Romeow and Juliet by Kathi Daley

Romeow and Juliet was brought to my attention during a recent edition of Cover Snark. While the front cover suggests that this is a romance between two cats, the back cover copy quickly sets us straight:

Romeow and Juliet is the first in a cozy mystery series set on Madrona Island, a fictional island within the San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington State. As a fourth generation islander Caitlin Hart is struggling to make her way as the economy and culture of the island evolves toward a tourism based industry. Cait lives in a cabin on her aunt’s oceanfront estate where she helps her aunt run Harthaven Cat Sanctuary. When she isn’t working with the cats, she helps best friend Tara, operate the coffee bar/bookstore/cat lounge they own, named Coffee Cat Books.

In the first installment to the series Cait and her dog Max find the body of a member of the island council dead in the back room of the old fish cannery. As Cait delves into the murder she finds herself with an unlikely sleuthing partner that might just lead to a relationship of a more personal kind.

Meanwhile, Romeo, a stray cat that followed Cait home, is causing all sorts of problems for Cait as, in spite of dire warnings from the neighbor next door, he refuses to stay away from her very expensive show cat, Juliet. Could Romeo really be trying to tell Cait something about the neighbor that she initially refuses to see?

The answer to that last question is “no.” Also it’s untrue that Caitlin helps run a coffee shop. She and her best friend are trying to open one. There are no signs of Caitlin actually earning a living or doing any kind of actual work.

While I cannot blame the author or publisher for my heartbreak with regard to Shakespearean cats, the fact remains that I still yearn to hear Shakespeare performed by two cats meowing in iambic pentameter, with happy endings all around. I hoped for a book that would be terrible yet fun, but I just got terrible.

There are many problems with this book. The protagonist, Caitlin Hart, appears to be an awful person who, among other things fat-shames her best friend, but no one seems to notice just how self-absorbed the protagonist is. The entire book is exposition – clunky, drawn out, miserably paced exposition. I finished the book yesterday and I’ve already forgotten who dunnit because I don’t care. I also can’t remember whether the flirty romance between two humans worked out or not – again, don’t care.

However, the main problem with the book is that even though it’s a contemporary set in what is supposed to be our real world, very few things have much to do with reality. Therefore, the rest of this review is just a series of questions. Disclaimer – when I read this, my kid and I were both down with colds. Maybe this book makes perfect sense. Maybe a healthy reader will answer my questions to my total satisfaction. Meanwhile, I stand by the fact that none of the people in this book have actually encountered a real cat.

  1. First, this is not snark. This is an honest inquiry. Would you buy fish from a fish market called For the Halibut?
  2. Caitlin runs a shelter for cats. I do not. However, some friends and I have been working together on spay/neutering adult members of a local feral cat colony (we trap, neuter, and release) and rescuing feral kittens, so I do have some experience with what shape the typical feral is in. Early in the book, Caitlin takes in a feral male she names ‘Romeo’. When she finds that he has fleas she has to have her house fumigated.

My question is: Doesn’t Caitlin have any standard procedures for intake? Doesn’t she treat the ferals for fleas and internal parasites immediately and certainly before exposing them to other cats or the rest of her home? Does she have to fumigate her house every single time she deals with a new feral? Are there ANY ferals who don’t have fleas, and if so, why can’t I take some of those in my car to the SPCA Vet Clinic instead of my current situation in which I regularly encounter fleas on kittens which are almost as big as the actual kittens? What is happening here?

  1. One of the subplots is that Romeo, who remains an outdoor cat, keeps trying to sneak onto the neighbor’s property to court the neighbor’s pedigreed cat, Juliet. At first I asked why this owner didn’t keep Juliet inside, but eventually the owner explains that Juliet is supposed to stay inside but keeps escaping – fair enough. Which leads to the question of why on earth Caitlin doesn’t immediately take Romeo to the vet for a teensy operation? Why does Caitlin seem to think that the idea of more kittens is cute? I mean, yes, kittens are cute, but Caitlin has plenty of kittens to rehome already. What kind of cat rescuer doesn’t spay or neuter cats right away?
  2. Romeo and Juliet are “cute” together, sneaking around silently and holding paws. Have these characters ever been around a cat in heat? Do they know that they are very loud? Has anyone told Caitlin and everyone else that cats have barbed penises? No? Ah, well.
  3. Now, on to Caitlin’s other problems. She states that the time she lost her virginity was the best sex she ever had. I am skeptical, and if she’s being truthful, then I am depressed on her behalf.
  4. When Caitlin and Cole (he’s some guy, it’s not important) were teenagers, Caitlin had a crush on Cole. Cole enlisted in the Navy and was supposed to leave right after graduation. Caitlin, who knew this, pressured Cole into having sex and then was furious when he still joined the Navy. As an adult, Caitlin admits that maybe she was unreasonable, but adult Caitlin is still angry with Cole. My question is – What the Hell, Adult Caitlin?

A day after reading this book, I’m actually angry about it. It makes me actually FURIOUS that someone would be seen as laudable while also fat-shaming her best friend. It makes me FURIOUS that someone would encourage the conception of unwanted kittens. Caitlin is a manipulative, controlling snob who is never seen doing any actual work. I hope she moves to the mainland so that her friend can run the bookstore/cat cafe and eat whatever she wants to in peace. I also hope that I never have to read this much exposition ever again.

Also, please spay and neuter your cats!

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