July 24, 2013

A Whole New World

Glamorous Illusions by Lisa T. Bergren

Release Date: June 1, 2012
Publisher: David C. Cook
Pages: 416 pages
Source & Format: Bought; Kindle ebook
Series: The Grand Tour #1
Amazon | Goodreads

Summary (from Goodreads)
When Cora Kensington learns she is the illegitimate daughter of a copper king, her life changes forever. Even as she explores Europe with her new family, she discovers that the most valuable journey is within. The first book in the Grand Tour series takes you from the farms of Montana through England and France on an adventure of forgiveness, spiritual awakening, and self-discovery.

Thoughts on Glamorous Illusions
I bought Glamorous Illusions when it was free for Kindle in one of those random sales, and then I just let it sit there for a while. I adored the cover, but I didn't have the motivation to actually read it. The downside for me to getting a book for free is that it usually spends a lot of time on my TBR before I finally get around to reading it.

When my best friend told me that she had enjoyed this book, I figured it was time to finally dive into the world of Cora Kensington and family. It also helped that, at that point, I already had the next two books in the series from NetGalley. Glamorous Illusions is the first in the Grand Tour series, which is a Christian historical fiction trilogy. The second book, Grave Consequences, was published this past March and the third and final book, Glittering Promises, will be published this coming October. Since the Summer Series Challenge is encouraging me to prioritize the series in my TBR, I was raring to go with this one.

The novel opens with Cora returning home for the summer from school where she's studying to become a teacher. She knows that her parents' farm is struggling due to the lack of rain, but she and her mother are completely caught off guard when her father has a stroke. When his health worsens, Cora and her mother fear the worst. They might lose him and their home in one tragic blow.

That's when Cora learns a long-kept secret. She's the illegitimate daughter of her mother's former employer, a powerful copper king. He was married and Cora's mother was in his employ, so she married someone else and moved away. While he wasn't the one to raise her, he's kept tabs on his daughter over the years and now he's paying her a visit. He offers her a chance to get the best medical care for her father and save her childhood home. But it comes with a price - she's got to join his three other children on a Grand Tour through Europe. It's a journey that he promises will change her life, and he's right in more ways than one. Things will never be the same for Cora.

What I Liked
  • The theme. While the premise is a little far-fetched, I liked the question that is at its heart. What do you do when you find out that everything you knew about yourself was a lie? How do you react and who do you become as a result of that news? This book is all about discovering yourself and, once you know who you are, remaining true to yourself. I really like this concept and theme because I think it's so relevant and worth considering.
  • The setting. Since the book occurs while the characters are taking their Grand Tour of Europe, it's probably a given that I enjoyed the setting. I love books that involve travel, and it was fun to read about a tradition that meant so much to society. While I wish we'd been able to "see" a little more of the places the group travels to, I really enjoyed the journey in Glamorous Illusions.
  • The characters. There were moments when the characters annoyed me (which happens with real people in real life, too), but I really enjoyed the people in this book overall. I liked that Cora was stubborn, independent and wasn't cowed by others. William seemed really believable, and I was absolutely rooting for him. I even thought that Cora's siblings and their reaction to her introduction into their lives seemed realistic. I enjoyed spending time with these characters!
What I Disliked
  • The multiple narrators. This book tells the story from three different perspectives - Cora's, William's (the Tour guide), and Cora's biological father. While it's nice to understand the thoughts and motivations of the two men, I kept wishing I could just focus on Cora. It's just a personal reading preference, but I don't always love when a book flips back and forth between different characters. As a reading experience, I think it can make a book feel choppy and leave you a little disconnected from the story. And that's what I felt at times with this one. I wanted to get back to Cora and found the other perspectives to be distracting instead of crucial to the book.
  • The internal dialogue. I enjoy books with a first-person narrator, but I found it a little annoying at times in Glamorous Illusions because you can't escape the character's constant thought process. Cora keeps many of her feelings internalized, so much of the action felt like it was just her internal running thoughts on what was going on. She'd have a dilemma, think and/or pray about it, and then have a "revelation" that was supposedly going to have a huge impact on her journey. It just seemed like that happened too many times and became a little too noticeable.
  • The pacing. Finally, this dislike ties into the one mentioned above. Since the book focuses so heavily on Cora's thoughts, the pacing felt like it was off at times. There wasn't enough action, and the action that did occur didn't have the tension that would have had me racing to find out more. The end is also very action-heavy in a way that left the book a little unbalanced. If this had been a little evener, I think I would have "really liked" this book instead of just "liking" it.
All in all, Glamorous Illusions was a fun read. I definitely think it's a "me" book, so it was a spot-on recommendation from my friend. Historical fiction, travel, society... all things I love reading about it. Despite a few frustrations with the pacing and Cora's constant internal dialogue, I definitely think it lives up to its lovely cover and was a delightful summer read!

So Quotable
"The question isn't how society defines you, nor how I define you, but rather how God defines you, and in turn, how you want yourself to be defined."

6 comments:

  1. Great review. Great cover. LOVE the quote. Couldn't agree more.

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  2. This cover is gorgeous indeed! I would totally pick up this book based on the cover alone. But the story sounds pretty great, particularly because they get to go on a Grand Tour -- which I wish I could do too!

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    1. I know, right? Glad you agree on the cover!

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  3. I've been seeing this book on a lot of blogs lately and with the gorgeous cover have really been curious about it. Glad to know it's one worth checking out!

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    1. Isn't this cover so lovely? That's what totally had me interested in it!

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