Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal (2010)

Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal (2010)Shades of Milk and Honey (Glamourist Histories #1) by Mary Robinette Kowal
Published: Tor Books (2010), eBook, 304pg
Source: Bought
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction, Historical Fantasy, Romance

Shades 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.

I’m pretty sure I added this to my wishlist years ago because of Fyrefly‘s review way back in 2011, which is suffeciently long ago that all I remembered about it was that it a) is a historical fantasy, b) has Jane Austen-ish elements, and c) the Doctor shows up as a character in every book.

All good things! So when I saw Shades of Milk and Honey go on sale earlier last month, I bought it and ended up reading it almost immediately.

I enjoyed it! It’s about sisters and self-confidence and romance and other fun stuff. I adored the characters, even when they irritated me, and I really liked that magic is centered around women and feminine things like home decorating. Makes for a nice change from magic-as-weapon.

I will say that this isn’t a book for people who need a lot of plot to happen in order to enjoy a book. It’s very much focused on the characters and their development into better people. For example, both Jane and her sister are dreadfully un-confident.

Melody (the sister) spends a lot of time tearing Jane down to make herself feel better; it’s extremely frustrating to read about because you know why she’s doing it1 so there’s that mix of empathy and wanting to kill her just to give poor Jane a chance to relax once in a while.

They both get better by the end, though!

Speaking of the ending: unfortunately it struck a sour note in an otherwise sweet book. Everything happened SO fast in the ending sequence. Jane’s romantic interest shifted quickly from one character to another, for instance. The whole book she’d been interested in one dude, and then what felt like one page she was head-over-heels in love with another one. Like, crying on the floor in love with him.

And THEN! There was lots of drama and shootings and racing around trying to rescue people, which was a complete mood whiplash from the first two-thirds of the book. And, finally, it did that thing I hate where the narrative goes briefly into the future and it’s all smug. You know, a “they went on to have many adventures” sort of thing that ruins all the surprise later books in the series might bring you.

So that was disappointing. But the rest of the book was so lovely that I’m definitely going to read the next book even IF the ending of this one spoiled me for it.

Read: February 28, 2015

  1. she thinks she only has her looks to offer and that’s not enough for a happy marriage

2 thoughts on “Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal (2010)”

  1. Did you spy the Doctor? Kowal says she puts the Doctor in every single one of her books, which is the thing I know about her that makes me most likely to read her books even though there are things about them that don’t appeal to me.

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