Two are star-crossedbut three are unscripted in Larry Schwarz and Iva-Marie Palmer's Romeo, Juliet & Jim, book 1 of this YA trilogy.
Romeo and Juliet seem to have it all. They are heirs to the two greatest and oldest fashion houses Paris has ever seen, the rival houses of Montague and Capulet. They live in stunning mansions, attend glamorous parties, count celebrities and supermodels among their closest friends. Yet the one thing they want most they can’t haveeach other. Juliet is tired of a clandestine relationship. She wants to run off together and escape. Enter Jim, a mysterious American who swoops in and befriends the young lovers. But who is Jim, really? Once Romeo and Juliet find out that their new friend has his own troubling connections within their world, all three of them have a lot to figure out. And with all that's at stake, there's moreJuliet and Jim are falling in love. Can Romeo win back his lover's heart? Or will Juliet and Jim rewrite the ending of the world's most famous love story?
A Christy Ottaviano Book
About the Author
Larry Schwarz is the producer and creator of many popular television series, including Kappa Mikey, Speed Racer: The Next Generation, and Three Delivery. He is the author of Romeo, Juliet & Jim and lives in New York City.
Iva-Marie Palmer is the author of The Summers and The End Of The World As We Know It. She lives in Los Angeles with her family.
Read an Excerpt
Romeo, Juliet & Jim
By Larry Schwarz, Iva-Marie Palmer
Henry Holt and CompanyCopyright © 2017 Larry Schwarz and Iva-Marie Palmer
All rights reserved.
JULIET RACED ALONG the right bank of the Seine. Tourists walked in slow-moving romantic pairs, shoulders and hips together, each set like a locked gateway blocking her path.
"Excuse me, excusez-moi, s'il vous plait ... pardonnezmoi. ..."
She slipped between the couples, glad she'd worn fairy-light flats that made her steps soft and fast. Anything heavier, louder, and someone would have stopped to ask her where she'd found that shoulder-skimming button-down (old shirt of her brother's), or who made the black-and-brown leather belt softened with age that cinched her waist (really two old belts she'd found at flea markets and twisted together; her way of wearing them suggested a designer who'd worked hard to engineer them that way). Every second she lost now was a second lost with him, and those seconds were already so fleeting and infrequent her heart could barely stand it.
She turned onto the Pont des Arts, the metal footbridge that spanned the Seine. She started reading names.
Chantal et Louis
José y Sabrina
Alex and Elizabeth
Jean et Pierre
Guillaume et Penelope
The locks never stopped, and they were all wrong.
Juliet tried not to interrupt moments between lovers as she ducked between them, hoping for a closer look at the locks fastened to the Love-Lock Bridge.
To any tourist on the Seine, Juliet was just another lovelorn girl mooning over each padlocked promise, hoping that one day she'd have someone to vow forever with. After all, there was something far more romantic about this bridge of promises than even the top of the Eiffel Tower at dusk. Lovers would come here with their padlocks or buy a lock from the vendors lining the bridge. They'd write their names and a note on the lock — Eternité was a popular phrase — and secure it to the bridge's side. Then, together, they'd hurl the key to the lock into the river, a promise to be fused together ever after.
Most of these pairs knew nothing of what real love was. Juliet was probably being unfair, but to her, the obstacles she and her love faced made their bond more real. So many of these couples, she thought, were tourists in Paris and mere visitors on the course of true love. The real thing never did run smooth.
Yes, the tourists may have seen a forlorn girl, longing for love. But the truth was, she wasn't studying the locks, wishing for one of her own, but was searching for the one that was hers, the one that would lead her to the one who had put it there. Her one.
She sidestepped a pair of lovers locked in an embrace, oblivious to everyone, and she felt a tremor of jealousy. She and her love should have been one of those couples, lost in each other, and instead here she was, wasting valuable time trying to find the message that would lead her to him. She reminded herself again that the difficulties she and her lover endured to see each other just meant their love was that much stronger.
Juliet paced the side of the bridge facing Notre-Dame Cathedral. The church was another symbol for them. If their love couldn't be consecrated on earth, it was surely a gift from the heavens.
The locks here were packed tight, and blurred together whenever she stared too long. How would she find theirs?
She took a deep breath, imagining his face, his smile when she arrived. There, in the soft breeze, a red ribbon edged with gold piping fluttered. "Heartstring," they called it. "It's what ties us," he'd said.
Juliet got down onto her knees and took the lock in her hands as tenderly as if it had been his face. Romeo had been here to clasp the lock to the bridge, and, somehow, she could feel him there, that past version of him. She wondered if he'd been able to sense her, this future version of her, finding the lock.
The lock was small but the words written in red marker were clear: Hotel Lemieux, room 328.
Juliet's heart pounded so hard she had to run to give it the room it needed in her chest. She hailed a cab as quickly as she could and slipped inside.
"Hotel Lemieux, s'il vous plait," she said.
The cab driver turned in his seat and looked at her. Juliet trembled with nerves and bent her head, letting her dark hair fall in waves over her cheeks. The less he saw of her, the better. She wasn't famous, per se, but she was a public figure.
Juliet murmured the address. Most people with money to spend on cabs weren't headed to the Hotel Lemieux. Its name translated to "the best," but in truth the place was a mere step above a youth hostel. The décor and supposed amenities — just a lounge off the lobby housing dusty imitation Louis XIV furniture and a sputtering vending machine — were at least twice Juliet's age. Most of the clientele were young, like Juliet, but not native Parisians. The youthful travelers mostly had nothing but overstuffed backpacks and dreams of seeing the world.
Juliet loved it there. It may have been close to her and Romeo's homes, but it was so far removed from their worlds that it seemed like anything could happen there. She loved it for the same reasons she loved digging up finds at flea markets and rummage sales: She liked things that belonged to the real world, and not the one her family had created.
Getting there, however, wasn't always easy. Her taxi plodded through Paris traffic, giving her time to think about the latest message that had arrived from Romeo. It was from an account they shared — where they saved emails as drafts for the other to see. Both families had private security details that scanned all incoming and outgoing email. With the shared account, Romeo and Juliet skirted the threat of discovery. The message, without subject, contained just three letters: A.V.O. It was her clue to find their lock on the bridge.
Amor Vincit Omnia. Love Conquers All.
It was a phrase she'd discovered while doing research for her father, of all things. It had been three years since she'd found it. Even then, at thirteen, she was already a vaunted figure at the House of Capulet thanks to her innate sense of style. Family legend said that even as a baby, she'd cry if outfitted in the usual princess-pink baby clothes, and looked her most comfortable in more sophisticated ensembles. (She'd had a black velvet party dress as a toddler that was copied a million times over after a photo of her wearing it accompanied a profile of the Capulets that appeared in Paris Match.) Juliet just knew. Not only with fashion, but with the business. She knew when a brand name would catch such fire it would become part of everyday vernacular, or when a model's unique look would start a major trend.
And at thirteen, she'd been tasked to find a name for a new clothing line for young women approaching adulthood, and "A.V.O." had been her answer. What woman didn't want to believe that true love was the be-all-end-all force to vanquish any threat to happiness?
When she'd found the phrase, she believed it as a young teen who knew nothing of real love. Now, she felt it to her core.
His email had arrived yesterday. Juliet's comings and goings were so tightly monitored that she'd had to wait for an opportunity to sneak across the city, and on Saturdays the house teemed with too much help to slip away. Today, though, her mother had succeeded in dragging her father to church, certainly to be followed by a lavish lunch and shopping excursion. Juliet had left a note that she'd needed to go to the library, for school, and to get some air.
Romeo, well, sometimes he felt like her air.
So, what if he wasn't there anymore? If she arrived at Hotel Lemieux to find he'd gone? She checked her secret email account constantly, obsessively, but that didn't mean she could exit her life at a moment's notice to meet him. He understood and knew the pressures, but thanks to his past, his own family expected him to disappear sometimes. He was a young man — a wealthy, dashing one — and sowing his wild oats, as it were, was practically a birthright. It was a birthright he'd easily given up for Juliet, but no one knew that. Not even Juliet. Not yet.
The taxi turned onto the narrow street where the hotel was. A delivery truck blocked the road as workers at a grocer's shop unloaded boxes of produce. Impatience rattled her body.
"This is good," she told the cab driver. "I'll get out now." The hotel was only a few blocks away. She thrust some euros into his palm and leaped out of the cab, running to the hotel and up the stairs as fast as she could until she reached room 328. She knocked.
Please be here. ... Please be here....
The door clicked open almost instantly. He smiled down at her and her breath stopped. She'd been around the most coveted male models and movie stars in the world, but he was the only one who could render her breathless. Just him.
"I've missed you," Romeo said. He curled his fingers beneath her belt and pulled her to him.
Juliet wrapped her arms around his neck, and as their lips met, the world around them retracted until they were all that was left.
* * *
"I thought I'd be too late," Juliet murmured later. Her hair spilled over Romeo's arm. She lay in the crook of his elbow, memorizing the way his bare skin felt beneath her cheek. Tracing the contours of his chest with her fingertips, she felt so at peace at that moment that it could have been seconds or years from the time he'd greeted her at the door. The covers — clean sheets but worn thin after years of service — lay in a tangled heap at their feet. The sheer drapes on the window floated over them as a light breeze pushed through the cracked window. Juliet, who normally slept beneath a goose-down duvet because she was so cold at night, was warm to the touch. His touch.
"You could never be too late. How do you not know by now that I'd wait a lifetime if I had to?"
"Or until your father called. Romeo, it's an emergency. ..." She imitated the voice of Jean Montague, which she'd heard at many fashion industry fetes.
He scolded her, but gently. From the very beginning, they'd promised each other they wouldn't mar their rare moments together with petulance, frustration, or jealousy. True love came at a price, or theirs did, and they'd vowed to pay it without complaint. But Juliet sometimes had trouble.
"That was mean. I'm sorry," she said, pressing her lips to his chest.
"And it's not just my father," Romeo added.
"You're right," Juliet agreed, thinking of how often she was summoned to Capulet duties, even if some of the duties were just to be the pretty apple of her father's eye. She felt so good when she was with Romeo, felt such a sense of possibility, that it almost killed her that who they were mattered so much. Together, they should have been unstoppable, not living in secret.
In a single motion, she quickly rolled over and straddled him. She grinned down at him, a mussed tress of her hair falling against his nose. "Let's do it."
Romeo laughed. "Um, I think we just did. Give me a minute."
Juliet bounced on him, swatting his upper arm playfully. "Not that it. The real it. We leave. Run away. We'll find somewhere no one's ever been. We'd be following our stars."
Romeo's eyes crinkled with his smile. "So, the uncharted island? Romantic. And how are we going to find it?" "We'll steal one of our fathers' yachts, of course. You know how to sail."
"And they wouldn't geo-track us instantly?"
"Fine, we'll buy a yacht with unmarked bills. Then we'll get out to sea and sail away until we find the spot. The perfect spot ..."
"The perfect spot if we don't get lost at sea and starve to death."
"We'll be like Adam and Eve, living in beautiful innocence."
"We're not exactly innocent," Romeo quipped, aiming for a kiss.
Juliet pulled away, still smiling. "Don't shoot me down. I'm serious."
"I just don't see how we'd survive. No electricity, no shelter, no soap ... and we haven't exactly been raised with amazing survival skills." Romeo arched an eyebrow at her.
She loved the crackle behind his eyes but hated that its purpose now was to reject her idea. Juliet sighed and rolled off Romeo onto the mattress next to him. "Fine. We don't need an island. We'll go to America. A small town, where no one would know us or ever think to look. We'll change our names, find a tiny apartment. ..."
"And pay rent with money we won't have, because we'll be cut off from our fortunes."
"With money we'll grab in cash and bring with us so we'll have it after we're cut off...."
"And when it runs out?"
"I'll design clothes, you'll market them."
"Yes, teen runaways always launch amazing start-ups."
"Well, it doesn't have to be clothes. I'd wait tables or work a cash register somewhere if it meant being with you. ..." Juliet trailed off. She scanned his face, fighting a tear. "You don't love me at all."
Every hint of play and daydream left Romeo's face. Juliet trembled at the intensity beneath his icy-blue eyes as he rolled to face her. "I don't love you?" he echoed fiercely. "I love you so much it eats me alive. Every moment of every day, I think about you and ache for you. And then we're together and I'm full and empty and sick because I know how awful it's going to be to let you go."
Juliet caressed his cheek. "Then don't. Don't let me go." She, too, knew the sick feeling, and was experiencing it now as she thought about their time together ending. "Let's run away."
Romeo smiled sadly and laced his fingers with hers. He squeezed her hand once, then twice, then three times, and in those small squeezes, she felt his love more acutely than even when they kissed, or when he told her in no uncertain terms. Touch was better than words. "There's no away," he whispered. "We're not people who can disappear. We're not children whose families wouldn't look for us. We're not people who can't be found. And if they learn we're together ..."
"Let them," Juliet said. "What can they do once we're gone?" She tried to sound defiant and strong, but she knew.
"They'll ruin us."
Their families were powerful, with resources others could only dream of. If they wanted to, it would be easy for them to keep Romeo and Juliet apart forever. It would be easy to banish them to lives that were impoverished in ways beyond the financial. They could be separated, lost to each other and rendered almost identity-less. The families had the means to do so.
"Above all else, loyalty." Juliet shuddered as she spoke her father's mantra. Her brother had nearly been cast out of the family. Henri had been at his lowest when he sold prints of some Capulet designs to the House of Montague (which had turned them into — insult on injury — a low-priced line for Montague IV, a chain of stores in American malls). He had been near death, crippled by his addictions, but all that had seemed to matter to their father was Henri's betrayal. The family had tossed Henri into a literal dungeon to detox — painfully — and now he was forced to play his part as if he'd never been anything other than the perfect son. Poor Henri's birthright, the inheritance of the House of Capulet, was even threatened. Not that he seemed to care. But what they could do to her was much worse. She looked at Romeo, imagining a life completely devoid of him.
"Don't think on it." Romeo wrapped his arms around her and kissed her like he was breathing life back into her body. Taking her face in his hands, he stared into her eyes, pulling her back into the moment with his gaze. "I won't let that happen. Not to either of us. But you see why we have to stay strong."
"You shouldn't have been born a Montague," Juliet said. "Or I shouldn't have been born a Capulet. What I'd give to just be some Girl Nobody for you to discover and love...."
"You're so wrong," Romeo said, his lips curved in the half smile she loved. "I wouldn't change a thing. The stars crossed to unite us. Our curses are our blessings, too. You don't mess with that kind of gift."
"Patience, then," Juliet said. They'd been through this before; her lines were clear. But every time they were together, she imagined things could go differently.
Romeo kissed her, a kiss that unfolded slowly, opening her lips like petals, then pressing his mouth more urgently to hers. "Time is on our side."
"I hate being patient," Juliet said. "I love you. I want you."
She skimmed her leg over his body and raised herself above him. She kissed him back until her mind stopped working. She wanted him, and she had her wish. For those moments, she wasn't a Capulet; he wasn't a Montague. They were themselves, Romeo and Juliet, and they were one.
Excerpted from Romeo, Juliet & Jim by Larry Schwarz, Iva-Marie Palmer. Copyright © 2017 Larry Schwarz and Iva-Marie Palmer. Excerpted by permission of Henry Holt and Company.
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