When Charlie Lionheart burst into the hospital with a sick baby, nurse Ella Beckley is immediately drawn into the plight of this mysterious young man and his sick but precious charge. His presence instigates immediate changes in her safe, ordered life and lures her into the unfamiliar life of the circus.
Charlie is quickly drawn to the sweet but curious Ella, but the secrets he harbors make him hesitant to expose her to his life. As they jointly care for baby Holland, they each find their perceptions challenged and must find the love and courage to reveal their traumatic pasts.
The Lady and the Lionheart was probably my favorite read in the past year and will go on my list of all time favorite books. The story, the setting, the characters all combine to make this a memorable book which has pleasantly haunted me since I first read it last August.
The relationship that slowly and quietly develops between Charlie and Ella left me breathless. Both of them have heartbreaking pasts, but Charlie’s is earned by a beautiful sacrifice for the sake of Holland which has scarred him both physically and emotionally. And yet, his tender, compassionate and patient care for both Holland and Ella while still dealing with the ramifications of his painful choice is quietly devastating. This same thoughtfulness is also extended to his “brothers”, the lions which are in his care. Oh yes, did I forget to mention? Charlie is a lion tamer. The dichotomy between his job and his personality is really the heart of his story, how he is seen by others versus who he really is. Charlie’s hesitant willingness to allow Ella into his world, helps her to step out of her self-imposed prison and to see things, both circumstances and people, in a new perspective which ultimately leads to much needed healing for both of them.
The setting of the circus could have been problematic. While the circus can seem exciting and magical to “rubes” (also known as customers) in many stories it is the seedy underbelly of the circus, the behind the scenes happenings and unique personalities which has been the focus of other stories. While the author doesn’t glamorize circus life and touches on the often gritty realities behind the magic, she also shows the humanity, the day to day life in a loving way. The setting of the circus is actually the perfect place for this story to emphasize the valuable lesson that one should never judge by appearances. This is a lesson the reader gets to learn along with Ella as she makes friends with some of the performers and even finds out that her original fear of Charlie’s lions is misfounded.
It’s not just the story that is so exceptional, but the way it is written. I’ve seen Bischof’s writing described before as lyrical and it is that. But beyond that she has a way of making her novels come alive. The characters feel so real, it’s not just that you feel you know them, but that you are living inside their skin. You experience what they experience and feel what they feel which sends the reader on an emotional rollercoaster of a journey revealing truths hidden in your own heart which stay with you for a long time to come. It’s not just a story but a personal experience. I honestly don’t know how Bischof does this except to say it is a very special gift which rarely occurs, but for which I am very grateful. I would wish for everyone of you to experience this gift as well which is why I am telling you that this is a must read story. If you aren’t much of a reader, make an exception. If you are an avid reader with a massive TBR list, move this title to the front. You won’t be sorry, I promise!
To see pictures of Charlie, Ella and Holland and for other visuals pertaining to The Lady and the Lionheart, I encourage you to check out the author’s Pinterest page. You can
also purchase this book at Amazon.