Christian Fiction Books Reviews

Romance Looks Different in Glamorous Illusions

  • Susan Ellingburg Contributing Writer
  • 2012 6 Jun
Romance Looks Different in <i>Glamorous Illusions</i>

Author: Lisa T. Bergren
Title: Glamorous Illusions
Publisher: David C Cook

I must confess, Glamorous Illusions was something of a surprise. It’s a familiar plot and one too often done badly: a poor, Christian girl from the country finds herself among rich, city-slicker heathens and has to negotiate her new situation while simultaneously charming everyone with her winsome ways. It could so easily have been the usual moralizing drivel—but get this: it’s not. Every time I thought, “OK, I see where this is going . . .” the story took a little turn off the beaten bath into something richer and significantly more satisfying.

It helps that the setting (1913) is a fun time period to get lost in. It’s not as different from today as the Victorian era but not exactly modern, either. Our characters drive motorcars and steam across the ocean (while visions of Titanic dance in their heads), but in Cora’s Montana hometown horse and buggy is still the standard mode of travel.

Cora is the girl at the center of the plot, a young woman who arrives home from teacher college to find her family in the midst of a disaster. Crops have been bad, her father has taken ill, and there’s no money in the bank. Cora and her mama do their best to keep things going but things look mighty grim on every front. Then a mysterious stranger arrives with a shocking announcement—one I’ll keep to myself so as not to spoil the surprise. The upshot is the family is saved and Cora finds herself in the lap of luxury, about to depart on a “Grand Tour” of Europe with a posse of spoiled young people and a couple of guides.

One of those guides—known as “bears” for some reason—is the handsome and charming Will. Technically, he’s a “bear-in-training” apprenticed to his uncle to learn a trade since Will’s college fund ran out before he finished his degree. Will is eager to learn all he can, make all the money he can, and get back to school to get on with his ‘real’ life. He’d never do something as unprofessional as falling for one of this clients . . . even one as beautiful, charming, kind, and devoted to God as Cora. (At least, that’s what he tells himself.)

What happens next seems obvious, doesn’t it? Not. So. Fast. This is rather more than a romance and it doesn’t necessarily play out the way one might think. As our not-so-merry band travels across the Continent, relationships ebb and flow, and a wealthy, debonair Frenchman puts some serious romantic moves on young Cora. Mind you, she also really likes Will . . . then there’s a gang of mysterious, menacing men stalking their group to keep things really interesting.

Glamorous Illusions is definitely a cut above the average historical romance. The characters have depth, the plot takes interesting detours, and the spiritual element is woven seamlessly into the story. Plus there’s a scene at Versailles that will have female readers swooning, it’s so dadgum romantic. And the best news? It’s the first of a series. Cora and company will be back and I, for one, will be delighted to see them again.