Review: Ramon and Juileta by Alana Quintana Albertson

Am I Hispanic? No. But do I love Hispanic culture and traditions YES! My husband is Hispanic and I love combining our traditions and making something uniquely us so when I saw this retelling of Romeo and Juliet but with tacos, I was absolutely dying to read it! As a teenager, I loved Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet plus the Leonardo DiCaprio film was THE movie of my youth. As an adult, Romeo and Juliet is probably the least favorite of the Shakespeare plays (still love the DiCaprio film though!) but when I saw this book I couldn’t pass on it!

I was so eager to see how this author spun a classic tale and made it not only relevant but feel like something entirely new all at the same time. Needless to say that’s a tall order. This author has written a few other contemporary romance novels, none of which I have read, but this book seems to take on an entirely different tone than some of her other books that she has written previously.

This author has won quite a few awards and currently serves as the president for a couple of respected romance writer guilds. So in my mind that translates into solid writing and storytelling. With some successful romances under her belt and experience, I figured that she this would put her in a solid position to write a retelling of a popular classic and help it to find relevance in the modern age. I wasn’t wrong and I really enjoyed this colorful novel.

Summary

When fate and tacos bring Ramón and Julieta together on the Day of the Dead, the star-crossed pair must make a choice: accept the bitter food rivalry that drives them apart or surrender to a love that consumes them. 

Ramón Montez always achieves his goals. Whether that means collecting Ivy League degrees or growing his father’s fast-food empire, nothing sets Ramón off course. So when the sexy señorita who kissed him on the Day of the Dead runs off into the night with his heart, he determines to do whatever it takes to find her again.

Celebrity chef Julieta Campos has sacrificed everything to save her sea-to-table taqueria from closing. To her horror, she discovers that her new landlord is none other than the magnetic mariachi she hooked up with on Dia de los Muertos. Even worse, it was his father who stole her mother’s taco recipe decades ago. Julieta has no choice but to work with Ramón, the man who destroyed her life’s work–and the one man who tempts and inspires her.

As San Diego’s outraged community protests against the Taco King take-over and the divide between their families grows, Ramón and Julieta struggle to balance the rising tensions. But Ramón knows that true love is priceless and despite all of his successes, this is the one battle he refuses to lose. (summary from Goodreads)

Review

I love how Day of the Dead is the catalyst for this romance. Day of the Dead is such a wonderful and unique tradition and I think it added so much color and fun to this book as the start of a romance between Ramon and Julieta. Plus the chemistry between them is spicy so there’s that! Ramon’s family owns a big chain restaurant, Taco King, and is basically taking over smaller businesses in the neighborhood where Julieta is a small business owner trying to hold on but Taco King is going to buy her restaurant. Once they realize the connection and the implications they become enemies and this classic retelling takes on a new direction. I would say that the book loosely follows the Romeo and Juliet story meaning there are some family rivalries and ‘forbidden love’ between the two characters but I felt that this book really was more of an enemies to lovers rather than a tragic romance if that makes sense. I was actually ok wit this, I know some readers wanted more of the classic story in the new contemporary version but I think it worked better as an enemies to lovers story rather than ‘star crossed lovers’.

I really loved the cultural references, especially the history of the San Diego area and the Chicano influences. It was a unique book in that regard. I thought it did a great job being culturally relevant and appealing to Latinx readers as well readers of other races. This book also made me hungry and I literally wanted tacos every single time I put a bookmark in! I wish we had a rich taco culture here in Oregon but sadly we do not. This book also included some other bigger topics that shaped the story in unexpected ways that may or may not be for everyone. Generational identity and wealth played big parts in this book as well as cultural identity. I appreciated what this book was trying to do and highlighting some of the gentrification that was happening in the neighborhood but at the same time I felt like it only scratch the surface. The characters each interact wit their culture in different ways and I loved that about the book but at the same time it felt like there was a big message that was getting condensed to a short book if that makes sense.

This book is really hard for me to rate. On one hand I loved the colorful use of culture and the characters not to mention all the food but I also felt like the message didn’t get enough space to really be looked at in the way that it was intended. So I have to ask myself why. Ultimately this book is a romance novel, that’s the heart of this story. So if the cultural and socioeconomics raised in this book felt contrite or limited I think that was the point. If we wanted a profound piece on culture and gentrification, I don’t think we are going to find it between pages of love and tacos. I think the author was trying to call attention to some of the Chicano issues and culture in a fun romance based on a classic story, I don’t think she was intending to rewrite the book on gentrification or cultural identity in this one. Overall I enjoyed my time with Ramon and Julieta and I think it’s a fun read with culture and love but I would have liked to have seen maybe a little less focus on culture and more focus on the romance between the characters.

Book Info and Rating

Format: 304 pages paperback

Published: February 1st 2022 by Berkley Books

ISBN: 9780593336229

Free review copy provided by publisher, Berkley Books, in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and in no way influenced.

Rating: 4 stars

Genre: contempo romance

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