Reviews of books, movies, and more
Summary: In 1913, Montana farmgirl Cora Diehl returns home from a year of school in time for two shocking events: first, her Papa is suffering from a stroke, and second, her Papa isn’t really her biological father at all. When her mother was a maid in the house of copper king and politician Wallace Kensington, the two had a liaison that resulted in Cora’s birth. Now, in exchange for his help with her Papa’s medical issues and failing farm, Kensington wants Cora to be an acknowledged part of his family. Shipped off on a Grand Tour of Europe with a pack catty half-siblings and their friends, trunks full of gorgeous dresses, and a handsome young tour guide, Cora is about to enter a brave new world.
Review: If you’re a fan of Downton Abbey* like me, then the mention of any book, show, or movie set between 1912-1920 makes your period-drama-loving heart begin to palpitate. Since I also loved the author’s addictive River of Time series, this book was a must-read.
So how does Glamorous Illusions hold up? Well, it’s a mixed bag. With her sensitive yet headstrong nature, Cora is a bit like Margaret from North and South, but other than that, she didn’t really break out of the standard heroine mold. In addition, while I applaud that Bergren’s books always have an underlying theme about trusting in God, there were many times I wanted to skim Cora’s too-frequent inner monologues in which she pondered her life and future. It’s perfectly clear that her world had been overturned, and I didn’t need to read endless musings on it.
The identity of her love interest is also perfectly clear as soon as he shows up. Will and his uncle are the “bears” for the trip, which basically means they give rich young people tours of Europe for a living. Will is the sort of handsome, polite, agreeable young man we all would love to date but can never seem to find in real life. To keep his job and hold to his convictions, it’s important for Will to be the “responsible one” of the group, but many times he did seem a bit of a wet blanket. Still, I did enjoy his scenes with Cora (there is a particularly lovely one where they both attend a Paris church service), and look forward to more of them in future books.
“Future books” is part of the problem, however. The whole book feels like set-up. Beside Will, the rest of Cora’s party still felt rather one-note at the end of the book. There are several subplots that are hinted at but do not come to fruition. I felt the beginning of the book was rather slow (at the halfway point, I believe the group was just making the crossing to England) and what dramatic action does occur is not until the very end of the book. I have high hopes for the rest of the series, which I plan to finish, but the first book did feel rather run-of-the-mill on the whole.
In short: While it’s an enjoyable read that promises payoff in the upcoming sequels, Glamorous Illusions is just average on its own.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.
Something similar: Fateful by Claudia Grey is a book about the Titanic and werewolves. While it’s a fun read and gives insight into the time period, it does lack the moral backbone of Glamorous Illusions. The Grand Tour by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer is the sequel to the exquisite Sorcery and Cecelia. In the early 19th century, cousins Kate and Cecelia write diary entries about their Grand Tour of Europe with their respective husbands and the magical mishaps that ensue.
Cover & Title: The cover is absolutely gorgeous. Quite possibly my favorite of the year. From the font to the artwork, I adore it.
Where I got the book: Shelves of the local library.
*If any of you happened to read through the comments on my post about North and South, you may have noticed way back then I was a bit down on Downton Abbey. For the sake of clarification, I had only seen one episode at that point and was left a bit cold. I’ve since watched the entire series to date, and would highly recommend it!