Long time no post! I’m currently on the second year of my Masters and reading for that understandably has to take preference. That said, I have been able to read some books for my own pleasure so hopefully I’ll be able to knock a few reviews out over the next few months.
Thanks to Hodder & Stoughton and NetGalley for the Advance Review Copy in exchange for an honest review.
An enemies to lovers reimagining of Romeo and Juliet set in 1920s Shanghai? Like any sane person I thought that sounded pretty cool. It’s not simple story transfer by any means however, there are significant plot changes and the two main characters Roma and Juliette knew each other in their mid-teens (the book takes place 4 years after their initial meeting) so there’s enough here that is fresh and new.
Juliette is the heir to the Scarlets and Roma is the heir to the White Flowers. The two gangs have a death grip on the city of Shanghai and predictably loathe one another. So far, so familiar. Juliette is a young Chinese woman who spent much of her formative years in America so has a very different outlook to some of her other family members. She also wears a lot of beaded dresses for some reason. Going out to a burlesque club? Beaded dress. Going out on a dangerous reconnaissance mission? Beaded dress! Going to assassinate someone? Beaded dress of course.
The story itself is…absolutely fine. It definitely suffers from some pacing issues and there’s lots of fetch quest filler but I didn’t find myself getting bored. I was pretty engrossed from start to finish to be honest. The main issue I had was with the central conflicts, it all just felt a bit busy. There was a supernatural element and an element firmly grounded in real history and I just didn’t feel they worked very well together. The whole thing with the insects was just a bit weird although I did get a laugh out of the fact that Juliette’s product saturated hair made it impenetrable to the killer lice? Yeah there are killer lice in this book and it is gross. I think it would have worked better with just one central conflict be it the rivalry between gangs, the communist uprising or the supernatural element as opposed to all three.
The enemies to lovers aspect is rather slow burn which I am not against but I just wasn’t feeling the love from Roma’s side of the pairing. I understood why Juliette was so cut up about their relationship but I didn’t get the sense that Roma was even that bothered. Perhaps it was an issue with his characterisation as I struggled to connect with or visualise his character at all. I didn’t really “get” him. I think if I had felt more insight into his character then I might have been able to buy into the love story aspect of the book.
I was surprised to get to the end of this book and realise it was going to be part of a series. I think it would have worked perfectly as a standalone but it seems standalone YA books are a rare breed these days. There were some plot points that didn’t go anywhere. What was Rosalind in such a big humpf about? Who was the traitor? What’s the deal with Kathleen? Perhaps these will be resolved in the next book(s?). Maybe the sequel will follow the predictable pattern where the conflict between the two lovers is reset with the other character taking their turn to be pissed off and angsty but time will tell.