Ana María and The Fox
Ana Maria and the Fox revolves around the usual British-set historical romance ballrooms but gives us a unique look at that familiar place through fresh eyes.
Ana María Luna Valdés is used to feeling alone and vulnerable, so relocating to England to live among strangers in order to flee the French takeover of Mexico isn’t really that big a change for her. True, her sisters have come with her, but their father always encouraged them to see each other as rivals rather than relatives, so Ana María isn’t initially comforted by their presence. Her uncle meets them all when they dock in London, but he isn’t exactly a comfort either. He spends only a brief period of time with them before leaving them with Viscountess Yadley and giving them a mission: They are to captivate and delight the members of the British nobility they run into as they mingle with the highest levels of society. The purpose is to give a charming face to the suffering of the Mexican people and convince the British government to aid Mexico in its fight for freedom. Ana María, who is a feisty, independent young woman – as is required of all historical romance heroines – is determined to excel at this job. And if she has a little fun while drinking, dancing, and being away from her judgmental Papa’s eyes for the first time in her life, who can blame her?
Gideon Fox doesn’t enjoy the social whirl in London but having clawed his way out of the London gutters and into the highest levels of society, he is forced to be a part of it. It had been a grim and unwelcome surprise to discover that the real work of parliament is not done in the hallowed halls of government but in the ballrooms and salons of the rich and powerful. As the grandson of a former slave, he knows only too well that those who are not in power are often exploited by those who are, and he is resolute in his desire to be an advocate for change. His current goal is to pass a measure abolishing the Atlantic slave trade, a not particularly popular bill that he is determined to see made into law.
When he first spots Ana María he is enthralled by her beauty and charm but resists growing close to her since romance doesn’t fit into his meticulously conceived plans for his future. But as he watches the more unscrupulous members of the ton take advantage of her innocence and naïveté to turn her into a subject for gossip, he knows he must offer her aid and protection. His sharp intellect warns him ther can be nothing more than friendship between them, but his heart may have other ideas.
There are some strong positives to this novel. One is that the author does a nice job of showing us the comprehensive history of the era. While many, many (too many?) historical romances have covered the conflict with Napoleon in Europe and how that affected Britain, it’s interesting to see the focus shift in this novel to the Mexican Campaign, something I was only vaguely aware of before. Ms. De la Rosa also brings up Darwin and the responses of the British people to his radical ideas, the ongoing opposition of Catholicism vs. Protestantism that was still simmering beneath the surface at the time, and the American Civil War and its effects on European politics. The history here is very rich, varied, and well-explained.
It’s also refreshing to look at the ton through the eyes of a genuine outsider. Ana María and her sisters have been part of high society before, but their participation in the glittering world of the extremely white ballrooms of the British upper crust as brown outsiders gives the tale a fresh perspective.
Gideon is a fascinating and unique hero. He has worked his way up in British society but has merely landed on the edge of it. He isn’t super rich or powerful; he has, however, made some good friends who are. It takes a special skill to tolerate endless condescension and still come out the winner of the sparring matches that arise from it, but Gideon is a master at it. I also appreciated how he is the perfect gamma hero – he has the intelligence, tenacity, and physical prowess of the alpha but he also prefers to negotiate rather than threaten, and is gentle, kind, and caring like a beta.
I also liked that the tale shows us the formation of adult relationships between siblings. It is normal for children to squabble and sisters don’t always grow up close, but as adults, it is also normal for us to smooth out those bumps and settle into a more mature connection. Ana María, Gabriella, and Isabella had been encouraged to be in discord with each other, but life in England forces them into an alliance that forges them into a family. It was fun to watch this transition.
Most books have flaws, however, and this one is no exception. The biggest problem I had with the story was that it’s very predictable. I felt like I was traveling an extremely common path with every page I turned and I could guess what would happen next long before I read it. The romance feels rote as a result, and while the characters are from a different country and culture than are found in the average Regency romance, most still manage to come straight out of central casting. The tale also lacks an explanation for several key factors, such as how exactly Gideon came to be where he is and why his family is Catholic. The author has a tendency towards showing rather than telling, which often comes across as preachiness when she is trying to turn what would most likely have been extremely conservative women into twenty-first-century liberals.
Those minor critiques aside, Ana Maria and the Fox has a lot to offer readers looking for a different perspective on an old but beloved portion of history, or those who enjoy tales like Netflx’s Bridgerton. I would recommend it to that audience.
I've been an avid reader since 2nd grade and discovered romance when my cousin lent me Lord of La Pampa by Kay Thorpe in 7th grade. I currently read approximately 150 books a year, comprised of a mix of Young Adult, romance, mystery, women's fiction, and science fiction/fantasy.
|Review Date:||May 20, 2023|
|Book Type:||Historical Romance|
|Review Tags:||AoC | Luna Sisters series | PoC|
I agree that the story would have been stronger if there had been a backstory relating to his political rise. But his catholicism is explained—Gideon was raised in a Catholic orphanage attached to a Catholic parish. The priest (he is the one who officiates Gideon’s wedding) becomes Gideon’s mentor and a lifelong friend and helps him to get into university on a scholarship.,
Sorry for the late response, life has been (waves arms wildly.) My problem lay less with the explanation given than with my belief in the explanation. His father was a Catholic Scotsman and he was raised in a Catholic orphanage but both of those things would have been rare. Not unheard of, but rare. And Catholicism would be a political disadvantage. Since Gideon was so determined to move ahead, keeping and practicing that faith seemed at odds with what he was trying to do. Just my .02 of course but a paragraph explaining his heritage in this arena didn’t suffice for me.
On my TBR!