Lois Leveen


Juliet's Nurse

" Beautifully written . . . Leveen's intricate storytelling is impressive."
    —  Library Journal

“[Juliet's Nurse] brings mid-14th century, post-plague Verona to life with its poor, its royalty, and the battles between rival families… The characters from Shakespeare's work become present—Lord and Lady Cappelletti, Tybalt and Mercutio, Rosaline, and the ill-fated Romeo—and Leveen adds rich new layers to the story we know so well.”
    —  Publishers Weekly

Audiobook "Earphones Award"
    —  Audiofile Magazine

"A lusty ... retelling of Romeo and Juliet from the nurse's perspective ... [that gives] greater weight to a mother's love and losses."
    —  Kirkus Review

One of 10 Fall/Winter Titles to Read Now: "To Leveen’s wonderfully crafted plot, add lovely language and a cast of truly complex characters. A sure bet for fans of Geraldine Brooks."
    — EarlyWord.com

"One of the most creative and innovative works in historical fiction this year."
    —  The Pittsburgh Examiner

"The age-old tale of Romeo and Juliet is told with a different twist . . . Book groups, put this on your list."
    —  Salem Statesman Journal

"Lyrically affecting . . . this is a wonderfully fun story with unforgettable characters that breathes new life into one of literature’s masterpieces"
    —  Historical Novel Review

"The brilliant and unstoppable Lois Leveen‘s second book, Juliet’s Nurse . . . is not a retelling as much as it is a reinvention. If Romeo and Juliet is the greatest love story of all time, then the love story in Juliet’s Nurse is the deepest . . . the kind of love that both brings us into the world and fixes us to it."
    —  Hip Mama

"The book offers rich observations of the era, revelatory insights into human nature and a new interpretation of Shakespeare’s original text . . . Leveen, who tells this story in first person from Angelica’s perspective, supplies vivid sensory particulars — sounds, smells, tastes, textures and colors of 14th-century Verona swirl across the pages."
    —  The Bellingham Herald

"With her newest book,“Juliet’s Nurse,” Leveen revisits literary history . . . Heap credit on Leveen for bringing her own innovation to the archives and creating an impressive [story], all her own."
    —  The Eugene Register-Guard

"Book groups are always asking for recommendations so I’m excited that Lois Leveen’s Juliet’s Nurse just came out. Her first book, The Secrets of Mary Bowser, has been so popular with book groups that I’m thrilled to have another to recommend."
    —  Booklist

One of 7 New Titles to Read Now: "An unforgettable prequel to the classic love story that will make you want to reread Shakespeare."
    —  Chateleine

"Both convincing and intimate . . . Juliet’s Nurse makes for very shrewd and intelligent reading."
    — Open Letters Monthly, Art and Literature Review

"Sumptuously researched . . . you'll never think about Romeo and Juliet quite the same way again."
    —  BookTrib.com

"Earthy, witty, emotionally vibrant and all too human, Angelica makes Juliet's Nurse a compelling read, sometimes delightful, sometimes heart-wrenching."
    —  HistoricalNovels.Info

"Juliet’s Nurse is a fun read, earthy, bawdy and rollicking . . . full of sensual delights."
    —  Rover: Culture and Conversation

“Lois Leveen’s richly detailed, fascinating novel offers a wholly original and intriguing take on one of Shakespeare’s most beloved plays through the imagined life of Juliet’s faithful nurse, whose secret loves and tragedies rival the young lovers’ own.”
    — Jennifer Chiaverini, New York Times bestselling author of Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker and Mrs. Lincoln’s Rival

“Wise, thoughtful, and utterly irresistible. A powerful story not just of youth seduced by love and destruction, but also of maturity left to pick up what is left and carry on.”
    — Eva Stachniak, Internationally bestselling author of The Winter Palace and Empress of the Night

“Lois Leveen has crafted a startlingly original take on an iconic love story, and with grace and insight presents Shakespeare’s Verona and its characters in a wonderfully new and surprising light. Angelica’s unabashed sensual nature is balanced by her understanding of the complexities of the human predicament, and her resilience inspires us to be more tolerant of our own wounded hearts.”
    — Linda Holeman, Internationally bestselling author of The Devil on Her Tongue and The Lost Souls of Angelkov

"Lois Leveen's Juliet's Nurse is an engrossing and never-before-seen glimpse into life in Shakespeare's 'fair Verona.' With sumptuous language, well-researched period detail, and a cast of compelling characters, Leveen weaves a world in which love and deception lurk on every page and around every corner. Treat yourself to this new and richly imagined version of literature's most cherished and tragic love story."
    — Allison Pataki, New York Times bestselling author of The Traitor's Wife

“If Romeo and Juliet is the story of two star-crossed lovers, then Juliet’s Nurse is the equally compelling love affair between the infant Juliet and her milk mother and nurse, Angelica. Leveen’s novel is clever, fast-paced, well-researched and beautifully written. Convincing historical details are sprinkled throughout, provoking in the reader the sense of how it must have been in the 14th century. I loved it..”
    — Roberta Rich, Internationally bestselling author of The Midwife of Venice and The Harem Midwife

“Juliet’s nurse, Angelica, commands center stage in Leveen’s intelligently and beautifully written and sometimes chilling novel that’s deliciously sensual and fittingly dark. Leveen immerses us in the world of a nurse whose gothic sensibilities bring psychological and political intrigue to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet in a way that not only seems true to the classic but illuminates it. I couldn’t stop reading.”
    — Arthur Little, UCLA professor of English and author of Shakespeare Jungle Fever

"A richly imagined and deeply researched historical novel, set in Europe's late Middle Ages, and told in a lilting narrative voice . . . There is much history for the lovers of historical fiction to relish: herbs, medicines, customs, food, sweets, houses, décor. The author's research has been extensive. But it does not weigh down the story. Instead, it adds credibility to the tale."
    — Italophile Book Reviews

"I have to admit that of all [Shakespeare's] works, Romeo and Juliet is among my least favorite: I never really got the passion our teenaged stars had. But in Leveen's hands, the cultural context of life in medieval Verona makes their choices suddenly real for me (this is why I love a good novel! I understand more!). Rich in detail about life in medieval Italy, this is also the story of love between a parent and child, even if the parent is really a wetnurse. Leveen articulates the joy and agony of raising a child that isn't one's own . . . It was eye-opening and fascinating."
    —  Unabridged Chick

What readers are saying

From Goodreads:

"I was hooked from start to finish and believe this is a readers' advisory librarian's dream recommendation--the story is very compelling, the setting of 14th century Verona, Italy, is vivid, the characters are brought to amazing life, and the language is exquisite . . . I can't wait to start recommending this to library patrons--oh heck, why wait? I'll just make sure it's on order and build some high anticipation. Also, this perfect for older teen girls, especially those who have read (and perhaps wept over) Romeo & Juliet. I would also like to put this in the hands of every book group I know of."
    — Robin (posted July 24)

"Juliet's Nurse provides a fascinating portrait of the characters in the classic tale of Romeo and Juliet, but told from a different perspective. The sense of time and place seemed accurate and well-researched, and added greatly to my appreciation of this novel as well Shakespeare's version. Leveen's novel fleshed out the backstory of this tale and added many new dimensions to both the plot and themes of this famous tale. Although geared toward a mature audience (probably not ninth grade students), this would be an excellent companion to a study of Shakespeare's play. Leveen's novel brings new life to the timeless issues and questions of this famous story, and was a most enjoyable read."
    — Lisa (posted July 6)

"We all know the story of Romeo and Juliet, the tragic love story that ends in the death of both main characters. Little attention is paid to the woman who knew Juliet best, her nurse. Leveen introduces us to the woman who will become Juliet’s nurse, a woman coping with the death of her own infant. The most famous love story in history gets a fresh take with this inventive and unique novel. Whether you like Romeo and Juliet or not, you’ll enjoy this story of Juliet and her nurse."
    — Rosee (posted June 6)

From Library Thing:

"The Nurse in Romeo and Juliet is usually portrayed as bawdy comic relief. But what is the backstory of this character, who, aside from the title characters, has the most lines in Shakespeare's classic doomed love story? Why has this wet nurse stayed on until Juliet is nearly 14 years old? What events in the past come back to influence the story as theatregoers see it? In this tale, the events of the play are preceded by a backstory of sensuality, loss, and love. Tybalt, brash sword-wielder of the play, is a lonely young boy roving for affection and a sense of place. Rosaline -- Romeo's obsession before meeting Juliet -- plays an unexpected role. Friar Lawrence's character reveals decades of behind-the-scenes involvement in the plotlines of others. And the nurse herself harbors a secret that teeters between the magical and the tragic. This is an fictional embellishment that mingles the rich colors, taste, and textures of Like Water for Chocolate with the fierce, brash loyalties of the Tudors themselves. A sumptuous treat that will give you new empathy for one of Shakespeare's beleaguered buffoons."
    — Kristin F, librarian and professor at the University of Michigan

From BookBrowse:

"Lois Leveen has done a superb job of presenting the lives of both the poor and the rich in Verona, Italy in the 1300s. The author's extensive research is evident in the many details that Angelica, Juliet's nurse, shares as she describes her daily life within the Cappelletti household. Initially, Angelica seemed like a simple peasant woman who happened to be hired as the wet nurse to new born Juliet. But the many facets of her personality were gradually revealed as her importance to the family grew and she realized that pain and suffering were felt by all people, regardless of their station in life. Although Angelica came to the Cappelletti family filled with grief, she coped with her losses by knowing that 'loving what's in this life is the only remedy for death.'"
    — Helen S., Sun City, Arizona

"Italian history seeps through the pages and you won't be able to read fast enough. You know how it ends, but getting there is worth sleepless nights reading Lois Leveen's story."
    — Marylou C., Winfield, Illinois

Interviews with Lois are posted on the Bio section of this website.
Buy Now


Buy now


The Secrets of Mary Bowser

"Deftly integrating historical research into this gripping tale of adventure, love, and national conflict, Leveen brings Mary to life and evenhandedly reveals the humanity on both sides of America's deadliest war."
    — Publishers Weekly Read the full review (warning:contains spoilers)

"Leveen honors the life and historical importance of a brave, resourceful woman."
    — Kirkus Review Read the full review (warning: contains spoilers)

Selected for Nine Notable Debut Novels
    — BookBrowse

Selected for Top Ten Books of 2012 by Northwest Authors
    — The Oregonian

Selected for Top Ten Mother's Day Gift Books
    — Kirkus Review and the Huffington Post

"A brilliant historical novel . . . The Secrets of Mary Bowser is a rich, layered story of slavery, of the South and of what it means to fight for what we believe in, no matter the cost."
    — Shelf Awareness Read the full review

"Beautifully written . . . a gripping book."
    — The Toronto Star

"This book has "best seller" written all over it. The Secrets of Mary Bowser is not only fascinating reading, but also historical fiction of the highest caliber."
    — The Seattle Post-Intelligencer Read the full review

"A captivating novel . . . Mary's world is nuanced and complicated. . . the reader is thoroughly drawn into it."
    — The Oregonian Read the full review

Featured in Historical Novel Review. Read a PDF of the feature

"This novel will sweep you into the world of Mary Bowser."
    — The Salem Statesman-Journal

"In addition to being an exciting read, The Secrets of Mary Bowser would be ideal for use as a common reader or in a first year experience program. Lois Leveen is a dynamic and engaging speaker and a natural teacher who can appeal to a wide range of audiences."
    — Professor Gloria Hochstein, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and President-Elect, Sigma Tau Delta Board of Directors

"I cannot recommend this book enough. This should be a required read for everyone . . . Run to your bookstore or you library, and pick up a copy of The Secrets of Mary Bowser. It's an A++."
    — The Unconventional Librarian

“Masterfully written . . . Balancing fire and grace, the story of Mary Bowser is an ethical journey we won’t soon forget, one that takes us from hatred to courage to love.”
    — Brunonia Barry, bestselling author of The Lace Reader and The Map of True Places

“Told with clarity, confidence, and courage . . . A riveting and powerful book.”
    — Naseem Rakha, international best-selling author of The Crying Tree

“Packed with drama, intrigue, love, loss, and most of all, the resilience of a remarkable heroine who forges her own destiny from the first page. What a treat!”
    — Kelly O’Connor McNees, author of The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott

"Wonderfully written with just enough drama and adventure, Leveen’s novel is thoroughly inviting from page one."
    — The Birmingham Times

"Meticulously researched historical fiction . . . best consumed with sweet tea and a porch swing."
    — "Books of Summer" pick, Daily Candy

"A fascinating read about slavery, war and love. Lots to enjoy here, plenty to learn too and good scope for debate."
    — Book Group Books

"A unique and fascinating novel, unsparing in portraying the moral conundrums facing both white and black in the American South before and during the Civil War."
    — HistoricalNovels.info

"The Secrets of Mary Bowser offers reading groups much to discuss . . . there is so much to think about after reading this book."
    — Lindsay Healy, The Little Reader Library

"Leveen excels at weaving together all the strands of a very complex story set during a complicated period in history. . . An intriguing, engaging read that will be an excellent catalyst for reading group discussion. "
    — Teresa Majury, NEWBOOKS: The Magazine for Readers and Reading Groups

"Mary's courage and determination will inspire you."
    — SheKnows.com

"The Secrets of Mary Bowser is a beautiful and captivating story . . . The writing is outstanding, blending historical fact and fiction into an amazing story that will stick with you long after you have finished the book. I was hooked from the very first page of this compelling story."
    — Michelle Vasquez, Life in Review

"[This] story will pull you in and won't let you go. This is definitely going to be on my Best Books of 2012 List."
    — Freedom Acres Book Review

"Destined to be on many "best of the year" lists . . . Starting from the briefest of mentions of this remarkable woman in historical records, Leveen deftly fleshes out the story of Mary Bowser."
    — We Be Reading

What readers are saying

From Amazon:

"The best book I've read in months"
    — Anne M. Hunter

"Beautifully written historical fiction. . . The book is perfectly paced and well balanced . . . a mesmerizing read."
    — J. Prather

From Bookbrowse:

"This book is a 'Must Read'! Beautifully written"
    — Jane H., Indianola, IA

"Great historical fiction makes you forget that you know the ending, so that you may learn it anew. Lois Leveen has a beautiful way with words, a call a friend and read aloud voice."
    — Barbie R, Jamestown, PA

"This an exceptional book . . .written with such clarity and love. I am going to recommend this book to the History teacher at the school where I work."
    — Janice C., Hayward, CA

From Goodreads:

"I loved this book and that's a pretty rare thing for me. I tend to be rather finicky about my fiction and most of what I do read doesn't thrill me. This did. The author's research on the period and her skill as a writer come shining through in this well told and emotional story."
    — Barb, Trumansburg, NY

"[Lois Leveen] has a unique ability to seamlessly weave what must have been a massive amount of research into a well-plotted story . . . I haven't gotten this lost in a book since I was twelve years old!"
    — Susan Weissman, Mount Laurel, NJ

"The detail in the telling makes it quite mesmerizing. . . A highly accomplished debut novel."
    — Annie Williams, West Yorkshire, UK

Interviews with Lois are posted on the Bio section of this website.