It’s the summer of 1913 and Cora Kensington’s life on the family farm has taken a dark turn. The crops are failing and worse, so is her father’s health. Then a stranger comes to call and in one fateful afternoon, Cora discovers that her birth father is a copper king-a man who invites her to tour Europe with her new family. As she travels across America, then on to England and France, Cora faces the hardships as well as the privileges of assuming the family name. And though now she knows more of her true identity, she soon discovers the journey is only beginning.
Cora arrives home from a year at teachers’ college and realizes something is wrong when her parents don’t meet her off the train. It turns out that her father has had a stroke. Although he survives, Cora struggles in vain to keep the family farm going. The family doesn’t have any savings; her parents spent the money they had on her education. When her father’s health deteriorates, it becomes apparent that she will be unable to return to college and – worse – that they’re going to lose their farm. Cora is praying for an answer, and Wallace Kensington shows up at the door with the news that he’s her birth father. He insists on paying for her father’s healthcare and the remaining two years of her teacher training. He also wants to send her to Europe with his other three children. There doesn’t appear to be any strings attached, but readers of Glamorous Illusions get a hint of something very different.
Cora’s story is told from various perspectives. While only hers is written in the first person, the narrative flows smoothly and the reader gets a good insight into Cora’s Grand Tour of Europe. I felt her pain as she struggled to enjoy the trip while enduring open hostility from her new family. The tension between everyone was very obvious, but not over the top. On the one hand, they want to expose her for who she really is – an illegitimate and unwelcome member of the family – but on the other, they realize that if they expose her they risk their own social standing. It isn’t a surprise that Cora’s closest companion on the trip is the young tour guide, Will, who is also struggling financially to complete his university education, and we get to experience his point of view as well.
I loved the historical detail regarding the Atlantic crossing, London, and Paris. The year is 1913 and the party is traveling on Titanic’s sister ship. They are well aware of what happened that night in April 1912, and we get to witness their emotions on the experience. I also particularly appreciated that Bergren had the party spend their first night in England at Syon House, one of the lesser known homes in London, since I used to live within walking distance of the property. If there’s a downside to the book, it’s that it ends rather abruptly without a satisfying conclusion. This is no doubt due to Glamorous Illusions being the first in a trilogy called The Grand Tour. Book two is called Grave Consequences and will be out in spring of 2013.
Publisher: David C Cook
Publication Date: 01 June 2012
Page Count: 416
I downloaded my free copy of Glamorous Illusions from David C Cook on the NetGalley website. I was under no obligation to write a review.