Julie Jacobs and her sister Janice are devasted when their beloved Aunt Rose passes away. She has raised the twins since they were two years old, after both their mother and father died in tragic accidents in Italy.
What Julie inherits is a key to a safety deposit box in Siena, Italy and the promise that it will lead her to a family treasure. When she arrives in Italy and locates the box, she is startled to discover that the treasure is research that her late mother Diane was working on....that shows she is descended from a young woman named Giulietta Tolomei. And that her own birth name is....Giulietta Tolomei.
Fortier cleverly retells the original story of Romeo and Juliet. Most of us have studied Shakespeare's version in high school. As Julie discovers, he was not the original author of this story. The facts used in Diane's research had me heading for the Internet. I was fascinated by the historical details used and woven in to the novel. Fortier's research was impeccable.
The book tells the story of Giulietta in Siena (not Verona!) in 1340. We are privy to the origins of the lover's initial meeting, the family feuds and the intrigue. At the same time, in juxtaposing chapters, we follow the modern day Julie as she traces the life of her historical ancestor. But it seems that history may be repeating itself. The past has not been forgotten by the families and residents of Siena. For them, Julie is Giulietta and the past must be set right. Wherefore art thou Romeo?
Of the two stories, I enjoyed the 1340's more. I really appreciated the historical detail and the language and atmosphere painted clear pictures. Giulietta is the star of this storyline, but the secondary characters are just as appealing - especially Father Lorenzo who again is based on historical fact. I think I did enjoy this tale the most as it is a treasured favourite and it just flowed better for me.
The modern Julie is an engaging character, but at times I found her actions, exploits and dialogue to be a bit choppy and over the top. The course of the book takes place over the course of a short time and I found everything moving a bit too quickly for believability.
However, if you look at the second storyline as a combination of light Dan Brown historical mystery/adventure, Princess Bride fairy tale, My Big Fat Greek Wedding romantic misunderstandings, it absolutely works.
I must admit I did put the book down halfway through. At that point the two story lines were mirroring each other and I felt I was just reading the same thing twice. Once I picked it up again, things started moving faster, with more time spent in the modern world and the plot racing to it's conclusion.
Those looking for a read with history, mystery, adventure and romance will find it here with Anne Fortier's Juliet. I can see this being made into a movie. Read an excerpt of Juliet.
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