I recently received an ARC of Anne Fortier's Juliet, which is going on sale August 17, 2010. Here's a link to pre-order the book. Update: image of the cover -
My feelings towards this book are ambivalent.
As you might have guessed, the title alludes to the female half of those famous star-crossed lovers Shakespeare wrote about. When the aunt who raised her (and her twin sister) dies, Julie Jacobs returns to the house. She is upset that she didn't utilize the time she had left to say goodbye to her aunt, and becomes further upset when she discovers she was written out of her aunt's will (or was she? An interesting discovery springs up later).
The servant who was like a father to her growing up gives her a letter her aunt left to her, which essentially says her aunt has been lying to her all of these years by changing her name to Julie Jacobs. Her real name is Guilietta Tolomei. Her aunt's letter also claims that her mother was searching for a treasure in Siena, Italy, and that this treasure was meant for Guilietta, and not her sister, which is why the house was left to the sister. The sibling rivalry in the beginning is thick enough to eat with a spoon.
Julie is surprised, as partisan gifts are rather out of character for her aunt, but hops on a plane to Siena with the passport her aunt left her. She is deeply in debt, having always relied on the idea that her aunt was going to give her money, and is grieved to discover that now she will have to find her own way to climb up the mountain of debt she has accrued.
It gets worse when she discovers that this "treasure" her mother searched for was really more of a genealogical thing. Her mother found documents that indicate that she is related to Guilietta Tolomei, the girl whose love with a boy named Romeo Marescotti inspired several dramas about their doomed love, one of which was done by Shakespeare. Her mother was also consumed by the idea that the way the young lovers and those who helped them were treated had left a curse on their family lines, and was desperately trying to find a way to resolve it.
Honestly, with the exception of some frank selfishness that's a little disconcerting, but probably more honest than plain grief, I like most of that. It's suspenseful, it's interesting historical fiction.
Then, the romance had to get involved.
First, the fact that Guiletta/Julie is STILL a virgin, despite being - gasp - in her twenties, is made an enormously big deal. Give. Me. A. Break. Someone who's waiting for the right person shouldn't allow herself to feel like shit because her sister makes fun of her. I mean, maybe it's realistic to be a little embarrassed. At the same time, she obviously consciously makes the decision to wait - so what is there to be embarrassed about? If she wants to have sex, she could have and still can. If she doesn't, cool; she won't get knocked up.
Second - when she realizes that there is a present day Romeo Marescotti in her presence, the love story line becomes unbearable. I guess Fortier wanted it that way - a mirror to Shakespeare's. A redemption of a historical romance gone awry. But I have the same problem with the book that I have with Shakespeare's couple - these people fall in love too hard, too fast. Usually, when that happens in real life, you realize: "Shit. I don't know this person. The sex (hopefully) is great, but I'm not really in love."
Basically, I feel like the modern day Romeo & Guilietta in Fortier's book are too adult to be acting like their love struck, historical teenaged counterparts.
Other than the love story line, I thought this book was tolerable. Pretty well written, and pretty interesting. The love story line really only gets annoying in the last half or third of the book. Prior to that, it's pretty well done, too.
If you want a quick read, and/or you're interested in a taste of the historical background and influences on Shakespeare's play, and/or you like romance novels, I say give this one a try. In general, it's interesting.