Ashley Schumacher has done it again—overwhelmed me with her signature blend of whimsy and soul-crushing feels. The Renaissance of Gwen Hathaway will make you cry, giggle, and swoon all in one sitting, if you devour it like I did.
A relatable, list-obsessed protagonist
Maddie Hathaway grew up on the Renaissance faire circuit. Instead of a traditional home, she lives in a trailer, moving from place to place every few months. And she loved it, until her mother’s death. Following that traumatic, gut-wrenching shift, she is determined that nothing in her life will ever change again. So she starts making lists of every little part of her life, reasoning that if she records it, she can’t forget it. She also vows not to get close to anyone else. The less people she loves, the less she can be hurt.
Unfortunately, she can’t avoid change when she arrives at their last stop. This stop was always her mother’s favorite, but when they arrive, she finds that it’s received a complete makeover under its new management. To make matters worse, the new owners’ son wants to be her friend, and he won’t take no for an answer. Somehow, he ropes her into being Princess of the Faire, a spotlight that makes Maddie deeply uncomfortable. He also talks her into a long string of road trips, and against her will, Maddie actually starts having fun. With Arthur, maybe she can finally start letting her guard down and let somebody in.
We want more shenanigans!
My only disappointment when reading this book was that I wanted MORE Renaissance faire shenanigans! I wanted to see Arthur and Maddie stroll among the cute merchant booths, eat giant meat pies, and watch a few jousts. I wanted to feel transported to the faire itself. But this novel is less about the world of Renaissance faires and more about Maddie and Arthur’s emotional journeys, so I can’t really complain.
Speaking of Arthur, he is the sweetest cinnamon roll to ever exist! Not only does he play the lute (score!), but he is also the kind of boy who is fine with rejection. He keeps asking and asking Maddie to be his friend, and at first, she is very resistant, but he’s so sweet that she can’t keep saying no.
But unlike many soft boys out there, Arthur isn’t a perfect white knight who solely exists to serve the protagonists’ emotional needs. He has his own flaws and growing to do, and strangely, that makes him even more perfect. I love how Ashley’s books give you not just one fully fleshed out protagonist, but two!
If you love knights, magicians, and soft characters, then don’t walk… RUN to the bookstore to get your hands on this gem!
The Renaissance of Gwen Hathaway - 9/10