I didn’t read the description, just knew this was a queer Romeo & Juliet retelling, so I thought it would be a male version of Juliet. Instead, it turned out to be a clever twist on the story that included Juliet but focused on a romance between Romeo and Mercutio’s brother, Valentine. It was fun seeing the things the author took from the original story and included in different ways in this story. (Though I think it can still be enjoyed even if you have no familiarity with the original.)
The first meeting between Romeo and Valentine was so lovely. I could feel the connection between them. The strange pull and trust and vulnerability Romeo felt. And they only grew closer after that. They lived in a time and place where men and women were supposed to get married, and that was that, so Romeo experienced a lot of confusion and wonder throughout, but Valentine was the perfect person to handle his feelings with care and reciprocation. The description for this book uses the words “tender romance,” and that is very much accurate.
The friendships and the characters themselves were also very sweet. Romeo and Valentine were gentle souls. Benvolio and Mercutio enjoyed teasing each other and charming everyone and hooking up with girls and were not always perfect, but they were loyal and well-meaning and a lot of fun. Juliet was understanding and headstrong, and I loved the connection she and Romeo shared, both able to relate to and understand each other in many ways. Friar Laurence was also understanding and always there to help.
The audiobook narrator, Max Meyers, sounded so natural and so wonderfully, beautifully conveyed all the emotion, all of Romeo’s confusion, fear, desperation, wonder, and love. Wonderfully conveyed all the other characters’ emotions too, and made them all sound different enough to tell apart.
Overall, this was a lovely m/m retelling with a romance that was gentle and characters who were sweethearts!
Anyone who likes queer retellings, Romeo & Juliet retellings, first love, gentle romance, and sweet characters.