My first ever Book Review blog is dedicated to these two amazing books: ‘Bad Romeo’ and ‘Broken Juliet’, both by Leisa Rayven.
Originally written as Twilight Fan Fiction, these contemporary books tell the stories of Cassie Taylor and Ethan Holt, who meet at a performing arts college in New York State.
“Cassie was the good-girl actress. He was the bad boy on campus. But the fated casting choices for Romeo and Juliet changed it all. Like the characters they were playing on stage, Cassie and Ethan’s destinies seemed entwined. It was an epic romance. Until it ended in tragedy when he shattered her heart.”
Told from Cassie’s point of view, the stories perfectly combine college era and a present day narratives when Cassie and Ethan meet once again as the stars of a Broadway show. Ethan broke Cassie’s heart twice during college. Cassie’s never managed to move on. But Ethan’s determined to convince her he’s changed, that she can trust him again.
The narratives are ambitious, flitting between past and present, but Leisa has made them work very well. Present day Cassie and Ethan starkly contrast their college era personalities. Additionally, in ‘Bad Romeo’ we have glimpses of Cassie’s diary entries whilst in ‘Broken Juliet’ we have glimpses of both their diaries. The excerpts from Ethan’s diaries give insight into the insecurities that led him to break Cassie’s heart. And, if that weren’t enough, Leisa has also intertwined elements of the story of those world-famous star-crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet. Leisa’s skilfully woven all these separate strands together to create two of the most emotionally gripping novels I’ve ever read.
The books were a delicious sumptuous and sensual delight, suspending disbelief so completely for me that I’ve had to read them again with a more critical eye for this review instead of being swept along in a heart-wrenching storm. Leisa hasn’t wasted time with anything more than brief sketches of place and setting; everything is about the poignant emotional and physical connection between Cassie and Ethan but without being irritatingly angst-ridden. The sexual attraction and tension between them was simply perfect, creating precisely the scenario every woman wants physically from a real-life relationship. Leisa also wrote possibly the most realistic losing-your-virginity scene that I’ve ever encountered, managing to make it simultaneously sexy and sweet.
Thankfully, there are no ill-timed poisons or handy daggers for these star-crossed lovers but the parallels are clear; Ethan’s low self-esteem was the death-knell of their relationship in college and Cassie’s trust issues could prevent their present-day happy ever after. Sometimes your own worst enemy is yourself. Both juxtapositions lead to plenty of tumultuous highs and lows. The characters were well-drawn and plausible, with clear growth. Ethan was satisfyingly and believably male even though his story is primarily told through Cassie’s eyes. I felt every moment of their anger, happiness and sadness as though it were happening to me.
Aside from the breath-taking attraction and turbulent feelings, there are also sporadic, but utterly memorable, hilarious one-liners that made me actually laugh out loud. Most of them are from Cassie; there are more in ‘Bad Romeo’ when Cassie hadn’t been broken by Ethan. They provide many relatable moments and much needed light relief from the rest of the story.
Leisa is a new author for me and caught my eye on a blogger’s post on Twitter. I’m so glad that I succumbed to their cover appeal and bought these books as they are definite contenders for my Shelf of Inspiration (the ultimate accolade). There are few books where every word fits, every sentence is justified and the whole is just so right that you can only marvel. I was utterly gripped and read both books in one weekend.
I can’t wait for Ethan’s sister’s story, Wicked Heart, which is released in May 2016 in the UK.
Review © Eleanor Small