Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Lady and the Lionheart - Review

So I've completed my very first book of 2018 and I couldn't wait to share the review with you all! I was pretty curious picking up Joanne Bischof's The Lady and the Lionheart, having never read a book that takes place at the circus. And what a pleasant surprise this was.

Back cover Summary: 

Raised amid the fame and mystique of the Big Top, Charlie Lionheart holds the audience in the palm of his hand. But while his act captivates thousands, it’s away from the spotlight where his true heart lies. Here he humbly cares for his pride of lions as if they were his brothers, a skill of bravery and strength that has prepared him for his most challenging feat yet—freeing an orphaned infant from the dark bondage of a sideshow. A trade so costly, it requires his life in exchange for hers, leaving him tarnished by the price of that choice.
As the circus tents are raised on the outskirts of Roanoke, country nurse Ella Beckley arrives to tend to this ill Gypsy girl. All under the watchful eye of a guardian who not only bears a striking resemblance to the child, but who protects the baby with a love that wraps around Ella’s own tragic past, awakening a hope that goodness may yet reign. When their forbidden friendship deepens, Charlie dares to ask for her heart, bringing her behind the curtain of his secret world to reveal the sacrifice that gave hope to one little girl—boldly showing Ella that while her tattered faith is deeply scarred, the only marks that need be permanent are his own.

My review:
In this touching Victorian era tale, Joanne Bischof immediately gets down to business and captivates the reader from the very beginning. The protagonists and sub characters are all as endearing as you'll ever find. And suddenly, you're feeling a part of this large circus family. Ella Beckley's big heart is a source of inspiration and everything about Charlie makes you fall in love. He's not the typical male protagonist in that he isn't all perfect masculinity which is very refreshing. Charlie is a lot of the times vulnerable and that realistic aspect is what makes him unforgettable. The dialogue flows easy and their romance happens so very naturally that although it all takes place in a matter of days, nothing feels rushed or forced. It's not only believable but as we navigate through the brokenness of each character, we realise it was maybe even a little inevitable. The thread of faith is inserted poignantly into this novel but not in a way that will have you wanting to skip pages. As the story unfolds, so do the secrets our character carry, giving more insight to them, and their past. The amount of research done by the author is visible on every page as you not only get a glimpse into this era or into the circus world. But you "feel" a part of it. From the circus sights and smells to the circus shows themselves, to the victorian era customs. Two of my favourite scenes would have to be the very first roof top scene and the scene involving the jar of cookies, the latter bringing me to tears. And really, the thread of redemption weaved throughout this tale is that touching - the holding back tears sort of touching. The two main characters realising that although they were broken in different yet similar ways, by grace they were whole and loved. And they could extend that grace to each other.  
It was only after completing the novel and reading the author's notes that it hit me that the whole book was really a parallelism for something much more greater and deeper: The sacrifice of Christ for us. And that made me love the story the more. 
I very much enjoyed this novel. The only minor issue I had with it was that sometimes with the way the dialogue or a flashback was presented on the page, I had to go back and reread the beginning of the paragraph to make sure I hadn't missed anything. But all in all, a great novel I would recommend to all!

Have you read any circus related novels? Which one? What has been your first 2018 read?

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