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Kissing Shakespeare by Pamela Mingle

Saturday, August 4, 2012
Synopsis: A romantic time travel story that's ideal for fans of novels by Meg Cabot and Donna Jo Napoli—and, of course, Shakespeare.

Miranda has Shakespeare in her blood: she hopes one day to become a Shakespearean actor like her famous parents. At least, she does until her disastrous performance in her school's staging of The Taming of the Shrew. Humiliated, Miranda skips the opening-night party. All she wants to do is hide.
Fellow cast member, Stephen Langford, has other plans for Miranda. When he steps out of the backstage shadows and asks if she'd like to meet Shakespeare, Miranda thinks he's a total nutcase. But before she can object, Stephen whisks her back to 16th century England—the world Stephen's really from. He wants Miranda to use her acting talents and modern-day charms on the young Will Shakespeare. Without her help, Stephen claims, the world will lose its greatest playwright.

Miranda isn't convinced she's the girl for the job. Why would Shakespeare care about her? And just who is this infuriating time traveler, Stephen Langford? Reluctantly, she agrees to help, knowing that it's her only chance of getting back to the present and her "real" life. What Miranda doesn't bargain for is finding true love… with no acting required.

Review: Despite the somewhat humorous and a bit too unrealistic premise, “Kissing Shakespeare” by Pamela Mingle has everything a historical romance should have—a new light shed on an old time, wonderfully written period dialogue, and, of course, plenty of kissing.
I do not read much historical fiction, but whenever I do, I am always amazed at the amount of research that authors of this genre must put in before they can even begin writing. Scholars who have dedicated their lives to the life of William Shakespeare have finished their studies still unsure about what Shakespeare did when he wasn’t writing and acting. Yet Mingle turned what were mostly guesses into a mystery that kept me glued to the page. William Shakespeare is in danger of abandoning his writing and acting to become a Catholic priest, a profession with high stakes in newly Protestant England. Will Thomas persuade Shakespeare to devote his life to God or will Miranda and Stephen succeed in keeping Shakespeare the playwright he was meant to be?
Mingle also did an excellent job of describing the differences between living in present day and living in the twenty-first century. I was both intrigued and appalled by the descriptions of public teeth picking and medical treatments in the sixteenth century. I was both amazed and surprised by the similarities that were shown between the two times. The religious battles of then are not so different from the arguments between liberals and conservatives. My favorite aspect of the historical nature of this novel was the dialogue. Mingle did an excellent job of using sixteenth century language in her novel without confusing her readers.

Another aspect of Mingle’s novel that I enjoyed was the characters. I was particularly fond of Miranda’s narration. Her opinions on the ways of the sixteenth century and attempts to fit in were rather amusing at times. I also enjoyed her relationship with Stephen. The two bicker a lot, which was an excellent way to show their varying opinions on how to save Shakespeare. Shakespeare himself was also very well characterized. He was a thinker, an educator, a lover. Given his plays, those qualities certainly seem to suit him. The many romance plots between these characters as well as others serve to deepen the characters themselves and the challenge Miranda and Stephen face in saving Shakespeare.

I have two complaints about this novel. First, a sixteenth century time traveler who sees visions? I mean, really? Although Miranda tried to get a deeper explanation of Stephen’s abilities on various occasions, she never got much out of him. His explanations seemed to satisfy her, but I highly doubt they will satisfy many others. Second, the ending was too much of a tie-it-up-with-a-pretty-bow ending for my liking. All of the plots and subplots are tied up nicely. The romance plot tried to put a tear in the bow, but it did not quite succeed.

Above all, this book does an excellent job of honoring William Shakespeare, a man who deserves all of the honors he has previously received and all of the honors he will receive in the future. I cannot imagine how different all of the literature that has been written and read over the past four centuries would be if William Shakespeare never had a chance to write his plays and sonnets. I mean, is there a writer or reader in this world today who has not read at least some of Shakespeare’s work? I doubt it. Obviously, Pamela Mingle’s “Kissing Shakespeare” would not exist without Shakespeare’s works. So, whether you are a lover or a critic of William Shakespeare, I suggest picking up Mingle’s novel. The lovers will feel even more for the most celebrated writer in the English language, and the critics might have a new appreciation for his work.

Reviewed by: STEPHANIE

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