My rating: 4 stars
At 28, Jane Ellsworth is starting to come to terms with her spinsterhood. Her younger, and prettier, sister has charmed the man Jane loves, and though Jane is more skilled in glamour and arts, it's not enough to recommend her. That is, until Mr. Dunkirk starts paying her special attention, and the arrival of glamourist Mr Vincent sparks her interest.
In Kowal's debut novel the reader is introduced to an England with magic, the ability to manipulate how things look, sound, and smell. Other than that, this is a great example of Regency romance. The dresses, the handsome men, the social mores, balls, accomplished woman, scandals, it's all there. And gratefully, with none of the gratuitous sex that pervades so many historical romances.
This is the first in the Glamourist Histories, of which at the moment there are four. However, one of the best things about Shades is that it is a standalone novel, even with the following books. I've already requested the next one from the library and look forward to reading more about Jane, but those of you who only want to read one--you can! You won't be left hanging.
I'd definitely recommend this book to a fan of Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer, or the book Sorcery and Cecily; or the Enchanted Coffee Pot by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer. I'd even recommend it to those who like period movies, but have not yet ventured into reading the books. It's a great introduction to the time period, and the bit of magic makes it appealing to fantasy fans.
*I do not receive compensation from Amazon.