ARC Review: Speak Easy, Speak Love by McKelle George


*I read this ARC as part of #ARCAugust in August 2017 and reviewed it then. As always, this is my honest opinion.

Much Ado About Nothing is hands down my all time favorite Shakespeare play. I love it so much, and I can’t get enough retellings on it. So, a Much Ado retelling plus this beautiful cover? Sign me up!


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’m conflicted.

I really enjoyed this book. It was fun and witty and it mixed the prohibition elements with Shakespeare really well. Each of the main characters were their own character with their own personalities and goals, and I enjoyed that a lot.

This book is a complete ride, from start to finish, and the Shakespeare elements are there while remaining it’s own story.

But. I expected more from the story. More wit, more Shakespearean elements, more romance. I wanted to ship Beatrice and Benedick so much that it hurts, because that’s how I usually ship them, but, while I liked them both, I didn’t get the romance I wanted.

That being said, Beatrice is the best. She’s strong and passionate and opinionated and I loved her. Her character arc was very well done and there’s growth and insecurity and personal feelings involved.

I loved Hero and Maggie, and how George changed the story to fit with the added elements of femenism and race. It wasn’t overbearing, but there enough to be involved in the plot and add depth to the characters.

Obviously, Benedick is the love of my life in the original play, and I did like him here as well, but I felt as if he lacked the charm I see in him when I read the play. Prince and John were excellent. Claude/Claudio gave me a new prespective on the character.

The pacing is good, the tension is there, and it has all the right things to make this a great book, and it truly is a great book. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed if you love Much Ado.

There were some odds and ends that felt a little confusing (Beatrice’s school confused me  a lot, and how she tied into Leo’s family), but overall, this is ingenious merging of two distinct elements into one.

I expected to adore this book with all of my “Bea + Ben” heart, and while I enjoyed it a lot, I didn’t adore it, and it’s not the author’s fault. Shakespeare is open to the interpretation and I think George and I interpreted Much Ado About Nothing in a way I hadn’t thought about before, and that made the ride all the more worth it.


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