Unmasking Juliet by Teri Wilson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Two households, both alike in dignity/In fair Napa, where we lay our scene. In this delightful modern twist on a beloved Shakespearean classic, author Teri Wilson turns a bloody tragedy into a chocolate-drenched romance in which the worse thing that happens is a non-fatal, accidental dog poisoning. (Animal lovers, fear not.) Wilson tells us in her introduction, "I really wanted a chance to give these star-crossed lovers the happy ending they deserve." This is a romance novel, after all.
No Tybalts were slain in the making of this novel.
Personally, my first exposure to Romeo and Juliet was in the 7th grade. My English teacher, Mrs. O'Brian, went on maternity leave midway through the play, and the class finished it out with Mr. Bowerman. He was the greatest substitute teacher of my life. I'll never forget that when it came time for him to read the line, "How now, Balthazar?" he said, "How now, Brown Cow?" The class laughed for a solid 10 minutes, and it still makes me chuckle to this day. I re-read the play with my 9th grade class, and it hadn't lost any of its charm or magic.
For me, some of the fun of this novel is the way Wilson incorporates familiar lines from Shakespeare's play. Unmasking Juliet seems to be set in a slightly alternate universe in which no one has heard of the fictitious Romeo and Juliet. The characters aren't referencing the play within the world of the novel the way Bella and Edward consciously do in New Moon. They're simply living a (happier) version of it.
The female protagonist of Wilson's version is third-generation chocolatier Juliet Arabella. The male protagonist is Leo Mezzanotte. (Leo - as in DiCaprio - as in the Romeo of the Baz Luhrmann film adaptation. I see what you did there, Ms. Wilson.) He's the grandson of Juliet's grandmother's original business partner in the chocolate business. The Arabellas and Mezzanottes are now rivals as bitter as unsweetened baker's chocolate.
Of course, Leo's only love springs from his only hate. From the moment the two meet - identities concealed in Italian carnival masks - there's a magnetic attraction. They can't get each other out of their minds. I think we all know where this is going, but the fun is in getting there.
By coincidence, the names Arabella and Mezzanotte can combine to make Bellanotte - Italian for "beautiful night."
For never was a story of more "Whoa!"/Than this of Juliet and her Leo.
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I received a copy of this book through the Amazon Vine program in exchange for this review, which represents my own honest opinion.