Confession: Parts of Jane Austen delighted me. Parts bored me. (Please don’t stone me.)
In Shades of Milk and Honey, Mary Robinette Kowal wraps in a lovely fantasy novel into a Regency Romance (but leaves out the excruciating descriptions of attire).
Jane Ellsworth is past her “marriage-able age.” She’s in her late 20’s. (Gasp!) She’s talented in the magical art of glamour, but her looks fall flat. Her little sister, Melody, is the beauty of the town and likely to land a wealthy suitor indeed. Still, Jane’s father so wants to see BOTH his daughters married well … and enjoy the grandchildren of such arrangements.
Mr. Dunkirk (who’s always had Jane’s eye), has brought his little sister, Beth, back from London. Jane and Beth become fast friends, but a secret unrest lies under the surface. The wealthy family in town has brought back their nephew, Captain Livingston, a veteran of the war. They’ve also enlisted the services of Mr. Vincent, a crotchety but talented artist of glamour.
With all the suitable singles now in town, well, Jane Austen says it best:
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” (Pride and Prejudice)
Now, to talk about the magic system: Glamour
I LOVED it! In Kowal’s fantasy world, magic–called glamour–is an artform. The most well-trained (and well-paid) artists are generally guys. (This is an alternate Victorian England, after all.) But all ladies of the upper class are expected to learn glamour in addition to painting and music. Jane uses her glamour to decorate her watercolors and her piano performances. Some ladies, however, have been known to use glamour to alter their looks. (Shocking.)
The way glamour brought art, music, and theatre to life thoroughly entranced me.
Check out Kowal’s Shades of Milk and Honey for yourself:
And if you want a taste of my fiction … it’s not Mary Robinette Kowal, but at least it’s free. Free Short Story