Saturday, January 9, 2016

A Magical Cinderella Story - Glamorous Illusions by Lisa Tawn Bergren (2012)


Glamorous Illusions (Grand Tour Series #1)
by Lisa Tawn Bergren
2012
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Written for Cinderella Week hosted by Heidi at Along the Brandywine. ❤

I grew up reading Lisa Tawn Bergren's work, lots of her contemporary romances passed through my hands when I was a teenager, but I honestly haven't picked up one of her books in years. This one I just happened to stumble over this last week, one I'd planned to read for awhile, but never got around to. Kindle had a deal, I bought Glamorous Illusions, and then proceeded to read it in about 2 days. I just enjoyed it and myself so much. This book is a transporting and diverting read and I loved losing myself for at least a couple of days. And to my surprise, I found out about 3/4 of the way through, that it's actually a little bit of a Cinderella story! Who knew!?

Just for a brief write-up on the plot, Cora Diehl, a young woman living on a small farm in Montana in 1913, discovers that she's actually the illegitimate half-daughter of insanely wealthy Wallace Kensington, a copper king. Just now introducing himself, Mr. Kensington is giving Cora an opportunity to try his lifestyle on for size, which includes meeting his 3 legitimate children, and even taking the Grand Tour of Europe with them. It will be an uphill battle, she didn't realize how much uphill, but Cora finds herself up to the challenge as a love of art and history and travel is awakened within her, as well as a deepening understanding of herself as a young woman in the early 1900s, of suffrage, and of her place as a believer in Jesus.

There we go, simply stated, but also downplayed because the book takes many twists and turns. Cora discovers that her siblings aren't as easy to get to know as she might have hoped, especially Vivian, she spurns unwanted attentions from the son of another family traveling with them, develops an attraction to the "bear" in-training (a glorified tour guide), William McCabe, and constantly wars within herself over her happy, humble beginnings versus the new world opening up before her. Which could involve being courted and wooed by a French aristocrat, Pierre de Richelieu.

And this leads me to the connection with Cinderella.

Of course, you already see it, a little bit. A rags to riches story of a young woman, except that the family she already had was loving and kind, while the one she's breaking into has its own sort of selfishness and vanity, but apart from that, the tales are very similar. Oh, and God sort of plays the fairy godmother, since He orchestrated a lot of what happens by simply being who He is. I love that part.
But it is the ball that Pierre hosts while they're under his care in Paris, where he owns a massive chateau that is absolutely stunning (at least the way I imagine it). The ball was already pre-planned, so he didn't do it just for the Kensingtons and their party, but it is so magical and it is a masked masquerade ball, with everyone dressed in Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette inspired garb, even Cora in a radiant blue gown and powdered wig. I could just picture the costumes in my head, which is why I'm sharing some paintings I found online that could be a good match for her gown.



I love this one, and it does have the slight decollete neckline that made Cora nervous and it has the lace at the elbows which she just loved. So it isn't hard for me to picture her in it.


And this is, well, Marie Antoinette. Oh my, isn't that gown stunning? Not that I would ever, in a million years, wear a neckline that low, but I love the fabric and lace and the bobbles and just everything. Stunning!


Another of Marie Antoinette, except that I don't think it's a ball gown since she's outside, but it's still such a lovely blue and has that touch of lace at the elbow. Love that hat and the feathers!

Those are all the paintings I found that came close to my vision of Cora in her masquerade costume.

Really, the entire part of Glamorous Illusions that happens at the ball is just stunning. Pierra, as the host, chooses Cora for the first dance, and then she wheels away for fresh air in the garden since she doesn't know what to do with the emotions he invokes in her. Afterwards while still in their costumes, he puts a scarf over his eyes and trails her through an outdoor hedge maze (a game she agreed to play) tracking her. If he finds her, she must surrender a kiss. If she evades him and escapes the maze before he catches her, he will row her across a lake, gifting her an hour of much-needed silence. Of course, he wins and she shares her first truly impassioned kiss, but being the gentleman he is, Pierre agrees to give her her boat ride as well. This is before she flees from Pierre, flustered by the kiss, and Will (the tour guide) thinks Pierre has sullied her honor and gives Pierre a mean right hook. Of course, there's always drama, and more than one love interest which is interesting because I truly like both men.

The masquerade sequence is magical, and Cora's half-sisters are frustrated by Pierre's attention to her, and even go so far as to make Cinderella references, with Vivian snarking "Was it not enough that she had to embarrass us all with her public proclamation to Lord de Richelieu (meaning telling him she was illegitimate) - now she envisions herself as Cinderella at the ball? Honestly, now she's disappeared again." To which an accompanying young man remarks, "Perhaps she's left behind a glass slipper." The little references to Cinderella made the evening perfect.

I honestly wasn't sure if I would enjoy Glamorous Illusions when I first started it, but by the end, I loved it, and since it's a continuous series about this single Grand Tour, I expected the book to take its time getting from one place to another, which it does. No hurry, no fuss, just plenty of scenery, costuming, flirting, and travel, all while Cora tries to find herself. I doubt that the prince our Cinderella kissed at the ball will be her true love, but that's okay. I still made for a magical evening!


I'm including this painting because I love, love, LOVE The Swing by Fragonard. It's one of my favorite paintings and even though she isn't in blue, I could see Cora in that costume, losing a shoe as she swings too high.

On one final note, lovers of Downton Abbey will undoubtedly adore this series. It's perfectly Edwardian most of the time, except for the Louis XVI masquerade ball which just adds to the allure and mystique of the novel! ❤

Make sure to check out all the other posts for Cinderella Week by clicking the picture below!

http://ladyofanorien.blogspot.com/2016/01/cinderella-party-kick-off-tag-giveaway.html

3 comments:

  1. Wow, most intriguing! I'm so glad you could review this, Carissa! Ohhh, but now you've got me all in suspense.... you mean we don't find out who she ends up with?! ;P

    Those little Cinderella references at the ball sound uber-sweet and fun...

    And I LOVE the joy and motion and energy in Fragonard's The Swing -- so delightful! :)

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    1. Well, this is the 1st book in a trilogy, so she's stretching the suspense out, although, really, with it being historic romance, there isn't much wiggle room with who Cora will choose. Le sigh. I didn't like Grave Consequences, the 2nd book in the series nearly as much as this 1st one. Such a shame!

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  2. This sounds intriguing, though I'm sorry to see that the second book in the trilogy wasn't as cool. I still might try this, though, since the library has it. Putting it on my want-to-read list for now.

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