Much Ado About Love
by Malia Martin, historical (2000)
Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-380-81517-6

The awful bastardization of Shakespeare that is the title above is deliberate, so cringe not, Shakespeare purists. Much Ado About Love is, er, "inspired" by the movie Shakespeare In Love. This time around, we get to see how Shakespeare get the inspiration for Much Ado About Nothing. And get this - Shakespeare is a pseudonym for Lady Olivia Tudor.

Let me get my earplugs first - darn, those Shakespeare purists can shriek loud indeed.

Anyway, the gender twist is the only thing interesting in MAAL, an otherwise badly-handled romance featuring stock secret agent hero and innocent, feitsy heroine-who-wants-only-to-save-mommy-and-prettier-sister. I'd still rather believe that Shakespeare is high on medieval cocaine when he is inspired to write Much Ado About Nothing than the tale according to this story, yes indeedy.

Ian Terrance is the spy/agent in question. Queen Lizzy I has ordered him to apprehend that upstart Willy whom she suspects is behind some anti-monarchy uprising. Ian by chance realizes that Olivia is the playwright in question, and she is supposed to be killed by him ages ago.

What happens next is some forced kidnapping, screamy sex, distrust, more screamy sex, and finally, a happy ending. Lots of Shakespearean play lines are thrown in for flavor. But hey, that's okay. I just wonder if these two are supposed to be - who? Is Ian supposed to be that colorless Claudio fellow? Be rest assured he is no Bernedict and Olivia is definitey no Beatrice.

Anyway, MAAL must be commended for creating a new twist of a storyline. It's a nice attempt, even if it is an experiment gone awry. It's just that, well, when the story starts making cheesy concessions to conventionality in the characterization and plot departments, Much Ado About Love is actually much ado about nothing.

I think I'll go rent Shakespeare In Love.

Rating: 55

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