Romantic Fiction, Reality Shaping and The Work

Hesper

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In light of the last C’s session about sharing reading and learnings, I’ve decided to share something.
There is one thing about the male characters that hasn’t permeated any new understanding for me , yet. I’m hoping I’ll get there.
I find it incredulous that the men love these women so deeply. I feel like it is the most foreign thing to me. Intellectually I understand men as being capable of loving but my lived experience is not this. I have a total cognitive dissonance in this matter when I’m reading these stories.
I’m totally lost with it, I’ll just keep reading I guess. I feel like I have lived with a broken heart my entire life.

That has been my experience as well, but for the female protagonists. Then I remind myself that this is fiction after all, and that these are the also probably the kinds of emotions that we need to be working with. That can be a little journey in and of itself and, I believe, on the other side of that small journey we may find another happy ending.

Since I'm adopted those emotions led me to explore that chapter of my life and how it impacted me, and I found a good YouTube channel called Adoptees On. I returned to the books and found it much easier to digest some of my more irritated / incredulous reactions, and move deeper into the stories. FWIW
 

seek10

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
But the issue is that it is still far from the quality of the real audiobooks, like Audible, and it definitely can't replace the experience of reading. The reason that I decided to also listen to the books this way, is because I am a slow reader, and since I have up to two hours of reading before bed, I manage to cover up to 4 chapters. And listening gives an opportunity to listen while doing other things, but primarily while sitting in front the computer. My work at the moment does allow me to divide attention this way, because in many cases it is already almost automatic.

It was brought to my attention that this kind of listening doesn't invoke the necessary level of emotions, like it would while reading or listening to Audible. It is certainly true, but even while listening to the basic text-to-speech software (I listened to five chapters so far), I already chuckled in places, and was able to empathize with what Callie and Nicky went though, or specifically their reactions and responses.
I am also a slow reader and I also felt that I can't sit in a stretch more than 1 hr for books like 'developmental trauma'. Part of me thinks I should analyze every line, correlate it , But, brain tires out or gets distracted for books like 'developmental trauma'.

But these novels are light reading and when I listen, certain things click in my mind as relevant and I tend to highlight them to go back. If it is audible, I either should have kindle with audible or write it down on paper. I tend to highlight to go back when time permits. But, now a days, not too much time.

Other approach suggested is, take a break periodically ( end of chapter or every 20 minutes) and recollect the story and i found that to be interesting. I think every body has different way of learning. I don't know whether every story we can remember, but It takes me conscious effort to remember the story.
 

placematt

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FOTCM Member
Im currently near the end of The proposal by Mary Balogh. Have had some interesting moments of emotional release. But whats really stood out for me as I'm reading a lot because honestly, im getting some degree of Joy out of these books. It's weird. Anyhow, the thing that stood out for me or that is starting to dawn on me is that everyone has this level of inner conflict in their own life. Maybe minus organic portals etc. But that perhaps in my self centered world, i couldn't comprehend how others had the same difficulty with their own thinking, emotions, fears that I do. Which is the self importance schtick. But experiencing this and in particular with Balogh, Im seeing or understanding the level of compassion, grace, understanding and patience that is required to be an effective individual in a community. To really understand the complexity of life that is involved with others.

I have been someone who is far more prone to kinship with animals and this sort of think is discussed in The narcissistic Family. But reading in particular this book, its just really engrossed me in how difficult it can be to communicate but to be able to communicate truth with oneself and how everyone seems to suffer from the same or similarly difficult patterns or thinking errors.

I must say, for someone who hasn't experienced a great deal or joy, these books a providing some for me. And its not necessarily in the happiest moments of the narrative. When they overcome, or face there fears and say something to each other, i just feel a moment of joy. It really is intriguing.
 

zim

Dagobah Resident
FOTCM Member
Yup. In the beginning, the bed scenes may grab your attention, and they are a real part of life that needs to be faced, reacted to, thought about, but as you continue they become more "naturalized", so to say, less disturbing, and you begin to pay more attention to nuances of characters and dialogue and emotional - even spiritual - reaction. That is to say, you begin to put things in their rightful place. Sex is important, but it is only part of the whole relationship deal. And it has been interesting to me to observe how the different authors write their sex scenes, generally making them character specific. In that respect, I was always able to tell a lot about a person by the way they drive a car and here, it seems that you can tell a lot about a person by the way they have sex/make love. And the authors know that and most of them take some care to attend to that aspect. You can even observe the growth and development of the character by changes in the way they make love. Also, even if the person is acting out of true character because of wounding, sometimes who they truly are comes through in the way they make love.

So, all in all, it is a real education in so many ways.
It's interesting this comment, I have read many books from Mary B since I like how she write about many aspects of the characters, in the beginning I felt weird when the sex come in the reading, but suddenly was part of all the process the expresión of love between two persons who were dealing with many things and get together to express their most deep feelings or connection, which make me understand how important is to connect when you have a relantioshinp not only emotionally but in many areas.

I have to say that it's incredible to read all those stories, as many say, make one wonder many aspects of our own lives.

I'm continue reading Mary B books, Then I will go for marry of convenience. 😁
 

Zar

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
I finished reading the web trilogy by Balogh and have started on The four soldiers by Elizabeth Hoyt. And just as others have mentioned the web trilogy was harrowing to the point were you wanted to take the characters and shake them so they'd wake up!! The depth that Balogh gives to her characters in indeed astonishing and makes me wonder about her own life that allowed her to write such complex characters. While the third book is one to remember, I found the fourth had a very profound affect on me and left me feeling slightly discombobulated for a few days(in a good way). It occurred to me how programed we are to constantly anticipate rewards for the actions we take, and how letting it all go truly provides growth in many ways.

In many of these books you find all sorts of characters, and some of them seem to live as an expression of love(for a lack of better term) from the get go while others work their way there with their partner. There is a particular point in the story where the male character's ideals are tested since his wife is struggling with her past and a certain vampire type ex. And he finds himself in a position were any "sane" man of his time would utilize their rights as husbands to restrict his wife so as not to deal with the suffering that could potentially befall their already crumbling marriage. But despite his uncertainties and fears he realizes that he can only do one thing if he is to live to the highest of good. He realizes the following; (I'm quoting here) "For love cannot take anything for itself. It can only give and leave itself wide open and defenseless against emptiness and pain and rejection." In the context of where this was spoken the husband decides to accept the suffering that love also brings as that was the only way he could give to his wife as she struggled with her demons.
 

Mikkael

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FOTCM Member
Last couple of days I tend to bring into memory my mam and dad from my youth and look at my parents marriage with a new fresh eyes to see if I can notice something, perhaps as a role models. My father died suddenly to everyone's shock during one summer night in 1996, when I was 23 years old, and holding him in my arms when he passed away. That was the last time I cried. Sometimes I wonder how we all would be if he stayed. He might be surprised that I have no family of my own and that I live my life as solitary man. But he might be proud of me too, to see me thriving.

I finished Wagers of Sin and reading continues to be surprising and inspiring! I thought of trying a new author, Laura Kinsale and My Sweet Folly which I bought at discount with other two books of this trilogy Regency Tales. I didn't find the other two books from trilogy on the Romance Novel List spreadsheet though, are they worth to read?
 

Chu

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I found the fourth had a very profound affect on me and left me feeling slightly discombobulated for a few days(in a good way). It occurred to me how programed we are to constantly anticipate rewards for the actions we take, and how letting it all go truly provides growth in many ways.

That was was very interesting, indeed. It also shows that the desire to love freely sometimes needs a lot of trial and error:

I got a bit annoyed at Peregrine, for example, because even though he was trying to apply what you quoted, "For love cannot take anything for itself. It can only give and leave itself wide open and defenseless against emptiness and pain and rejection", and that was noble, sometimes I thought he took it too far. Like when Grace goes and shows him the letter from her ex the selfish rake. That was obviously her asking for help, and wanting to be open about the whole thing. Instead, he preferred to let her do her own thing. I thought that was a bad move, because he wasn't really much help. But then, he learns how to do it better, and SHE finally learns that the past is not a chain, that she must fight for what she wants in the present. :-)
 

zim

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FOTCM Member
I have finished the trilogy of mistress from Mary B.
Spoliler
I was impacted by the second book,
No Man's Mistress, it was nice to read how Lord Ferdinand began to believe in Viola even with all the things she represent in that epoch , how she had a strong opinion of herself but he find out other person inside of her who he fall in love. His expression of love despite her negative to give him any hope to believe in her, but it was she who didn't believe who really she was. The judgment of the society about the perfect women at that time is incredible, now these days we could believe it is different, but still there are a lot of places mainly in Latinamerica that the judgment for the women what need to be the right one, is strong in here, I hád living it in different places because of the nature of my job and the precense of Macho men. So it's been hard for me in many ways. I liked how Lord Ferdinand tried to give her something good even if she didn't wanted, just to give so she could live better. ❤️😎
 

Mikkael

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FOTCM Member
I thought of trying a new author, Laura Kinsale and My Sweet Folly which I bought at discount with other two books of this trilogy Regency Tales. I didn't find the other two books from trilogy on the Romance Novel List spreadsheet though, are they worth to read?

The books are not connected in any way, so I would only recommend My Sweet Folly.
Ok that answers my question.
 

Soluna

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FOTCM Member
Something interesting that strikes me is the stark contrast in popular culture promoting and attempting to normalise abnormal relationships, promiscuity and an emphasis on personal pleasure to name a few - and on the flip side, emphasised in these novels, the idea of essentially finding a soul mate and a mutual expression of joy and happiness.

As I have been a fan of science fiction and fantasy novels - it has surprised me how 'grounding' I have found reading this genre. Despite many of the situations eventually finding an almost fantasy idealism, the experiences seem to somehow focus my attention more on attempting to learn the 'human' lessons rather than living with my head in the clouds - which was unexpected.
 

Scottie

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I just finished the Sins and Scoundrels series by Scarlett Scott.

They're a bit 'lighter', and especially the last book has a whole TON of sexy scenes. Overall, the books were a welcome break from some of the heavier novels (for me) that I had read before.

I think the thing I liked the most was that each of the sinners and scoundrels appeared to be such a Big Fat Loser... Yet the more I read, the more their stories made sense. And sure, each man was 'saved' by his Lady, but not in a modern turbo-feminist way. The ladies were often 'saved' in return, albeit to a lesser degree maybe. So, I can't complain.

Next up: Balogh's A Counterfeit Betrothal and The Notorious Rake
 

Adaryn

The Living Force
That was was very interesting, indeed. It also shows that the desire to love freely sometimes needs a lot of trial and error:

I got a bit annoyed at Peregrine, for example, because even though he was trying to apply what you quoted, "For love cannot take anything for itself. It can only give and leave itself wide open and defenseless against emptiness and pain and rejection", and that was noble, sometimes I thought he took it too far. Like when Grace goes and shows him the letter from her ex the selfish rake. That was obviously her asking for help, and wanting to be open about the whole thing. Instead, he preferred to let her do her own thing. I thought that was a bad move, because he wasn't really much help. But then, he learns how to do it better, and SHE finally learns that the past is not a chain, that she must fight for what she wants in the present. :-)

I agree with your spoiler :-D

I thought Perry took the principle of Free Will a bit too far here, tending towards the extreme end of the spectrum (possessiveness and wanting to impose one's will on someone on one end, VS letting someone completely free to choose whatever they want to do, without interfering in any way, on the other end).

They were married and made a vow of commitment, and promised to support and help one another, after all.

Within a marriage, self-effacement and just "letting the other be" are not particularly appealing or healthy.

Of course it's a fine line to walk. But I think Perry could have opened up about his feelings, while assuring Grace that she was free to choose between Gareth and him.

He could have said something like this:

"I know that you loved him in the past and his return has sent you in a turmoil. I would be lying if I said I'm not affected by it and that I am not afraid of losing you. I've grown to love you, and want you to stay. But I won't force you to. I want you to be free to make your own choice. If you choose to leave, I'll be hurt. But know that my heart will be far more broken if you choose to stay out of duty, or pity, or because you think you're "doing the right thing", while your heart is "not in it", and is with him (whatever I think about the guy). I want you to stay because you want it, because your heart is with me. Not for any other reason."

Or something along those lines. But yeah, trial and error :-)

It kind of echoes what Alex tells Edmund at the end of Gilded Web, when she tries to make him understand something that should be essential in any committed relationship.

It's not really 'love' to just tell your partner that they're totally free to make their own choices, as if you were not involved, as if you were not part of the equation, so to say. To your partner, the image you give is that of someone who just doesn't care, who just doesn't need you. It can even appear condescending, impersonal ("I love you so unconditionally that I actually don't need you. You can go, you can stay, that's fine by me"). Free will and saying to someone you only want their happiness is great, but what if what the other needs is actually for you to need them, for you to open up? How is that supposed to work, then, in terms of "unconditional love"?

Balogh really nails it here (Alex's heartfelt speech in Gilded Web):

"Alex: Tell me about you, Edmund. How do you feel about all this? How do you feel about last night? Will you be happy? Do you have any regrets?

Edmund: I have grown fond of you, Alex. and I do not need to tell you how I felt about last night. I want you to be happy. If you are happy in what we have decided, then I am content. No regrets, dear.

Alex: No, she said. That is not good enough, Edmund. I do not want to know how you think you should feel, or what you think you should do. You have given me so much, Edmund. You have always been so selfless. But you have never given me yourself. Your body, yes. But not you. I don't know you at all.

– You are the important one here. I have had a happy life, Alex and have been abundantly blessed. You have not. And if I can do one small thing to make you happy, then I will do it willingly. I have done it. I have set you free. It is what you wish, is it not?

Show me you are vulnerable. Show me one sign, Edmund. Are you hurt in any way? Even in the smallest way? Have I hurt you at all? Show me one chink in the armor. Show me that you are not all saint. Show me that you are a man who can feel and suffer. Please.

I thought that was freedom that I wanted until I had it and realized that that was not it at all. What I wanted, Edmund, what I always wanted, is to be needed. I have always been cared for and trained and disciplined by Mama and Papa. I have been loved and protected by James. And I have been sheltered and treated with incredible kindness and courtesy by you and your family. But I have never been needed. Feelings have always come to me from others. No one has ever seemed to need my feelings to flow back again. No one has ever really needed to be loved by me.

– I need you. My God Alex, I need you."

Balogh at her best!
 
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