Book Recommendation: Shades of Milk and Honey

So, I think it’s safe to say that that last week was ridiculously awful, and that it’d be really nice if THIS week is filled with puppies and rainbows and bottomless pints of ice cream. Honestly, I spent a good chunk of last week just reading comfort books—one of which was Without A Summer, the latest (and third) volume in Mary Robinette Kowal’s Glamourist Histories series. If the series sounds familiar, it might be because the first book—Shades of Milk and Honey—was last month’s Book of the Month here at Pub Crawl, thanks to yours truly.

I read Shades of Milk and Honey earlier this year and IMMEDIATELY fell in love with the characters, the world, and the lovely writing. I’d picked it up because I’d heard someone describe it as Jane Austen WITH MAGIC (!!!!), and couldn’t get to the bookstore fast enough. BUT before I begin gushing and explaining why YOU should grab a copy of this book as soon as possible, here’s a little about it:

Shades of Milk And HoneyShades 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.

I DEVOURED this book. And then the sequel (Glamour in Glass). And then had to wait a few months for Without A Summer to release (spoiler: it was worth the wait!). The series has all the charm and wit of Austen, fascinating tidbits of real history, and well-rounded, wonderfully-drawn characters. Jane is a compelling, sympathetic heroine who will instantly steal your heart. She’s cunning, and vibrant, and has an artist’s soul—qualities that have quickly earned her a spot as one of my all-time favorite heroines.

The talented Erin Bowman made this graphic for March's Last Call post!

The talented Erin Bowman made this graphic for March’s Last Call post!

And the magic in this book—oh, the magic! Kowal blended magic (glamours) so well into Regency England that while I was watching the 2009 adaptation of Emma last week, I was legit surprised to NOT see Emma envious & irritated by how much everyone adores Jane Fairfax’s stunning glamours. Really, the magic is THAT well done. (And I now want to read versions of every Jane Austen book with glamours.) The magic was subtle, yet complex—and I was so, so fascinated by not just the use of glamours as a woman’s art (and as a skill that lends itself toward marriageability), but to the larger, darker uses of the magic (the second book, Glamour in Glass, deals a bit with the Napoleonic Wars).

And then there’s Mr. Vincent. And I don’t want to give anything away, but let me just say that 1) I LOVE HIM and 2) While Shades of Milk and Honey is pretty squeaky-clean, the romance in the next two books (still pretty tame and subtly done) is SO HOT. Like, toe-curlingly hot (again, without being graphic in the least).

Really, I could probably keep going and going about these books—about the compelling secondary characters, about the super-cool usage of historical details, and how very, very much I want a BBC adaptation of this RIGHT NOW. But I’ll just end this post by saying that the wait for the fourth book—Valour and Vanity—feels like FOREVER (especially after Kowal described it as “Jane Austen writes Ocean’s Eleven.”), and Kowal now has a lifelong fan in me.

AND—because you guys also might need a bit of a pick-me-up this week, I’m giving away a copy of Shades of Milk and Honey (which has now earned a place on my All-Time Comfort Books list)! Contest ends next week (4/29), and is US-Only (sorry!).

a Rafflecopter giveaway


24 Responses to Book Recommendation: Shades of Milk and Honey

  1. An Apr 22 2013 at 4:52 am #

    I haven’t read Shades of Milk and Honey yet, but after reading your review it makes me want to read it!

    Two of my favorite Regency era books are Pride and Prejudice and Sense And Sensibility.

  2. MarcyKate Apr 22 2013 at 6:42 am #

    This is one of those books I’ve been meaning to read for a while – I keep hearing wonderful things about it!

  3. Hannah Roberts Apr 22 2013 at 9:32 am #

    I have not read Shades of Milk and Honey but I’ve been meaning to do so! Mary Robinette Kowal is a contributor on the AMAZING podcast “Writing Excuses.” she discusses how to write with Dan Wells and Brandon Sanderson.

  4. prerna pickett Apr 22 2013 at 9:39 am #

    why have not heard of this book before now! Definitely right up alley.

  5. Steph Apr 22 2013 at 10:03 am #

    Last week was crappy in so many ways. Your description totally has me sold on the entire series. Jane Austen is one of my all time favorites. I love her wit (among other things). 🙂

  6. Tammy Sparks Apr 22 2013 at 10:15 am #

    I have not read it, but you aren’t the first person to recommend this book, so I’m really intrigued! I do love Jane Austen, especially Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility. Thank you for the giveaway!

  7. Michelle Roberts Apr 22 2013 at 11:20 am #

    Very curios now. I remember seeing the other post about the series, but I never had time to look into it. It’s definitely going on my TBR list now. 🙂

  8. Vivien Apr 22 2013 at 11:21 am #

    I haven’t read Shades yet but I did just read Jane Eyre and loved it. I’m so surprised I did. The more I read regency era, the more I enjoy it.

  9. Carradee Apr 22 2013 at 11:50 am #

    I hadn’t heard of those books, but your review has caught my interest. 🙂

  10. Chelses Apr 22 2013 at 12:11 pm #

    Sounds amazing!!! My kind of book right here!!!

  11. Jason Burnett Apr 22 2013 at 1:10 pm #

    I’ve been re-reading Jane Austen recently, so I’m really interested in this.

  12. Katelyn Larson Apr 22 2013 at 2:04 pm #

    This book sounds incredible. I’m super intrigued. And I agree that last week was definitely rough. I’m in Houston, TX for school, but my whole family lives in the Boston area and Boston will always be my city. I wouldn’t mind a book like this one to help me relax a little 🙂

  13. Andrea Apr 22 2013 at 3:22 pm #

    Ouu, I’ve never read SoMaH but I absolutely loved KEEPING THE CASTLE by Patrice Kindl and of course SSaD by your very own Sooz!! Your recommendations are always good, so this one must be just as amazing as you say!

  14. Sue Apr 22 2013 at 4:24 pm #

    I don’t know if you saw my reply since my twitter is locked, but thank you so much Sarah, you are far too kind!!!!!!! Ok, sorry, I just didn’t want to make it seem like I ignored you if twitter was being a butt. I love all your book recommendations and I’m sorry that last week was so bad. Keep fighting!…also if my love for Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is any indication that I’m going to like this book, then I don’t know what.

  15. Kayla Apr 22 2013 at 4:27 pm #

    I’ve been wanting to read this for FOREVER and somehow just haven’t gotten around to buying it. So this is very exciting! 🙂

  16. Samantha Davies Apr 22 2013 at 6:06 pm #

    I haven’t read Shades of Milk and Honey but it looks good!

  17. Jpetroroy Apr 22 2013 at 7:44 pm #

    Hmm sounds interesting and out of my comfort zone.

  18. Caitlin Vanasse Apr 22 2013 at 10:08 pm #

    I haven’t read Shades of Milk and Honey, in fact I hadn’t even heard of it until your Last Call last month but I out in on my TBR list then and I’m bumping it up after this. I’m not sure familiar enough with novels set in the Regency era to recommend anything beyond the Austen I’ve read BUT if I can recommend a Pride and Prejudice adaptation I would like to give a shout out to the web series The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. The way Jane Austen’s work has been reinterpreted and translated to a vlog style is fabulous. (All 100 episodes and ancillary videos can be found on YouTube. It sounds like a lot but just try watching the first episode and see if you don’t get hooked.)

  19. Alexa Y. Apr 23 2013 at 5:11 pm #

    I haven’t read Shades of Milk & Honey yet, but from the description above, it sounds like something I’d enjoy. The era is one I enjoy reading about (as when it appears on Pride & Prejudice or the like, for instance), so that’s a major bonus. And the magical aspect makes me even more excited to check this out!

  20. Patchi Apr 23 2013 at 5:40 pm #

    I’m a Persuasion fan 🙂

    Shades of Milk and Honey is on my wish list. I’m even more excited to read it after this review.

  21. Darith L. Apr 24 2013 at 12:06 am #

    No, I haven’t read it! But I’ve heard of it somewhere. 😀

  22. telesphorian Apr 25 2013 at 12:37 pm #

    Normally I don’t read this sort of book, but the post really piqued my interest. The only parts I liked from Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was the original Austen. (I guess I should read the real thing.)

  23. Joni Apr 26 2013 at 9:18 am #

    I just read this book a couple weeks ago! It was enchanting and imaginative and rich in atmosphere… I loved how it seemed very “historical regency novel”, but there were just these little seamless details that made it magic. I’m very much looking forward to reading the others.

    And I agree completely about BBC needing to make it light up the screen! I can just picture the very period correct look, but maybe with ever so slight a fantasy tweak. Would be such fun. ^.^

    Thanks for the giveaway- I would LOVE my own copy of the book!

  24. Kirsten W Apr 26 2013 at 1:50 pm #

    I’ve never even heard of this book until now, but now I’m dying to read it- sounds fabulous 😀
    I’m a huge Jane Austen fan, Emma in particular, but I haven’t read many other Regency-era novels.

Leave a Reply to Hannah Roberts Click here to cancel reply.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.