Romantic Fiction, Reality Shaping and The Work

John G

The Living Force
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.
Funny, I was trying to fit my situation to this and at first I was thinking there was no stage 1, it just started with pain and guilt over being an idiot and then I thought oh yeah there was obviously an overconfident disbelief that led to the painful phone call. I started the call as if there was no problem and ended in devastation (there was a slightly long somewhat oddly relieving pause where my main worry was I wasn't going to be able to say OK bye without sounding like I was crying). Good grief (pun originally not intended but then intended including an added Charlie Brown sense), I was apparently still in denial about the original denial. I remember the first school day after the call, I went for my free period to a little used room and looked down at the desk and thought quite angrily if I just stay away from her (pushing out my hands quickly in an away from me gesture), I'm sure I'll be fine by college and then quickly had my head on the desk with my arms over my head. The anger to strategizing to depression was kind of all at once. As the future Lady Stapleton observed, that pain turned depression can fade to a nostalgic dull ache over time.

So what are 5 through 7? Well Cat Stevens/Rod Stewart/Sheryl Crow and Meat Loaf don't seem overly wrong in their first cut is the deepest and two out three ain't bad sense. You probably kind of first go upward in a rebound sense that can include some increased depravity. You really just want to feel more OK for as much of the time as you can. It's like Heartless even if any depravity is usually confined in your mind not hurting anybody. In fact you become even more of the original guilty of idiocy in the take no chances on the outside stay inside yourself sense. Oh maybe there's a little of an upwards that isn't downwards at times.

For me over the summer before college I wrote some pathetic letter and sent it to a friend of my red-haired girl who was actually blonde. At college, I had an instant rebound on the bus taking me to the Freshman Weekend. Diagonally across from me was someone who reminded me of the red-haired girl who was actually blonde. I promptly followed and watched her over the weekend and over my four years at college. She did come up to me once in class and we had a nice conversation about classwork as I looked a lot into her eyes. Before that I had sent her a couple of love letters and after the first one her friends pushed her right into me; I the idiot did nothing but run away. After more of the same throughout my 20s, I kind of lucked out that my 30s came with the online world. After dating a couple of girls I met online, my future mother in law online introduced me to my future wife.

The reconstruction and working through part can certainly include after the wedding. That happened in a couple of these novels. To get to acceptance and hope might in reality require a good bigger picture too kind of like when that novel addressed reincarnation. Probably all the steps always remain at least in some nostalgic dulled sense. It feels like you kind of work at multiple steps at the same time too.


The Living Force
FOTCM Member
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

This is an neat list of stages of grief/emotional releases. I finished the Legend of the 4 soldiers recently and I was triggered very deeply as I found myself in a state of apathy(would be stage 1 on this list). While I was perusing youtube I happened to encounter a similar list of emotional states. And one thing I really like that this guy was talking about is the importance of having a reference/anchor to your higher positive emotions, like love, when you're trying to progress up this list so you don't get stuck ruminating the lower ones. Interestingly enough these books do exactly that as they transmute your lower ones into higher ones.


The Living Force
FOTCM Member
Hello all! I am very late to this thread and far from reading many of the books on the list but I have made a commitment with myself to read no matter what at least 30 mins a day. I am currently reading Julia Quinn's series. It was very hard for me to read novels, I am not used to reading them and didn't see myself reading them, I remember that some time ago I tried to read some of Austen's work but it was so boring for me.... I am now immersed and keen to see what happens with me in this project.

When I finished Julia Quinn's first book next day I woke up with a terrible pain on my chest, I don't know if it was related cause some emotions got stirred up with this book, or just bad posture while sleeping. But anyways, i'm slowly but surely getting there.


The Living Force
FOTCM Member
Thank you @Approaching Infinity and @Mari for the list. I checked Mary Balogh and Anne Gracie's websites and amazon. As of now found around 50+ books to be added to the list. I will be adding them soon.
I added 50 new books to the list based on author's websites and items mentioned in the thread and made some adjustments to series name etc. All the forms and sheet are updated.
271Anne GracieThe Brides of Bellaire Gardens1The Scoundrel's Daughter
259Anne GracieThe Chance Sisters1The Autumn Bride
260Anne GracieThe Chance Sisters2The Winter Bride
261Anne GracieThe Chance Sisters3The Spring Bride
262Anne GracieThe Chance Sisters4The Summer Bride
272Anne GracieThe Chance Sisters4.5The Christmas Bride
268Anne GracieAn Honorable Thief
266Anne GracieGallant Waif
270Anne GracieHow the Sheriff Was Won
267Anne GracieTallie’s Knight
269Anne GracieThe Virtuous Widow
265Anne Gracie & Michael HirstThe Tudors: The King, the Queen, and the Mistress
242Mary BaloghDark Angel2The Famous Heroine /The Plumed Bonnet
223Mary BaloghMainwaring1A Chance Encounter
226Mary BaloghMainwaring2The Wood Nymph
263Mary BaloghThe Mistress Trilogy1More Than a Mistress
264Mary BaloghThe Mistress Trilogy2No Man's Mistress
249Mary BaloghThe Mistress Trilogy3The Secret Mistress
245Mary BaloghThe Simply Quartet1Simply Unforgettable
246Mary BaloghThe Simply Quartet2Simply Love
247Mary BaloghThe Simply Quartet3Simply Magic
248Mary BaloghThe Simply Quartet4Simply Perfect
225Mary BaloghWaite1The Trysting Place
250Mary BaloghWestcott9Someone Perfect
236Mary BaloghA Certain Magic
239Mary BaloghA Christmas Promise
256Mary BaloghA Day for Love
232Mary BaloghA Gift of Daisies
221Mary BaloghA Masked Deception
254Mary BaloghA Rogue's Downfall
235Mary BaloghAn Unlikely Duchess
238Mary BaloghBeyond the Sunrise
253Mary BaloghChristmas Gifts
252Mary BaloghChristmas Miracles
231Mary BaloghDaring Masquerade
240Mary BaloghDeceived
228Mary BaloghGentle Conquest
233Mary BaloghLady with a Black Umbrella
241Mary BaloghLonging
255Mary BaloghNo Ordinary Love
224Mary BaloghRed Rose
257Mary BaloghSecond Chances
229Mary BaloghSecrets of the Heart
237Mary BaloghSnow Angel
227Mary BaloghThe Constant Heart
222Mary BaloghThe Double Wager
234Mary BaloghThe Incurable Matchmaker
244Mary BaloghThe Last Waltz
230Mary BaloghThe Ungrateful Governess
243Mary BaloghTruly
251Mary BaloghUnder the Mistletoe
The following one's are NOT added due to different reasons. Most are anthologies with many other authors and the Mary balogh's or Anne Grace's contribution is small.
TypeBookIDAuthorSeriesBook #Book Name
AnthologyMary Balogh & OthersIt Happened One Night
AnthologyMary Balogh & OthersIt Happened One Season
AnthologyMary Balogh & OthersBespelling Jane Austen
AnthologyMary Balogh & OthersThe Gifts of Christmas
AnthologiesAnne Gracie & OthersThe Last Chance Christmas Ball
AnthologiesAnne Gracie & others“The Laird’s Vow”
AnthologiesAnne Gracie & others“The Mistletoe Bride”
AnthologiesAnne Gracie & OthersSizzle, Seduce, and Simmer (Story and Recipe Collection)
NovelizationsElizabeth Massie??The TudorsKing takes Queen
??The TudorsThy Will Be Done
AnthologiesAnne Gracie & OthersGifts of the Season
AnthologiesAnne Gracie & OthersRegency brides
AnthologiesAnne Gracie & OthersMischief and Mistletoe
If you want me to add these too, I will add. Our list currently sit at 271 books.


The Living Force
FOTCM Member
A little update of my reading in this amazing project,

After reading The Huxtable's series, and 5 of the Mackenzie's books, I decided to try another writer, so I started with the Convenient Marriage series by Anne Gracie. I'm halfway through the first one (Marry in Haste), and as I expected I've noticed another aspects in the characters and their struggles, in this case Cal and Emmaline. Reading through the book I have noticed some things in Cal's behaviour that resonate with my past experiences as a man in a romantic relationship, like machismo (I don't know if this word is correct in English, but It's like male chauvinism) and entitlement; treating a woman in such a way that she has to obey and follow orders. I'm very interested to see how this character develops in the story of the book, so, back to my reading :-)


The Living Force
FOTCM Member
Almost through with the wonderful Rescued from Ruin series by Elisa Braden.

The romance novels themselves offer many variegated examples of when balance is skewed, and when it remerges, if it does, after suffering pains of inner growth after years of trauma (childhood et cetera) or outright years of poor learning. Many characters have not connected with the other - or know not one whit of self (the young puppy, the entrenched tyrant or rake, the naive), being not possible due to their natures, and some become trapped or they finally see what was previously unavailable in their heart and mind, and finally connect with the other in a whole new way - the happy ending in many of these cases. This includes the influences on others around them to Do better.
Well said Voyageur and totally applicable here as well. One of the recurring themes in the series is the battle with the little i's in one way or another after having had a childhood filled with adversity. Especially Book 4 (The devil is a Marquess) and Book 8 (Anything but a Gentleman) stood out for me in this respect. One could feel sorry for self and for instance immerse oneself in one's cups (like Chatham) and deteriorate at all levels or have the innate backbone ever becoming more right and strong, in every situation life throws at one, only to DO, taking advantage of challenging circumstances and become better and better versions of self, by making one's own (good) decisions and with one's own hands, sweat and blood in order to gain the so needed self respect and state of feeling worthy of love and goodness in life (Augusta, Reaver and Shaw). For Chatham it takes a partner thrown into his life for him to wake up and make choices leading to gaining the self respect and self love he so craves in order to be able to experience the love given to him by another and so becoming a better version of himself in the process.

I identified with these four characters and the battles that went on in their hearts and minds in various life cirucumstances. For me also it took my partner as a source of inspiration for me to DO, make choices, take actions, and work hard to become a better and better version of the me that i could be. As i see it, these two books especially helped me realise, see and put into words the process i went through (and of course still am going through as i think one will never be done) that by doing, making choices based on being accepting of Life and all of her offerings, like the (selfless) help of others, and giving the very best of oneself that is possible to Life and all that Life entails, and so to eventually acquire that balance, the self-respect and self love that are such necessary conditions before one can truly love another, to see the happiness in the eyes of the other as an expression of Life (like one of the Faces of God) without asking anything in return. Again thank you Laura for having started this, I love this project!!!


The Living Force
FOTCM Member
Numerous times while reading the novels, I have come across the theme of "purchasing a commission" or of "selling out". I did a search in the thread, but could not find much on the subject. From the contexts of the novels, it is clear what the overall meaning is, but figuring that some dilemmas and social circumstances surrounding the lives of the various protagonists may be appreciated more thoroughly, I found a few details from the Wiki regarding the Purchase of commissions in the British Army.
The purchase of officer commissions in the British Army was the practice of paying money to the Army be made an officer of a cavalry or infantry regiment of the English and later British Army. By payment, a commission as an officer could be secured, avoiding the need to wait to be promoted for merit or seniority. This practice was the usual way to obtain a commission in the Army between the 17th and late 19th centuries.

Formally, the purchase price of a commission was a cash bond for good behaviour, liable to be forfeited to the Army's cashiers (accountants) in the event of cowardice, desertion, or gross misconduct.

The practice started in 1683 during the reign of King Charles II and continued until it was abolished on 1 November 1871, as part of the Cardwell Reforms.
There were several rationalisations for the sale of commissions:

  • It served as a form of collateral against abuse of authority or gross negligence or incompetence. Disgraced officers could be cashiered by the crown (that is, deprived of their commission without reimbursement).
  • It ensured that the officer class was largely filled by persons having a vested interest in maintaining the social and political status quo; thereby reducing the possibility of the military participating in a revolution or coup.
  • It ensured that officers had some private means and were less likely to engage in looting or pillaging or to cheat the soldiers they commanded by profiteering with army supplies.
  • It provided honourably retired officers with an immediate source of capital upon leaving the service.
  • It preserved the social exclusivity of the officer class.
With respect to "It preserved the social exclusivity of the officer class." you may encounter, as one does in the one instance in the Survivor series by Mary Balogh, that one protagonist who earned his rank through deed but was from a less advantaged background was looked down upon by a snobbish officer.

Indeed it was very costly to get a good rank. Here are some figures.
The official values of commissions varied by branch (see below). Payments in excess of regulation (non-official) usually accorded with the differing social prestige of different regiments.[1]

For example, in 1837 the costs of commissions were:

1837 (2019 equivalent) price of commissions
RankInfantryCavalryLife GuardsFoot GuardsHalf pay difference
Cornet/Ensign£450 (£41k)£840 (£77k)£1,260 (£115k)£1,200 (£110k)£150 (£14k)
Lieutenant£700 (£64k)£1,190 (£109k)£1,785 (£163k)£2,050 (£188k)£365 (£33k)
Captain£1,800 (£165k)£3,225 (£295k)£3,500 (£320k)£4,800 (£439k)£511 (£47k)
Major£3,200 (£293k)£4,575 (£419k)£5,350 (£490k)£8,300 (£760k)£949 (£87k)
Lieutenant Colonel£4,500 (£412k)£6,175 (£565k)£7,250 (£664k)£9,000 (£824k)£1,314 (£120k)
These prices were incremental. To purchase a promotion, an officer only had to pay the difference in price between his existing rank and the desired rank.[2]
When one in the Bedwyn saga in the book Slightly Married reads about a colonel in the cavalry, Aidan Bedwyn, then we know that his family must have been very wealthy indeed and that he received a good amount when he sold out.

Reading about the actual administration, one finds reasons for promotion and also a story of a scandal.
There were various regulations which required minimum durations of service in a given rank and which restricted officers from selling or exchanging their commissions to avoid active service. Exceptions and exemptions from these were at the discretion of the Commander in Chief. In 1806 there was a major scandal when it was discovered that Mary Anne Clarke, the mistress of then Commander in Chief Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany, was engaged in selling commissions for her personal profit.[5]

The worst potential effects of the system were mitigated during intensive conflicts such as the Napoleonic Wars by heavy casualties among senior ranks, which resulted in many non-purchase vacancies, and also discouraged wealthy dilettantes who were not keen on active service, thereby ensuring that many commissions were exchanged for their nominal value only. There was also the possibility of promotion to brevet army ranks for deserving officers. An officer might be a subaltern or Captain in his regiment, but might hold a higher local rank if attached to other units or allied armies, or might be given a higher Army rank by the Commander-in-Chief or the Monarch in recognition of meritorious service or a notable feat of bravery. Officers bearing dispatches giving news of a victory (such as Waterloo), often received such promotion, and might be specially selected by a General in the field for this purpose.


Jedi Council Member
A good friend of mine grew up in a working class environment. When he got his draft notice he attempted some mild humorous ruse to get out of it, I forget what it was but it was unsuccessful. So he did his tour in Vietnam, got out and continued with life. A few years ago he was getting too old to do construction work anymore so he let his hair and beard grow wild and went to see the VA psychologist to get a disability rating and monthly check. The sawbones obviously formed a preconceived notion confirming his bias when my buddy walked in the door. My buddy smiled and responded to one of the loaded questions with "I'm not prejudiced I hate everybody."

He is one of the most loving and compassionate persons I know, to friends and strangers alike. He just had to employ a form of stalking to survive. One of his funny tricks played while having fun was to grab his pants leg and move the knee and give that leg a loose swing.



Jedi Master
I just finished in my Goethe collection: Pandora; Hellenic style but of incredible splendor. Goethe understood the Uranian Aphrodite, and he portrayed the two brothers Epimetheus and Prometheus. Thus Pandora appears under a splendid face, and Epimetheus the lover of this one who is only waiting to join her. to read


The Living Force
FOTCM Member
I added 50 new books to the list based on author's websites and items mentioned in the thread and made some adjustments to series name etc. All the forms and sheet are updated.

The following one's are NOT added due to different reasons. Most are anthologies with many other authors and the Mary balogh's or Anne Grace's contribution is small.

If you want me to add these too, I will add. Our list currently sit at 271 books.
What!!! 271 books!!!! I am astounded.


FOTCM Member
I just finished in my Goethe collection: Pandora; Hellenic style but of incredible splendor. Goethe understood the Uranian Aphrodite, and he portrayed the two brothers Epimetheus and Prometheus. Thus Pandora appears under a splendid face, and Epimetheus the lover of this one who is only waiting to join her. to read
That is irrelevant to this thread. Either join the project, or post your thoughts in more appropriate environs.


The Living Force
FOTCM Member
This reading project has given me deeper insights about myself than any of the psychology books suggested in the forum. In fact, and I guess it's just me, I have tried reading Thinking, Fast and Slow, three times and I never made it past the first paragraph, the same with Mouravieff
Last edited:


The Living Force
FOTCM Member
Whoops, hit the reply button by mistake. Anyway, to continue from the above, ...the same with Mouravieff and Political Ponerology. as well as Gurdjieff (although to a lesser extent than the other two}, and Trapped In The Mirror. I seem to be unable to relate to what they're saying, ie they're just words on paper. I've never felt like any significant change has occurred.
On the other hand I have learned more about myself and better how to relate to women and their perspectives on men and what they expect from the male species. And I've actually felt that I am experiencing bodily changes from reading the posts on this thread and the novels themselves, more specifically Mary B's. I've read a couple of other authors, but they, imho, don't even come close to her level of creativity, and it's been a real slog getting thru those other authors. But that's just me. I guess others are benefitting from those other aothors and I've certainly gained knowledge from reading their posts as well. So, I've come to realize, that this project really is a group effort, and, for myself anyway, has proven to be the most effective for positive change and personal growth.
So kudos to you Laura for this project and all that you have done for the members of this Fellowship :hug:


The Living Force
FOTCM Member
I was thinking about why these novels may facilitate emotional processing better than just thinking about past events in my life.

I think one of the reasons is that you are on one hand tightly involved in the emotional step-by-step process as the story unfolds, but at the same time somewhat removed from it. It’s like there is a screen, a small distance between the raw emotional power and yourself, so that it is easier to reprocess those feelings. After all, it’s not about you, it’s just a fictional account. Like the sound is there, but it is a little bit muffeled, so not as immediate. And this may make it easier to follow the protagonists into their own personal hell and accompany them on their journey working through that.

The other thing that I noted, which might be connected to the above, is - I have recently had a lot of old memories resurfacing out of the blue. Either of situations where I behaved in an inconsiderate or even cruel way, or where others did something to me that was wrong. While the immediate trigger why this particular episode popped up is not really clear (I can’t say what book or chapter may have triggered it), my hunch is, that it relates to one of those stories, where a similar situation was describeds. And after a ‘safe interval’ my mind finds it not too overwhelming to let it pop back up.
Top Bottom