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Juliet    by Anne Fortier order for
by Anne Fortier
Order:  USA  Can
Ballantine, 2011 (2010)
Hardcover, Softcover, CD, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Twenty-five-year-old Julie Jacobs (who has always been fascinated by Shakespeare and particularly obsessed with Romeo & Juliet) is shocked by the death of her aunt Rose, who raised Julie and her twin sister Janice after the deaths of their parents in Italy when they were small. She learns of Rose's death from Umberto, their beloved family butler.

In parallel with the modern story, readers have the pleasure of following a romantic account (six hundred years before in medieval Tuscany) of the lives of Romeo and Giulietta, events very different from what evolved into Shakespeare's version. There are warring rival families, the Tolomeis and the Salimbenis. Friar Lorenzo is Giulietta's protector and friend. A famous painter, Maestro Ambrogio, plays a key role. And, of course, there's a doomed romance between Giulietta Tolomei and Romeo Marescotti, who is eventually forced to flee the city after being falsely accused of murder, leaving his beloved to a terrible fate.

Julie and Janice have always been opposites and have always bickered. But Aunt Rose treated them equally, so Julie is shocked when her aunt's will leaves everything to her sister. However, Umberto hands her a secret legacy, an envelope containing a letter, a passport (in Julie's birth name of Giulietta Tolomei), and a key. In the letter, Rose tells her that her mother left something in Siena meant for Julie alone. So, of course Julie flies to Italy, meeting the vivacious Eva Maria Salimbeni on the plane.

When they land, Eva Maria introduces Julie to her godson, the disapproving and suspicious Alessandro Santini, who drives them into the city. Julie retrieves her heritage, a wooden box, which contains an old crucifix, a cheap copy of Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet, letters, and papers (most of them different versions of the story that pre-dated Shakespeare's play). Julie is fascinated by Maestro Ambrogio's Journal, written in 1340 and mentioning her ancestress, Giulietta Tolomei. She also makes contact with relatives in modern Siena.

Over time, Julie learns about her mother's obsession with Giulietta Tolomei and with a family curse, and discovers that her parents were murdered. She is followed by sinister figures and her hotel room is ransacked. She befriends a painter, Maestro Lippi, whose workshop is the same one once used by Maestro Ambrogio. She dreams of the past and of a 'castle of whispering ghosts.' And she learns of a treasure, Juliet's Eyes, large sapphires that were set in a golden statue on the legendary young lover's death.

Unfortunately others seek that treasure also, and are willing to kill for it - just as they did in the past. Complicating matters further, both Janice and Umberto wend their ways to Italy to join in the intrigue. Will Julie find her modern Romeo, and do they have any chance of a happy ending this time? Anne Fortier does an outstanding job of rewriting their story, both in 1340 and in modern times - don't miss Juliet.

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