Synopsis (from Goodreads):
The Circus Spektakulär is proud to present Jack McCabe: Fire-breather, knife-thrower, risk-taker.
My house burned down when I was just a boy, robbing me of both my parents.
Now I breathe fire, eat the poison that almost killed me. Crowds come to see me night after night. Men for the spectacle, women for the thrill. I’m an oddity to be stared at and desired. With each flame I spit, I risk my life. I wear scars on my body that will never go away, but the scars inside my head are far more difficult to overlook. My brother doesn’t know me, and if I have it my way he never will.
Life was going exactly the way I’d planned until Lille came along. She wanted to run away with the circus, have an adventure, but this world was never meant for her. I try to keep her safe, because she doesn’t know the dangers that are out here on the road. She doesn’t know the monsters that lurk behind the bright lights of the ring. In truth, I could be considered one of them.
We were fashioned from different cloths, never intended to mix. So I watch her. I try not to touch, even when her eyes invite me.
To be honest this part of the review should be entitled rather ‘my rant’. The main heroine was seriously damaging any chances of me liking this novel. A girl playing with fire? In more than one way. Still was she at least an interesting character I would like to read about? Weeeell…
First of all you have a very young, very sheltered girl aged 21 who’s just made a very serious decision, apparently her first, of leaving the island hometown she’d lived and joining a circus troupe. Yes, she simply ran away with a circus. The ringmaster, a motherly type called Marina, offered our girl that precious opportunity because Lille (Lillian) looked like a ‘traveler’ and knew how to paint kid’s faces in a creative manner. You see a girl in a café painting kids’ faces, you talk to her two or three times, you offer her a job, right? Wrong. A circus is a business like any other and serious businesses rarely hire staff that way unless they want to go bust in no time. Not to mention the fact that Marina seemed uninterested in any financial gain from her new employee; it made me immediately super suspicious.
Then we find out why Lille was tempted to change her life so drastically. You see, like in the case of every good, classic Freudian analysis, it was all about her mother. According to Lille her mom was a sadistic control freak and a face-slapping despot. I have to admit I had an immediate problem with such a premise because Lille was the sole narrator of the novel so her personal opinions were, like all personal opinions, biased. From my point of view her mother didn’t look that bad. Being a single mother, she has also managed to become a successful businesswoman; she clearly took care of her daughter, even thinking about her social life, arranging for her a kind of boyfriend when it was clear Lille’s tastes were a bit off. I am not a mother but I kind of understood that behaviour. It was clear Lille had difficulties with social interactions; she was an easy touch and a personality definitely not as adult as she wanted to pretend. If I needed any proof of her immaturity the ‘wish list’ or ‘bucket list’ she’s composed was more than enough; it really sounded like something written by a naïve, rebellious teen (and I mean here somebody being in very early teens) than by a young but sensible woman studying in a college. Only look at it:
“1. Dump Henry Jackson (the boyfriend chosen by her mom – my note).
- Get a tattoo.
- Have sex with a stranger.
- Do something dangerous.
- Visit a place I’ve never been before.
- Fall in love.
- Make a new friend.
- Quit my degree.
- Become a real artist.
- Move out of my mother’s house.
- Get my heart broken.”
Le sigh. Why would you want to get your heart broken, I ask you, if not for the needs of a romantic novel? Characteristically, she never added “get more mature”,”get wiser” or “start thinking”.
Ok, so Lille escapes her controlling witch of a mother and her dull in-the-middle-of-nowhere town in order to travel with a band of circus artists. Them and Jack McCabe, one seriously messed-up individual hiding in a shell of a very handsome, darkly brooding man who loves playing with fire and does it for a living too. His character was exactly what kept me going as he was written rather well. It is the strong point of Cosway – when she writes about messed up, almost-broken individuals she does it well.
Anyway Jack was the catnip for Lille’s inner kitten, everything which she considered attractive, exotic, enticing and delightfully forbidden. Still Lille in a moment of unprecedented lucidity saw also the other Jack: a love-starved, deeply damaged boy whose childhood was stolen by an accident. The adult Jack carefully hid that side from the world at large but Lille was determined to get to know him better. All good and well but it was as if the author suddenly created a second Lille, more mature and wiser than the first one, acting completely out of character. Why Jack fell in love with her dumber clone in the first place? That is the question. I bet he’s found and read her bucket list and laughed almost to death the first time in his life. ;p
The weakest romantic novel by L.H. Cosway I’ve read so far with a heroine that, in my biased opinion, was too stupid to live. And then she was not. And it made her even worse. Something was always missing, some magic and some skill as well. Not impressed – meh it is.
Other books by L.H. Cosway reviewed by me so far (and yes Tasha/Heidenkind is to blame):