Romantic Fiction, Reality Shaping and The Work

Adaryn

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I’m really getting pulled into the”longing mode”. Did you just keep reading and it brought up things to examine? I feel like I’ll never get out of the longing for something more. Will this change?
I suggest you keep on reading. And ask yourself: do you want it to change? It's not bad in itself to long for something more. As Laura wrote somewhere else, everyone wants to have someone in their life with whom they can be themselves with no barrier. It's normal. The question is, what to do about the feeling of longing? It's certainly not good to be stuck in that mode for too long. Unfortunately, I have no answer to the question: how to get out of it "for good"? I suspect you never really do, but what you can do when feeling that way, is focusing on helping someone who's in the same place - since many of us here are in the same boat. If only by sharing whatever insights you've gained about yourself and others from reading the novels. You never know: it might help somebody.
 

Hesper

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I've been making my way through Balogh's Promise of Spring and the Web series and am now making my way through The Devil's Web.

One thing that strikes me about these books is that the characters really feel alive. And by that I mean that their emotional lives have weight and depth to them. Small moments of tension are fleshed out and allowed to breathe. There's follow-through, real inner struggle, and real emotion, which is really a much-needed change of pace from what we encounter in everyday life. And, even if they do continuously manage to deny what their heart wants, there's still a battle occurring inside. There's still friction.

But when they do connect they really connect, and there is real, tangible happiness - even if it lacks 'wild passion' and is just the contentment that comes with committing to spending your life with someone you care about and trust. This is something that I've enjoyed seeing unfold over the course of the Web series this far.
 
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Odyssey

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I was waaay late to the party on this one. I balked pretty hard when this project was first presented due to my quite long history of highly distracting and time-sucking dissociation into romantic and sexual fantasies. Long story short, I felt that I had finally tamed that beast after years of struggle and did not want to be triggered back into that mode of thinking. However, I followed the thread and eventually caved.

So far I've read 9 Mary Balogh books; Secret Pearl and Tangled followed by the Survivor Club books. I'll start the Huxtable series next. First thing I learned while trying to get through the first sex scene I read is that it is impossible to read and avert your eyes at the same time! I had to "yell" at myself to keep my eyes on the page and not skip over it. I'm past trying to look away now and I'm relieved to report that I've not relapsed back into fantasy world.

Mary Balogh is an extraordinary writer. She is the Creator God of her own universe and she's breathed life into these characters. To be able to take on the different and highly complex perspectives of these characters is an enviable skill. Much respect to her. Though all the books are thoroughly engrossing, and there is quite a lot to identify with through the both the male and female characters my favorites are The Arrangement and Only Beloved.

While reading, I frequently find myself pausing and gazing into space just to reflect on what the characters are thinking and saying which, on a few occasions, have closely matched what I've thought and said before. Smiling, tearing up and repeatedly thinking, "Aaaaw, that's so sweet" has become routine for me. I've thought a lot about my family relationships and old boyfriends. I've also gotten to the point where I try to figure out ahead of time what a character will need to experience in order to become more whole.

I look forward to learning more about courage, perseverance, honor, integrity, good manners and civility, respect, hopefulness and, of course, love. Not just romantic love but love for family and love for neighbors and friends.
 

gottathink

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I suggest you keep on reading. And ask yourself: do you want it to change? It's not bad in itself to long for something more. As Laura wrote somewhere else, everyone wants to have someone in their life with whom they can be themselves with no barrier. It's normal. The question is, what to do about the feeling of longing? It's certainly not good to be stuck in that mode for too long. Unfortunately, I have no answer to the question: how to get out of it "for good"? I suspect you never really do, but what you can do when feeling that way, is focusing on helping someone who's in the same place - since many of us here are in the same boat. If only by sharing whatever insights you've gained about yourself and others from reading the novels. You never know: it might help somebody.
I guess like the characters in these stories it’s necessary to have the feelings, feel the discomfort and conduct yourself as one should regardless. I’m thinking that the being takes practice and as long as strong feelings don’t dictate our actions and we choose with our best wisdom (that we can manage) how we are and act that’s the important thing. The Balogh ladies put their chins up and carry on...
But it sure does help to know other people share and move through this stuff also.
 

Charade

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Ok late to the party but I just finished my first book, “The Laird’s Willful Lass” by Anna Campbell. I liked the story, it had some dramatic adventure to develope the characters before the sex started. That was good and I liked the main character, Fergus, very much. Very strong, manly, trustworthy, honorable, always looking out for others and good looking to boot. He was the perfect gentleman and man’s man. I’d marry him in a minute. I wouldn’t let 20th century feminism get in the way of snagging him the way that the exotic Italian artist does initially. He treats everyone so fairly she can’t stay in her ivory tower for long, though she tries. It’s a tactic to stay independent but also lonely. Both characters are guilty of protecting themselves because of their positions but that entails lonely futures.

My take away came in the last chapter full of quotable sentiments:
“Beneath the powerful physical reaction, there was love, steadfast and eternal.”
“Live for me and I’ll live for you.”
“Her unshakeable love for her husband was the source from which all her other happiness flowed.”
“You’re my hero.” ( My husband likes to hear this praise).
“We are stronger together.”
“Nothing will divide us.”
“Promise to stay true to one another for the rest of their lives.”
“It’s like you’re a part of me.” ( Ah, that can be so true. Being mad at my husband feels the same as being mad
at myself. It hurts)!


It’s about finding a someone worthy of one’s devotion and respect but also being or becoming someone that is worthy of the other’s devotion in return. The channeling of energies becomes more meaningful together instead of separately or alone.

In the second book, “A Christmas Kiss” the theme of having a reason to live a meaningful life for the main male character is only realized after countless meaningless trists before finding how to love another you consider to be an equal or better in an effort to improve oneself.

I marvel at the abundance of adjectives for describing persons of disreputable character. I am glad I am reading on Kindle so I can access the dictionary function and get the exact flavor of the descriptions. This reading is expanding my vocabulary! It reminds of the idea that Eskimos have 100 words for snow. The English seem focused on despicable blokes and wenches.

And finally, to my great surprise, I awoke from a dream today where I had married someone I was acquainted with 20 years ago (that I never think about) for no good reason. Not physical attraction, not common interests and certainly not love. And I didn’t want to have to tell anyone. How odd. I have liked my marriages. They do fill in strengths and weaknesses. I am grateful for a marriage of humor, devotion and mutual appreciation for each other. But marriage was a dicey experience, not one I sought consciously. I didn’t want to be in the spotlight or princess for a day. First time was shotgun style and the second was an Elvis wedding in Vegas. Thankfully, it’s all worked out ok. This life has felt like many different lives in one book.

I haven’t gotten too far through the comments of this thread, so I hope I on the right track.
 

luc

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I’m really getting pulled into the”longing mode”. Did you just keep reading and it brought up things to examine? I feel like I’ll never get out of the longing for something more. Will this change?

It is understandable IMO and healthy longing can be a good thing - how can't you long for something better given the state of the world? I think it's part of this project to focus that longing in the right way, and in the right direction, to energetically create a new, more balanced, more beautiful and truthful reality.

The trouble I guess comes in once you turn that longing into expectations, anticipation and the wish for Reality to change according to your wants. Notice how in the books, love comes "against the will" of most characters, it "breaks through" so to speak as a result of a struggle on a different front, i.e. facing inner demons and the like. Often the characters openly reject their happiness and their beloved potential partners. Never do they long for a specific life with a specific person, think they found that person, and then go for it. Unconsciously perhaps, but consciously they actually avoid their happiness at all cost because they are too afraid and wounded. As so often in life, happiness, love and fulfillment come out of the blue as an unexpected byproduct of a graceful struggle.

I think that whenever we "don't like" something external over which we have little control, such as the lack of "the one" in our lives or even more mundane things that get on our nerves, it can help to ask yourself: if you had magic power, would you actually flip a switch to make your trouble go away/fulfill your wish? When I do that, I often find myself not wanting to flip that switch, because it would be denying reality, imposing my little wants and needs on the universe, and ultimately harming people. Like: wouldn't my magic wish affect others, maybe in a negative way, just so that I can be rid of this or that, or "possess" this or that? Of course, when we do have the power to improve and change things within our grasp, and stop some of our useless suffering, then that's a good thing, but that's a different story. FWIW
 

Laura

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I was waaay late to the party on this one. I balked pretty hard when this project was first presented due to my quite long history of highly distracting and time-sucking dissociation into romantic and sexual fantasies. Long story short, I felt that I had finally tamed that beast after years of struggle and did not want to be triggered back into that mode of thinking. However, I followed the thread and eventually caved.

So far I've read 9 Mary Balogh books; Secret Pearl and Tangled followed by the Survivor Club books. I'll start the Huxtable series next. First thing I learned while trying to get through the first sex scene I read is that it is impossible to read and avert your eyes at the same time! I had to "yell" at myself to keep my eyes on the page and not skip over it. I'm past trying to look away now and I'm relieved to report that I've not relapsed back into fantasy world.

Mary Balogh is an extraordinary writer. She is the Creator God of her own universe and she's breathed life into these characters. To be able to take on the different and highly complex perspectives of these characters is an enviable skill. Much respect to her. Though all the books are thoroughly engrossing, and there is quite a lot to identify with through the both the male and female characters my favorites are The Arrangement and Only Beloved.

While reading, I frequently find myself pausing and gazing into space just to reflect on what the characters are thinking and saying which, on a few occasions, have closely matched what I've thought and said before. Smiling, tearing up and repeatedly thinking, "Aaaaw, that's so sweet" has become routine for me. I've thought a lot about my family relationships and old boyfriends. I've also gotten to the point where I try to figure out ahead of time what a character will need to experience in order to become more whole.

I look forward to learning more about courage, perseverance, honor, integrity, good manners and civility, respect, hopefulness and, of course, love. Not just romantic love but love for family and love for neighbors and friends.

Better late than never!

There are many things in these books that I would have like to underline or jot in my notebook to remember and I really do think that some of the authors are doing some sort of channeling.
 

Aeneas

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There are many things in these books that I would have like to underline or jot in my notebook to remember and I really do think that some of the authors are doing some sort of channeling.
I find that too. I notice that Balogh in every book adds some real nuggets of wisdom, which are worth the whole book. Such like these from the Survivor's club (book 1) which I just finished and thus fresh in memory.

“It is not easy to hate,” he said, “when one has lived long enough to know that everyone has a difficult path to walk through life and does not always make wise or admirable choices.
When had he grown so wise, so understanding, so gentle? After he had suffered? Was that what suffering was all about? Was that what it did for a person?
The character, Hugo pondering about life as a school:
“I do not believe there is right or wrong,” he said. “There is only doing what one must do under given circumstances and living with the consequences and weaving every experience, good and bad, into the fabric of one’s life so that ultimately one can see the pattern of it all and accept the lessons life has taught. We were never expected to achieve perfection in one lifetime, Gwendoline. Religious people would say that is what heaven is for. I think that would be a shame. It’s too easy and too lazy. I would prefer to think that perhaps we are given a second chance—and a third and a thirty-third—to get everything right.”

Perhaps we could start a separate thread with quotes from the various books, capturing some of these nuggets, even if some will speak more to some people than other.

Anyway, I loved the Bedwyn Prequels and now enjoying the Survivor series.
 

Odyssey

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Better late than never!

There are many things in these books that I would have like to underline or jot in my notebook to remember and I really do think that some of the authors are doing some sort of channeling.

I think so too. Recently, I've been thinking a lot about God, cosmic love, creation and the creative process and how people with great talents come up with their ideas. How, in the name of God, can Mary Balogh, in this lifetime of hers, know so much about human nature and make it so true and genuine all on her own without help from the higher realms? It seems well nigh impossible! That kind of talent is spiritual. It's a real gift, that's for sure.
 

genero81

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How, in the name of God, can Mary Balogh, in this lifetime of hers, know so much about human nature and make it so true and genuine all on her own without help from the higher realms? It seems well nigh impossible!

I'm in awe as well. She has wisdom that is almost inconceivable. I've just read 'Dark Angel' and half of 'Lord Carew's Bride.' It's two books in one that I started maybe three days ago? I can't put the damned thing down!
 

Laura

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I think so too. Recently, I've been thinking a lot about God, cosmic love, creation and the creative process and how people with great talents come up with their ideas. How, in the name of God, can Mary Balogh, in this lifetime of hers, know so much about human nature and make it so true and genuine all on her own without help from the higher realms? It seems well nigh impossible! That kind of talent is spiritual. It's a real gift, that's for sure.

Yeah. I wonder the same thing and that's why I figured it had to be some sort of channeling.

One thing to notice is this: Mary (and others) have selected a particular historical setting to work with probably for a number of reasons, not the least of which would be the popularity of books such as those written by Jane Austen and the Brontes. But the same types of dynamics might work in other settings, other times and places. The only requirement would be a strong social code that one has to work with and even against, sometimes. And that social code should contain some strong elements of an STO reality even if it has been misused by the society. I don't know if it is a failure of my knowledge or if it is a fact, but I can't think of another time and place where exactly such conditions prevailed.

Alice Coldbreath has written a couple of fantasy series (Vawdrey Brothers, Brides of Karadok) that are interesting for their near similarity, but she has made different rules for her make-believe time and place and it doesn't seem as useful for our purposes. In any event, if anyone wants to check them out, they are not based so strictly on the social rules of the Regency type. She also has two other books set in Victorian England and involving a different social class: "A Bride for the Prizefighter" and "A Substitute Wife for the Prizefighter". They are interesting stories, especially considering the class context, and set against other romances of the period. Be warned, however, that this author has NO control whatsoever over her verbs and verb phrases and sometimes her nouns are a bit iffy too. And these books do NOT need to be added to the list; they are totally optional.
 

Eboard10

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Just finished Balogh’s Web Trilogy and have to thank Laura for bringing this topic up and the community for pursuing this project. I never thought I would end up enjoying romance novels this much!

Balogh does a great job in describing the internal programs and struggles of the main characters with great detail. Of the three novels, the one that resonated the most with me was The Gilded Web (#1). Having had a strict upbringing, Alex is unable to express her feelings or respond to any sort physical contact and intimacy, while Edmund is unable to to share his inner thoughts and concerns with her, making her feel unneeded as a partner.

I have observed these same traits in myself. I still haven’t fully broken free of the programs that I grew up with due to a rather strict upbringing coupled with my timid personality, making me very distant and at times unsociable. While I have already made some progress over the latest years by opening up and being more friendly towards others, the one hurdle I still haven’t been able to overcome is my insecurity in a relationship, which is plainly evident by the fact I haven’t been in any real relationship until now.

Reading some of the scenes between the two characters and the times where Alex was introspecting gave me some big “aha” moments and made me realise there is clearly a lot more Work for me to do at the emotional level.

For those who still feel uneasy about embarking on this project, I can assure you I was as puzzled as many others when I first read the opening post, being especially keen on the more scientific and historical subjects. Despite my skepticism, I now find myself very much enjoying the novels. On to the next one.
 

PERLOU

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Je viens de terminer " La folie de Lord Mackenzie " de Jennifer Ashley - Tome 1
Une histoire passionnante que j'ai beaucoup aimée, je vous recommande...
Etant donné qu'il ne me reste plus qu'un seul livre d'avance, je vais le commencer " L'appel des Highlands" - Tome 8 du même auteur

I have just finished "The Madness of Lord Mackenzie" by Jennifer Ashley - Volume 1
An exciting story that I really liked, I recommend you...
Since I have only one book left, I will start it " The Call of the Highlands" - Volume 8 by the same author
 

Ant22

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You could even say that this kind of reading - selected books only - is something like neurofeedback only for the emotions; it can quite possibly transmute lower emotions to higher ones.

That's an interesting comparison because the very first effect of those books that I noticed was that it was similar to NeurOptimal. Let me start with my NO experiences before I move on to the books. To date I did over 100 sessions and around 20 sessions into the process I started having quite intense reactions. The most notable one of them was feeling emotional and crying, often for what seemed like no particular reason, or not a strong enough reason, both during the sessions and at other times. This was new because I hadn't been a particularly emotional person before.

There was one instance that was almost terrifyingly intense. I was around 2 years ago and I was maybe 50 sessions into my NO adventure. I was watching a Russian TV series with English subtitles as an effort to learn Russian. The series featured a girl who clearly liked the main male character but she was in a relationship with someone else. She didn't love that man but she thought he was a good person who didn't deserve the pain of being left for another. So although she wanted to be with the new guy she kept oscillating between finding self-deprecating and self-pitying reasons not to, or judging his character harshly and pushing him away. Meanwhile both her and the new guy suffered becuase of her indecisiveness and rejection of the man she loved due to some preconceived ideas she had about him and herself. For some reason I found that really irritating but at the same time I binge watched the series.

Only seasons 1 & 2 were available with English subtitles but I bumped into a Russian song on YouTube that used scenes from season 3. Right at the end of that season the girl protects the guy from a gunshot with her own body and they both end up getting shot, lying motionless on the floor in a paddle of blood. When the song ended I started to feel really raw, emotional and I started crying. I felt like that story happened to me although I never had such an experience. The feeling of sadness quickly changed into absolutely devastating despair and I literally felt as if someone I loved died. There were no images or memories attached to it, just overwhelming guilt, pain and regret. The flood of tears was absolutely overwhelming. I was lying on the floor unable to stop it, literally screaming and sobbing into a cushion so no one in the house could hear me. I remember sensations that were somewhere between feelings and thoughts, a soul crushing guilt and regret, the feeling that I would give absolutely everything to turn back the time and do it differently. And now that person was gone and it was all lost in a way that was final.

This incident lasted over 40 minutes and I kept thinking about it for weeks afterwards. I never lost anyone in a way that would enable me to relate to such strong feelings of loss and regret but when I analysed my romantic relationships similarities between the girl and me became quite clear. Most of my relationships had a tendency to turn quite lukewarm on my part very quickly. I tended to go with what the other person wanted and never reach out for what I wanted or refuse what I didn't want, and that would become unbearable early on in a relationship. I would forgo a huge part of myself in an attempt to make it work but I could never do it for very long. And soon being alone would become a less soul destroying choice so I'd end the relationship. But more often than not I'd either pull out or ruin things before it even got serious for exactly the same reasons the girl in the series did: self-deprecating and self-pitying narratives to convince myself that it was never going to work, or judging the other person's character harshly and pushing him away.

And then the romantic fiction project started. I have read quite a few books already but it was the Seven Nights in the Rouge's bed that provoked the first strong reaction. Jonas' narratives of being unworthy of love, and then him pushing Sidonie away because he thought she betrayed him made me so upset that I just had to scroll to the end and check how the story ended to make sure they did end up together. Then came the 1797 club and the first 4 books deal with similar dynamics: pushing a loved one away becuase of a belief in some perceived fundamental flaw in the self that makes a successful relationship impossible. A belief that developed as a result of childhood experiences and was never challenged in later life. And the characters in those books nearly miss out on love for the same reasons the girl in the TV series did: pushing away the person they loved because of a bunch of narratives about themselves, the other person, and life in general. Whether there is any significance to the fact that I can relate to the male protagonists more than the female ones I do not know.

But the 1979 Club series has done one more thing that other books I read so far haven't done as effectively, at least for me. It showed me how childhood experiences, and parents' actions and words make us develop narratives that we take as unquestionable truth about ourselves. I knew that intellectually from all the recommended readings on psychology here but the ramifications of it for me personally only truly sunk in with those books.

Coincidentally, shortly before starting the 1979 Club I had a chance to spend 6 months at my family's place and what became painfully clear to me during that time was that although my family are in general very kind, gentle and loving people they do have a pretty nasty dark side. Moments of friction between us made me see with terrifying clarity that in emotionally charged moments they have quite an impressive capacity to say things that emotionally crush the opposition. They know exactly where to hit with their words to inflict the most pain and they will distort reality in such a way that I'm left feeling like absolute dog $h!t. And upon reflection I discovered that it's always been like that. What's interesting is that they resort to this in specific circumstances: when either their peace and quiet - or their narrative about themselves and their own kindness are being challenged. And unfortunately for me, I have been the source of such disruption to both their peace and quiet and their narratives about themselves for a long while. That's because the biggest difference between us is that their peace and quiet and their narratives have been as important to them as the truth has been to me. And unfortunately they couldn't always be reconciled.

I just finished book 4 of the 1979 series and somewhere along the way it dawned on me with painful clarity that an overwhelmingly huge part of my own narrative about myself consists of those hurtful words I heard in moments of tension since I was little. For example, my mom told me more often than I can count that no one would ever want me becuase of the person I was. How early I stated hearing "you'll end up alone!" and other words to that effect can be best illustrated by the fact that initially I thought she meant that my family would leave me, or abandon me. It must have been before it even crossed my mind that she could have meant a romantic partner. So I went on to spend most of my life single and thinking that this was just meant to be. That it was easier to be alone and that relationships were always going to end either in heartbreak or discomfort of trying to mould myself into something I was not because as I was, I was obviously unloveable.

I can't say I feel liberated by any of this. I actually feel robbed of a life I could have had if only I hadn't mistaken my family's tactic to make an issue go away by emotionally knocking out the opponent for an absolute and indisputable truth that has defined me as a human being. I haven't fully processed it yet, and to be honest I'm not too sure where to go with this or what to do. But I'll certainly keep reading the books - even though I've cried through a lot of them. They make me feel raw and emotional like NO did but unlike with NO it is easier to put my finger on what exactly is causing the emotional response. As they say, sometimes the only way out is through.
 
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