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Daughter of Montague #1
June 25, 2024
Kensington (A John Scognamiglio Book)
Available in: Hardcover, Audio, e-Book
A Daughter of Fair Verona
Once upon a time a young couple met and fell in love. You probably know that story, and how it ended (hint: badly). Only here’s the thing: That’s not how it ended at all.
Romeo and Juliet are alive and well and the parents of seven kids. I’m the oldest, with the emphasis on ‘old’—a certified spinster at twenty, and happy to stay that way. It’s not easy to keep your taste for romance with parents like mine. Picture it—constant monologues, passionate declarations, fighting, making up, making out . . . it’s exhausting.
Each time they’ve presented me with a betrothal, I’ve set out to find the groom-to-be a more suitable bride. After all, someone sensible needs to stay home and manage this household. But their latest match, Duke Stephano, isn’t so easy to palm off on anyone else. The debaucher has had three previous wives—all of whom met unfortunate ends. Conscience forbids me from consigning another woman to that fate. As it turns out, I don’t have to . . .
At our betrothal ball—where, quite by accident, I meet a beautiful young man who makes me wonder if perhaps there is something to love at first sight—I stumble upon Duke Stephano with a dagger in his chest. But who killed him? His late wives’ families, his relatives, his mistress, his servants—half of Verona has motive. And when everyone around the Duke begins dying, disappearing, or descending into madness, I know I must uncover the killer . . . before death lies on me like an untimely frost.
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene
My name is Rosie, Rosaline if I’m in trouble, and I’m the daughter of Romeo and Juliet.
Yes, that Romeo and Juliet.
No, they didn’t die in the tomb. Brace yourself for a recap, and don’t worry, it’s interesting in a My God, are you kidding me? sort of way.
My mom was a Capulet. My dad is a Montague. For some reason lost in the mists of time, their families were deadly enemies. Yet my folks met at a party, instantly fell in love—nothing bad ever came of love at first sight, right?—and secretly got married. That very afternoon, Dad killed Mom’s cousin in a sword fight, then Mom hated Dad for about five really loud, lamenting moments, then she equally loudly forgave him. They fell into bed and as I heard it, spent the night doing the horizontal bassa danza. Papà went into exile because of the killing (in the next town a few hours’ gallop away), and Mamma went into a decline. To cheer her up, my grandparents decided she needed to get married. Because in my world, all a woman needs is a husband to be happy.
Has anybody in Verona ever once looked around at the state of the marriages in this town?
With typical Juliet melodrama, Mom decided she had to kill herself. The family confessor convinced her to take a drug that put her into a sleep that presented itself as death.
I know, you’re thinking—C’mon! There’s no such drug!
I promise there is. I work with Friar Laurence, the Franciscan monk and apothecary who mixed it for her. More about that later.
Mom took the sleeping draught, fell into a death-like state, had a terrific funeral with all the weeping and wailing her family is capable of—and let me tell you, that’s some impressive weeping and wailing—and was placed in the Capulet family tomb.
She was thirteen years old and to all accounts a great-looking corpse.
While in exile, Dad got the news his new wife had suddenly and inexplicably taken the long dirt nap. Being of equally dramatic stock, he obtained real poison, raced back to fair Verona, broke into the tomb, killed Mom’s fiancé—my father’s an impressive swordsman, which is a good thing considering how many people he can insult in a day—flung himself on Mom’s body, and took the real poison because his life wasn’t worth living without her.
He was all of sixteen years old and in my observations, sixteen-year-old boys are idiots or worse. But again, what do I know?
So Dad is draped all over Mom’s supposed corpse, to all appearances dead, and she wakes up and sees him. Can you imagine the theatrical potential here?
I can’t. Unless there’s someone watching, there’s no point in getting all worked up.
But I stray from the story, which I’ve heard countless times in my life in breathless breakfast table recountings.
Mom grabbed Dad’s knife out of the sheath and stabbed herself. There was a lot of blood, and she fainted, but essentially she stabbed that gold pendant necklace her family buried her with, the knife skidded sideways, and she slashed her own chest. She still has the scar, which, when I’m rolling my eyes, she insists on showing me.
What with all that blood, she fainted. When she came to, still very much alive, she crawled back up on the tomb, sobbed again all over Dad’s body, and got wound up for a second self-stabbing. It was at this point Dad sat up, leaned over, and vomited all over the floor.
It’s a well-known fact you can never trust an unfamiliar apothecary to deliver a reliable dose of poison.
Mom simultaneously realized two things: Dad was alive, and he was tossing his lasagna all over the place. In a frenzy of joy and fellowship, she brought up whatever meager foods were in her stomach.
An argument could be made that she was retching because vomiting is contagious . . . or it could be said I was announcing myself to the world. Because nine months later, I made my appearance into the Montague household.
Did you follow all that? I know, I know. But honest to God, strip away the melodrama and that’s what happened.
You might think—why is a girl of Rosie’s youth so sarcastic about love and passion?
Let me tell you a couple of things.
. When you have true love and wild passion and brokenhearted tragedy stuffed up your nose every day of your life, by your mother’s family, your father’s grandmother, your parents who constantly fight and reconcile and proclaim and monologue and fall into bed and have sex so loudly they keep the whole compound awake . . . love and passion lose a little bit of their gilding. In fact, the whole topic is positively off-putting. Also, I have six younger siblings, and someone with a little sense needs to care for them, and who else in this madly romantic family is there but me?
- Actually, I’m not young. My parents have been trying to marry me off to some nobleman or another since I was thirteen years old. As a proper daughter must do, I curtsy and thank them, then I go to work finding these gentlemen wives who they immediately fall in love with and adore forever. I pride myself on my ability to match the aristocrats of Verona with their soul mates, while saving myself from the travesty of love and passion and all that creaking of the mattress ropes and moaning and scratching and . . . You know. Consequently, I’m old, almost twenty years, a renowned for the bad luck of being repeatedly jilted, condemned to living in my parents’ house until my younger brother grows up, marries, and replaces my father as the head of the household.
He’s six. I’ve assembled all the abilities to remain single, and I’ve got all the time in the world . . .
Until the day I was summoned to my parents’ suite and heard my mother’s fateful words, “Daughter, your father and I have excellent news for you.”
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"Shakespeare may roll over—then he’ll sit up and applaud!!" —Mary Bly (Eloisa James), Shakespearean professor and New York Times bestselling author of LIZZIE AND DANTE.
"A tour de force! Witty, charming, snarky and just plain fun. Shakespeare is going to wish he'd written this!” —Susan Mallery, #1 New York Times bestselling author
"Who has the audacity to write a book about Romeo and Juliet’s daughter? Christina Dodd, that’s who! With its twisty plot and engaging characters, A DAUGHTER OF FAIR VERONA is charming, funny, and totally engaging. First I smiled, then I chuckled, then I laughed out loud. It’s fresh, audacious, and altogether captivating. It’s such a treat to read something I haven’t read a thousand times before. I highly recommend." —Susan Elizabeth Phillips, #1 New York Times bestselling author
"A sharp, determined heroine, a clever historical mystery, sparkling wit, a unique setting, family drama and a dash of romance. I loved it! A DAUGHTER OF FAIR VERONA is the ultimate fan fiction." —Jayne Ann Krentz, New York Times bestselling author of THE NIGHT ISLAND.
"Christina Dodd’s A Daughter of Fair Verona is the book I didn’t even know I was waiting for—fun funny charming and absolutely delightful. If you’re looking for a novel to sweep you away and lift your spirits look no further." —Kristin Hannah #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Women
“…Note this book is appropriate for young adult to their grandmothers’ for reading. What fun that would be, a family book discussion.”—Reader Maureen, Goodreads review of A DAUGHTER OF FAIR VERONA
"This delightful, fast-paced mystery is a balm for the soul, with an ending that’s not only satisfying but leaves you wanting more of this heroine, this family, and Christina Dodd’s playful and clever voice." —Megan Chance, bestselling author of A Splendid Ruin