Author: Anne Fortier
Read for: 2011 Book Blogger Recommendation Challenge
Twenty-five-year-old Julie Jacobs is heartbroken over the death of her beloved Aunt Rose. But the shock goes even deeper when she learns that the woman who has been like a mother to her has left her entire estate to Julie’s twin sister. The only thing Julie receives is a key—one carried by her mother on the day she herself died—to a safety-deposit box in Siena, Italy.
This key sends Julie on a journey that will change her life forever—a journey into the troubled past of her ancestor Giulietta Tolomei. In 1340, still reeling from the slaughter of her parents, Giulietta was smuggled into Siena, where she met a young man named Romeo. Their ill-fated love turned medieval Siena upside-down and went on to inspire generations of poets and artists, the story reaching its pinnacle in Shakespeare’s famous tragedy.
But six centuries have a way of catching up to the present, and Julie gradually begins to discover that here, in this ancient city, the past and present are hard to tell apart. The deeper she delves into the history of Romeo and Giulietta, and the closer she gets to the treasure they allegedly left behind, the greater the danger surrounding her—superstitions, ancient hostilities, and personal vendettas. As Julie crosses paths with the descendants of the families involved in the unforgettable blood feud, she begins to fear that the notorious curse—“A plague on both your houses!”—is still at work, and that she is destined to be its next target. Only someone like Romeo, it seems, could save her from this dreaded fate, but his story ended long ago. Or did it? (goodreads.com)
It’s no secret that I really don’t like the Romeo & Juliet story, and it really has nothing to do with the storyline itself, but the fact that it’s over-done. But reading this book was nothing like reading a new take on the Romeo & Juliet story. It was a romance, definitely, but the romance is sewn through Julie Jacobs’s adventures, and it becomes more than just a romance. It becomes an adventure.
The book eventually alternates chapters between the present, with Julie’s story, and the past as Julie reads the letters and papers her mother hid away. I thought this would be distracting, but instead it enriched Julie’s story, and unfolded a new version of Romeo & Juliet that I hadn’t heard before–the one that inspired Shakespeare’s version.
I found Julie to be a little boring at times, and sometimes annoying (and most definitely naive, especially considering how “travelled” she is supposed to be), but I disliked her pushy sister, Janice, even more. Janice often treats Julie like crap, then has the nerve to be upset when Julie brushes her off or doesn’t listen to her. Julie also does really weird things, like run when she should stay and listen to explanation. The book could have been a little shorter if Julie had just followed her heart and gone with Alessandro in the first place.
Despite my annoyance with Julie and Janice, I fell in love with the book. I sometimes felt I was walking through the streets of Siena with Julie. And I so desperately wanted her to be with Alessandro that I would roll my eyes when she did something to push him away. Although the “hate at first sight” scheme might be a little contrived, for Julie and Alessandro it seemed to work; she was intrigued, and not at all put off when it seemed he didn’t speak english at first, and she was definitely physically attracted to him. I just had a hard time believing that the reason he doesn’t believe she is Giuletta is that she is supposed to be dead. It felt like an awkward plot point thrown in to give a little more twist to the story.
Overall, I loved the book (as if the rating didn’t give that away). I didn’t walk into it expecting a romance, but that’s exactly what I got, and it was pleasantly surprising.
Originally posted 24 February 2011.