Review: Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal

Review: Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette KowalShades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal
Series: Glamourist Histories #1
Published by Tor Books on June 7th 2011
Genres: Adult, fantasy, Historical Romance
Format: Paperback
Source: Personal Copy

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.

This debut novel from an award-winning talent scratches a literary itch you never knew you had. Like wandering onto a secret picnic attended by Pride and Prejudice and Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, Shades of Milk and Honey is precisely the sort of tale we would expect from Jane Austen…if only she had been a fantasy writer.

You know those books, that the first time you hear about them, you immediately make a note of them, because YOU KNOW that you will love them. But then, time goes by, and before you know it, you still haven’t read that book and it’s been 3 years? Yeah, that is how it is for me and Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal. I first heard about this book in a Vlogbrothers video when Hank Green recommended the book. He said something like “it’s Pride and Prejudice with magic.” Clearly, this book was for me. And then YEARS later, my good blogging friend Charlene read and reviewed Shades of Milk and Honey and it reminded me that I needed to get my butt in gear and read this. And FINALLY, I did, and Shades of Milk and Honey was such a great read.

Shades of Milk and Honey is set in Regency England in the countryside. Except, that in this world, magic exists. People use magic mainly for art and entertainment (not spells like in Harry Potter). For example, one would use magic to make one’s ballroom look better than it really is. That kind of thing. Jane, our protagonist, is quite exceptional with glamour, as it’s called. I really liked Jane.

Jane is creeping up there in age, and is nearing spinsterhood. She’s so smart, and her talent with glamour is awesome. But Jane has some serious insecurities, mainly about her appearance, and her younger, and very beautiful sister Melody makes her insecurities pop up even more so.

For much of the story, Jane and Melody are often at odds, and that wasn’t a favorite. I felt bad for Jane for feeling so insecure, and Melody would often make me so angry. But in the end, I really liked them both a lot. There relationship is complicated, but they do love each other very much.

There is obviously a romance here. Jane has quite a crush on Mr. Dunkirk, but she isn’t sure he returns her feelings. And then a Glamourist comes to town, Mr. Vincent, and he is one grumpy guy. Mr. Vincent is devoted to his art, and at first he and Jane don’t get along too well. I would actually say that one thing that frustrated me was that I wanted to see Jane and Mr. Vincent falling for each other more than I actually did. All of a sudden, they loved each other. It wasn’t insta-love or anything, I just love seeing characters fall in love, and would have liked to see more of it here. Even still, I was absolutely rooting for Mr. Vincent and Jane to get together.And there was this suspenseful-ish part at the climax that I actually found a bit confusing.

But even with these small issues, I loved Shades of Milk and Honey. The unique premise and characters that I could easily root for made this such a wonderful read.


19 Responses to “Review: Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal”

  1. Nick

    That’s a really beautiful cover. I hadn’t heard of this before, but I’m so intrigued by all the magic there seems to me. I love watching the characters fall in love too, so I understand what you mean. It’s usually the best part of a romance for me, even better than when they are finally together. I’ll look this one up!

  2. Charlene @ Bookish Whimsy

    YAYYY!!! 😀 I’m so happy to read your review! I get you on how quickly the romance crops up and the is a marriage proposal, but it develops much more in the later books – I hope it will become one of your very favorite romances/couples. 😀 Jane really made me love this first book – I identified with her so much!

    • Quinn's Book Nook

      Totally loved it! I so need to read the next book. Did you order it from Amazon or Book Depository? I want to make sure I get the right cover!

      I agree, Jane is absolutely wonderful. I could also identify with her.

    • Quinn's Book Nook

      I’ve definitely DNFed books because I wasn’t in the right mood and then come back to them and loved them. So I hope that’s the case for you, if you decide to give this one another chance.

  3. Jennifer @ Feminist Fairytale Reviews

    This sounds really interesting. I love it when authors mix fantasy/paranormal with historical settings. I’m adding this to my wishlist right now.

  4. Alisa Selene

    Yes loved this one..just the whole world building with the glamour was cool..I am artsy like Jane so I could relate..I agree on thinking I wanted more interactions between the leads..but book two is even better imho on that front..

  5. Jessica@Lovin' Los Libros

    Firstly that cover is GORGEOUS. I want to read it based on that alone. LOL. I am adding this one to my TBR. It sounds so unique and I loved the idea of glamour. I will probably want the same thing in terms of the romance- seeing them fall in love, but as I just scrolled up looking at the other comments I see there is a second book? Oooh. Yeah, I want to try these!

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