Juliet’s Diary: My Secret Plague Journal by Giselle Renarde
Self-published at Smashwords and Amazon, 2020
Juliet is a nineteen year old college student. She’s spoiled, selfish, lazy, horny, and bored by almost everything, except her girlfriend Romi – whom she met in high school when she was looking for someone to sell her the exam questions. Romi needed the money, but one thing led to another and now Juliet’s head over heels in love, or at least in lust, with her far more experienced lesbian main squeeze. All Juliet wants is to move into the group household Romi shares with her intentional family of queer and trans friends. To stave off this event, her wealthy parents have promised her a big chunk of money and a fancy new car, if she stays at home until she finishes her first year at university. Meanwhile the Covid-19 epidemic is raging, so she’s forbidden to even see the woman who dominates her thoughts. Not that Juliet’s all that likely to obey...
Juliet’s Diary is a vivid and painful journey into the mind of a young woman who is so unlikable she could almost be a parody of how the privileged have dealt with the pandemic – except that Giselle Renarde has made her shockingly believable. Juliet, like most young people, figures she’s in no danger from the virus. Romi, who’s barely surviving economically, knows better. Romi’s housemates have various disabilities that make them especially vulnerable, but they’re all working their tails off trying to stave off eviction.
Juliet is mostly oblivious to their problems. All she cares about is spending time with Romi, having sex with Romi, getting her girlfriend off and vice versa. Meanwhile, the world becomes increasingly alien, with social distancing, panic buying, and ultimately, friends and family dying. Juliet has a hard time adapting, though she half-heartedly tries. She even gets a job in a supermarket, in order to prove to Romi and herself that she’s not useless. She lasts exactly one day.
As you may have gathered, this is not a fun book. One would hardly expect fun from a story sub-titled “My Secret Plague Diary”. At the same time, it’s an impressive book, a historical document that will serve to remind people, in the future, just what the first pandemic of the twenty-first century was like. Juliet might be extreme, but not so extreme that she doesn’t remind me of some people I’ve read about (fortunately, not people I know personally).
Juliet’s Diary is also, perhaps surprisingly, a sexy book. I always find Giselle Renarde’s erotic scenes to be original, visceral and lush. This secret lesbian diary is no exception. The protagonist’s confessional complaints and annoyed musings are punctuated by the infrequent but intense encounters between the two women. Romi becomes increasingly exhausted, barely able to muster a bit of lust, but somehow Juliet’s desire for her never flags.
I don’t think the author penned this book with the market in mind. It’s not a crowd pleaser. In fact, in some ways it’s a very difficult read, especially since we’re still in the midst of the Covid-19 crisis. At the same time, Juliet’s Diary has a sort of brilliant intensity that might take your mind off your own problems.