My rating: 5 stars / It was amazing
What is revealed when you draw back the curtain of the Greatest Show on Earth?
Rosamund Easling is no stranger to opulence. As the daughter of an earl, she’s grown up with every comfort money can buy. But when hard times befall the family’s Yorkshire estate in the aftermath of the Great War, Rosamund’s father sells her beloved horse, setting the stage for a series of events that would extend beyond even her wildest dreams.
Though expected to marry for a title instead of love, Rosamund feels called to a different life – one of adventure outside the confines of a ladies’ parlor. She abandons all she’s known and follows in pursuit as her horse is shipped to the new owner – an American entertainer by the name of John Ringling. Once introduced to the Ringling Brothers’ circus and knowing she has much to learn, Rosamund agrees to a bareback riding apprenticeship in the shadow of the Ringlings’ winter home—Ca’D’Zan. It is at that mansion, in what would become the last days of the enigmatic Mable Ringling’s life, that Rosamund finds a deeper sense of purpose in the life she’s been given, and the awakening of faith in her heart.
With a supporting cast of characters as mysterious and dazzling as the Ringlings’ big-top world, Rosamund’s journey takes her from the tradition of the English countryside to the last days of America’s Roaring ‘20s—a journey that forever changes what one life might have been.
I first fell in love with the circus in literature when as a teenager I read the book "The Long Way Down" by Robb White about a runaway turned trapeze artist and the performers that become her family. The Ringmaster's Wife has the same sense of family, that in the midst of the enchanting and chaotic existence in the circus, relationships based on kindness and compassion are what really bring happiness and belonging. The pace of the book was somewhat slow for me, but I appreciated that since the author's words painted vivid pictures of the environments and experiences. The timeline also stretches over a couple decades, weaving back and forth as lives are intertwined and echoed, and facets of the past are revealed. I don't always relate well to older characters, but Mable is introduced to us when she was young, and she always felt that way to me throughout the later years of her story. Her compassion and wisdom learned from life are inspiring. My favorite quote from the book is spoken by Mable to Rose:
"This building up of what we want doesn't have to be a tearing down of who we are. It's the worst kind of extravagance to think we're above adversity. Isn't that what God calls of us, to acknowledge that we are moving with this undercurrent of something that is always at work around us? Something bigger than we could ever be as just one person?"
Rose finds herself embracing her new life in the circus, but still feels adrift and uncertain at times. The support she receives from her new family is invaluable and helps open her eyes to the importance of love. Colin is a complex hero, with several sides to him- competent manager, teasing friend, vulnerable and grieving. Even though their romance isn't at the forefront of the plot, the special moments between him and Rose are that much more poignant. There is a sense of anxiety as mysterious threats pose danger to Rose during a time when she feels most susceptible, and I didn't expect some of the twists that made her story touching. This is not a book to breeze though, but one to savor. Highly recommend!
(Thank you to Litfuse Publicity and Thomas Nelson Publishing for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review)