Friday, January 7, 2011

Love at first word

Have you ever picked up a book and known, from the very first word, that you were going to love it? That's the way I felt about Mary Robinette Kowal's Shades of milk and honey which has been described as Jane Austen with magic.

Jane is the older (late 20s, oh my) of two sisters. Melody, the youngest sister, is fair of face and popular with the young swains of the neighborhood but her appearance is all that she has. Jane is sallow-complected with a prominent nose but she has a warm heart and is an accomplished "glamorist"--she can manipulate her surroundings magically to make them more appealing. With a few twist of the magical threads attached to everything, she can make a gentle and flower-scented breeze waft through a room, add the gentle music of bird song to a dinner party and more.

Melody is "in love" with the man next door, a feeling, unfortunately, shared by Jane. In hopes of gaining his favor, Jane acts as friend and teacher to his teenage sister who soon finds her true place in Jane's affections. Jane also attracts the grudging attention of a professional glamorist, hired to decorate the home of a noblewoman living in the area.

From such a simple beginning come elopements, reduced circumstances, unrequited love and all the other behaviors so amusing to society in early 19th century England.

Jane is a delightful companion, her plain-ness and lack of pretence make her oh-so-appealing. Do try to spend some time with her. You won't regret it!

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