Genre: Historical Fiction
Release Date: July 7th, 2020
Michel enjoys his life in Paris, working with horses and living near his dearest friend. But the Nazis are edging closer to the city, and even if Michel doesn’t want to leave, his friend knows he must. Michel ends up on a train heading south, only to discover the train belongs to a circus. Michel joins the circus to look after their horses, despite the hostility from the ringmaster. And Michel falls in love with the mysterious trapeze artist, although he feels she can never really be his.
Okay, firstly: I liked the first part of this book. Enjoyed it, and until about halfway through it would have maybe been a 5 Star, but everything felt off after that. The description at the start was intriguing, Michel a likeable if dim character, and the situations presented with the Nazis drawing ever closer made for some good tension.
But almost as soon as the threat itself is pressed on the characters, it lost the things that made it good in the first place.
Firstly, the title is The Ringmaster’s Daughter, but Michel spends a vast majority of the book not realising the woman he loves isn’t his boss’s wife. It would have been handled better if he found out sooner, but instead it’s stretched out for so long it becomes frustrating, it’s treated like a huge reveal, and even the conversations that take place regarding her are confusing. The way Michel talks makes it clear what he thinks, but not a single person corrects him.
And it’s built up as a great big love story, but Michel barely even speaks to her, just spends half his time lusting over her while sleeping with someone else.
The actual female characters here aren’t great. The two main women exist solely for Michel, never interacting with one another, and the others are barely existent in themselves, like mannequins that only come to life when looked directly at. By about three-quarters of the way through this book, I was frustrated. The dialogue was bland, the interactions between Michel and his ‘love’ felt like two fish who kept headbutting each other in a bowel, and the fact this was during World War 2 seemed forgotten for the most part, unless it was required for the plot.
So much of this story hinged on the idea of a ‘mysterious circus’, but we don’t even get to see the circus itself, and things are only a mystery because Michel cannot be bother to do much of anything. He goes from dim but likable to just dim and boring, never really doing much except reacting to what was happening.
This is set in France, when the Nazis invade, but you’d be forgiven for forgetting that during the book’s meandering plot. Michel, for the most part, seems happy to ignore what is really going on, to not pay attention to the way others are reacting, to ignoring the news they get filtered through to them. He just doesn’t seem to care about much of anything.
And then there’s the ending. The ending, which could have been really strong and redeemed the book, instead felt like it was tacked on, like the author had an idea in mind for how to end, but changed it at the last minute. The last section feels both rushed and too slow, with no real reason for it.
I was really keen to give this book a try. I thought there’d be a bit of magic to it, a grand romance, an intriguing setting. Instead, this book let me down, and it could have been so much better than it really was. I felt like the author had the ability to create something really compelling, but got bored of their own story, right when things should have got interesting.