Desert Isle Keeper
Ramón and Julieta
There is a single off plot point in Ramón and Julieta, but you’ll be darned to notice it while you’re nose-deep in the thick of reading it. It’s fun, light-hearted, and without the heavy sturm und drang of your usual Romeo and Juliet retelling; it’s got a lot of spirit and enough spice to make the whole enterprise a romantic, giddy whirl.
The restaurateur families of lawyer Ramón Montez and celebrity chef Julieta Campos have been feuding for years, ever since her mom and his dad had a passionate romance that ended in betrayal. The Montez and Campos families are forever abrading one another as they quarrel over limited space in the tightly-knit environs of Barrio Logan, operating their competing restaurants with completely different philosophies.
The twosome won’t let that spoil Dia de los Muertos for them. When a recently-returned-to-town Ramón spots a beautiful, mysterious woman at the celebration, he falls instantly in love with her, and she with him. But he soon discovers that his lovely maiden is in fact Julieta, the daughter of his dad’s old squeeze – and operator of the small-town taqueria La Pescas, whose fish tacos rival those served up by his dad’s nationwide Taco King franchise.
Julieta’s not thrilled that she’s in love with a man from the thieving Montez family; her mama accuses Ramón’s father of stealing her recipe for fish tacos during their old love affair and using it to found Taco King. Julieta has given up the national stage to keep the restaurant afloat as a gesture of love and loyalty to her dreams. Then they learn that the hated Montez family are their new landlords, which makes things even more awkward for the new couple; he plans on buying out the taqueria for his grandfather and turning it into a Taco King. Cue neighborhood protests over this gentrification.
But Ramón and Julieta have connected through notes, clandestine meetings and secret kisses. As the stakes get higher and their connection stronger, will they be able to end this family feud for once and for all?
You might be wondering how it is that Julieta and Ramón never figured out what the other looked like before their hook up. That’s the only real fly in the sweet, sweet ointment that is Ramón and Julieta. It’s a fine romance and a fun one, with some great characters.
I liked serious, unshakable Ramón and dedicated Julieta. I loved their parents, and the lively barrio in which they live. The romance is filled with longing and is quite adorable, and the use of letters and notes and secret, brief encounters is a credible way to keep the slow burn romance going. The use of Dia de los Muertos as an allegory for the life/death/rebirth themes in the story is a fabulous choice. The book takes a look at themes like gentrification and classism with aplomb. Cultural identity is brought to the fore, and Ramón’s struggles with his are major part of his character.
Ramón and Julieta left me hungry (the food preparation and meal descriptions within are incredible), warm at the heart and curious about which Shakespearian tale Alana Quintana Albertson will rewrite in the sequel. I’ll be reading it for sure.
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Lisa Fernandes is a writer, reviewer and recapper who lives somewhere on the East Coast. Formerly employed by Firefox.org and Next Projection, she also currently contributes to Women Write About Comics. Read her blog at http://thatbouviergirl.blogspot.com/, follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/thatbouviergirl or contribute to her Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/MissyvsEvilDead or her Ko-Fi at ko-fi.com/missmelbouvier