Release Date: February 1st, 2022
Ramón Montez always achieves his goals. Whether that means collecting Ivy League degrees or growing his father’s fast-food empire, nothing sets Ramón off course. So when the sexy señorita who kissed him on the Day of the Dead runs off into the night with his heart, he determines to do whatever it takes to find her again.
Celebrity chef Julieta Campos has sacrificed everything to save her sea-to-table taqueria from closing. To her horror, she discovers that her new landlord is none other than the magnetic mariachi she hooked up with on Dia de los Muertos. Even worse, it was his father who stole her mother’s taco recipe decades ago. Julieta has no choice but to work with Ramón, the man who destroyed her life’s work–and the one man who tempts and inspires her.
As San Diego’s outraged community protests against the Taco King take-over and the divide between their families grows, Ramón and Julieta struggle to balance the rising tensions. But Ramón knows that true love is priceless and despite all of his successes, this is the one battle he refuses to lose.
I’m not the biggest fan of Romeo & Juliet when it comes to Shakespeare’s works, but this modern retelling was so wonderful that you forget entirely about the classic that it takes some inspiration from. It’s no spoiler, but the two main characters do get their happily ever after unlike their inspirations, and there’s no bloodshed and tragedies abound. But Alana Albertson delivered such a beautifully visual book that not only had me in awe with every page I turned, but craving for all of the food that’s mentioned. The perfect combination of enemies to lovers to a workplace romance with a dash of forbidden love and a 40 year-old revenge plot, Ramón and Julieta was a book I could not put down once I started reading.
For Ramón Montez, taking over and running the family business is a dream. He’s good at his job and he’s made millions of dollars thanks to the Taco King—a Mexican-American fast-casual chain of restaurants. But the one thing that he’s working towards? Buying up the block in Barrio Logan and setting up a flagship restaurant to bring more people in. Julieta Campos has worked her whole life to take over the restaurant her mother started after immigrating to America 30 years ago. A staple in Barrio Logan, her restaurant offers traditional Mexican food that the locals love and cherish. But with the block going up for sale, Julieta and the other store owners and residents of the neighbourhood fear that everything they’ve worked towards is about to be taken from them forever.
When Ramón and Julieta meet, covered in makeup for Dia de los Muertos, they don’t know who the other is. All they know is that they are smitten and seduced by each other. A serenade turns into kisses and promises to meet after the parade and an almost night of passion before everything goes off the rails. When the two reconnect without their masks and secret identities, the real drama begins. I’m not one for insta-lust, but the way Ramón and Julieta leaned into each other and found their attraction simmering at the edge of the surface was beautiful. I loved that Julieta was upset with herself for still being so attracted to Ramón even though he’s about to take away her entire livelihood and destroy her neighbourhood.
There was just so much about this book that I loved, starting with the visually stunning setting for the book in Barrio Logan. The way Alana Albertson described the little details of murals, the culture deeply rooted in everything and everywhere you look, the secondary characters who provide much needed insight into the story—I felt transported there while reading the story. Another incredible part of the story was Ramón’s growth through the book. He starts out as a businessman with one goal in mind and nothing can change that, but the more time he spends around Julieta and the neighbourhood he now owns, Ramón evolves into someone better. It’s because of love, it’s because of his need to be more immersed in his culture and also his understanding that to be respected, he needs to offer respect first. And that was a really beautiful thing to watch happen.
Ramón and Julieta’s romance has a lot of push and pull, but it feels so real. Because they both want each other, but she knows what he stands for and he knows the only way to get her to be with him is to shed all the things about himself that she’s never liked before. They come from different worlds, different experiences and cultures; but they both know and understand that what they have is so much bigger than that. I appreciated all the flashy things Ramón did for Julieta, but I also loved the smaller and simpler things that they did together, because that really showed just how deep their love ran.
This might be my first book by Alana Albertson, but I’m definitely going to be picking up more of her books in the future, because the easy reading and the smooth storytelling made the experience of reading Ramón and Julieta one that I enjoyed so much.
Thanks to Alana Quintana Albertson, Berkley and NetGalley for generously providing me with an advance copy. I am voluntarily leaving an honest review.