That was how I first came to know of this novel, and I was not prepared for the impact it was going to have on my heart.
It was a chilly evening in a cozy mountain town. I sat at a table warmly lit by the glow of a fire, with three other young ladies.
Two of them were teens like me, just starting off on this journey, just learning what it meant to turn a blank piece of paper and a pen into your heart song.
The third at that table was Joanne Bischof—author, friend, mentor, Godsend.
Joanne is one of the sweetest, most gentle and unassuming women of God you are ever likely to meet. Sitting in the early mornings at her house, she types away on a well-worn laptop, weaving stories that break walls, open hearts, and change perspectives.
And this was the woman who had invited me and my friends to her house for what we were calling a “Reading Group.” Rather than critiquing each other’s writing, as we did often enough at our local writer’s group, we set aside this night simply to read. To enjoy. To uplift. Each of us brought our stories, printed or on a device, and we munched away on the snacks scattered over the table while the author read their selection.
That is where I first met Charlie Lionheart. Or, rather, Ella—the brave young nurse who dares to step out of her cultural norm to save Charlie’s ailing baby, Holland.
Sitting next to some of the dearest writers to me, and listening to Joanne’s soft voice read aloud the first chapter of her at that time work-in-progress, The Lady and the Lionheart, I was swept away. Held spellbound in a land of towering, striped tents. Surrounded by vivid performers wearing colorful outfits. Finding a kindred spirit in blonde lady with hair past her feet—and a small dwarf woman surprisingly good at housekeeping.
My journey to the circus continued some time later, when I had the chance to read the full novel for myself.
It was during this stint that I really understood Charlie Lionheart for the first time—and why that name is so apt. I was overwhelmed by the dark secret that plagued his life, while at the same time moved to tears by the heroic and sacrificial reason he held that secret. Faced with a storm of pain and sadness, Charlie Lionheart chose the hard way out, but the right one. He who had the heart of a lion, who tamed the beasts himself in the circus, had a courage that shook me to my core.
And continues to shake me. To flit in the back of my thoughts. To inspire me that if Charlie Lionheart can stand up through the chains of darkness binding him, maybe I can search for the light, too.
Because that, more than anything, is what Joanne Bischof has given the world—the courage to search for the light, just as she did that night sitting beside her fire glow, sharing stories. The Lady and the Lionheart tells a very relatable tale of a circus performer, and a young nurse, who have the courage to face their own lions. Their darkness. Bischof’s style is as melodic and gripping as ever, while her main character Charlie Lionheart is one of those rare characters who not only keeps you reading, but stays with you long after that cover is closed.
The novel is available via pre-order, and comes out in August on Amazon (Which also happens to be my birthday month–HOLLA!). Don’t miss out!