About the book:
Author: Lisa T. Bergren
Publisher: David C. Cook
Publication Date: 2012
Series: “The Grand Tour” (book 1 of 3)
Genre: Fiction, Christian Historical
Rating: 5 out of 5
The Story (from the publisher): It was the summer of 1913, and Cora Kensington's life on the family farm has taken a dark turn. Not only are the crops failing, so is her father's health. Cora is carrying on, helping her mother run their Montana farm until a stranger comes to call, and everything changes. Cora then learns a secret that will radically change her future: she is the illegitimate daughter of a copper king who has come to claim her.
Cora is invited to take the "Grand Tour" of Europe, a journey intended to finish a person's education, to solidify an understanding of ancient culture and contemporary refinement. As she travels from England to France with half-siblings she's never known, Cora encounters the blessings of the Kensington family name, as well as the curses. But when an unbidden love begins to form, she realizes the journey is only beginning.
Faced with the challenge of accepting her father, new family, and the identity that comes with it, Cora also struggles to accept that she is also the daughter of the one true King-a Father who is the only One who can truly heal.
My Thoughts: This is the first novel I have read by Bergren and I must say, as an author who was finally finding one of her novels on my bookshelf, the story first enticed me by its premise then left me intrigued like no other novel has. Or at least not in a looong time. Furthermore, when an author whose writing I find endearingly humorous compared it to Downton Abbey, I was pretty much “sold” on the idea that this novel couldn’t be anything but a keeper. It follows a young farm girl who learns she is not the biological daughter of the man she called “father” for her entire 20 years. She is actually the illegitimate daughter of Montana’s wealthiest copper king. In the aftermath of these events, Cora is plunged into a world she knows nothing of and feels forced towards social requirements and people she has no proper knowledge of but the true cusp of the story is in finding one’s identity. Something each of us will be able to relate to in some form or another.
Before raving about everything beautiful in this novel, I will just lay out the cons – or to be accurate I should use the word singularly not plural, the con in the story. It is written in its mass in the first person. Pinpointing exactly what it is about that style I am not fond of has not been mastered in my mind but it rubs me the wrong way (marginally so). If the plot is good and the characters aren’t wimpy or unforgettable, it is a prose easily overcome; it seems to stifle so much potential in a story but here Lisa uses a unique tactic by inviting us into the minds of other minor characters. Cora is the primary and her thoughts engage us in a more journal like format – a window into her soul more than anything but it was a nice trade-off to get into the minds of her father and the young man who is the tour guide apprentice to his uncle. Their perspective lends a lot to this first novel in a brand-new series that is a richly detailed and well crafted historical that doesn’t merely center on celebrated historical land marks or events, or the architecture but takes care with the characters emotions and their time within the glamorous world in which they were born to. (Not to mention the beautiful, descriptive costumes!) From Cora’s perception, the grandeur overwhelms and startles her into a new realization of herself. Once I was able to train my mind to ignore the first-person text I was swept up into this story to the point that I had to hold myself back from reading the ending first – seriously, I wanted to know how it was going to end! It was such an intriguing premise, and one that I wanted to end well. I suspect that most readers are rooting for Will to admit his feelings for Cora (no matter that society dictates he’s not in her class), but I rather liked the dashing young Frenchman, Pierre. He may be perceived as a scoundrel but there is no reason for that other than a stereotype because he has been nothing but a gentleman – thus far. There was something about him that made me hope, in future Lisa will further explore he and Cora’s relationship in the subsequent novels – which I can only assume are going to be about the Kensington/Morgan clans considering this novel was hardly complete.
Everything is richly woven into a world in which the exquisite beauty of overseas travel is easily imagined. Cora’s fight against her own temptations is genuine – plus believable (who wouldn’t get comfortable in such a world?) and well-written; who among us wouldn’t be drawn into a world that was both decedent and materialistically satisfying? A world in that could give Cora everything but family and love. It would lift her burden of struggling day in and day out for material comforts but not the affections of her new family. In that respect, the author does have a terrific handle on these emotions – on giving her character a down-to-earth likability and believable struggle that she holds against herself. This may have been the first novel I ever read by this author but it won’t be the last. Of that I am sure.
In Summary: Book one of Lisa’s new series is, in a word exquisite. The characters are interesting and the setting couldn’t be more beautiful. Glamorous Illusions is a story that stands on its own – and then some.
Check out the charming, mysterious cover art for book two - coming in March! Read what fellow reviewers are saying about Glamorous Illusions.
*Many thanks to the publisher for providing this copy for reviewing purposes