Saturday, March 18, 2023

Review: The Renaissance of Gwen Hathaway by Ashley Schumacher

The Renaissance of Gwen Hathaway by Ashley Schumacher
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance 
The Renaissance of Gwen Hathaway cover
ISBN: 9781250840240
Release Date: March 14, 2023
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo

Since her mother’s death, Madeline “Gwen” Hathaway has been determined that nothing in her life will change ever again. That’s why she keeps extensive lists in journals, has had only one friend since childhood, and looks forward to the monotony of working the ren faire circuit with her father. Until she arrives at her mother’s favorite end-of-tour stop to find the faire is under new management and completely changed.

Meeting Arthur, the son of the new owners and an actual lute-playing bard, messes up Maddie’s plans even more. For some reason, he wants to be her friend - and ropes her into becoming Princess of the Faire. Now Maddie is overseeing a faire dramatically changed from what her mother loved and going on road trips vastly different from the routine she used to rely on. Worst of all, she’s kind of having fun.

Ashley Schumacher’s The Renaissance of Gwen Hathaway is filled with a wise old magician who sells potion bottles, gallant knights who are afraid of horses and ride camels instead, kings with a fondness for theatrics, a lazy river castle moat with inflatable crocodile floaties, and a plus-sized heroine with a wide open heart… if only she just admits it.

The Renaissance of Gwen Hathaway is a sweet, funny, sometimes heartbreaking story of finding yourself after loss. Maddie Hathaway has grown up on the Renaissance Faire circuit, but after the loss of her mother almost a year ago she’s at sea, struggling with grief. When she arrives at Stormsworth, the faire her mother loved the most, she’s aghast to find it changed and under new ownership. She’s also taken aback by Arthur, the son of the new owners and a bard who dubs her “Gwen” and who is persistent in his attempts to be her friend. Maddie doesn’t want to let anyone new into her heart for fear of the pain of losing them, but Arthur has a way of getting under her skin. Before she knows it, she’s going on adventures and letting go of her routine, which scares her but it’s also thrilling.

It’s easy to adore Maddie and Arthur. I wanted to hug Maddie who was sad and vulnerable but finds herself and learns to move forward over the course of the story. Arthur is sweet, determined, and very careful and considerate of others’ feelings. He’s got a charm offensive which is adorable but he also has vulnerabilities. I liked watching them become friends and fall for one another and it isn’t a smooth ride for them. Grief, fear, and insecurities aren’t small obstacles and author Ashley Schumacher doesn’t treat them as such. The result is an ending that is not only satisfying but feels earned.

Despite its heavy themes, The Renaissance of Gwen Hathaway is light on its feet and has plenty of fun. From knights riding camels because they’re afraid of horses to moats with crocodile floaties to more, Schumacher blends the bright with the dark. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this story with its good heart and endearing characters.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.