I’m taking a brief break from my Cybils reviewing to tell you about this new full-length fantasy romance novel from favorite author Stephanie Burgis. Normally I would wait until after the Cybils to read a romance or two, but I broke down and read this one right when it came out.
Scales and Sensibility. Regency Dragons Book 1
by Stephanie Burgis
Five Fathoms Press, 2021.
Read from purchased copy.
… but penniless orphan Elinor Tregarth wishes her spoiled cousin and unwilling hostess Penelope Hathergill had never convinced her father to buy her one. It’s left to Elinor to clean up the messes Penelope’s dragon Sir Jessamyn leaves. Elinor loves the little dragon anyway – he wouldn’t be so nervous if only Penelope wouldn’t yell in his ear so much – but when Penelope insults both of them in the run-up to her debut, Elinor has had enough. She runs away with Sir Jessamyn, her few coins, and the precious letters from her sisters, both sent to different relatives around the country.
The meet-cute happens as she’s forced off the road by a carriage and falls into a mud puddle. The carriage holds two men – dragon scholar Mr. Aubrey, and the handsome Mr. Benedict Hawkins, who pulls her from the mud puddle and insists on driving to an inn. But though sparks fly, Mr. Hawkins is in the area to court the wealthy Penelope and save his bankrupt estate. Even as they bond over both having lost their parents who also lost their fortunes to a fraudulent investment scheme, ever-practical Elinor knows she’ll never be what Mr. Hawkins needs.
Mr. Aubrey, the scholar, wishes that people would stop reading fairy tales, as they give people the idea that dragons are magical, which they certainly are not. But when Elinor wakes up in the inn the next morning, she’s very surprised to find something about herself radically changed. Could Sir Jessamyn have something to do with it?
Now Elinor finds herself back with the Hathergills in the lead-up to Penelope’s debut ball – but in disguise. Pretending to be someone else just might give her the courage to stand up for herself for once – if she isn’t discovered first.
I’m leaving out a great many details here, in the interest of avoiding spoilers. But rest assured that despite Mr. Aubrey’s beliefs to the contrary, there is definitely magic in this story, as well as a mystery, a satisfying come-uppance for cousin Penelope, and a tender kisses-only romance between Elinor and Benedict. At the same time, Ms. Burgis makes serious points about the power of women’s words between Elinor’s new-found courage and as Penelope’s downtrodden mother Lady Hathergill suddenly starts speaking her mind with devastating honesty.
In short, readers looking for a light and magical romance to take their minds off the awfulness of the current state of the world will be satisfied, without needing to sacrifice modern views of women. The part of me that longed for my own fire lizard as a teen was also quite happy to spend time in a world with beautiful and devoted pet dragons! I’m anxious to find out how Elinor’s two younger sisters will find their matches.