Raised amid the fame and mystique of the Big Top, Charlie Lionheart holds the audience in the palm of his hand. But while his act captivates thousands, it’s away from the spotlight where his true heart lies. Here he humbly cares for his pride of lions as if they were his brothers, a skill of bravery and strength that has prepared him for his most challenging feat yet—freeing an orphaned infant from the dark bondage of a sideshow. A trade so costly, it requires his life in exchange for hers, leaving him tarnished by the price of that choice.
As the circus tents are raised on the outskirts of Roanoke nurse Ella Beckley arrives to ten to this Gypsy girl. All under the watchful eye of a guardian who not only bears a striking resemblance to the child, but who protects the baby with a love that wraps around Ella’s own tragic past, awakening a hope that goodness may yet reign. When their forbidden friendship deepens, Charlie dares to ask for her heart, bringing her behind the curtain of his secret world to reveal the sacrifice that gave hope to one little girl—boldly showing Ella that while her tattered faith is deeply scarred, the only marks that need be permanent are his own.
The Lady and the Lionheart is the first book I have ever read by Joanne Bischof, but it has most definitely made me a forever fan of her work. I have never read a novel that has so moved me—and I’ve read a LOT of books in my lifetime—but this story that Joanne perfectly wove together still has me all torn up days after I started it. I laughed, I cried (sobbed really), and I fell in love with Charlie, Ella, and little Holland in a way I never expected. When I first heard about this novel, I had a feeling about it right away. Therefore, I quickly added it to my list of books to purchase, but I never, EVER expected it to be the most heart-wrenching, touching, beautiful, lovely, impossible-to-fully-describe story that I now know it to be. If I don’t get to read another book for the rest of my life, I will be glad to know that The Lady and the Lionheart was my last, because it will be the freshest in my memory and is a wonderful novel to finish with.
As hard as I try, I cannot come up with words to describe Charlie Lionheart. He is beyond explanation, beyond imagination, and beyond perfect. No, I don’t mean perfect in the literal sense, because he clearly makes mistakes, but I have never encountered a more perfect hero. I don’t want to spoil a bit of this story because I want everyone to read it and experience it for themselves, but I want you to know your heart will break over Charlie and how we find him at the beginning of this novel. I sobbed, literally sobbed over his treatment and the pain and humiliation he has to endure, and I sobbed even more as I realized how undeserving he was, how sweet and wonderful and kind of a man he truly was underneath all of his marks that I wish never had to be permanent.
I’m trying and failing at finding the words to describe such a man, and all that he gave to have baby Holland as his own, and the only thing I can relate it to is Jesus and the humiliation and torment He suffered. While I know the two can’t truly be compared, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a better human representation of just a slice of what he gave so that we could be free from our chains. As someone who cannot imagine Charlie’s sacrifice and all that it took from him, I can’t fathom someone ever going through worse just for people who might never thank him for it. So, not only to I praise Joanne for creating such a perfect, selfless character in Charlie, I thank her for touching me so deeply, and for giving me what I felt like was just a taste of all that my Savior suffered.
Ella Beckley has also suffered much when we meet her at the beginning of this story, although hers is of a much different kind. My heart went out to her as well, but I was so completely unable to comprehend all that Charlie faced that I think I couldn’t emotionally take in her pain as well. I did feel it on a surface level, and I did cry for her too, but I wish I could have really grasped it as much as I ought. I have just been so emotionally drained—in a good way mind you—at the hands of this story, that I am literally dying to read it again so that I can grasp all that I missed. Believe me, I will just as soon as I’ve caught up with some of my other reading, hopefully in the next few weeks, because I know I couldn’t take it all in the way I wanted to.
Anyway, Ella is such a sweet character as well, and I loved her incessant questions and bright, plucky spirit, and the way that she broke down Charlie’s walls. The two of them together was by far the sweetest, most perfect, meant-to-be relationship that I have ever read, and possibly even ever seen, in a very long time. The way that they accepted each other with all of their scars and brokenness was enough to get me crying all over again, and I couldn’t describe to you how much I wanted them to be together. But, like I said earlier, crying wasn’t the only thing I did while reading this novel, and I did laugh a lot over Ella’s fear of Charlie’s lions.
All in all, this book was wonderful, fantastic, amazing, and all kinds of words that haven’t even been invented yet, and I HIGHLY, like cannot even tell you how highly I recommend this novel. You will not be disappointed, so go pick up this book!!! As for me, I can’t imagine not giving The Lady and the Lionheart all five bookshelves, and you can bet it has a place on my all-time favorites list, as it is by far one of the top three books I have ever read. Joanne hit it out of the park with this one, and you can most definitely believe that I will be reading more of her novels in the future.
To see where I’m linking up, check out my Where I Party page.
All credit for the italicized synopsis goes to Joanne Bischof and Mason Jar Books.