Julie and Romeo

julie and romeoWell, you cannot say that this blog does not bring you variety. After a week of spies, behold we are entering the land of retirement romance. Is there even a name for that yet? Silver passion? In any case, I am all for equal opportunities and everyone getting what they want, and it’s true that the elderly are poorly represented in fiction. And even as I typed that sentence, I wondered whether I was allowed to use the word ‘elderly’, whether it’s considered ageist and the polite thing to do is call everyone over 60 in their late middle age. Given that late middle age, by any definition, is a huge demographic, it’s a sign of our youth-obsessed times that we don’t see them around so much in books, films and television programmes. However, Jeanne Ray is here to put an end to all that, and whilst I wasn’t quite sure what I would get with this novel, it turned out to be an absolute charmer.

Julie Roseman and Romeo Cacciamani are rival florists in Boston, whose families have hated each other for many a long year. No one really knows why, but when Julie’s daughter, Sandy, and Romeo’s son, Tony, fell in love as teenagers, it couldn’t have been more West Side Story. The families kept them apart and the bad blood on either side grew steadily more toxic. But that’s old history now and decades have passed since then. Julie’s marriage broke up, Sandy married, had children, divorced and moved her small family back home, and Sandy’s sister, Nora, has grown past teenage rebellion to become a very scary real estate agent who knows not just her own mind, but everyone else’s too. Julie is content with her life, but there isn’t that much joy in it for her.

She’s at a seminar entitled ‘Making Your Small Business Thrive’ when she bumps into Romeo Cacciamani and they end up having coffee. Well, you’ll all see where this is going. The problem is not with Julie and Romeo, but with the fierce resistance to their relationship that comes from their children – all grown up now, of course, but with plenty of energy to carry the feud into the next generation. Before they’ve even reached a second date, Sandy is in tears, Nora is reading her mother the riot act, and Romeo’s sons are coming over to decapitate small pots of daffodils to get their point across. And just when you thought things couldn’t get worse, Julie’s ex-husband turns up to take a look at the accounting books and throw his fists around. Julie’s sure that if she can find out what caused the original vendetta, the families could make peace – but how is it that no one seems to know?

This could, of course, have been dreadful. But it is just so funny and entertaining, not least because it is so unsentimental. People say things like ‘I haven’t had this much time to think since I had my gallbladder out,’ and ‘I wondered what I could have been thinking of, asking a man to meet me in a store with fluorescent overhead lighting.’ Honestly, it’s a hoot. And the families are very well imagined, particularly sad Sandy and the appalling elderly matriarch Grammy Cacciamani. Jeanne Ray is very good at how badly families can behave, not just towards their enemies, but within their own clans, because there is so much less reserve employed with other family members than your average human being. Given that Julie and Romeo are the leads here and we’re supposed to be rooting for them, there wasn’t much sense of poetic justice that the ban imposed on their own children had come back to bite them, but no matter. The rivalry takes up more page space than the romance, and in no time at all we’re too busy watching roses get salted at dawn to worry too much about fine slicing the moral universe.

People, this is not Anna Karenina, or Shakespeare come to that, do not expect it. But it’s delightfully written comic entertainment, which can be hard to come by on rainy days. It is also very much a love story between two 60-year-olds, let’s be clear what you’re getting. I read it between a couple of very serious books and thoroughly enjoyed the light relief.


24 thoughts on “Julie and Romeo

  1. That’s what I love about Tales from the Reading Room, one day you might be serving up the likes of Georges Perec and the next an over sixty (and very charming and funny) romance! I do very much like an equal opportunity reader and one who can talk so knowledgeably and insightfully about both! I have seen this book around but never actually picked it up–it sounds like a fun and amusing read!

    • Aw bless you, Danielle. I just love reading everything! And I am particularly thankful for a good comfort read when I’m lucky enough to come across one. I don’t know where I’d be without them.

  2. As an older reader I think it’s marvellous that this demographic is no longer being ignored. (I really enjoyed the tv series Last Tango in Halifax for this reason.) I shall seek this book out.

    Thank you

    • Sue, I really hope you enjoy it – I certainly did! A few years back, there was a publishing house called Transita, which specialised in fiction about older women. They burned bright for a bit but then went under, though I don’t know all the details. Some of their books may well still be available, though. I’d very much like to see the culture evening out a bit – after all, we can none of us stay young forever and some authors like the marvellous Diana Athill really show how wise and wonderful the elderly can be (given she’s in her 90s, I think I can use the word ‘elderly’ there!).

  3. I thought it’s a cozy when I saw the cover.
    I have a feeling it wouldn’t be for me, I prefer dagger-swinging vampire hunters as my inbetween easily nibbled reads but it sounds charming nonetheless.

    • Lol! I quite understand. My normal comfort read usually involves crime one way or another, and I don’t often read romances. But sometimes I do and am pleased I did.

  4. That sounds delightful. I love elder romance in movies and only once encountered it in literary fiction as a side plot. I’m looking forward to this…and from where I stand, 60 isn’t that far off or that old!

    • Oh Lilian, have you ever seen Don Juan di Marco with Johnny Depp? Mr Litlove and I really love that film, and it has Jessica Lange and Marlon Brando as an older couple in it – they are wonderful!

  5. “Elderly?” “…late middle age?” Certainly you cannot be referring to moi. Have you young whipper-snappers not heard that 60 is the new 40? Actually, Litlove, I think I would absolutely adore this book and, seeing as I am determined to spend the summer reading only light fare (with a few exceptions) I’m going see about picking this one up and the library or bookstore. And I agree with Danielle. Eclecticism (my ten dollar word for the day, which I will try to work into as many conversations as possible) is one of the many things I love about Tales from the Reading Room.

    • Grad, you ARE a whipper-snapper in my eyes! I really think you would enjoy this one – it is so funny and entertaining. I love the idea of a summer of light reading. Sounds wonderfully relaxing. I’ll look forward to the reviews!

  6. Variety indeed! I laughed at the decapitated daffodils. It sounds like an amusing and well done book. I wonder if we will start seeing more books like this given demographics and that kids supposedly don’t read anymore. A new trend to keep an eye on!

    • You’d think the publishers would be all over it, wouldn’t you? We’ll see what happens next! If they’re all as funny as this one, a new genre could be born. You would like the gardening references in this one, Stefanie. In fact, there ought to be more fictional gardens altogether – they are always fun to read about.

  7. Aw. Jeanne Ray. I’ve only read Eat Cake so far, but I was very fond of it, and I do want to read more stuff by Jeanne Ray. Her books charm me.

    • Oh I’m so glad you enjoyed the one you read! And given I’d be very happy to read her again, I think you’ve supplied me with the next title. Thank you!

  8. This does sound entertaining. I must admit that most of the ‘elderly’ people I know seem to be having much more fun than their children.

    ‘Silver passion’ – I love the name – does seem to be the trend in films too.

    • Karen, what’s not to like? All that free time, so long as it comes with a nice pension and reasonable health, must be lots of fun! I hadn’t thought about films before now, but I’m glad to know that silver passion is making a mark there. I’m all for variety!

  9. My husband found Step Ball Change at a B&B where we were staying and, well, he finished it, even though it is nothing like what he usually reads. Good enough recommendation for me – and now I have read all her books. Light, and funny, and soothing…just what I need at times.

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