The first book in the Grand Tour series, Lisa T. Bergren’s historical novel Glamorous Illusions (David C. Cook) will take readers on a pilgrimage through Europe—and straight into the soul.
Taking her family on a modern “grand tour” of Europe is high on Lisa T. Bergren’s bucket list. Devoting a year to settle into one town after another, absorbing the culture—the food, the art, the atmosphere, the people—as they did in the 16th and 17th centuries would be a dream come true for this talented and versatile writer. “Sadly, that takes a heck of a lot of money and time off work!” Lisa acknowledges. Like any good writer, she did the next best thing; she decided to take a European journey in her imagination and Glamorous Illusions (David C. Cook), the first in her Grand Tour series, was born.
“At the center of the series is Cora Diehl Kensington, who never knew she was a Kensington until right before the tour,” shares Lisa. “She’s the illegitimate daughter, raised on a dirt-poor Montana farm, and then swept into this whole other world.”
Lisa found fertile ground for her story among the nouveau riche of America in the late 1800s, many owing their newfound wealth to the Montana copper boom. “Wouldn’t we all like to be young and rich in Paris? Venice? Rome? What it provides is total access. No gates are closed to them, so they can explore anywhere they wish, meet anyone who intrigues them. And at the time, there were a lot of old, aristocratic families in Europe who were dirt-poor and actively sought out rich, young heiresses for a mutually beneficial union—‘you bring the cash, I’ll bring the title and castle.’ So they actively welcomed those rich young people.”
While immersing readers into the sights and sounds of continental Europe, Lisa plunges her heroine into the fray of familial discord and suspicion. “Cora is settled, mature, happy as the daughter of the Diehls, excited to be a teacher in training, content in her Montana town. And suddenly, she’s expected to be something totally different. Cultured. Fitting in with people like she’s never met before. Lending her best effort to making the Kensingtons look good. She really struggles along the journey.”
Adding to Cora’s internal conflict are two appealing men: one American, steadfast and ambitious, the other French, wealthy and charismatic.
Reminiscent of the celebrated Downton Abbey television series, Lisa notably wrote Glamorous Illusions before she saw the first series, but she appreciates the connection. “It just proves that there are common issues we all share that often arise in our stories and films—because we can all relate. Oh, and the gorgeous costumes don’t hurt, either. Who doesn’t fantasize about donning a gorgeous dress, having someone put your hair up in some dramatic do, and slipping on long gloves, before entering an elegant dining room with fantastic food (that somebody else prepared), your nearest and dearest, plus intriguing guests?”
Even so, Lisa acknowledges a deeper, more meaningful correlation between her novel and the television show. “At its heart, Downton is a community/family/identity story. Which we’re all hungering for, right? Closer connections, tight families, a firm understanding of who we are in the world. That’s happening for both the rich upstairs and the servants downstairs—the exact same hunger. Because God planted that hunger in each of us, regardless of ‘station.’ Glamorous Illusions echoes those themes.”
And just like Downton Abbey, there is more adventure and danger to come for Cora and the Kensington family with Grave Consequences and Glittering Promises to release in 2013.
This article originally appeared in the July/August 2012 issue of FamilyFiction digital magazine. Subscribe for free today!