A review by meshell
The Renaissance of Gwen Hathaway by Ashley Schumacher

emotional hopeful reflective medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated


Generally - I enjoyed this book, loved the character growth and the believable, but still somewhat idealized teen relationship development. 

Main characters are Maddie (a renaissance fare jewelry maker and seller, grieving the loss of her mother) at a ren-fare that is especially significant to her - BUT things have changed - someone has bought her old special fare and made changes. We also meet Arthur, and awkward but endlessly kind teenager, who also ends up being the son of the people that bought the fare. Hijinx ensue.  They're very cute together - he's patient, she's prickly, he convinces her to be a princess, and she's conflicted. That dynamic worked. 

Some of the subject matter was tough, since it features a young person dealing with navigating grief after the death of her mom, and I'll admit, this is not where I thought this book would go when I read the synopsis - perhaps I was a bit too focused on the idea of "fat girl at the ren-fare" romance when choosing this book, but I'm still glad I did. Because it was that and more! 

The characters were loveable, but they weren't perfect (as people - but I did enjoy how they were written), there were flaws and communication errors, and misunderstandings here and there, but there was also so much growth in both the protagonists - in a way that made sense, but was also sweet and lovely. All within a serious backdrop of navigating the complicated feelings of letting yourself find and experience joy (and potential loss) after such a big life upending loss. I loved the banter between the leads, it was that flirty silly kind of teasing that is kind and funny and entirely believable. 

Bonus points for the bit of magic imbued into the coin, and the description of the ren-fair grounds. 

I appreciated the full bodied characters - they felt alive, and it wasn't just limited to the mains. I felt this one, I was rooting for them, and it was simply such an easy book to stay up reading because I wanted to see how they figured it all out.

I read this courtesy of an e-ARC from Net galley and St. Martin's Press. Thank you!

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