Almost everyone is familiar with the classic story of Romeo and Juliet, but Robin Maxwell’s latest novel, O, Juliet, takes things to the next level, allowing us to experience the thrilling, all-consuming passion of first love all over again.

In Maxwell’s retelling of the famous Shakespearean tale, readers are introduced to some of the more famous figures of Renaissance Italy: the incomparable poet Dante Alighieri, the generous patron Cosimo de’ Medici and a rival merchant family, the Strozzis, fighting for control of Florence. Among these warring factions, Juliet Capelletti struggles to escape her impending marriage to Jacopo Strozzi, her father’s scheming business partner who intends to take over the family’s failing silk business. Much to her father’s chagrin, Juliet has her own dreams—dreams of freedom from convention, and dreams of expressing her own poetry inspired by her literary hero Dante. Quite unexpectedly, Juliet meets Romeo Monticecco, a young man with ideals of his own. Romeo, sent away to study, has returned to his home in the hopes of fostering peace. Naturally they are drawn to each other with disastrous consequences.

After much success focusing on Tudor and Elizabethan England in books such as Mademoiselle Boleyn, Virgin: Prelude to the Throne and The Queen’s Bastard, Robin Maxwell has now turned to Renaissance Italy, delving into one of the richest times and places in European history.

Fans of Maxwell, historical fiction and the Bard himself are certainly in for a treat; O, Juliet, is an enjoyable retelling of the ultimate love story, one full of luscious period descriptions and perceptive insights. Maxwell has written a novel that is sure to leave readers breathless with pulses racing, hearts breaking and pages turning as they hurry to discover the tragic story of these two star-crossed lovers that Shakespeare never told.

Joan Bryant holds an Art History degree in the Early Christian and Byzantine periods.

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