Book Reviews

THESE VIOLENT DELIGHTS BY CHLOE GONG // book talk: finally reviewing my fave book of 2020 ft. tears, stabbiness and yearning

And Happy New Year everybody. Here’s to 2021 being at least a little bit better than the horror that was 2020.

But before we move on, I can’t leave behind my favourite book of last year, so I’m here today to share my review of These Violent Delights by the wondrous Chloe Gong. A round of applause is definitely necessary.

I have A LOT to say about this beaut, this stunner and the actual love of my life. I also have an author interview up if you’d like to give it a read (click the image):

Oh yeah, I also read the Christmas special that was uploaded a week or so ago and I am a wreck. Love to see it. Anyways, without further ado, let us all scream together.

Title: These Violent Delights
Series: These Violent Delights book #1
Author: Chloe Gong
Page count: 464
Date published: 17 November 2020
Genre: Young Adult historical fantasy



Perfect for fans of The Last Magician and Descendant of the Crane, this heart-stopping debut is an imaginative Romeo and Juliet retelling set in 1920s Shanghai, with rival gangs and a monster in the depths of the Huangpu River.

The year is 1926, and Shanghai hums to the tune of debauchery.

A blood feud between two gangs runs the streets red, leaving the city helpless in the grip of chaos. At the heart of it all is eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, a former flapper who has returned to assume her role as the proud heir of the Scarlet Gang—a network of criminals far above the law. Their only rivals in power are the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlets for generations. And behind every move is their heir, Roma Montagov, Juliette’s first love…and first betrayal.

But when gangsters on both sides show signs of instability culminating in clawing their own throats out, the people start to whisper. Of a contagion, a madness. Of a monster in the shadows. As the deaths stack up, Juliette and Roma must set their guns—and grudges—aside and work together, for if they can’t stop this mayhem, then there will be no city left for either to rule.


STAR RATING: (5 out of 5 stars)


Big thanks to Hodder & Stoughton for the eARC via Netgalley. And to Jonathan Ball Publishers for providing me with a physical copy! All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Hello, I am crying and an emotional mess all at the same time. Yes, it is a thing, NOBODY TOUCH ME!!!!!

I,,, this book. Chloe Gong. Just everything BLEW. ME. AWAY. And also: I. NEED. BOOK. TWO. RIGHT. FREAKING. NOW.

Seriously, can I have the sequel because HOW could it be over so quickly?!?!?

Is it apparent that I just really loved this book? I took my Kindle away with me for a holiday and simply flew threw it. I was just so invested, in the world and in the time period. Both of which were so transportive and immersive. Literally adored the Shanghai setting and also 1920s setting. Spectacular I tell you.

I also LOVED the writing. At first, we were not vibing, but by the end of the book, I was just so in love and in awe of Chloe Gong’s talent uWu. The way the story was told was just so well done. I loved the mystery element, and yes I am still a scaredy-cat. Twas reading it at night and bruh I thought a monster was going to attack me. This whole book is just genius though.

I also just want to applaud Chloe Gong for, ya know not only being a student and icon but also on the incredible world-building. Which I absolutely adored. It was so well fleshed out and complex and I was just eating it up. I also really loved the social commentary, especially concerning communism, Westernisation and also on society in Shanghai. Brilliant.

Oh and OF COURSE I LOVED the political system and the blood feud, it was the actual coolest. I’m for sure in the #ScarletGang

The dialogue was also great. I loved how it was set in the 20s but the language was not at all hard to comprehend.

The characters ahhhhh, I am eternally screaming. I literally loved them ALL. They were so real and I felt like I was there with them in the story, literally friends with them everybody.

  • Benedikt & Marshall: these two boys are actual beans and the best sidekicks and you know maybe more *wink wink* Looking at you, Ms Chloe
  • Rosalind: okay tbh at this moment in time I do not remember all that much about her… IM SORRY *hides forever*
  • Kathleen: queen queen queen queen ADORE HER!!! Juliette has the best friends/family and I can’t wait for more of Kathleen in Our Violent Ends
  • Roma Montagov: would jump in front of a bus for him, would sell my own kidney, and no I am not kidding. Do I look like I kid?
  • Juliette Cai: could stomp on me and I’d be a 1000% okay with it, probably even ask her to.

But probably my FAVOURITE part was the *drumroll please*, can you guess? Indeed it was the romance. But this isn’t just any romance. Literally, I loved it so much it’s not even funny. Like this could be UP THERE with my absolute fave OTPs. Because OH MY GOSH!!!!!!!! It was so good?? And am I deceased?? I’m just obsessed with the whole childhood friends to lovers to enemies (to lovers) set-up and it was so ~delicious~ and amazing. I ship them so so so so hard. Upset I have to wait like a freaking LONG time for the sequel, but I am obsessed with them all the same. I just love how simple the romance was, yet the chemistry and dynamic were just so perfect that even though there is little of it, I still shipped them so hard. IT IS SO VERY SLOW-BURN BUT THAT’S WHY IT’S GOOD.


I just,,, wow. I have not been able to think about anything else but this book since I finished it. It was fantastic and everything I’d ever want in a YA book. We got historical fiction, romance AND a hint of magic/urban fantasy. Love to see it.

Did I mention that I need a sequel? Because I want a sequel.

a visual depiction of me fainting because of this book

This section is literally here so I can scream about the ending and you don’t want to be spoiled, so please leave.

The way Chloe Gong needs to pay my medical bills because I WAS SO SCARED.

We all know how Billy Shakespeare’s R&J ends and BRO I WAS NOT ABOUT TO JUMP OFF A CLIFF. I,,, thought they would die. And lowkey am still scared because book two my friends.

I’m just not going to read it.

That’s my solution.

Avoid it at all costs.

**minor spoilers ahead**

“The Scarlet Gang was, first and foremost, a network of gangsters, and there was seldom a time when gangsters weren’t heavily involved with the black market. If the Scarlets dominated Shanghai, it was hardly surprising that they dominated the black market, too—decided the comings and goings, decided the men who were allowed to thrive and the men who needed to drop dead.”


“And he mourned for her. He didn’t wish to, but he did—he ached with the knowledge that the softness of their youth was gone forever, that the Juliette he remembered was long dead. He ached even more to think that though he was the one who had dealt the killing blow.”


“Entitlement that encouraged their wives to place a delicate handkerchief to their nose and sniff, wholeheartedly believing the tirade was deserved. They believed themselves the rulers of the world—on stolen land in America, on stolen land in Shanghai. Everywhere they went—entitlement. And Juliette was so tired.”


“The land of dreams. Where men and women in white hoods roam the streets to murder Black folks. Where written laws prohibit the Chinese from stepping upon its shores. Where immigrant children are separated from immigrant mothers on Ellis Island, never to be seen again.”


“So don’t start believing that skill is all it takes to stay at the top. Loyalty plays its dirty hand too, and it is a fickle, ever-changing thing.”


“Juliette embraced danger with open arms. It seemed that Roma couldn’t do so even when his whole world was at risk, even while Alisa was strapped down by her arms and legs.”


“The rich and the foreign, they didn’t truly believe it. To them, this madness sweeping the city was nothing except Chinese nonsense—only to affect the doomed poor, only to touch the believers caught in their tradition. They thought their glistening marble could keep out contagion because the contagion was nothing save the hysteria of savages.”


“Was it loyalty that created power? Or was loyalty only a symptom, offered when the circumstances were favorable and taken away when the tides turned? It helped that Lord Cai and Lord Montagov were men. Juliette wasn’t naive. Their every messenger, every errand runner, every lower-tiered but fiercely loyal gangster was male. Most of the Scarlet Gang feared and revered Juliette now,”


“They have always said that Shanghai is an ugly daughter, but as the years grow on, it isn’t enough anymore to characterize this city as merely one entity. This place rumbles on Western idealism and Eastern labor, hateful of its split and unable to function without it, multiple facets fighting and grappling”


“Those who do not care, those who are violent, those who delight in that which is terrible”—Marshall shrugged, waving his hands about as he chose the right words—“they thrive. They come outside.”


“Even the land of dreams needs to wake up sometimes.”


“Don’t you dare,” Roma said. “Don’t you dare fall apart now, dorogaya.”


“You destroy me and then you kiss me. You give me a reason to hat you and then you give me a reason to love you. Is this a lie or the truth? Is the a ploy or your heart reaching for me?”


“Do you not listen to me when I speak?” he answered shakily, his lip quirking up. “I love you. I have always loved you.”

Chloe Gong is an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania, double-majoring in English and International Relations. Born in Shanghai and raised in Auckland, New Zealand, she now lives at the top of a crumbling, ivory tower in Philadelphia (also known as student housing).

After devouring the entire YA section of her local library, she started writing her own novels at age 13 to keep herself entertained, and has been highly entertained ever since. Chloe has been known to mysteriously appear by chanting “Romeo and Juliet is one of Shakespeare’s best plays and doesn’t deserve its slander in pop culture” into a mirror three times.

Twitter // Instagram // Website

And that’s it my friends. My life is over. See you on the other side.




Happy reading




    • Ruby Rae Reads

      omg Erin, apologies for this very late response! But thank you so much. And ah I hope you do pick it up, because its so good but also if you know your taste, then I don’t want you to read and hate haha

  • Sara * Lyrical Reads

    AHHHHH!! The quotes in THESE VIOLENT DELIGHTS are honestly unparalleled!! As a history major/nerd and a really visual person, I also loved the world building—from the first line, the story sucked me into 1920s Shanghai with its brilliance but also its darkness. Loved this review!💜

    • Ruby Rae Reads

      Ugh Sara, I am SO SORRY for this late response, your comment slipped through the WP cracks. But thank you for stopping by xoxo

      And YES THEY ARE SO GOOD. That new cover was just announced and I am still SCREAMING!!!! Also yes LOVE the history in this story, I did history in high school and am always fascinated. You got it spot on <3<3

  • El


    I’m so sad I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I should of 🙁 Like don’t get me wrong, I LOVED IT but the beginning was just so *chef’s kisses* and then life got in the way & I couldn’t finish it for ageesss and by then I think I just needed a bit of a break from YA 😂

    Don’t hate me but I didn’t really like the romance 🙈 I really really wanted to but it just didn’t quite get there for me – I liked it but I NEEDED MORE SNARK like Benedikt & Marshall level. By far the best thing was the setting through, you’re right, I’m in love 😍

    • Ruby Rae Reads

      Ahhhh no El, that is such a shame. But I also totally get it, I’ve definitely done that. Maybe if you reread it in the future you might enjoy it more?

      But sorry now I have to unfriend you…

      Lmao no I’m just kidding. It is serious slow-burn. And yes THE SETTING IS SO BRILLIANT <3<3<3

  • amynikitawords

    Childhood friends to lovers to enemies is literally the best trope ever. How does one top that. One does not.

    I love your review, I love how you CLEARLY adored this book (hahaha) and I am excited to finish it asap. Totally agree with everything you’ve said, though – I’m already obsessed with the writing and complex relationships and the incredible and unique world building.

    • Ruby Rae Reads

      It just cannot be topped. It has *unmatched* energy

      Lmao, was it clear that I loved it?? I don’t know, I don’t know if I came on strong enough hahah. Ugh I just cannot get enough of this book and YOU NEED TO FINISH IT NOWWWW

  • Ash @ Starlight Strands

    AHH YESS!!! these violent delights was amazing 🥺🥺 the social commentary was definitely one of the best parts, but i loved the 1920s setting and gorgeous prose as well!! and yes miss juliette could step on my and i would truly thank her for it 😌

    ADAJKDJ DOROGAYA NO PLS 😭 and yes…. the ending and the fact that the second book is called our violent ends is making me so nervous to read it 😳

    all the quotes you highlighted were some of my favorites too!! i loved this review, ruby!! 💖🥰

    • Ruby Rae Reads

      Ash you are the absolute best I LOVE YOU LET US CRY TOGETHERRRRR

      It seems we have the exact same taste hehe. But just,,, ugh EVERYTHING about this book was pure perfection. Also look at us lying on thr ground together with Juliette hovering above, love to see it hahahaha

      I ACCEPT NO OTHER LOVE INTEREST THAT DOES NOT USE DOROGAYA AS THEIR TERM OF ENDEARMENT!!!!! Praying for both of us because we’re NOT going to survive Our Violent Ends *hides in corner*

      Sending allllll the love your way xoxoxoxoxox

  • Stephen Writes

    Loved this post, Ruby! You basically said everything that needs to be said. It’s an exceptional book, definitely one of my all time favourites. Chloe Gong, her talent makes me speechless! I finished writing my review the other day, I had so much to say and I just gushed. This review though is wonderful 💙

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