April 18, 2024

Novel Lives

Book Publicity, Book Reviews, And Author Interviews

A Bear, A Fae, Two Girls And The Circus- Circus Rose By Betsy Cornwell, Releases 6/16

Circus Rose features Queer representation, poetry and prose formats in this sweet retelling that should be aimed at markets younger than young adults.

Circus Rose By Betsy Cornwell

Seeing the ratings plummet for Circus Rose by Betsy Cornwell plummet when I went to update my progress on Goodreads, really makes my heart break. It shouldn’t be the case. I truly feel it is more a case of bad marketing, than anything. This isn’t a YA book. I don’t blame the majority of YA readers to be bored by it or feel like nothing happened or that it was slow. For most adults and even teenagers that is fair. If you take out the scene in the library between Tam and Ivory, this could be a fantastic guided reading book for elementary school. That has nothing to do with the Queer representation. There aren’t any elementary school, guided reading books with kids ripping each other’s clothes off.

Since that part of the story isn’t going anywhere, this is a solid Middle School book for struggling to on-level readers. You have the representation. There are two formats, a wonderful story, a mystery and brilliantly painted characters.

To Be Or Not To Be… Captain America

Snow White and Rose Red. Nope. Got nothing.

Captain America Doesn't Understand Any of these References

Truth be told, I don’t know much of Snow White. I knew she bit an apple and there was a wicked queen. Or a Stepmother? No that is Cinderella. Sleeping Beauty pricked her finger, right? OK. I did learn more about Snow White from Blanche. Because. Of course, I did.

[videopress YNFnioy2]


I Smiled!

Assuming there weren’t supposed to be any dwarves or diamond minds, this story was absolutely beautiful. I realized that as a reader, I don’t smile a lot. I laugh. Mind you, sometimes it is because the story is genuinely funny. And sometimes it is because the story is that bad, but I can’t say that I just smile. There were numerous times while I read The Circus Rose that Cornwell made me smile.

Sometimes it was due to the beautiful poetry and sometimes it was the plot developments. There were numerous times throughout the story that I just had a natural, warm smile on my face, and feeling. This also made the darker, heart wrenching parts more emotional and hurtful. However, that is what makes good writing, click.

That poetry is so immersive. You get absolutely wrapped-up and lost in it. Now that I’ve finished the book, I look back and realize all the plot clues I missed in it. So much was sitting right there that told me everything about Rose and other puzzle pieces. It was obvious and just THERE! I didn’t see it because I was caught up in the painting. I can’t say much more than that without taking away from the experience.

The circus is the perfect backdrop for a story that includes religious zealots, magic and the oppression of expression, and freedom to love whom one chooses. It is so often that the circus can be feared by many or seen as a place of misunderstood spook. Often, it is also a place where those on the fringe of society find a purpose, place and family. They become one, together, from many different, and disenfranchised pieces. That sense of family, biological and chosen, is also so integral to the story.


The sisters were so close and yet so far. They loved each other so intimately and yet there was so much Ivory just couldn’t understand about Rose. Everyone saw Ivory as the level-headed, logical thinker. Rose was a dreamer, constantly on stage in her mind. Rose knew better and she just ignored them. She wasn’t going to try to convince them. When the time was right, they would come to understand her. It takes a lot of strength to stand in that place.

Their family, both biological and the Circus Rose family, was pulled together by their Mom, the bearded lady. And they loved each other something fierce. The bear completed their family since their dads had left when Mom couldn’t choose one over the other. Their chosen family is just as colorful and magical as the circus. And a wonderful treat is the girls from Ms. Lampton Girls’ School of Engineering.

Circus Rose by Betsy Cornwell Review

Thank You to HMH for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Both for its recognition and inspiration of girls in engineering, and for the time Ivory has to bond with the cast of characters that are there, this part of the story is a delight. How they are then woven back into the story, later on made my heart soar! Cornwell really does an amazing job. Tam, the Fae (who is not the normal dark and evil Fae) who becomes Ivory’s heart, is also beautiful and endearing. Fer is strong and daring. Fe stands by Ivory in everything and while fe’s very existence and identity are questioned by a world that doesn’t understand, fe holds fer’s head high and doesn’t back down. Their relationship is lovely and as individuals they are strong and resourceful.

On the other side, she also paints the evil villains with the disdain and menace needed for an oppressive religious regime.

It Might Not Be For THIS Audience…

But Betsy Cornwell’s Circus Rose, like the characters in the story, have its place in the world. It is a wonderful, magical, beautiful place that I hope the world gets to be one day. Free of oppressive religious zealots, of course. I hope people will give it a chance for what it is and for the right audience, rather than what is put out there to be.

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