Shades of Milk and Honey (2010): Mary Robinette Kowal

★★★½

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a young woman, of modest birth and even more modest fortune, must be in possession of numerous accomplishments if she hopes to find a husband. The two Ellsworth sisters of Long Parkmead have certainly done their best in this respect, having studied the gentle arts of music, painting and glamour. Their hopes rest on Melody, the younger, whose prettiness and vibrant spirits are expected to attract a fine match. Jane, the elder daughter, is plainer and quieter, but far more gifted than her little sister in the use of glamour. When their simple lives are disrupted by the arrival in the neighbourhood of a dashing captain and a brooding glamourist, the scene is set for a delicious comedy of manners – with just a little extra magic. This elegant Regency romp certainly wasn’t the kind of book I’d expected from Mary Robinette Kowal, since I’d only read her Lady Astronaut of Mars before this, but I was immediately charmed by a novel that embraces so much of Austen’s spirit with such success and affection. Imagine it as Georgette Heyer with a side of light sorcery.

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