SYNOPSIS: 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.
GENRE: Historical Fiction, Romance
RATING: ★★★★☆ / 4 enchanting stars.
REVIEW: I received this book as part of my monthly Once Upon a Book Club Box. And while the cover is gorgeous and intriguing, I probably wouldn't have picked this book up to read otherwise. Not because it wasn't appealing or the synopsis was lacking, but because there are just too many books to read and not enough time. Tough choices have to be made. BUT I am so glad that I received this book! It was so wonderful and an easy book to recommend to others. In fact, if you're looking for a book to gift to someone then this one is a very easy sell. While there are a few religious undertones in the book, just a mention of God in a few places, there isn't anything preachy, but there is a lot of heart and nothing controversial. Therefore it's a relatively safe book to buy for a close relative OR casual acquaintance and perfect for an easy reading book club.
On to the story! I loved the author's writing. Cambron has a magnificent style, it flows so well that you get lost in the pages and suddenly you're 50 pages in and it feels like the work of a moment. From the prologue into the first chapter, I was hooked.
The story divides between the present (which is actually the 1920's, but since it's the anchor point I consider it the book's "present") with Rosamund, and the past, which starts in 1885 and moves forward until we catch up to the present. The past follows Mabel and how her life evolved and affected the places and people we come to meet. And here is where the author interweaves history and fiction, because Mable and the locations and history of the circus are all real. Certain accounts and encounters are of course fictionalized and Rosamund and most of the other characters are works of fiction as well. This is one of the main reason why I loved this book so much. The author didn't try to make the story all about Mable. Personally, I tend not to like fictionalized books about real people from that person's point of view because it ends up ringing so false, and I spend most of my time wondering which parts are real and not getting lost in the story. Cambron manages a perfect balance, not just by splitting the story and making Rosamund a bigger focus, but also by keeping Mable's story incredibly grounded and realistic. I'm still not entirely sure how she did it but I applaud the author because the end result is perfect.
One of my favorite movies of all time is "The Greatest Show on Earth" with Charlton Heston, and while that epic film cannot be matched, this book does capture a little bit of that same magic and a little bit goes a long way. And while it would be easy to try and make comparisons to Water for Elephants, I don't think it's necessary. The Ringmaster's Wife stands on it's own laurels quite well. The writing is excellent, the story is enchanting and exciting, and the characters, both real and invented, are wonderfully captured. The circus and the Ringling world come alive!
My only criticism is in the ending and this might just be a personal preference, but it was a little too sappy for my liking. That is not to say that there aren't obstacles and lasting consequences, it isn't happy-go-lucky, but there are some sappy elements at the end that I didn't particularly enjoy, and it all happened very fast. I wanted to drag it out just a bit more. Still, overall it was a great book and highly recommend.