Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Review: The Ringmaster's Wife

The Ringmaster’s Wife
By Kristy Cambron
Thomas Nelson, 2016


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!

My thoughts

“Having a dream is easy. It’s being brave enough to walk the
journey every day that sets you apart from the crowd.”
- Mable Ringling

The Ringmaster’s Wife presents a new side to Kristy Cambron’s writing, and I have to say that I like this style very much. Knowing that I loved Kristy’s writing, I was eager to visit a setting that differed from Europe’s concentration camps, as outstanding as her previous World War II novels were. Filled with exquisite historical detail, The Ringmaster’s Wife draws back the curtains of a charming bygone era of which dreams are made, and I enjoyed every word.

Set primarily during the years 1926-1929, this is the story of Mable Ringling, wife to John, and the fictional characters of Colin and Rose, circus manager and bareback horse rider respectively. There’s a nostalgic flavor to The Ringmaster’s Wife, and Kristy has the ability to pull readers right into her scenes – where all the sights, sounds, and emotions can literally be felt. I had no idea how expansive the Ringling Brothers’ Circus was and loved the scene where Colin described all that would be built on an empty Sarasota Bay lot – rail lines that come right up to the grounds, indoor and outdoor menagerie house with elephants, apes, big cats ... dormitories, hospital, and massive training complex for the performance horses.

Cà d'Zan
Rose and Colin have to go on my list of all-time favorite leading characters. Lady Rosamunde Easling, brought up in England’s traditional world where a female’s wishes weren’t regarded, had a rare talent – one that was raw and innocent as well. Recruited by Colin, her world “wouldn’t be drawing rooms and dinner parties anymore. She’d be toughing it out with hundreds of other performers on a packed circus train, laboring from sunup to sundown, working her fingers raw in a new town nearly every day.” Both Colin and Rose knew what it was like to wish, more than anything, that they could change their lives, something that many readers can identify with. The tender romance between them is so very moving.

Kristy did a great job in taking what little is known of Mable Ringling and fleshing out a fascinating story as Mable’s life intersects with Colin, and then Rose years later. The first half of the book moves a little slowly, but I enjoyed all the foundational background and descriptive passages. The writing is solid, as expected, and there were some emotionally gripping scenes that I read more than once.

Spiritual themes continually run beneath the surface, themes that speak to all of us … courage to follow our God-given dreams … that we are so much more than any failure or physical limitation. And then there’s Mable’s legacy that lived on through Rose, the determination to look through life with the lens of love and kindness.

I want to end with this thought from Rose that reflects the essence of this enchanting story . . .

Courage wasn’t in the initial faith leap to chase a
dream; rather, the magic was in the day-to-day living
and breathing and choosing to be courageous
when common sense told one otherwise.

Highly recommended.

Purchase a copy:


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.

Thank you to Kristy Cambron and Litfuse Publicity for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Litfuse landing page:


  1. Wow! Superb review. I'm adding this one to my to-read list now!

  2. First, I love the cover of this book. Gorgeous! I think I'd enjoy the story as well. I'm fascinated with the Chicago World's Fair era, and I have read a few circus-themed books that I enjoyed. Thanks for introducing me to this one.

  3. Sounds like a fascinating story. I still fondly remember being taken to a Ringling Bros., Barnum and Bailey circus as a child. I was awestruck! Thanks for sharing this at Booknificent Thursday on!

  4. Beautiful review for a beautiful book, Carole! :)