Glamour in Glass - A worthy sequel to Shades of Milk and Honey

Glamour in Glass - Mary Robinette Kowal

My review of the previous book, viewable here, spoke of my conviction that the author wrote that book for me. It touched on so many genres and conventions of books I love, it was scary. So I was eager to read the sequel, which my library fortunately had. I did give myself a bit of time between the two so the second book could stand on its own, rather then be a mere extension.

 

I worried in vain; this was no extension!

 

Jane Ellsworth is now Jane Vincent, married to the famous glamourist David Vincent Hamilton - the last name unused and hidden as the second son of an Earl could not be a practicing artist. After working together with her husband the first time on a commission, for the Prince Regent no less, Jane is feeling a bit unsure of her abilities and thus - to her - her worth. Combined with this is her mother's campaign for grandchildren, a prospect that would force Jane to be without what she's good at and what she feels her husband's respect and love is based on for nine months. The prospect is not terribly pleasant. With Vincent concerned about upbringing after his own difficult childhood, it's a subject neither wants to touch.

 

And with a honeymoon trip to the Continent finally able to take place, Napoleon having abdicated...for now, Jane and Vincent can travel to Belgium to visit a fellow glamourist, friend, and former student of the same teacher. While there, Jane and Vincent have joys and fears, triumphs and failures. They learn a great deal about each other and about themselves.

 

In some ways, this book touched me more than the first book. Setting-wise, I prefer the first. While in many ways this is a more 'exciting' book, what I loved about Shades of Milk and Honey was what made Austen stand out in her day: the commonplace. Austen didn't need crazed lovers or scandal (though some of the later is touched on) to make a good story; rather she let people live, react, make mistakes, and grow or not as they choose. You may never have met a Mr. Collins...but you've known someone who acted like him at least once. Her characters ring true - and Kowal captures this better then many Austen homages do. So travel, crazy situations, and history (alternate though it may be in this world) coming down on their heads was a bit disappointing.

 

However, Kowal made up four it with her characters. The ones introduced in this book were wonderful, with something to learn about all of them. I did figure out who the person they were concerned about was, it was a tad obvious but even they held a surprise at the end.

 

It was Jane and to a lesser extent Vincent made this book. The first book ended on a high, as it should, but this is real life: Happily Ever After just doesn't happen in real life. Both of these independent people are learning to live together and it gets rough at times. Jane is particular struck me, as she begins to question herself and her position with her husband. Vincent too is having troubles; but these two people are the strongest when working together - as it should be.

 

Warning: Major spoilers below! Do NOT read unless you've read this book or you will be completely spoiled on the ending.

 

One of the issues in this book was very poignant for me at this moment in my life. My husband and I are seriously discussing having children and that plays a huge part of this book. Jane's reactions to the idea might seem selfish to some but I can understand where she's coming from. Particularly since she and Vincent are newly married, you want time just the two of you. Both of us, as they did, realize that not only will your life change completely but your families' pasts (both nurture and nature for us) may come back to haunt you. I felt for Jane, particularly when she must make the choice between protecting her child and saving her husband. The outcome of that decision is heartbreaking. I can't imagine loosing a child. And yet, I believe that Jane would love any child she and Vincent were blessed with, as my husband and I would and hopefully will.

(show spoiler)

 

The ending was fast-paced, exciting, and had me on the edge of my seat. It was also touching and terribly sad at times. Tissues may be needed.

 

Glamour in Glass is a fitting sequel to Shades. We can see our protagonists grow and develop in their new life together. As the world around them grows more dangerous, they have to learn who to depend on.