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Speak Easy, Speak Love

Review

Speak Easy, Speak Love

Nearly everyone has heard of the famous playwright William Shakespeare and one of his most famous comedies, “Much Ado About Nothing.” This classic play, set in Sicily and telling the story of military malice, retaliation and romantic encounters is much-loved and widely performed. But those who just cannot get enough of this storyline are in luck! Debut author McKelle George has retold this story but has placed it in 1920’s New York during Prohibition, and it may just give the original a run for its money.

Before you even crack the spine of SPEAK EASY, SPEAK LOVE, you get the chance to gaze at a beautiful cover that is indicative of the story you are about to read. Romantic tensions, hedonism and intrigue are just a few of the themes so aptly represented in this gorgeously designed cover. And then you open it and start reading. Each chapter is titled with a quote from the original play, setting the scene for what is about to happen in that chapter. Like the original, SPEAK EASY, SPEAK LOVE follows the lives of six characters and their escapades. Beatrice, an aspiring doctor, has just been kicked out of another boarding school. Luckily though, her uncle and her cousin Hero are willing to take her in and let her stay with them at their mansion, Hey Nonny Nonny, in Long Island for the summer.

"Written with entertaining banter, vivid imagery and romantic tension, McKelle George has truly done justice to Shakespeare’s original work."

Benedick, an aspiring author, has just quit his rich boarding school, days before graduation, to return to Hey Nonny Nonny and become a writer, against his rich father’s wishes. When Beatrice arrives at her cousin’s home, she finds out that it also secretly operates as a speakeasy. There her life collides with Benedick’s and they become sworn enemies, battling wits until days end. Beatrice’s lavish cousin, Hero, along with Benedick, their friend Prince, his half-brother John, and their nightly jazz singer Maggie do their best to keep Hey Nonny Nonny running, but stricter Prohibition agents and organized bootlegging gangs make it difficult.

Together the six teenagers plan exquisitely grand parties and succumb to all that the Roaring 20s Era has to offer, including romance. Although Beatrice and Benedick are proclaimed rivals and infuriate each other, Hero and the others have plans to bring them together, but they may fall prey to their own romances in the process.

Written with entertaining banter, vivid imagery and romantic tension, McKelle George has truly done justice to Shakespeare’s original work. Each chapter brought me a greater sense of urgency than the last to travel back in time to an era where hedonism ran high and secret bars were run low underground. I found myself laughing along with Beatrice during her encounters with Benedick; gasping with Prince and John as they dealt with dangerous mobsters, and cheering along with Hero as she set in motion a plan to unite her friends in romance. Each character was created to represent different social aspects of the Prohibition Era: feminism, flappers, jazz, the organized crime and a revival of writing, and each character was written so vividly and brilliantly that I myself wanted to abandon all that I know and travel back to the days of speakeasies and prohibition. By the end of the story, I felt like I personally knew each character and was sad to see their written journey completed. George was able to revive Shakespeare’s romantic comedy and all his characters in a book that will be read and enjoyed for years to come. 

Everyone needs to read this book because it is not as widely read or appreciated as it should be. Specially written for Shakespeare lovers, fans of revived retellings such as MY LADY JANE and DOROTHY MUST DIE, classic hedonistic literature like THE GREAT GATSBY, romantically tense love stories, and stories with outstanding characters, SPEAK EASY SPEAK LOVE will be loved by anyone. Everyone should pick up this book ASAP. But be prepared, you will not be able to put it down!

Reviewed by Ellie T., Teen Board Member on November 30, 2017

Speak Easy, Speak Love
by McKelle George