Author: Chloe Gong
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.
These Violent Delights is the first novel in the duology of the same name. The story takes place in 1920s China. As a retelling of Romeo and Juliet, I was curious how the author would create an original story around it compared to the standard formula of the source material. Our Juliet for this tale is Juliette Cai, who is Chinese and the heir to the Scarlet Gang, who is returning to Shanghai after years abroad in the United States. Our Romeo is Roma Montagov, who is Russian and the heir to the rival gang, the White Flowers. The two must team up together to deal with a mysterious illness that is spreading along with the growing threat of colonialism. The story follows the mystery as the two characters come together as rivals yet they have a shared romantic history.
Juliette is loyal to her gang and uses her power to her advantage. While she embraces the violence, Roma is skilled but approaches it with a different mindset. There is a lot of tension between them and a compelling star-crossed connection. The side characters were complex as both support the main two and add dimension to the plot. While there are a lot of them in the story, they all seem to be placed there with a purpose and were multifaceted enough to where I cared about them as a reader. Both Juliette and Roma were amazing, but Juliette stood out a little more with her inner struggles. Each goes through their own character development in this story and it was nice to have both grow instead of just one or the other.
The pacing is slower for about the first half as there is a lot of setup for the world-building and characters. The prologue and epilogue were incredibly well done. The exploration into Westernization was integrated well into the story with the cultural tensions and the fight to have one “superior.” Shanghai was the perfect backdrop with the vibrancy of the city and its action-packed nature. The inclusion of multiple perspectives was well done as the reader gets to follow both sides of the story to see where each of them stands.
Overall, this story ends on a cliffhanger, so I now will immediately need to read the conclusion. There is the Romeo and Juliet romance from rivaling sides at its core, but this story offers so much more. There is a lot of political intrigue and tension between the two gangs. This novel was a fantastic debut and made me excited to continue reading stories from this author. As many questions are left unanswered, I cannot wait to see what happens in the conclusion!