After reading Downbelow Station, I was surprised to see that my library had Merchanter's Luck, considering it is now out of print as of this review. Although there are references to what occurred in Downbelow, you don't need to have read that book to understand what is happening. In fact, I think this novel is much easier to follow, although Cherryh is a master at subtlety, so make sure you are paying attention!
Compared to the large cast of Downbelow, Merchanter's Luck is focued on two characters, Sandor and Allison. Their situations are polar opposites. Sandor is surviving alone on his ship Lucy. His family had been murdered by the Mazianni, and those who had survived are now no longer alive by the beginning of the story. He makes money any way he can, most times illegally, and is only a step away from being caught. He is isolated, depressed, and a bit crazed. Allison is from the famous merchanter family, the Reillys, and their ship, Dublin, is know everywhere. She has worked hard to get into a position of power in her large, wealthy family, but realizes that the line of succession is too long, and she probably will never be in charge.
The beginning of the story is focused on romance, but it completely takes a left turn, and I really liked that about this book. Allison, although privileged, is not shallow, but truly attempting to lead and be respected. Sandor's personality, influenced by his past experience, is very touching, and quite believable. I don't want to give away spoilers. The ending is a great twist. I am looking forward to reading more of the Company Wars books.