New title: Romantic Fiction, Reality Shaping and The Work

Laura

Administrator
Administrator
Moderator
FOTCM Member
I finished reading Grace Burrowses'sThe Duke's Disaster. I had to get used to her writing style TBH, it wasn't as captivating as the "Marriage of Convenience" series, so it took me a while to warm up to the story.

I don't like Burrows writing style either. Her other books are not very good as far as I can see (I sampled a couple others). However, this one stood out for me because there were quite a few characteristics of the hero that reminded me strongly of Ark.
 

Neil

Jedi Council Member
FOTCM Member
I finished What a Duke Dares last night. While it didn't quite get to the phenomenally transcendent literature category for me, it was actually pretty good. I'd have to give it a B+.

There weren't many negatives in this one and there were only a few eye-rolls fairly early in the book. This seemed like the more expansive, comprehensive, nuanced, and unabridged Simon and Lydia story I had contemplated in my previous post. There was more adventure than I would've expected in a legitimate romance book. The world-building is also getting better, as the stories incorporate a greater number of locales and you get to see couples from the previous books moving the plots along and continue to evolve slightly after their "happily ever after" phase. I did not have to drag myself through the first part of the book, it remained fairly interesting throughout.

I liked how Cam is described as a man of principle, he clearly has a moral compass, and is more than just a "rake." While he has evidently spent some time raking, it is not a significant component of who he is, and he has a certain devotion to Pen which starts this romance out on a higher level than the others. They have much shared history and he knows almost everything about her, and his attraction clearly stems from more than just horniness from the beginning. The sex scene on the ship was the only "oh brother" of his story, as I don't think that's what would be on my mind in the middle of a hurricane, and it seemed like Anna Campbell was just trying to be "spicy." This story seems to take a much more serious tack than the others, and I originally saw the Harry/Sophie story as a kind of comic relief inserted by the author to keep the book from getting too "heavy." It got one of my characteristic "oh, brothers" after Harry whispers sweet nothings into her ears and then pulls her into a cupboard and makes out with her, after which point she just has to fall madly in love with him, of course. However, their story grew on me over time and I found the innocence of it rather cute, even if I thought it all came together in a way that was just a little too perfect. While Leath presented a formidable obstacle to their marriage, they didn't seem to have any real struggles with each other or themselves, everything just flowed more or less smoothly from their sexual attraction which morphed unimpeded into a rich emotional attraction. I'm not sure if I really buy that, but it does make for an endearing idealized fantasy of how things should happen. This story where they have no emotional impediments, but love and little else, is cleverly juxtaposed to Cam's story, where he has more money than God, status, honor, compassion, and basically everything but love. While it seemed to me that Cam did love her in his own way, his refusal to admit it to himself and her and appear weak from his typical ducal position of strength nearly breaks Pen and is the source of all their problems. Pen loves Cam, and is adamantly opposed to being with any man other than the one she loves, but she is quite glum that that love will never be returned. It seemed a bit unreasonable that Cam is so obsessed with scandal when he basically forces Pen to marry him, but I could understand his position and thought that they really should be together. Throughout most of the book I could admire Cam and identify with most of his decisions, even some of his emotional recalcitrance. I liked Pen and could respect her for what she was trying to accomplish. In the end, the stories come together like yin and yang and they were well-written overall.

Consequently, with less distance between me and the characters, the sex scenes really started to get to me. I dragged my feet on reading it, even though I liked it, because the "heat" was becoming a bit uncomfortable. I'm ambivalent about feeling my sexuality that strongly. Finally, on Sunday I just decided to grab the bull by the horns and finish the last quarter of the book. Even the last chapter where Cam finally admits his love was kind of arousing even though it wasn't really sexual. I was intrigued by how much Cam's reluctance to give Pen an unqualified declaration of love hurt her, despite his chivalrous behavior and attempt to cater to her every need. It made me think about how my own recalcitrance to romance-related subjects might hurt someone else. While I doubt anyone would think of me that way, it does offer food for thought.

I suppose I owe it to myself to see how this series finishes out and plan to start the 4th book tonight. For others who have been reading the Sons of Sin and kind of had a reaction similar to mine like, "OK, what's the point," I found that this book has quite a bit more to offer.
 

ryu

Jedi
FOTCM Member
A little update. I finished the 5th Book of the Mackenzie series. I didn't like it as much as the others. It was a downturn for me because I loved the fourth tome and was impressed that the author managed to make me like and relate with Hart, the Duke.

My big problem is that I couldn't relate to Juliana AT ALL, I felt she was too "bland" or "perfect". I absolutly loved Isabella and Eleanor and could identify myself with them, but not Juliana. I was more invested in secondary characters like Stacy, Priti's mother or Fellows. I was much more intestered in Elliot's story before marrying Juliana and got to like him toward the end. I really like the complex relationships he has with his servants, his former friend and with Priti. I also began to get tired of the "strong, tall and handsome Highland Guy" trope. Nevertheless, I was touched by the deep friendship, the forgiveness, the will to move on in life. But not the Elliot-Juliana love story.🤷

I started the 6th Books "the wicked deeds of Daniel Mackenzie" and it looks like I am going to like Violette who seems like a very unusual young woman.

Like others, I had a boost of energy and motivation these last days, despite the lack of sleep due to reading these books. I managed to do things I had put off for months, I am more easy going with all this crazyness. I also feel more at peace, less frightened by the future.

I had a few dreams were I was enacting scenes or characters in the Books, that was weird!
 
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thorbiorn

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
Too many spoilers!!! :lol:
It is rather difficult to go into the details, including how one reacts emotionally to the plot, scenes, and characters without giving spoilers, at least if one is a thorough as @Neil is. On the other hand and having read the book, I can say Neil did not spoil too much. These books are so rich that it is difficult to spoil them on all levels. But of course one could kindly ask those who like to go into a lot of details, to consider using the "Inline spoiler" more. Step 1: Select the text you wish to have blurred. Step 2: Go to the "three dots" in the menu line. Step 3: Select and click "Inline Spoiler" in the drop down menu.
1599594612353.png

Like this: :perfect: The code in the example is: [ISPOILER]:perfect:[/ISPOILER] It is easy :-)
 

seek10

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
I finished listening to the first 2 books of the Marriage of Convenience series - Marry in Haste, Marry in Scandal. I really enjoyed Anne Gracie style of telling story. She can tell the story warmly, lovingly and add some good twists to the story that can demand some tears. Listening Audio books where narrator changes the voices to depict different characters with emotions makes the entire listening process very enjoyable, though it is little slower than reading. It is interesting how a girl who imagines everything as Love has inner maturity to heal the experienced Rake. Probably this happens very rarely in real world.

What Characters see in the ephemeral thing like Love means is very interesting and opens so many possibility - feelings for other, security, faith, trust, tender companionship , friendship, duty to family, chemical love that stirs instinct, ecstasy , love in return for love, gratitude , infatuation, attractiveness ( imaginary or real self) and so on. Couple of quotes that i liked are

Happy marriage is work of two people, not an arrangement brokered by 2 families.

Uncertainty and expectations are the joys of life.
 

primeaddict

Jedi Master
I liked how Cam is described as a man of principle, he clearly has a moral compass, and is more than just a "rake." While he has evidently spent some time raking, it is not a significant component of who he is, and he has a certain devotion to Pen which starts this romance out on a higher level than the others. They have much shared history and he knows almost everything about her, and his attraction clearly stems from more than just horniness from the beginning. The sex scene on the ship was the only "oh brother" of his story, as I don't think that's what would be on my mind in the middle of a hurricane, and it seemed like Anna Campbell was just trying to be "spicy." This story seems to take a much more serious tack than the others, and I originally saw the Harry/Sophie story as a kind of comic relief inserted by the author to keep the book from getting too "heavy." It got one of my characteristic "oh, brothers" after Harry whispers sweet nothings into her ears and then pulls her into a cupboard and makes out with her, after which point she just has to fall madly in love with him, of course. However, their story grew on me over time and I found the innocence of it rather cute, even if I thought it all came together in a way that was just a little too perfect. While Leath presented a formidable obstacle to their marriage, they didn't seem to have any real struggles with each other or themselves, everything just flowed more or less smoothly from their sexual attraction which morphed unimpeded into a rich emotional attraction. I'm not sure if I really buy that, but it does make for an endearing idealized fantasy of how things should happen. This story where they have no emotional impediments, but love and little else, is cleverly juxtaposed to Cam's story, where he has more money than God, status, honor, compassion, and basically everything but love. While it seemed to me that Cam did love her in his own way, his refusal to admit it to himself and her and appear weak from his typical ducal position of strength nearly breaks Pen and is the source of all their problems. Pen loves Cam, and is adamantly opposed to being with any man other than the one she loves, but she is quite glum that that love will never be returned. It seemed a bit unreasonable that Cam is so obsessed with scandal when he basically forces Pen to marry him, but I could understand his position and thought that they really should be together. Throughout most of the book I could admire Cam and identify with most of his decisions, even some of his emotional recalcitrance. I liked Pen and could respect her for what she was trying to accomplish. In the end, the stories come together like yin and yang and they were well-written overall.

I second your take on Cam. His character seems to be beating a dead horse a third of the way through the book since there is no way that he does not love Pen after the way he treats her and the passion he has for her from the beginning.

My belief in his insistence on not professing his real feelings wore thin half way through the book. I just don't believe that a man could be indifferent toward a women's need for love validation when she fries his brain with passion. I for one would have caved after the second round of brain-draining passion! :rotfl::thup:

Pen's character came across as rather muddy. I could not feel her emotional turmoil when she obviously knew she had the power. A come hither look would bring Cam running back to her in a blink of an eye. I felt this conflict between them was played out way to long to be real. Obviously, a tragedy had to fix it.
 

nicklebleu

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
I am on the third volume of the SOS series - and I enjoy it way more that I thought I would, although the books are quite formulaic in a sense, even though the characters are different (the SOS series is the only one I’ve read so far).

One thing that I have thought about a lot is - why is such a book so relaxing, as opposed to some other novel? I think one point is the foregone happy end. Knowing that things will finally, after much trials and tribulations, pan out allows me to watch the antics, misunderstandings, communication breakdowns and hopeless situations with some distance without becoming emotionally uninvolved at all. And sometimes the author almost needs to resort to the old Greek-style Deus Ex Machina plot to save the day, but we always knew that it was going to happen somehow.

Maybe in times where every day is fraught with potential danger and setbacks, where we don’t know what madness tomorrow will bring, maybe these books with their preordained happy end is important for our own mental sanity - despite all the difficulties and obstacles the protagonists have to go through, there is sunshine awaiting at the end.
 

Mari

Jedi Master
His character seems to be beating a dead horse a third of the way through the book since there is no way that he does not love Pen after the way he treats her and the passion he has for her from the beginning.

I think that Cam and Pen´s story was the best in the series. :-)

But, aren´t you forgetting that....
...it was Cam who told Pen pretty much right after he found her that he was courting another woman.

We have here Pen, who run away from England, because she didn´t want a loveless marriage - with Cam no less.
In those times, one has to be really brave lady to leave security and conform and to actually reject the norms of the society where loveless and agreed marriages were normal.

Then Cam came as a prince in shining armor and first thing he tells her it that he is courting another woman!
So what was Pen supposed to do? What would anybody do.....?
And after 10 years trying to forget the man - she is being forced into the marriage he run away in the first place, with Cam not giving her any clue about his feelings.
Terrible situation!

Cam was blocked by his sense of duty and honor. As a bastard child with his whole life in the shadow of a scandal, honor and duty were the main drive behind his actions, his main program running as a compass to all his actions.
I think we cannot blame him for trying to fulfill his promise (courting to another woman) when we look at his life as a whole.
Not that honor and duty are terrible things to be run by, but here we see the extreme of it.

My 2c...


**********

What I´ve found interesting is that in most of the novels I´ve red so far, it was men that actually declared their love first.
I think on only a few occasions it was women and they did that in some emotionally forced situations.

Like, all those stubborn women who in the end run away from their love and then being chased until men come and declare their love.
It´s pretty much the same story all over the place.
Situations are different, most of the time there were dukes vs "ordinary" women, women run away (and most of the time with a good reason for it) and being "chased", after men figure out they cannot live without them.

...still don´t know what to think about this and what´s the meaning behind it, but, yeah, that´s one thing I´ve noticed in books I´ve red so far.....
 

Mari

Jedi Master
I´ve finished "The 1797 Club" by Jess Michaels and it was very good.

The stories varied from "simple" romances to murder mysteries and spy stories. I mean, don´t expect Agatha Christie but it was good. ;-) I enjoyed the series very much!

The characters were very well presented; each duke had their own issue and background story and some character fault to work on.

The series didn´t hit me emotionally so hard as "Courting Julia" series; maybe because there was a plot behind each story, can´t really put it right. "Courting Julia" series was more emotional turbulence with a lot of heartache feeling to it, while this series has a lot more story turbulence so my attention was somehow divided. I don´t know how better to explain it.... :-(


**********

I´ve started with "Marriage of Convenience" series by Anne Gracie.
Couldn´t help it yesterday but to read a few pages, to get a feeling of the book and the author - and in the end, I´ve red 2 chapters in a blink of an eye.

It´s great! So witty and entertaining writing! I couldn´t help but to chuckle to the situations and the things Cal was thinking and how his sisters and aunt were presented.

The atmosphere of the book (so far) and the style of writing is totally different than previous series I´ve red - bright, funny and smart.

My man asked me what am I smiling about all the time (he heard me in the next room) and figured that I´m reading.
Sometimes he is and looks so very serious and after I´ve finished reading, I looked at him and started laughing. Not that I was mean, but everything he said was so funny. He was shaking his head with "...she´s crazy..." half-smiling look on his face. My tears and even my nose were running from laughter and I felt like my hearth has grown 5 size bigger.
It was probably 10mins of laughing out loud and I can´t remember last time I laughed so hard for no apparent reason.
Was it the book that triggered that or what - no idea..... :-D
 

lilies

Dagobah Resident
Thank you for expertly recommending these profound books!

Finished the first book - "Seven Nights in a Rogues Bed" by Anna Campbell - and it felt soul-nourishing in these dark times of unrest and mask-craziness! I used four dictionaries, plus Regency slang collections and web research to find out the meaning of some rare words now marked "obsolete". Plus I specifically wanted to see, how the world looked then in the 1800s, so I searched for images, like these: an 18th century handbag, the valise. I think the model, her clothes and the valise look amazing on this pic. I looked for balustrades, I have images of stunning gilt railing, the Turkish rag with Campbell's amazing color descriptions = oriental carpet in crimson and cobalt..

I looked up dozens of these objects that represented the well adorned rich life of the nobility and the simple stuff of common folk in those times: I had to realize, much of the noble's life in the 1800s was made of very high quality materials. (Compared to the "quality" of junk clothes that are sold in stores nowadays.) The comparison of poor-people's carriage and the nobles luxury carriage, in which latter passengers barely felt a bump on the road and how its elaborate door closed with a "soft click". Made me think of the level of engineering [and money] that went into the machining in those times. Along with the breathtaking ornaments of quality furniture.. [sorry, mechanical details always rapture us, men..]

Their first seven days, what happened, especially some of their selected dialogue lines - referring to trust, love, when she sees him smiling even with the eye-cover on.. how their consciousness appeared to unify on the energetic level, the stunning level of caring about each other, the chivalry, the stages of character-reveals, the amount of humor/fun made me read some sections multiple times.. [not the sex..], since Campbell is an excellent writer... all of it had an absolutely positive, elevating, "soul-nourishing" effect on me, it was unbelievabe! I didn't know, a spiritual-consciousness unification of such level was possible! Unavoidably I made comparisons with my marriage.

Sydonie and Jonas had to be a polar couple, I pondered, both were apparently a strong soul, so they must have been energetically charged and energetically reacting to each other on multiple levels.

Of course I never had - probably most of us never had a polar opposite "paramour", I think.. while I found [also literally] the satisfactory elements matching in my marriage.. but my God, not at this idealized level - that Campbell describes! And, I think, it could be real, it might be reality: I mean their level of interaction / "senses-unification" in their first seven days. Fresh neuronal pathways, fresh-healthy brain in case of Sydonie, first sensual experiences, etc.. I know.. Still..

So I read the absolutely elevating, educative and compassionate sections about caring, their dialogues multiple times with my jaws on the floor.. with tears in my eyes (not only once).

I could identify with the male protagonist, since his face is scarred, people avoid him. In a similar manner, people mocked how my head looks my entire life. He - Merrick - also is physically strong and knows how to defend himself, same way I like exercises since I went to my first martial arts training as a teenager. His desperation for true love, his bitterness, etc.. So identifying with him was easy.

Okay.. the tragedy: by that time I felt so attached to both Sydonie and Merrick that when Campbell introduced the tragedy, I was shocked. I mean expected it of course, after watching all those movies and reading adventure books in my youth, the main elements and typical architecture of stories is the same everywhere. Still it hit me like a brick, when the emotional anguish of both was introduced and that awful the prison scene, what and how he says to her.. ugh... was chilling and 'disintegrating'.

Reading the dark chapters of this book, I felt especially like walking "through the valley of the shadow of death". Our times now begin to mirror this dark section in the book. Those chapters - describing the absolutely chilling and very painful separation of the protagonists - was the {SHUDDER} section for me. Not the porn.

My heart sank, because Anna Campbell's way of describing the extreme stress and separation - both Sydonie and Jonas went through, reminded me of Orwell's true horror: how he described when The State, I think, killed the SOUL of both of his protagonists: both Winston and Julia, I think, was tortured so much that their soul died in the end and it was so horrific for me to watch them dry up and "solidify into rock statues as if Medusa gazed upon them".... that (IIRC 15+ years ago) then I was shocked for a long time pondering about it: since the soul is all that matters for a hero and if The State kills the Soul, how exactly is a Hero supposed to fight on?!

Anyway.., after that protracted shock, I think Campbell should have made the end longer. Telling us more about their new merry times, happiness, newfound hope. She should have introduced a new level of their affection and flirting dialogues, or love-life.. anything! When most of the things "got fixed" in the castle. I very much missed them and wanted to see them more for at least one Chapter More in the end. I think the writer should have detailed the love of Sydonie and Jonas more in new situation, just to calm the nerves of the readers - after the journey through the "Long Dark" of that awful deep shock in the middle of the book.. - by introducing a new state of "Ideal Bliss" that they finally achieved / managed in the end.

The story ends beautifully with the mutual acceptance and reciprocal compromises made and character-growth of both Sydonie and Jonas.
Jesus! What these two went through..

I think, these idealized stories in a "World of Ideals", where the protagonists and major characters are very attractive and intelligent and have strong character, where even Sirius the mongrel dog is a "confounded genius".. :D, and every one of them is of noble birth eventually, I think it emphasizes the need to get our houses in order (G.) and live on a higher level in our bodies, - presenting a better version of ourselves outwardly, with Chivalry and compassion - because it definitely is possible!

P.S: I'll never forget the dialogue that led up to the "tie-up with curtain cords"-scene. :D
Jonas: [..] “You’re scheming something.”
Sydonie:
“Not I, sir,” she said without great force.
:lol2:
 

whitecoast

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
I finished the Courting Julia series, which was unambiguously wonderful. The last in the series, Tempting Harriet, I found to be kind of a difficult emotional read for me, dealing with issues such as honor and self-respect, but there's nowhere to go but forward so I learned to deal with the discomfort. Happy ending, as usual. I think it's great to find books that depict great ideals, especially if the characters take a while to work toward and fully realize them. Doubly so if you can see a lot of your own insecurities and programming there, and learn to stand with the characters in facing up to their own. I know the subconscious mind can't distinguish really between imagined visualization and real life interactions, so maybe exercising our emotional centers through reading and getting to know the characters can help how we process some of our own internal issues? Who knows.
 

hlat

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
An ideal in these books is to be a virgin until marriage. That's what I want for myself if I had to do life over again. Is that the ideal we should want for the future world? It seems hormones make sex an essential aspect of being human, and the ideal of waiting until marriage would be a motivator for people to get married and stay married. So it seems to me the books are saying a healthy sex life is sex within marriage, after making a lifelong commitment to each other. Premarital sex resulted in bad consequences, wrecking the life of Em (Marriage of Convenience series), at least for many painful years, and forcing Rose and Thomas into a secret marriage. This is teaching that sex and life have an appropriate sequence to be followed, and failure to follow the sequence can make life much more difficult.

My wife finished Anne Gracie's Marry in Scarlet (book 4), and she remarked the epilogue was a nice way to end the Marriage of Convenience series. She's onto the Merridew Sisters series now, The Perfect Waltz (book 2) after finishing The Perfect Rake (book 1). Head to head, she's enjoyed The Perfect Rake more than Marry in Haste, so the recommendation for Merridew Sisters was right on.
 

luc

Ambassador
Ambassador
FOTCM Member
Finished the Huxtable Quintet, and it is just awesome. That last book, what a worthy finale and profound roller coaster! And Balogh somehow manages to tell so much wisdom between the lines, and even directly in many cases. And the realizations - about how we misjudge people, about love and human goodness and tenderness, about lessons, about seeing the unseen... It might not just be those books, but I feel different, there is so much more warmth in me that kind of dispels all the negativity I'm so accustomed to, but at the same time I can truly face it because of that, open up to the Cosmos and feel everything (or much more at least), if that makes sense. And something inside sort of speaks to me, there seems to be a visceral "feeling-knowledge" in each moment, especially in the difficult ones. I see some people with different eyes now, some family members for example, and I can better leave that selfish judgmental attitude and feel love for them. Just yesterday I had to deal with an accusation by a family member, and I saw (or rather felt) very clearly where I am at fault here and what I need to change, while also clearly seeing the other's issues and where my responsibility ends. I also had a very touching conversation with my mother, nothing really special, but just based on love and taking the other serious, despite differences.

One thing that strikes me about those books is the visceral description of our false personalities, of all that nonsense, all those masks and survival strategies. The pattern in the books seems to be that two people are attracted to one another, but they are attracted to the other's real self - although unconsciously! And then, as the story unfolds, they fall in love with that real self of the other, and because of that they subtly strengthen the other's real self until their loved one defeats their false personality, and the real self bursts forth in full strength. And vice-versa. This is the beauty and truth in true love stories. As opposed to the other pattern where one "falls in love" (if you can even call it that) with the other's false personality, with his or her mask and survival strategies. In such a scenario, the one who "loves" will not strengthen but fight the other's real self, will go bonkers whenever the "mask" slips or is defeated, indeed does everything to strengthen and protect the other's false personality, and therefore keeps the other stuck on a low level. This is what happens for example when one partner in a relationship "wakes up", tries to work on him/herself, or starts seeking truth, or starts discovering their calling in life. If both partners love the other's real self, on the other hand, there can be true love, and the relationship can withstand great difficulties, different opinions etc., because it is based on love which is aligned with the Cosmos, and therefore points in the same direction, even though both partners will continue to misunderstand, mess up and temporarily move in the wrong direction. In the books, all these transformative processes, this strengthening of the other's real self and having their own real self strengthened, until the real self finally takes over completely, are taking place within just a few weeks or even days, which is not usually how it plays out in real life I guess. But it makes the stories so powerful and profound and impactful.

Besides all that, the simple showcasing of basic human goodness is just so nourishing and touching. It IS out there. And cynicism in the face of all the nonsense going on is the absolute wrong thing and can only lead to lies, coldness and soul smashing.
 
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