Name: Shades of Milk and Honey (Glamourist Histories #1)
Author: Mary Robinette Kowal
Number of Pages: 304 (ebook)
Published: August 3rd 2010 by Tor
Genre: Historical, Fantasy, Romance
Shades of Milk and Honey is an intimate portrait of Jane Ellsworth, a woman ahead of her time in a world where the manipulation of glamour is considered an essential skill for a lady of quality. But despite the prevalence of magic in everyday life, other aspects of Dorchester’s society are not that different: Jane and her sister Melody’s lives still revolve around vying for the attentions of eligible men.
Jane resists this fate, and rightly so: while her skill with glamour is remarkable, it is her sister who is fair of face, and therefore wins the lion’s share of the attention. At the ripe old age of twenty-eight, Jane has resigned herself to being invisible forever. But when her family’s honor is threatened, she finds that she must push her skills to the limit in order to set things right–and, in the process, accidentally wanders into a love story of her own.
Shades of Milk and Honey is a charming beginning to the Glamourist Histories, a series of Regency era tales of romance and magic.
The story centres around the Ellsworth family, particularly two sisters, Jane and Melody, and their friendships, relationships, and dramas of varying kinds. It’s a world of courtesies, social engagements and romantic attachments, much like many a story told before, but in this world there is also magic, more specifically, glamour. To be accomplished in glamour is a valued talent, so when Glamourist Mr. Vincent arrives on the scene, employed at a neighbouring property, Jane, who has a natural talent for glamour, is interested.
After an initial meeting sets them off on precisely the wrong foot with each other Jane and Mr. Vincent appear destined to be constantly at odds, misunderstanding or unintentionally slighting the other, which makes each of their encounters something to anticipate, be this in company at a great gathering or in a smaller family group at Jane’s home.
The magical flourishes throughout are charming. Glamour can be used to enhance art and add lifelike detail to a painting, or transform a dining room into a forest glade so realistic in sight, sound and scent and anyone in the room could well believe they’d been transported elsewhere, or to create colours in the air to complement a piece of music. It can also be used to modify appearance if you’re so inclined, to make minor illusory adjustments to appearance, something in which Jane refuses to indulge despite hearing herself referred to as plain and also having a fairly critical self-opinion.
There’s a whole host of would-be suitors for the Ellsworth sisters, from the enigmatic Mr. Vincent, to the dashing Captain Livingston and the steady, dependable Mr. Dunkirk. As the story plays out each of these characters is revealed to be more or less than they appear on the surface. Watching their interactions with Jane and Melody, and wondering who, if any of them, would end up together was just reading enjoyment. I don’t tend to read that much along these lines, but some of the scenes in this book, especially the way a certain character’s feelings are revealed are just perfect and I sat there smiling as I was reading.
It’s not all smooth sailing though, there are those with ill intentions and the honour of more than one family may end up being at stake, and into a pretty exciting conclusion our characters are thrown before we find out whether anyone will end up with their own happy ending.
Shades of Milk and Honey was a pleasure to read. Time spent in this gentle world of manners, magic and misunderstandings was reading time well spent. Even better? It’s the first book in a series so there is more to look forward to.