Cover Image: These Violent Delights

These Violent Delights

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Member Reviews

This is a dark adventure set in 1920s Shanghai, following Juliette Cai and Roma Montagov as they attempt to get rid of a monster before it destroys their rival gangs. The atmosphere of the shady underbelly of the city sucks you in as you become part of their world. The big draw of this book is, of course, that it is a retelling of Romeo and Juliet, and while it has distinct callbacks to the original and the characters do follow the same archetypes (for the most part. A notable difference is that Juliette has much more agency and is a complete badass, which I enjoyed), the plot itself revolves around getting rid of the monster terrorizing the city and fictionalized versions of real political strife that was occurring at the time. The writing is beautiful, but takes quite a while to get used to, holding the reader at arm's length for a decent portion of the book. Overall, I am very impressed with this debut and I am excited to see the conclusion of this duology!
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The Violent Delights is a Shanghai twist on Romeo and Juliette, where Roma and Juliette are rival gang heirs in the city of Shanghai. The Communists have entered the city and are trying to take over and spread their ideals, in a city where more and more foreigners are coming to change the Chinese. The Scarlets and the White Flowers are trying to keep their grips on half of the city, when a deadly monster takes root and starts killing hundreds quickly. The two must find a way to stop the monster and keep the foreigners out, but secretly because of the blood feud between their gangs.

These Violent Delights is a mess of gory, violent plot mixed with two morally grey characters in a forbidden love story. Frankly, I LOVED IT. There is so much going on in this story and all of it is interesting. I love the dramatic retelling of the Shakespeare classic, there are so many callbacks to the source material but Chloe Gong has made the story her own. Beware, she is not kidding with the amount of violence. Juliette's character is mysterious, bloodthirsty, and savage - while being super interesting and strong. Roma is more of a soft boy at heart, but not afraid to kill a man. Their families and the side characters all have their own plots that are separate yet keeping with the story. There is diversity within the cast - a trans character and what seems like will turn into a gay couple.

I will admit, the middle part of the story gets a bit tedious. I feel like there are some scenes that could have been shortened to keep the plot moving faster. The pacing slows down in the middle third and picks back up towards the end. BUT the end completely makes up for the middle, and left me shook and completely shocked. Others may see it coming, but I truly did not. SO ready for the sequel.

**Thank you to Margaret K. McElderry Books and Netgalley for an early copy in exchange for an honest review**
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BOOK REPORT for These Violent Delights (These Violent Delights #1) by Chloe Gong

Cover Story: Museum Art
BFF Charm: 100% That B, Meh
Swoonworthy Scale: 4
Talky Talk: “A” For Effort
Bonus Factor: Shanghai
Factors: The Contagion, Series Starter
Relationship Status: Let’s Just Be Friends

Cover Story: Museum Art

I’m pretty sure you can put this cover next to a few other YA books from recent years and it would get lost in a similar crowd, but I am a sucker for pretty fonts and designs that look like beautiful pieces of art. Look at that gold dragon!

The Deal:

In 1920s Shanghai, two opposing gangs have long ruled the streets. Juliette is the heir apparent to the Scarlet Gang, Shanghai-born but sent to America for schooling, and has only recently come back to take her place at her father’s side. Roma’s status as the heir to the White Flowers, the Russian-led gang his father rules, is shaky, and has been for the last four years. (What happened four years ago, you ask? Juliette and Roma’s forbidden romance, which ended with countless Scarlet dead in an explosion Roma caused.)

Once, their word in their territories was law, though now the gangs are seeing their power being slowly chipped away by French and British foreigners and the Communist party. But something even more sinister is rising up from the banks of the Huangpu River: a monster, spreading a madness-inducing contagion that leads to gruesome death. It attacks Scarlets and White Flowers alike, and if Juliette and Roma don’t find some way to cure it, well…what good is being a leader with no people left to lead?

BFF Charm: 100% That B, Meh 

Juliette is ruthless and mercurial and “intensely controlling”, and a more fun character for it. She’s seething with anger over everything in her life, from the way her parents dismiss her opinions to her cousin blatantly trying to undermine her authority, and not to mention the way Shanghai is being eaten alive and destroyed by outsiders. She’s a little too scary for me to ever consider her a friend (especially because doing so would mean I have to be in a gang, and I’m not really ‘bout that life).

Roma is the misunderstood, gentle boy who has been raised by a killer and has to pretend to be harder than he is. Compared to Juliette, who goes ALL in on everything from her dazzling dresses to her temper tantrums, Roma's parts fell flat. Enough brooding, more doing! His best friends were the far more interesting and dynamic pair, and whenever the three met up they made Roma instantly more fun by association.

But someone I would willingly give my BFF charm to is Kathleen, Juliette’s loyal and extremely capable cousin, who has a complex backstory I won’t spoil.

Swoonworthy Scale: 4

Juliette has vowed she will never trust Roma after his betrayal, so I was hoping for some ferocious smackdowns, and she mostly delivered. Roma was rarely straightforward with his feelings, and they spent too long willfully miscommunicating about their past for me. They had one good electrically charged moment, but I had to wait until the last third of the book to get it. I was actually more interested in the unspoken sexual tension between Roma's BFFs, Benedikt and Marshall, and where their story will go in the next installment.

Talky Talk: “A” For Effort

I had a rough time with this book because I wanted to LOVE it. It sounded right up my alley! But it took me over a month to get through it, and I had to force myself to pick it up each time. I applaud Ms. Gong for getting published while she’s still in college at such a young age (seriously, kudos and I am super jealous!), and I think that as time goes on her writing will get sharper, because there were beautiful moments within the pages. But, for me, this book suffered from too little plot and too much filler.

Gong’s descriptions of 1920s Shanghai were the most interesting parts for me, rich with socio-economic and political commentary and lush details on the architecture and tone of the city. There was less focus on the gang rivalry, at least on a deeper level, and the main thrust of the plot was about the madness and searching for the cause of the madness. It was a very straightforward mystery and mainly seemed to serve as an excuse to throw Roma and Juliette together—which, cool, I love romance, but with the chemistry between the two just wasn’t there. 

Bonus Factor: Shanghai

I’ve never been to China, and I know, obviously, Shanghai is not going to look anything like it did in the 1920s. Even as Juliette wanders around she often comments on how different her city is becoming is compared to when even she was a child. But if I could…

Factor: The Contagion

My thoughts while reading this books: “Well, at least I can be thankful that Covid-19 doesn’t cause us to randomly scratch our throats out until we bleed to death!” Perhaps not the best book to read during a real-life pandemic, but you can’t say that Gong didn’t hit the nail on the head with the social commentary. Consider this quote from when Benedikt and Marshall are discussing how they would’ve expected the amount of people attending places like the Scarlet Gangs’ burlesque clubs to decrease:

“Think about it. Those who wish to protect themselves will stay in, bar their doors, seal their windows. Those do not care, those who are violent, those who delight in that which is terrible”—Marshall shrugged, waving his hands about as he chose the right words—“they thrive. They come outside. The city has not grown more violent. It is a matter of its people changing.”

(There’s also another moment where Roma describes his father—who doesn’t seem at all concerned about the virus—as having too much false confidence in himself that gave me strong Trumpian vibes, but I assume this book was done being written long before this March. Maybe Chloe Gong is a pre-cog!)

Factor: Series Starter 

I hadn’t realized when I started this book that it was going to be a duology, and after finally getting to the end…I’m not sure if I will be going back for more of this particular story. It did leave off on a cliffhanger that very much left the story unfinished, but I may just need to catch the CliffsNotes version later to satisfy my curiosity.

Relationship Status: Let’s Just Be Friends

I thought this could be something more, Book, and on paper you were everything I wanted you to be. But while our time together was pleasant enough, I don’t think the spark is there. I hope you find what you’re looking for!

Literary Matchmaking:


• Want more Shakespeare in a 1920s setting? Head over to the speakeasy for a Much Ado About Nothing retelling in Speak Easy, Speak Love by McKelle George. 

• Are the 1920s (apparently) the best decade in which to set a Shakespeare retelling? Add Cat Winters’ A Steep and Thorny Way to your TBR and find out! 

• As much as I would’ve LOVED to find one more 1920s Shakespeare book (believe me, I checked our archives), I think Anna-Marie McLemore’s historical retelling about a “dancing fever” hitting a small French town in Dark and Deepest Red also fits the current vibe. 

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy from Simon and Schuster. I received neither money nor peanut butter cups in exchange for this review. These Violent Delights is available now.
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I've been putting off this book forever because it is so my brand and I've been scared I won't like it as much as I expected to. I have some big issues with this book but overall... it's still very good and highly recommended! It's a great crossover novel so I recommend it even if you only read Adult fantasy.

1. The worldbuilding, hands-down. Not only does it paint a vivid portrait of 1920s Shanghai, but it also pays attention to history. I was pleasantly surprised by Gong's stage. This isn't just the Chinese Scarlets vs White Flowers; there's also the rising Communist party, other immigrants, and the wealthy French and British who are invading and cutting up Chinese shores. I really appreciated the anti-imperialist theme, and if you loved the historical bent of The Poppy War then you'll love this too.

Also, how funny is it that Gong has done more research on Russian culture for her novel set in Shanghai than Leigh Bardugo did for her entire Russian-inspired trilogy? Lmao.

2. The political intrigue. I loved reading about all the power struggles... both outside and inside our protagonists' doors. Juliette and Roma are young heirs who are yet to prove themselves; betrayal is everywhere. Not to mention the gangs' blood feud, the complex relationship with the European imperialists and business owners, and the Communists too. Just... super smart and *CHEF'S KISS*

3. The side characters. I actually like the side characters more than our protagonists LOL. But that's a common fantasy pitfall. I loved their relationships with each other and their loyalty to their heirs and their own personalities and goals... Just very well fleshed out.

Okay so... this novel had a rough start and is very slow-paced. Like. Even until the end, it barely speeds up. This novel very much feels like the first-book-worldbuilding stage, and while that's great, I wish it didn't go on for 400 pages. I expected a fast-paced fantasy full of twists and turns but the book isn't about that at all, so it was my mistaken assumption. It's really a study in power, history, and relationships.

Also, I have to admit... I was not invested in the romance at all. Juliette and Roma are fine for me as characters, and objectively I understand their tension... but I didn't care? I wish they had more chemistry tbh. 

Second, I have this issue (which I am sure Gong did not do on purpose) where characters keep mentioning that they studied in the West and there's the subtle implication that they're better for it. That this Western education is what makes them more progressive and willing to stand up for themselves and for justice. It's just an implication, but that's the vibe I got, and you know, I completely forgot that Gong is still writing from a diaspora POV. I was disappointed since the novel is so so good at everything else -- but hey, nobody is perfect, and personally I can ignore this minor gripe.

It ends at a cliffhanger but I am not sure if I will continue onto the sequel. In many ways I feel like this could be a really strong standalone. I know Gong's agent/editor advised her to cut her manuscript up into two books so I really wonder how much stronger and faster it would have been if she didn't follow that.

Despite that, it delivered. This is still a strong book and gives me faith in YA fantasy publishing again.
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What I Loved: This Romeo and Juliet retelling set in 1920s Shanghai is rather divisive but I really enjoyed it. I loved the star crossed protagonists, both Juliette’s ruthlessness and Roman’s inherent desire to be good even when there was immense pressure to act to the contrary. I found numerous facets of the novel pleasantly surprising, but at the top of the list is how dark and violent it was. There were some incredibly gory scenes and, as someone who adores horror, I loved all of it. I also really appreciated how the author played with the theme of colonialism, symbolized by a madness that ravaged the city, regardless of class, gang affiliation, or family association. While there were some twists that I found predictable in the story, there were plenty of unexpected turns and I enjoyed the slow burn romance at the heart of the book. Overall, I really enjoyed this one and cannot wait to read the author’s second book coming out next year. 

What I Didn’t Love: The pacing. While this was not necessarily my complaint I have seen plenty of frustrations around just how slow the book was. Normally slow paced novels have a tendency to send me spiraling into a reading slump. However, I enjoyed the atmosphere, the characters, and the mystery that I had no problem with it– even if the book did take a few days longer to read than a book of that length normally would.
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🖤🖤Book Review🖤🖤

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.

What I liked:
-I loved that Roma and Juliet were a little older in this story (closer to 18-20ish range) and that they had an established background coming into the story. They already were young lovers that betrayed each other and have a lot of scars & resentment because of it! I think it gave the characters more depth and gave them that enemies to lovers tension that we all love! 
-I enjoyed the setting & atmosphere! It added to the story and Gong’s writing really brought it to life!
-the mystery aspect was also unexpected! A little gory at times but it’s definitely something I haven’t seen before. 
-LGBTQ representation! 

What I didn’t like: 
-the pacing was a little slow at times
-I am not a fan of bugs... that creeped me out a bit not gonna lie! 

Still a 4 star read though! That was a really good debut and Romeo & Juliette retelling! I love when the author can take an old story and make it feel new! Can’t wait for the second book!
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These Violent Delights: Very Violent and Very Delightful

my thoughts are all over the place
just like this plot
i’m exaggerating, a little

Much like A Golden Fury, These Violent Delights is split into two halves: the exciting, knuckle-biting half and the boring, exposition half. You can guess which comes first.

Plot, Prose and Pacing: Is This A History Textbook?

Going into the book, I was constantly complaining about how draggy everything seemed; reading it was a painful struggle of putting it down and powering through. Reminiscent of Jade City, These Violent Delights begins with a heavy amount of exposition, introducing us to the characters as well as the political, social and economical setting of Gong’s 1920’s Shanghai where the White Flowers and the Scarlet Gang reigned supreme. Local law enforcement left them well enough alone with the city divided into two territorial halves. We are tossed and thrown around the characters and Shanghai as the monster in their midst begins to take lives on both sides: a plague that sends it’s victims into a mad frenzy, literally ripping out their own throats and clawing at their skin. But as the physical monster grows, threatening the life and existence the two gangs are accustomed to, a more sinister monster raises it’s ugly head; a monster of communism and colonialism personified. Along with the monster killing their people, Juliette and Roma are forced to confront the changing political ecosystem of their beloved city, one that threatens to bring about more bloodshed and violence the gangs could never imagine.

If that felt like a mouthful, this is just a snippet of the These Violent Delights experience! All of this information is crammed into the first twenty percent of the book, making a huge and important chunk of the story one of telling-not-showing exposition, whiny introspection on Juliette and Roma’s part and frankly, poor writing. I was beginning to wonder if the problem was with me as everyone is rating the book highly! The pacing suffered due to information dumping, the writing was informational and emotionless with any sort of tension all but non-existent; it felt like reading a history textbook. A lot of time is spent in Juliette and Roma’s heads, telling us how they felt rather than showing us. And for gang leaders in waiting, they were annoyingly whiny and any angst seemed rather misplaced; their romance uninspired and lacking. This was not a pair of star-crossed lovers, dying to be in each other’s arms; their banter lacked conviction. At this point, the side characters were infinitely more entertaining and colourful. The prose is flowery and pretentious, affecting the pacing (much like this review, to be honest!). It is clear that the second half of the book was what Gong had intended to write and the first half was merely there to support the material.

And as I skimmed through the information dump and scene setting, somewhere along the way, it got better. The pacing picked up speed and soon, we were running through the streets with Juliette Cai and Roma Montagov, star-crossed lovers and gang leaders in the making. It became incredibly sexy (as sexy as you can get while trying to eradicate a plague, of course!) and action-packed with lots of grunge neon lighting, skulking through streets and gunfighting. It shifted from boring exposition to gut-wrenching action. The banter felt more natural; the characters more alive. And it all started with that infamous balcony scene. 

Much like it’s source material, These Violent Delights takes a romantic classic and made it even better. It was incredibly sexy, forbidden and filled to bursting with angst; just thinking about that scene and how Gong rewrote it to fit her novel gives me the chills. It was the ultimate expression of both Juliette and Roma’s personalities and the mountain that separates them; but also, it was the moment the two decided: united they stand, divided they fall. 

Characters: Second Fiddle to the Plot

While Juliette is a wonderfully developed and fleshed out character, there is much left to be desired when it comes to Roma. His character cycles between soft smol and dangerous killer with much disconnect.  He abhors violence and fighting yet rarely endeavours to resolve matters with non-violent means. He rarely holds to his principles and succumbs to the pressure to prove himself worthy of being in the gang with bloody fights. It is as if Gong had an image or a vision of Roma in mind as soft and non-violent but the story did not serve that image. It’s a little jarring as he spends most of the latter half of the book in killer mode and shows more mature and clear emotions rather than just being soft and smol. I would interpret this as you can’t be soft when you’re the leader of a gang but on more than one occasion, Gong has stressed on her social media that Roma is a soft smol compared to Juliette’s killer edge.

I would have rather had two evenly matched and incredibly dangerous killers fighting their love. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for boys having feelings! But, there is a glaring difference in how Juliette’s emotions were written compared to Roma. Juliette, on the other hand, remains rather consistent and while she shows a humane side, remains as hard as a diamond. Fierce, unforgiving and determined to fight for her place in the Scarlet Gang, Juliette will go to any length to protect her self-interests. She is stone cold but she also demonstrates a softer, more protective side when it comes to her own inner circle. Her emotions and personality feel more well-thought out and believable. Where she starts as hardened and jaded, in the face of real danger and of course, love, Juliette shows us a side she keeps hidden from the world. I absolutely loved Juliette and all her motivations; she’s an incredibly well-written character. I even hated her in the beginning before I truly began to understand her.

Along with Juliette and Roma, we have a couple of other players who are instrumental in These Violent Delights. It’s not for me to judge if this is mere tokenism or true representation but Gong did include a couple of LGBTQIA+ characters who got their own page time and plot lines:

Rosalind (Scarlet Gang); Kathleen’s twin and a fashionable burlesque dancer with a chip on her shoulder
Kathleen (Scarlet Gang); Rosalind’s twin and a transgender woman who has infiltrated the Communists
Benedikt (White Flowers); Roma’s cousin who demonstrates some obsessive compulsive disorder and is very serious
Marshall (White Flowers); Benedikt’s constant companion and is very charming
Themes: Cultural Nuances & Politics

Being an #OwnVoices book, These Violent Delights‘s many cultural nuances are best understood by Asians. Right at the beginning of the book, Juliette notices that before she left for America, their dining table was round but it has now been swapped out for a rectangular one, to appeal to Westerners but it made conversation difficult. In Chinese culture, round tables are preferred, especially by older folk as they are better suited to conversing with everybody on the same table. While on rectangular tables, you are limited to the people beside you and those directly in front of you. Furthermore, round tables are seen as more auspicious as they are a never ending circle. This change highlights the tiny things that Asians do to appeal to Westerners.

Juliette also waxes poetic about how she and her cousins had to select Western names to seem more Westernised, to be able to fit in with her American peers, to seem more appealing to the Westerners who were pouring into Shanghai. Even when Juliette was young, she shunned her Chinese roots and instead adopted Western styles of dressing, holding herself above the girls who wore Chinese-styled clothing. She had chosen to be called Juliette as the children in America could not pronounce her name, made fun of it, in fact; it is a very real reality that Asians face. Even I had chosen an Angelicised name for myself as it would have been too difficult when dealing with my clients to get them to pronounce my Chinese name and say it right.

Juliette also fears disapproval from parents; not just because she will lose their position of power but also because parental disapproval is a truly Asian thing. While Western YA protagonists do disappoint their parents, it often comes with lots of reassurances and pep talks while disappointing an Asian parent feels like failure. It is the inability to live us to what your parents want you to be and honoring your familial legacy; it is often related to holding up the family name.

But, where These Violent Delights truly shines is in the not so subtle conversation it seeks to ignite and examine: colonialism and communism. Here is where Gong shows she is a force to be reckoned with as she integrates the changing political and economical scape with the lives of her characters. Gangs like the Scarlet Gang and White Flowers are not alien to China’s history as triads and gangsters have existed even in the past; these are people who control the economy and provide protection to the people of a township or city. As Shanghai continues to grow as an international trading hub, opening it’s doors up to foreign influences, foreigners, particularly those of the West, increasingly seek to control trade and business, manipulating it into their favour. While international trade and sharing ideas for modernity are beneficial to both parties, as Juliette says, it often comes with the mindset that the Westerners are saving the Asians. And, as they spread their influence and recruit locals to their cause, they encroach on the local society in the name of colonialism and with their white saviour mindset, eradicate the local culture and way of life. We can see this happen as the Westerners constantly seek to ally themselves to the White Flowers or Scarlet Gang. In fact, this provides a basis for one of the plots in the book, truly making These Violent Delights apt for discussions on colonialism and it’s effects.

On the other hand, Communism begins to grow in fervour amongst the Chinese. I am, however, not an expert on how Communism came about in China and would not be able to elaborate much the subject. But, These Violent Delights do paint a rather accurate picture of the sentiments surrounding the ideological movement and the violence it was able to incite as more Chinese began to embrace the ideals, especially after living under the thumb of the gangsters and the Westerners. It provides a rather blatant examination of how the figureheads of the movement are able to inspire the sort of fanaticism and belief in the people. By putting Juliette and Roma in the thick of things, it just goes to show that the ideology would never be truly feasible and its supporters are led into blind zealousness over its ideals without truly examining the power structure behind it. 

Honestly, These Violent Delights gives me chills with how beautifully it wove politics into its threads of Romeo and Juliet and the message it sought to deliver. While Romeo and Juliet rarely focused on the political aspect of Verona, I find that most retellings do incorporate politics into their stories such as the short-lived Still Star-Crossed. 

As A Retelling: Inspiration Not Imitation

But These Violent Delights is a retelling in the loosest sense of the word possible. It does feature a decades long rivalry between the Scarlet Gang and White Flowers, two star-crossed lovers, a delectable balcony scene, a very intriguing use of the sleeping poison and a cast of characters constantly at each other’s throats. But that’s where the resemblance ends.  As Gong explains, her book still holds true to the core themes of Romeo and Juliet: love, hate and loyalty.

However, I could not get behind the monster. And despite it being called a monster, it’s existence is more science fiction than fantasy! Although it played a massive role in the book, referring to it as a monster as opposed to a more Chinese-appropriate name also really bothered me because us Chinese also have our own ghosts, ghouls and for lack of better term, monster. A hideous, misshapen mess carrying a plague would have more feasibly been named something else. I also could not remotely understand why there needed to be a monster when there was already a plague; probably to give Juliette and Roma something to chase across Shanghai. It seemed completely unrealistic.

In conclusion, These Violent Delights is a book that needs to be read multiple times if you want to truly enjoy it. Despite it’s multitude of flaws, it is a refreshing and enjoyable read, if you have the fortitude to power through the first twenty percent of utter boredom and lot of telling, not showing. It also hides a more serious message underneath it’s romance YA facade which made it all the more engaging as I began to be able to relate to Juliette and Roma. Furthermore, despite being a Romeo and Juliet retelling, there is a decided lack of focus on the romance and it wasn’t until perhaps the last thirty percent of the book that I actually felt some connection between Juliette and Roma. Oh, and did I mention, cliffhanger?
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These Violent Delights stars Juliette Cai, a teen who's been away from Shanghai for four years, only to come back to her parents' gang-run business. Immediately, it's apparent that she's changed from the betrayal she faced from Roma, her ex-lover, a few years back, which was also the reason she left Shanghai. 

Immediately after she returns, the city seems to be gripped with some kind of monster plague, where people are dying from supposed suicide, though the method of killing themselves is violent and gruesome. 

Roma is part of the White Flowers gang, the rivals to the Scarlet Gang. Roma's more open about his feelings and is seemingly guilty about the fact he's the reason Juliette had to leave Shanghai. 

I love the enemies to lovers to enemies to begrudging allies as they try to figure out what the contagion is that's led to this chain of "suicides".
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These Violent Delights is vivid tale full of intrigue, gang rivalries, and a glorious representation of Shanghai in the late 20's.

I am astounded this was a debut book! The writing is spectacular and paints a rich picture in your mind. I loved the correlation to Romeo and Juliet. Juliette is a phenomenal character (the whole cast of characters was very well developed), the world building is out of this world, and the suspense kept me hooked.

I encourage everyone to pick up this book.
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Actual rating: 4.5 stars

Oh man, this was like the worst but best torture. The angst, the wanting is literally all I could ask for in a romance, let alone in a re-telling of Romeo and Juliet. This is the best kind of enemies-to-lovers story as well, and hopefully it’ll be without the tragedy that is the actual play. I seriously had enough mini heart attacks reading this book anyway.

First, let’s talk about Juliette and Roma. I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again, Juliette could stab me and I’d be happy about it. I can’t remember the last time I loved a female character so much, outside of those in my favorite series. She tries to hide her softness, revealing it only to those close to her, but she sees her father’s business, her inheritance, falling between her fingers thanks to one of her awful family members. Juliette wants to be more involved with her father’s business, but I almost feel like he never really gives that to her. She cares, obviously, especially when the monster and the madness take hold of those in Scarlet Gang territory. Here, we see the contrast between her and Roma Montagov, the heir to White Flower gang and her rival. Roma’s softness almost became the death of him. It’s this softness that his father hates and created a rift between him and Juliette when they were younger.

If you told me this written by a debut author, I would be shocked because it doesn’t feel like that. We have the rich world of 1920s Shanghai, a city that the British and French want to sink their claws into. I am all about Juliette getting in jabs at the white people she comes across and how they’re trying to take over the city. I liked how we got the smallest glimpses into what Juliette and Roma’s lives were like when they were actually nice to each other (four years ago), and you get the faint idea that they were something more, but we don’t know what caused the riff. But then we do, and oh boy. The fact that Juliette and Roma actually tried to stay away from one another considering their past until these events bring them together… Insert THE ANGST.

When it comes to the side characters, I am skeptical! Okay, maybe not so skeptical about Benedict and Marshall. But Juliette’s “friends” who are also her family? Are they even vying for her side? I don’t know.
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This is a story about two gangs, both alike in potential for violence.

I wanted to love this book, and I may come back & reread it at some point to see if my opinion shifts.. as it was, this took me forever to read and I couldn’t seem to stay interested.   The concepts are unique & the idea of a Romeo & Juliet retelling set in  1920’s Shanghai is fantastic.. but something about the narrative felt like watching a history channel documentary about rival gangs.  

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ 🌟 

Thank you so much Netgalley & Simon & Schuster for this eArc!
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I loved this book so much I preordered it EVERYWHERE and even went as far as to getting some from book boxes because I WILL NEED EVER SINGLE EDITION OF THIS BOOK! 
I am so freaking happy I found this world and story that Chloe weave like a true story master. I can with out a doubt say this was one of my all time favorite read and parts of 2020. I LOVED IT 

BUY, READ and thank me later! And then READ IT AGAIN! SO good!! I almost feel like I need to read it again right now. Yep, I'm off to read it again cause why the hell not?! ITS JUST THAT GOOD!
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THESE VIOLENT DELIGHTS is one of the most AMAZING stories out there! A R & J retelling???? Chloe did a really amazing job with this one. The characters are so well written. The passion wafts off each and every page. I can't wait for the next book in this storyline. The plot is FANTASTIC!!!!!!!
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Love this modern twist on Romeo & Juliet (meets The Godfather). This book has received so many amazing reviews and recognitions already, and they are entirely deserved. I am so excited to include this book in our library and especially love including a new #ownvoices author into the collection.
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This was okay. I wish it had focused more on character development instead of Juliette and Roma running back and forth across Shanghai constantly. I didn't feel connected to Juliette until towards the end of the book, and Roma remains a one dimensional character. Honestly, I wish I had gotten to know Juliette's two cousins better, out of all of the characters.

Additionally, while their parents were present, they arguably should have played a much bigger role in the story than they did. The fact that two teenagers were allowed to just handle all of themselves requires quite a huge suspension of disbelief at the way mafia and gang families are actually run.

Anyway, despite it ending on the most ludicrous cliffhanger-y of cliffhangers, I probably will not be picking up the second one.
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This book sounded like all kinds of weird, and that's what attracted me to it. I'm not a big Romeo and Juliet fan, and you don't have to be to enjoy this story. There's a lot less romance than you'd expect from such a retelling. The best thing about this book is the dark and creepy atmosphere. If you want to be transported, you'll definitely get that here. I'm curious to see where the next book is headed.
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I received a free digital copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 
Pros-A neat, reimagined version of Romeo and Juliet, Strong Characters, worldbuilding
Cons-Took way too long to get going (with worldbuilding/character descriptions), then stopped just as things were getting interesting.
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I am always down for a good re-telling. Now, when we add in 1920s Shanghai, Shakespeare, and madness? I simply cannot resist. These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong is an excellent young adult historical fantasy. Personally, I devoured this book and cannot stop recommending it. Also? I wish I had the second book right this instant.

These Violent Delights is a retelling of Romeo and Juliet. Set in 1920s era Shanghai, this is the story of Juliette Cai and Roma Montagov. Juliette and Roma were once lovers but are now enemies. They come from rival gangs. Juliette’s family runs the Scarlet gang which is comprised of Chinese people. Roma’s family runs the White Flowers which are comprised of Russians. Meanwhile, there’s also the Communist faction as well as the foreign colonizers. The book opens with a person down by the docks who tries to rip their own throat out.

It seems this delusion which makes people want to rip out their throats is spreading, putting Shanghai at risk. So, Juliette and Roma, enemies, must unite to find out what exactly the issue is and put an end to the madness. We get perspective from Juliette, Roma, Juliette’s cousin and more characters. It was cool to see the connection between the side characters and the play which this is based on.

Chloe Gong’s debut is a winner. It is a story that is unique and complex. The pacing is never slow or overlong. Also, there’s a good amount of action to keep you satisfied. Plus, there’s the world building. Reading These Violent Delights made it easy to picture Shanghai of the past and the competing factions. Yet, this book does not shy from topics like colonialism, gender, politics, and more. I also liked how much of a twist it provided on Romeo and Juliet. Finally, it takes the story and making it new again.
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This has become one of my favorite re tellings of Romeo and Juliet and...I've read a lot. It was an unexpected time to take place and setting for that matter. It was very original for it being a re telling. Will definitely recommend to my students.
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I partly blame my low rating on reading this book while starting the fall of 2020 school year in a pandemic. But honestly, I never felt the urge to read it. I never connected with any characters. The character names in this spin-off were too d sad I liar to actual Romeo and Juliet names, which is too cheesy for high school readers. I don’t quite get the point of the monster other than adding a mysterious element. It was well written, but I just didn’t connect.
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