|The Lady and the Lionheart|
The Lady and the Lionheart
by Joanne Bischof
Mason Jar Books (July 26, 2016)
Reviewed by Bonnie Roof
5 Stars *****
"Permanent may be the scars that we bear, but there is a love that makes all things new".
Roanoke, Virginia - Spring 1890
Lugging an armload of linens up the stairs, Ella Beckley hears violent footsteps from behind before a bear of a man rushes past with a baby in his arms, nearly crashing into her and scattering the linens. Ella, a woman with little schooling and self-taught nursing skills, works in the scullery of Dr. Penske's private practice - which caters to Roanoke's upper crust. Thus begins her relationship with Charlie Lionheart, a Romani Gypsy descendant and lion tamer with Graven Brothers Circus - which has been stranded and detained in the town by unexpected snow.
Assisting with patients only when necessary, Ella has never treated a patient herself. Too quickly diagnosing the baby as having a simple fever, the doctor assigns Ella to her care. With gentle but intensive protectiveness, Charlie remains by the baby's bed overnight - soothing her hot body with cold cloths and chips of ice, whispering words from a hymn. Returning to work the following morning, Ella is greeted by shouts from Charlie's terrorizing the hospital as the feverish baby is being dismissed and sent home. Charlie, having only a handful of coins with him and the doctor suspicious of Charlie, feeling his hand tattoo an indication of a felon. Feeling the baby could have rheumatic fever and recalling the pain of the death of her own infant several years prior, Ella risks her job by leaving work, unauthorized, and follows Charlie back to his tent/wagon home at the circus, bringing her bag of herbs, roots, and medicines to treat baby Holland. Charlie also breaking the rules by bringing a "rube" (outsider) into the privacy of his circus life.
Scarred from her pregnancy by a stranger, the birthing of her son at the age of barely 15 years, the baby's death after living only a couple of hours, and being branded a harlot by her community - Ella had fled her home and arrived in Roanoke several years prior, in search of a better life. Charlie has hidden secrets also, enduring untold pain to free an orphaned infant from a permanent life in the circus.
Joanne Bischof has written a mesmerizing and unforgettable story of life in a circus and a tender, touching romance between a woman who has turned her back on her faith and a courageous, gentle, man who embraces his faith in his determination to protect those he loves. The depth of the characters and their emotions and struggles, the realism of life in a circus - it's animals and performers, Charlie's love and brotherly care for his three lions - Han, Kristov, and Axel, kept me engrossed in a story that warmed my heart, elicited tears, and inspired me with it's elements of hope, forgiveness, and redemption. It's a 5+ star novel and re-telling of Beauty and the Beast - whose characters remain with me, it's depth of beauty truly adequately indescribable!
*I was provided a PDF of 'The Lady and the Lionheart' by it's author for my honest opinion - which I have given.
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