I was late to the party when it came to reading Chloe Gong's debut novel. I've had family & friends telling me for months to read it and that I would love it. I think I was worried that after all the hype, I would be let down but, let me tell you, it could not be more of the opposite. From the beautiful, wildly vivid descriptions of 1920s Shanghai to the very nostalgic, creative parallels this book has to Romeo & Juliet, I was completely entranced. I wanted SO MUCH MORE between Juliette and Roma. Not because Chloe did not deliver but because she created two fascinating characters that together, ignited this story to a whole other level. I loved their secret moments. Their struggle between their pasts and their present. I loved their moments together, even when they were arguing and at each others throats. I kept hoping for more. There are so many layers to this book. The politics, the monsters, the feud, the forbidden romance. What an amazing debut.
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She hated the knee-jerk way she leaned into him. She hated that her body followed his lead without resistance. They used to be unstoppable. When they were together, they never had an ounce of fear, not when they were hiding at the back of a noisy club playing cards, nor when they made it their mission to sneak into every private park in Shanghai, a bottle of whatever Juliette had stolen from the liquor cabinet tucked underneath Roma’s arm, giggling like a pair of idiots.
It was all too familiar. The feeling of Roma’s hands on her waist, his hand tucked in hers—those hands were of such grace, but she knew better than anyone that blood was soaked through and through the lines of his palms. Lines that read like scripture in appearance were in truth nothing but sin.
The problem with hatred was that when the initial emotion weakened, the responses still remained. The clenched fists and hot veins, the blurred vision and quickened pulse. And in such remains, Juliette was not in control of what they might develop into.
She didn’t know who was breathing harder—her or Roma. They hovered a gasp away, daring the other to make the first move, daring the other to give in to what neither wanted to admit they wanted, what neither wanted to admit was something that was happening, what neither wanted to admit was a mere replay of history. They both gave in at once.
Roma’s kiss was just as she remembered. It filled her with so much adrenaline and exuberance that she could burst. It made her feel too ethereal for her own body, as if she could tear out of her own skin.
From The Publisher
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.