The Juliet Spell – Douglas Rees

RATING:  3.5 Stars
FORM:  eBook, NetGalley, ARC
SYNOPSIS:  Miri is up for the lead role in Shakespeare’s most famous play, Romeo and Juliet.  While she thinks that her audition went okay, there is no harm in taking a few extra precautions, right?  Casting a spell from a book she had gotten a while back, Miri chants, “Make me Juliet…”  What she gets instead is a bright light, slight earthquake, and a scared teenager sitting on her kitchen table.  A teenager who turns out to be Edmund Shakeshaft, aka Shakespeare – William Shakespeare’s younger brother, from the past.
Stuck in the twenty-first century, Edmund does what he can to adapt to the culture, learn it’s dialect, and make himself useful.  Of course this means trying out for the part of Romeo in Miri’s school play.  With Miri and Edmund cast as Romeo and Juliet, perhaps the love story that has entertained people for centuries will repeat itself, that is Miri’s hope, at least.
REVIEW:  The Juliet Spell had me wanting to go back to high school and read Shakespeare again.  Or at least,  to get a book and read with a little more appreciation than I had when I had the chance.  The book as a whole, however, has given me mixed feelings.
On one hand, I loved it.  The putting together of the play was entertaining, and did take me back to High School quite a bit.  The camaraderie between the drama kids is exactly how Marching Band in High School was for me; there were clicks, but also we were a unit that did quite a bit together, including long grueling rehearsals and after parties.  I feel that Douglas Rees was right on in capturing the atmosphere of a High School Drama Club. Character development and interaction was great within the story, both are very important in my opinion.
Then there is the other hand.  I can’t say “on the other hand I hated it,” that’s not true.  There were just parts that didn’t sit well in my mind.  This book walks the line of science fiction and just plain ole fiction.  I think the biggest turn off for me was the way the sci-fi parts were presented.  Miri is going to do a spell, as if it is the most normal, natural thing for a seventeen year old girl to do.  The setting of the book does not give off anything but a normal, typical town in the United States, and while paranormal/science fiction/fantasy books are popular, I’m pretty sure any normal, level-headed seventeen year old is not off casting enchantments expecting any kind of result.   Of course, it has been over ten years since I was in High School…so who knows. 
The other thing was the level of acceptance of Edmund and his situation.  First Edmund himself, while he cried like a baby…more than once might I add… did not have a mental breakdown.  In fact, his adjustment to the modern world wasn’t even funny – and let me tell you, the scenario has SOOO MUCH “funny” potential.  That was a letdown.  But then, as the book moves forward, an additional four people are added to the “in the know” crowd when it comes to where he has come from, and not one of them really acts shocked, appalled, distraught, or even unbelieving.  They act as if crazy things like this happen every day.  Once again, this does not sit well with the, “this is a normal town” scenario. 
Mostly, the book was a great read; entertaining and fun.  I absolutely love all the Shakespeare talk, banter and references.  I really want to read Much Ado about Nothing, right about now because of this book. 
WHAT I LOVED:  I loved that the romance in The Juliet Spell was not over the top.  I had a clue on how the book would end from the very first few chapters, but watching the entire thing unfold was so satisfying.  It was romance muted down in a way I’ve found that many male authors write it.  I love books that are heavy on the passion and tingly feelings, but this circling around each other method is more like real life, and I enjoy it just as much. 
NOT SO MUCH:  I know I’ve got an entire paragraph above, and while those things I mentioned made the book kind of weird for me, but they weren’t the parts that really stuck out to me as…eh.  Miri’s Dad holds that position.  I don’t mind having a sappy, happy ending, I’m just not so sure Miri’s dad deserved one.  I don’t get it.  I don’t know why that whole part was in the book – and played such a prominent part.  I’m sure the author had a purpose, but I would have been just as satisfied if the opening of the book explained how he took off, and left well enough alone where he was concerned.  Just my opinion of course.

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