Book Reviews

Rosemary and Juliet by Judy MacLean at Harrington Park Press

Genre Lesbian / Contemporary / New Adult / Romance
Reviewed by Rachel on 29-July-2013

Book Blurb

Can two teenage girls find happiness in each other's arms when it seems the whole world is against them?

In prose that is tender and compelling, Judy MacLean brings her contemporary take on Shakespeare's classic play to vivid life. Rosemary and Juliet is a fast-paced novel that finds two girls on the edge of womanhood and on the brink of disaster. But more than that, Rosemary and Juliet is about the turbulent intensity of first love and the conflict between the expectations of parents and the undeniable sexual realities lived by their children.

A love that threatens to tear their families indeed, their whole community-apart . . .

Rosemary Romey Arden is the only out lesbian at Divido High School. Her pro-choice, ex-hippie mom, Janis, runs A Woman's Decision, a clinic in nearby Santa Rosa, California. Targeted by local fundamentalists as a baby-killer whose abortion mill is the pinnacle of evil, Janis keeps herself sane by immersing herself in the women's movement and participating in peaceful protests against intolerance. But tall, athletic Romey only wants to live the normal life of a teenager, with one difference to find love in the arms of a girl, not a boy.

Julie Wright's dad, a dedicated fundamentalist minister, heads the Divido Bible Church. Beautiful, dark-haired Julie's gift her exquisite, soaring voice takes the church choir to musical heights previously only dreamed of. Julie has always been a good girl, obedient, with a strong love in her heart for Jesus. But lately, a new feeling has come over her a feeling so strong it can't be denied and why should it? She calls this new sensation Yearning, and understands that it is precious and important. But . . . what is she Yearning for? And . . . how can she choose between her budding sexuality and the church community she loves?


Book Review

Judy Maclean’s debut novel, 'Rosemary and Juliet' is a lesbian romance inspired by William Shakespeare’s play 'Romeo and Juliet'. In the novel, two teenage girls fall in love despite their vastly different backgrounds and opposition of their parents.

Rosemary, or “Romey” as she prefers to be called, is the daughter of a divorced owner of an abortion clinic. She is openly gay in her public school and her mother is very supportive of her, and a huge feminist. Juliet, or “Julie” is the daughter of two Christian fundamentalists who openly condemn homosexuality. Romey’s mother and Julie’s stringent parents are bitter enemies, much like the Montagues and the Capulets in the play. Romey has an unrequited crush on a female classmate, while Julie has never experienced love, or “Yearning” as she calls it. She knows girls are supposed to like boys, but Julie has never felt anything for them.

Romey and Julie meet at a county fair and they instantly fall in love. Julie however, though being raised to believe that homosexuality is bad, is convinced her love for Romey is pure. It is the girls’ families that create the obstacles, especially Julie’s parents, Jim Ed and Connie Wright.

In the novel, there are plenty of accepting people like Romey’s mother Janis, her straight friend Amina and her gay friend Elliot. But there are homophobic characters too: Julie’s violent cousin Nick, the congregation at Mr. Wright’s church, and Julie’s choir tutor Virginia, who is actually a closeted lesbian herself. These characters are pitted against each other, leading to bitterness and tragedy. Romey and Julie struggle to love each other and create a future together around all the chaos.

The homophobia encountered in 'Rosemary and Juliet' is very brutal. Nick acts out violently on Elliot, and when Julie’s parents discover she is seeing Romey, they make her go to therapy where she gets electric shocks to try to change her sexuality. 'Rosemary and Juliet' is quite truthful to the brutality of homophobic violence, and how some people use religion as a weapon against gays and lesbians.

The characters are well thought out, and all their flaws are shown. In the beginning of the novel, the Wrights are very proud of Julie for her singing in choir and setting a good example for other Christian girls. But as Julie’s sexuality becomes known, Jim Ed and Connie get so desperate to change her that they allow harm to be inflicted on her. They feel that they are “saving” Julie from eternal pain in the afterlife, but in reality they are making things worse for their daughter. Julie begins as an obedient, meek girl of fourteen, but is at the end of the novel more self-reliant and defiant towards her parents. Likewise, Romey is kind and tender, and Janis is no-nonsense and practical.

This novel does follow the play in many ways, but the ending is better, as there is actually hope of Romey and Julie creating a life together eventually. Unlike with 'Romeo and Juliet', I was left with tenderness and hope in my heart.






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Additional Information

Format ebook and print
Length Novel, 265 pages
Heat Level
Publication Date 01-June-2004
Price $7.95 ebook
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