- "If Laisa Toscane possessed more brains than beauty, she had to be some kind of genius. Yet the exact source of her intense physical impression was elusive. Her face was softly molded and pleasant, but not nearly as striking as, say, Elli Quinn's expensive sculpture. Her eyes were unusual, a brilliant blue-green, though whether the color was cosmetically or genetically conferred Miles could not tell. She was short even for a Komarran woman, two handspans shorter than Galeni, who was almost as tall as Delia. But her most distinctive feature was her skin, milk-white and almost seeming to glow—zaftig, Miles thought, was the word for that rich flesh. Plump was misleading, and not nearly enthusiastic enough. He had never seen anything so edibly female outside a Cetagandan haut-lady's force screen."
- ―Miles meets Laisa[src]
Laisa Toscane Vorbarra (vohr-BAA-ruh) was the reigning Empress of the Barrayaran Imperium, the wife of Emperor Gregor Vorbarra, as well as the daughter of prominent Komarran oligarchs, often referred to as those Toscanes.
- "Roic reflected that the Imperium’s shrewd Komarran Empress served Gregor in more ways than just the joint production of their several scarily smart children."
- ―Armsman Roic's opinion of Empress Laisa[src]
Initially introduced to the bachelor Emperor when she accompanied Duv Galeni to a dinner party at the Imperial Residence, Laisa impressed Gregor with her bold and succinct attempt to lobby him directly for trade concessions during the course of the meal. Gregor later invited her to an intimate luncheon in which he thrilled her by arranging her first horseback ride on a beautiful white mare, which could be construed as the beginning of their courtship.
The principal heiress and future leader of her family's business empire, she served as a lobbyist and representative in Vorbarr Sultana for her family's business interests until her marriage. She and Gregor stipulated in their marriage vows that any children of the union would be gestated in a uterine replicator, and would not be "body births," as preferred by the more conservative among the Vor caste.
Many Komarrans (and many Barrayarans, for that matter) viewed the marriage as shrewd politics on the part of Gregor, symbolizing a union of two of the slightly antagonistic component societies of the Barrayaran Imperium. To further strum political sensibilities, Gregor decreed that the reconstruction and enlargement of Komarr's soletta, a large orbital array of mirrors augmenting the solar light reaching the surface necessary in Komarr's long-term terraforming project, be deemed a wedding present to his wife, and symbolically to the planet Komarr from Barrayar.
The events of Cryoburn were launched when her aunt came to her with a suspicion of a scam occurring in the attempt of the WhiteChrys cryonics corporation to expand onto Komarr. Gregor and Laisa had several children by this point; Armsman Roic described them as "scarily smart."
Personality and traits
- "All that time I wasted herding tall, slender beauties past him, when I should have been rounding up short, plump beauties. I could cry."
- ―Alys Vorpatril[src]
Laisa looked "maternal" to the eye, short and a little plump, unlike the fashionably tall, willowy Vor women Gregor had been introduced to by Lady Alys Vorpatril, his social secretary. She had beautiful eyes that were not quite blue, nor quite green. Despite her lack of svelte proportions, she dressed in classy and stylish Komarran-style garments. Lady Alys ruefully noted after her betrothal to Gregor, it should have been obvious that a man who lost his mother at the age of four would be attracted to maternal women.
She was highly intelligent, with an advanced education in financial and business affairs; she had a doctorate in business theory.
Laisa, in addition to her title as Empress, was the Countess Vorbarra, and also held a doctorate, meaning that she could be referred to as Doctor Toscane. She might also be referred to as Doctor Vorbarra, or Doctor Toscane Vorbarra.