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When Julie Jacobs inherits a key to a safety-deposit box in Siena, Italy, she is told it will lead her to an old family treasure. Soon she is launched on a winding and perilous journey into the history of her ancestor Giulietta, whose legendary love for a young man named Romeo rocked the foundations of medieval Siena. As Julie crosses paths with the descendants of the families involved in Shakespeare’s unforgettable blood feud, she begins to realize that the notorious curse – “A plague on both your houses!” – is still at work, and that she is the next target. It seems that the only on who can save Julie from her fate is Romeo – but where is he?
Of all the books I have received through LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers program, this has been the only one I have heartily enjoyed and I’m so glad I was able to snag it. I’ll be the first to admit that I have never enjoyed Shakespeare’s telling of Romeo and Juliet (the whole concept of love at first sight makes me roll my eyes), so if I, a Shakespeare naysayer can find pleasure in this tale, then fans of the story will be sure to fall in love with Fortier’s version.
Fortier has actually provided two stories in one, which was my favorite thing about the whole book (hey, who doesn’t like a bargain?). Not only do readers get to come along on Julie Jacobs’ adventures in modern-day Siena, Italy as she tries to solve the mystery of an ancient curse and locate a family treasure, but we get to follow the lives of the original Giulietta and Romeo, as chronicled by various witnesses.
Miracle upon miracles, Fortier actually made me believe in the romance of Romeo and Juliet by making their relationship a slow but intense burn over the course of several months instead of the instant inferno of the Shakespeare tale. I was actually hoping that the pair of them would survive the feuding of the various families of Siena, since Fortier had actually breathed a genuine strength and passion and likeable spirit into these characters (me, rooting for that finniky, impulsive, melodramatic duo? C’est impossible!). Speaking of blood feuds, let me just tell you that I am glad to have not been a woman during the medieval time period, because if my aunt and uncle tried to marry me off to whom they tried to foist on Giulietta, I’d be more than a little upset.
Unfortunately, Julie Jacobs’ part in this book pales a bit in comparison with that of Romeo and Giulietta’s. She grew on me after a while, but there were times in the beginning that I found her to be a bit annoying, though I think that had to do mostly with several aspects of her character that I just don’t like in people in general. She seemed overly fixated with being the opposite of her obnoxious twin sister, Janice, instead of simply trying to be herself and focused too much on how much money this supposed family treasure was gong to make her. I guess if I had been living the aimless life and was 20,000 dollars in debt because I thought I was going to become quite the little heiress when my great-aunt kicked the bucket, then I might have acted in the same manner. Like I said, though, Julie did mature over the course of the novel and eventually saw the true worth of this treasure, which did much to redeem her in my eyes.
Despite my qualms with Julie, overall, Fortier’s work was quite impressive. She painted a vibrant and vivid picture of the history, culture and people of Siena and took me on so many twists and turns in her story that I never saw coming. In any ordinary mystery novel I can usually figure out those surprises from a mile away, so I was impressed that Fortier pulled a fast one on me. Juliet was a highly satisfying read and I can’t recommend enough that you be on the look out for it on the seventeenth of August.
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