Written by Mary Ellen Dennis
Review by Xina Marie Uhl

In 1851, Bernadette McCoy meets her end at the paws of her seven cats, or so it appears. The fact that her niece Angelique is missing, though, points to a more human cause of death. The police chief launches an investigation. But first the tale is rolled back ten months to Sean Kelley, son of a reprobate, who sees the lovely Angelique on the high wire at Paris’s Cirque de Délices. Smitten, he pursues her and in typical romantic fashion, loses her due to a misunderstanding.

When Angelique emigrates to America, Sean follows determined to do two things: get Angelique back and start his own circus. The latter goal is aided when he falls in with P.T. Barnum. Meanwhile, Sean’s reprobate father has also come to America, attracted by the California Gold Rush and a winsome lass who shares his predilection for fleecing people.

If all this sounds rather convoluted, that’s because it is, but only in the most quirky and engaging manner. The author has an undeniable talent for creating vivid, fallible, deeply flawed—and deeply hilarious—characters. Though the story progression is a bit disjointed, the reader is swept along by the sheer delight experienced on every page. Whether it is from unexpected and amusing language, such as “vomitous swoon,” roguish, morally gray characters, or the offbeat story style, you’ll undoubtedly find this book a keeper. Highly recommended.