Briarley was written by Aster Glenn Grey. I first heard about this novella when author Cat Sebastian recommended it on her Facebook page. This is a WWII era m/m retelling of Beauty and the Beast, and it’s available on Kindle Unlimited. I already knew that I would like it from the description.
The story starts out like most versions of the folktale, with a country parson wandering into a beautiful home and wanting nothing more than to bring a rose home for his daughter. The owner of the house appears, demanding that the parson bring his daughter to take his place, but the parson refuses because his daughter needs to do her part for the war effort. The reclusive homeowner begrudgingly agrees to let the parson, who is a widower, stay and try to break the curse that turned him into a hideous dragon-like creature.
The first thing that you need to know is that there is no explicit content in this book, and certainly no dragon/man shifter encounters. Instead, the reader is treated to a beautiful story of a friendship that has the potential to grow into something more. The dragon has spent almost a hundred years shut off from the world, refusing to acknowledge why the curse hasn’t been broken. While the world wasn’t nearly as progressive in 1940 as it is today, it was leaps and bounds more progressive than 1840. The parson is very empathetic to the dragon’s situation, and it seems that having a friend for the first time in a hundred years is just what the dragon needed. But is it enough to break the curse before its too late?
I would absolutely recommend Briarley. This is a masterfully told story, and I loved the magic and the empathy and just about everything. I didn’t want it to end, but at the same time, I think this was the perfect length for the story. I loved that the parson was an older hero, and as unconventional as it might be, the dragon was a perfect hero as well. I’m hoping to read more from Grey in the future.