Synopses & Reviews
Alack, alack, what blood is this which stains
The stony entrance of this sepulchre?
It has taken me a while to figure out where to start. You could argue that my story began more than six hundred years ago, with a highway robbery in medieval Tuscany. Or, more recently, with a dance and a kiss at Castello Salimbeni, when my parents met for the first time. But I would never have come to know any of this without the event that changed my life overnight and forced me to travel to Italy in search of the past. That event was the death of my great-aunt Rose.
It took Umberto three days to find me and tell me the sad news. Considering my virtuosity in the art of disappearing, I am amazed he succeeded at all. But then, Umberto always had an uncanny ability to read my mind and predict my movements, and besides, there were only so many Shakespeare summer camps in Virginia.
How long he stood there, watching the theater performance from the back of the room, I do not know. I was backstage as always, too absorbed in the kids, their lines and props to notice anything else around me until the curtain fell. After the dress rehearsal that afternoon, someone had misplaced the vial of poison, and for lack of better, Romeo would have to commit suicide by eating Tic Tacs.
“But they give me heartburn ” the boy had complained, with all the accusatory anxiety of a fourteen-year-old.
“Excellent ” I had said, resisting a motherly urge to adjust the velvet hat on his head. “That’ll help you stay in character.”
Only when the lights came on afterwards, and the kids dragged me onstage to bombard me with gratitude, did I notice the familiar figure looming near the exit, contemplating me through the applause. Stern and statuesque in his dark suit and tie, Umberto stood out like a lone reed of civilization in a primordial swamp. He always had. For as long as I could remember, he had never worn a single piece of clothing that could be considered casual. Khaki shorts and golf shirts, to Umberto, were the garments of men who have no virtues left, not even shame.
Later, when the onslaught of grateful parents subsided and I could finally walk off the stage, I was stopped briefly by the program director, who took me by the shoulders and shook me heartily—he knew me too well to attempt a hug. “Good job with the youngsters, Julie ” he gushed. “I can count on you again next summer, can’t I?”
“Absolutely,” I lied, walking on. “I’ll be around.”
Approaching Umberto at last, I looked in vain for that little happiness at the corner of his eyes that was usually there when he saw me again after some time away. But there was no smile, not even a trace, and I now understood why he had come. Stepping silently into his embrace, I wished I had the power to flip reality upside down like an hourglass, and that life was not a finite affair, but rather a perpetually recurring passage through a little hole in time.
“Don’t cry, principessa,” he said into my hair, “she wouldn’t have liked it. We can’t all live forever. She was eighty-two.”
“I know. But—” I stood back and wiped my eyes. “Was Janice there?”
Umberto’s eyes narrowed as they always did when my twin sister was mentioned. &
"Fortier bobs and weaves between Shakespearean tragedy and popular romance for a high-flying debut in which American Julie Jacobs travels to Siena in search of her Italian heritage — and possibly an inheritance — only to discover she is descended from 14th-century Giulietta Tomei, whose love for Romeo defied their feuding families and inspired Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Julie's hunt leads her to the families' descendants, still living in Siena, still feuding, and still struggling under the curse of the friar who wished a plague on both their houses. Julie's unraveling of the past is assisted by a Felliniesque contessa and the contessa's handsome nephew, and complicated by mobsters, police, and a mysterious motorcyclist. To understand what happened centuries ago, in the previous generation, and all around her, Julie relies on relics: a painting, a journal, a dagger, a ring. Readers enjoy the additional benefit of antique texts alternating with contemporary narratives, written in the language of modern romance and enlivened by brisk storytelling. Fortier navigates around false clues and twists, resulting in a dense, heavily plotted love story that reads like a Da Vinci Code for the smart modern woman. (Aug.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
"Fortier's debut offers a beguiling mix of romance, intrigue, history, and Shakespeare....Lovers of adventurous fiction will lose themselves in Fortier's exciting, intricately woven tale." Booklist
"While the publisher is comparing it to Diane Setterfield's The Thirteenth Tale and Sarah Dunant's The Birth of Venus, this entertaining historical thriller is more in line with Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code (but much better written!), with its hunt for clues to a secret." Library Journal
"The strongest point of the book is the flavorful, evocative descriptions of Siena, with its ancient neighborhoods, rivalries and family feuds, and the annual running of the Palio horse race....On the whole, the story is fun, if silly, and engaging in spots." Diana Gabaldon, The Washington Post
"Juliet is nicely done, a novel with all the elements of a thriller-like puzzle but presented with a good deal more depth than is usually found in that genre. Julie isn't a device to reveal a plot, she is a three-dimensional woman who is pulled, against her will, into intrigue. The result is a satisfying stew, worth the investment of time to consume." Denver Post
When Julie Jacobs leaves for Italy per the instructions of her late aunt's will, she never imagines that she'll be thrust into a centuries-old feud, not to mention one of the most legendary romances of all time.
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?
From Anne Fortier comes a sweeping, beautifully written novel of intrigue and identity, of love and legacy, as a young woman discovers that her own fate is irrevocably tied—for better or worse—to literature’s greatest star-crossed lovers.
After she visits Italy per the instructions of her late aunt's will, Juliet Jacobs is thrust into a centuries-old feud, uncovering the story of her ancestor, Giulietta, whose love for a man named Romeo proved ill-fated, and finding herself under threat after the past and present begin to resemble one another. A first novel.
About the Author
Anne Fortier grew up in Denmark and emigrated to the United States in 2002 to work in film. She co-produced the Emmy-winning documentary Fire and Ice: The Winter War of Finland and Russia and holds a Ph.D. in the history of ideas from Aarhus University, Denmark. The story of Juliet was inspired by Anne Fortier's mother, who always considered Verona her true home...until she discovered Siena.