Jane Austen! With magic! I need to get better at writing summaries.
Jane Ellsworth lives in a world that’s pretty much like Regency England, with one big difference: glamour, the ability to use magic to manipulate the light and create fantastical illusions. Jane is a very skilled glamourist, but aside from that she’s plain and has no other accomplishments that could net her a husband, so at the ripe old age of 28 she’s resigned herself to a life of spinsterhood. (The careful reader, who has already noticed that this book is marked as romance, is free to laugh now.)
But this is not your cut-and-paste Regency romance, where the heroine spends most of the book swooning over the designated love interest. In fact I didn’t catch on who was the designated love interest until later in the book: there are a couple different eligible young men and for a while it felt like Jane could have ended up with either of them. It wasn’t a love triangle in the usual sense, more like the realistic situation of a girl meeting two guys and trying to figure out which one she likes.
The romance is just one part of the book, too, Jane’s family and her study of glamour also play a very important role. Overall this was a great first book in a series.
…However. Unfortunately I don’t think the next two books lived up to Shades of Milk and Honey. They rely too much on the “novelty” of glamour (which after three books isn’t much of a novelty at all) and the characters don’t develop much, becoming rather flat. They’re still enjoyable reads, but not quite as good. I’m not going to review them separately (I read them back to back and some of the details are muddied in my mind) but here they are. The fourth book Valour and Vanity is coming out in April.
Jane and her husband, whose name is kind of spoilerific if you haven’t read the first book, go to Belgium for their honeymoon. However, this being a Regency novel, there is political turmoil because of Napoleon. The back cover does a wonderful job of spoiling a plot point that happens towards the end of the book so let’s just say that the unstable political situation doesn’t make for a restful holiday — though it does make for a decent plot, otherwise it would have been rather dull.
Jane and her husband, who remains unnamed in this review even though you’ll probably realize who he is as soon as he shows up in the first book, and then you’ll think me stupid for not having figured it out… Wait, who even is the guy on the cover? Are the covers also getting progressively worse? Anyway, more stuff about glamour happens. Jane’s sister Melody appears quite a lot; in the first book she was quite flat but in this book she’s shown to be a much better person than I (or Jane) gave her credit for, so yay for sisters in books.