelessly naive it is refreshing to read of a possible future where, for some people at least, these concepts are rather more important.
However the Wodehouse elements are also readily at hand with numerous quips and bon mots as well as what I believe to be one of the funniest scenes in SF - Miles' dinner party from hell. Describing it is impossible but reading it without laughing out loud is equally challenging, it is an object illustration that "the best laid schemes of mice and men gang oft agley" not to mention Lois' favourite story telling technique - what is the worst possible thing that could happen to my heroes next?
Finally if anyone, particularly any male, needs guidance on how to write a grovelling apology to his beloved this book contains a template as well as some basic principles. I've never yet needed such high octane grovelling but if (when?) I do cause a certain cooling of affection with my wife I shall be sure to use this book as a guide for how to re-establish relations.