Author: Anne Fortier, 2010.
Genre: Historical Romance. Romantic Suspense. Chick-lit.
Other Details: Paperback. 519 pages.
'Of all the great love stories ever told, hers is perhaps the most famous.
To me, she is the key to my family's fate. To you, she is Juliet.'
The protagonist and narrator for those sections of this novel set in modern times is twenty-five-year-old Julie Jacobs. Already heartbroken by the death of her beloved Aunt Rose, she is shocked to learn that the woman who had been a mother to her following the untimely death of her parents had left her entire estate to Janice, her fraternal twin sister. Janice is quite insufferable about this, gloating over her own good fortune and mocking her quieter sister. However, Julie then receives a letter via her aunt's faithful butler that explains Rose's decision, claiming that a more valuable legacy had been bequeathed to Julie. This turned out to be a key belonging to her mother that would open a safety deposit box located in Siena, Italy.
In 1340, following the slaughter of her parents, Giulietta had been smuggled into Siena, where she had met a young man named Romeo. Their ill-fated love story inspired poets and artists through the centuries finally becoming immortalised in Shakespeare's famous tragedy. Julie soon discovers that the old rivalries between families still simmer below the surface and in following the trail left by her mother she finds further mysteries and, of course, danger.
I'd been attracted to this book by its premise as well as glowing recommendations from three of my favourite authors. It was obvious that Fortier had spent a lot of time researching the origins of the Romeo and Juliet story and also that this début novel was a labour of love as she had followed up on original research undertaken by her mother. She'd also clearly walked the streets of Sienna bringing both its modern day and medieval aspects vividly to life.
The romantic aspect was well-handled, as Julie wonders if she is fated to meet her own Romeo. There is an innocence to Julie that made me care about how things turned out for her. This novel reminded me very much of those works of romantic suspense written by Mary Stewart, such as The Moonspinners, which I had adored as a teenager. Pure escapism and perfect for a summer read.
Web Page for 'Juliet' - with links to excerpt, author information including Q&A and background, picture gallery and reading group guide.