Publisher: Orbit (2 Sep 1999)
The third of the series, this continues some of the threads already introduced in the first two books, and ends the effective trilogy (even though another 4 books follow). In this one, Heris Serrano and Lady Cecilia are off to visit yet another out-of-the-way planet, for horse-connected reasons. But it appears that the Compassionate Hand (an interstellar mafia also known as the Black Scratch) have decided to invade that world and cause major problems. Of course, not having the strong defences that Elizabeth Moon feels everywhere needs, they will have problems. Enter Serrano, with one small civilian vessel, and a casual attitude to arms smuggling.
This is not a serious series, but it is enjoyable - fast-paced and hard to put down. Despite Moon's apparent militaristic and aristo-monarchistic leanings, her characters are fairly liberal socially, refusing to join whatever racial (and when you have bio-augmentation, racial prejudice gets interesting) or sexual prejudices they meet. Anyway, by the end of this, the monarchy has proven itself to be unsustainable. In many ways, she's writing in the vein of Heinlein's more populist works, with competent heroes (of any sex), and villains who will never be redeemable, if only because they'll never have a chance.
If you've liked the first two, then this completes the initial story.