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The Ladies of the Secret Circus

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Paris, 1925: To enter the Secret Circus is to enter a world of wonder-a world where women tame magnificent beasts, carousels take you back in time, and trapeze artists float across the sky. But each daring feat has a cost. Bound to her family's strange and magical circus, it's the only world Cecile Cabot knows-until she meets a charismatic young painter and embarks on a pa Paris, 1925: To enter the Secret Circus is to enter a world of wonder-a world where women tame magnificent beasts, carousels take you back in time, and trapeze artists float across the sky. But each daring feat has a cost. Bound to her family's strange and magical circus, it's the only world Cecile Cabot knows-until she meets a charismatic young painter and embarks on a passionate love affair that could cost her everything. Virginia, 2005: Lara Barnes is on top of the world-until her fiancé disappears on their wedding day. Desperate, her search for answers unexpectedly leads to her great-grandmother's journals and sweeps her into the story of a dark circus and a generational curse that has been claiming payment from the women in her family for generations.


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Paris, 1925: To enter the Secret Circus is to enter a world of wonder-a world where women tame magnificent beasts, carousels take you back in time, and trapeze artists float across the sky. But each daring feat has a cost. Bound to her family's strange and magical circus, it's the only world Cecile Cabot knows-until she meets a charismatic young painter and embarks on a pa Paris, 1925: To enter the Secret Circus is to enter a world of wonder-a world where women tame magnificent beasts, carousels take you back in time, and trapeze artists float across the sky. But each daring feat has a cost. Bound to her family's strange and magical circus, it's the only world Cecile Cabot knows-until she meets a charismatic young painter and embarks on a passionate love affair that could cost her everything. Virginia, 2005: Lara Barnes is on top of the world-until her fiancé disappears on their wedding day. Desperate, her search for answers unexpectedly leads to her great-grandmother's journals and sweeps her into the story of a dark circus and a generational curse that has been claiming payment from the women in her family for generations.

30 review for The Ladies of the Secret Circus

  1. 5 out of 5

    Nenia ✨ I yeet my books back and forth ✨ Campbell

    Instagram || Twitter || Facebook || Amazon || Pinterest I enjoyed this author's other book, A WITCH IN TIME, so much that I was really excited when I found out I could get a copy of her new release, THE LADIES OF THE SECRET CIRCUS. AWIT is more of a straightforward romance, similar to THE TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE or A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES, but I would say that TLOTSC is more of a mystery/drama with some romantic elements, kind of like WATER FOR ELEPHANTS or THE NIGHT CIRCUS. In TLOTSC, there are t Instagram || Twitter || Facebook || Amazon || Pinterest I enjoyed this author's other book, A WITCH IN TIME, so much that I was really excited when I found out I could get a copy of her new release, THE LADIES OF THE SECRET CIRCUS. AWIT is more of a straightforward romance, similar to THE TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE or A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES, but I would say that TLOTSC is more of a mystery/drama with some romantic elements, kind of like WATER FOR ELEPHANTS or THE NIGHT CIRCUS. In TLOTSC, there are two timelines. There's the story of Lara, whose tale begins when her fiance mysteriously disappears on the day of their wedding. As it turns out, he disappears on a day when lots of other people have disappeared, too. Lara also has supernatural abilities and family ties to a mysterious circus. As it turns out, the three things might be connected, all circling back to two sisters and a sinister man. The second timeline is about one of the sisters, narrated in a series of journals. These were few and far between, which made me sad because, to me, it made up the creepiest and most interesting part of the book. I don't always like stories about circuses because I think they can be too twee, but this one was really creepy and kind of awful. It gave this story fun Gothic vibes and I'd definitely recommend it if you like circus stories. Personally, TLOTSC took me a while to get into. Then by the time I got to the middle, I didn't want to put it down. At the ending, it started to drag a little and got kind of strange. This is one of those books that feels very idea-heavy, like the author got a really cool idea but wasn't sure how to finish the story and just threw something together. I wasn't all that keen on the ending, but I really enjoyed the build-up and the characters were decent. I just think that A WITCH IN TIME is the stronger of the two books. Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review! 3.5 stars

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jenny Lawson

    Now I want to go visit this magical (and terrifying) circus.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Holly (Holly Hearts Books)

    Personal rating: 3.75 If you found a bleeding ticket that promised an unforgettable.. killer experience. Would you go? Lara, a descendant of a secret circus family doesn’t have much of a choice. Wow, this book is smart. Constance Sayers made it up to me after her previous book had me looking the other way. Luckily, The Ladies of the Secret Circus has such a strong central story driving it along that I ultimately didn’t mind the contemporary real world environment which I'm typically not fond of. Rev Personal rating: 3.75 If you found a bleeding ticket that promised an unforgettable.. killer experience. Would you go? Lara, a descendant of a secret circus family doesn’t have much of a choice. Wow, this book is smart. Constance Sayers made it up to me after her previous book had me looking the other way. Luckily, The Ladies of the Secret Circus has such a strong central story driving it along that I ultimately didn’t mind the contemporary real world environment which I'm typically not fond of. Review to come on my YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/hollyheartsbooks

  4. 5 out of 5

    Bandit

    Dear novel, you had me at circus. I must admit, it wasn’t love at first page. In fact, at first there was some apprehension that you might turn out to be some sort of a women’s fiction situation with light magic involved, you know, the girly whimsical option. But to you credit, dear novel, you went darker and further and turned out to be way, way more exciting than I originally anticipated, so thank you for being awesome. I’m glad we met. This one sat around my kindle taunting, promise a potent Dear novel, you had me at circus. I must admit, it wasn’t love at first page. In fact, at first there was some apprehension that you might turn out to be some sort of a women’s fiction situation with light magic involved, you know, the girly whimsical option. But to you credit, dear novel, you went darker and further and turned out to be way, way more exciting than I originally anticipated, so thank you for being awesome. I’m glad we met. This one sat around my kindle taunting, promise a potential adventure but putting off with its girth. And it did, in fact, turned out to be a pretty long read, two days instead of one, but absolutely worth the time. Once you get past the initial estrogen laden set up, this novel’ll take you places, magical places. Like 1920s Paris, like a circus so secret it’s in its name with a most unusual of owners that was created for the most unusual of reasons in the most unusual way. The story follows several generations of Cabot family, from the 1920s to mid 2000s. Once high flying (literally) and now fairly regular women, who each share a romantic tragedy. Is it a mystery? Well, not quite, but it’s in there. It does begin with a vanishing groom. But then it goes off to tell a story so wild, so beguiling, so original…it’ll absolutely transport you, much like a proper circus ought to. The thing is there really isn’t a way to talk about all of these exciting plot elements without giving something away and it’s best (by far) to go into this novel knowing next to nothing about it, outside of the fact that it’s very, very good. I’m not sure if I ever read the plot summary past the word circus and if I did, I promptly forgot it by the time I decided to read the book and was very glad for it. This way the book got a chance to surprise me, which it did, regularly and pleasantly. I loved the direction it ended up taking, the gorgeously vivid descriptions, the historical aspect of it, the supernatural angle of it, it was a great adventure all in all. The characters were good too, but frankly the circus stole the show, absolutely. Nothing came close to how spectacularly imagined and lavishly executed The Secret Circus was, not even the titular ladies of it. Le Cirque Secret is a thing of darkly menacing beauty. And definitely worth the visit, if you dare. For fans of books like Night Circus and all those who prefer their fairy tales dark and magic deadly and romance tragic, this is the ticket. Step right up, enjoy the show. Recommended. Thanks Netgalley.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Wolf

    The Ladies of the Secret Circus is a tale of family secrets and a dark heritage — but it doesn’t quite live up to the mysterious air promised by the cover and synopsis. Lara is eagerly awaiting her wedding to Todd, the man she’s loved since her teens. But her joy turns to heartache when she’s left waiting at the altar on her wedding day. Did he jilt her? Did something happen to him? His abandoned car seems to provide a link to a similar disappearance that occurred 30 years earlier. Dark forces se The Ladies of the Secret Circus is a tale of family secrets and a dark heritage — but it doesn’t quite live up to the mysterious air promised by the cover and synopsis. Lara is eagerly awaiting her wedding to Todd, the man she’s loved since her teens. But her joy turns to heartache when she’s left waiting at the altar on her wedding day. Did he jilt her? Did something happen to him? His abandoned car seems to provide a link to a similar disappearance that occurred 30 years earlier. Dark forces seem to be at play. Could this be related to Lara and her mother Audrey’s talent for magic? Or the fact that their small town in Virginia hasn’t had a single murder case in decades? Or Lara’s strange memories of being visited as a child by an unusual man who made incredible things happen? In the months that follow, Todd’s fate remains a mystery and Lara starts to rebuild her life, but a gift from her mother sends her on a strange journey. The gift is a small painting that’s been hanging in Audrey’s house for as long as Lara can remember — a portrait of her great-grandmother Cecile as a young circus performer. When Lara takes the painting to be reframed, the art expert who handles it is astonished to realize that this may be one of the rumored missing paintings by the great Jazz Age artist Emile Giroux. He supposedly painted his masterpiece, a series of three paintings called The Ladies of the Secret Circus, before his death, but no one has ever seen the paintings. If Lara’s painting is authentic, then its value is in the millions, and its discovery will rock the art world. But as Lara investigates, the connection to ancient magics is revealed, especially once she begins to read Cecile’s long-lost diaries. The diaries tell a story of a mysterious, otherworldly circus that only appears to those who truly seek it, and the strange, damned performers who populate the circus and seemingly can never leave. There’s a connection to Lara’s family, but it’s beyond anything Lara could have expected, and carries huge dangers for her and everyone around her. While the set-up is promising, the book itself didn’t meet my expectations. Some of this may be me — I seem to have issues with magical circus settings, since apparently I’m the only person in the world who didn’t love The Night Circus. The big revelations in this book about the Secret Circus struck me as too out-there to accept. I have problems with books where the use of magic makes anything and everything possible — at some point, it stops feeling like any rules apply at all. The connections to Lara’s family are confusing, and the origin of the connection is just kind of dumped on the reader earlier on. The how’s and why’s of it all just didn’t work for me. So many of the more fantastical elements are stated as fact, but without a sense of build-up or setting to make these aspects feel at all plausible. The identities of some of the circus performers are supposed to ground the circus in our own world, but without giving anything away, I’ll just say that these pieces struck me as absurd and funny, rather than dramatic. I enjoyed the diary entries, with their 1920s Paris setting, but again, the constant name-dropping of artists and authors like Hemingway, Chagall, and Man Ray made me feel distracted and as if the author were trying too hard to make the story real. It just didn’t work for me — somehow the use of real artists in this fictional tale felt out of place and at odds with the story the author was trying to tell. Sad to say, overall this was a disappointing read for me. I loved the author’s previous book, A Witch in Time, and such high hopes for this one. Unfortunately, The Ladies of the Secret Circus started slowly and never fully pulled me in. Review copy courtesy of the publisher. Full review at Bookshelf Fantasies.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Elaine

    Thank you to NetGalley for an ARC of The Ladies of the Secret Circus. I know, I know; you're shocked I requested (and was approved) after the skewering I gave A Witch in Time. I'm pretty shocked myself. But, no worries, I didn't have high expectations. I've learned my lesson. ** Minor spoilers ahead ** Lara is about to get married to Todd, the love of her life. When he disappears on their wedding day, Lara is left crestfallen and with more questions than answers. But, a missing man is not an an Thank you to NetGalley for an ARC of The Ladies of the Secret Circus. I know, I know; you're shocked I requested (and was approved) after the skewering I gave A Witch in Time. I'm pretty shocked myself. But, no worries, I didn't have high expectations. I've learned my lesson. ** Minor spoilers ahead ** Lara is about to get married to Todd, the love of her life. When he disappears on their wedding day, Lara is left crestfallen and with more questions than answers. But, a missing man is not an anomaly in this small town, which has seen little crime in over a hundred years. Soon, Lara discovers her missing fiance is the least of her problems. Someone is after her. And this woman won't be easy to stop. Okay, the good news (and there's some of that unlike in A Witch in Time and here's what I liked: The world building was good, the description of the circus, the setting of old timey fun timey France. All the main characters were women; Lara, her mother Audrey, Cecile and her sister, Esme. I did enjoy the origin of Cecile and Esme's birth, how they came to be twins, and the sacrifice their mother made in exchange for their existence. Their unholy sisterhood, encouraged and fostered by their demonic father, rages on as they grow up and become circus performers. When Cecile discovers how she and her sister came to be, and the sacrifice made in order that they survive, she realizes she must shore up her strength and find the courage to face her sister. What I did not like: SOOO much filler and superfluous details. Character development is essential in all stories, but sometimes there can be too much detail. For example, instead of devoting a page to Lara's father's love of Jim Morrison, a sentence or two would suffice. Or, how old and historic Ben's home is and how long he lived in it with his wife. I love the elements of horror running throughout the book, but there wasn't enough. I'm dark like that, but there was a lack of exposition as to how this circus came to be. Why is Althacazur Satan's favorite? What is the true purpose of the circus? For those forced to work in its arena to repent? Does it represent a theoretical circle of hell? I was never scared, not even when Althacazur was exerting his power on his subjects. I'm not sure if that was the author's intention but I wanted to be scared. I wanted to fear the power of the dark circus. Of what Cecile's father could do. His personality and character was inconsistent; at times he was furious and took his pound of flesh; then his behavior would shift and he would mourn the loss of his mortal wife, Juno, like a lovesick teenager. Reminiscent of the author's first book, the potential for horror and scares was there, but it's barely built upon and the spotlight is on 'romance.' Here, like in her first book, he author demonstrates her consistency when Cecile falls for an artist. Not surprisingly, I found myself more intrigued by Juno, their mother. How did she meet Althacazur? Did she know who (and what) he truly was? Why isn't she in hell for being married to a demon? Is she in heaven? I love the idea of a circus in hell filled with horrifying, terrible acts, a circus that disappears after a performance, a performance you must be invited personally to attend, and the necessary blood sacrifice in order to maintain the illusion of this secret circus. But, as I mentioned before, what is the true purpose of the circus? To lure victims? Why does it perform in the mortal realm? Why does it not remain in hell and accept 'volunteers' every time evil souls die? The narrative dragged, bogged down with the minutiae of a minor or supporting character (hi, Teddy!) info dumping about their career and/or life, which made the book long, especially toward the end. No one cares! Can we get back to the blood circus? I would have really liked this more of the potential of blood and darkness had been fleshed out, but I didn't like any of the characters and my mind wandered as I read. I liked this better than A Witch in Time but that's not saying much.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jessica | JustReadingJess

    The Ladies of the Secret Circus is an interesting and unique novel that grabbed my attention the whole time. The story alternates between the past and present. The past and present collide in an interesting twist. Paris 1925 there is a secret circus that only people with a ticket can see. Cecile grew up in the circus with her twin sister. Virginia 2004 Lara’s fiancé disappears on their wedding day. Every 30 years a young man disappears on this day in the same spot. Everyone has secrets that are The Ladies of the Secret Circus is an interesting and unique novel that grabbed my attention the whole time. The story alternates between the past and present. The past and present collide in an interesting twist. Paris 1925 there is a secret circus that only people with a ticket can see. Cecile grew up in the circus with her twin sister. Virginia 2004 Lara’s fiancé disappears on their wedding day. Every 30 years a young man disappears on this day in the same spot. Everyone has secrets that are revealed. Some secrets have been in the family for generations. I recommend The Ladies of the Secret Circus to anyone looking for a story of mystery, family secrets and magic. Thank you Book Sparks and Redhook for The Ladies of the Secret Circus. Full Review: https://justreadingjess.wordpress.com...

  8. 5 out of 5

    Nursebookie

    TITLE: The Ladies of the Secret Circus AUTHOR: Constance Sayers PUB DATE: 03.23.2021 Magical Macabre Mesmerizing The Ladies of the Secret Circus is such a gorgeous and unique read for me that I devoured as a lover of twisted love stories in a historical fiction setting in that decadent period of the jazz age. Circus Curse Captivating In two distinct timelines, Sayers interlaces the stories from 1920’s Paris to a modern day mystery as a disappearance may be linked to a curse. What a great experience to r TITLE: The Ladies of the Secret Circus AUTHOR: Constance Sayers PUB DATE: 03.23.2021 Magical Macabre Mesmerizing The Ladies of the Secret Circus is such a gorgeous and unique read for me that I devoured as a lover of twisted love stories in a historical fiction setting in that decadent period of the jazz age. Circus Curse Captivating In two distinct timelines, Sayers interlaces the stories from 1920’s Paris to a modern day mystery as a disappearance may be linked to a curse. What a great experience to read this fantastical page turner of a read.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    *This book was received as an Advanced Reviewer's Copy from NetGalley. The circus is always an intriguing place. Performers, animals, a tent set up in the middle of nowhere; it's magical. Quite literally for this book. Lara is all set to marry when her fiance disappears the day of the wedding. Devastated, she tries to get by with her life as normally as possible. Which for her isn't quite normal as her family has secrets; magical secrets. And one of those secrets has made a reappearance, wanting *This book was received as an Advanced Reviewer's Copy from NetGalley. The circus is always an intriguing place. Performers, animals, a tent set up in the middle of nowhere; it's magical. Quite literally for this book. Lara is all set to marry when her fiance disappears the day of the wedding. Devastated, she tries to get by with her life as normally as possible. Which for her isn't quite normal as her family has secrets; magical secrets. And one of those secrets has made a reappearance, wanting her to come to Paris, to his circus, where her family's mysteries may have answers. Lara is kind of a behind the scenes character in this. While the story is about her and her family, she's used for driving the plot forward by doing the traveling, reading the journals of her family's history, and telling their story. That doesn't mean she's a bad character, but I feel like her true personality doesn't really get to shine through as much as you would expect. That being said, Cecile, Esme, all the others really come through do to the narrative in the journals. You get a sense of really knowing them. Even Audrey, Lara's mother, has a distinct personality. I found the concept of the secret circus to be interesting and the family's history as it interweaved compelling. It was hard to sit this book down because I wanted to know what would happen, even if it kept getting more and more bizarre. The only thing I didn't really like were the romances in it; they just felt inauthentic or undeveloped and I had a hard time understanding the draw the characters had for each other. While some of them were necessary for the story, others I think could have been left out (sorry Ben) and the book been just as interesting. Overall though, the circus was described beautifully and I really think the details were done well; the carousel, difference in lighting and contrast descriptions, etc. all made for a very vivid picture. While there was a lot crammed in and nuances introduced, I think the story still flowed well. A good book, and one that takes a very different approach to the circus. Review by M. Reynard 2020

  10. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    This book had a lot of potential. Thank you to Redhook for an ARC. There were pacing and plot hole issues that really glitched it up too much for me, and made it a disappointment. The first 25% of it really grabbed me. I thought this was going to be even better than what I thought. But it wasn't until the last 15% or so that I found that same pace, that same encompassing, attention grabbing momentum in structure and content that really had me. The main character issue lay with Althacazur. There is This book had a lot of potential. Thank you to Redhook for an ARC. There were pacing and plot hole issues that really glitched it up too much for me, and made it a disappointment. The first 25% of it really grabbed me. I thought this was going to be even better than what I thought. But it wasn't until the last 15% or so that I found that same pace, that same encompassing, attention grabbing momentum in structure and content that really had me. The main character issue lay with Althacazur. There is so much potential for him to be this menacing, manipulative, dark, evil and knife twisting entity. Yet, he ends up being nothing more than a petulant child like the girl in Willy Wonka. In the same vein, what should have been a dark, creepy and even frightening delusional state that Lara was in, in the circus, came of as somewhat absurd. Mussolini as a monkey? Lollipops that taste like Donkey crap? It was too long and just not the dark, evil place that the characters claimed it to be. Rather than coming across as demanding dark magic, it came across as an absurdity. Lastly, there is no place in the magic system that allows for Esme to exist in Lara's home town- this safe haven protected by spells, and not be detected. Can I think if reasons that would fit this plot and magic hole perfectly? Yes. But that isn't the readers job. And it kills everything the author built up to that point.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    Alas, I really wanted to enjoy this one ... more, but ... but ... So much about this I wanted to like ... and, yes, I'm my own worst enemy, ... but what I was hoping for, and (unfairly, I admit, somewhat expecting) was, I dunno, maybe something transcendent like Morgenstern's The Night Circus, or something strangely compelling like Wecker's The Golem and the Jinni or maybe something bizarrely disorienting and appealing like Clarke's Piranesi, ... but ... that's not what I found here. What I found Alas, I really wanted to enjoy this one ... more, but ... but ... So much about this I wanted to like ... and, yes, I'm my own worst enemy, ... but what I was hoping for, and (unfairly, I admit, somewhat expecting) was, I dunno, maybe something transcendent like Morgenstern's The Night Circus, or something strangely compelling like Wecker's The Golem and the Jinni or maybe something bizarrely disorienting and appealing like Clarke's Piranesi, ... but ... that's not what I found here. What I found most frustrating is that the story had so much potential, but it just didn't reach me, didn't engage me, didn't hold my interest. Indeed, I struggled to read significant chunks of this in one sitting. And I never could my finger on just why: 50-100 pages too long? probably, and I'll blame the editor not the author for that... too much tell-as-opposed-to-show? more often than not... a less-than-compelling voice? maybe ... the author seemed most comfortable in the "journal" entries - maybe multiple first person narratives (adding more facets to the mosaic) would've helped, but I dunno.... flat prose? that's probably not fair, but ... given the murder mystery angle, this isn't literary or lyrical in the James Lee Burke or Tana French fashion... Ultimately, I just don't know. It wouldn't surprise me at all if the author cashes in on rights for a movie or a mini-series (and, if she does, my hat is off to her).

  12. 4 out of 5

    Veronica

    After a promising start, The Ladies of the Secret Circus turned out to just not be for me. I had hopes for an exquisitely dark and dreamy escape into a different world, and there are certainly elements of that, but they were lost to choppy writing and a disjointed plot. An intriguing beginning: we meet Lara, who we quickly learn is in possession of a small amount of practical magic that she has inherited from the female bloodline in her family. She is also about to be married, but the day of the After a promising start, The Ladies of the Secret Circus turned out to just not be for me. I had hopes for an exquisitely dark and dreamy escape into a different world, and there are certainly elements of that, but they were lost to choppy writing and a disjointed plot. An intriguing beginning: we meet Lara, who we quickly learn is in possession of a small amount of practical magic that she has inherited from the female bloodline in her family. She is also about to be married, but the day of the wedding, disaster strikes when her fiancé goes missing hours before the ceremony. His disappearance is clouded in eerie coincidence, and as the months move past and Lara begins to move on, strange things begin to happen all around her. It all seems to be connected to her past, and her family’s connection to "The Dark Circus," a travelling circus in Paris during the Belle Epoque, rumoured to be magical, and run by a demon. Why is Lara magical? What happened to her fiancé? Why does she see and hear things that others don’t? Who is the mysterious man in the field? What does the enchanting painting that has hung in her family’s house, of her grandmother riding a horse in the circus, have to do with it all? As the plot moves along in fits and starts, these questions are answered, but in such a way that made me think, “it was that easy? Why didn’t a character just say that in the first place?” Characters withhold essential, life-changing knowledge without purpose, then suddenly divulge crucial details for no reason other than Lara finally asking them. (And what took her so long to ask them in the first place?) For the first two-thirds of the book, Lara’s magical abilities are both hinted at to be extremely strong, and that she will be the one to change things, but at the same time, she’s not very effective. When she finally faces Althacazur and things are revealed, instead of a satisfying, amazing explanation, I found myself disappointed. All that build up was essentially a house of cards, and Lara is, I’m sorry to say, frustratingly clueless. You know something’s wrong when you’re rooting against the hero, simply because they’re just not interesting enough. This could be a personal thing, but I found the writing very jarring and unpolished. Lara’s thoughts interfere abruptly with action, and various characters have moments of dialogue that sound forced and robotic. The chapters that take place in Paris, during 1925, felt strangely modern. The tone swung back and forth between distantly vague and laughably melodramatic. While I kept hoping the premise would deliver on itself, I finished this one disappointed.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    3.5 stars On my nightstand was this dual timeline that begins with missing men, a jilted bride, conflict between sisters, and the presence of magic and demons. Not my usual reading fare but the Eiffel Tower on the front made it my Easter buy at Wal-Mart. Paris in the Jazz Age has to be one of my favourite versions of that beautiful city. I enjoyed the contemporary story with Lara just as much as I enjoyed the storyline about her great-great-grandmother, Cecile. I felt myself getting lost in the 3.5 stars On my nightstand was this dual timeline that begins with missing men, a jilted bride, conflict between sisters, and the presence of magic and demons. Not my usual reading fare but the Eiffel Tower on the front made it my Easter buy at Wal-Mart. Paris in the Jazz Age has to be one of my favourite versions of that beautiful city. I enjoyed the contemporary story with Lara just as much as I enjoyed the storyline about her great-great-grandmother, Cecile. I felt myself getting lost in the magic and the mystery that swirled through the pages especially when it comes from the storytelling of Cecile's journals. Goodreads review published 07/05/21

  14. 5 out of 5

    Permanently_Booked

    Sayers you’ve done it again. My bookish heart be still, you have freaking done it again. This is my second novel by this author and I think I can officially say that what’s next to come will probably be an auto-buy from me. Let me preface by saying this is dark, original, highly addictive and not a short novel. Be ready to grab your favorite blanket, find a comfy spot and a warm beverage because you are in for a provocative slow build. It’s also another novel that is best served going in blind. Sayers you’ve done it again. My bookish heart be still, you have freaking done it again. This is my second novel by this author and I think I can officially say that what’s next to come will probably be an auto-buy from me. Let me preface by saying this is dark, original, highly addictive and not a short novel. Be ready to grab your favorite blanket, find a comfy spot and a warm beverage because you are in for a provocative slow build. It’s also another novel that is best served going in blind. Read the synopsis but be wary of revealing reviews. The less you know the better and the more Sayers’ will sweep you away. Sayers has a magical writing style that elicits vivid imagery and elegant atmosphere. The plot follows generations of the Cabot family between the 1920s and the 2000s and spreads out over three parts. Lara is left at the alter on her wedding day by a vanished husband. As she puts the pieces of her life back together new revelations on her past, her missing fiancé and a dark heritage start to surface. I did struggle a bit in the beginning with some of the more informational background facts of the family history and how certain things tied in. Lara made it worth it though, she was a beautifully intriguing character and I enjoyed having her investigate the family secrets and narrate the story of their lives. There is a very in depth cast of characters that come with backgrounds and parts to play for the overall plot. It may feel slightly daunting at first to hold everything together but once you flip that final page you’ll bask in the profound sense of closure and sadness that it’s over. I also cannot begin to properly explain how much I love the heavier dose of magic in this book. I appreciate an author that can tie in the regular with the magical and make it feel smooth as the story flows. The journal entries were some of my favorite portions to read the deeper I got as well. And did I mention demons? It is SO hard to not say everything I want to say about this novel, but I really feel this needs that unknowing, dive right in enjoyment. I urge lovers of the deeply dark and magical to grab this novel! Thank you Redhook for the beautiful gifted copy in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. I was swept away by A Witch in Time and am equally enamored by The Ladies of the Secret Circus.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Donna

    This book falls into many genres: Historical Fiction, Magical Realism, & Fantasy....and even Mystery. I enjoyed the mystery part of this, but I also liked the creativity. The idea behind the secret circus was weird (dark & creepy) but I have to give it extra points for the super creative world building. It was well done. It made me wish I had a ticket to this circus. I liked Laura, the MC. Her fiancé goes missing on her wedding day and you can just feel her pain. She tries to move on but others This book falls into many genres: Historical Fiction, Magical Realism, & Fantasy....and even Mystery. I enjoyed the mystery part of this, but I also liked the creativity. The idea behind the secret circus was weird (dark & creepy) but I have to give it extra points for the super creative world building. It was well done. It made me wish I had a ticket to this circus. I liked Laura, the MC. Her fiancé goes missing on her wedding day and you can just feel her pain. She tries to move on but others have already mapped out her future...or have they? I liked the mom too. She also had secrets that needed to be unraveled. Some of the story was a little far-fetched for my liking, but the author anchored it firmly down into the story line. This kept it from stalling as I coasted along soaking it all up. So 4 stars. This was a solid 3.5 stars for me. I rounded up to 4 because of the world building.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Tammy

    The nitty-gritty: Filled with mysteries, magic and mayhem, The Ladies of the Secret Circus is a dark and layered tale of a family curse and the mysterious circus they can't escape. I knew that Constance Sayers was going to deliver something unique with her latest release, but I was not expecting such an unusual, magical and complex story. The Ladies of the Secret Circus is many things: a mystery, a coming-of-age story, a love story, a generational family saga and of course, a magical tale of a my The nitty-gritty: Filled with mysteries, magic and mayhem, The Ladies of the Secret Circus is a dark and layered tale of a family curse and the mysterious circus they can't escape. I knew that Constance Sayers was going to deliver something unique with her latest release, but I was not expecting such an unusual, magical and complex story. The Ladies of the Secret Circus is many things: a mystery, a coming-of-age story, a love story, a generational family saga and of course, a magical tale of a mysterious circus. Add in a trip to 1920s Paris and you have a mesmerizing, time-hopping story chock full of magic, demons, music, lost paintings and much much more. The story opens on Lara Barnes’s wedding day. Set in the quaint town of Kerrigan Falls, Virginia, Lara is about to marry the love of her life, Todd Sutton. But when Todd never shows up for the wedding, Lara is thrust into a diabolical mystery involving a circus called Le Cirque Secret. Lara thinks Todd ran out on their wedding day, but when his abandoned car is discovered near the forest, she knows the truth is much more grim. With the help of local police detective Ben Archer, Lara follows a series of clues that lead her from the present to the past and back again, as she discovers her place in her family’s twisted history and a magical circus that might just be her birthright. That is a very truncated recap of this lush and complex story, but honestly I’d rather spend time talking about all the elements I loved in this book. Sayers does a great job of combining the mundane and magical, a combo I’ve always loved. The story begins with a whiff of magic, as we see Lara standing before a mirror in her wedding gown. But she’s not quite happy with the way the skirt falls, so she magically alters it to be more to her liking. This sets the tone for the rest of the book, as we’re introduced to Lara’s mother Audrey, who has raised Lara to be wary of how she uses this magic. It must never be done in public and must be kept secret. Lara has been able to do simple magic like this since she was a young child, and through flashbacks we learn that she discovered this ability when a man named Althacazur approached her in a field one day and told her that magic was her destiny. From this ominous scene, we encounter Althacazur over and over in the story and gradually piece together who he is and why he’s so dangerous—as well as why the Barnes women can do magic in the first place. The story is divided into three distinct parts, and I loved this structure. In the first part, we’re confronted with the disappearance of Todd Sutton and how the characters are coping. It is during this section that Audrey gives Lara a small painting that’s been hanging in her house for years, and we find out that it’s one of three “lost” circus paintings that artist Émile Giroux painted back in the 1920s. This begins yet another mystery as Lara shows the painting to a local artist named Gaston Bucher who insists it’s a genuine Giroux. By the end of this section, Lara and Gaston are headed to Paris to consult with a Giroux expert, although Lara has an ulterior motive as well. The second section takes place in Paris, and this is where many of the mysteries are revealed. Lara has found an old journal belonging to her great-grandmother Cecile Cabot, and the reader gets a glimpse into the past as Cecile describes a fantastical yet heartbreaking tale of a circus called Le Cirque Secret. This was one of my favorite parts of the book, since I absolutely loved Le Cirque Secret and the marvels that are revealed through Cecile’s journal. The descriptions are rich in detail, and many of the circus scenes border on the weird and terrifying. Sayers is so good at immersing the reader in her magical world, I honestly felt like I was right there with the characters. We also learn more about the lost paintings and how they are tied to not only the circus, but to Lara’s family tree. Finally in the last section, Lara and Gaston have returned from Paris, and Sayers gives her readers a thrilling climax that does a great job of wrapping up all the mysteries, although I did love that the ending is a bit open-ended! There is quite a bit going on in this story, and I can see that some readers might be overwhelmed by all of it. Not only do we have a fairly large cast of characters, but there are so many elements to keep track of. Sayers gives her characters unique professions as well, which adds another layer to an already interesting story. For example, Lara owns a radio station, and her father James used to be a successful punk rock musician (and he now works at the station with her), so there is also a thread of music running through the story. Lara’s doomed fiance Todd restores vintage cars. Audrey’s boyfriend Gaston is a photographer and an artist and is the one who sets the whole “lost painting” storyline in motion. I found all of the characters to be simply fascinating! And that’s before we even get to Le Cirque Secret. I personally loved every bit of it and can’t imagine this story without all of these elements. As you can tell, I was completely swept up in this story. If you haven’t read Constance Sayers yet, I urge you to check out her books, and The Ladies of the Secret Circus is the perfect place to start. Big thanks to the publisher and Sparkpoint Studio for providing a review copy.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    Well-written and much darker than I anticipated, The Ladies of the Secret Circus kept me captivated until the end. Kindly received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Karen R

    A unique, magical, fantastical journey. I simply did not want it to end.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    This is a fun story that is mostly well written and goes by pretty quickly. I thought it was going to be part historical novel but the parts set in the past are very short- just a heads up for other readers expecting the same. I won't rehash the blurb here because it's fairly accurate with the exception that the parts centered on Cecile are maybe a quarter of the whole book (maybe even less). The characters are all fairly likeable, and the setting is often beautifully described. I loved the descr This is a fun story that is mostly well written and goes by pretty quickly. I thought it was going to be part historical novel but the parts set in the past are very short- just a heads up for other readers expecting the same. I won't rehash the blurb here because it's fairly accurate with the exception that the parts centered on Cecile are maybe a quarter of the whole book (maybe even less). The characters are all fairly likeable, and the setting is often beautifully described. I loved the descriptions of the cafe's and markets in France in the 20's, the descriptions of the circus and the costumes. Everything feels wonderfully magical. I do feel like the book could have benefitted from some stronger editing. There were parts diving into Jason and Lara's history I sort of skimmed. It felt like some things were over-explained. I also think there were some parts that were definitely more "tell" than "show", however none of it was enough to detract from my enjoyment of the book. I'd recommend this to fans of The Night Circus- it definitely evoked similar feelings for me. After digesting further- I'm hesitant to say fans of The Night Circus would enjoy this- the prose in TNC is certainly more polished and flows better (but the prose in this is still good). However, Le Cirque Secret is much more nightmarish and maybe less whimsical than that book. The magic system in The Ladies of the Secret Circus is also weak in comparison. That's all- maybe this book is something to consider for fans of that one. I will likely read more by this author in the future.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Susanne Latour

    After reading The Night Circus many years ago I have been drawn to books about Circuses. So needless to say The Ladies of the Secret Circus drew my attention. This book was a slow start for me, but picked up about mid way through, but lost me again about 100 pages to the end. Some of the dialogue at this point got super cheesy for me and I felt like I was reading a YA novel. I was not overly invested on the Lara the main character or the mysterious disappearance of her fiancé. I felt the ending After reading The Night Circus many years ago I have been drawn to books about Circuses. So needless to say The Ladies of the Secret Circus drew my attention. This book was a slow start for me, but picked up about mid way through, but lost me again about 100 pages to the end. Some of the dialogue at this point got super cheesy for me and I felt like I was reading a YA novel. I was not overly invested on the Lara the main character or the mysterious disappearance of her fiancé. I felt the ending was somewhat anti-climatic and left it open for a sequel. I did enjoy the dark atmosphere of this book and the circus elements. I love the cover design of the book.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Cassandra

    This book has such a great premise but unfortunately the pacing gets bogged down with extraneous detail and description. I was intrigued enough to keep reading but resorted to skimming quite a bit to get to the conclusion.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Demelda Penkitty

    Paris, 1925: To enter the Secret Circus is to enter a world of wonder - a world where women weave illusions, carousels take you back in time, and trapeze artists float across the sky. Bound to her family's circus, it's the only world Cecile Cabot knows until she meets a charismatic young painter and embarks on a passionate affair that could cost her everything. Virginia, 2004: Lara Barnes is on top of the world, but when her fiancé disappears on their wedding day every plan she has for the future Paris, 1925: To enter the Secret Circus is to enter a world of wonder - a world where women weave illusions, carousels take you back in time, and trapeze artists float across the sky. Bound to her family's circus, it's the only world Cecile Cabot knows until she meets a charismatic young painter and embarks on a passionate affair that could cost her everything. Virginia, 2004: Lara Barnes is on top of the world, but when her fiancé disappears on their wedding day every plan she has for the future comes crashing down. Desperate, Lara's search for answers unexpectedly lead to her great-grandmother's journals. Swept into a story of a dark circus and ill-fated love, secrets about Lara's family history come to light and reveal a curse that has been claiming payment from the women in her family for generations. A curse that might be tied to her fiancé's mysterious fate . . . I have to admit I had very high expectations for this book. The cover and the description worked their magic for me and added to that my love of a story that includes circuses, magical realism and anything diabolic – well, that ticks an awful lot of my boxes. The story unfolds through two narratives, eight decades apart. In the 1920s, a woman named Cecile is part of a wondrous family circus with a magical secret. A love affair might set her free but could also cost her everything. In the 2000s, Lara, a descendant of that same family, prepares for her wedding day and is shaken to her core when her fiancé goes missing. As she searches for answers, Lara is drawn into a web of secrets and magic that leads her to Cecile’s journals and beyond, as she uncovers a dark curse stretching back generations. Told in three distinct sections that allow us to get to know Lara before she travels to Paris and then back again in search of answers, the world building and settings are beautifully depicted. The secret circus itself is wonderfully described, fantastically creative and utterly fascinating. Only visible to those who have been invited, guests step into the circus via a huge devilish mouth that sets the scene for what they can expect. On top of that we step back in time to Paris of 1925. A place of creativity and passion where artists and writers mix with the glamorous ladies of the circus sparking passion and jealousy along the way. The Ladies of the Secret Circus is a book to get lost in, not just because of the fantasy elements that layer it with intrigue but also because of the emotional connections that tie it all together. Through beautifully orchestrated prose and careful, confident pacing, Sayers constructs a story that feels like sitting down with an older relative and slowly, over hours, getting all the family secrets in one juicy, enchanted package. This is a story of family, of family ties, history, curses, revenge and coming home told to us through a murder mystery that takes us to a magical realm where nothing is what it seems.  I absolutely loved this book! The details and the visualization: the colors, the sounds, the emotions, the overall description was phenomenal. It was so easy to picture every aspect of this book, I couldn't stop reading but didn't want it to end. Highly recommended.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Chrissy Riesenberg

    I received this ARC from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. If you closed your eyes and wished for a ticket to a mesmerizing, once-in-a-lifetime show and a bleeding, nearly alive ticket showed up under your door inviting you into the dangerous world of a secret, magical circus, would you go? The Ladies of the Secret Circus was a brilliant fantasy novel rooted in a family’s secrets and magical history complete with a circus with characters and scenes from the Underworld. I received this ARC from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. If you closed your eyes and wished for a ticket to a mesmerizing, once-in-a-lifetime show and a bleeding, nearly alive ticket showed up under your door inviting you into the dangerous world of a secret, magical circus, would you go? The Ladies of the Secret Circus was a brilliant fantasy novel rooted in a family’s secrets and magical history complete with a circus with characters and scenes from the Underworld. (Anyone for a ride over the River Styx? How about a carousel that takes you backwards through your lifeline?) The story plays out by alternating between two distinct and equally enthralling timelines that take us back and forth between Paris 1925 and modern-day Virginia. We open with Lara and her mother preening right before Lara is to walk down the aisle to marry her beloved. However, he doesn’t show and we find fairly quickly that his disappearance wasn’t nearly as it seemed on the surface. This was most assuredly not a case of cold feet. I was hooked. We are transported to a Paris of 1925 that is pretty magical in and of itself. Then, we get a front row seat to the true gem. We get taken in through the devil’s mouth into the secret circus. This is where Sayer’s world building really shows itself. The author absolutely writes us into a place that is dark and twisted while being wildly creative. This book, while most assuredly entertaining, still had some issues that lead me to give it three stars. I found it had plot holes and hiccups, but none so great that I would’ve thought to abandon the book. There was just so much crammed in those pages! Open that gorgeous cover and find yourself lost in family secrets, magical worlds right in the middle of reality, sister bonds and conflicts, and the search for love and answers to any number of mysteries that present themselves.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Michelle Taylor

    Lara’s family has a long history with the circus. Her mother’s side of the family were acrobats, horse riders and lion tamers, but those days are over. A little bit of magic is left over in Lara, although it doesn’t feel very magical right now. Her fiancé is missing and some strange things are happening. Now Lara has to find the past that her mother has hidden from her for too long. I was really enjoying Lara’s story and got so excited when we first hear from the journal left by her grandmother-a Lara’s family has a long history with the circus. Her mother’s side of the family were acrobats, horse riders and lion tamers, but those days are over. A little bit of magic is left over in Lara, although it doesn’t feel very magical right now. Her fiancé is missing and some strange things are happening. Now Lara has to find the past that her mother has hidden from her for too long. I was really enjoying Lara’s story and got so excited when we first hear from the journal left by her grandmother-a glimpse into the magical origins of her family. Unfortunately the magical elements often become a bit of a crutch for the plot. The ringmaster of Lara’s life also becomes a bit of a parody of himself, instead of the powerful daemon we’re promised. Cecile’s past is very rich, and the dynamics of the circus are interesting. I’m curious what might happen if the story continues. Not exactly what I expected, and not perfect, but very good.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Shari Suarez

    Lara's fiance disappears on their wedding day. His car is found abandoned on Wickelow Bend, the same place where 30 years prior another man met the same fate. Lara tries to get on with her own life but her family has secrets. They can do magic. Lara has an additional secret. Since she was a child she has had encounters with a mysterious man. In Jazz Age Paris, there is a secret circus that appears out of thin air only to people with tickets. It turns out the circus is tied to Lara's family and Tod Lara's fiance disappears on their wedding day. His car is found abandoned on Wickelow Bend, the same place where 30 years prior another man met the same fate. Lara tries to get on with her own life but her family has secrets. They can do magic. Lara has an additional secret. Since she was a child she has had encounters with a mysterious man. In Jazz Age Paris, there is a secret circus that appears out of thin air only to people with tickets. It turns out the circus is tied to Lara's family and Todd's disappearance. I enjoyed this book. The characters are well developed and it's dark and twisty without being too much.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Richards

    The Ladies of the Secret Circus by Constance Sayers was a beautiful, atmospheric, enrapturing novel that was one of my favorite reads of the year. I loved the story of Lara and her journey to understanding her family, their secrets, and the bewitching secrets of the secret circus. While the story revolves around Lara following the disappearance of her fiancé on their wedding day, it is the inclusion of the other characters that truly makes this book stand out. The secondary characters are extrem The Ladies of the Secret Circus by Constance Sayers was a beautiful, atmospheric, enrapturing novel that was one of my favorite reads of the year. I loved the story of Lara and her journey to understanding her family, their secrets, and the bewitching secrets of the secret circus. While the story revolves around Lara following the disappearance of her fiancé on their wedding day, it is the inclusion of the other characters that truly makes this book stand out. The secondary characters are extremely well developed and as a reader I could tell that the author had taken extra care in fully realizing each character. I loved the story of the family's history and the secret circus being told through the diary of Lara's great grandmother, the imagery was amazing and enthralling. This was such a fantastic read that I am going to look into the authors other works immediately in hopes of getting lost in another world of her making. Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the advanced copy!

  27. 5 out of 5

    Tiffany

    I have tried a few times to pick this up over the past few months and for some reason I am just not connecting with it. I made it 57% into the book, so I feel like I gave it a strong effort. It's really strange because it is an interesting book with an unusual plot! I know a lot of people have really enjoyed it, but I am going to have to set aside for the foreseeable future. Everyone should still give it a try though, because I feel like this is truly a case of it's me, and not the book. I have tried a few times to pick this up over the past few months and for some reason I am just not connecting with it. I made it 57% into the book, so I feel like I gave it a strong effort. It's really strange because it is an interesting book with an unusual plot! I know a lot of people have really enjoyed it, but I am going to have to set aside for the foreseeable future. Everyone should still give it a try though, because I feel like this is truly a case of it's me, and not the book.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kristi Lamont

    Oh what trashy, wonderful, wonderful trash. Would give this 5 stars were it not for the random "attacks" of foul language. Now, don't get me wrong; I've worked in construction, in paper mills, in newsrooms, in financial centers. I can hang with the best of them. (Worst of them?) I was just bugged, seriously, that such seemed to come out of nowhere, and with no pattern. Was very off-putting. Seriously hoping this will turn out to be the first in a series. Oh what trashy, wonderful, wonderful trash. Would give this 5 stars were it not for the random "attacks" of foul language. Now, don't get me wrong; I've worked in construction, in paper mills, in newsrooms, in financial centers. I can hang with the best of them. (Worst of them?) I was just bugged, seriously, that such seemed to come out of nowhere, and with no pattern. Was very off-putting. Seriously hoping this will turn out to be the first in a series.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Holly Reynolds

    This book was not what I thought it was going to be, BUT it turned out to be excellent any way!! I felt that there were parts that drug out a little and some details that were ridiculous, even for a magical circus, but all in all, it was a good read!

  30. 4 out of 5

    sheila simmons

    I was a large fan of this book. It had it all - Daemons, magic, Mussolini as a monkey! What more are you looking for?

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