Julie Jacobs is stunned the day she finds out that her great-aunt Rose, who raised her and her twin sister Janice, has died. She's even more surprised when she finds out at the funeral that her real name is Giulietta Tolomei and Rose wanted her to go back to Siena, where she was born, and find a treasure that her mother left for her in a safety deposit box. Of course things are never that easy in real life or in fiction. Julie is soon in the middle of a treasure hunt, being pursued by ruthless treasure hunters, and wrapped up in the long ago story of Romeo and Juliet.
Overall, I just loved this. It was full of excitement and suspense and romance and Italian scenery and Siena and gelato, and just so much Italian life. What's not to love?
There are two different storylines, that of Julie in the present and Romeo and Juliet in 1340. Shakespeare got the bare bones right, but the details are quite a bit different, let me tell you. The biggest change is that their story takes place in Siena rather than Verona. I loved the descriptions of the city, and I especially loved that the author worked in il palio, a famous, highly-competitive horse race Romeo rides in. Just so much excitement! He's a hero to win any girl's heart!
Julie in her own past was very irritating. Her sole purpose in life was to be the exact opposite of her twin, even if she managed to hurt herself in the process. She comes into her own in Italy though, and starts to finally get over it. There, I mostly liked her. She's developing a spine and she's not too guilty of being the stupid girl who does everything wrong. I was as clueless as she was about what was going on, what the treasure might be, and where it could be located.
There's a bit of a mystical element that might bother some readers. I read lots of fantasy too, so something like that would never bother me. Anyone looking for a book set firmly in the rational world might not like this.
The big thing that bothered me is that about halfway through the book, Julie's relationship with two characters completely changes. I mean, complete 180 with absolutely no explanation given. I can sort of explain away one change to my satisfaction, but the other? It was crazy. I kept waiting on this character to show his or her true colors and go back to being a horrible person, but it never happened. So was Julie lying about her relationship initially, was she crazy? I have no idea. Thinking about it bothers me a lot, but I liked the rest of the book well enough that I made the conscious decision to just let it go.
For excitement, romance, action, and an original take on the Romeo and Juliet myth, go ahead and pick this up. I don't think you'll be disappointed.
I received an ARC for review from Ballantine Books via Shelf Awareness.
Read an excerpt.
Find author Anne Fortier on her website and Facebook.
Check out the book's official site, where you can take a virtual tour of the magical city of Siena.
Read Alayne's 4.5 star review at The Crowded Leaf
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