So, I’ll be the first person to admit that I’m not a Romeo and Juliet fan. It’s one of my least favourite Shakespeare plays and I’m happy to be salty about it. But the moment I heard about These Violent Delights, I was curious. And the moment I started it, I was hooked.
As you might have gathered already These Violent Delights is a Romeo and Juliet retelling set in 1920’s Shanghai. It follows Juliette, the Scarlet gang heir and Roma, the heir of the White Flowers. Juliette is Chinese but spent most of her childhood in the US and Roma is Russian but spent his whole life in the city. When a monster seems to be spreading madness across the city they wind up tangled in each other’s lives again as they try to stop the monster.
I don’t know much about China and certainly not about Shanghai in the 1920’s. The whole atmosphere of the city and gangs was something I’d have more expected in Hong Kong from what I know. So it was interesting to learn more about Shanghai and the international community amid the rise of communism. As someone in 2020, we know the communists are going to win but it was fascinating to see these people fighting against it. And obviously the gangs were definitely going to prefer the county stay capitalist but it definitely delves into this and yeah. I actually learned a lot more than I thought I would.
This is billed as an enemies to lovers romance and it is but it isn’t. If anything it’s more friends to lovers to enemies and then back to lovers. You get hints of Roma and Juliette’s relationship back when they were 15 before there was betrayal. I was kind of sad that we had Rosalind but she wasn’t Roma’s crush before Juliette as since she is so much more important in this book, it would have been interesting to see more connections between the gang. But I did like Roma and Juliette. There was a lot of drama, yes, but it made sense and it made me very emotional. Not like I cried but you experience a lot of feelings and it was good.
The characters were all interesting and though some I wasn’t sure who they were in the original, others with name changes were easily recognizable. And I liked getting a view into some of these characters that we don’t know much about. But also there were changes. Certain characters are dead in the beginning and obviously the use of a monster is something completely new. But it brought something new that I feel like we needed in a Romeo and Juliet retelling. We have some really grotesque scenes and a hint of fantasy but because it was set in a time and country that we don’t see in YA fiction much and that makes it a little bit more educational.
I really enjoyed this book so much. I knew I’d like it but I loved it more than I thought I would. I’m definitely eager for book 2 to come out and I’ll definitely be buying myself a copy when this comes out!