What is an illusion? An illusion is defined as something that deceives by giving a false impression of what really is. This story begins in the wilds of Montana, but then shifts to the wealthy European stage. The year is 1913, and the two main characters of this story are Will McCabe and Cora Diehl Kensington. As the story progresses, Cora and Will learn what it is to be real and what is only as they think it to be.
Cora has been raised on a farm, doing chores from sun up to sun down. She returns for summer vacation from college where she is studying to become a teacher. She has finished two years and has two more years to go to complete her degree. Upon arriving home, Cora discovers her father lying in a barn unconscious. After being seen by the doctor, not much hope is given to Cora and her mother. Cora soon learns that her father's health will never be what it once was, her parents have no money and Cora's likelihood of returning to college in the fall is very improbable, if not impossible. Then, a stranger arrives at their house and Cora is soon told a secret she could never, ever have guessed. This stranger offers Cora and her parents a future they never would have dared dream about.
Cora is soon thrust into the midst of two wealthy families, the Kensingtons and the Morgans. Each family has children on the brink of adulthood who are going on a Grand Tour of Europe to learn about art, history and different people and cultures before returning home. Cora continually struggles to become part of the group. Her only friend is Will McCabe, a tour guide in training. Will has two years of college under his belt, but due to financial reasons had to leave college a few years ago. He hopes to earn enough money this summer to return to college in the fall. He wants to be an architect, but his uncle wants him to take over the tour business full-time as his career. Will identifies with Cora's struggles to become a part of a new group. He encourages her, befriends her, protects her, and begins to fall in love with her. There can be nothing between them as Cora is now part of society's elite and he is just a tour guide. As Cora tries to come to terms with whom she really is, will she remember Who she really belongs to? The One who will never abandon her, never let her walk alone?
This story is rich in historical detail, which is one reason I so enjoy reading historical fiction. I learn new things, but I can also use my imagination and get lost in a good fictional story. I will soon be reviewing the second book in the series, Grave Consequences, as well as the third book in the series, Glittering Promises. Both of these books continue to follow Cora's Grand Tour of Europe as well as her ever-changing lifestyle and knowledge of herself. As I was reading, I was reminded that we have choices placed before us often, but do we consult the One who can always advise us best before making our decisions?
Cora Kensington is perfectly happy with her life. On a bankrupt farm in 1913 Montana, her mama and papa are struggling to eek out a life while Cora is away at college. Returning home for the summer, Cara has big dreams for her future. But she finds that her parents are barely making ends meet and have heavily borrowed so she can go to school. When a family member suddenly falls ill she has no choice, but to work sunup to sundown to keep the farm alive. Cora has no choice but to give up her dreams to be a teacher to take care of her family.
But in the story strongly reminiscent of Cinderella, a stranger arrives at their door with the news that Cora is not who she think she is. Pulled away into the fascinating world that is made of unfathomable riches, half siblings, and a father she didn't know she had, Cora faces the biggest challenge of her life. Who is she? Who is she meant to become? But more importantly - why?
Following Cora and her family as they are on a Grand Tour is exciting, and pumped my veins with adventure. I am such a homebody, but this novel inspired me to see the world for myself. Reading of Cora's struggle to fit in, to try to make the best of her circumstances is beyond commendable. She may be a fictional character, but Bergren has crafted a woman that will long remain in my memory. Truly a book that must be shared with the world.
This book was provided by the publisher for free in exchange for an honest review.
Glamorous Illusions by Lisa T. Bergren gave a glimpse into the life of the super rich at the beginning of the twentieth century. The year is 1913 and Cora has returned home from Normal School for the summer. Her dad has a stroke and recovers quite well. Then he has another stroke and this time he is completely incapacitated. Cora is working herself into a state exhaustion to keep the small farm going in spite of the drought that is plaguing the entire area. Cora is in the barn working when a fine carriage appears at the door of the farmhouse and two very well dressed men alight from the carriage. One man, a doctor, goes inside to examine Cora's father. The other man, Wallace Kensington, the copper king of Montana, is talking to Cora's mother and when Cora walks up her mother introduces him and then he drops a bombshell. He is Cora's birth father. She does not believe him but then her mother convinces her that what he says is true. He is there to offer her the deal of a lifetime. She is to take the Grand Tour of Europe with his other three children and three of their friends and in return he will send her father to the best hospital in Minnesota, pay her mother three times the worth of the farm, and pay for the rest of her education at the Normal School. Cora argues that she can keep the farm going but after talking more with her mother she accepts Kensington's offer in spite of her doubts. During the Grand Tour not only will Cora get to know her brother and two sisters, but she will come to learn a lot about herself.
The author did an excellent job developing the characters and they definitely came alive on the pages of the book. There were lots of twists and turns in the plot and many times one was left wondering what was going to happen next. There were also several times when I was sitting on the edge of my chair wondering if Cora or someone else was going to get out of the trouble they were in. There was even one incident when death seemed likely for one of the travelers. The dialogue in the novel was very enjoyable and whether it was Cora talking with Will, the two youngest girls talking and giggling, or any other individual speaking, the dialogue was great. When the Bear, leader of the group, was lecturing about the museums, art works, buildings, cities, and other items I could almost see what the group was seeing and felt as if I were right there with the group. The author obviously did a great deal of research for this novel and it shows throughout the entire book.
I highly recommend this book to all who like to read historical novels about the lives and loves of the super rich in the early twentieth century.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from David C. Cook at Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
Though content, Cora Diehl's life seems to be unraveling as she struggles on the family farm with loss of crops, lack of money and illness to someone she loves. Unknown to her, a stranger appears to challenge her world as she knows it.
Cora is invited to partake in the Grand Tour of Europe (a tour which advances one's education while immersing in ancient history), but soon discovers so much more. Finding herself to also be Cora Kensington, she discovers a dynasty of which she is a part, including siblings, resources, and wealth. Given no choice but to participate in the Grand Tour, Cora attains knowledge of both the benefits and drawbacks of which she is connected, but more importantly, she gains self discovery and identification.
A PENNY FOR MY THOUGHTS:
Yet again, Lisa Bergren writes a novel which draws the reader in and doesn't disappoint. Written in a style which uses different character's points of view, I found myself relating to the characters on a personal level. I appreciated the fact that Cora consistently turned to God for guidance on her challenges and decisions. Although a little plentiful at times on descriptions, the depth held my attention through romance, adventure, adversity and historical significance of the Grand Tour. The novel is loosely reminiscent of a rags-to-riches Cinderella story. While looking forward to the next book in the Grand Tour Series, Glamorous Illusions is definitely a must-read! Make sure to take the time to enjoy the Afterwords to further the story even a little bit more.
Cora Kensington is forced to leave her mother and ailing father to spend time with her birth father, a wealthy copper king, that she had not even been aware of until he showed arrived unannounced at their Montana farm. She is to take time to get to know this man she refuses to claim as her father. What shocked her the most was that her mother wanted her to go with him and spend time with him and her siblings she knew nothing about. How can she leave her Papa and go off with Mr. Kensington?
She is to go on a Grand Tour of Europe with her siblings. Mr. Kensington told her if she does this he will pay for her to finish Normal School to become a teacher, which is her heart's desire.
When she meets her siblings they went out of their way to snub her. She was not surprised, after all she was their father's illegitimate child, an interloper. Mr. Kensington informs her he will not be going on the Grand Tour. Who will defend her from her very outspoken siblings?
Cora is introduced to Will the very handsome tour guide and she realizes she has found a loyal friend. Now she does not feel so alone. But Will has been warned that he is not to become romantically involved with any of the clients on the tour or he would be removed from the tour.
Cora is overwhelmed at all the beauty and decadence of the rich and famous while on their tour of England and France. She will have good and bad memories to carry her through the rest of her life from this Grand Tour.
But will she be able to accept her birth father and will her siblings accept her as their sister?
The author has written a real page turner with healing grace, romance, suspense, mystery, and an abundance of history as Cora tours Europe. I did not want to put the book down and was so glad I was able to pick up book two of the series to read more of Cora's Grand Tour.
I highly recommend this book.
Disclosure: I purchased a copy of this book for my own reading pleasure and was not required to submit a review. This is my honest opinion.