Juliet by Anne Fortier
The story of Romeo and Juliet did not begin with William Shakespeare. Earlier versions of the story hail from Siena rather than "fair Verona, where we lay our scene." That earlier, lesser-known history of Romeo and Juliet was the inspiration for Anne Fortier's debut novel, Juliet (to be released next month).
The action of Juliet jumps between the14th century and the present. The 14th century storyline is that of the true Juliet, Giulietta Tolomei, a daughter of one of two feuding Sienese families. The novel’s protagonist, however, is Julie Jacobs, a descendant of Giulietta Tolomei's twin sister who is cast in the role of a reincarnated Juliet.
After the death of the aunt who raised her, Julie travels to Italy to uncover a secret birthright. As Julie follows the clues left behind by her mother, who believed that there was indeed "a plague on both your houses" that needed to be rectified, the story of the historical Juliet unfolds.
I found Juliet to be a compelling read although I had quite a few problems with it. For example, the relationship between Julie and her twin sister Janice changes drastically and inexplicably at one point in the book.
The shifts between present and past were handled well, but the modern-day plot was at times overly complex (to the point where we as readers could lose track of what the characters were after). As a first-time author, I think Fortier tried to take on a bit too much. Juliet is a historic romantic thriller, that’s also a reinterpretation of a classic. It would be difficult for even a seasoned novelist to balance the myriad aspects of the story.
The Julie as modern-day Juliet is far too overt. This kind of device functions far better when the protagonist is not aware of their role. To my mind when Julie meets her first love interest, the relationship should be able to develop naturally rather than for her to be second-guessing it because of her role in the story (ie. “if I’m Juliet, are you Romeo or Paris?”).
Finally, as an archivist I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that the scenes in the archives were completely unrealistic. That being said, archives and special collections libraries are rarely portrayed accurately in fiction.