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, nurse Ella Beckley arrives to tend to this 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.
It isn’t often that you find a book as deeply moving as this one. The author weaves a flawless tapestry of sacrificial love, forgiveness, and acceptance through this novel.
You are transported into the unique setting of a circus in the 1890’s. But not all is well under the big top. This book gives us a look at both the beauty and the dark side of circus life. More specifically, the freak shows. It is truly amazing just how cruel people can be.
When the book first introduced me to Charlie Lionheart, I wasn’t sure I liked him. He started off a bit grating, though his love of baby Holland shone through strongly. But within a few chapters, I came to love him. That gruff exterior hid a very hurting heart and a man of incredible strength and sacrifice.
Ella is a sweet girl who is struggling with her own heartaches. She gets a lot more than she bargained for when she steps away from her job to help a baby in need. She has a lot to learn about not judging by appearances.
And the lions! Oh, I do love the lions: Axel, Hans, and Kristov (Frozen reference maybe? 😉 ) are just perfect. The Big Top performance with them is one of my favorite scenes from the book. Okay, any scene with them is just awesome.
The ending of this novel is just perfect, a faintly bittersweet Happily Ever After from Holland’s viewpoint. Joanne Bischof has created a masterpiece here. Now, I need to take my leave and go read it again!
My Rating: Five Flames
Romance: clean and sweet. One character is a rape victim. There is a scene where a prostitute does flirt with the hero when a particularly foul character wants him to do something immoral, though it is very tastefully done.
Drinking/Drugs: a tiny amount of brandy is used once for medicinal purposes.
Violence: almost nothing.
Happy reading y’all!