Reviews of Fair Rosaline by Natasha Solomons

Fair Rosaline

A Novel

by Natasha Solomons

Fair Rosaline by Natasha Solomons X
Fair Rosaline by Natasha Solomons
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  • Published:
    Sep 2023, 336 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs
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Book Summary

The most exciting historical retelling of 2023: a subversive, powerful untelling of Romeo and Juliet by New York Times bestselling author Natasha Solomons.

Was the greatest ever love story a lie?

The first time Romeo Montague sees young Rosaline Capulet he falls instantly in love. Rosaline, headstrong and independent, is unsure of Romeo's attentions but with her father determined that she join a convent, this handsome and charming stranger offers her the chance of a different life.

Soon though, Rosaline begins to doubt all that Romeo has told her. She breaks off the match, only for Romeo's gaze to turn towards her cousin, thirteen-year-old Juliet. Gradually Rosaline realizes that it is not only Juliet's reputation at stake, but her life. With only hours remaining before she will be banished behind the nunnery walls, will Rosaline save Juliet from her Romeo? Or can this story only ever end one way?

Shattering everything we thought we knew about Romeo and Juliet, Fair Rosaline is the spellbinding prequel to Shakespeare's best known tale, which exposes Romeo as a predator with a long history of pursuing much younger girls. Bold, lyrical, and chillingly relevant, Fair Rosaline reveals the dark subtext of the timeless story of star-crossed lovers: it's a feminist revision that will enthrall readers of bestselling literary retellings such as Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell and Hester by Laurie Lico Albanese.




Rosaline watched in bewilderment as her father went onto his knees to give the Almighty thanks for his deliverance. She would not give thanks. God had seen fit to take from her what mattered most and left a world broken and pitiful.

Yet several times a week, a grudging Rosaline was urged into the small church crammed with penitents and grateful supplicants, all expressing thanks to every saint they could remember that they too had been spared. She noticed that it was those of her father's age who prayed with the most ardor. The younger congregants stifled yawns and were distracted, ignoring even the friar spraying spittle in his fervor as he preached. Rosaline ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide will contain spoilers!
  1. What are Rosaline's objections to entering the convent? Do you think any path open to a woman of her class at her time would have given her the things that she wants?
  2. How do you think the feud between the Montagues and Capulets colors Rosaline and Romeo's early interactions? How does she feel about keeping their identities secret while out together and the truth of their relationship to herself?
  3. Romeo seduces vulnerable young women, like servants, as well as daughters of the upper class, like Rosaline and Juliet. What do you feel he wants from them? Does it differ by rank? How does Rosaline disappoint those expectations?
  4. What do you believe Rosaline hopes to gain by telling Tybalt about her relationship with Romeo? Do you think she ...
Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

Here are some of the comments posted about Fair Rosaline.
You can see the full discussion here.

"I sense another plague coming to the wicked men of Verona." What was your reaction to this statement?
I agree with scgirl!! When I read the Abbess say that, along with all the descriptions / interactions about this abbey being more lax or progressive than another one nearby, I thought this would make a great follow up book. Vigilante ... - Rebecca L.

Are there other Romeo and Juliet retellings that you have enjoyed recently?
Literature abounds with stories of older men and young inexperienced innocent women, it is the normal, especially where the man is wealthy and worldly. " Rosaline" has implied a more sinister motivation. When I read the book through some ... - valeriei

Can you think of a character whose advice either of the girls might have respected?
It is difficult to imagine young teens listen to the advice of anyone. I think the closest would be Tybalt as he was same age and very close to Rosaline and Juliet - unfortunately he was also immature and not equipped to do anything other than react... - AmberH

Did Fair Rosaline change your interpretation of Romeo and Juliet at all? What about the author's note?
I do think that this is the question that has deepened our thinking about the Romeo and Juliet story, how families are big influences in their children's choice of a marriage partner. Also the customs of the historical time slot. As his ... - valeriei

Did you learn anything new about the time period in which the story is set?
I was surprised at how much actual freedom there was in the convent. - Lyris

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BookBrowse Review


I recommend Fair Rosaline to readers who've enjoyed books like Circe and Ariadne – novels that give voice to women who, until now, have been silenced. Its beautiful prose and outstanding historical detail should make it popular with those who appreciate well-written historical fiction, and its feminist themes make it a good choice for book discussions...continued

Full Review Members Only (588 words)

(Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).

Media Reviews

Mischief and forbidden love ensue as Rosaline and Romeo embark on an affair that is the prelude to the more famous story. Perfect for fans of Philippa Gregory and Julia Quinn who love a historical setting and classic characters mixed with drama and romance.

Publishers Weekly
Solomons challenges classic interpretations of Romeo and Juliet, painting Romeo as a predator who lures unwitting young girls and discards them, with the help of a friar, though the modern language and themes clumsily alternate with more Elizabethan language, and Rosaline's master plan seems to fall into place too conveniently. Still, this is entertaining and empowering.

Author Blurb Elodie Harper, Sunday Times bestselling author of The Wolf Den
I have not been able to stop thinking about this book ... Fair Rosaline is a gripping, spellbinding and wonderfully immersive book - and one that truly makes you think. I would be very surprised if everyone is not talking about it.

Author Blurb Jennifer Saint, Sunday Times bestselling author of Ariadne
Irresistible. An excellent spin on a timeless classic.

Author Blurb Jillian Cantor, USA Today bestselling author of Beautiful Little Fools
A brilliant, feminist re-imagining of Romeo and Juliet, Fair Rosaline is a gorgeously written version of Verona from Juliet's cousin, Rosaline's, point of view. What does Romeo truly look like through the eyes of a woman on the periphery of the original story? Natasha Solomons skillfully shows us another version of the star-crossed lovers - and the Romeo --we all think we know. I absolutely devoured this thought-provoking, female-centric take on Shakespeare.

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Beyond the Book

The Poor Clares of Sant'Orsola Convent

Chiesa di Sant'OrsolaIn Natasha Solomons' novel Fair Rosaline, the eponymous heroine is destined for life in a convent – specifically Sant'Orsola in Mantua, Italy. Margherita Gonzaga d'Este, a wealthy widow, commissioned the convent in the early 17th century, sparing no expense; she hired architect and artist Antonio Maria Viani to design the building, and commissioned artwork for it from the best regional artists of the day. When completed in 1612, it was comprised of a square of fifty rooms framing a large courtyard, with an octagonal church anchoring it at one corner; the complex spanned a full city block.

The convent was one of many across Europe built for the Poor Clares, an order of Franciscan nuns formed in 1212 by St. Clare of Assisi under the ...

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