Briarley - Aster Glenn Gray

Briarley is another of the raft of books I've picked up while in lockdown, usually because the price has dropped dramatically and I have some Amazon credit - to be honest, I don't usually buy novellas because they annoy me for various reasons (often they feel incomplete and/or I begrudge paying novel prices for novella-length books) but I thought I'd take a chance on this one...

 

It's sold as a m/m retelling of Beauty and the Beast and that's very much what it is. In this case, our wanderer who finds himself in the beautiful grounds of a mysterious house and picks a rose to take home to his daughter decides that he should stay, rather than making her come and be involved in all this enchantment nonsense. Part of that decision is based on the fact that it's wartime and his daughter is working as a nurse, while he's a country vicar so much less important to the war effort, and partly just because it feels wrong to him to trap his daughter into the repercussions of his own actions. 

 

Our Beast in this case is a man now trapped in dragon-form, or part-dragon at least, while his servants are invisible. Their time is running out, as it's coming up on 100 years since the initial curse and nobody is quite sure what will happen when time is up. Our protagonist is a sensible sort and suggests getting a dog, for starters, only to come back to the house with one which has been disabled in an accident. When that doesn't work to break the curse, and he finds out that a number of girls had come to the house and failed to break it either, he starts to wonder whether there's a little more going on with his host than just the change in his appearance. 

 

It's a nicely-told story, which keeps trundling along at a reasonable pace, and with a very much expected fade-to-black at the end. What stopped it from being 5 stars for me is the fact that things still remain unresolved at the end (see my previous comment about novellas often feeling incomplete) - half of the house burns down at the end and it's just hand-waved over. There's plenty of other things for everyone involved to sort out before the story would finally be Over: how do the servants explain to everyone in the village why they don't have ration cards? How will everyone feed themselves now that they don't have magically-produced food to live on? This is just how my brain works, I'm afraid, thinking about these kinds of things.