The Bonaventure Circus is a refuge for many, but Pippa Ripley was rejected from its inner circle as a baby. When she receives mysterious messages from someone called the “Watchman,” she is determined to find him and the connection to her birth. As Pippa’s search leads her to a man seeking justice for his murdered sister and evidence that a serial killer has been haunting the circus train, she must decide if uncovering her roots is worth putting herself directly in the path of the killer.
The old circus train depot will either be torn down or preserved for historical importance, and its future rests on real estate project manager Chandler Faulk’s shoulders. As she dives deep into the depot’s history, she’s also balancing a newly diagnosed autoimmune disease and the pressures of single motherhood. When she discovers clues to the unsolved murders of the past, Chandler is pulled into a story far darker and more haunting than even an abandoned train depot could portend.
I have a soft-spot for timeslip novels and enjoy a good supernatural story so when the chance to read The Haunting at Bonaventure Circus came my way, I jumped at the chance to be part of the blog tour!
The book isn’t quite what I initially expected – there’s a relatively heavy Christian Fiction element that isn’t really indicated in the blurb and, whilst I consider myself to be a Christian (albeit probably one with a small ‘c’), some of the messaging was a little heavy-handed for my liking. However the mystery and historical elements – as well as well-realised and fascinating circus setting – made up for my misgivings in this respect.
The Haunting at Bonaventure Circus follows the stories of two women who, despite living nearly a century apart, are both fighting against the constraints of the various expectations placed upon them. As the adopted daughter of the Bonaventure Circus’s owner, Pippa is expected to marry well and stay quiet – but her fascination with the circus and her determination to find out who her true parents are means she can’t stay away. In the present day, meanwhile, single parent Chandler is trying to juggle being a devoted mother and high-flying project manager with the demands of a newly diagnosed chronic illness.
Jaime Jo Wright navigates the seemingly disparate worlds of these two women in a very engaging and readable way and, whilst there were times when I didn’t particularly like the characters, I always found their struggles and perspectives justified. Pippa, for example, oscillates between small acts of rebellion and intense self-recrimination – an infuriating trait but one that perfectly encapsulates the thinking of the period, in which women of her position were struggling to balance new found freedoms such as the vote with societal expectations that were barely changed since the previous century. Similarly, whilst I found Chandler borderline neurotic at times, I could appreciate that a single mother with her experiences would potentially be overly protective of her child – and suspicious about the consequences of letting anyone into her life.
I really enjoyed the descriptions of circus life and it’s clear that Jaime Jo Wright has done her research here – the hustle and bustle of the circus is perfectly captured, and she does a great job of showing you the often precarious and impoverished reality that lay behind the glamour of the big top. The novel also gives an excellent depiction of rural small town life, with both the benefits and challenges that brings, and I warmed to the supporting cast of characters that surrounded both Pippa and Chandler.
There is an awful lot going on in The Haunting of Bonaventure Circus and, at times, I worried that the author was losing control of the narrative. There are a lot of characters and, at times, some of the plot strands felt as if they had been forgotten about. To Jaime Jo Wright’s credit however, everything is wrapped up satisfactorily at the end of the book – although I did feel that the supernatural element was left a little vague. That said, this probably wouldn’t have bothered me as much if the title, blurb, and opening chapters hadn’t stressed this aspect so much – as a result I was expecting the book to focus more on the ‘haunting’ element than it did whereas, at its heart, this is really a mystery novel.
What you get with The Haunting of Bonaventure Circus is a well put-together mystery with historical elements, some light supernatural shenanigans, a dash of wholesome romance, and a noticeable but slight Christian subtext. It’s an unusual blend but, on the whole, it works well and makes for a light and pacy read that’s perfect for whiling away a couple of evenings with, especially if the circus setting intrigues you or you’re a fan of historical mysteries.
The Haunting of Bonaventure Circus by Jaime Jo Wright is published by Bethany House and is available now from all good booksellers and online retailers including Bookshop.org, Hive, Waterstones, and Wordery.
If you can, please support a local indie bookshop by ordering from them either in person or online! Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green Bookshop, Sam Read Booksellers, Book-ish, Scarthin Books, and Berts Books.
My thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review, and to Love Books Group for organising and inviting me onto this blog tour. The tour continues until the 26 November so do check out the other stops for more reviews and content.
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