It's not just the play on narrative voice, though. No, it is the attention to detail so that each grand European adventure is pitted out and displayed in sepia-toned snapshot for the reader to mentally emblazon with dialogue and action.
I suppose I could meander at this moment about plot ( young Cora Kensington introduced in Grand Illusions is still traipsing throughout Europe while attempting to find her identity, acclimatizing herself to the her new role as a young heiress, far from the ordinary routine of her American farm, learning to love her new brothers and sisters, juggling her feelings for a dashing Frenchman and the obvious chemistry she has with Will, etc., etc) but I don't find the plot to be the most exceptional part of the story; it is the experience. I love traveling the world with these people. I love re-visiting some places I have been and seeing their great attractions through their eyes and imagining other places I have only read about and how they might look in Will and Cora's Age.
While the first novel in the trilogy did well at examining the whir and change and shift of social classes from an old world ( emblemized further by the ruins and monuments they visit on their tour) on the brink of something new, the second book introduces Cora's fascination with the Suffrage movement. There is a lovely, lovely thought explored when Cora sees her male companions jumping into the river and longs to try it on her own in a scandalous night time leap. We feel that this represents Cora's longing to lunge into something new---as a young woman on the precipice of something great. Torn between her need to live up to her familial obligations and appease her "new" family and to stay true to her own passions and convictions. A few brushes with romance do nothing to untangle her thoughts.
I knew going into this book what relationships and romantic paths are the most integral to Cora's self-realization but the journey, much as the journey which takes our young sojourners across lavish, opulent Europe, is what was worth my investment.
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random rant: don't judge this book by its cover.