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, country nurse Ella Beckley arrives to tend to this ill 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 sights, sounds and people of a turn-of-the-century circus come alive in this novel that captivates from word one. Every sentence is pitch perfect, while the characters embed themselves soul deep. Charlie Lionheart is the hero of heroes and a reflection of the fairy tale “Beast.” He is so brilliantly multidimensional that he could easily live outside the pages. The romance between Charlie and Ella is heartachingly beautiful, and the redemption organically sewn into the story’s tent flaps will linger with readers for years.” – RT Book Reviews, 5 Star TOP PICK!
“From the moment he bursts onto the pages of The Lady and the Lionheart, Charlie Lionheart splashes color across Ella Beckley’s drab, confined world—and along the way he stole my heart. As Ella is drawn by necessity into his mysterious circus performer’s life, a world portrayed in vivid shades by Joanne Bischof— whimsical and threatening by turns—so readers will be drawn by the contradiction that is Charlie Lionheart, rooting for Ella to see past appearances to the man beneath, with a heart that bears the scars of unthinkable sacrifice. This tale has it all, heart, hope, mystery, love, and depth, spun beneath the vibrant tents of the Big Top world.” – Lori Benton, Christy-award winning author of Burning Sky, The Pathfinders series, and other stories
“The best stories are ones where you are torn between the desire to linger in each scene and enjoy the interactions of the characters and the descriptions that make the world so real, or read it all in one sitting because you simply have to know what’s going to happen next. The Lady and The Lionheart put me into that delicious agony and held me there until that final page and the reluctant closing of the book.” – Sigmund Brouwer, author of Thief of Glory, Christy Award book of the year 2015
“Absorbing. Emotional. Colorful and clever… Bischof brings the world of the vintage circus to life with vibrant scenes and deeply poignant characters. It’s a masterful portrait of redemption- with faith and hope deftly woven in- that grips the reader until the final page. I was swept away and didn’t want to return.” – Kristy Cambron, author of The Ringmaster’s Wife
“Breathtaking and drenched in grace, The Lady and the Lionheart will sweep you away with the magic of the circus—and the miracle of redemption. This tale is one for the ages; Charlie and Ella will dance into your life with a story to settle deep within your soul.” – Amanda Dykes, author of the critically acclaimed Bespoke: a Tiny Christmas Tale
“Captivated from that first snowy paragraph, I found The Lady and the Lionheart hard to put down. When it comes to depth and originality, Joanne Bischof delivers and this unique historical is no exception. If you’re wanting a story that satisfies heart and soul, this richly woven novel is for you – a keeper you’re sure to recommend to friends. Beautiful!”- Laura Frantz, author of The Mistress of Tall Acre
“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.” –Jocelyn Green, award-winning author of the Heroines Behind the Lines Civil War series
“A compelling and lyrical treatise on the power of grace, The Lady and the Lionheart is matched by a rich realization of the world of the 19th Century Appalachian circus. One of the best works of historical fiction I have ever read, Bischof’s alluring prose perfectly relays the heart-rending stories of Charlie, Ella and a populous of characters who leap from the page. Strewn with threads of redemption not unlike those found in Les Misérables, Bischof perfectly pairs an accessible and engaging historical romance with a deft nod to the classics. Few writers would be brave enough to narratively realize the impact of sacrifice in such a visceral and tangible way and the careful reader will rejoice as they fall into a story that is at once thematic and bold. A reverent ode to a time past told through two broken people trying with faith and tenacity to sew their worlds whole, The Lady and the Lionheart is poetry in perfect storytelling motion. I cannot wait to revisit Charlie and Ella again (and again and again).” – Rachel McMillan, author the Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder
“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 its exquisite conclusion, this story is mesmerizing. Delicate 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.” – Rel Mollet, Relz Reviewz & INSPY Award advisory board member