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.
I would never have heard of Speak Easy, Speak Love if not for author Rachel McMillan reviewing it on her blog. She has never steered me wrong. Thanks to her rave review, I decided to read a book, I might not have otherwise been interested in.
Even with Rachel’s recommendation, I wasn’t sure what to expect. But from the moment I opened to page one, I became engrossed in the world and lives of six teenagers who all display maturity beyond their years while also acting immaturely at times with the ones they love. I literally could not put this book down.
Speak Easy, Speak Love is more of a reimagining of Shakespeare’s comedy Much Ado About Nothing, than a retelling. Though the characters are similar, many bearing the same names, some of their actions and motivations differ. To say nothing of some of the relationship outcomes. The only couple that remains similar to the play are Benedick and Beatrice with their passionate bickering. I really liked that this Speak Easy, Speak Love challenged my pre-conceived notions of the story and it’s characters. And by the way, if you love to see villains redeemed, then you will appreciate what author McKelle George does with the Don John character of the original play. No, scratch that, you will love George’s version of John, trust me.
Setting the story in the 1920’s, an age rife with newly found feminine independence, rebellion against the establishment, and the new sounds of jazz is really a much better place for this story, in my opinion. It better fits the darker aspects of the comedy, the historical events adding depth to the characters actions and feelings. In many ways, Speak Easy, Speak Love captures the same feeling of an F Scott Fitzgerald novel without all the bleak, depressing, amoral-ness. There is even a Fitzgerald type character in Benedick who rejects his wealthy background to pursue his dream of being a writer, while living at the rundown speakeasy in Long Island.
I also appreciate how Hero is more interesting as the young woman managing to keep her deceased mother’s beloved business going. She has much more depth and humanity than in Shakespeare’s play. Beatrice of course is still an amazing heroine as a young girl genius with a sharp tongue who desires to become a doctor. But she also has a tender heart for her newly found relatives’ predicament. Then of course, there is the mystery and conundrum of the brothers Prince and John, both involved in rum-running.
I could go on for awhile about how much I loved Speak Easy, Speak Love. How addicted I was to seeing how everything played out, but I’ll keep it brief. This book deserves all the praise it has received. Whether or not you are a fan of Shakespeare, this is a fabulous story, which anyone can enjoy.
This book is currently on sale for Kindle at Amazon. Also, check out the author’s Pinterest board for images relating to the story.
Content Note: For readers of clean or Christian fiction, this book does have multiple (but not excessive) uses of profanity.