Glamorous Illusions (Grand Tour Series)

Written by Lisa T. Bergren
Review by Waheed Rabbani

This novel’s conflict builds from the start as 20-year-old Cora arrives from school to spend the holidays at home. She’s shocked to find Papa unconscious with Mama at his side. Although he partially recovers, Cora has to help him run the farm. It’s the summer of 1913 in a Montana farming community, and crop failures are inevitable. Cora works diligently, but, desperate for money to buy seeds, she pawns an exquisite necklace she had received from a nameless benefactor. Matters take a dire turn when her Papa suffers a second incapacitating stroke and needs to be hospitalized in Minnesota. With Mama accompanying him, Cora will have to work the farm and give up her dream of becoming a teacher.

A stranger arrives unexpectedly. Her mother reveals that he’s her biological father, Kensington, the famous ex-senator and copper king. Bergren handles the narrative skillfully. We can hear Cora’s anguish and rage at his showing up after 20 years. Kensington offers to purchase the farm, provide for Mama and Papa, and send Cora with her half-siblings on the Grand Tour. Cora refuses the proposition at first, although pressed by Kensington. She thinks of saying, “You can keep your money and your promises, Mr. Kensington—we need nothing but the Lord, the land and each other. We’ll find a way.”

The story promises a thrilling encounter between the underprivileged and the prosperous, but when Cora accepts Kensington’s offer, the plot takes a different turn. However, the young tour guide’s romantic interest in Cora keeps the story moving along, as do the evocative descriptions and interesting historical backgrounds of the European sights. Due to the rather inconclusive ending to this first book in a trilogy, readers will want to read the next.