These Violent Delights by 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.
“Would you choose this version of me- these sharp edges and hands far bloodier than yours?”
Trigger warnings: blood, violence, gore, death, murder, contagious infection, weapon use, insects, microaggression, parental abuse & alcohol consumption.
Rarely does a rainy day recommend you a book, when you can hear the thunder screaming and the rain pelting the windows—as if warning you to read this book now or you’ll be drenched in tears—and you decide to actually honour the anticipation building within you by picking it up right then. But one such day did recommend These Violent Delights to me and I shall be sending a thank you letter to whoever operates the tap in the clouds.
These Violent Delights sharpens the edges of a classic by retelling it through a lens of another era while never holding back from suffusing originality, individuality, and an independent perspective on all aspects of this masterpiece. Heirs of two rival gangs taking up their responsibilities while remembering (and often trying not to) their past, a monster emerging from the waters, and political revolution waiting to unfold, this historical fantasy is painted within Shanghai of mid 1920s. Juliette, heir to the popular Scarlet Gang, strengthens her stance with heightened fervour as a young woman who recently returned from the States; Roma, heir to The White Flowers, abides by his father’s commands with conflict as an emotionally responsive young man left with no room to opine. Both didn’t choose this life, both gangs are being triggered by the same threat, and both can kill each other if witnessed in the rival’s territory—at the behest of unsaid sectional rules set up to avoid bloodshed.
Like a whetted blade awaiting its purpose to destroy, the two come together with a repulsiveness that frequently gets replaced by yearning, to uncover the mysterious infection clawing at people’s throats and apprehend the larger ambition behind the dreadful eyes of a monster beneath the sea, behind the violent spread of this lurgy, and behind the growing change in the political scene. Akin to the sharp blade, this coalition does destroy—the heart of every reader. The lesser I speak of the romance, the more one would fully immerse themselves in a bath of scarlet roses and white flowers. But nothing about this rivals-to-lovers is relaxing. It’s a tsunami of contention, inclination, and an ache that will upheaval even the steadiest of your grounds and you’ll agree that something with such disorder and disruption can only be excellence.
It’s simply this excellence that perfectly balances an exclusive focus on the Roma-Juliette while also rolling a film of side characters who possess distinctive personalities. With absolutely no retention of Romeo and Juliet, considering I haven’t read it yet, I’m not the best person to draw any sort of parallels at the moment but if I ever review the classic, I’ll draw parallels with These Violent Delights in that review.
The other side of me as a history fanatic did connect dots with a knowledge of the Northern Expedition, imperialism, the Nationalist & the Communist parties, and the factory strikes igniting the first sparks of a revolution while foreign powers still dominate over the government. Like an icing on the cake, the varying aspects that deliver such superiority are imbued with heartfelt strands of identity, familial expectations, and emotional bonds that aren’t easy to escape from.
Read this historical fantasy romance for the love filled with angst, for a fierce heroine, a lover hero, and for all the complexities that can justify my lack of words to precisely sum up why this is easily one of my favourites of the year.
This post is written to promote this book provided through a publicist by receiving a digital copy via Netgalley but everything stated in the post is solely my opinion.
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