Top positive review
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She brings Sienna Italy to life
on April 27, 2016
Anne Fortier parallels Medieval and modern Italy in this historical romance that retells Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" in a more intricate storyline than what we generally consider the "original".
Of course, many towns in Italy lay claim to the first telling of Romeo and Juliet, not just fair Verona made famous by Shakespeare. Medieval times were wrought with feuding families that bred dirty politics and an abundance of star-crossed lovers.
Sienna's version, however, is particularly rich with intrigue, and Ms Fortier handles it with aplomb in a story that crosses genres and weaves the past to the present.
The fact that modern-day Juliet is suitably chaste at the beginning, and her love interest is suitably aloof, should satisfy all readers of light romance. If the two fall in love just a little too easily, well, that's typical to the genre.
Because the author reincarnates Medieval Romeo and Giulette into modern Sienna, the story's premise has a decidedly metaphysical flavor to it. If you feel a whisper of disappointment that Juliet doesn't experience direct flashbacks of her life as Medieval Giuliette, Sienna of yesteryear and today still come to life in full living color through the old letters and documents that Juliet inherits from her mother.
Plus, there's a strong mystery to solve as pieces of the Medieval puzzle come together in the modern story that rights old wrongs, unearths treasures to lift old curses, and reunites the star-crossed lovers. In this, the author was brilliant!
So why not five stars?
Two things kept me from sitting back and saying, "Wow!"
First, Juliet's character arc felt a little flat to me. As the mystery unfolds and the action amps up, crossroads that would normally be the protagonist's call to change in some way--dig in, find new resolve, make new decisions--are overshadowed by her stronger twin sister. It would've been nice if Janice had a few more cracks in her character that gave space for Juliet to take her own destiny solidly in hand and fully hold her place center stage in the story.
Second, although Umberto is a fundamental element for moving the story forward, he isn't quite fleshed out enough as a character to be truly believable when the going gets rough. Without hitting a spoiler alert, the author vacillates one too many times right in the thick of the action on laying out who he is. This pushes him towards being more of a caricature rather than a living breathing person. Sigh. It could be fixed by deleting, or rewriting, one small section of a scene in the van. As it is, it totally threw me out of the story right when I should have been pulled in further.
If you like historical romance with a metaphysical premise, and a good mystery to solve in the process, READ THIS BOOK.
If you're planning a trip to Sienna, or want to revisit the city, put this book on your "must read" list. After living in Italy for twenty years, I enjoyed how adept the author is at consistently capturing the Italian mentality in a few well chosen words. I can't recall the last time I highlighted so many passages in a novel.
In short, this book was a perfect way to take a break and make it all-day Sunday affair.