Thursday, September 28, 2017

ARC Review: Speak Easy, Speak Love by McKelle George

Title: Speak Easy, Speak Love
Written by: McKelle George
Published: September 19, 2017 by Greenwillow Books (HarperCollins)

(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: 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.

Some of my favorite retellings lately have been Shakespeare retellings. So I was incredibly excited to find one that is a historical fiction book set in a period I love reading about and based on one of my favorite Shakespearean comedies, Much Ado About Nothing. This is that book and I was so excited to read it. And I really enjoyed it. It had great characters, an interesting historical setting, and an exciting plot.

My favorite thing about this book was probably the characters. I absolutely love the characters in Much Ado About Nothing and was really excited to see what the author would do with them. Our mai characters here are of course Beatrice and Benedick. I absolutely loved both of them. Beatrice is too smart for her own good, Benedick too stubborn, and both of them too outspoken. The original play did a great job of playing with gender stereotypes and that is definitely something the author did here with all the characters but especially Beatrice. I loved how the author made Beatrice ahead of her time and the kind of woman who was unabashedly herself despite what others thought of her. In contrast, Ben is the sensitive one. He's got a heart of gold and I loved him for it. Plus as expected their banter was amazing and the love to hate romance totally had me rooting for them to get together in the end.

But this book had more characters beyond Beatrice and Benedick. As the synopsis informs you, there are six main teenagers here. Beyond the two main characters we have Hero, Prince, Claude, Maggie, and John. All six of those characters are connected in some way or another and at first it was kind of hard to keep straight. It helped that I had knowledge of the play and knew who they were supposed to represent but without that I would have gotten very confused. I definitely think as far as these secondary characters go, the women is where this book shined. I really liked Hero and her desire to follow in her mother's footsteps running the speak easy and Maggie, the jazz singer, was a fantastic character. I would have liked a little more from the male characters though. I think John and Prince blended together in my mind and Claude was just not around much at all. In general I thought the characters were good but there may have been to many perspectives for my taste.

And those many perspectives did make for an interesting but slightly confusing plot development. There is a lot going on in this book. The plot of the original play lends itself well to a lot of different things and so does the setting of the 1920's. And this book definitely explored all of that. Jazz, party scenes, prohibition, mafia, and more. It was all incredibly interesting and made me want to read it to find out what was happening. But I also had to pay very close attention because there just wasn't enough attention placed on each of these plot threads. When certain things came out that was it, it just came out and then the book moved on. So I don't think the big reveals didn't hit as much as they could have if there was a bit narrower of a focus. I think just maybe this book bit off more than it could chew when it came to the plot.

But a lot of the plot I think was redeemed by the retelling aspect. You can tell that the author is super familiar with the play and has strong love for it. But you can also tell that there are some aspects about it that she didn't really enjoy. It's not a shot for shot retelling which honestly I enjoyed. I usually prefer retellings that take the original and expand on it in some creative way. This creative way was the historical setting. I feel like the period worked so well with the play. It was an equal balance with fun and dark, with lots of real history thrown in. It made for an interesting setting and a good retelling.

On the whole, Speak Easy, Speak Love was a fun and interesting read. it had great characters, an interesting setting, and an exciting plot that made for a good retelling. I do wish it was a little narrower perspective so some of the plot wasn't as confusing but in general I really liked it.

I give Speak Easy, Speak Love by McKelle George 8.5 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Borrow. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a Shakespeare retelling. If you like Much Ado About Nothing definitely check this book out or if you are a fan of historical fiction set in the 1920s.

Have you read Speak Easy, Speak Love? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!


  1. I'm so glad you ended up loving this book. I'm pretty excited to read it for myself sometime so yay!

  2. I really enjoyed this one. I thought George picked some great details from the 20s to include in the story, and Beatrice was too fabulous.