Julie Jacobs and her twin sister, Janice, have lived with their Aunt Rose ever since their parents died tragically when they were babies. When Aunt Rose dies, her will stipulates that Janice will inherit her entire fortune, including the house. Julie is shocked and angered by this slight, until she discovers that Aunt Rose has left her some old documents that belonged to her mother — documents that hint at a treasure hidden somewhere in Siena, Italy. Julie immediately goes to Siena in hopes of discovering this hypothetical treasure, but she soon finds that her inheritance — and indeed her whole identity — is bound up in the story of Romeo and Juliet. Far from being the fictional creation of William Shakespeare, their story is based on true events that occurred in Siena in the 1300s. As Julie digs deeper into the medieval legend of Romeo and Juliet, she eventually discovers some priceless artifacts connected to the lovers and finds her own destiny in the process.
Though Romeo and Juliet is by no means my favorite Shakespeare play (that would be Much Ado About Nothing, in case you were wondering!), I was excited to read this book for its combination of literary detection and romance. Unfortunately, I ended up not liking it very much! My main problem is that the heroine, Julie, is too whiny. She constantly complains about Janice’s poor treatment of her growing up, and she’s always bemoaning her “unattractive” appearance, even though she immediately catches the eye of a handsome Italian. I also hated her narrative style, which is completely stilted and unrealistic. The dialogue is almost uniformly terrible. As for the actual story, parts of it were interesting, especially in the historical chapters. But as events unfolded, I grew more and more irritated at the supernatural elements of the plot, which I was not expecting at all. Basically there’s this Ancient Curse ™ that hangs over Julie and her paramour, who are sort of reincarnations of the original Romeo and Juliet, and they need to break it in order to live happily ever after. The farther I got through the book, the more I went from “not great, but still readable” to “I can’t wait for this mess to end!” Overall, not recommended.