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11. Compare the banter between Romeo and Giulietta at their first meetings with the corresponding text of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, especially in Act I, Scene V, and Act II, Scene II. Note where Fortier follows Shakespeare and where she goes her own way. Why do you think she makes those choices? How do those choices distinguish her versions of Romeo and Juliet from their more famous antecedents?

12. At one point, Alessandro tells Julie: "In my opinion, your story—and Romeo and Juliet as well—is not about love. It's about politics." Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Why? What do you think the author's opinion is?

13. Themes of guilt, redemption, and second chances course through the novel, especially in the present-day narrative, impelling many of the characters and their actions. Consider which characters embrace the opportunity of a second chance, and which don't.

14. Another prevalent theme is that of twins and twinning. Not only are some characters born as twins, but others seem to be mirrored across the centuries. At one point in the novel, Julie sits on the front steps of the Siena Cathedral, thinking about the myth behind the black-and-white Siena coat-of-arms, the Balzana, which involves a pair of twins fleeing from their evil uncle on a black and a white horse. Why do you think Fortier has woven these threads—twinning and black-and-white—so strongly into her fictional tapestry?

15. Why does Alessandro keep his true identity a secret from Julie for so long? Is he right to do so?

16. Does Julie trust Alessandro too easily? Why does she wait so long to confront him with what she knows about his actions and his identity?

17. At the end of the novel, Julie muses: "Who knows, maybe there never was a curse. Maybe it was just us—all of us—thinking that we deserved one." Do you think there was a curse, or not?

18. Flash forward five years past the end of the novel. What has happened to Julie and Janice? What about Umberto? If there was going to be a sequel to this novel, told from Janice's point of view, what questions would you like to have answered, and what themes would you like so see further explored?

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