Book Reviews

The Renaissance of Gwen Hathaway – Ashley Schumacher

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

“But me? I need to eat a salad. I need to exercise. I need to do something to fix myself before I’ll be worth looking at.”

-Ashley Schumacher, The Renaissance of Gwen Hathaway

Book Particulars:

  • Page Count: 320 Pages
  • Publisher: Wednesday Books
  • Edition Read – eBook, thanks to Wednesday Books and NetGalley for giving me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review!
  • Expected Release Date: March 14, 2023
  • Dates Read: February 27, 2023 – March 8, 2023

Book Synopsis:
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 favourite 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.

My Thoughts:
Sometimes you grab a book based on it’s cover, sometimes it’s title, sometimes the author, sometimes the synopsis. For me it was the synopsis. I hadn’t had the pleasure of reading anything by Amy Schumacher before, and now I found myself wanting to go back to read her previous works.

Maddie, or Gwen, is everything I needed in a FMC when I was a teenager, and also what I needed now in my 30s. In my teens (and still) I have been something who struggled with the idea of being plus size. Of being somehow forced into a version of me society had selected because of being plus size. The funny friend of the main character, the best friend of the male lead who helps him get the girl. And many more examples. In another way Maddie is who I needed in my late 20s when my dad died. They way she processes her grief over her mother dying is extremely relateable, in an almost painful way. Watching her process her emotions and feelings mirrored my own first year after my dad died.

Then in comes Arthur. Adorable, geeky, Arthur. Who also is a great example of how men (especially teenage boys) can have all the same body image issues as women. But somehow they are told even more that they are not allowed to have those thoughts and emotions. I loved watching their relationship grow into friends and clearly something more (even when Maddie wouldn’t admit it even to herself). I found it so heartbreaking when Arthur would say things unintentionally hurtful to Maddie about her weight (which were few and far between) because that is real. Nobody (plus size or not) can know what is going to trigger negative thoughts in a plus size person. It was refreshing to see Arthur have these moments and allow them to work through it. Rather than him somehow magically know what he can say and what he cannot say.

Overall, I really loved this book. It was such a surprise, and so refreshing. I can’t wait to read Amy’s previous works, and look forward to what stories she creates in the future.

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