by Pamela Mingle Book : Fiction : Secondary (senior high) school  |  1st ed
Great premise unevenly executed   (2012-07-16)
I'm really having a difficult time deciding how to rate this one. One and a half stars for the beginning of the book, three stars for the last half, for an average of two and a half stars overall? The premise was intriguing: a young William Shakespeare is being recruited to the (forbidden) Jesuit priesthood and away from his destiny as the great playwright, so a time-traveler enlists the aid of a modern teenager from a theatrical family to seduce Will and restore history. The author seems to have done a good job researching that era, both the history of Shakespeare & Catholicism as well as the habits of daily life, but the set-up of the story is rushed and full of holes.
The book begins with Miranda upset at her terrible performance as Katharine in her high school's production of The Taming of the Shrew . A cast member she barely knows kidnaps her, taking her first to the roof and then to Elizabethan England. Stephen tells her she is to pretend to be his sister while they stay at his uncle's house, and her mission is to seduce Shakespeare so he will decide not to be a priest after all. She thinks he's crazy and is insulted that he believes she's sexually experienced. But Catholicism has been outlawed in England, and after Miranda--now called Olivia--witnesses a priest being burned at the stake, she stops resisting the plan and becomes an active participant, intent on saving Will's life.
I am glad I kept reading. I almost quit after the fourth or fifth time "smirk" appeared in the text. (Oh, how I wish YA authors were forbidden from using that word!) Mercifully, she invested in a thesaurus about a third of the way into the novel, although that did not stop the incessant eye rolling--both mine and the characters'. However, I was reading an ebook galley copy from NetGalley, so perhaps Ms. Mingle's editors were able to take another run at the manuscript before it went to print.
Word choice aside, I struggled to get past the implausibility of Stephen choosing Miranda for this task. Why choose an American? Why not choose a British girl? How is it possible that her accent, vocabulary, and patterns of speech didn't give her away moments after their arrival at Hoghton Tower? Miranda is supposedly chosen for her acting ability and knowledge of Shakespeare's plays, yet she continues to speak like an American teenager, not like an actress immersing herself in a life-or-death role. It just felt...off. Fiction requires a willing suspension of disbelief, but this needed too big of a leap.
Still, I enjoyed the fast pace by the end. The spying and sneaking around held my attention, and I wanted to know how the story would unfold.
For readers' advisors: story doorway is primary, character and setting are secondary. No actual sex occurs, but it's a near thing.
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