Well, I was slightly underwhelmed after I finished this reading this. I think I expected a lot more, and it wasn’t delivered. This book also lacked a lot of things I generally like in a book. I’m not saying it was horrible, but it wasn’t what I expected.
Title: Speak Easy, Speak Love
Author: McKelle George
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Release date: September 19, 2017
Genre: Young adult, historical fiction, romance
Length: 432 pages (U.S. hardcover)
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) “Six teenagers’ lives intertwine during one thrilling summer full of romantic misunderstandings and dangerous deals in this sparkling retelling of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.
After she gets kicked out of boarding school, seventeen-year-old Beatrice goes to her uncle’s estate on Long Island. But Hey Nonny Nonny is more than just a rundown old mansion. Beatrice’s cousin, Hero, runs a struggling speakeasy out of the basement—one that might not survive the summer.
Along with Prince, a poor young man determined to prove his worth; his brother, John, a dark and dangerous agent of the local mob; Benedick, a handsome trust-fund kid trying to become a writer; and Maggie, a beautiful and talented singer; Beatrice and Hero throw all their efforts into planning a massive party to save the speakeasy. Despite all their worries, the summer is beautiful, love is in the air, and Beatrice and Benedick are caught up in a romantic battle of wits that their friends might be quietly orchestrating in the background.
Hilariously clever and utterly charming, McKelle George’s debut novel is full of intrigue and 1920s charm. For fans of Jenny Han, Stephanie Perkins, and Anna Godbersen.“
Okay, so sue me, I haven’t actually read Much Ado About Nothing by Shakespeare, but I have seen the movie version from the early 1990s with Emma Thompson and Kenneth Branagh. I know basics of the play and how it turns out, so I was actually a bit excited to see this set in the 1920s, and as I read, I thought, Oh yes, Prohibition 1920s!
While I genuinely liked all of the characters, especially Maggie, the storytelling was very lackluster and rather dull at times. Yes, there were times that caused my heart to race and swell with emotion, but other than that… I really feel a bit blah toward this book. For me, the characters were the best part. I thought they were incredibly well developed, each with their own struggles internally and externally that really endeared each one of them to me. My favorite couple was not even the main ones, Beatrice and Benedick, but rather Maggie and John, who had prejudices of their own to overcome.
Speaking of Beatrice and Benedick… Well, I wasn’t too convinced of their romantic feelings for one another. This story takes place over–what?–6 or 8 weeks maybe, and they were so determined not to like each other, it felt strange and almost forced. However, I did enjoy how they each came to terms with their feelings, especially since they came from different upbringings in terms of class.
Though I liked the setting, I wondered if this could have been placed in any other earlier time period and still worked. Actually, I may have preferred it. For me, it didn’t have a lot of the glitz and glam I usually associate with the time period. Yes, I know I’m a little biased and not everything in the 1920s was glitz and glam, but in truth, I wanted it.
As for the writing itself, I liked it. There wasn’t any purple prose or stilted sentences or descriptions. It was very straightforward–easy to understand and read. Yet I still had moments where I wasn’t sure I wanted to continue because nothing was really holding my attention, and since it was a retelling, I knew how it would end. But I pushed through.
This isn’t a book I would add to my own library, but if you enjoy Shakespeare and retellings, you may enjoy this.