The Circus of the Damned by Cornelia Grey

Circus of the Damned by Cornelia Gray
M/M Romance, Dark Fantasy

Magician Gilbert Blake has spent his entire life conning drunkards in the seediest pubs in the darkest towns, careful to hide the true depths of his power. But when he spends a little too much time in Shadowsea and the infamous slumlord Count Reuben gets wind of his abilities, hiding within the Circus of the Damned may be Gilbert’s only chance at survival.

But there’s more to the Circus than meets the eye. Every time a performer dies, a new one must take his place, or the entire circus suffers the consequences. And while the handsome ringmaster Jesse isn’t one to coerce unwilling performers into giving up their souls to the devil, a recent death in their ranks makes Gilbert exactly what they need.

Yet the longer Gilbert stays with the Circus, the more danger he seems to bring them. Being with Jesse is more than Gilbert could have hoped for, but as Count Reuben’s men continue to search for Gilbert and the Circus loses another performer, they all face running out of time long before the Devil claims his due. 
I’m giving this one 3 stars. I liked it but it was hard for me to get through and I found it far too easy to put down when I finished a short chapter. I know that probably makes no sense at all so I’ll try to explain.

Gilbert finds himself in a bind when he’s caught using magic to bilk some sucker out of his money. Now he has a hoard of angry fellows chasing after him. He lands in a most unusual place called the Circus of the Damned and begs them to allow him to hide. The ringmaster says something like, “Sure you handsome scoundrel you, but now you are stuck with us FOREVER! And when you die, your soul belongs to the devil. Mwahaha!” Gilbert agrees. I guess it’s better than getting your head bashed in, right? Also, the ringmaster is hot and Gilbert has a thing for hot guys. Truth be told, were I Gilbert, I would've said yes too 😉.

Sounds like a fun, exciting, possibly sexy little read, hmmm? Well, it almost is. I’m not sure where it went wrong but it kept losing me. I guess there were too many characters in the sideshow that were there just to be there to round out the cast. I wanted to know them better. If you’re going to pop into a scene and make me scour my brain trying to remember who you are, what you look like and what your “talent” was all about, the least you can do is let me get to know your personality for all the effort. But that wasn’t really the case. The main focus was placed on building the atmosphere surrounding the story and creating the back-story that brought about the circus and though it was beautifully done, I wish the book had been longer and included better character interaction. In a book like this, I am looking for emotional intensity, or funny banter and something more than fabulous atmosphere.

So that’s what slowed me down. What kept me reading were, interestingly enough, the unique characters and the sense of family they all found with each other. I kept hoping for that emotional connection to take over and though there were glimpses (enough to keep me reading, anyway), in the end, I wasn’t satisfied. The main romance felt a bit rushed and squeezed into the plot. The sexy times were sexy enough but would’ve been so much better had I believed the two were deeply in love or even deeply in lust. I just wasn’t feeling it 100%.

Dead inside? Perhaps.

There’s so much promise in the writing that I will try the next book in the series despite all of my whining. I have a feeling that once the author gets the pacing and character issues sorted out she is going to write something that will be unforgettable and I can't wait to read it.

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  1. Frustrating when there's a lot of potential and a neat set up and it falls through for you. On to the next, though!

    1. Yeah, it was a bit of a disappointment. I need to check out her newer books and see what kind of reviews they've been getting before I dig into another.


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