On Valentine’s Day I finished reading Anne Fortier’s novel “Juliet,” a story about a descendent of the real Juliet of Siena going back to Italy to find a long-lost treasure and break the famous curse–“a plague on both your houses”- for good measure. The book was described by Publisher’s Weekly as “a Da Vinci Code for the smart modern woman.” I would describe it more like a Dan Brown plot on steroids, mixed with a Sophie Kinsella-like silly romantic story with an even sillier main character, and a dash of Philippa Gregory historical fiction. The author does a great job describing the scenes and setting of Italy: the ancient buildings, the food, and people. Her strongest sections of the novel were the ones set in the 1340’s, telling the re-imagined tale of the original Romeo and Juliet. Also, she shows her knowledge of the influence the story had on Shakespeare, how the story morphed and eventually travelled to England. The weak part of the novel is, in my opinion, all of the main characters in the modern setting. Juliet (or Giulietta in the Italian) is a twenty-five year old ingenue, still crippled by the relationship with her bad-girl twin sister and easily duped by everyone around her. She is a nincompoop of the first order. Her sister, the exact opposite, is a cartoon-like bad girl. The main love interest, the modern-day Romeo, is a brooding lout who hardly inspires much more than the desire to give him a good slap. The dialogue between the two lovers is painful, stagnant, and downright dull. What kept me reading to the end despite all this was the resolution of the mystery–the finding of the treasure. Reader beware. To get to this point you have to endure ridiculous plot twists, numerous improbable secret identities, easy solution of codes, clues that fall from the sky….well, you get the idea. It would have been a much stronger work if Fortier had stuck to the original story set in Italy and the hunt for the tomb and treasure and totally left out the romance.