Hardcover, 304 pages
Published August 3rd 2010 by Tor Books (first published July 26th 2010)
ISBN 076532556X (ISBN13: 9780765325563)
Primary Language: English
Source: Won in a drawing at www.rantingdragon.com
LOCUS CHALLENGE: I agreed to review this book before the end of April as a part of the Locus Challenge Giveaway from www.rantingdragon.com
The Blurb (www.goodreads.com):
The fantasy novel you’ve always wished Jane Austen had written
Shades of Milk and Honey is exactly what we could expect from Jane Austen if she had been a fantasy writer: Pride and Prejudice meets Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. It is an intimate portrait of a woman, Jane, and her quest for love in a world where the manipulation of glamour is considered an essential skill for a lady of quality.
Jane and her sister Melody vie for the attentions of eligible men, and while Jane’s skill with glamour is remarkable, it is her sister who is fair of face. When Jane realizes that one of Melody’s suitors is set on taking advantage of her sister for the sake of her dowry, she pushes her skills to the limit of what her body can withstand in order to set things right—and, in the process, accidentally wanders into a love story of her own.
Jane Ellsworth lives with her sister, Melody, her hypochondriac mother, and her pragmatic father in their family home Long Parkmead of Dorchester. As a family of means, Jane's father has set aside dowrys for his daughters, both of whom were raised with the advantage of education and position. At the ripe old age of 28, Jane has resigned herself to be the spinster aunt to whatever children come of her sister's marriage, whenever that may happen. To compensate for her lack of love interests, Jane has devoted herself to the study of art and glamour, a kind of magic used to enhance music and art.
I have to be honest here. I haven't read any Jane Austen outside of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and I'm told that doesn't count. I've never really been interested in these 19th century British novels. That being said, I really enjoyed Shades of Milk and Honey. It was a quick read (300 pages, compared to the 1000 page novel I read last), and I found myself rooting for Jane. I wanted her to find happiness, while her beautiful shallow sister was left alone. And when her love came from where she least expected it, I was glad. It wasn't something I didn't see coming, but she didn't see it coming, and that is what matters. So I ended up liking this story more than I expected.
Also, I find myself intrigued by glamour. It seems to be a skill that anyone can learn but few people have a natural aptitude, similar to learning a musical instrument. Jane is one of the gifted, able to weave the threads of glamour with the skill of the masters, lacking only the passion that usually accompanies the truly gifted artists. I like the idea of magic being an every day occurrence, rather than something only those specially blessed can use. If magic were real, I think that's how it would really happen.