Have you ever wanted to run away with the circus?
In my newest installment of my Maidens of Marbury series, Making the Marquess Mine, the heroine does just that. Well, she hitches a ride with a travelling circus more than runs away to be part of said circus. Susanna is on a mission to do a good deed and reunite two long lost lovers. In her mind, the only way to travel safely to her destination is to travel with thefriends she’s made at Astley’s Amphitheatre (London’s most famous circus) as they take their show on the road for the summer. Her friends, when they figure out her plan, fear for her safety and send our hero after her in an attempt to save her reputation and bring her home. And the chase is on!
Now, a Regency era circus was quite different from what you’re probably thinking. No tigers or elephants or pyrotechnics ala Ringling Bros. This type of circus would become popular in the late 1800s and the first half of the 20th century. A Regency era circus included acrobats, jugglers, rope dancers, clowns, and strongmen. But the main attraction was the trick riding!
Philip Astley, a British ex-cavalry man, is often credited as the ‘father of the modern circus’. In 1768, he and his wife Patty established Astley’s Riding School in London, where Philip would teach riding in the morning and perform equestrian tricks in the afternoon. Both Philip and Patty were expert riders. One of Patty’s popular tricks involved her circling the ring on horseback at high speed, with swarms of bees covering her hands and arms as if she was wearing a muff!
Astley’s unique mixture of equestrian and acrobatic acts, followed by a pantomime was a huge success. In 1795 Astley opened the Royal Amphitheatre. The Royal Amphitheatre had a stage in addition to the circus ring and the two were interlinked by ramps. This enabled audiences to sit close to the ring. It was said that patrons could feel the horse’s tails swishing by their faces. He is credited with discovering that the ideal size for a circus ring is 42 feet in diameter. This was the optimum size that enabled him to use centrifugal force to help balance on a horse’s back. But it was Mr. Astley’s rival Mr. Charles Dibdin, who first coined the word ‘circus’. Dibdin copied Astley’s formula of theatrical equestrian entertainment by opening The Royal Circus a short distance from Astley’s.
In Making the Marquess Mine, Susanna becomes entranced by trick riding after attending a show at Astley’s theater. In fact, she becomes friends with many of the performers and of course gets into some trouble! The book is a rollicking friends-to-lovers, road trip romance that includes all sorts of shenanigans; long lost lovers, a travelling circus, an attempted kidnapping, obsession, trick riding, amnesia, scandal, and of course falling in love.
About the Author
From the time she read fairytales as a child, Karla Kratovil was hooked on stories that ended in Happily Ever After. Now as an author of sexy historical romance she gets to craft her own happy endings. Karla lives right on the edge of Northern Virginia’s wine country with her college sweetheart, two terrific teenagers, and two blond terriers. She is a Taurus. Like any good earth sign she loves good food, good wine, and getting her hands dirty growing things in her garden.
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