Is there life after the circus has left town?
Circus performer Justine Belmont works with big cats, but when the circus is disbanded and the old lion is sold to a private menagerie at a stately home in Norfolk, she is asked to spend a few weeks settling him into his new environment. When she arrives at the estate, however, she receives a mixed welcome.
The groundsman Tom Yates resents her presence as he doesn’t feel he needs her help with the lion. He revises his opinion when he sees the bond between her and the big cat, and she and Tom grow closer, although Justine remains torn about her feelings for him. The lady of the house, Priscilla – who is married to the reclusive owner, Lord Brooks’s, grandson – is not so easily convinced. She perceives Justine as a threat for the male attention and her plans for the manor. And her two young daughters are a little too curious about the lion for their own good.
When unsettling events occur, Justine begins to wonder if there is more to Priscilla’s animosity than meets the eye. Can Justine keep herself and everyone else safe until it’s time for her to leave again and start a new life elsewhere?
What a fabulously original story! I was hooked by this story from its first word. It provided an interesting insight into circus life and the very real threats its face, from legislation as well as dwindling audiences lured away by ever more online entertainment. A way of life faces extinction, and it’s a way of life that is too often vilified as cruel to animals. In our story we see well-cared for animals to whom performing is simply what they do in order to get nice rewards.
Elijah, Justine’s father, recognises that he’s fighting a losing battle trying to keep his big cat show going. It’s time to retire both himself and his animals. Rexus, the lion, goes off to Stoneybrook – which Justine soon discovers is nicknamed stoney-broke (an English expression meaning really short of money) – and Justine goes with him.
There are plenty of exciting events and interesting twists in the plot after Justine’s arrival in Norfolk. The hints are there, but I don’t think anyone can predict the fascinating denouement. I know I couldn’t, and Ioved I how was kept on tenterhooks!
We meet many fascinating characters, from Justine, who seems stubborn and rather set in her ways to begin with, to the austere Priscilla, the eccentric Lord Brook and the kind and dashing Tom, whose heart has been maltreated in the past so he’s rather wary around women now, especially ones like Justine that he can’t quite fathom out…
Animals, ways of life under threat, Christmas and romance – what a wonderful combination for an entertaining and thought-provoking festive read.
Henriette Gyland grew up in Northern Denmark but moved to England after she graduated from the University of Copenhagen. She wrote her first book when she was ten, a tale of two orphan sisters running away to Egypt, fortunately to be adopted by a perfect family they meet on the Orient Express.
Between that first literary exploit and now, she has worked in the Danish civil service, for a travel agent, a consultancy company, in banking, hospital administration, and for a county court before setting herself up as a freelance translator and linguist. Henriette recently began to pursue her writing in earnest winning the New Talent Award in 2011 from the Festival of Romance and a Commended from the Yeovil Literary Prize.
Henriette lives in London.
Social Media Links
And looks, there’s a lovely giveaway!
Giveaway – Win a sterling silver Thomas Sabo Snowflake Charm (UK Only)
*Terms and Conditions –UK entries welcome. Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below. The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time I will delete the data. I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.
Do follow the rest of the tour: