This story was inspired by Twelfth Night, and, like the play, a love triangle with a girl dressed as a boy lies at its heart. Kitty longs to work with horses but is all too aware of the fact that girls have no place in the male territory which is the stables. When her brother Tom leaves home without warning or explanation and her father brutally rejects her offer of help with the horses she determines that she, too, will leave home, look for Tom and try and find employment for herself. Huxley’s Circus is performing in the town and Kitty decides that this is where Tom must be. Disguised as a boy she goes to seek him out, but there is no trace of him. After quietening a horse which is out of control and potentially dangerous she is offered a job as a stable `lad’, at which she excels.
She soon becomes a valued part of the circus family, which, like all families, has its feuds and secrets. Oscar the clown is a hardened bully, desperate for the love of Sara, the beautiful tightrope walker, but aware that Jack, the show’s star rider, is also in love with her. Meanwhile, Kitty develops a crush on Jack and Sara, in turn, is drawn to Kitty. Within the tightly enclosed community which is the circus, symbolised by the Big Top, feelings become hot-housed and tensions develop, too often with calamitous results.
Barrington Stoke has a well-deserved reputation as a publisher providing good reads for young people in whom the skill of reading is not fully developed-and this is one of those good reads. The author never patronises her readers but immerses them in an earlier world where it was still possible to make your own way, whatever your age. Her characters are believable, but avoid stereotypes and Kitty supports the central premise: one should know where one’s heart truly lies.