Book Review: Fair Rosaline

Was the greatest ever love story a lie?

Natasha Solomons ~ Fair Rosaline


The first time Romeo Montague sees young Rosaline Capulet he falls instantly in love.

Rosaline, headstrong and independent, is unsure of Romeo’s attentions but with her father determined that she join a convent, this handsome and charming stranger offers her the chance of a different life.

Soon though, Rosaline begins to doubt all that Romeo has told her. She breaks off the match, only for Romeo’s gaze to turn towards her cousin, thirteen-year-old Juliet. Gradually Rosaline realises that it is not only Juliet’s reputation at stake, but her life.

With only hours remaining before she will be banished behind the nunnery walls, will Rosaline save Juliet from her Romeo? Or can this story only ever end one way?


When I was 16 I played Bianca in a play called After Juliet, which imagined what happened after Romeo and Juliet’s death. Rosaline was the main character and it was an interesting take on a beloved play. However, it never looked at why Romeo loved Rosaline in the first place, something that always seemed odd to me – how was it possible for Romeo to fall in love with two Capulet women when the families were feuding?

In Fair Rosaline, we see one interpretation of this. At first it seems a fairly standard love story, formed in typical Shakespearean style, with mistaken identity, but as we continue to read the book becomes much darker. Romeo is no longer a lovesick adolescent, but a depraved man with a preference for young women – something that is rife within Verona and feeding the unrest across the city.

It does seem that the majority of men in this book are unnecessarily vile to suit the author’s agenda; even Tybalt has a tendency to lust and violence. The story we all know and love is there, but at times the angle feels a bit too angry and modern.

The characterisation of Rosaline is excellent – she is feisty, determined and independent. The romantic scenes with her and Romeo are done well, as is the sudden shift in her realisation as to his true nature. There are so many red flags that naïve Rosaline did not pick up on, it’s hard not to be frustrated with her, but her love is very believable. Romeo’s sudden shift to Juliet is less credible, but the fierce love Rosaline has for her cousin is endearing. Verona is almost its own character, as we are immersed in the sights, sounds and smells of the plague-ridden city.

The ending is expected, and a little too tidy, but works well given the narrative. The side story of Rosaline’s journey to the convent is a nice touch, and the Mother Superior is another great character, especially her reaction to Rosaline’s plight.

Overall, this is a fantastic book, that will make you reassess what you think you know about Romeo and Juliet, but probably won’t affect your fondness for Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Thanks to Manilla Press and Zaffre Books for my proof copy and goodies. Opinions my own.

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