Book Review: Bad Romeo

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Author: Leisa Rayven
ISBN: 9781743531600
RRP: $24.99

Bad Romeo has been on my TBR pile for a while and I hadn’t quite gotten to it, the premise captured my attention then the book got lost in the pile. This weekend I came to a point where I didn’t already have a next book picked and this one jumped out at me.

Romeo and Juliet is a classic, the ultimate tale of star-crossed lovers – in my personal experience it was the birth of star crossed lovers and one of my favourites. A touching story of young love turned to tragedy. It’s been a long time since that first read, with lots of experience under the bridge, and it has changed my perceptions and interpretations of this love story, in those years I have also come across many other peoples thoughts and interpretations – all of which has taken a little of the shine off the beauty I saw in it first time round.

Leisa Rayven has set her modern love story very much against the backdrop of Romeo and Juliet as her leads are cast opposite one another in their arts college production of the classic. Now Romeo and Juliet were a case of love at first sight but that was definitely not the way it happened with Cassie and Ethan; theirs was more a case of antagonization at first sight.

bad romeo

Ethan Holt is a bad boy loner who has fought hard for his acceptance into the prestigious Grove Academy, he is in his third year of auditioning and if he doesn’t make it in this time he won’t be able to audition again. If some people build walls for self-protection Ethan Holt is a veritable fortress, determined not to let anyone in.

Cassie Taylor is the polar opposite, she has grown up quite sheltered with over-protective parents and has always been a people pleaser. Drama is the perfect outlet for her, she gets to be someone else and when you are used to being who you think those around you want you to be what are you more qualified for really. Except when it comes to Ethan, somehow he brings the backbone out in her and she is forever telling him what she really thinks.

Bad Romeo opens six years after that first meeting. Cassie and Ethan are about to play romantic leads on Broadway and there has been much tumultuous water under their bridge in that time, it has been three years since they last saw each other and Cassie is determined to insulate herself with anger and bitterness.

Cassie tells us her story both in the present as she is thrown back in touch with Ethan on Broadway and the past they shared at Grove Academy. The story is littered with her diary entries, both past and present, and they are usually used to let us know where we are in time. We move through rehearsals but not quite to opening night in the present as Cassie tries to navigate her way through sharing a stage with Ethan again and the past sees us share the first semester or so of Cassie’s time at Grove Academy as she starts finding her feet and a sense of self.

I was drawn into Rayven’s story right from the beginning. Her writing style is fluent and witty with characters that really came alive. I had to keep reading to find out how the sweet naive virgin girl who auditioned at Grove Academy turned into the smoking, swearing actress who turned up to rehearsals at Graumann Theater.

The chemistry between Cassie and Ethan is palpable from the first time they share a stage at auditions and it’s that chemistry that sees them cast as Romeo and Juliet, even though Ethan did not read for Romeo as he doesn’t believe in love at first sight and feels only contempt for the character. Their onstage chemistry is off-stage friction and it all adds up to constant sparks.

Ethan is not a very sympathetic character until we are drawn further in to the story and start to understand why he is such a jerk. Cassie on the other hand is a little too squeaky clean, and her diary entries show quite a different side to her that doesn’t always seem to match up with her character.

The entire book was a steamy tease, Rayven kept the anticipation ever building and it sometimes seemed it would never be seen through. I really enjoyed the banter and the evolution of Cassie and I am looking forward to the sequel Broken Juliet due later this year.

Bad Romeo is Book #13 for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2015.

For more information and to follow Leisa you can find her on Facebook, Twitter and her website.

Bad Romeo is available in good bookstores and from Pan MacMillan.

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