Scales and Sensibility
by Stephanie Burgis
Sensible, practical Elinor Tregarth really did plan to be the model poor relation when she moved into Hathergill Hall. She certainly never meant to kidnap her awful cousin Penelope's pet dragon. She never expected to fall in love with the shameless - but surprisingly sweet - fortune hunter who came to court Penelope. And she never dreamed that she would have to enter into an outrageous magical charade to save her younger sisters' futures.
However, even the most brilliant scholars of 1817 England still haven't ferreted out all the lurking secrets of rediscovered dragonkind...and even the most sensible of heroines can still make a reckless wish or two when she's pushed. Now Elinor will have to find out just how rash and resourceful she can be when she sets aside all common sense. Maybe, just maybe, she'll even be impractical enough to win her own true love and a happily ever after...with the unpredictable and dangerous "help" of the magical creature who has adopted her.
A frothy Regency rom-com full of pet dragons and magical misadventures, Scales and Sensibility is a full-length novel and the first in a new series of standalone romantic comedies.
SPFBO8 – Our Reviews
“It was a truth universally acknowledged that any young lady without a dragon was doomed to social failure.”
So-called ‘cozy’, more wholesome, lighter-fare fantasy is definitely in vogue right now in 2023. Looking back now, to 2021, when “Scales and Sensibility” was published in 2021, I believe we can say in hindsight that books like this were part of the vanguard for this cozy fantasy movement, and that’s a BIG deal. While many Indie authors were writing about dark mages, scarred heroes with lots of baggage, and horrific creatures, some were penning books like “Sense and Sensibility”, and gaining a lot of popularity, that would only increase in time.
That said, Regency Romance romance novels which are set during the British Regency of the early 19th century) have long been a very popular sub-genre, and Regency Romance SFF adds another dimension to a beloved subgenre, and creates a fascinating subgenre of its own.
Some of the features that are hallmarks of Regency Romance novels include highlighting the differences in social classes, accentuating what – and more importantly WHO – is respectable, versus who isn’t. Especially for women.
As indicated by the excerpt posted above, Burgis adds the SFF twist in her novel, of DRAGONS, which so many fans of the fantasy genre adore, and many other wonderful facets.
In over-the-top, tongue-in-cheek fashion, with a huge nod, of course to “Sense and Sensibility” (the seminal 19th century Regency novel by iconic writer Jane Austen) Burgis tells the story of Elinor Tregarth. The pragmatic Elnior has been marred by the horrible death of her parents. For a young gentlewoman, this means that she is whisked off to live with relatives, shorn from her sisters, who suffer the same fate, hoping to solidify tarnished fortunes (being orphans), and still successfully marry.
Since one is considered downtrodden as an orphan, one can hardly expect good treatment, only hope for it. Those hopes are dashed by the relatives who take Elinor in. They are cruel to her, and her cousin Penelope is cosseted, flighty, tempermental, and, moreover has wrongfully appropriated a cute pet dragon, splendidly named Sir Jessamyn Carnavoran Artos.
The layabout Penelope shirks any duty of care to Sir Jessamyn, much to the kind-hearted Elinor’s distress. Tired of the treatment she’s receiving under the roof of her relatives, and of Penelope’s neglect of Sir Jessamyn, Elinor flees with the dragon.
Though she is far kinder to Sir Jessamyn than her irresponsible cousin, Elinor thinks dragons are little more than – as high society has dictated – fashion accessories and status symbols.
But Elnior has woefully underestimated both the importance, and challenges, of taking care of a dragon. Adventure, deception, danger, and wonder abound, as Elinor finds love, finds new meaning to life, and comes to understand that when you seek to take a magical creature for a pet, one has to remember, they can be more than one might have bargained for.
Every good book for me starts with good characterization. Since this is a Regency Romance-fantasy, one perhaps shouldn’t expect extremely complex characters, but that doesn’t mean the characters in this book aren’t well drawn. They are appropriately Regency Romance stereotypes, but Burgis does a great job with making them entertaining.
The somewhat self-depreciating, eccentric and in some ways bumbling, yet overall practical, loveable, kind, just and spunky main character of Elinor is your typical down-on-your-luck Regency heroine. She’s one whom we can be pretty certain will have her fortunes reversed by the end of the book. Standing out amongst Elinor’s positive traits is her sense of fairness, and her overall integrity. She is definitely a goody-two-shoes, but that’s not an issue in a book like this.
The surrounding players are also caricatures of the Regency period, but very amusing, and also well-drawn. Benedict, the Hathergills, Mr. Aubery, Penelope, all would fit into most Regency Romances without a hitch. Just change the names, and they become part of that tapestry, without much altering their plot arch.
The villains aren’t necessarily outright evil, instead they’re more petty, conniving, and scornful. The goodies are syrupy good. I’m fine with all that, and rather enjoyed it, because this book doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Well-worn Regency tropes, and the idiosyncrasies of the Regency Era – which essentially provides the worldbuilding – including portrayal of the social calendar, marriages of convenience, the sometimes absurdity of Regency-era courtship, mystery and farcical aspects, were all great hallmarks of Regency Romance that showed up in “Scales and Sensibility”, and worked really well for me. I do LOVE how Burgis used dragons, and how their magic seems to work, in the novel. Most of us have seen tiny, fashionable dogs carried in purses that so many people find so winsome as pets…for me the dragons in this book were kind of like that, except these are true to what we all envision and have read of dragons, creatures of considerable power. In this case, Jessamyn is deceptively powerful (but still really cute). He’s no Drogon, Jabberwock, or Ancalagon the Black, but he shouldn’t be underrated.
While I have read many a Regency with more compelling themes added in, this novel delivers on the whimsy, comedy of errors, classic miscommunications, and antics one would hope to see in Regency fare, with a dash of the mystery (of the light-hearted variety) that I really enjoy in my Regencies (though I tend to like the darker, more sinister thriller elements thrown in there). All with the (desired) predictable outcome.
I am a self-professed romance lover, and the romance in “Scales and Sensibility” was charming. It was a fairly quick turnaround, from first sight to first heart flutter, then to first swooning in love, but the pairing of the caring, loyal, and kind Benedict and the sensitive, warm and wonderful Elinor won me over.
I have to praise Burgis’ prose as being smooth, clear, crisp, and fluid. The book is VERY well-written, readable, and I breezed through it without a hitch or complaint about the writing style, or any awkwardness at all to the narrative.
Every book must be judged on its own merits, and for me, everything that “Scales and Sensibility” promises, it delivers. It’s heartwarming, light, funny, endearing, well-paced, well-written, and full of sweetness and fanciful things, and DRAGONS.
It would be a diverting Regency Romance if it wasn’t fantasy, I strongly believe that. Can’t help but ask myself, however, would it be an intriguing fantasy novel if it didn’t have historical romantic comedy as part of the book? Ultimately, perhaps it’s not quite fair to try to make that delineation, but this analysis is all for judging purposes, because this is, after all, the Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off finals round.
Yet ultimately, for me, this is a very good fantasy BOOK, irrespective of what type of book it is, and a deserving SPFBO 8 Finalist.
Highly recommended for those who like their Regency Romance very cozy, tried and true, but spiced up to low heat with adorable dragons, mischief, and quick fall in love (non-risque) romance.
SPFBO Score: 7.5 out of possible 10.
So, off the cuff – Romance is not my usual genre of reading, but this sounded like a cute, easy read – so I figured, why not? It was that, cute. There was nothing that was just drawing me back to read it, so I took my time with the book, not devouring it in one sitting.
The heroine, Elinor, I will admit was a bit lacking in some areas, but so were many of the characters. It seemed to sort of wander in the center of the book, before returning to a somewhat more tangible read. Elinor, though, for her faults, is trying to be what everyone expects, until she is pushed to a breaking point. Enter the dashing hero, and a rather peculiar scholar.
This follows a lot of the same lines as many romances. Girl meets guy, develops a crush, and so on and so forth. One of the fun parts of this book for me was the dragon, Sir Jessamyn. He was rather cute, and a bit of the savior of the book.
For the romance lovers out there, this is one that you will enjoy.
SPFBO Score: 5 out of possible 10.
The cover of Scales and Sensibility tells you everything you need to know about this regency romance with dragons. Not the big, scary kind, mind you; nobles wear these on their shoulders as fashion accessories. Low-heat regency is not my usual flavor of romance, but I found myself breezing through this one without a care in the world. This riches-to-rags-to-riches story never surprised me, but it never lost my attention either, which is no small feat for a book that’s outside my usual comfort zone. Reading it was like sitting by the ocean with the perfect breeze shooing the sun’s heat away. If you like magical shenanigans in a regency romance that spends most of its time in drawing rooms and gardens, you’ll adore this book.
I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the elephant in the room: the similarities with another finalist, Miss Percy’s Guide to the Care and Feeding of British Dragons. These are very different books, but they have in common a slow-burn romance, cute but annoying dragons, and a historical flavor. I advise anyone who likes one to try the other. Scales and Sensibility is a lighter, fluffier read, which makes it a perfect palate cleanser, a book that surprised me with how much I enjoyed it.
SPFBO Score: 8 out of possible 10.
This is an adorable book. I enjoy any kind of mash up of fantasy elements with traditional based genres. In this case Scales and Sensibility is a mash up of a Regency style romance and Dragons. All the etiquette, pregnant pauses, slight brushes of the hand and slips of shown ankle with cute little scaled flappy flap flaps. The fantasy star of this novel is Sir Jessamyn who sits perched upon our lovely protagonist Elinor Tregarth. Sir Jessamyn is fed morsels of chicken, given under snout scritches, and to some is considered nothing more than very expressive jewelry, however to Elinor he is way more than he seems.
From a technical standpoint, Scales and Sensibility is done well. The dialog is engaging, the pacing keeps the story going, and the romance aspects of story have a lot of heart to them. My complaint is mostly that there is no surprises and it was just a little to sweet. I knew how most things in this novel where going to go the second that they were mentioned. This aspect might lend it itself to the cozy quality of this book, it is certainly something I can see curling up to with a mug of tea, but it left me a little over-sugared. Everything was just slightly on the wrong side of too much sweetness.
This is definitely one of the difficult parts of the competition. I am usually a dark and grimy grimdark fantasy reader. I love my fantasy to come with a side of gray morality and hold the pity. Not every reader will be the perfect fit for every book. However, I can say that this is a well done story. It is heartwarming, and cozy. One of those books that leaves you feeling warm and gooey inside. So if warm and cozy is your jam, if you love regency, then this is a book I know you will appreciate.
SPFBO Score: 6.0 out of possible 10.
Scales and Sensibility is exactly as advertised- a delightful romp of a rom-com set in regency England with the finishing touch being a flourish of mini dragons. We follow our main character Elinor, a lady with no prospects, as she struggles to find her place in life until a magical dragon changes the trajectory of her story for good (and is adorable while doing so).
The antagonists in this book are perfectly hate-able, which is its own kind of joy, and makes it easy to root for Elinor from the beginning. The injustices she is forced to endure are maddening for sure, but there is always a sense that Burgis will make sure those who deserve it will get their comeuppance. Full of twisty plot turns and comical scenes of everything that can go wrong going wrong, Scales and Sensibility is a fun read for anyone looking for a light hearted story.
Excellent reviews. Thanks for the hard work, guys!