Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal Book Review

PhotobucketShades of Milk and Honey is an intimate portrait of Jane Ellsworth, a woman ahead of her time in a version of Regency England 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. 

Happy May! I'm thrilled to start this month with a review of the most glorious novel! It is as smooth and comforting as it's title, yet, not lacking for entertainment and tension that carries you through to the end. My sister, Ashley, alerted me to this title, and I'm so happy that she did.

Shades of Milk and Honey is an Austen inspired novel surrounding a young woman named Jane Ellsworth. One of the most brilliant facets of Kowal's Regency novel is it's unusual and fresh addition of Glamours, which gives the genre a bit of magic. In the world of Shades, the magical practice of Glamours has been added to the list of womanly arts to fluent yourself with if you are to be a learned young lady. It's addition really gave the novel great color and beauty. Kowal's descriptions of the the artistry behind pulling ephemeral folds from the ether to create picturesque recreations of nature, and other enhancements were entrancing. 

Jane is a wonderful character to observe as she is often overlooked for her sister, Melody, who tends to draw all eligible suitors her way. I related to her entirely too much! Jane, however, being an accomplished 'Glamourist' is able to draw curious conversation her way. She also catches the eye of Mr. Vincent, who is considered a master glamourist. The tension between them as they often challenge one another over the knowledge they have on the subject, is very effective to the plot. It was also very  entertaining to observe the jealousies that Jane and Melody succumb to as the novel moves forward. Melody is and a whole situation on her own. I found myself wanting to tell her off on more than one occasion.  Kowal perfectly captures the fervor of familial life, the relationship between sisters, mothers, and daughters, and the affairs of their friends and acquaintances. The story starts off wholesome enough, but with each chapter, tension and scandal build to a steady crescendo.

Shades of Milk and Honey is a wonderful romance that is not steeped in melodrama, and sweeping overtures, but in quiet subtleties that I really appreciated. Also, I could never be sure who Jane, Melody, or Beth would end up with, and this is totally effective. I loved that it wasn't very predictable. I haven't read a historical fiction novel in quite a while, and this was a great reentry back into the genre. I loved hearing words like 'propriety', 'gentlemen,' and becoming enamored with a world of balls, sweeping gowns, manners, and the magic of Glamours to enchant visitors with. I'm looking forward to reading the sequel: Glamour and Glass!

I give Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal 5 out of 5 cups of Lady Grey!

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