Circus-themed romances are few and far between, but a few stand out as literary gems—and then there are some that would make the Ringling Brothers blush.
The first book that stands out in most people’s minds is The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, which is a Romeo and Juliet story with dueling magicians, Celia and Marco. You’ve got magic, history, and a rich backstory, all of which has put this book on the best-seller list.
A common theme in circus romances is the idea of the hero or heroine running away to look for a fresh new start. The nature of the circus is by and large nomadic, the performers and workers literally pick up and go on to the next destination. For many heroines (and in a few cases a hero), this presents a unique opportunity to start fresh with a group that they want to be a part of.
For fans of young adult, Kendall Ryan writing as Ryann Kerekes presents The Cirque about a good girl ballerina named Ariel and a bad boy knife thrower named Gabriel. For those of you who found the knife throwing scene in Divergent suspenseful, basically take the sexual tension between Tris and Four, add the circus to it and you’ve got The Cirque. Ariel is a good girl looking for adventure while Gabriel is running away from his problems. The Cirque is a tightly written young adult novel that presents the circus as a backdrop for angst and romance.
Worthy of at least a mention, Allie Brennan’s novella Of Silk and Fire is a young adult paranormal romance novella starring Ella Olsen, an aerialist with amnesia. In addition to being an acrobat, she has telekinetic powers and must unravel the mystery of herself and her romantic interest who, by the way, stole her memories.
Another romance under the big top features a young woman (again on the run) and looking for shelter in the travelling nature of the circus. A. R. Kahler’s Cirque des Immortels or The Immortal Circus presents more of a dark fantasy with a romance in the backdrop. Vivienne literally signs herself over ala Chihiro in Spirited Away to escape the past demons that are haunting her. With magic, fairies and murder, Vivienne must navigate the perils surrounding her new nomadic life and her developing feelings for Kingston, a stage magician whose magic is more than meets the eye.
Marjorie M. Liu’s Eye of Heaven features a hero forced to search the circus for his missing brother. Blue Perrineau, a man with electrokinetic powers is forced by his billionaire father to find a brother he didn’t know he had. Along the way, he stops at a Las Vegas circus and meets the sexy Iris McGillis, essentially a feline handler who by the way, also shapeshifts into a powerful feline herself. Basically, it’s “X-Men meet and fall in love at the circus all while trying to prevent an eco-terrorist and other baddies from ruining Iris’s livelihood.”
The last romance is a problematic for some readers—Annabel Joseph’s Cirque de Minuit and Bound in Blue, part of the Circus Masters series each feature erotic BDSM utilizing the circus as a backdrop. In the first book, Cirque de Minuit, Kelsey Martin is working with the dominant Theo Zamora to perfect an aerial silks routine while also discovering they have a connection between the silks and the sheets. The second book, Bound in Blue, features Jason Beck, a talent scout, and Sara, a trapeze artist, in a Master/slave relationship, while in the background angst, angst and more emotional turmoil threaten to pull their relationship apart. Readers should know these books have a heavy BDSM theme and are dark erotic romances. But they do offer the promised love—or at least sex under the big top.
Do you know of any circus-themed romances I might have missed? If you were in the circus what would your act be and who would you like to fall in love with?
Sahara Hoshi reviews for Wicked Lil Pixie and is a lifelong reader of romance. Favorite genres include new adult, paranormal romance, contemporary romance and erotica.