Wednesday, June 29, 2016

"the ringmaster's wife" by kristy cambron

The Ringmaster's Wife
(Thomas Nelson, June 2016)
Travel back to the days of the Big Top circus with Kristy Cambron's fascinating novel The Ringmaster's Wife.

An ounce of courage. A split-second leap of faith. Together, they propel two young women to chase a new life---one that's reimagined from what they might have become.

In turn-of-the-century America, a young girl dreams of a world that stretches beyond the confines of a quiet life on the family farm. With little more than her wit and a cigar box of treasures to call her own, Mable steps away from all she knows, seeking the limitless marvels of the Chicago World's Fair. There, a chance encounter triggers her destiny---a life with a famed showman by the name of John Ringling.

A quarter of a century later, Lady Rosamund Easling of Yorkshire, England, boards a ship to America as a last adventure before her life is planned out for her. There, the twenties are roaring, and the rich and famous gather at opulent, Gatsby-esque parties in the grandest ballrooms the country has to offer. The Jazz Age has arrived, and with it, the golden era of the American circus, whose queen is none other than the enigmatic Mable Ringling.

When Rosamund's path crosses with Mable's and the Ringlings' glittering world, she makes the life-altering decision to leave behind a comfortable future of estates and propriety, instead choosing the nomadic life of a trick rider in the Ringling Brothers' circus.

A novel that is at once captivating, deeply poignant, and swirling with exquisite historical details of a bygone world, The Ringmaster's Wife will escort readers into the center ring, with its bright lights, exotic animals, and a dazzling performance that can only be described as the greatest show on earth!

I adore fiction, but I also love a good biography, and Kristy Cambron has given readers a great mix of the two in her fictionalized but reality-based novel The Ringmaster's Wife. The dual timeline novel follows two women: the historical Mable (Burton) Ringling and the fictional Lady Rosamund Easling.

I must admit that it took a while for me to get into the novel. It's written well—Cambron is an excellent writer—but the back-and-forth nature of the time lines, especially when Mable's story featured a few large time jumps, kept me from really engaging with the first half of the novel (and I often flipped back to see what year we'd previously been in). Near the midway point, though, something shifted, and I found myself swept into the world of the Ringling Brothers' circus. I especially loved how Cambron described the circus performers through Rosamund's eyes as she adjusted to life with the traveling circus. Through Rosamund, Cambron made a powerful point that people are just people: When reflecting on the sideshow performers after spending a bit of time with the circus, Rosamund thought "how peculiar it was that her surroundings weren't so peculiar after all. They included real people. With real hearts and giving natures few ever saw" (p. 191).

Of the story lines, Mable's was my favorite. I loved watching her romance with John Ringling develop and then seeing her become like a mother to some of those in the circus. While her story is fictionalized, it's so good that I'd love to believe it's close to the truth. I'm also now itching to see the Ringlings' home, Cà d'Zan, for myself! (Yes, I've looked it up on Google, but how great would it be to visit?)

All in all, Cambron has written a beautiful novel that will leave you longing to attend—or maybe join—the circus! 4 stars.

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Buy the book.
Read my reviews of Cambron's The Butterfly and the Violin (4 stars) and A Sparrow in Terezin (4-1/2 stars).

Kristy Cambron fancies life as a vintage-inspired storyteller. Her second novel, A Sparrow in Terezin, was named Library Journal Reviews' "Pick of the Month (Christian Fiction)" for February 2015.

Cambron is an art/design manager at storytelling ministry. She holds a degree in art history from Indiana University and has nearly 15 years of experience in instructional design and communications for a Fortune-100 company. She lives in Indiana with her husband and three football-loving sons, where she can probably be bribed with a coconut mocha latte and a good Christian fiction read.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Litfuse Publicity Group. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Also, some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase an item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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