These Violent Delights Review: Romeo & Juliet in 1920s Shanghai

February 4, 2021 by Jeann @ Happy Indulgence | 4 stars, Books, Reviews

These Violent Delights Review: Romeo & Juliet in 1920s ShanghaiThese Violent Delights by Chloe Gong
Series: These Violent Delights #1
Published by Hodder & Stoughton on November 24, 2020
Source: Publisher
Genres: Historical, Fiction, Young Adult
Amazon | Book Depository | Publisher | Booktopia
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Perfect for fans of The Last Magician and Descendant of the Crane, this heart-stopping debut is an imaginative Romeo and Juliet retelling set in 1920s Shanghai, with rival gangs and a monster in the depths of the Huangpu River.
The year is 1926, and Shanghai hums to the tune of debauchery.
A blood feud between two gangs runs the streets red, leaving the city helpless in the grip of chaos. At the heart of it all is eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, a former flapper who has returned to assume 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 their heir, Roma Montagov, Juliette’s first love…and first betrayal.
But when gangsters on both sides show signs of instability culminating in clawing their own throats out, the people start to whisper. Of a contagion, a madness. Of a monster in the shadows. 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 mayhem, then there will be no city left for either to rule.

If there’s anything that I love more than a diverse book, it’s a diverse book with Asian characters. Even better when the premise is completely unique, like with These Violent Delights.

This Romeo & Juliet retelling definitely has a few twists to it’s own, as we follow Juliette and Roma in 1920s Shanghai, heirs to their respective gangs, as they investigate a series of supernatural murders across the city. I love a good enemies to lovers romance, and it appears that Juliette and Roma have a past to contend with, so it takes time to reveal their history with one another as we get to know the characters as well.

“Juliette Cai feared disapproval more than she feared grim on her soul.”

Juliet is a woman after my own heart, she’s dangerous, assertive and bold – as one should be as the heir to the Scarlets gang. Even with her high standings across the city, commanding half a city at her feet, she still has to contend with feminism with those who don’t immediately recognise her. Having lived a few years abroad in New York, she also grapples with her own identity as a foreigner in her own soil – many of those who have immigrated to other countries could immediately attest to.

As a match for Juliet’s brash nature, we have Roma, the heir to the White Flowers gang. While he’s described as a ice queen type of character, I found that his personality paled in comparison to Juliet’s. I did enjoy their dynamic and banter with each other, with obvious chemistry for each other. It was worth the slow burn to see them interact and fall for each other all over again.

“These days Juliette,” he said, low and warily, “the most dangerous people are the powerful white men who feel as if they have been slighted.”

Being set in a tumultous time in Shanghai’s history, with the French occupying a big part of the city, and Chinese Communists coming into power as well, These Violent Delights paints a picture of the city’s establishment and unrest in a newly Eastern rule. The threat of the supernatural monsters – although not exactly historically accurate –  felt rather fitting as the city and the gangs itself grapples with control over their territories. It’s this complexity of the political climate and the competing powers of the world that I was really fascinated with, yielding a perfect setting for this story of protecting your territory and making tenuous allies.

These Violent Delights takes time to build – and to paint a picture of the setting – and I really enjoyed the ride it took me on. Filled with danger at every turn, suspense, and losing the hold you have over the city to any number of threats, it’s guided by a compelling duo from two opposing gangs who will take you on this journey.

Rating: 4 out of 5

These Violent Delights is available from Australian bookstores for RRP$19.99 or from The Book Depository.

Thanks to Hachette Australia for sending me a review copy!

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Jeann is an Aussie YA blogger and mum who loves to read and recommend books! You can usually find me fangirling about books on my various social media channels including Tiktok@happyindulgence, Instagram and Youtube.

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