Title: Unmasking Juliet
Author: Teri Wilson
Publisher: Green Darner Press
Release Date: May 2014
Length: 368 pages
Genre: Retelling, Contemporary
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…
This is a contemporary retelling of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet set in a feuding chocolatier’s world. A decades-old disagreement and theft has put a rift between the Arabella and Mezzanotte families that has been fanned into flames just as much as the forbidden love between dutiful Juliet Arabella and newly returned Leo Mezzanotte.
There is a growing passion between the two that is sweet, endearing, tear-jerking, feisty. And forbidden.
The book is filled with personality! All of which were realistic but also binge-worthy. That awful behavior you just can’t stop watching – all because of the betrayal and hatred springing from the feud. Juliet Arabella is a dutiful daughter to her family and the family business, The Chocolate Boutique. The isolation is beginning to outweigh the love she has for her job. She is also manipulated by a controlling mother, to whom everyone in the family defers to and does her bidding, no matter how ludicrous. Her father and brother also add to the pressure like a couple of mob bosses. All of the conflict and hatred begins to boil over for Juliet’s saucepan. She wants to take a stand for herself and what she wants, but it is a hard task with her busybody, no-nonsense family.
Leo Mezzanotte is a very manly guy who has just come off of a plane from Paris and a broken engagement. Despite his mindset to reject any type of commitment – almost including to his family’s chocolate business after the duplicity and deceitful means in which they tricked him there by – he is a man full of love, kindness, and compassion in addition to his masterful chocolate skills.
Leo seemed to struggle more with internal conflicts than Juliet did. From the beginning, he was a take-stand character. Whereas that is what Juliet said she wanted, but her actions didn’t really show it at all. The only real stand she took was at the very end of the book in Rome in the final pages.
The supporting cast of characters added depth, humor, and disbelief to this family-feuding story. There is Alegra, Juliet’s cousin taken in by her family who is like a sister, and a little more sympathetic to Juliet’s feelings. George Alcott III, the conceited gold digger heir to Royal Gourmet Distributors. Joe Mezzanotte, Leo’s almost-to-the-point-of-evil uncle. Gina, Leo’s mob wife-like sister and her husband Marco, who is just as much embroiled in the family feud he married into. All of these characters add to the mystifying family feud with their energy, passion and hatred.
The family rivalry was believable and engrossing. Juliet receives her grandmother’s recipe book, which also contained personal journal entries that detailed from her perspective how the feud began all those years ago with her best friend, the Mezzanotte grandmother. Leo does not believe in the feud. His attitude is “So what? It has nothing to do with us. We have no reason to hate each other.” Juliet shows him the recipe book and the entries. The final few entries take root in Leo’s heart. He does his best to make a concession and extend an olive branch to Juliet that she does not discover until the last few chapters of the book. It was incredibly sweet and a little tear-jerking, just like the ending.
Wilson is a master of the craft of detail. Some of the descriptions were so vivid and striking, especially those from the very beginning when Juliet and Leo meet in the sunflower garden at the masquerade ball. Such beauty! I almost want to buy a print copy of the book just to mark up those passages and keep around for the simple beauty of the carefully crafted writing.
This was my first book by Wilson, but it seems she has found her niche in carefully retelling classics in our contemporary world with her own flair and mark. I can’t wait to see which story she will re-spin next.
Teri Wilson writes romance and women’s fiction for Harlequin and Gallery Books. Her novels UNLEASHING MR. DARCY and THE ART OF US are both now Hallmark Channel Original Movies, and her third Hallmark film, MARRYING MR. DARCY, is set to premiere on June 2.
Teri also writes an offbeat fashion column for the royal blog What Would Kate Do and is a frequent guest contributor for its sister site, Meghan’s Mirror. In 2017, she served as a national judge for the Miss United States pageant in Orlando, Florida, and has since judged in the Miss America system. She has a major weakness for cute animals, pretty dresses and good books.