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  • Writer's pictureHannah Zunic

The 1940s Romeo and Juliet: A Review of Bonfire Night by Anna Bliss

Updated: Dec 14, 2023

Hello, Book Nerds! Welcome back to Reading Has Ruined My Life or welcome if you are new. As always, my name is Hannah and I am your captain on this journey into my bookcases.

While I await the sequel of All Of Us Villains to arrive, I have an ARC to tide us over. Please welcome to the stage Bonfire Night by Anna Bliss! Bonfire Night is set to release on December 26.

Book cover of Bonfire Night by Anna Bliss.

A huge thank you goes out to Kensington Publishing for sending me a copy of this novel. I won this one in a giveaway but it still means the world to me every time I receive an ARC. So thank you, Kensington Publishing!

Rachel Green cheering.
Thank you, you're the best!

As always, a spoiler alert is in order. This is your one and only warning. Long time readers know just how much I love to spoil the entirety of the books I read. I also must issue a content and trigger warning. Bonfire Night features a few moments of sexual harassment in the workplace. These scenes are only in part one and can be avoided. Just know they are in there before going in. Now let’s get to the synopsis.

The year is 1936, Kate Grifferty is planning on breaking the glass ceiling in the photojournalism world. One day, she’s getting shots from an anti-fascist protest happening in East London. While there, she meets a man by the name of David Rabatkin and it is love at first sight. The issue? She’s Irish Catholic and he’s Jewish.

Yep, it’s Romeo and Juliet time. Despite being well-matched, these two driven, ambitious young adults are not destined to be according to their families. No inter-religious marriages or relationships here! Kate and David can’t stop seeing each other though. Their romantic relationship is burning fast and bright. They’re holding nothing back. They’ve formed a physical and emotional attachment to one another. And they’ve also made a baby.

Part two of Bonfire Night follows David and Kate separately. Kate never told David about the life that was forming inside of her and the pair ended up breaking up. Kate proceeded to move away from London Town and move in with her sister where she raises the baby. Years later, Kate and David run into each other, and both have seemingly moved on. But let’s be real, they still carry a torch for the other.

Pixel hearts.
They love each other.

Will they be able to rekindle their romance? How will David take learning about a daughter he never knew he had? What will their families say? Can they make it? Find out in Bonfire Night.

Okay, okay, if I’m being honest here, I wasn’t a super big fan of this book. I got bored really easily. Bonfire Night was pitched as a romance, I pitched it as a romance, and if you’ve read any of my other romance reviews then you know it’s not my favorite genre. It is growing on me, but this ain’t an enemies to lovers romance. Anyway, Bonfire Night isn’t even that much of a romance, which when I learned I did appreciate. I still got bored quickly and easily. The ending? Really good. And I don’t mean that in a snarky way. I mean that in a This-Ending-Is-Really-Good-And-Was-The-Way-I-Wanted-It-To-End way.

J Lo clapping.
Anna Bliss, I love this book's ending! It's a 10-out-of-10!

Before we get to the ending, we need to talk about the beginning and our two main characters. On the surface, I like them both. Kate and David are goal driven and ambitious. I tend to like people who have some drive and ambition. Together though, I didn’t like them. They don’t work as a couple. They’re a Lust at First Sight couple who think they’re a Love at First Sight Couple. Kate and David…ugh, Kate and David. They don’t work. I don’t like them together. I never once believed they were in love. The author kept saying they were, but it was never showed.

Paris Hilton making a disgusted face.
Not a fan of this couple.

Part one where they’re a couple was absolutely insufferable. It was slow, it was boring, it dragged out needlessly, and it was totally necessary. This story is really about self-sacrifice and learning to be strong on your own. In order to get there, the characters have to be together for at least a little while and learn they don’t necessarily work together. The relationship between Kate and David is a difficult one. They can’t deny there is a physical chemistry between them, but outside factors are strongly affecting them thus keeping them apart. Their lives are going to be intertwined forever, they have a kid together after all, and over the years they learn what they want out of their lives and who they can be on their own. Part two is really where it’s at. They’ve suffered but they’ve grown tremendously.

So major, major spoilers ahead. I need to talk about the ending I mentioned in the beginning of my review. If you don’t want the ending spoiled, skip the paragraph sandwiched by my favorite waving bears.

Bears waving.

I love this ending. I know it’s going to be divisive. I know many romance readers are going to hate it. But I love it! It’s exactly how I wanted this story to end. Kate and David don’t end up together. I said I didn’t like these two as a couple, that they don’t work, and the ending proved my point. This is a story about learning to stand by yourself and self-sacrifice. While these two yearned for each other, they came to the realization they work better apart. While some readers may be mad with this ending, I am a big fan of it. Hell, some readers may go as far to call this ending a tragedy, but I find it to be perfect.

Bears waving.

Now that spoilers are over let's talk history. I would have liked to see more history in this historical fiction read. The setting is pre-WWII England. The years range from 1936-1941. While the author includes a few scenes of historical events, hello Battle of Cable Street, I see you, the history is taking a backseat to a romance that doesn’t work. Anna Bliss had so many events she could have included. So much history to pull from. But it feels as if the history wasn’t relevant to the story. This story could have been set in any time period. All you need is two family's with traditional family values, it doesn't need to be set in the 1930s or 1940s. I would have like the historical aspect of this story to history some more, please and thank you.

Bonfire Night was not my favorite read when I first started it. I find it to be a bit rough around the edges in all honesty. The romance isn’t necessarily romancing and the historical aspects aren’t history-ing. But the foreshadowed ending sells this novel. It makes the rest of the story worth the slow start.

With that, I shall bid you all adieu. Thank you once again to Kensington Publishing for sending me an advanced copy of Bonfire Night. It means the world to me when someone wants to send me books. And thank you, dear reader, for joining me today. I hope you enjoyed your time here. I shall see you all again next week with another great review.

Until then, stay safe, wash your hands, and read some good books for me.

Bears waving.
See y'all then, bye!

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