Culture Done With Tact: These Violent Delights Impressions

The year is 1926, and Shanghai hums to the tune of debauchery.

Chloe Gong

These Violent Delights is a retelling of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet set in 1926 Shanghai. A mysterious plague spreads throughout the city, and people witnessed sightings of a monster lurking in Huangpu river.

The Scarlet Gang and the White Flowers are two of Shanghai’s biggest mafia gangs. Juliette Cai is the heir to the Scarlet Gang, and her first love and first betrayal, Roma Montagov, is the heir to the White Flowers. These two teenagers must set aside their rivalry and differences to solve a rapidly spreading contagion throughout the city.


I love this premise. It’s the main reason why I picked up this book. As a Chinese-Canadian, I was so intrigued at how the author will weave this fictional, political tale together, considering the author is of Chinese descent.

As I read this story, the author’s effort in putting this story together really shines. I’m not an expert on Chinese history, but I know enough to see that the author weaved historical and imaginative elements together to make this logically coherent setting. The world-building is one of the best I’ve ever read.

The politically driven struggle to run Shanghai and the pronunciation of Mandarin were spot-on. It was so refreshing to see Chinese culture in a story written in English done respectfully.

Despite this book being heavy on politics, it only scratches the surface. Essentially, the author merely conveys what’s necessary for the reader to understand the setting and the current circumstance, so the reader doesn’t get lost.

Juliette Cai embodies many characters of a YA female protagonist: she is headstrong, opinionated, and stubborn. She also has many scars, one of which is the betrayal of her first love. Juliette Cai is a rose with thorns that’s on fire.

Roma Montagov is the opposite. He’s calm and indirect. However, he struggles to be taken seriously by his father.

I love that the characters are selfish and driven. They share a common goal, but they’re doing it to protect themselves and their people at the end of the day. The author makes it clear what their motives are and why they have to come together.

It makes sense and isn’t something out of the blue. As Juliette and Roma work together, their history is revealed, and some people would enjoy the enemies to lovers’ trope.

I’m usually a fan of romance books. But, strangely, I would rather not have romance in this book. The chemistry between Roma and Juliette didn’t appeal to me as much as I thought it would.

I’m halfway through the book, and I can see how much the author is trying to create mystery and suspense around their backstory, but I’m too engrossed in trying to find out about this contagion than their romance. The romance feels like an accessory to the story. But, I think that’s just personal preference.

Chloe Gong gives depth to nearly all of her main characters. But, sometimes it’s a little too much.

There were times when a situation would suddenly stop to describe a character’s backstory. I guess it’s to explain why the character acts a certain way, but that distracts from the story. There’s a lot more telling than showing. Sometimes, I would just skip the entire descriptions.

Final Thoughts

This book is truly a gem. It’s one of the best books I’ve ever read, and I’m only halfway through. And this is the author’s debut novel. Plus, she is only twenty-one years old.

For anyone who’s of Chinese ethnicity, I highly recommend this book.

These Violent Delights depict the Chinese culture exceptionally well. It also gives you a simplified picture of deceptive Western interference.

There’s one line in the book that a reviewer pointed out on GoodReads that emphasize one of the main themes of this book and that I want to end this post on.

we mistook violence for passion and thought recklessness was freedom.

Chloe Gong

2 thoughts on “Culture Done With Tact: These Violent Delights Impressions

  1. Awesome review! I also really enjoyed this book, but I do agree with you that I’d rather the no romance! Unlike you I am usually not a fan of romance but in this book especially, I feel like Roma and Juliette just didn’t click and you can’t really see the chemistry. It might have worked if they were just past lovers because then they’d still have a sort of connection and still be wrapped up together in this, but with them still having attraction to each other, it feels a little distant.

    Liked by 1 person

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