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 stops 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.
Who isn’t familiar with William Shakespeare? We all know that famous writer of epic love stories, comedies and drama. But ever wonder about what a young Will Shakespeare may have been like? Kissing Shakespeare, with its eyebrow-raising title and gorgeous cover, feeds that curiosity by using a little time travel magic and employing the services of a very capable young Shakespearean actress.
Stephen transports Miranda back in time to pose as his sister, Olivia, while they visit with his uncle’s family at Hoghton Tower. This is a very hazardous time in England’s history. Elizabeth I is on the throne and religious discord between the Catholics and Protestants is strife. The Protestants had endured horrific persecution under the reign Elizabeth I’s predecessor, Mary aka Bloody Mary. Now under Elizabeth, the pendulum has swung and it’s dangerous to be Catholic, so much so that they have to practice in secret.
And this is where we come across a young and impressionable Will Shakespeare who also happens to be staying at Houghton Tower. Will is seriously contemplating becoming a Jesuit in this tense political climate. Stephen cautions that this is a momentous decision: if Will chooses the religious life, our cultural landscape will be changed for good. Miranda’s mission, should she choose to accept it, is to convince Will that his destiny is greater than this one religious cause. And Stephen encourages her to use any means necessary to convince him – yes, he actually expects Miranda to seduce Will.
It’s easy to succumb to this delightful story mainly because Miranda’s adjustment to the 16th century is not quite as traumatic as you’d think. There are also misteps which make for comical moments e.g. when she has to come up with an explanation to give the maid as to why she has a bra which obviously has not been invented yet. After much goading from Stephen, she takes on her mission with zeal and even proves to be a bit of a sleuth herself.
Deception and intrigue abound in Kissing Shakespeare and the stakes are raised higher when Miranda receives cryptic messages. Someone knows the truth of who she is and this revelation could destroy everything, including her chance to go home. But what’s heartwarming is Miranda as she becomes involved and close to her “pretend” family. In the end, she wants very much to protect them especially when trouble comes knocking.
Truly Kissing Shakespeare is a gorgeous piece of work that just sweeps you away as you go through the pages. Miranda’s interaction with Will are tentative and innocent, much to Stephen’s dismay and as a result, Miranda’s annoyance. Dinner time becomes a moment to non-chalantly spy on their guests to discover their motives. And poor Miranda, her growing conflicting feelings for Will and Stephen only add to her confusion. But what I enjoyed most is that it fed my love of history. By setting the story in this fascinating and troubling time period, Mingle had plenty to work with to give it tension and substance. There’s that extra thrill when a character has to really watch their back and keep all eyes and ears open so that they don’t fall prey to someone else’s schemes.
Do read Kissing Shakespeare. It's a sweet little escape to a time and a place beyond the present. A little adventure wrapped in innocence and suspense unfolding in front of one of the greatest and most beloved figures in history.