JULIET, by Anne Fortier

I wonder if this is a trend: a novel set in two far-apart centuries in Italy. I've seen more than one recently. This one, a debut novel from an author I'll no doubt be reading for the rest of my life (she's very young, I'm very not), is set in Siena, Italy, home of the still-running Palio horse race, and one of the world's most lovely piazzas. Julie Jacobs, newly grieving the death of her godmother, goes to Siena to trace her roots. The scene shifts to the 16th century, when the tale of Romeo and Guilietta unfolds in all its dramatic and futile glory. Back and forth we go, from medieval vendettas to lost treasure to unfolding love stories (successful? read on!) to siblings and relatives from hell to enemies you wouldn't wish on your worst enemy. Ancient cities are built over the ruins of previous cities, Siena is no exception, and the climax is acted out in the Bottini, the tunnels underneath the city. Author Fortier has captured the cadences and mannerisms of both centuries with awesome ease, and each character has a distinctive voice and character. This is a solid 5, a fascinating, quality read. PS: The second two-centuries-in-Italy novel is The Medusa Amulet, also reviewed. www.annefortier.com