Paris, 1925: To enter the Secret Circus is to enter a world of wonder—a world where women weave illusions of magnificent beasts, carousels take you back in time, and trapeze artists float across the sky. Bound to her family’s circus, it’s the only world Cecile Cabot knows until she meets a charismatic young painter and embarks on a passionate affair that could cost her everything.
Virginia, 2004: Lara Barnes is on top of the world until her fiancé disappears on their wedding day. When her desperate search for answers unexpectedly leads to her great-grandmother’s journals, Lara is swept into a story of a dark circus and ill-fated love.
Soon secrets about Lara’s family history begin to come to light, revealing a curse that has been claiming payment from the women in her family for generations. A curse that might be tied to her fiancé’s mysterious disappearance. (taken from Amazon)
Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This will be available on March twenty third.
The Ladies of the Secret Circus is told from a few points of view: there’s Lara, a woman whose fiancé has gone missing; and Ben, the officer who is leading the search for him. There is another character whose story is told through journal entries, but I’m not going to say much about that for fear of spoiling things. The book starts with a simple premise and the beginning of many a mystery novel- until you realize that Lara and her family have magical abilities, and that there may or may not be a curse involved. Thus begins a story that is both delightful and a wee bit creepy. The Ladies of the Secret Circus is part mystery, part supernatural showdown, and wholly entertaining.
Author Constance Sayers did some things very, very well. Both Lara and Ben are likeable characters, who are easy to root for. I didn’t give a lick about Lara’s fiancé since he goes missing before being developed at all, but she was such a nice person that I was truly hoping for a happy ending. Ben is a no-nonsense detective who is in way over his head, but keeps plugging along anyway. I liked that stick-to-itness. I did find some of their reactions a little odd: for example, they accepted some revelations a lot more easily than I would have expected. Ben accepted the supernatural aspect relatively quickly and Lara seemed a lot more chill about having a killer after her than most people would be (I’m assuming; I’m happy to say that I have no experience in that situation).
The switch-off from mystery to a more supernatural book was a teensy bit abrupt, but the sheer creativity of the supernatural aspect was gripping. The Secret Circus turned out to be rather macabre, with an eerie bent to it that I loved. The history of the circus was enthralling and unlike anything I’ve read before. As much as I enjoyed Lara and Ben, the story of the circus itself was by far my favorite part of the entire book.
I did have a minor gripe: the order of the story seemed a little off from time to time, and some things were sort of left dangling. For example, Lara found out that someone was after her, but not much attention was paid to that until much later in the book, with her being more interested in the provenance of a family painting. There were other occurrences that were a big deal for about half a chapter, but then were left largely alone. It could be a little confusing at times. That’s a small complaint, though, and it’s really the only one I have.
The Ladies of the Secret Circus is fast-paced and a ton of fun. I recommend it to anyone who likes a little bit of a mysterious flair to their urban fantasy.