Title: These Violent Delights
Author: Chloe Gong
Genre: YA Historical Fiction/Fantasy/Romance
Pages: 449 pages
Yes, I am indeed in the same position as you are desiring to read an Asian book with the Enemies-to-Lovers trope. I spearheaded this book blindly, only aware that I’m about to embark on a Shanghai-themed book with morally grey Asian characters. I wanted to keep my fingers from getting them dirty with spoilers on booktok and bookstagram. However, I knew there was an only viable option… fanarts! Geez, I fell in love with this book even before reading it plus providing me more reasons to read this beautiful novel!
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.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, Chloe Gong is known to be a Shakespeare fan, hence the beautiful creation of These Violent Delights which is a Romeo and Juliet retelling. The words, prose, and poetry present in this novel is one of the many proofs of how talented of a writer she is. Her descriptive imagery and setting transported me to the bright, dazzling, and splashing red outskirts of 1920s Shanghai. The way she described every movement, emotion, and thoughts of each character allowed me to get inside of their heads, which added another layer for my heart to simultaneously beat with theirs. This is one of the few books I read that has beautifully detailed descriptions without having me read it twice out of confusion. This is the kind of book where your mind will be able to play it as if it were a movie; action-packed, heightened suspense, thrilling horror, and most importantly, a heart-gushing romance. With the shrivelling tension I felt between the main characters, the Enemies-to-Lovers trope was smoothly executed, leaving me no traces of second hand embarrassment and cringe moments to the extent of myself screaming on my pillow.
Let’s talk about characters now, shall we? I love love love Juliette, she is the epitome of badass! No, I’m not talking about your typical badass with the cemented toughness in their blood. She has a fated life to be the heir of the Scarlet Gang, it was all mapped out for her which she often contemplates about with Roma. Juliette was forced to grow up and build walls for herself and the people around her. In the past, she was naive and oblivious of how gangs, criminals, and middlemen worked, but she eventually threw her past self away and fitted the mold of what her family wants her to be. But why would she change all of a sudden? *tension enters* It is because of what Roma did, surprise, surprise… I’m going to leave this part out because that is for you to read!
“Wasn’t playing with her heart once enough? Hadn’t he already torn her into two and left her to the wolves once before?”
Roma, on the other hand, can be the most vicious, ruthless person one second and in contrast be the most careful and considerate the other second. He is also the heir of Scarlet Gang’s rival, the White Flowers. He, too, contemplates his life and is afflicted with the desire to constantly gain his father’s trust and approval. As much as I liked Roma, he was a little bit dry and typical for me since he didn’t contribute much to the plot and was overshadowed by Benedikt and Marshall. Marshall is the easy-going, witty, funny side character, whereas Benedikt represents the complete opposite, uptight and calm. Their chemistry and friendship is definitely an element in the book which made me like it even better. They are more raw and candid, allowing the reader to relate and understand them easier.
To wrap this up, if you’re looking for a fantastic YA fantasy with an Asian representation, LGBT romance, and enemies-to-lovers trope, grab this book! It’ll keep you entertained until the end with its elegant writing, captivating characters, and colorful setting.