I have such a soft spot for Jane Harvey-Berrick’s brand of make-believe, the allure of her remarkable writing style pulling me in and holding me captive time and time again, and this book was no exception. A setting that was completely foreign and somewhat uninviting to me, she once again succeeded in mesmerizing me from the very beginning, until I realised I was highlighting entire pages, in awe of every word, every emotionally-charged description, every thrilling detail about a story that was as addictive as it was startling.
“I couldn’t tell you why the carnival lured me with its sticky fingers and bright, whirling colors, except to say that it was different, and that excited me. I’d only read about ‘different’ in books, never experienced it for myself. Perhaps it was a case of be careful what you wish for.”
Aimee Anderson has always been fascinated by carnivals. So when, on her tenth birthday, her wish to visit the newly arrived carnival in town is granted by her stringent parents, Aimee feels like all her hopes and dreams have suddenly come true. But even though in her young eyes carnivals are the closest thing to a world of magic, she expects nothing more than Ferris wheel rides, cotton candy, and thrill acts to tickle her vibrant imagination. Until a boy with silvery eyes and a challenging smirk on his lips steals her away from the crowds and shows her his world the way only a ‘carnie’ gets to see it. From the moment she lays eyes on him, she sees the wonder that is him, utterly blind to the prejudices swirling around them and only seeing him with the beauty of her heart.
“You have a gift, Kes, an amazing wonderful gift. It’s special, just like you.”
Kestrel “Kes” Donohue has never known any other life but that of a ‘carnie’. Coming from a long line of traveling men, Kes was born into this life and has never wished to be part of another, his wild and unrestrained personality having found the perfect outlet in that nomadic lifestyle and in the thrill of the stunt shows he’s found himself starring in from an early age. A showman by nature, Kes has never wanted any part of the world outside the carnivals. Until a young girl with glittering eyes, tugging at her mum’s hand from glee, catches his eye. And steals his heart.
“You’re my girl, Aimee. No one else.”
Year after year, they meet up for two weeks each summer when the carnival arrives in town, and year after year, they fall deeper and deeper for one another. We watch their budding romance through the eyes of a young girl falling in love for the very first time in her life, as she waits all year long for those short weeks when she’d be free to be herself and in the company of the only boy who has ever owned her heart.
“I don’t want us to be an illusion. I think about you all the time—do you ever think about me?”
But loving Kes is no small task. Temperamental, unpredictable, even cruel at times, Kes is like warm sunshine and stormy skies on the same day, being simultaneously capable of great attentiveness and careless indifference with equal likelihood of it happening. In public, he is naturally cocky and confident, but his heart and self-esteem are not as untouchable as he wishes others to believe. When the time comes for the young couple to look into the future and decide what they want the most, they encounter violent opposition from those closest to them and time is suddenly stolen from them, ruthlessly and deceptively, leaving them to nurse their shattered hearts for eight long years.
“He wasn’t perfect, but he was perfect for me.”
Fifteen years after their first encounter, Aimee might no longer be the bright-eyed girl whose heart did not know the sting of heartbreak, but the lure of carnivals still pulls her in, and a small part of her still believes that magic lives there. When she meets Kes again, the memory of those teenage years spent loving one another still burns fiercely between them, even though their worlds remain unconnected, just as before and now more than ever.
A young love turning into a second chance at happiness, this is a story of two people who fell for each other against all odds, even when they knew that loving one another would inevitably end in heartbreak. Against a brilliant backdrop of colourful characters and bewitching imageries, we get a front seat in this delightful coming-of-age tale that then transitions into an adult romance to make our toes curl and our hearts stutter. With impeccable prose, meticulous character development and a distinctive gift for pulling readers into her storylines until we are so deeply invested, we never want them to end—we are once again given such a unique, profoundly heart-warming and undeniably sexy story that stays with us long after it ends. I lived this book cover to cover, could not get enough of every beautiful word it, and cannot recommend it highly enough.
Kes and Aimee’s tale concludes in The Traveling Woman…
“You’ve been sprinkled with fairy dust, missy. The carnival is in your blood now.”