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!
If you are captivated with the Jazz Age and loved the visual splendour of Water for Elephants, then Kristy Cambron’s new release, The Ringmaster’s Wife is a must-read. A sweeping romantic tale largely set amid the roaring twenties, audiences are treated to two love stories backdropped by beguiling itinerant circus acts. Readers will be enthralled by the intricate historical detail and complex characters and dynamics that Cambron has effortlessly woven together. I was mesmerized by every rich detail and once again impressed with this author’s ability to evoke such an ardent emotional response to her humanist storytelling. A unique blend of biographical fiction, The Ringmaster’s Wife holds a cross-genre appeal that will win a spot on many book lovers’ shelves.
Louisville, Kentucky ~ 1929
We only see what we want to see—in people, in love, and in life.
To see is a choice, as is what we offer the world in return. And it’s only behind the costumes and the masks that we can be who we truly are.
The words echoed in Rosamund’s mind, in a tangle of memories collected over the past three years. She waited at the performers’ entrance at the back of the enormous Big Top, trying to ease the racing of her heart before show time.
Waves of riotous applause ebbed and flowed with the breathtaking thrills of the trapeze act. It was a “straw house” tonight—sold out, the bleacher seats packed and the overflow of children lining the edges of the rings on piles of laid-out straw. Rosamund could hear the children now through the call of and pops of confetti bursts, squealing in delight at the antics of the clowns. It wouldn’t be long now—the ringmaster’s signal for the horse troop to march in was just moments away.
A breeze caught Rosamund’s attention, perfuming the air around her with the richness of caramel, mixed with the salty scent of popcorn and sweet apples from a wagonette nearby. It was a welcome contrast to the usual smell of animals and churned-up earth in their field lot. All the familiar sounds and smells, the excitement that hung on the air before a performance . . . they reminded her how the three-ring canvas castle had become her home.
The other bareback riders had ushered the troop of show horses from the ring stock tent; they were out in front now, waiting to burst into the ring.
The horses whinnied, and Ingénue, Rosamund’s black Arabian lady, broke into a soft song along with them. The horse stomped her hooves, her happy jitters stirred up by the flash of lights and the lyrical cadence of the band that signaled performance time.
Rosamund stood off to the side, alone—once the glittering star of the show, but now a performer bringing up the rear of the troop in yesterday’s sequins and satin. It was no longer her face splashed about on the circus posters plastering the cities and towns in which they visited. She wondered if the crowd would still cheer for the bareback rider with the trademark blush of English roses pinned in her hair.
Was she just an afterthought now? Someone forgotten. Perhaps never really known. Would they notice the pair of them, she riding in on her magnificent black madam horse, performing tricks from memory to enchant the crowd?
“Rosamund—here you are.”
Colin Keary’s Irish brogue was light, familiar, his tone of voice soft and laced with feeling.
She tilted her chin to the sound but kept her body squared to the direction of the audience. “We’ve had word then?” She held her breath.
“Yes. I’d read the telegram aloud, but I think you already know what it says.”
Rosamund squeezed her eyelids tight and waited.
“She passed away early this morning.”
It must have been tearing Colin apart on the inside. But how like him to want to tell her himself, despite the pain it would cause them both.
The Big Top rustled in the wind like tissue paper in front of a fan, as if it too chose to recoil from the painful news. The crowd erupted in applause just then, marveling at some grand feat of daring from the flyers, oblivious to the fact that anyone’s lives had changed outside the tent. The summer breeze continued stirring tiny bits of sawdust about the field, brushing the side of her face like grains of sand on the wind.
Rosamund drew in a deep breath, readying her nerve to perform. “Ingénue and I have a show to give,” she said, and ran a hand down the silk of her horse’s mane.
“Even if it kills you.”
She shook her head, countering. “Never. The ring is home to us. We’ll not fear it.”
Rosamund felt the light touch of his fingertips against the rows of sequins at her shoulder, and drew in a deep breath as she notched her chin a touch higher.
“We can’t let them down now, can we?” she whispered, closing her eyes and pressing her forehead against the side of Ingénue’s head.
“Rose . . .”
Only Colin called her that—a soft Irish lilt of an endearment that he’d whispered so sweetly once upon a time. She brushed the thought away, like a cobweb caught in the wind. It would do no good to live in yesterdays. Not when everything had changed.
“Listen to me.” He breezed around the front of her, tilted her face to him with a butterfly’s touch of his fingertips to her cheek. “You know if she were still here, she’d tell us that this life is a gift, Rose. It’s given and it’s taken away in a blink. It’s madness to go out and perform now.”
“You can’t protect me,” she whispered, easing his hand back. “Or fix me.”
“It’s not your call this time. I’m your boss, Rose, and I won’t let you go in.”
“The show is in my blood, Colin. Please don’t ask me to be less than who I am.”
He paused, as if absorbing her words and choosing his own that much more carefully. Or boldly. She couldn’t be sure.
“It won’t bring her back.”
Rosamund felt her chin quiver. “I know that. But are you saying it for me or for you?”
They stood in agonizing silence. Her heart beating wild. Wondering if his was doing the same unrestrained somersaulting in his chest.
Their circus world toiled beyond, the tent bursting to life with the vibrancy of the band playing “Roses of Picardy,” a jaunty version of the song that had always signaled her entrance.
“It’s time to go,” she thought aloud. “Colin, I . . .” She swallowed hard, fighting against the mental image of him standing just outside, looking on from the shadows while she performed under the bright lights.
She flipped up on Ingénue’s back as she’d done countless times before.
“I can’t be a caged bird with a broken wing.” She wiped at tears that had gathered in secret, but now threatened to tumble down her cheeks. “I know now I’d never survive that kind of love,” she whispered. “And neither would you.”
The band played their cue, and Rosamund nudged Ingénue forward with a gentle squeeze of her ankles to both sides of the horse’s body. And forward they trotted, leaving the breath of wind toiling behind as they went in to give their last performance.
“Just as Mable said . . .” She straightened her shoulders and raised her head to the elation of the crowd. “They’ll only see what we want them to . . .”
**Disclosure: Review copy provided by Litfuse Publicity**