Any girl named Juliet is probably going to feel a certain sympathy with Shakespeare’s tragic heroine, but Juliet Jacobs has dreamed about her for her whole life. She even teaches at Shakespearean summer camps. Then, the wealthy aunt who raised her and her twin sister, Janice, dies, leaving Janice her estate and giving Juliet only a letter, a key, and a ticket to Siena. There, Juliet, after immediately being taken under the wing of a wealthy noblewoman (as part of an adopt-an-American tourist-because-we-can’t-have-them-wandering-around-on-their-own initiative?), discovers that she might be descended from the original Juliet.
Only, she can’t seem to find Romeo anywhere.
Shakespeare famously borrowed his plots, and, in “Juliet,” her debut novel, Anne Fortier traces the world’s most famous love story to its origins in Siena in a novel that reads like a “Da Vinci Code” for bookish women. The Danish Fortier gets in some downright sneaky plot twists, and Janice is a hoot.
Juliet, however, exhibits unfortunate tendencies toward being Too Stupid to Live (such as not immediately switching hotels when her room is searched and blindly trusting almost everyone she meets), and there are occasional anachronisms and the odd language glitch that reveals that Fortier’s first language isn’t English. (I could be wrong, but I don’t think noble Sienese living in the 1300s would have said things like, “Sure,” or “Oh, you!” And Juliet talks about turning “pinwheels” instead of “cartwheels.”)
But romance fans with a taste for the classics and those who wished the tale of “Juliet and her Romeo” could have ended differently should enjoy Fortier’s fast-paced debut.