I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Ramón and Julieta by Alana Albertson
Published by Berkley on February 1, 2022
Genres: Retellings, Romance
Pages: 304 •Format: E-ARC •Source: NetGalley, Publisher
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
Every year I try and make it a priority to read several books by Latinx authors and/or books that feature Latinx characters, and I’m pleased that I got to kick off 2022 with Ramón and Julieta! Not only was I getting to dive into a diverse romance set in San Diego, but I was intrigued that it was a retelling as well! Add in a stunning cover and a focus on food and I was so excited to read this one!
Beginning on Día de los Muertos, Ramón and Julieta follows romantic protagonists from two very different walks of life, both financially and culturally. Ramón is the son of an extremely wealthy family that founded (shadily) a successful chain restaurant empire, and has often felt disconnected from his Mexican roots due to his wealth, privilege and moving in predominantly white business circles. Julieta, on the other hand, is the chef and owner of a small but beloved local restaurant in the heart of a Latinx community in San Diego, and has struggled to get where she is in life and balance her motivations and aspirations with the approval of her tight knit community. When they meet anonymously on Día de los Muertos (thanks to their makeup and attire hiding their identities) they form an instant connection that is broken when Julieta realizes Ramón’s company is purchasing the block her restaurant resides on and planning to price most local businesses out by raising the rent.
As with any Romeo and Juliet inspired tale, the two leads must overcome feuding families (and in this case, business priorities) in order to be together. I liked that there was a realistic amount of tension and obstacles that both had to overcome, especially given their complicated family history (Ramón’s father built his Taco King empire from a recipe he stole from Julieta’s mother back in the day) and it was interesting to see how Ramón and Julieta’s fate was almost a repeat (or do-over) of their parents in many ways. Both characters had a strong sense of familial obligation, but also learned to stand up to their families when they disagreed or felt they were leading them down the wrong path. There was also a huge focus on the local Latinx community in this story, which both Julieta and Ramón having to come to terms with potentially losing their communities based on their decisions (and learning to listen and learn about each other’s complicated relationship with their communities and heritage as well, as while their backgrounds were so different they both had challenges with their Latinx identities).
I’ll be the first to admit I am not really a fan of Shakespeare or of Romeo and Juliet, but I that didn’t prevent me from enjoying this story (although at times the quoting of actual lines from the play had me cringing a little and didn’t feel very organically woven in). I’m sure there were some R&J references/characters that I didn’t pick up on because I haven’t read the play in about 15 years, but it didn’t lessen my experience as a reader (I feel like as long as you’re aware of the star-crossed lovers and feuding families elements in the original you can reasonably see the inspiration in any R&J retelling coming through). I will say, however, that given what a large role the story of their parents’ past played to the core plot, I wish their characters had been explored some more (Ramón’s dad was very one dimensional and unlikable, and though Julieta’s mom was a little more fleshed out she really only functioned to make Julieta feel good or bad about her decisions). I could actually see this having spin off books about other characters such as the parents, Ramón’s brothers, etc.
Overall: This was a fun, easy to read romance that’s immersed in Latinx culture and has some amazing food descriptions! If you’re looking for a fun twist on a Shakespeare retelling you’ll definitely get that from this title!