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Shades of Milk and Honey

(Glamourist Histories #1)

3.50  ·  Rating details ·  14,554 ratings  ·  2,774 reviews
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
ebook, 208 pages
Published August 3rd 2010 by Tor Books (first published July 26th 2010)
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Mary Robinette Kowal It's an oblique reference to Melody and Jane's relationship. Melody has a complexion of milk and honey and Jane always feels in her shadow.

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Khanh, first of her name, mother of bunnies
This book is like Jane Austen's works in the way that a genetically modified out-of-season greenhouse tomato is like a cherry. Sure, they're technically both classified as fruits. They're red. They're juicy-looking. They're attractive. The difference is that when you bite into said GMO tomato, it tastes like mealy, mushy, tasteless crap. This book is the equivalent of a limp, tasteless slice of tomato on a McDonalds' hamburger. Why bother? You're just going to pick it off and throw it away anywa ...more
Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
I love Jane Austen and I love fantasy, so you would think this book, which mixes the two, would be right up my alley, especially since it was written by a Hugo Award-winning author. Can't miss! and yet, somehow, it does. Superficially it's a very Austenesque tale, but it lacks most of the wit, charm and complexity of Austen.

Jane is the plain older sister with all the talent in the family: art, music and magic. But at age 28, she feels like she's fated to become a spinster, and she spends most o
Thank you, brian tanabe!

Have you ever slapped someone, good and hard? I can still remember the one and only time I did, the anger boiling up and over, the near involuntary windup of the arm and spring-loaded swing-through, the crack of the hand on the offender's cheek, the numb and then sting in the palm, the blipping rush of incredible satisfaction instantaneously followed by a gushing of fear and guilt? Yeah. It felt good and solid before the last fear and guilt part. I still remember all that
Aug 07, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This was an incredibly frustrating book. The charm of Austen lies in the style of writing: light, witty, insightful, elegant, and able to skewer Regency life at a moment's notice. And while "Shades of Milk and Honey" makes sure to pack in plenty of Regency manners and swooning, the writing style is so jarring that I ended up reading passages aloud to other people, just to confirm that they really did make no damn sense.

The author reuses words at an amazing pace -- frequently the same word is rep
So there were many nice things in this book. The Austin-esque plot was interesting, and the main character and her relationship with her sister was layered, I really think the character was well-drawn and the best thing about the book. Her POV as the "plain" sister was written from a very real place.

I guess I just ached for a bit more complexity, with the plot (and romance) and the world-building. There's some VERY interesting magic conceits here, and I just wanted a bigger scope. I think the au
Sherwood Smith
This very talented writer has written a Regency romance that features a few of Jane Austen's spellings, adding in a truly nifty magical system. Unfortunately, the magic seems little integrated with the world, having almost no impact on the culture.

The comparison with Jane Austen might sell books, but that's also kind of a high bar. This story feels more like a Regency romance, without much of Austenesque irony or complication of character; on the other hand, it is not a retread of Georgette Hey
Aug 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
Romance and Regency go hand in hand, but then, so does Art.

All the most talented ladies are skilled in the art of subterfuge and seeming, are they not?

Well, not Jane. She's conflicted about using Glamour and refuses to make herself seem more pretty than she is, while also being rather more talented than the rest of her family. Sure, its a common thing to know and use Glamour in the Regency era. Didn't you know? Magic is real, and no only can you create wonderful murals and play wonderful music w
Aug 14, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
*4.5 stars*

Perfect for fans of Jane Austen that want the added flair of magic. The characters fill the typical Austen tropes, with their own spin. A lovely story for any fan of the Regency period.
Mar 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Full review now posted!

This was absolutely delightful.

Fantasy of manners is a subgenre that I didn’t realized I needed in my life. I’ve read books that technically fit the genre, such as the Infernal Devices trilogy by Cassandra Clare and Alison Goodman’s Dark Days Club, but those both felt more like YA than anything else. Because they are. This was my first experience with an adult fantasy of manners, and I loved it.

Fantasy of manners is basically if Jane Austen had included magic in her writi
Good God, I resent this book so much for not being awesome. Georgette Heyer put me in the mood for another regency, and combine that with fantasy? Sold.

I want a refund. The Heyer danced along, sparkly with charm; this book plodded, leaving me with an overwhelming sense of claustrophobia and boredom at the shallowness and banality and insipidity of well-to-do country life. The conversation didn’t sparkle wittily, it clunked. And the heroine was frankly too stupid to keep breathing.

Mostly though,
Lois Bujold
Aug 27, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Austen fans, fantasy fans looking for a more intimate scale of tale.
Recommended to Lois by: seens recs around for years
Jane Austen with Magic: specifically, Sense and Sensibility, for the most part. (Not, interestingly, Heyer-esque; Kowal goes for the older and less comic model.) I found it a very pleasant way to spend an evening, to be sure. Interesting magic system. I much enjoyed the final choice of hero, and the process of that choosing. There were several possibilities in play at first, and the methods of winnowing down the pack by both protagonist and author were instructive.

I suspect this crosses over fro
Frankie Lovely
3 stars
Review to come

This was a decent regency romance. With no smut.

A few things I think could be improved upon. But overall a solid read.

I would really like to see the magic elements of this become a lot more prominent later in the series though as the magic was very much low key here.
Mar 16, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I had the oddest reaction to this book - I enjoyed it while reading it, but the moment I'd finished it I couldn't stem a growing swell discontent. Certainly, Ms. Kowal's command of Regency-era literary styling was excellent - it felt of the time, without being unreadable to a modern reader. And her conceit of "glamour" started out as interesting, but unfortunately, like the rest of the book, really came to naught.

What kept me reading at first was the surety that something had to happen eventuall
Jacob Proffitt
Jan 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
I suppose that it is natural to compare any competently written book featuring Regency-era gentry and romance to Jane Austen. Inevitable as it is, I kind of wish it weren't so common. This book isn't anything like Jane Austen except in the above surface aspects. The thing is, the book has a charm and grace of its own that I deeply enjoyed and appreciated and the fact it does so without cribbing noticeably from any of the Regency greats (most notably Austen and Heyer) is a really remarkable achie ...more
More for the historical romance fan than the fantasy lover, the magic here largely took the place of art. The main focus is country neighborhood drama with a definite Austen feel to it.

If you enjoy fantasy of manners, you should enjoy this. I thought the magic added a nice touch to the romance.
Review from Tenacious Reader:

Shades of Milk and Honey is a wonderful regency romance with just enough magic (or glamour) to add an extra layer of enchantment for the reader. For anyone who enjoys Jane Austen, I highly recommend this one. While the story is enjoyable, I also feel like this is a style of book where you just enjoy how it is told, and immersing yourself in the world and time period.

The main protagonist, Jane, is not a stunning beauty, but she
On the one hand, yes, this was fun because Jane Austen + magic = yes, as stated in one of my status updates while reading. If you go into the book expecting Jane Austen levels of wit and social satire, you are going to be disappointed. But I didn't. I went in expecting a fantasy novel set in an Austen-like world with an Austen-like romance plot, and so I was fine. And the magic system was really interesting to me.

So basically, this is Regency England if magic were real, and largely considered a
I finished Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal and I was bit mixed; from early word of mouth and reviews I have expected a more substantial book rather than the very light beach reading novel this turned out to be; it is pretty much Jane Austen light, without any real social commentary or depth to the world building, all revolving around relationships and romance, while magic is pretty in-essential to the story except as a vehicle of allowing the main character to 'shine" as a "plai ...more
May 18, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fantasy, dnf
Super boring. 50% of the way through and there was still no plot. The writing is clunky, the conversations contrived, and did I mention boring?1 I quit. There's too many good things out there to read.
Shades of Milk and Honey is a novel set in an alternate Regency England where genteel young women are expected to learn how to cast glamours as well as cover screens and knit purses. In an early scene, the protagonist Jane—a talented user of such glamours, though overlooked by many because of her plainness—tutors another young woman about glamours, showing her how the folds of light she's making are too clumsy, her stitches too obvious, the overall effect crude. This is, sadly, a good analogy of ...more
Jul 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Take my love for fantasy and combine with regency historical fiction plus a dash of romance= satisfied reader.
MORE? MORE! @ P.S. I love that book!

THE WORLD: In this book we travel to older times when women were praised for their beauty and talent in music and arts. Their only purpose of life was to fine a nice and wealthy man and have a beautiful family. Just like in Jane Austin's Pride and Prejudice, the book is set in country suburbs were balls are the highest entertainment. However, another thing exists in this world and that is glamour. It is really pulling the strings of ether and adjusting the aga
Aug 13, 2017 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Austen fans, Georgian-era fans
2.5 stars, rounded up because why are there 4 different GR stars for flavors of 'like' and one star for 'not for me'?
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

On the whole I'm finding this Pride and Prejudice re-imagining to be enjoyable, though its flaws ultimately proved difficult for me to get past. Not least of these is the character of Melody Ellsworth, the younger of the two Milk & Honey Ellsworth daughters, who seems to be a melding of several of Austen's Bennet daughters into one. Did Kowa
Oct 02, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sff
The Regency-plus-magic in which Jane takes us through the tiniest shades of her emotions regarding her plainness, her relationship with her beautiful sister, Melody, and her marriage prospects, while the magic is confined to literally decorative use.

I didn't care for this. The pacing was such that for almost two hundred pages nothing happens but feeeeelings, and then suddenly revelations and chases and duelling pistols and so on are rushing by so quickly that the characters don't seem to be abl
Apr 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
If you told me that this was an actual Regency-era fiction, I would probably believe you. Kowal's research is impeccable, and the book feels authentic to the time it recreates. Except, you know, with the addition of subtle magical glamour, which seems like a perfectly reasonable thing for a young lady of good breeding to have done with her time, so I don't see why I should doubt that aspect. Kowal sets up the slight divergence from reality in expert fashion, slipping it into the first paragraphs ...more
Nov 29, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shades of Milk and Honey is touted as Jane Austen with magic. Kowal does borrow quite a bit from Austen, which is generally speaking not a problem. It starts being a problem when there's nothing new added into the mix. And, in this case, the only new thing is the magic. Sounds not bad, right? And it isn't. But it also isn't exciting in any shape or form. The magic in this novel is decorative. It doesn't have much impact on the universe of the novel. It's low-key enjoyable, I'll give it that
May 26, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this as part of the #TBRTakedown and I have to say I didn't know exactly what I was getting into when I began this as it's set in a rather 'prim and proper' society, not what I usually read. This is a fairly classical story with many of the same elements as those in jane Eyre (which is what Kowal states as a large influence) and I freely admit that I have yet to read (and may not ever read) Jane Eyre. However, despite my usual disinterest in classics I am in no way put off by the language ...more
This is the book I was looking forward to love. It had wonderful reviews from people I trust, it had that lovely mash of ingredients I love, it had an interesting magic concept... I read and was underwhelmed, and now, a month and a half later I can hardly remember what it was about. It is a regency novel with magic in it. But it seemed that the regency part and the magic part were too diluted to give space for each other that that the whole book seems too empty. I liked the characters well enoug ...more
I'm vacillating between two and three stars on this one -- it's not halfway between, I'm just trying to decide whether I'll give it credit for keeping me reading, or dock it for how very high its debt to Jane Austen's work is. It's basically a cut and paste job on Austen's characters and situations, and while the writing is competent enough, it doesn't have the same subtlety and humour that Jane Austen brought to her work. It suffers very much in comparison, because of its debt.

The fantasy woven
Mar 22, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was exactly the book that I needed to read while stuck at home (I mean, (view spoiler)). In this version of regency England, using the "glamour" that exists in the ether to create subtle effects - from a light scent in the air to a full atmospheric glen in the dining room - is a sought-after talent, and the plain Jane Ellsworth excels at manipulating glamour. But as always, it' ...more
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topics  posts  views  last activity   
Team Hooman: Spoiler Free - Shades of Milk and Honey 7 10 Jul 11, 2018 08:49PM  
Sirens Conference: Shades of Milk and Honey 9 23 Sep 05, 2016 08:59PM  
Vaginal Fantasy B...: Shades of M&H - no spoilers 11 106 Apr 20, 2016 06:25AM  
FangirlNation Boo...: What do you think so far? 5 8 Dec 05, 2015 11:11AM  
Sinopsis en Español // Synopsis in Spanish 3 8 Mar 30, 2015 06:38PM  
The Sword and Laser: Shades of Milk & Honey 11 94 Dec 10, 2014 12:35PM  

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Mary Robinette Kowal is the author of the Lady Astronaut series and historical fantasy novels: The Glamourist Histories series and Ghost Talkers . She’s the President of SFWA, a member of the award-winning podcast Writing Excuses, and has received the Astounding Award for Best New Writer, four Hugo awards, the RT Reviews award for Best Fantasy Novel, the Nebula, and Locus awards. Stories have a ...more

Other books in the series

Glamourist Histories (6 books)
  • Glamour in Glass (Glamourist Histories, #2)
  • Without a Summer (Glamourist Histories, #3)
  • Valour and Vanity (Glamourist Histories, #4)
  • Of Noble Family (Glamourist Histories, #5)
  • The Complete Glamourist Histories: (Shades of Milk and Honey, Glamour in Glass, Without a Summer, Valour and Vanity, Of Noble Family)

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