Had this just been a book of Regency magic and manners it would have been charming enough: the period is evoked more convincingly than usual in both dialog and mores. But no, Kowal wasn't content to leave it at that: there are complications such as creative and technological insight and war. You don't get a lot of that sort of development, which is a pity, because I really love seeing characters work through problems and setbacks. There were also books being read, both for information and group entertainment, which doesn't appear nearly as often as it should in books.
So, awesome. All the pleasures of an Austen novel, such as the mortifying realization of how the regular and normal behavior of one's family is perceived by others. But also the kinds of things that are left out of Austen. Although she must have known a great deal about solving problems in her work and testing out various options, I can't recall any instance of someone actually doing anything like work, let alone encountering challenges in it. And the wars, of course, were never mentioned directly, despite the number of officers in uniform who are so very appealing to the young women. Mind, I'm not saying that Kowal is trying to fix Austen in any way, just that she has found interstices in which to introduce other elements without seeming to contradict the historical feel. Plus, the heroine is not beautiful and knows it, a rare element in fiction.
I'm very eagerly looking forward to reading the rest of the series, and then moving on to Kowal's other work.