Glamour in Glass
by Mary Robinette Kowal
Cover Artist: Larry Rostant
Review by Ellen Russell
Tor Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765325570
Date: 10 April 2012 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
When it comes to the elements of a regency romance, Glamour in Glass by Mary Robinette-Kowal has all the necessities: the plucky, if somewhat plain, heroine; the brooding male lead, the outside threat to their happiness which must be overcome or all will be lost; and of course the manners, dinner parties, and balls. Where Glamour in Glass differs from your ordinary regency romance is the magic. It is a very interesting conceit to imagine magic as a kind of craft, such as needlepoint or crochet lace that is ladies’ work and not generally undertaken by men.
Glamour in Glass picks up where the first book, Shades of Milk and Honey, left off. The heroine, Jane Vincent, previously Jane Ellsworth, has just married renowned male glamourist David Vincent. Their work with glamour has earned them a prestigious commission from the prince regent. In fact, David impresses the prince so much that he offers to send them both on a trip to the continent: a lovely vacation in Belgium, which recently gained independence from France after Napoleon's banishment.
While they are there they notice some tensions between the Bonapartists and the Belgian nationalist citizens. The Vincents, though, are more concerned with their latest project – finding a way to make a moveable glamour using glass. Before they are finished, Jane discovers that she is pregnant and thus unable to create glamours without risking her unborn child. However, as political tensions mount and David grows more distant from Jane, Jane discovers that she can do many things without glamour. When David is kidnapped, though, Jane must decide what risks she is willing to take to save the man that she loves.
Glamour in Glass is a thoroughly enjoyable read. The characters are complex and engaging. The portrayal of Regency England is interesting and well fleshed-out. The plotting is tight and flows well. The pace of the story moves reasonably quickly. Really, the only flaw that is noticeable is the ending. As flaws go, that is a reasonably major one, though.
Throughout the story Jane impresses with her spirit and determination. However, it is clear that the society is male-dominated and that people have a hard time taking her seriously as an artist and an equal partner to her husband (who is ahead of his time in this regard). Thus, when, at the end of the story, Jane is immediately accepted by the prince, peerage, and society as an equal partner to her husband and allowed to participate in more masculine activities without so much as a raised eyebrow seems too pat.
It seems like Robinette-Kowal is anxious to have the narrative tied up with a bow at the end despite the fact that having some loose ends would be the more natural ending. Unfortunately, this causes the story, of a woman who can do so much despite her gender and place in the society of her time, to fall flat. The unlikeliness of the ending causes the story to lose some of the shine that it gained during the entire rest of the novel.
For the strong narrative up to the end, I am willing to forgive Glamour and Glass its ending. However, one can only hope that this does not become a trend.