Usually a novel set in 1340 would hold no appeal for me. Nor would a novel about Romeo and Juliet. And yet, I decided to start Juliet by Anne Fortier, knowing it was due back at the library, just to see if I would enjoy it. From page one I was sucked into the story, which alternates between the present and 1340, as Julie Johnson (formerly Guilietta Tolomei) tries to uncover the secrets to her past. Julie and her twin sister Janice were raised by their Aunt Rose after the unexpected death of their mother Diane and their much older father, an Italian professor. Immediately after their mother's death the girls were brought to the United States from Italy, never learning about their father's side of the family or what really happened to their parents. After their Aunt Rose dies Janice is given her house, and Julie is given a bizarre inheritance, one in which she must go to Italy to uncover the secrets her mother has kept. Not knowing what could be in store for her, Julie sets off. Once in Italy things become complicated as she meets up with a few people who all have their hand in trying to recover Julie's hidden treasure.
Julie, or Guiliana, and her sister are direct descendants of Juliet's family and as things unfold, Julie must finally put an end to the curse that has befallen her family. Told in alternating chapters of the present and the past - 1340 - the true story of Romeo and Juliet unfolds. While people may be familiar with Shakespeare's version, his is merely a re-telling of events, and Julie comes to learn what may actually have transpired between the two star-crossed lovers.
There is a lot to this book - suspense, romance, history. While the two books share nothing in common in terms of topic, reading Juliet reminded me of The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. Both books are ones that I would not normally consider myself liking, yet the writing was so easy to get into. Both are long with many twists and turns along the way, hard to put down, and full of suspense. Despite my initial disinterest because of the time period, Fortier's ability to move the story back and forth in time kept me wanting to read more.