While I have never agreed with the idea that Romeo and Juliet are the greatest romantic couple of all time, I have always enjoyed the play. I actually tend to think of the characters as dumb teenagers, Romeo being inconsistent and changeable (after all, he begins the play by declaring his undying love for Rosalind, a character that is never seen and smart enough to doubt his loyalty), and Juliet simply wanting a way out of her parents' house. If she'd seen Paris first, she might very well have fallen for him or maybe it was the parental approval that proved to be the turn off in that case. The magic of the play is less in the plot or the characters but the language, and Shakespeare's way with words. As a result, I always thought Romeo and Juliet would be a great candidate for a retelling, which seems to be a rather popular subgenre nowadays (see March, written from the perspective of the father of Little Women, or Ahab's Wife narrated by a briefly mentioned wife of the captain in Moby Dick- not that I could actually get through that last one). What if Juliet didn't kill herself, and went to a nunnery like Friar Lawrence offered?
Fortier doesn't quite go that route - Romeo and Juliet are still great lovers, but she grounds the story in a historical setting in Siena, where there are in fact two dueling families. I actually liked the liberties she took with the story and the ways she imagined it may have actually started before being distorted across the centuries. I was less happy with the part of the story that took place in the modern day. The premise of the novel is that when her great-aunt and guardian dies, Julie finds out that she is actually descended from the family of the real Juliet, and that there is a treasure waiting for her in Siena. Unfortunately, Julie is a bit dull and immature - at least in my opinion. When she first opens up her deceased mother's savings deposit box, she is disappointed because there are only old papers in there, not a bunch of money since being a dumbass 25 year old, Julie had never finished college or gotten a real job, and instead run up her credit card debt because she figured she'd inherit from her great-aunt. I'm not saying the heroine needs to have life squared away, but it would help if she wasn't a pushover, who didn't want to be a success because her twin sister was. I also understand that college isn't for everyone, it's hard to get a job nowadays, but there's a difference between going into debt because you have no choice and going into debt because you figure there might be money eventually.
Also, a 25 year old virgin? Really? Should I blame this one on Twilight? Why is there this idea that in order for it to be romantic and true love the woman needs to be a virgin? Was anyone's first time that great? How much fun can it possibly be to have sex with someone that has no clue what they're doing? I may look back and wonder at my taste in men on occasion, but I don't regret the fact that I had sex. You know for sure her "Romeo" isn't waiting for Juliet, and is hooking up with as many willing women as he can find. I guess there was a bit of a reason given one plot twist, but even that was a bit much (SPOILER this ancient order of monks checked the sheets for blood, but how many women even bleed their first time given gymnastics, athletics, tampons, etc. END SPOILER).
While in Siena, Julie quickly meets the descendents of the former dueling families as well as her own relatives. In some ways she is too trusting, telling everyone who she is and what she's doing after being warned to be careful, but naturally she doubts her ability to trust others (while there is no treasure in the box, there are clues that may lead to one). Speaking of which, could someone please write a thriller where the woman actually just trusts the guy she's attracted to and it all turns out alright? I'm getting kind of tired of the cliche where the heroine doesn't trust the guy she likes and wants to sleep with, and in the process of avoiding him gets caught by the actual bad guys. Just have her trust him, and have him be trustworthy. Or shit, let's really go for a twist, and have the main character be right to mistrust the guy.
I actually enjoyed the book while I was reading it, mostly because it alternated between past and present day setting, and I was really curious to see what Fortier imagined a real life version of Romeo and Juliet may have looked like. And Julie wasn't always that annoying, especially when she was trying to figure out the clues. Unfortunately this novel also contained a few cliches I've seen in other books, and I think I've just gotten sick of them, so I'm currently venting here, even though Fortier is not the only author guilty of them. Oh, and one other thing I could have done without - whenever Julie is with her Romeo, she makes comments like "Shakespeare wouldn't like that." Could you be anymore cheesy? Also, stop being so full of yourself: Shakespeare wouldn't care!