Kim’s Review of Unmasking Juliet by Teri Wilson

ujtwLast year I read Unleashing Mr. Darcy by Teri Wilson and absolutely loved her modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice. It was completely charming  and filled with flirtatious dialogue that hooked me from the beginning. When Wilson announced that she was working on a contemporary version of Romeo and Juliet I was nervous and excited! I mean Romeo and Juliet is completely romantic but also totally depressing. I couldn’t wait to see if Wilson could win me over again, so as soon as Unmasking Juliet became available, I started reading.

Plot from Goodreads:

Ever since she was a little girl learning to make decadent truffles in her family’s chocolate shop, Juliet Arabella has been aware of the bitter feud between the Arabellas and the Mezzanottes. With their rival chocolate boutiques on the same street in Napa Valley, these families never mix. Until one night, when Juliet anonymously attends the annual masquerade ball. In a moonlit vineyard, she finds herself falling for a gorgeous stranger, a man who reminds her what passion is like outside of the kitchen. But her bliss is short-lived when she discovers her masked prince is actually Leo Mezzanotte, newly returned from Paris and the heir to her archenemy’s confection dynasty.

With her mind in a whirl, Juliet leaves for Italy to represent the Arabellas in a prestigious chocolate competition. The prize money will help her family’s struggling business, and Juliet figures it’s a perfect opportunity to forget Leo…only to find him already there and gunning for victory. As they compete head-to-head, Leo and Juliet’s fervent attraction boils over. But Juliet’s not sure whether to trust her adversary, or give up on the sweetest love she’s ever tasted…

Unmasking Juliet is, in a word, delightful! Wilson writes such pleasant romances that you can’t help but be warmed by them. I think a crisp fall day, curled on your couch with a soft, cozy blanket is the best way to enjoy her novels. Her ability to creatively turn classic novels into contemporary pieces is astounding. I was wondering how she was going to have two warring families hate each other on the scale that the Capulets and Montagues did, and if she could effectively include a balcony scene! I’m happy to say that Unmasking Juliet is a resounding success.

If any of you out there have read Laura Florand’s Amour et Chocolat series (see reading bff Kelly and my review of book one here) and have enjoyed it, you’ll already know that there is something incredibly sexy about a man who knows what he’s doing with chocolate. And a chocolatier that puts his heart into his product to show his love for a woman….that’s even sexier. Leo is oozing with sex appeal. I loved how Wilson was able to give Leo some of Romeo’s actual lines from Romeo and Juliet and not make them sound cheesy and outdated. Her mixing of the prose was flawless and beautifully crafted.

Next up in Wilson’s re-imagined classics series is a new take on My Fair Lady, entitled Unschooling the Professor, due out in December. You can bet your bottom dollar I’ll be purchasing that book the day it comes out.

Romantic, alluring, beautiful, and creative, Unmasking Juliet is a story that will make you believe in the power of true love.

5 out of 5 Stars

Unmasking Juliet by Teri Wilson
Harlequin (2014)
Paperback: 368 pages
ISBN: 9780373778751

Special thanks to Harlequin for my review copy via Netgalley!

My Top 10….Literary Couples (Part II)

As promised in yesterday’s post, here are my top five literary couples!

(Please be warned, there could be some spoilers in my blurbs on each couple)

5.) Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff (From Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte)

                Catherine and Heathcliff to me is one of those love stories where the love the characters have for each other is their vindicating trait.  Catherine and Heathcliff grow up in the same house together, she as the master’s daughter and Heathcliff as the family’s adopted son.  As Heathcliff and Catherine grow they become closer and closer.  The two sneak over to an estate close to their own to see a lavish party and what wealth can give them.  While there Cathy gets attacked by one of the dogs and is taken inside the house where she stays for several weeks.  When she returns home she has become a lady and claims that she is marrying Edgar, the master of the wealthy estate she stayed at.  Heathcliff over hears her telling a housemaid that while she really loves Heathcliff she has to marry Edgar to get the wealth and social prominence she so desires.  Heathcliff leaves to go get educated and become wealthy, hoping that he can win Cathy back.  Heathcliff is gone for three years and in that time Cathy gets married.  When Heathcliff returns and sees that Cathy and Edgar are married he vows to get vengeance on Edgar for by marrying Edgar’s sister Isabella.  Heathcliff turns into a cruel man and literally drives Isabella mad.  Now if you’re thinking Cathy is selfish and Heathcliff is cruel, angry, bitter, and heartbroken you’d be absolutely right.  It’s who they are in the end of the novel that shows how vindicating love can be.  If you’ve never read this novel I heartily encourage you to give it a whirl.  It’s rough reading through the first time, as you want to just shake the characters and say “wake up!”, but it’s one of those stories that you have to read to understand what I mean. 

4.) Laura Ingalls Wilder and Almanzo Wilder (From the Little House Series by Laura Ingalls Wilder)

                For those that have never read the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder let me give you a brief breakdown.  Laura’s books chronicled her childhood moving from place to place with her family as they tried to survive as a farming family.  Laura meets Almanzo in her teen years and falls in love with him despite there being a ten-year age gap between them.  Their courtship is one of a time long-lost and forgotten in today’s society.  Almanzo courts Laura for three years before he proposes to her and gives her first kiss.  It’s relationships like this of a bygone era that make my heart truly flutter.  Those of you that know me know that I’m a hopeless romantic and wish that life could be like it was in simpler times like these.  People weren’t fluttering from person to person; they met one person who they knew they could share their life with and did just that.  Another reason I absolutely love Laura and Almanzo is because their story is real!! It gives hope to the reader that they too can find a love as pure and consistent as theirs.

3.) Romeo and Juliet (From Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare)

                Romeo and Juliet are THE quintessential couple when it comes to ranking literary couples.  The two loved each other so much that they refused to live without the other, literally.  Any list ranking great love stories has to have theirs!  While their love is certainly tragic, it is true, wholesome, honest, and deep.  Those that find love like Romeo and Juliet’s are incredibly lucky.

2.) Anne Elliot and Captain Frederick Wentworth (From Persuasion by Jane Austen)

                Anne and Frederick….A pairing that finds me at a loss for words.  Anne in her youth becomes head over heels in love with Wentworth and accepts a proposal of marriage to him.  She is persuaded by a close family friend that the marriage would be imprudent due to what is expected of a woman of her social standing.  Wentworth has no money, no connections, and would in essence bring down the family name.  Believing everyone to know what is best for her, Anne breaks the engagement, and in doing so breaks Wentworth’s heart.  Years later the tables have turned; Anne’s father has spent the family into a debt and Wentworth has become a rich Captain in the Navy.  Wentworth’s sister and brother-in-law rent out Anne’s family estate, thus thrusting Wentworth and Anne back into each others company.  Having been separated for over 7 years Wentworth believes himself to be completely over his love for Anne.  Anne on the other hand threatens to be as in love with him as ever.  Knowing that it is her fault for their broken engagement she keeps silent while in his company.  Tragedy strikes however and Wentworth turns to Anne for her help, thus opening his eyes to this majestic creature he used to love.  They must figure out if their love is enough to overcome the years and experiences they’ve had apart.  Anne and Wentworth are truly the crème de la crème of Austen literature.  Even though they’ve been separated for several years they both know deep down that they’ve only ever truly loved each other.  That consistency is both admirable and breathtaking to a heartless romantic.

1.) Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy (From Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen)

                Where do I even begin for these guys?? Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy have a love story that is not all that hard to believe.  It is rife with misunderstanding, pride, shyness, arrogance, prejudice, understanding, forgiveness, passion, and trust.  Their relationship starts off badly with an ill begotten statement made by Darcy at a ball.  Lizzie bases her feelings for Darcy on this statement she overhears and refuses to change her opinion of him until much later in the novel.  Darcy quickly realizes the mistake in his comment when he sees her beauty and wit. He begins seeking out her company during her stay at his friend’s estate and the balls at which they are both in attendance.  Lizzie refuses to believe that he has a non-arrogant bone in his body and continues with the verbal assault on him both to his face and to her friends.  Darcy and Lizzie have a DISASTAROUS first proposal where she tells him that he is that last man in the world that she would ever marry.  Darcy realizes that she is right in her assessment of him in certain areas and writes her a letter refuting the other points.  This broken proposal makes Darcy realize he needs to change and stop being prejudiced to those below his social standing.  Lizzie, after reading Darcy’s letter, realizes that she is all wrong about him and is mortified that she was so blinded by pride.  They meet again several months later and both are completely changed in the other’s eyes.  Seeing a chance to start again they embark on a friendship that threatens to be ended when Lizzie’s sister runs away with Darcy’s enemy.  I won’t bore you with any more of the plot, (although I don’t think anyone could ever be bored by Pride and Prejudice) and get straight into why I love them.  There is such a lesson to be learned here.  While first impressions are important, don’t let them be the end all be all of shaping a person’s character.  Lizzie and Darcy find true love and companionship in each other once they let their egos out-of-the-way.  I love reading their story because they are both full of faults (as we all are) and it’s the admission of their faults to each other that paves the way for a love to blossom between them.

Well readers, there you have my top ten literary couples.  Let me know who your favorites are (whether they are in my list or have been omitted!)

Until next time, Happy Reading!

Complex Reading vs. Simplistic Reading

Adam and I were discussing The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway when we began discussing complex books vs. simplistic books.  We started discussing it because I was talking about how The Old Man and the Sea speaks in very simplistic language. I personally am a fan of classic literature books, books that follow the style of Jane Austen’s writing period, and also books that make you think.  It’s not very common that I read a book written in simplistic terms.  While it’s a nice break, I enjoy reading to enrich my mind, grow my vocabulary, make me think, and also make stop and pause to look and appreciate the things around me.

Adam had said he wished more writers would write simplistically. He felt that books get overly wordy and explain everything in such small detail.  He would rather be able to think about what it looked like, smelt like, felt like, etc on his own. He wants authors to cut out the “fluff” and get down to the nitty-gritty.  I can agree with him about fluff to a degree.  Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck has almost a full chapter explaining in extreme detail about a turtle crossing the road. It is the MOST boring thing I’ve ever read in my life. So on the subject of “fluff” I can agree to a degree with Adam.

The more and more I thought about what we were discussing the stronger I felt for books that weren’t super simplistic. In my eyes reading holds the keys to enriching people’s lives and minds.  For people who will never be able to travel to Europe in their lifetime, they can pick up a book and read about what it’s like. Those that will never make it scuba diving, mountain climbing, sky diving etc, they can pick up a book and read about others experiences doing it.  None of us know what it was like to live in the past when King Henry VIII ruled, but we can pick up a book and read about what it was like.  If writing was always written simplistically, we might not be able to experience any of these things through words.

Reading complex things also expands your intelligence.  The more you read the better your vocabulary gets and your sentence structure get stronger.  You learn to recognize metaphors, themes, similes, protagonists, antagonists, conflicts, resolutions, etc. 

When I think of classic literature I don’t think of simplistic authors or simplistic books – I see Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Gaskell, Charlotte Bronte, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hawthorne, Poe, Arthur Miller, Steinbeck, etc. I see Pride and Prejudice, Macbeth, North and SouthTo Kill a Mockingbird, The Odyssey, The Canterbury Tales, etc.  These books are taught in schools and taught year after year because we learn from them.  As a child you’re taught with picture books, then you begin reading and move to chapter books, as we get older and our brains can handle more we begin reading “the classics.”  That is how we progress on to college and into the working environment. As our brains retain more knowledge our reading levels change, allowing us to read more complex books. I think in order to continue to grow intellectually, that adults should read complex books.  Throwing in a simplistic book here and there is ok, it gives your brain a rest, which is definitely necessary.

As I was talking to Todd last night I said to him that I think reading books with details is important as well.  For me reading poetry expands the meaning of love, reading books that discuss the look, smell, taste of things enriches my own senses.  Reading about a sunrise/sunset and then seeing one – I can understand the text better and understand the beauty around me.

I’d love to hear everyone else’s thoughts on what I’ve said.  Adam has been kind enough to begin writing a response to my thoughts that I’ll post up before the week is out.  Please comment and let me know what side of the argument you fall on!

Happy Reading!