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.
Magic comes to Pemberley
Pushy: Not literally of course! Shades of Milk and Honey is not a fan-fiction style homage to Jane Austen but rather the blending of that world, full of sense and sensibility, with one where magic is so commonplace that it’s considered one of the arts of refinement any lady would practice, like watercolors or music. In this world, illusions are spun out of “glamour”, a sort of blend between “ether”, or magic, and the fabric of the air around everyone.
Heather: Glamour (or magic) in this fictional world is used to enhance art, music, and even to make a person’s appearance more attractive. But not everyone can do glamour, and even then some people are more accomplished at it than others, leading to jealously, and even careers as glamourists as there are painters and musicians in our world.
Jane Austen…meet Jane Ellsworth
Pushy: It is in this world where we meet Jane Ellsworth, a woman worthy to bear the name of one of the most beloved authors of the Regency era. Jane Ellsworth is the older sister to the younger, prettier Melody. While Jane excels at the womanly arts, particularly that of working glamours, Melody is the beauty of her family, the one to whom much comes easier with a lovely smile or a sweet word. The one whom everyone simply assumes will make an advantageous match. And so it is with a nearly resigned heart that Jane watches her sister play at flirting with the one man she feels she might love.
Heather: I don’t normally read Regency Era Romance or Jane Austin, but from what I remember in my high school studies, Jane Ellsworth seems to be an amalgam of several of Jane Austin’s leading ladies while Melody is a mixture of secondary women. Even though Jane is supposedly plain in appearance, she is a very accomplished glamourist and is very smart. She easily deconstructs other people’s glamours to see how they work, and that leads to a bit of trouble later on in the book with a mysterious man. Jane’s sister Melody might be beautiful, but she isn’t above manipulating those around her to turn any situation in her favor–no matter the cost to Jane.
A True Master Arrives
Pushy: Into this society of staid country folks a true master of glamour arrives. Mr. Vincent is the very picture of the cranky, reclusive artist. He has a sort of dark, handsome allure that immediately attracts attention, but not always of the admiring sort. Jane seems inclined to like him, if for no other reason than to appreciate the artistry of his work, but his personality is so disappointingly off-putting that she resigns to keep her distance. However, Mr. Vincent is so innovative in his use of glamour and Jane so intuitive and full of untapped talent, that these two can barely keep from crossing paths every time they enter into society.
Heather: And this is where’s Jane’s natural curiousity and intelligence get her in over her head. She unintentionally picks apart Mr. Vincents glamurals and figures out even his most difficult glamours. Every time they cross paths, neither one of them leaves happy.
Friends and Lovers
Heather: There were so many people seeing each other behind the other ones back in this book, it was a bit of a guessing game to see who would be together in the end. It wasn’t entirely predictable with the side characters, however, so it was a bit interesting.
One Must Have a Strong Character
Heather: Jane fell a little flat for me. She spent the first half of the book not really reacting to the events around her. The first half of the book was very slow going for me, lacking in action, and it wasn’t until the second half of the book started that Jane finally started to do something about everything that was going on around her that I started to really enjoy the book and like her character.
Pushy: If you like Jane Austen’s world but also enjoy a hint of magic, you will simply adore this book. I know I did!
Heather: This is for serious fan’s of Regency Era Romance. The first half of the book really set up the world of glamour and the character dynamics, but there wasn’t much action until the second half of the book. Once Jane started to act, this book was great. The second half flew past quickly and ended on a high note.
You may remember when we received Glamour in Glass a few weeks back in Pushy’s IMM post and how much she and the commenters SQUEED over the cover. Also, if you were at BEA, you may have seen Pushy, in line, nose stuck in a book. That book was Glamour in Glass.
Well, Heather was finally able to tear that book out of Pushy’s paws and we’ll be reviewing that sequel to Shades of Milk and Honey next week. And keep your fingers crossed, dear reader, we may have something special to share with you this Friday…. *wink*