Julie Jacobs has always lived in the shadow of her larger-than-life twin, Janice, but when their last living relative unexpectedly passes away, Julie finds herself launched into the limelight of her own life. Much to her shock and chagrin, Julie's inheritance consists of a cryptic letter promising a long-lost fortune, a key, and a new name - her real name, Giulietta Tolomei. Julie's whole life has been a lie and, swamped in debt with nothing to lose, she sets out for Siena to follow the trail of clues her mother left behind nearly two decades before. As Giulietta retraces the steps of her famous ancestress and namesake - Shakespeare's Juliet - and learns the true tragedy behind the legendary lovers, she begins to wonder if some secrets are better left buried. Unfortunately, there is no turning back now, for something sinister has been unleashed on the streets of Siena. Modern-day Giulietta is caught in an ancient blood feud and the only way out is to unearth the treasure that holds the key to her family's fate.
There is something irresistible about Shakespeare's star-crossed young lovers, and Anne Fortier takes the allure to new heights in her ambitious saga that is equal parts historical romance and modern mystery. Juliet seamlessly blends fact and fiction to create a wholly original version of the timeless lovers' twisted fate. The novel alternates between the original events of 1340 and Julie Jacobs' present day escapades, and the flashbacks to medieval Siena are unquestionably the most captivating aspect of the story. Fortier's Romeo and Giulietta are a little more mature than Shakespeare's characters, making their love more believable and, consequently, even more heartbreaking. It was a delight to see a different side of the immortal duo: rather than wallowing in self-pity, Romeo takes daring leaps of faith and remains unswervingly loyal to his Giulietta, while Giulietta herself shows quite a bit of spunk and even a little darkness. The vignettes envelop readers in the atmosphere of the bygone age and make the familiar story simultaneously fresh and foreboding.
The parallel modern-day events move slowly at first, but the latter half of the novel pulls readers into the intrigue and danger surrounding the Tolomei family secrets and keeps them guessing with a constant stream of shocking revelations. The two narratives are told in a subtly different style and cadence that distinguishes them and demonstrates Fortier's talent for storytelling, and the Shakespearean quotes sprinkled through out are an effective addition. However, the modern plot occasionally becomes confusing, and it's never quite clear how much the past and present converge. At times, characters conflate the medieval Giulietta and Romeo with their contemporary counterparts to the point that it is impossible to tell to which pair they are referring or if, in fact, the two are one and the same. The plot would be much more coherent if the foreshadowing was eventually explained in full, rather than leaving allusions half-fulfilled. Though the modern aspect of the novel faltered a bit, Juliet is still an overall thrilling and enchanting tale that will entertain both fans of the Bard and newcomers to the literary icon.