Romantic Fiction, Reality Shaping and The Work

Mari

Dagobah Resident
FOTCM Member
I´ve finished Julia Quinn's books; the prequels, the sequels, extras, so complete package.
It´s overall 19 books, so more than Mackenzies & McBrides, but as you have here more extras and sequels, "breaking up" with Bridgertons is easier than with Mackenzies... ;-D

They were very well written IMO. I liked the best Rokesby´s prequel (which was very funny) and "Lady Whistledown Strikes Back" set of novellas (I had a nice cry on the last novella) and "Smythe-Smith Quartet" sequel which brought up some forgotten memories....
The main stories with Bridgertons are also very good - I liked best "It’s In His Kiss" (7th book Bridgertons) where is more interaction with Lady Danbury who is my overall favourite side character.
"On The Way to the Wedding" (8th book Bridgertons) is imo a bright example of a love-bite situation or a programmed/anchored "love" attraction (not sure if there is a difference between the two expressions).
Smythe-Smith Quartet´s "The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy" was really a tense and strange story; you don't know whether to hate the man or sympathize with him....

Entire series (and sequels) are really ought to be read in order because many stories are actually playing in parallel and there are many side characters and events that appear as the main characters in the next books. That goes especially for "Lady Whistledown" novellas and "Smythe-Smith Quartet".

The series plays out in a period of a few years (from eldest to youngest Bridgerton, except for the Rokesbys prequel, of course) and every Bridgerton book has a 2nd epilogue which sometimes happens right after events of that book and sometimes years later. I´ve already mentioned that Kindle versions already have them included, but I don´t know for paperbacks. If paperbacks don´t have 2nd epilogues, you can ready them all in "Happily ever after" set of novellas.

I´ve noticed a small amount of recycling of the stories or events, so I was a little surprised that the author would do that in the connected series, but ok.
It was overall a good reed. :-) Actually, now that I´m writing, the series really was a good one.


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It says here for M. Balogh that: "She has written more than seventy novels and almost thirty novellas since then ..." but for now we have overall 54 of her books on the list.
She's pretty safe to read all together, or not?

I´m also wondering about A. Gracie; goodreads show 30 distinct works, see here.
But we have 13 on our list.... What I've read from her so far, I can't imagine that she would go off in the wrong direction that much....?


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Thank you all for sharing your thoughts and realizations; I can relate to many of them and give me much to think about.

It came to me, just as I'm writing this post and reading other posts, that with this reading project, I feel like I´m doing the 7 stages of grief:

1. Shock and denial. This is a state of disbelief and numbed feelings.
2. Pain and guilt
3. Anger and bargaining
4. Depression
5. The upward turn
6. Reconstruction and working through
7. Acceptance and hope

I´m currently on No.3, mixed with No. 4. - I´m really angry.
Long repressed anger mixed with a new one, triggered by some realizations, all mixed with not exactly depression, but some despair that hit me and makes my stomach turn, not knowing how to deal with the emotional situation I'm in....

To think that I was in first 2 states for years, it feels like some progress...

Also, I constantly have some terrible/tense feeling, I feel it in my chest, like some internal clock is ticking and saying that there is no more time and that something (even more) terrible is about to happen.....
 

hlat

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
I´m also wondering about A. Gracie; goodreads show 30 distinct works, see here.
But we have 13 on our list.... What I've read from her so far, I can't imagine that she would go off in the wrong direction that much....?
I'm sticking with the books Laura has read and approved. I doubt I will complete all of them, and I'll cross that bridge if I get there.
 

Laura

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I think we can add all of Anne Gracie and all of Mary Balogh to the list. I just haven't read them all and was only naming the ones I had read.

I like the "stages of grief" idea. I'll have to think about it for awhile and try to figure out where I am on that process.
 

France

Jedi Master
FOTCM Member
I like the "stages of grief" idea. I'll have to think about it for awhile and try to figure out where I am on that process.

I like to look at where I am stagnating and what I am missing to get to the next step.

It's a process that has helped me a lot and still helps me.

For me, the stages of grief are intertwined with other small griefs that I often ignore at first.

When the piece is too hard to digest (especially those that were related to children and grandchildren and my mom), I look at the other changes that I didn't think were bothering me and I discover that they were subtly interrelated with the same belief.

This allows me to further clarify the belief that was keeping me stagnant in a specific stage of grief. To face it and demystify it sometimes step by step. Dreams help me, writing, drawing .... and especially nature.

I share an image that helps me but there are surely other images that help to see the stages in a more complete way.
 

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Approaching Infinity

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I think we can add all of Anne Gracie and all of Mary Balogh to the list. I just haven't read them all and was only naming the ones I had read.
For the Mary Balogh fans, I put my spreadsheet of her books on Google. It's sorted so that the ones currently on the list are first, followed by the ones not on the list:


Most of the ones that aren't on the list are standalone novels from her first decade, but also a few series: Mainwaring (2 early novels), the first in the Waite series (published several years before Counterfeit Betrothal and Notorious Rake), two in the Stapleton-Downs series (Famous Heroine and Plumed Bonnet), the Mistress trilogy, and the Simply quartet (from the mid 2000s). Among the standalones, The Last Waltz, Longing, and Truly have the best reviews on Goodreads.
 

PERLOU

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
Je viens de terminer "Le Traître" de Grace Burrowes
J'ai eu du mal avec ce personnage Sebastian de St Clair au début mais je me suis vite attaché à cet homme...
Comme quoi :
“Avant de juger son frère il faut avoir marché plusieurs lunes dans ses souliers.”
Proverbe amérindien
Je vais commencer "Le Pari du péché" de Caroline LINDEN - Tome 1

I just finished "The Traitor" by Grace Burrowes.
I had a hard time with this character Sebastian de St Clair at first but I quickly became attached to this man...
Like what:
"Before you can judge your brother you must have walked many moons in his shoes."
Native American proverb

I'm going to start "Le Pari du péché" by Caroline LINDEN - Volume 1
 

Andrian

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
It came to me, just as I'm writing this post and reading other posts, that with this reading project, I feel like I´m doing the 7 stages of grief:

1. Shock and denial. This is a state of disbelief and numbed feelings.
2. Pain and guilt
3. Anger and bargaining
4. Depression
5. The upward turn
6. Reconstruction and working through
7. Acceptance and hope

I´m currently on No.3, mixed with No. 4. - I´m really angry.
Long repressed anger mixed with a new one, triggered by some realizations, all mixed with not exactly depression, but some despair that hit me and makes my stomach turn, not knowing how to deal with the emotional situation I'm in....

To think that I was in first 2 states for years, it feels like some progress...

Also, I constantly have some terrible/tense feeling, I feel it in my chest, like some internal clock is ticking and saying that there is no more time and that something (even more) terrible is about to happen.....

Thank you Mari for your insightful observations and your comment. I definitely can relate to what you wrote above, me too since i've started reading the novels without realizing it i've began pulling out from myself past events and life experiences due to which i've stored in my heart some serious repressed emotions that were contributing as fuel to the personal hell i've built for myself since childhood.

While pondering on your 7 stages of grief i've come to realize that lately I've experienced all 7 stages about a particular event from my past due to which i've tortured myself for many years through a sense of guilt, anxiety, fear and panic, the whole package. While keeping reading the novels, pondering on the deep psychological universe that one dwells in while reading, on some level i've began to process all the emotional baggage attached to that particular event from my past to the point that now i consider that particular chapter of my life finally closed and done with.

It takes time to process events from our life that had a tremendous impact on us on different levels, what one can do in this case is to have faith in himself and in the DCM and let the process of letting go of those repressed emotions to flow in a natural way without trying to control it. In these cases i keep repeating to myself "Just let it flow" and it helps somehow to relax.

Btw, i've noticed as well since a couple of months that when i'm reading the novels and sometimes afterwards as well i have a stange and strong feeling, a sensation around my heart spreading to my chest and from there up to my throat and head. Sometimes it's pretty strong and it feels like a needle is pearcing my heart and chest followed by a strange internal heat spreading upward. I'm pretty sure that it's not my imagination since i'm trying to be careful to not wishfully think about the sensations i'm experiencing.

Anyways, just some thoughts.
 

Mari

Dagobah Resident
FOTCM Member
For the Mary Balogh fans, I put my spreadsheet of her books on Google.
I´ve happily c/p the list in my own - thank you very much for sharing!!!!


I´ve searched for A. Gracie Books and here is the list:

SeriesBookYearListed
1The Brides of Bellaire GardensThe Scoundrel's Daughter2021
2MerridewThe Perfect Rake2005x
3MerridewThe Perfect Waltz2005x
4MerridewThe Perfect Stranger2006x
5MerridewThe Perfect Kiss2007x
6Devil RidersThe Stolen Princess2008x
7Devil RidersHis Captive Lady2008x
8Devil RidersTo Catch a Bride2009x
9Devil RidersThe Accidental Wedding2010x
10Devil RidersBride by Mistake2012x
11Chance SistersThe Autumn Bride2012
12Chance SistersThe Winter Bride2014
13Chance SistersThe Spring Bride2015
14Chance SistersThe Summer Bride2016
15Chance SistersThe Christmas Bride2020
16Marriage of ConvenienceMarry in Haste2017x
17Marriage of ConvenienceMarry in Scandal2018x
18Marriage of ConvenienceMarry in Secret2019x
19Marriage of ConvenienceMarry in Scarlet2020x
20The TudorsThe King, the Queen, and the Mistress2007
21The TudorsKing Takes Queen2008
22The TudorsKing Takes Queen2008
23The TudorsThy Will Be Done2008
24Standalone NovelsGallant Waif1999
25Standalone NovelsTallie's Knight2000
26Standalone NovelsAn Honorable Thief2001
27Standalone NovelsHow The Sheriff Was Won2002
28Short Stories/NovellasThe Virtuous Widow2008
29AnthologiesGifts of the Season2002
30AnthologiesRegency Brides2002
31AnthologiesMischief and Mistletoe2012
 

Jones

Ambassador
Ambassador
FOTCM Member
In part of 'The Sins of Lord Easterbrook' a crime committed by another peer, Ashford, is uncovered and Easterbrook sends out a message for a group of peers to attend the place where Easterbrook has him. At the same time as reading these series I'm also reading old books about the law, and here's what one "A Constitutional Catechism" has to say on the matter:

Q: Are the Nobility and their causes tried in the same manner as Commoners?

A: In cases of property, there are the same proceedings for the Peer as for the peasant; even property claimed by the Crown is subject to the decisions of his Majesty’s Courts: But in criminal cases, a Peer is tried only by his Peers or Equals; if Parliament be sitting, by all the Peers who have a right to sit and vote in Parliament; if Parliament be not sitting, his trial is had before a certain number of the Peers (not less than twenty-three) summoned for that purpose, in the Court of the Lord High Steward. But by statue 7 William III.c.3. upon all trials of Peers, for treason or misprison, all the Peers, who have a right to sit and vote in Parliament, shall be summoned, at least twenty days before such trials, to appear and vote therein; and every Lord appearing shall vote in the trial of such a Peer, first taking the oaths of allegiance and supremacy, and subscribing the declaration against Popery. This is termed “the Court of our Lord the King in Parliament.”

Interesting thing about these cases from what I understand is that they are not recorded in any court record.
 

Korzik18

Jedi
FOTCM Member
Btw, i've noticed as well since a couple of months that when i'm reading the novels and sometimes afterwards as well i have a stange and strong feeling, a sensation around my heart spreading to my chest and from there up to my throat and head. Sometimes it's pretty strong and it feels like a needle is pearcing my heart and chest followed by a strange internal heat spreading upward. I'm pretty sure that it's not my imagination since i'm trying to be careful to not wishfully think about the sensations i'm experiencing.
I also had a similar feeling. I have read few novels yet, but I noticed that when I read Heartless M. Balog, my heart just broke. And it was a real sensation in the chest, like a pinching pain. I thought it had to do with a strong empathy for the characters in the novel. This story really hooked me and absorbed me emotionally. And not so much elements similar to my problems (there were few such episodes), namely, feelings for the heroes. I could not tear myself away from the novel, and dropping all the cases I just read all day.
For the first time, while reading, I had more than just a mental analysis of the heroes' actions and self-study. It seems to me that I managed to get into the skin of the hero. And despite the fact that I do not agree with many of Luke's and Anna's actions, it hurt in my chest from how they suffer, how they hurt each other.

Much softer I read Sisters Merridew from A. Gracie. Yes, I dug out a few internal problems, but otherwise I tried and turned on my imagination, as Laura advised. It was wonderful, you just run your eyes through the letters, and inside you are born the feeling of coolness of morning London, the smell of roses on a warm evening after dancing, the taste of Gustav's ice cream and horse racing in the pouring rain. It turns out that there was a merger of a small personal experience with fictional images. The brain synthesized new impressions, similar to real sensations.

In general, the entire series of the Merridew sisters showed me how important it is for parents to fill the child's childhood with true love. It seems to me that the whole series of novels runs through one red thread - the love of strong women saves men. The sisters are lovely. They are an example of how not to become hardened after experiencing violence and cruelty in childhood, how support and understanding of the family can heal any mental pain.
"Ideal Waltz" filled my soul with the warmth of a large family hearth, friendship and love, mutual understanding and trust. And although I know that things are not so perfect in my life, I have no regrets. I am glad that many families have it better!
 

Chu

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I was talking to some people about the novels the other day, and it occurred to me that one of the reasons why doing the Work is difficult, and sorting out our emotions and past experiences more so, could be because, like many things in nature, the latter are "fractal-like". And that's why reading so many of these books is good, because each one can show is a small part of the fractal emotional landscape and our lessons. Some experienced directly, some not but their meaning still connected.

This might also explains insights and processing such as what Andrian wrote:

While pondering on your 7 stages of grief i've come to realize that lately I've experienced all 7 stages about a particular event from my past due to which i've tortured myself for many years through a sense of guilt, anxiety, fear and panic, the whole package. While keeping reading the novels, pondering on the deep psychological universe that one dwells in while reading, on some level i've began to process all the emotional baggage attached to that particular event from my past to the point that now i consider that particular chapter of my life finally closed and done with.

It takes time to process events from our life that had a tremendous impact on us on different levels, what one can do in this case is to have faith in himself and in the DCM and let the process of letting go of those repressed emotions to flow in a natural way without trying to control it. In these cases i keep repeating to myself "Just let it flow" and it helps somehow to relax.

I've noticed that one novel may trigger a memory, and a particular emotion attached to it. Say, guilt. Then the next novel will also trigger that memory, but a lot of sadness will come up. Then another one, and it's more self-hatred. And so on. It's like looking at some of those experiences as a multi-dimensional lesson, not just a simple A+B = C. And often, one experience will suddenly be connected to something unrelated, as if there was an invisible thread that links it to something that feels more like a past life, or "potential lessons".

I hope I managed to explain what it feels like a bit. At least for me, it explains why, even though so many stories are similar plots, they each contain a gem that reaches deep.

During the time when we read psychology books (Trapped in the mirror, The narcissistic family, the criminal mind, etc.), I was always puzzled by how "theoretical" it all remained, in spite of having had many "aha moments", tried to change core beliefs, etc. Now I think I see partly why: They show one potential root of the problem, not the whole "fractal". They only address some issues, not the overall picture, things we can't even access fully with our conscious mind. That said, I appreciate them even more now, with more concrete examples from the novels, so they seem to work in complementary ways.

My 2 cents!
 

dennis

Jedi
I am on book 5 of the Mary Balogh survivor series. There are 7 books in the series about 7 couples getting together.
Like Chu says, could each portray the 7 stages of grief or maybe even the chakras? Some correspondence between each couples' story and a greater universal process.

Enjoying it!! (when my wife first found out I was reading romance novels she looked at me surprised and said: "OOOHHH KAAAYYY"
 

Anthony

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
It is interesting to look at how the characters in the novels deal with the social norms of their time period. There is no cynical denigration of prevailing social institutions, something that is all too prevalent these days. Instead, the characters accept the situation they find themselves in, and do the best with what's given to them. They might point out the absurdities of various conventions, but they always do their best to be "good obyvatels".

The only time when they do break the rules is when society stands in the way of something higher manifesting itself, like love, truth, justice. An example I have in mind is from Lorraine Heath's books where one of the themes is nobility marrying commoners (which is something that was frowned upon at the time). The characters in the series break with that specific rule, but in the end it benefits both the main characters and society at large. So yes, context is important, and this was something that Peterson wrote about in his latest book:

SOCIAL INSTITUTIONS ARE NECESSARY — BUT INSUFFICIENT
Sanity is knowing the rules of the social game, internalizing them, and following them.
Differences in status are therefore inevitable, as all worthwhile endeavors have a goal,
and those who pursue them have different abilities in relationship to that goal.
Accepting the fact of this disequilibrium and striving forward nonetheless—whether
presently at the bottom, middle, or top—is an important element of mental health. But a
paradox remains. The solutions of yesterday and today, upon which our current
hierarchies depend, will not necessarily serve as solutions tomorrow. Thoughtless
repetition of what sufficed in the past—or, worse, authoritarian insistence that all
problems have been permanently solved—therefore means the introduction of great
danger when changes in the broader world makes local change necessary. Respect for
creative transformation must in consequence accompany appropriate regard for the
problem-solving hierarchical structures bequeathed to us by the past.
That is neither an
arbitrary moral opinion nor a morally relative claim. It is something more akin to
knowledge of twin natural laws built into the structure of our reality. Highly social
creatures such as we are must abide by the rules, to remain sane and minimize
unnecessary uncertainty, suffering, and strife. However, we must also transform those
rules carefully, as circumstances change around us.

This implies, as well, that the ideal personality cannot remain an unquestioning
reflection of the current social state. Under normal conditions, it may be nonetheless
said that the ability to conform unquestioningly trumps the inability to conform
.
However, the refusal to conform when the social surround has become pathological—
incomplete, archaic, willfully blind, or corrupt—is something of even higher value, as is
the capacity to offer creative, valid alternatives.
 
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