Two worlds collide when the circus comes to Victorian-era Virginia.
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 tend 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.
Just then a child in the row behind Ella cried out, “Look, Mama!”
Charlie, dressed in his center ring finery, strode into the arena, as strong and strapping as ever. Face powdered and painted with two jagged teardrops under his eyes, he walked with stoic authority, tall boots forging a fresh trail straight toward his audience. Ella didn’t know a single man could hush a packed house with no words, but…then there was Charlie Lionheart.
An ECPA Christy Award winner and an ACFW Carol Award winner, Joanne Bischof writes deeply layered fiction that tugs at the reader’s heartstrings. Joanne’s 2016 novel, THE LADY AND THE LIONHEART, received an extraordinary 5 Star TOP PICK! from Romantic Times Book Reviews among other critical acclaim. Joanne has a long-standing passion for romance and a budding fervor for theology. She is more and more awed by how wondrously the two go hand in hand. She lives in the mountains of southern California with her three children and is represented by Sandra Bishop of Transatlantic Literary Agency.
I've been letting this story nestle in my brain for a couple days, trying to figure out how to review it. But maybe the best thing to note is that a) I read it in one evening (legit, could not stop!) and b) only two days later, I'm ready to reread it. My heart is too full of Charlie Lionheart and Ella to move on to any other book. The emotional depth of this story blew. me. away. It was a gradual heartbreaking, piece by piece, and then a steady and moving healing. I just...ahhh...I don't have words for how much I loved it. It's heart-wrenching in the best possible way, but also underpinned with hope.
One of my very favorite things about Bischof's storytelling is she never rushes. She gives her characters and their emotional journeys room to breathe. And yet, somehow at the same time, the plot continues to move. I never feel like it's dragging. Her writing is lyrical and heartfelt.
I just can't say enough how much I loved this book.
The Lady and The Lionheart had me from the 1st page. It's hard for me to pen how much I loved this book because it was so rich and in-depth, and lovely. Not only is the cover oh soo beautiful. I absolutely could not put this book down. From the people, to the time period and setting, I was just enraptured with this story. Joanne Bishof did a excellent job of capturing what real love looks like in the pages of this book. Not just the romantic kind, but the self sacrificing kind. Even though there were plenty of tender moments between Charlie and Ella that just made you want to go up into a cloud.
Both Ella and Charlie are so endearing, my heart broke for the things that they endured, but I love that there was a constant thread of hope. And...Charlie Lionheart definitely wins best leading man category in this book. ❤
This story reminded me no matter hard or dark things can get. God is there through the pain, and He is able to heal and make new, when we let Him in. This book has certainly left a impression my heart. and I am so glad that I have read it. 5 star's all the way!
My Favorite Quotes ♥
“You are a religious man?” Her inquiry seemed to take him by surprise. “Would you have preferred me something else?” When he looked back at Ella, there was a seriousness threaded in the glimpse he gave her. “I simply talk to God.”...“Because I am not a good man by nature. And I hope to make the years here count for something.”
"...I can’t go another minute without telling you that there is a God. And he loves you so much. He aches for you."
"But the hurts only followed because they didn’t live in these hills or this mountain. They’d lived within her. No matter where she went. They bound her the longer she let them. "
“I am nothing without God,” he said. “And I don’t ever want to try to be.”
I could cry. I don't know when I've last read something so achingly beautiful ...
Is it possible to rate Joanne Bischof's books less than five stars? I don't know, because so far, I haven't been able to! She writes with such heart and depth! The Lady and the Lionheart was soul-touching, intriguing, painful, and utterly lovely. I can't even describe how I felt about that ending ... it was perfection! In fact, I was certain I was getting a glimpse of heaven on earth; with just a sprinkle of nostalgia.
Ella was darling. Charlie was wonderful. Holland was adorable. The story was crushing pain, thrilling hope, and raw beauty entwined together ... all set against the magical background of the early 1900s circus.
The setting was intriguing, with gypsies, lions, circus tents, mystery, and not to mention, the dashing lion trainer with a twinkle in his eyes. I was captivated - this book almost has a magical feel. Whimsical, at least. It was fantastic, and set your heart aflutter. It was also dark and hurtful. Our two lovable POV character both have haunted and extremely painful pasts. Some parts of The Lady and the Lionheart were a little hard to read, so terrible it was. But in this book - slowly - comes hope and healing and laughter. It was such a beautiful journey, that's all I can really say! And can I just mention how much I love how Joanne Bischof expounded a little on one of the secondary character's life? The character is a broken woman ... only mentioned about twice ... you'll know who she is. She plays a bit of a bigger part in the end of the book, and I simply loved it so much. Brought tears to my eyes.
The Lady and the Lionheart is written with such emotional depth. Joanne Bischof talks a little bit more about the story ... the inspiration for it, and the symbolism behind Charlie Lionheart's character ... and I so appreciated that! I might have cried there too, even though it wasn't part of the actual novel. Well done, Joanne Bischof! This was such a touching story!
The romance was incredible, by the way. So many moments! Charlie. Ella. Ah, I can't even. You have have to read it for yourself.
There were so many parts worthy of tears, and such a deep, soul-felt tale, and such a perfect ending. People, I recommend you read this book! Be you historical-fiction lovers or not, you must pick it up! ^_^ The Lady and the Lionheart is written for adults, but I think older teens could enjoy it as well. I must repeat myself - it's a simply beautiful story.
Well, I really did want to give it five stars, because the characters are so vivid and the descriptions so lush... the incredible amount of non-traditionally formatted sentences really had my brain overworked. So many misplaced modifiers, so many verbs before subjects, so many change-of-tense-in-the-middle-of-the-sentence (nearly one per page on average) left my brain reeling to interpret the meaning and actually made me lay the book aside several times. Otherwise, I did find the writing to be very lyrical and even poetic.
Charlie and Ella and Holland all get instant five stars. Wow, what Charlie did when he took in Holland...gracious, who couldn't love him for that? There were so many favorite scenes that I can't list them all.
16+ for some mature themes (selling people, innuendo, and mentions of a brothel)
I decided to reread the Lady and the Lionheart because its free on Audible and I loved the book! On audiobook it was fabulous. Charlie Lionheart need help for his sick niece and Ella a nurse aid decides to help to the point she loses her job. Ella was only 15 when she was raped and lost a child. When she falls into Charlie world of the circus she starts to fall for him. Can both fall in love and forget their torture pass. I loved this book. Both Charlie and Ella stories are fascinating. Both had a pass they had to overcome and with each other and God help they can do it. The love story in the book was just wonderful. You will be praying that both of them find peace and happiness and Joanne Bischof will take you along on this wonderful journey. I so recommend this book. Read it with a book of tissues and just sit back and enjoy!!
Only a handful of authors craft stories that leave an indelible mark on my heart ~ Joanne Bischof is one of them...guaranteed, every single time. The Lady and the Lionheart is simply stunning, from the provocative beginning to it's exquisite conclusion, this story is mesmerising. Delicate and sententious prose immerses the reader in the sights, sounds, and aroma of the circus, with a tale that leaves jagged edges upon your soul for a time, then binds the wounds with healing and hope. Charlie Lionheart is the most attractive of heroes, handsome and charismatic, yet it is his life changing sacrifice that will render your heart more than once. Ella Beckley's heart shines more gently, but her compassion and courage, stemming from her wounded past, is the perfect foil for Charlie's magnetic appeal as both lion tamer and man of faith. Joanne writes with such nuanced spiritual depth, this tale captivates heart, mind, and soul, its themes reverberating for a good while to come.
There are things in my past I cannot change. Things that have broken me, left behind scars... Only one God could reach into those dark places and heal them. The scars remain, as do the lessons learned, but the pain has been transformed to divine joy.
The Lady and the Lionheart reminded me of my journey with God to discover just how far inside a person His healing touch can go. This story of a tattooed beast and a soiled beauty was a charming, deep, richly flavored tale with such heart and raw pain laid bare for the audience to do with what they will. That's what I cherish about Joanne Bischof's stories: Her heart -- vulnerable and honest -- flutters on every page, through every word.
I was surprised that the faith thread wasn't clear or really noticeable until chapter nine. This was different and unexpected. But then faith oozed into the fabric of the story and swept into a magnificent crescendo, so it turned out not to be a bother that faith was a latecomer. Better late than never, as they say.
My favorite thing about this book was one of the most heartbreaking: Charlie's agony. He's such a soul-shattered man, yet his sorrow and pain and grief and torment scream for mercy in such a tantalizing way that it's difficult to look away, even though that's exactly what he would want because he's that sort of a protector. It was painful and brutal and exquisite. I also loved that Charlie was Romani Gypsy. Very nice and unique touch! I'd enjoy reading more stories about Romani Gypsies, if written well.
A few errors sneaked into this book, which dampened my reading experience a smidge (which is why my rating isn't five stars). * A pulse is never taken with the thumb by a nurse or doctor, because one's own pulse may be felt in one's thumb. This would prevent a true reading of the pulse one is trying to take. * There were grammar and punctuation mistakes throughout, including missing commas, unclear or unnecessary fragments, misaligned indentations, and misspelled words. * A couple of items were forgotten (Ella's herb box -- though it magically reappeared later without explanation; a note tucked into Charlie's pocket -- what did it say?!). * There was a modern term/way of thinking: A person being thought of as "less than." This way of thinking only really became popular in usage in recent years, not in 1890, when this story takes place.
Content notes (which did not affect my rating): * opium usage * discussion of a rape (handled with grace) * tattoos
The Lady and the Lionheart was a beautiful story of healing, forgiveness, and loving the "unlovable." Fans of Cynthia Ruchti, Kathryn Cushman, and Lisa Wingate will love it.
I was not compensated for my honest review.
Second read: 10/3/21 Upgraded from 4 stars to 5. This book just made me so happy.
With a touch of Phantom of the Opera and Beauty and the Beast along with an analogy to the life of Christ, this new-to-me author swept me away through this wonderful story. Set in a circus in 1890 when sideshow "freaks" were the one of the main attractions; Charlie Lionheart was not only the lion tamer, but also one of the "freaks." He is also caring for his dead sister's baby daughter, Holland. Ella is a nurse he meets when he takes Holland, who has a very high fever, to the local hospital. Charlie has a deep devotion to God while Ella has wandered away due to an incident in her past. But Charlie is suffering through something that he has been forced to do. Can they help one another?
Bischof's characters were unique and interesting; and each of the circus people helped build the story line as they supported and cared for one another in every day life. This story was so well crafted and flowed beautifully. I look forward to reading more from this author.
What I loved about this novel the most is the symbolism. Although symbolism was my favorite aspect, there was much more to appreciate about The Lady and the Lionheart. The imagery was very strong and I could easily picture the hospital, midway and other places described.
Main characters Charlie and Ella are from vastly different worlds. Charlie is a lion tamer in the circus. He was raised under the big top and knew no other way of life. Ella grew up in a large and supportive family in the hills of Virginia. Despite their differences what they share is pain and loving hearts.
The Lady and the Lionheart isn’t a book to read so much as it is a world to inhabit, a story to relish, a love to cherish. It is lyrical, achingly beautiful, and larger than life. This novel is Joanne Bischof at her very finest.
There are a few times, after reading a story, that I wish I could unread it so I can go back and savor each emotionally rich page all over again.
Oh, my. The Lady and the Lionheart made me want to do this.
Not that I won't enjoy the story a second time (believe me I will, with its beautifully-gorgeous-amazing-absolutely-perfect cover included), but when a story is this romantic and sweet, this lovely and moving, it would just be a neat option to erase and repeat. Sigh.
Erase and repeat. Sigh.
Joanne has a masterful touch with crafting human emotions, creating life-like characters so vivid I'm pretty sure Charlie is actually in Virginia somewhere, sprawled amongst his beloved pride of lions. His and Ella's budding friendship, their secrets and struggles, make for a page-turning story that will grab and squeeze your heart--and root for them until the last page.
There's so much I love about The Lady and the Lionheart, but I think my favorite aspect is the relationship between the characters. She creates authentic affection between Charlie, Ella, and the colorful secondary characters I came to care for. Some I rooted for; others I wish the elephants had run straight on out of the big top ;).
Either way, they all tie together, into a beautifully told story of love and redemption. That's also a favorite aspect...how Charlie and Ella's tale is a reflection of Christ's love for us through a highly enjoyable story.
Joanne is a writer I'll always read. Always. I've already read it but I'm dying to get my hands on that paperback. Sigh.
Heartfelt, surprising, and grace-filled, The Lady and the Lionheart is a must-read for inspirational readers and one of my favorite books this year.
This book fully lived up to my expectations. It was so, so touching, and I loved the themes that played out in the struggles of the main characters had due to their pasts. I've always been fascinated by the circus, so it was lovely to see it portrayed in a sweeter, though still realistic, light. The entire mood of this book just made me very happy. And I thought Ella's journey with faith was one of the most realistic and least preachy I'd ever read. My only complaint would be plenty of romance, I suppose. It was all handled tastefully and remained realistic, but I'm realizing how quickly I tire of the extreme attraction trope. I highly recommend for ages 14+ due to the level of romance, and some instances of
My heart is just bursting rn 😭 Oh my goodness, where do I even start. First off, I have to thank my bestie, Alissa, for telling me I had to read this book because she was right—I HAD to read it, and I’m so thankful I did. This story is just beautiful—not only the writing but the themes, the characters, the heart-wrenching and tender moments. There’s so much beauty in this story that literally keeps you turning each page until the story ends, and then tempting you to begin again even though you’ve only just finished.
I will absolutely be rereading this book again. And I would highly recommend it! 🥲🤍
Some books seriously deserve way more than the 5 stars allowed by Goodreads. I just a moment ago finished The Lady and the Lionheart and now I must figure out a way to craft a review worthy of this amazing story. Truly, words fail me as my mind whirls trying to come up with an adequate review. Joanne Bischof grabbed my attention with her very first book, 'Be Still My Soul' in her Cadence of Grace series, and I've made sure to read every word she writes. She writes with such depth that the reader is totally captivated and drawn away to whatever time period in which she sets her novels.
'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 tend 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 very first chapter of this book captured my heart and I felt every emotion, every heartbreak, every pain, every struggle and every bit of love in its pages. I simply could not keep my mind off this book when I had to lay it down to do life. Striking in its depth, captivating in its fullness and humbling in its poignancy, The Lady and the Lionheart is one of the best books I've ever read!
Joanne Bischof has an extraordinary talent to create characters that simply refuse to stay on the pages of the book. They take up residence in your heart and fill your head with their lives even as you go about your ordinary duties of life. I do not know how she does this. Yes, I do. It is a gift from God. The reader feels her heart in her books.
Charlie Lionheart has sacrificed so very, very much to keep this baby safe from those who would use her grievously. And he'd do it again, even though this sacrifice will go with him to his grave. Charlie's heart is so precious and many times I wished I could comfort him and ease the pain in his life. Charlie is determined to overcome and some day find love to fill the void that torments his soul at times. Charlie trusts God with all things, even when he is cruelly used. My heart was broken so many times at the pain Charlie endured.
Ella, too, has endured much pain and because of the source of this pain, has decided that God no longer has a place in her life. She loses much to tend to this sick baby Charlie has taken on, but she refuses to share his faith. As Ella and Charlie grow closer, they both have some soul searching to do and some decisions to make. Can they trust God with their feelings and their heartbreaks? Will the good prevail?
This is one book that will remain with me for a very long time and one that is destined to be read over and over again. It will touch your heart so deeply that you will weep. Truly, it is not to be missed. Amazing book that I am so very glad I read. Joanne Bischof is a tremendous writer and I cherish her works.
*I was given a preview copy of this book to read and review. All opinions are my own.
From the first page I was swept away into the emotional story of Ella and Charlie. The moment Charlie came into the hospital with little Holland, I wanted to cry. Of course, I didn't really know WHY I wanted to, but as the story unfolds the characters life become raw and open.
As usual I was conflicted with how to rate this. So I'll leave it at four stars and list my likes and dislikes :)
What I loved: -Charlie Lionheart. He's probably going to be on my list of favorite hero's. It wasn't so much that he was good-looking, but that fact that he was honest with Ella. He told her the truth, and although the truth sometimes hurt, I really respected him for revealing everything to her. Also, his affection for Holland and his lions made me happy :)
-Ella. It is very rare that I actually like both hero and heroine equally. But Ella was such a sweet woman. My heart broke for her and what happened in the past. But later on as she begins to lean on God again, I wanted to hug her when she spoke to the pastor (that scene was amazing).
-All the circus life and people. The author painted the circus perfectly. I could picture everything. And each character involved created part of the atmosphere.
-There was much darkness in this book and so not to give anything away, I'll just say that I loved how well the author shown Christ's light through the darkness. I absolutely loved when Charlie talked about the gospel with Ella.
-CHARLIE TALKED TO ELLA'S FATHER!! Folks, that was splendid. I mean he was truthful with HER dad.
What I disliked: -Mainly the couple kissing scenes. They were a little more detailed then I preferred (although not as bad as some books I've read).
-One other particular scene I didn't like. I understood why the author put it in (to show Ella's need to feel Charlie's pain), but since they were unmarried I didn't find it appropiate. But I don't want to spoil anything, so I'll just leave it at that Charlie wasn't wearing a shirt.
-I could have used a tinsy-winsy more of spirituality. But what was in there was absolutely amazing. I also would have liked Ella to show more of a trust in the Lord...it never was really spelled out. Just assumed.
Other things to note: There are a few insinuations of things. One character, in the past, remembers a scene in a brothel. But that character went against their will and never interacted with anyone in a wrong way. Also, one character was taken advantage of, but I appreciated it was not detailed.
I would recommend this book for older teens and up. It's an emotional read, so be prepared for some tears...or at least a tight throat :))
First I should say my expectations for this book were crazy high after hearing all the raving about it. While I enjoyed this story, I felt a bit underwhelmed. Some of this could be due to my hard time picturing the time period & Ella for whatever reason. Charlie’s character delivered- I can see why everyone loves him. It may just be my brain being picky, but I didn’t feel like I was really shown why he loved Ella so much. He was such a hottie with all these options. I want to know what made her so different? (Again, I liked her but had a hard time picturing her the entire book😕).
The circus is not an interesting topic to me but I enjoyed reading this different setting. The romance in this has been SO hyped for years & it didn’t quite live up to it for me. The writing is good but something just felt missing for me. I liked Charlie a lot but didn’t feel like Ella shined quite as bright.
I feel like I’m sounding harsh & don’t mean to. If you’re a die hard L&TL fan please don’t hate me 😆.
Just an all-around sweet story. I couldn't help but love these characters. Full review to come.
The emotional depth and genuine quality of this story captured my heart so easily. Both Ella and Charlie have believable back stories, setting the stage for their interactions with each other as well as the world around them. I don't know that two characters have won me over so quickly. They aren't perfect by any means, but are realistically kind and striving for better lives.
Charlie is one of my favorite male protagonists. He is just so utterly endearing. Despite his circumstances, he doesn't come across as the poor, tortured soul that could have been an easy stereotype for his character. Does he have his moments of despair? Certainly. But it's all well-placed in the context of the story. He is never just broody for the sake of being broody and mysterious. His honesty is so refreshing.
Ella is dealing with a hurting heart as well, and I thought the author handled her emotions with aplomb and sensitivity. I just loved how Ella and Charlie interacted with one another, meeting each other at their broken places, helping one another along to find healing and forgiveness, while ultimately pointing to the One who heals all hurts.
I did love these main characters, but the secondary characters are such a joy as well. From baby Holland to the myriad of circus folk, there are so many wonderful people to "meet" in this story. And while the romance is gorgeous, the circus setting and the behind the scenes look readers get to see provide such depth to the story. The story portrays the several different facets of what it means to be a part of the circus. For many of the secondary characters, it meant home and a place to belong, for others, including Charlie, it meant family legacy, as well as a type of bondage. For Ella, it was exotic and unfathomable that she would be able to be a part of it.
I'm so glad I've gotten to read another book of Joanne Bischof. I definitely can't wait to read more and am happy that she has more books coming in the future!
The Lady and the Lionheart is Joanne Bischof’s “book hangover inducing” new release. From the moment Charlie Lionheart strode into Ella’s hospital with little Holland in his arms my heart was on the line. These characters, their struggles, and the journey they take together is something I cannot shake from my thoughts even days after finishing the book.
I began reading with a few preconceived notions of how I thought a lion tamer would behave. Joanne shattered each one and in their place she’s created a humble man with a lion-sized heart. Evidence of his gentleness shines forth in his care for Holland as well as his cats (to which Bischof has assigned unique personalities). Furthermore, it can be seen in his willingness to break precedence by allowing a townie named Ella into his circus world.
The use of bold and often fanciful imagery kept me spellbound. Completely immersing me in a world of sideshow oddities and Big Top excitement. Still, there was so much more to this tale given its faith-filled messages of sacrificial love and healing. Halfway through this year, Joanne Bischof takes center ring with a novel worthy of my Best of 2016 list!
Books that I review come from a number of sources to include: my local library, book stores, blogger programs, and authors. This was a title I won in a giveaway hosted by the author. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
oh gosh. how ca i summarize this book without it becoming be screaming in your face READ THIS PERFECT PIECE okay. this was so perfect and beautiful and feels. charlie makes me have emotions. ella is so broken yet so perfect. holland has a beautiful name. GO READ THIS NOW OR MY WRATH WILL FALL UPON YOU.
I have been hearing about this book for a while. It won a bunch of Christian fiction awards. It seems like everyone was reading it. I figured it couldn't possibly live up to the hype.
No, it didn't live up to the hype. It blew the hype out of the water.
I seriously couldn't stop listening to this book (I had the audiobook version). It is sooooo compelling. It is not my usual style of book since it has very little action and is heavy on character, but it is the characters and the setting that carry the day in this book. The characters are well developed and unique. The romance is done so sweetly and well that even though the characters start falling in love in a matter of days, it doesn't feel like insta-love but instead feels like a slow build romance.
Ah. Charlie. He is so sweet and wounded and broken. Both characters are. There is so much brokenness and healing and pain and strength and...*swoony sigh* It is SOOO well done.
And the setting. It is mostly set in the circus, and the author does a fabulous job of capturing both the wonder and the horror of the circus in the late 1800's. The horror is real and portrayed as real and horrible without covering it up, yet the sense of wonder remains because the circus was a unique, kind of magical sort of thing at its best. The worldbuilding in this book is so well done fantasy authors could take notes for crafting a unique setting.
So, yeah. I loved the book. And the audiobook version was well done and very easy to listen to.
Everyone remarks upon what a beautiful cover this is, and to be sure, it is. But the CONTENTS of this book are more beautiful still. Themes of freedom, forgiveness, and redemption flow through this unforgettable story, merging into a modern-day beauty and the beast tale that goes so much deeper than the original.
Charlie Lionheart. Holland. Ella Beckley. These names will not be forgotten to readers, as they join the traveling circus, seeing the sights and experiencing it in a whole new way. With emotional nuance and threads that effortlessly tie together, Bischof has crafted a novel that will stand the test of time.
This is one of those rare books that cross that "Christian fiction" divide--it is something I would feel comfortable recommending to believers and nonbelievers alike. Universal themes, tied together with the hope of Christ. Not heavy-handed, but the story speaking the truths of the Bible more loudly than wordy monologues.
This is one of those rare books I feel I MUST own in softcover so I can loan it out to everyone. Beautiful cover, beautiful writing, and beautiful story. A masterpiece.
The Lady and the LionHeart is sure to become a classic in the tradition of Redeeming Love! The story of Ella and Charlie will take hold of your heart and not let go even after you turn the last page. The rich symbolism makes this beautiful story even more meaningful. I have enjoyed many of Joanne Bischof's books, and this one is her finest yet. I highly recommend it and wish I could give it more stars!
Old, short review from May 16th: Words are failing me at the moment on how to express my love of this book and I’m going to have a very busy weekend, so I decided to go ahead and at least get the star rating posted and worry about the full review when I have more time. I’m giving this 4.5 stars with the .5 only being taken off because of some technical writing stuff that distracted my inner editor. (So much winking and pursing of lips, LOL) Otherwise IT WAS SO AND BEAUTIFUL OH MY HEART!!! The love story was sweet and touching and clean and I loved Ella and Charlie so much, both separately and together, but even more wonderful were the themes of redemption and self-sacrifice. I want to go into further detail when I write the longer review, but suffice it to say for now that it brought me to tears a number of times.
New, long review added June 24th: I read this book back in May, as you can tell from the old review above^. It first got my attention because it was a Christian fiction book set in Victorian era Virginia. (My home state!) Things set in VA always catch my attention and the fact that I hadn't read one set here in that era before just made me more curious. However, there was a lot of hype surrounding it, so I was a little afraid it wouldn't live up to expectations and intentionally went into with my critical hat on, but...it was actually really really good! Dare I say it even lived up to the hype, was one of the sweetest romances I've read, and brought me to tears a number of times.
Part of the reason it took me this long to write a full review of this book is because I was afraid I wouldn't be able to capture my feelings about it properly, and I'm still not sure I did that very well, but I did want to write a full review, so I just did the best I could.
Though this book is a romance, the real, most important theme to be found here is not about the love between a man and a woman, it is about redemption, self-sacrifice, and ultimately God's grace and mercy and forgiveness, which can be found even in the worst of circumstances. I wish I could detail more of how these themes are displayed, but if I do I'll totally spoil things. Let's just say that many of these themes are displayed most powerfully in Charlie's (our male lead) side of the story, which is slowly revealed throughout the book. His faith shapes the decisions he makes and he went through a lot of suffering he didn't have to go through, just to protect someone who couldn't protect themselves. In enduring that suffering he even inspires someone else to value themselves enough to get out of a bad situation they are in as well, which leads to my favorite quote, from the most touching moment of the story: "Thank you, for being the man who walked away." (and btw, that's not a line said by the person you may be thinking said it!)
Ella (our female lead), too, has been through a lot of hurt in her life, and throughout the story, learns that she doesn't have to carry it alone. Her hurts can, through God's grace, be healed, and the things of her past do not have to define her future.
It was truly a beautiful story (with a perfect, sweet, and satisfying epilogue as well, I will note!) that I hope to read again and again, and would readily recommend to anyone interested. I give it an enthusiastic 5 stars!
Content Advisory Note: This book is technically adult fiction, and though the author handled it with great sensitivity, due to themes of rape, I only recommend this to more mature readers ages 16+.
Sexual: A rape, which resulted in pregnancy is a big part of Ella's past and we learn of it very early on in the story. There are no inappropriate details shared about this event, however, and the story uses it to make the themes of healing, redemption, and forgiveness even stronger. We only know that the perpetrator offered to walk Ella home and when Ella said no he grabbed her wrist and it is implied (not described in any way) that he dragged her off somewhere and raped her. This event obviously had great impact on Ella's life and is referenced many times throughout the book.
Related to this^: At one point something benign triggers Ella's memory of the rape and she has a panic attack that reduces her to cowering. (This panic attack is handled sensitively by the characters around her and she's later okay.)
Three kisses happen. The first is described more than the others but none of the descriptions ever get sexual/steamy.
Brief mentions of remembering the first kiss and wanting to kiss or hold the other person again.
We learn that one summer a few years ago a character allowed himself to kiss several girls without thought of commitment, but he has since learned and matured and has made the choice not to do that anymore.
Possibly a spoiler for Charlie's backstory so... Note: Charlie's choices when he was taken to this location actually lead to one of the most beautiful and redemptive moments in the entire story later on.
At one point, while asking about what happened that Charlie was forced to get them, Ella touches the "markings" (trying not to be spoilery here :p) on Charlie's bare chest and back. The scene has romantic tension, but does not become sexual.
At another point Charlie and Ella have to travel alone to get somewhere and have to stop for the night. (They'd been hoping to only take one day to get to the place, but were slowed down by circumstances out of their control.) There is some romantic tension, but Charlie conducts himself like a gentleman and Ella like a lady and nothing sexual happens.
Drug/alcohol: It becomes apparent that the antagonist of the story and her henchman use opium. The usage is never shown/described, she simply smells strongly of it.
Violence: The antagonist has a muscular henchman she uses to threaten people and make them do what she wants. It is not described, but we learn that this henchman beat Charlie up at one point in the past.
This is not so much violence, but I didn't know where else to put it... Ella has a brief memory of the day she gave birth to the baby that resulted from her being raped. The birth is not described, but there is brief mention that she remembers kneeling on her bed and being in pain. Note: Her baby later after becoming ill.
3/13/17 Update: I just love this book so much. SO MUCH.
*This is my 2016 review that was originally posted on my blog. Just finally adding it here :)*
Experiencing the circus is a myriad of sights and sounds and smells bombarding your senses. The atmosphere is alive with excitement and color. Joanne captured this perfectly on the page, and I really felt like I was standing amidst the chaotic magnificence of the circus. This is one of the few reading experiences I can think of that the scenes were written so vividly, I felt I was there.
Within the circus is where the majority of the story takes place. And where the setting comes alive, the characters do more so. Charlie Lionheart and Ella Beckley are two characters made up of so much depth and heart. They have entirely different backgrounds and upbringings, yet they find each other. A lion tamer and a nurse. They both carry hurts from their pasts and pain that is hard to grapple with. Both of them find it difficult to hope for a future with anything but what they already have. They hesitate to want more, to reach for something different for their lives.
My heart ached while reading this novel. I was so invested in these characters and their lives. I wanted to see a happy ending, but I had no idea how it would be found for them. During the work week, I couldn’t wait for my lunch break so I could read a few more chapters. IT IS SO GOOD.
It is lovely and breathtaking and a story that I have not been able to stop thinking about since I finished reading it days ago. It is a powerful story about love and sacrifice.
Heartrending and beautiful, please don’t pass this one up. I never felt like I could figure out where this story was going, so every time the plot was given a new layer to grapple with, my heart would hurt a little more. Wanting to find resolution and not knowing how or if it would come for these beloved characters. Wanting happiness to be a reality for them after the darkness they had both experienced in the past.
And I definitely cried. Chapter 32 broke my heart so completely. And a book that makes me cry is a rare gem.
*I received an e-copy of this book from the author and was under no obligation to write a review. This is my honest opinion and all thoughts are my own.*