Book Review: The Ringmaster’s Wife

28 Jun

The-Ringmasters-Wife-672x1024-504x768An 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!

KCambron-295Kristy 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.

Find out more about Kristy at


My Impressions:

Kristy Cambron established herself as a must-read author with her WWII-era novels, The Butterfly And The Violin and A Sparrow in Terezin. In The Ringmaster’s Daughter, Cambron turns her focus to the Greatest Show on Earth with the meticulously researched The Ringmaster’s Wife. Featuring both historical and fictional characters, this novel looks behind the scenes and the masks of the Ringling Brother’s Circus. This book is not just about life under the Big Top, however, but rather has a message for all who would go after their dreams. If you like books with rich historical detail, this one is for you.

Lady Rosamund Easley’s life has been mapped out for her by her parents and societal expectations. But Rosamund wants to really live her life and takes a journey of discovery across the ocean and into the equally exciting and frightening world of the circus. Twenty-five years earlier, Mabel Burton left her safe, small town world to discover life. The women’s stories intersect as they endeavor to live a life of love.

Ca' d'Zan (home of John and Mabel Ringling)

Ca’ d’Zan (home of John and Mabel Ringling)

I have to admit that The Ringmaster’s Wife started out rather slowly for me. Although really I liked both of the main characters, fictional Rosamund and historical Mabel Ringling, I had trouble connecting with their stories. Not sure if it was me or not, but I struggled with staying focused. Then about half way through the book, my attention became riveted to this story told against the backdrop of the lights, sounds, and scents of the circus. Cambron again shows her painstaking research with wonderful descriptions of the people, places and sights of the late 19th and early 20 century America. The circus came to towns all across the country via the train, and I felt the excitement of those days. Cambron also does a great job of unveiling the real life behind the glitz and glamor, the oddities and extravaganza, that was the circus.  As Rosamund muses on p. 191 ” . . . how peculiar it was that her surroundings weren’t so peculiar after all. They included real people. With real hearts and giving natures few ever saw.” The underlying theme of the book is not just following a dream but of ” . . . cultivating the courage to live it out day after day”. Whether you ride bareback, fly through the air, or go after more practical endeavors, it’s important to continue the quest through hardship, trials, disappointments and victories, small and large. Two love stories will make romance fans happy — the fictional relationship between Rosamund and circus boss Colin and the real life romance of John and Mabel Ringling. The Ringmaster’s Wife is also a book that will make you go back to Google time and again — you just have to see the many images of Ca’ d’Zan, the Ringling’s home in Sarasota, Florida.

(As an aside, one scene features my father’s hometown, Altoona, Pennsylvania. If the events depicted are in fact true, my father would have been 7 years old at the time, and I am sure he would have been excited to know that the circus had come to his hometown. Unfortunately, he passed away over 23 years ago, so I cannot ask what his experiences were. 🙁 )

So what is the final takeaway for this book? I liked it. Fun for fans of the circus, rich details for history buffs, and satisfying for romance fans, I can recommend The Ringmaster’s Wife.


Audience: adults.

To purchase this book, click HERE.

(Thanks to LitFuse and Thomas Nelson for a review copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)




7 Responses to “Book Review: The Ringmaster’s Wife”

  1. Carrie June 28, 2016 at 11:13 am #

    how fun to think that your father may have attended the circus in Altoona! My college roommate was from Altoona so I thought of someone when I got to that part too 🙂

    • rbclibrary June 28, 2016 at 2:58 pm #

      I enquired if the tornado actually happened. It did not, but was a reminder of how the weather could and did affect the circus. It’s cool to think of the excitement of the kids when the circus rolled into town!

  2. Sue June 28, 2016 at 7:33 pm #

    I will be starting this book as soon as I finish the one I am reading now. Am looking forward to it. Ringling Brothers had its summer headquarters in Baraboo, WI which is about 40 minutes from where we live. Other circuses used Wisconsin for summer headquarters back then.

    • rbclibrary June 29, 2016 at 6:04 am #

      Let me know what you think. I grew up in central Florida but have never been to the site of their winter headquarters in Sarasota. My daughter is down there now with an internship. If she gets a job there, I’ll be sure to visit.

  3. joannebischof July 2, 2016 at 12:02 pm #

    Enjoyed your review, Becky! Kristy really does paint SUCH rich historic detail. And what fun that the circus stopped at your father’s home town in the book. I love that!

    • rbclibrary July 2, 2016 at 12:13 pm #

      Thanks so much Joanne! It is fun to think of him as an excited 7 year old! Thanks for stopping by!


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