Shades of Milk and Honey
Mary Robinette Kowal
Tor, Aug 3 2010, $24.99
In England, plain-looking twenty-eight years old Jane Ellsworth is jealous of her beautiful sister Melody’s looks. On the other hand, although she has some talent Melody is envious of Jane's magical glamour ability.
Vulgar glamour artist Mr. Vincent is commissioned to create living murals in a nearby mansion. Reticent when it comes to males, Jane wants Mr. Vincent to mentor her in glamour usage; she also is attracted to him and wishes he would reciprocate. However, she has a minor hope he will tutor her and no hope he will desire her as men want Melody. On the other hand she is concerned with one of Melody’s myriad of admirers who seems nasty with a personal agenda that she fears will harm her sibling.
This is an interesting ironic look at Regency-like England ( for that matter it could be any society in which the aristocracy eats cake and everyone else battle over their crumbs) through a fantasy lens. The characterization is solid and the sense of being there is strong as the descriptions are vivid. The key to the story line is the ironic use of glamour by the aristocracy not to improve society but for selfish cosmetic use. Although the story line at times slows down with the excesses of the affluent, readers will enjoy what happened to Jane as she seeks her glamour groove.