Character Spotlight: Joanne Bischof’s Charlie Lionheart & Ella Beckley



Meet a lion tamer and a nurse in

Joanne Bischof’s

historical romance

The Lady and the Lionheart

Mason Jar Books


The Story

Two worlds collide when the circus comes to Victorian-era Virginia.

Raised amid the fame and mystique of the Big Top, Charlie Lionheart holds the audience in the palm of his hand. But while his act captivates thousands, it’s away from the spotlight where his true heart lies. Here he humbly cares for his pride of lions as if they were his brothers, a skill of bravery and strength that has prepared him for his most challenging feat yet—freeing an orphaned infant from the dark bondage of a sideshow. A trade so costly, it requires his life in exchange for hers, leaving him tarnished by the price of that choice.

As the circus tents are raised on the outskirts of Roanoke, nurse Ella Beckley arrives to tend to this Gypsy girl. All under the watchful eye of a guardian who not only bears a striking resemblance to the child, but who protects the baby with a love that wraps around Ella’s own tragic past, awakening a hope that goodness may yet reign. When their forbidden friendship deepens, Charlie dares to ask for her heart, bringing her behind the curtain of his secret world to reveal the sacrifice that gave hope to one little girl—boldly showing Ella that while her tattered faith is deeply scarred, the only marks that need be permanent are his own.

Introducing Charlie & Ella

Brief physical description

Charlie Lionheart

Charlie is half Romani Gypsy and while that gives him hair and skin in shades of brown and golds, Gypsy eyes can often be pale blue or pale green. He’s remarkably handsome in a way that sort of stops ladies in their tracks whenever he’s around. And I should probably mention that hair. 😉 While his hair is always pristine during his performances, when he’s working behind-the-scenes, romping with his lions, it’s always a mess.


Ella Beckley

Because this story is a take on Beauty and the Beast, I knew Ella was going to be remarkably lovely. She’s also a country girl, so I wanted her beauty to be very natural and organic. Sort of unassuming. It’s not something that she flaunts, and actually, she has a tragic past and while her beauty isn’t at fault, it garnered the attention of a bad man in her past, which is where her story-journey really begins.


These pictures fit Charlie and Ella to a tee!


In a physical sense, Charlie’s strength is in being a lion tamer. He spends his days with full grown lions, performing death-defying acts to thousands upon thousands of spectators a year. On a heart level, his strength shines through in his gentleness and compassion. What he tries to allow the crowd to discover is that his lions are his best friends, his brothers. He is kind to them and values their lives above even his own comforts. This trait—one that was engrained into him from his father before him—is what makes him the perfect hero for Ella. His strengths support her weaknesses.

I think Ella’s greatest strength is her kindness. Though she’s known great sorrow and incredible grief through both the loss of her innocence at fifteen and the loss of her child shortly after, she never allowed it to make her bitter. It’s this kindness that surrounds Charlie in his time of need and that really knits his heart to hers. But where there’s a void in her heart and life is her lack of belief that God is on her side. That he created her to love her. It’s Charlie who will step in and demonstrate this through his own faith and his own loss, showing Ella by example, that God can be her comfort and her defender.


Quirk (if any)


I suppose the best place to start would be to mention that Charlie wears more makeup than any woman in any story I’ve ever written. 😀 He has to have his face done in a painted masquerade style for his lion taming performances. On top of this, he has a huge knack for fashion and changes his clothes more often than any other character—swapping out ensembles on a regular basis. He’s quite the fashionista when he wants to be.

Another quirk is that he has incredibly good balance. That sounds super silly to zoom in on, but because he’s spent his entire life around big cats, and because his mother and sister were trapeze artists, he’s grown up in a world where balance is key and so it was fun to paint that into the very first moment that he first bumps into Ella—literally on page two!


Ella has a small-town heart and while she navigates the streets of bustling Roanoke, Virginia, well, she never really sees herself born for grand things. She’s a country girl through and through so to suddenly find herself at the circus, spending all her time with a dashing lion tamer who has rows upon rows of spectators eating out of his hand, she’s sort of overwhelmed and awestruck by it all. She gets shocked easily by Charlie’s larger-than-life, bohemian ways, and it makes for a few fun moments in the story.Mindy

Your inspiration for the character


As you’ve probably guessed, the inspiration for Charlie began as “The Beast.” While heart-stoppingly handsome, he’s also harbouring a dark secret (don’t worry, he won’t sprout a tail or anything like that 😉 ) his secret is of a different kind and because I don’t want to give too much away, I’ll just tell you that as I was writing this book, I realized that his character began to exude Christ-like qualities. Love, compassion, and ultimately, sacrifice. A sacrifice so deep and so lasting, that it’s why town folk come in droves to the circus to look upon the anomaly that he is.


Just like with Charlie, Ella’s character began with a nod to the beloved fairy tale. But her character evolved as well—becoming a perfect fit for her hero. In the same sense that Charlie’s character is reminiscent of Christ’s love for us, Ella’s character is reminiscent of our need for a saviour. Christ came to set the world free and in so many ways, I believe that Charlie collided into Ella’s life to bring her the freedom she desperately needed.

Background to the story 

Part of what inspired this story was knowing that Charlie was going to be the father to a little girl. Her name is Holland and she’s seven-months-old. I also knew right away that it was going to be set in the Victorian-era circus. There’s one more factor here that sparked the story but I can’t tell you what it is because it’s a secret. :) It’s one that’s at the very heart of the story. One that brings strength to Charlie’s life, healing to Ella’s, and hope to baby Holland’s. My prayer is that it will be a blessing to readers as well.

Thanks Jo – Charlie and Ella are two of my favourite characters ever written :)

Joanne Bischof - Headshot 2


A Carol Award and two-time Christy Award-finalist, Joanne Bischof writes deeply layered fiction that tugs at the reader’s heartstrings. She was honored to receive the SDCWG Novel of the Year Award in 2014 and in 2015 was named Author of the Year by the Mount Hermon Writer’s conference. Her 2014 novella This Quiet Sky broke precedent as the first self-released title to final for the Christy Awards. She lives in the mountains of Southern California with her husband and their three children.

Relz Reviewz Extras
Reviews of The Lady and the LionheartTo Get to You and Be Still My Soul
Character spotlight on Tucker and Sarah (This Quiet Sky)
Jo’s Reading Habits
Jo’s Author Alert
Visit Joanne’s website and blog
Buy from Amazon: The Lady and the Lionheart

The Lady and the Lionheart

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Share This!

19 Responses to Character Spotlight: Joanne Bischof’s Charlie Lionheart & Ella Beckley

  1. Ah, I love this! I’d seen these pics before, but had forgotten. I just love Charlie! And his heart, his wonderful, loving, sacrificial heart. And I love what Joanne says about how he exudes Christ-like qualities. I thought that very thing while reading! Wonderful post! It makes me happy. :)

    • Hi Kara! It’s so neat to know that Charlie’s character resonated with you so! He was such a special character to work with – my all time favorite :) I miss writing about him already! I think I need to remedy this… 😉

  2. Nice to meet you, Rel! I am a longtime fan of this book. I love how Charlie and Ella have captivated so many hearts and souls from the pages of Joanne’s beautiful story….
    I think I’ll scroll up and gaze into Charlie’s depth-less green eyes a bit longer… :)


    • Ashley – So glad you stopped by! Isn’t Rel’s blog wonderful?! I have a mind to introduce you two! Thank you for being a part of this story from the get-go and for cheering it on from the early days. So thankful for you, friend!

  3. I couldn’t hit the “buy” button fast enough on my Kindle when this book was released. I was so blown away by “This Quiet Sky” that I also bought “To Get To You” – and I’ll also be purchasing “Be Still My Soul”. Joanne Bischoff is soooo talented. I think she puts a voice to all the silent “whys” in our lives and lets them breathe and vent and then slowly lets God’s wisdom put them to bed carefully and quietly just like a mother who caresses and sings her child to sleep. The situation may still exist, but we gain a peace to be still through it. We are so blessed by God to have writers like Joanne Bischoff to impart God’s wisdom and care for us through her gift of writing.

  4. I just have to say this is a great post! So much fun learing about the characters in this fantastic novel!! It is on my TBR pile for later this month!! 😀

    Now on to who my most compelling literary hero is…

    That is a tough question. I think right now I am going to say Gilbert Blythe from Anne of Green Gables. This is partially because Jonathan Crombie, the man that played Gilber Blythe in the mini-series, died in April earlier this year. This brough back many good memories I had of growing up and watching the movie and of course reading the book so many times, until my copy was literally fallig apart. Gilbert is just a fun character that I immediately fell in love with him. I love how he teases Anne and eventually they fall in love!

  5. These awesome characters reflected all you desired for the reader to see. Perfect pictures. That doesn’t happen very often for me. Anyone who skips reading this book will be missing a tremendous read and a blessing. Those characters and the story will not be leaving my mind any year soon!

  6. I LOVED this! And I loved the book!

  7. Loved the extra insight into the characters. Such a heart-grabbing, touching book. I already want to read it again!

  8. I swear I left a comment here!

    Anyway, I love character spotlights so this was fun to “meet” Ella and Charlie. I’ve read a lot of high praise for this book, so thanks for the chance to win a copy :-)

    • Greetings Trixi! Rel’s spotlights are so neat! And I’m so thrilled that you’re looking forward to this story. I really, really hope that if you get a chance to read it – it will be a blessing to you.

  9. Mr. Darcy is my compelling literary hero! Dark and brooding, yet willing to find his sensitive side….swoon.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *