The Renaissance of Gwen Hathaway

The Renaissance of Gwen Hathaway
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Release Date
March 14, 2023
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Dumplin' meets Well Met in this novel about finding your place in the world, learning love is a risk worth taking, and discovering what happens when you take your fate into your own hands.

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.

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1 review
entertaining YA contemporary romance
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THE RENAISSANCE OF GWEN HATHAWAY is an overall sweet YA contemporary about grief, believing in yourself, and falling in love. Madeleine (Maddie) has grown up on the renaissance faire circuit with her parents. Since she lost her mother a year ago, her life has been more challenging and full of little anxieties. She has been looking forward to the final stop in the circuit, which was one of her mother's favorites, and her time there will coincide with the one year anniversary of her death.

When they arrive, everything is a bit different - new owners bought it and overhauled the faire. Additionally, the son of the new owners is the bard, who calls her Gwen and wants her to be the princess of the faire. Maddie is learning that Arthur and his kindness can be very hard to turn down, even though she is generally happy with her loner status. As the faire continues and Arthur takes her along for adventures, Maddie finds herself questioning whether acquaintances is all she is willing to be with Arthur.

What I loved: There are some genuine and heartfelt messages around grief/loss, friendship, and fate that come together well in this story. These are frequent themes in books by this author, but they did feel fresh and less heavy than in earlier books. While Maddie still feels her mother's loss, it is not quite so raw or as much like an open wound. The grief is still something she carries, and she has found her own ways to cope with this - healing is a process, and it was great to see her working on this herself and with a therapist in the book.

Maddie is an intriguing character who is still figuring things out, but this is being a teen. She was very relatable. Arthur is something truly special, someone with a lot to give and so much heart. It was easy to cheer for them to be together, when he seemed so understanding and willing to be whatever she needed.

The renaissance faire setting was really unique, and it will definitely make readers want to visit one. Arthur's fathers were really fantastic characters, and I loved learning their stories and the wisdom and kindness they share really added a lot to the story.

What left me wanting more: As a small thing, Maddie is dealing with internalized fatphobia for much of the book. However, she does confront this towards the end, but some of it can be really tough and triggering to read. Although Arthur is the main love interest and friend in the story, he did not always feel fully dimensional. The story really focuses on Maddie and her journey, and this was often to the exclusion of Arthur's. I would have liked to have gotten to know him on a deeper level.

Final verdict: THE RENAISSANCE OF GWEN HATHAWAY is an entertaining YA contemporary romance that makes for an enjoyable read.
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