“These Violent Delights” Book Review

Michaela William ‘24, Staff Writer

These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong is a retelling of Romeo and Juliet set in 1920s Shanghai.  It centers around eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, a former flapper who has returned to claim her role as the proud heir of the Scarlet Gang—a network of criminals far above the law. Their only rivals in power are the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlets for generations. And behind every move is the heir, Roma Montagov, Juliette’s first love and first betrayal.  However, when gangsters on both sides show signs of instability culminating in clawing their own throats out, the people start to whisper.  Word of a contagion and a monster in the shadows spreads throughout the city.  As the deaths stack up, Juliette and Roma must set their guns—and grudges—aside and work together, for if they can’t stop this madness, then there will be no city left for either to rule.

     Juliette Cai was an amazing incarnation of Juliet.  She had a heart of gold.  Juliette never hesitated to do whatever was necessary to protect the ones she loved.  Since Juliette is a girl, many of her family members don’t take her seriously.  They would prefer if her cousin, Tyler, led the Scarlet Gang.  This further motivates Juliette to show that she is equal parts cunning, confident, and ruthless.  When it comes to Roma, Juliette is determined to make him pay for what he took from her.  However, as she learns more about Roma’s motivations, the line between love and hate starts to blur for Juliette. 

     The other main character, Roma Montagov, was fantastic.  He was, in my opinion, the best reincarnation of Romeo.  Roma is the heir of the Russian gang, the White Flowers.  Despite this, his father favors Dmitri, a lower ranked member of the gang.  This causes Roma to tread carefully around his father.  One wrong move and his status would no longer protect him.  This causes Roma to be very cautious.  When it comes to Juliette though, Roma is willing to put it all on the line for her.  However, the Juliette that returns from America isn’t the same one he loved four years ago.  As this new, dangerous Juliette makes his way back into his life, Roma starts to question whether he can trust her.

     As you read the book, you can spot all the parallels between this retelling and the original play.  Something that I think was really important was that the effects of imperialism were showcased in a brutally honest way.  The author never shied away from showing how the Chinese had to assimilate to the Westernization of their homeland.  On a lighter note, Juliette and Roma’s relationship was phenomenal.  The passion, yearning, and tension between them was everything.  It was everything you would want from the enemies to lovers trope.  I can’t wait for what lies in store for these star-crossed lovers.  

The sequel, Our Violent Ends, is expected to be released on November 16, 2021.