Proceed With Caution:
This book contains violence, gore, death, murder, and self-mutilation and termination.
These Violent Delights is a retelling of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, set in 1926 Shanghai. It centers on Juliette Cai, heiress to the Scarlet Gang, and Roma Montagov, heir to the White Flowers. The Scarlet Gang and the White Flowers are the two gangs who run Shanghai and have been feuding for years. Then a monster calls and the two must team up or everyone dies.
These Violent Delights was one of my most anticipated releases for 2020. I am a sucker for all things Romeo and Juliet, and this one sounded especially exciting. Flappers in Shangai! Rival gangs! Contagion! Monsters! All great stuff! Sadly, it just did not work out for me.
I found These Violent Delights to be dragged out and boring. I was interested in the very beginning as we're being introduced to our characters and the plot. But then it felt like nothing was happening. It was the same scenes over and over as people rip their throats out, Juliette demands answers, laments about being betrayed four years ago, shoots some people, rinse, repeat. The middle could have been tighter to keep readers engaged and the plot moving along.
There's also next to no romance in These Violent Delights. The backbone of any good Romeo and Juliet retelling is the dramatic relationship between the two leads. We're told that Juliette and Roma had a short-lived but intense relationship when they were fifteen, which ended in tragedy. Roma betrayed her. She betrayed him. Now, they're older, reunited, and there's no spark at all. They're working together to find a cure for the madness and stop the monster spreading it, so there's definitely some high stakes and adrenaline and...nothing.
The plot of These Violent Delights was interesting though. People are succumbing to a madness that causes them to claw out their own throats, effective killing themselves. Is it drugs? Is it a disease? Is it contagious? This is the second plague by insects book I've read this month and find it fascinating and disturbing. However, I was not a fan of the literal monster spreading the insects. For me, it felt like too much. Creepy bugs are creepy enough.
For those of you who don't read epilogues, the epilogue is where it's at in These Violent Delights. The final battle happens and all seems like it's going back to normal, but then...nope! There's a surprise! I actually really enjoyed the epilogue, despite it ending on a huge cliffhanger. Is it enough to make me excited for the sequel? No. But it intrigued me enough that I might pick it up just to see what happens.