ARC Review: The Ladies of the Secret Circus by Constance Sayers


The surest way to get a ticket to Le Cirque Secret is to wish for it . . .

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 really enjoyed this author’s previous novel ‘A Witch in Time’ and so I jumped at the chance at being able to review this one.  The Ladies of the Secret Circus is a beautiful and atmospheric novel with a compelling storyline and it grabbed my attention from the start.  The story begins in the present day in Kerrigan Falls, Virginia, when Lara’s fiancé mysteriously disappears on their wedding day.  It starts off as a murder mystery of sorts but as Lara tries to get her life back together after her fiancé’s disappearance, hidden family secrets and magic are revealed and the plot becomes much more complex. There are plenty of plot twists and turns throughout to keep the reader guessing, a lot of which are completely unexpected.  

I liked the whole feel of the book, the dark atmosphere and the incorporation of past and present timelines, which alternate between 1925 and the present 2004.  I enjoyed both the flashbacks from 1925 in the form of diary entries from Cecile’s long lost journal and also the main contemporary thread.  The settings are richly described and the world building is fabulous.  The Secret Circus itself is fascinating but also completely terrifying, with ticket invites that bleed if they are ripped and horrifying circus rides and acts.  The descriptions of Paris are gorgeous and interesting historical elements are mentioned as well as famous artists and writers from the period which gives it a feeling of authenticity.  The author’s descriptions of Père Lachaise stirred up wonderful memories.  I spent hours wandering around in autumn a few years back to see Oscar Wilde’s tomb stone and coming across so many other famous ones along the way.  There is a large and varied cast of characters with depth and personality and all play essential roles in the plot.  The villains are brilliantly portrayed, Althacazur is dark, manipulative and evil and Esmé is not a character you would want to have as a sister.  

Dark, compelling and beautifully written, this is definitely one to add to your reading list if you liked the Night Circus or similar magical circus settings.  I really like this author’s style of writing and the mix of contemporary and historical settings in her novels.  I look forward to seeing what she comes up with next. 

Publisher: Piatkus
Publication Date (UK): 11 November 2021
Format:  Paperback 
Page Count: 464
Genre:  Historical Fantasy/Time Travel 
Rating:  ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5 Stars

Thank you to the publisher for the gifted advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

I hope you enjoyed this review.  For my current reads, recommendations and anything else book related, please follow me on Instagram , Goodreads or Twitter

Please do not hesitate to comment below if you liked my review or have any comments about this book 😊 

Happy reading!


Twisted in Pages Blog

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