Sarah's Reviews > Shades of Milk and Honey

Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal
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Mar 12, 11

bookshelves: fantasy
Read from March 11 to 12, 2011

** spoiler alert ** Shades of Milk and Honey is a Regency-era romance with magic, called glamour, added in as an essential skill for an accomplished young lady. It is very obviously influenced by the works of Jane Austen. While an enjoyable read overall, it suffers in the inevitable comparison to Austen.

For example, the main protagonist, Jane Ellsworth, has a younger sister, Melody. Melody is obviously meant to remind you of Marianne Dashwood. However, while Marianne was foolish due to her youth, she clearly loved her family and was never intentionally hurtful. Melody, on the other hand, is spiteful and petty. This is supposedly because she is jealous of her older sister who, although not blessed with looks as she is, is a much more accomplished glamourist and artist. Instead of reminding me of Marianne, Melody began to remind me of Lydia Bennett, who also behaved with no regard for her family. However, while Lydia is married off to Mr. Wickham (which she initially sees as a success but the reader knows is actually a horrible fate), Melody eventually realizes the error of her ways and is almost immediately restored to her sister's good graces. In fact, the only one who really suffers for Melody's actions is her sister, who winds up having a gun held to her neck by the man Melody has been meeting in secret.

Aside from Melody Ellsworth, another characterization that bothered me was that of the romantic male lead, Mr. Vincent. Mr. Vincent is clearly modeled after Mr. Darcy, and is initially quite rude to Jane. What makes Pride and Prejudice a wonderful love story is both parties made the realization that they had acted poorly and made a genuine effort to improve themselves. In Shades of Milk and Honey Mr. Vincent's bad behavior seems to be forgiven as soon as Jane realizes that he is in love with her (which raises the distasteful suggestion that all that is required for a man to be a good person is to love a woman not considered attractive by society). If simply loving someone were enough, Pride and Prejudice would have ended with Elizabeth Bennett accepting Mr. Darcy's initial proposal at Rosings.

I don't mean for these (and other characterization issues I have) to indicate I didn't like the book at all. I enjoyed it, and wouldn't mind seeing Kowal write more, with less of Austen's stories and more of her own.
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