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Shades of Milk and Honey
The Glamourist Histories - Book I
Mary Robinette Kowal

Corsair (Constable and Robinson)
3 October 2013 / ISBN 9781472102492
Fantasy/Romance / Regency / Dorset, England
Amazon US - UK

Reviewed by Rachel A Hyde

Jane Ellsworth lives with her family in rural Dorset during England's Regency period. She is plain while her sister Melody is beautiful, but Jane has something that Melody lacks - she is a skilled Glamorist. For this is not the Regency we know but something alike in all respects save one. People learn to pull strands from the ether to conjure magical illusions and Jane is very skilled at this. But she is twenty-eight and on the shelf. Surely, there could never be a man to look past her lack of beauty?

This book has much to recommend it. If you like the works of Jane Austen and are happy with a little fantasy, you will love it as I did. The author manages to recreate a suitable style for her period, and shows a sound knowledge of the period without any "info dump" moments to mar it. The magical element is woven so deeply into the world her characters inhabit that is seems wholly believable and never seems to jar. To the people in the story the use of glamor is another gentle art for polite society to master like music or painting, although like these things men might do it professionally while ladies only as a pastime. Jane would like to use her talent in the same way a man can, but society only sees her lack of looks and failure in the marriage market. This has been described as a "beauty and the beast" story where both participants have to get to know each other before falling in love, for me at least far more of a romance than any sexy bodice ripper. I am sure that this book will appeal to both romance readers and those who enjoy fantasy and might well serve as an introduction to both. One to read slowly and savor for the treat it is.

Reviewed 2013