Welcome to another session of Turning Pages!
Full disclosure: Gwenda is a blog buddy, and she and AF share the same agent, so this is more of a "hey another Bond book!" advertisement than a terribly critical booktalk. AF reviewed the first book in this series, GIRL ON A WIRE.
Synopsis: Moira Mitchell is eighteen and dying to step into the spotlight of her famous father, The Mysterious Mitchell, Master Magician. Moira needs him to see that she's ready for an act of her own. After all, she's lived at the Casino with him since she was a little kid, and she knows the Vegas Strip, she knows the lights, and she's got the patter down. She's been performing on the street -- by herself -- for a little while now, doing card tricks and even escaping from a straitjacket. But, now she's ready for a stage and an assistant -- is that too much to ask? But apparently it is -- her Dad has always stood between her and her dreams, and even blows her off in front of Raleigh, his assistant. The discovery of a flashy Florida circus auditioning for their summer Midway show - an invitation that rightly belongs to Raleigh - gives Moira the impetus she's long sought. Inventing a summer program in upstate New York, she loads up her props and sets off across the country.
The minute Moira - newly named Moira Miracle - lands in Sarasota, she meets a gorgeous boy, totally blows her audition -- and worse, the person to whom the invitation she's stolen belongs - Raleigh - has arrived, and he got there before her! There's only one reason the panel of judges is giving her a chance -- and it's not because of her bad card tricks. Something strange is going on at the Cirque American, and it's not just the intensity of the feelings Moira has developed for the handsome Dez, contrary to her own Vegas-sharp brain telling her it knows a con when it sees one, or the strangely tidy break-ins and gossipy whispers about an old coin that has everyone talking. Moira's sleight-of-hand doesn't seem so slight anymore -- and she'll take all kinds of chances to get to the bottom of what is, and is not real.
Observations: I'd forgotten that I'd read the first book in this circus series, so had a good laugh when I found myself surprised at recognizing names. I looked back at my reading log, and said, "Ohhh! Duh." Though AF wrote the actual review, I knew these people, this place, and this circus already very well. This is not a true sequel, but a companion novel to Jules' story of finding the truth about her family's bitter rivalry, and a companion to Bond's little love letter to real-life 20's wirewalker Bird Millman.
Unlike Jules, Moira - privileged and fairly blind to it, living on the penthouse level of the Menagerie Hotel and Casino - hasn't got angry Flying Garcias to get past -- just one very professional, very wealthy father. Running away is easy, but getting her act to come out right is hard -- a couple of times, nearly fatally so. There is a wonderful dialogue, a more-than-passing summer romance - long lost discoveries, lies, betrayal - and a lot of spotlights, bows, and very narrow escapes. The author mirrors the homage paid to historical female circus performers in the first book by adding Moira's desire to perfect the trick of another real life performer, Adelaide Herrmann.
Conclusion: Moira is a risk-taker, and makes decisions fully deaf ear to the pleas of others to not do something, be careful or at times, to use plain common sense. At eighteen, Moira is an adult, however, and as her decisions lurch from bad to worse before they get better, readers will come to sense her strong desire for independence and saving herself. Moira learns, as everyone has to, from getting it wrong before getting it right.
Though I'm not at all a circus fan, and things like wire-walkers, clowns, and contortionists make me break out in hives, I find myself impressed every time I read a book in this series at how the author immerses me into the world. The smell of greasepaint, cotton candy, and dusty canvas is practically palpable. A much stubborner, riskier girl with even more to lose than Jules, Moira will be a good beach companion this summer.
I received my copy of this book courtesy of the publishing company. After July 5,you can find GIRL IN THE SHADOWS by the inimitable Gwenda Bond at an online e-tailer, or at a real life, independent bookstore near you!