Ana María and the Fox by Liana De la Rosa
April 4, 2023
Review by Melanie
I’ve really been leaning hard into historical romances in the past few months. They’ve brought me comfort and a sense of escapism during a personally difficult time in my life. I’ve been lucky enough to discover brand new authors (Erin Langston) and new-to-me authors (Lorraine Heath) and also revisited familiar favorites (Beverly Jenkins).
Liana De la Rosa is not a debut author, she has quite the back catalog but this particular book might be the one that puts her on the map, as far as I’m concerned. It’s the cover that caught my eyes initially, illustrated in bright and bold colors, a real departure from the typical histrom covers we see today. And the book itself is also unique, featuring a Mexican heroine and a biracial British politician, the grandson of a former slave. While the setting is typical of most regency histroms, taking place in London ballrooms amidst the English aristocracy, there are no wilting wallflowers in this story.
The Luna sisters have been shipped off to England by their parents amidst the turmoil of the Second French Intervention of Mexico. Their father, an important Mexican politician and closely allied to the Mexican president, deems it unsafe for his daughters to remain in the country and sends them and with them, a bulk of the family fortune, to the glittering ballrooms of London, under the protection of their uncle, a diplomat.
One of my favorite things about this book is the bond that emerges between the three Luna sisters. Brought up in luxury, they have been raised to be well-behaved, proper young ladies, with a father who doesn’t even pretend to love them and a mother who by all accounts has raised her daughters with the idea that “men will be men”. Raised to be adversaries competing for their father’s regard, the three sisters work to set aside past differences and forge a tight sisterly bond once they are out from under their father’s control.
The titular Ana Marīa, the eldest of the Luna sisters, is already engaged, when this story starts, to a man her father basically selected for her. In London she finally has the opportunity to discover who she is away from the weighty expectations set for her by her father. While the focus of the story is absolutely the romance between her and Gideon Fox, it’s also a story of self-discovery and growth, showcasing both the journey Ana María takes towards her HEA as well as the journey of coming into her own and realizing who she truly is.
Gideon Fox is an outsider, a member of the British Parliament who knows he has to work much harder to earn the same spot most of his peers are simply just handed by virtue of their station in life. He is the grandson of a former slave and is desperate to honor her sacrifices through his work. When he meets Ana María, the connection is instant and the attraction they feel towards each other is overwhelming. And yet, they both know they can’t be together – Ana María is already engaged to another and Gideon knows that in order to accomplish his political goals, aligning himself with another outsider wouldn’t be all that helpful in furthering his dreams.
And yet, these two outsiders are unable to keep their distance, repeatedly thrown together at balls and poetry readings, and ultimately, at a house party where events conspire to bring down the Luna sisters until Gideon steps in, offering Ana María his hand in a marriage of convenience.
I don’t think this constitutes a spoiler as the blurb does imply this is where the story is headed though it doesn’t happen until well into the second half of the book. Gideon, once he’s in, is all in. In fact, it’s quite apparent that although it took a threat of terrible magnitude to bring Ana María and Gideon together, he is more than happy to offer himself up. And Gideon, for all his strict manners, is a total wife guy at heart, unable to comprehend his great good fortune that he gets to be married to her.
Anytime Ana María laughed, anytime she smiled, anytime she looked at him with an intriguing mix of bashfulness and beguiling charm in her velvet eyes, he was reminded that she had become his oasis in truth, and Gideon could not comprehend how he had gotten so lucky.
There might be readers who don’t love that the offer of a marriage of convenience doesn’t occur until almost the 70% mark but to me, the pacing is just right. The story only works when there is an established attraction between the two main characters and the book sets that up beautifully, with two seemingly star-crossed lovers who by all accounts cannot be together…until circumstances come together to put them in a position where they have no choice but to be together. And even then, Gideon is distraught at the idea that Ana María basically has no other options but to marry him in order to protect not just herself but her two sisters as well. But it’s Ana María’s response when he admits as much to her that sets them on the course to eventually admitting that this is more than just a marriage of convenience.
“Just because the circumstances are inconvenient and not at all what I would have chosen for myself does not mean that this choice was hard. Had my attentions been free to give, I would have gladly paid them to you.”
What I like about this is that there is no game playing between these two. They were in a situation where they rightly felt like they couldn’t be together and then stuck in a situation where they were almost forced to be together and the author could have very easily taken them down a path of falsehoods and pretensions and I’m so glad she didn’t. These two may not be perfect but they are always honest, at least with each other.
It’s also at the 70% mark that the physical aspect of their relationship really moves forward and yes, this is a slow burn of a book but once it boils over, the steam is relentless and inescapable. These two are hot and horny for each other, interspersed with a deep emotional connection. I don’t want to give it all away but the consummation of their marriage comes at the heels of a simple revelation that is so breathtakingly and utterly romantic.
I also want to briefly address the remaining two Luna sisters, Gabriela and Isabel. I am already eagerly anticipating their books, especially with the hints in this book as to who each of these sisters will be paired with. If my suspicions are correct and I desperately hope they are, I am very excited for the rest of this series.
I really enjoyed this book, an unexpected but delightful departure from the typical Regency historical romances. I loved the two main characters and their backstories, sympathized with their struggles and motivations and appreciated their willingness to fight for what they wanted and stand up for their convictions. Also, let me just add, if you do read this book, please also read the author’s note at the end, it gives great context as to the events mentioned in this book.
Content Notes: gun violence, violence against women, murder, kidnapping, toxic parental relationships
Thanks for your review, Melanie. This does sound good!