Sunday Snippet: Claws and Contrivances by Stephanie Burgis

Posted August 6, 2023 by Jen in Sunday Snippet Tags: ,

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Claws and Contrivances

Author: Stephanie Burgis
Publisher: Five Fathoms Press
Release Date: July 10, 2023
Series: Regency Dragons series #2
Genre: Regency fantasy rom-com


book cover of Claws and Contrivances by Stephanie BurgisRose had an illicit meeting to attend, and she was already late.

Fortunately, Mr Aubrey had found himself a distraction. When Rose opened the door to the old converted chapel, which now functioned as both an offshoot library and a makeshift gallery for her uncle’s collection of draconic art, she found him sitting in a threadbare red velvet wing chair by the painting of Sir George slaying a particularly small and irritable-looking dragon. Even the sound of the opening door didn’t shift his attention from the thick book he was frowning over. Three more books waited, stacked on the side table beside him, next to a brace of candles that looked as if they had been burning for some time. 

The tall, arched windows of the room, which always filled it with bright natural light during the day, were pure black at this time of night, showing no hint of the medieval ruins beyond. In this small, discrete piece of the vast, rambling house, they were utterly alone, and Rose shut the door behind the dragons with relief.

“Finally!” She pitched her voice loud enough to wake Mr Aubrey from his book, and his head lifted in response.

“Miss—good Lord!” He leapt to his feet, eyebrows rising precipitously. “I mean to say. Is that your nightrobe?”

Rose raised her own eyebrows as she glanced down at the plain blue cotton wrapper that covered her from her neck to her slippers with excruciating modesty. “What else could you imagine it to be, Mr Aubrey?”

“But, ah … that is …” Scraping one hand through his fair hair, he set down his book and took a quick step backwards, bumping into the side of the chair in his haste. “I mean, I shouldn’t like to take advantage …”

“Don’t be absurd.” Rose strode across the small room, trailing dragons behind her, and set her solitary candlestick down beside the larger brace of candles on the side table. “I could hardly refuse to be changed into my nightdress tonight, not without giving an explanation, and you could hardly expect me to do that. This is meant to be a secret meeting, you know!”

“Yes, of course. I—never mind.” Mr Aubrey snapped his mouth shut, colour mounting on his high cheekbones. “Forgive me,” he muttered a moment later, his voice oddly constricted. “I cannot explain why I took any notice of such a frivolous detail. I never notice anyone’s physical appearance. In fact, I am notoriously unaware, and yet—”

“I’m sure you are.” It would have been rude to smile, so Rose forced her lips not to twitch, no matter how endearing his disgruntlement. “But if you could, please, turn your mind to dragons for a moment?”

“Oh, thank heavens.” His shoulders sagged with relief. “Yes, indeed. Dragons.” Then he paused, blinking down at her. “Do you know, I don’t believe anyone in my entire life has ever before had to ask me to turn my thoughts to dragons. In my experience, people are far more likely to beg me to speak on any other subject.”

“Well, that’s foolish.” Rose shifted her feet slightly to keep an eye on Rhiannon as the red dragon trotted alertly past them on her usual mission to investigate every nook and cranny. “Why ask you to discourse about something you don’t know or care about? That would be like expecting my sister Harry to talk about the weather instead of, oh, algebraic integers or number theory.”

Mr Aubrey’s head tilted. “Do you share her interest in such matters?”

“I haven’t the faintest idea what she’s talking about most of the time,” Rose said frankly, “but I have a good deal of interest in her, which is what matters. I’d far rather listen to her talk about her true passions than become a person she can’t speak to with honesty. And she loves me and our other sister enough to share all of her interests with us, despite our lack of any mathematical abilities.”

“Hmm,” said Mr Aubrey. “I don’t know about that.” He was standing very close now, frowning down at her as if she were an intriguing new species of dragon that required detailed inspection. “I’m no expert in mathematics, nor in social interactions, but from my observations thus far, you have a good deal of skill at both organisation and rapid calculation. Those are certainly mathematical qualities.”

“Well … thank you.” Rose’s cheeks warmed under the heat of his focused attention. Coming from the other end of the room, she could hear the soft clinks and thuds of Rhiannon’s ongoing investigations, but this time, she didn’t turn to look. “I’ve never pretended to share Harry’s genius, though. You would certainly find her more interesting than me.” And he would, one day; she would simply have to make certain that they met, somehow.

The poor man had suffered through so many discomforts through their association, even before Aunt Parry’s latest ultimatum. Once Rose made sure of the dragons’ safety and rescued Mr Aubrey from the betrothal she’d forced him into, he would deserve a great reward, and Rose could think of no one more deserving of the affections of a sweet, lanky, endearingly awkward and academically brilliant scholar than her equally brilliant younger sister.

They would be utterly perfect together … and there was no reason for that thought to send a pang through her chest.

She took a hasty step backwards and nearly stepped onto the dusky gold dragon, who had silently curled up into a ball behind her legs. “Ahhh!” 

Rose caught her foot just in time to prevent it from landing, but it was too late to catch her balance. She was lurching, tripping …

Until, for the second time that evening, she found Mr Aubrey’s long fingers curling firmly around her upper arms to support her. This time, she landed with her hands spread flat against his lean, warm chest, where his heartbeat flickered against her touch.

“Oh, good heavens.” His breath was soft against her hair, but his chest …

Sucking in a breath, Rose extricated herself as swiftly as she could, stepping to the side to avoid Griff, who had leapt to his feet and was flapping his clipped wings in agitation. “You must be careful,” she murmured as she knelt beside him. Her breath was still coming much too quickly; her hand shivered as she stroked gently along his neck. “I could have hurt you so badly if I’d landed on top of you!”

Golden eyelids lowering, Griff clicked his tongue between his teeth and turned his head to rest, as lightly and delicately as a butterfly’s touch, against her stroking hand. Her breath caught.

“Impressive.” Mr Aubrey sank down to kneel beside her. “You’ve already gained his trust.” The scholar’s fascinated gaze, of course, was fixed upon the dragon; Rose was clearly the only one who’d been affected by their brief encounter. 

About the Book:

Passionate, idealistic Rose Tregarth may have been invited into her uncle’s remote home in the heart of Wales as an act of kindness to a poor relation, but it doesn’t take her long to realize that her newly-met family members are eccentric, creative, deeply lovable – and in need of all the help they can get. If the crumbling medieval walls of Gogodd Abbey aren’t to collapse around their heads at any moment, someone will have to step up and take charge of the situation. Fortunately for all of them, Rose has never lacked in determination.

Add in more and more mysteriously appearing little dragons and a threatening new neighbor who could easily star as the villain in one of her aunt’s fabulous Gothic novels, and Rose is soon up to her ears in plots and schemes to save all the people and beasts she’s come to love…with the help of a sweet, baffled dragon scholar whom Rose has swept into a fake betrothal – for purely practical purposes, of course.

With her fierce, loyal heart, Rose is more than ready to take care of everyone around her, dragons and humans alike. However, it may take an act of true magic to clear her eyes to the future – and the gentleman – she desires for herself.

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About the Author:

Stephanie Burgis grew up in East Lansing, Michigan, but now lives in Wales with her husband and two sons, surrounded by mountains, castles and coffee shops. She writes witty and romantic historical fantasy novels and novellas, most recently Scales and Sensibility (a SPFBO finalist), Good Neighbors, and the Harwood Spellbook series. She has also had over forty short stories for adults and teens published in various magazines and anthologies and eight MG fantasy novels published with Bloomsbury and Simon & Schuster.


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