Rummanah Aasi
  Shakespeare in Love is one of my all time favorite movies. I've seen it at least ten times, each time discovering new connections to his wonderful plays. When I first heard of Love Disguised by Lisa Klein, I thought the book had a similar vibe to my favorite movie. I was really excited to read it and while I did enjoy it, it wasn't as satisfying as the movie.

Description: Will Shakespeare is about to meet the girl who will change his life forever. After a mixed-up courtship with the Hathaway sisters ends badly, Will jumps at the chance to go to London, where he can pursue his dream of becoming an actor. There, Will meets the unusually tall (and strong) Meg who has earned the nickname "Long Meg" for her height. She's also fleeing her own past as an orphan turned thief.    
  Disguised as "Mack," Meg was once a member of a band of boy thieves who betrayed her. When Will is robbed by those same villains, Meg disguises herself as "Mack" again--telling Will that Mack is her twin brother--in order to help Will recover his money. As Mack, she finds true friendship with Will. But is there more? And who is Meg really fooling with her disguise? What ensues is a tale involving love triangles, mistaken identities, and the pursuit of hapless villains, as Shakespeare becomes a key player in a lively drama that could have sprung from his own pen.

Review: Love Disguised is an innovative and ambitious imagining of young Will Shakespeare's life. Assisting his spendthrift father, a Stratford glover, Will dreams of escaping to become an actor. He gets his wish when his courtship with one of the Hathaway sisters goes awry, and his father sends him to London to negotiate a debt. Will is a hard character to like, but you can detect many similarities with the male leads in his play such as the fickle Romeo and the ambitious Macbeth. While we do see the conflicts in the Will's family, I would have to liked the author to dig deeper. Shakepeare's plays are rich in dysfunctional families and it would have been great to see where those seeds for his plays might have originated from.
  Along with Will, the other major character is Meg. Left to fend for herself after her father's death in prison and her mother's suicide, young Londoner Meg survives by disguising herself as a boy and becoming a petty thief until she's offered employment by kindly innkeepers at a bar. Unlike Will, I liked Meg right away and rooted for her throughout the story. I admired Klein for describing Meg as an average yet attractive, androgynous woman who is also admired for her wits and skills. She is well aware of the restraints on her freedom due to her gender and the double standards of being a male in her society. Meg clearly wants to break out and be independent, but realizes these dreams are futile because her society refuses to see her as anything but a woman- weak, subservient, and passive. Through Meg we get the vivid portrayal of the harsh Elizabethan world. 
  Will and Meg eventually meet at the Inn, but Meg is too late to rescue him from thieves who prey on rubes. While Will frets about repairing his fortunes, Meg concocts schemes to make it happen. Soon, Will's career as playwright and actor takes off, and Meg, thanks to her quick wit and acting chops, serves as his muse. I'm not truly convinced that Will had any romantic feelings for Meg or vice versa. I believed they admired each other but were also envious of one another, Meg of Will's freedom as a man and Will of Meg's confidence and strength. Readers looking for a swoon inducing romance between these two characters will be disappointed. 
  Labored subplots based on mistaken identity and cross-dressing slow the action, but ring true to the time period and are fascinating if you are a fan of the Bard. Like some of Shakepeare's problematic and famous comedies, things aren't so easily tied together in the end and leaves the reader with many questions to think about after they begin to deconstruct it. 
  Overall I would recommend Love Disguised to readers who enjoy historical fiction with light romance. Fans of the Bard will definitely pick up lots of allusions to famous works while readers who are meeting Shakespeare for the first time will get a better idea of the context of his plays.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Words of Caution: There are some fade-to-black sex scenes and allusions to physical abuse. Recommended for Grades 8 and up.

If you like this book try: Loving Will Shakespeare by Carolyn Meyer, Mistress Shakespeare by Karen Harper, Kissing Shakespeare by Pamela Mingle
4 Responses
  1. Jenny Says:

    Ooooo this sounds like a fun read Rummanah! The mistaken identity thing will likely turn a little grating after a while for me, I only like it to drag out for so long, but everything else sounds fantastic. I like Meg already!


  2. I'd probably be happier with much stronger romantic elements too, and I don't know how I feel about this rivalry, envy between them. I was always so fascinated by Shakespeare and his life, though, so I'm really curious about this portrayal of him. I guess I'm not surprised that he has some of his characters' traits.


  3. Candace Says:

    This sounds like one I might like! It's different from anything I've read lately anyway. I'll look up a few more reviews and add it to the list possibly.


  4. I'm thinking I'd like this one just for the historical aspect of it. And of course, the Bard. I can never get enough of him! Think I like Meg already too!


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