Romantic Fiction, Reality Shaping and The Work

Alejo

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Hi all,

I have just finished the second book in the Horsemen Trilogy by Mary Balogh, Unforgiven. at first I felt it was moving too fast, it's an intense book for reasons I will discuss in the spoiler section, but as per usual very satisfying read, very moving and without mentioning how entertaining and funny it is. I will now move on to the third one :)

This was an unexpectedly intense narrative, the story centers around Ken and Moira, who are part of families who have had conflicts for generations and the intensity of their guilt and resentment towards one another really shows in the way one experiences the story. It can become quite stressful to go through I found. Something I particularly liked is that the story doesn't have a conflict that builds up in stress to simply resolve at the end in a very satisfying, yet empty, way, even though the conflict does resolve satisfactorily. And I think that's one of the take aways from the story, not a blissful happily ever after, but a real relationship with oneself and a loved one that will be filled with quarrel, disagreements and pain even, but that is better than a fake happy marriage, or a cold resentful distant acquaintance.

The story really does a wonderful job depicting how simple it is to allow our emotions to take over our words and behavior, and how that can work against us, always works against us. Moira is a strong and independent woman who holds on to her resentment to such a degree, that she denies being with child to Ken, the father, and even though it is not clearly stated as such, this denial and the stress it causes, leads to a miscarriage.

That was, in my opinion, a viscerally painful, moving yet accurate depiction of what we sacrifice when we allow these unresolved emotions within us to continue to rule us, we sacrifice the best version of us, the most tender and most valuable parts of our selves. The parts of ourselves that are filled with potential for creativity and love, the parts of ourselves that can truly bring about change in our lives. it is rather tragic when the baby dies, even though there's no show of love or affection for him, but Moira and Ken recognize the magnitude of the loss.

The other aspect of it was that the baby was conceived by accident so to speak, as they both tried to shield themselves from the cold, and I know that seems a bit far fetched, but I think it does the ideas justice. The other idea one may extract from that analogy is that, without full commitment to a cause, be it whatever it may be, the potential withers and dies.

This causes a lot of stress and resentment between them that is built upon their existing family feud, it also leads them to a marriage of convenience and both of them being rather hard headed and strong individuals with a fully developed independence, it breeds destructive conflict nourished with pride, lies, and the wrong assumptions about the other. All the while sacrificing their own joy.

Through this conflict, the concept of honesty with oneself, of doing what is right despite the consequences, and of growing from independence to interdependence is wonderfully explored, particularly this last one.

I really liked one of the quotes that Moira says at some point, this is something that I've struggled with personally, she says something along the lines of, loving isn't only about giving, it's also about accepting the love that is given. Accept the worry, the concern and the fact that it also comes with a responsibility on their end, it may hurt our idea of independence, but that is the price to be part of something larger than the lone individual.

And I think that is interdependence in one quote, it's not just about what you already know you can accomplish on your own, what you know you can do and give to the object of your affection. But are you mature enough to accept that you need it too? and even if you don't need it, can you accept it, as lovingly as it is being given?

It made me think that, how many of us have a hard time accepting help? or even asking for it because "I can handle it, I don't need it" and I mean when we really need it? how much has pride, resentment (and this is also explored in the book) made our lives miserable and even made us act in exactly the opposite way to our wishes?

I know this concept has been explored in the book of the 7 Habits of highly effective individuals, it takes a further level of development of maturity and independence, to bring oneself to a humble acceptance of the loss of certain liberties, for the goal of attaining a larger goal. And this applies to most aspects of our lives, not only romantic relationships.

It also reminded me of this idea of the Hero and the King archetypes. The hero archetype is associated with adolescence, the drive to break away from rules and find oneself, but the Hero grows then to become the King, who after breaking from the rules, finds his way and then continues his growth as a king, with a queen and kingdom, therefore back under a new set of rules. Some incompatible with the life of the Hero, but consciously chosen for the good of all in the realm, including himself. It's the passage from adolescence (independence) to adulthood (interdependence).

Thanks for reading.
 

Laurs

Jedi Council Member
FOTCM Member
Just listened to the interview on MindMatters with Mary Balogh, really enjoyed it, such a wonderful and wise lady and it was interesting to see that quite a few of the questions asked made her think of things she hadn't thought about before, so that will perhaps have an effect on her we might even notice in future books? Like Truth and Love are really one side of the same coin? I think it's a great compliment she gave you at the very end when she said that this interview was very different from other interviews she does! Anyway, well done guys!

Just two things: was interesting to hear her confirm that when writing she learned to trust and allow the Universal Mind the development of the story and the characters. She said in most books honesty and not really facing up to the truth are themes and then realising as reader that you yourself have flaws and to acknowledge this, to learn to tell the truth about ourselves and subsequently help readers read about such characters and realise: O, that could be me, and this is how such and such deals with it in the story and it works out and i could perhaps do that too, and in the process Mary says she helps herself like that as well; working through her own character through her fictional characters, who are really all Mary.

Also interesting what she says at 44:20, when telling about her former career way back as an English teacher, she noted that some kids in her class (f.i. when discussing the characters of MacBeth and Lady MacBeth) were just not capable of empathizing with human weakness, she calls this a terrible deficiency, if you cannot empathize with other people, you must either be perfect yourself or really hate yourself. But she steers clear of having psychopaths play roles in her books and i am glad for that, they have no role in a new world based on STO values.
 

Mililea

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FOTCM Member
Well, I would say - patience and no hurry....
There are over 170 books on the list (currently) and each I´ve read brought me something to think about.
I cannot speed read + when I start series, I´m in it all the way, consumed with characters and their destinies.

I felt the same at one point, but then I thought - if I´ve moved to the next new book every time Laura suggested a new one, I´d have half of the series not finished! :lol:

+ Mekenzies are awesome! ;-)
It is done... :lkj:
I got through the MacKenzie series and am very proud of it. Thanks to Laura and Mari, you guys contributed and I can't tell you how happy I am about it. The stories were all beautiful and I actually felt like I was a part of the whole family when I read them. I felt all the ups and downs. Had to laugh and cry. Got thoughtful and sometimes really had to tear myself away from reading every spare minute.
Now I am very excited about Mary Balogh and am now faced with the decision of which of her books to start with. :read:

It's better and more satisfying to stick with a series.
I can only subscribe to that, thank you for this project. I learn very, very much about myself. :love:
 

PERLOU

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
J'ai terminé " Le prince charmant existe-t-il ? " Tome 2 de Caroline Linden...
Je viens de commencer " Sur la route de Maryfield " Tome 3 de Caroline Linden...
C'est le dernier de la série de trois concernant trois jeunes filles s'étant rencontrées dans un pensionnat de luxe...

I finished "Does Prince Charming exist? "Book 2 by Caroline Linden...
I have just started "On the Road to Maryfield" Volume 3 by Caroline Linden...
This is the last in a series of three about three girls who met at a fancy boarding school...
 

Laura

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J'ai terminé " Le prince charmant existe-t-il ? " Tome 2 de Caroline Linden...
Je viens de commencer " Sur la route de Maryfield " Tome 3 de Caroline Linden...
C'est le dernier de la série de trois concernant trois jeunes filles s'étant rencontrées dans un pensionnat de luxe...

I finished "Does Prince Charming exist? "Book 2 by Caroline Linden...
I have just started "On the Road to Maryfield" Volume 3 by Caroline Linden...
This is the last in a series of three about three girls who met at a fancy boarding school...

Perlou, it is not necessary to report when you start or finish a book if you have no other input.
 

Eboard10

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
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.
Thanks for sharing @nicklebleu. I haven't yet had any re-surfacing of old memories while reading the novels, let alone possible memories from a past life (still only on book no. 6 after all) but I keep an open mind without having any expectation. I was still able to relate to some of the dynamics between the main characters, especially those from Balogh's Web Trilogy and reflect on my own shortcomings when dealing with similar situations in the past.

Thinking back on why I have been struggling in getting into a serious relationship, I always had this deep sense of insecurity which prevented me from opening up to others and created narratives to justify my emotional unavailability when getting close to someone, focusing on our differences and how it could never work in the long term. While I enjoyed the company, the conversations, the going outs, as soon as there was a hint of intimacy I would become distant to avoid opening up about my feelings.

I have found it so hard talking about anything remotely intimate and emotional with others that I was starting to lose hope, but after embarking on this project I feel that there is still a glimmer of hope no matter how small. While I am still far from becoming an emotionally open person, I am starting to make baby steps and this makes me somewhat hopeful.
 

Keit

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So I finished reading "Married in Haste". Really liked it. It was very cute. :-) And I am putting all my comments in the spoiler section.
There are nice passages where you see real friendship and camaraderie between the female characters too. Fighting off petty tyrants.

How did the book make me feel? A deep sense of longing for those very things-friendship, love & family, trust.

That's also how I felt. It was very interesting and healing to read about several young women with different personalities or backgrounds (in case of George), and how they were able to get along and also care about each other.

In the 1st book "Marry in Haste" I liked Cal character; for a soldier, he was quite chaotic and hectic (like: "ok, since Emm doesn´t want to be hired, I´ll marry her." I mean - what!? :-D )

Yes, it was rather comical and actually showed the difference between males and females thinking. Cal saw it as a problem that had to be solved, and so initially he went to talk to Emm, she refused, he left and then had a Eurika moment: "Oh, I can marry her! Problem solved!", and came back. 😅 But then on the other hand, one could also speculate that despite him not being consciously in touch with his emotions, he obviously (or one would hope) wouldn't propose a marrage just to anyone. ;-)

I´m guessing now, that I´m about to see also a change of character for her sister, Lady Agatha, who might turn not so stiff and hard by the end of the series. I think that Lilly already cracked and shook her a little in the second book, but I suppose I´ll see....

I am now reading the second book "Marry in Scandal" and enjoy it immensely. The plot is both suspenseful and engaging, and there is a lot of humor despite having to deal with a serious situation. Also at the beginning of the book Lilly indeed managed to provide Aunt Agatha with her piece of mind in a very skillfull manner.

But I was actually impressed how Emm handled it in the first book. It was an excellent example of being impeccable while facing a petty tyrant. And the result was Aunt Agatha saying about her later on that she had a spine. ;-)

My only real complaint so far about all of these books is the endings... It's almost like the publisher says, "Okay, write me a 300-page romance novel!"

So the authors start writing, often weaving relatively complex stories with evolving characters, and so on... Then the author reaches 295 pages, says, "Oh crap! How am I going to wrap this up in 5 pages?! OH! I know!"

  1. Pages 296-297: someone gets shot, stabbed, or otherwise grievously injured. Except you know they aren't gonna die.
  2. Page 298: Oh look, they're fine!
  3. Pages 299-300: Some months have passed, and everything is fine. Oh, and she's pregnant.

Yes, that was rather funny! I mean, these were the last pages of the book, and they were already "riding into the sunset" 😅, when suddenly drama! The villain is being handled by George and then dies, Cal gets to show off his noble and kind side, Emm is being shot but survives, and yep, her being pregnant at the very end. Talking about a "writing wrap-up" roller coaster. :-D

I also listened to two Caroline Linden's books from "The Wagers of Sin" series. I was able to find them on Youtube. Unfortunately there isn't the third one. And it was a rather successful experiment and experience. Indeed hearing intonations and emotions being expressed in the voice makes all the difference! It was narrated by Beverley A. Crick. To tell the truth, at first I was actually unprepared to hear steamy scenes being narrated like this. 😅

I am taking a break from Balogh and started reading Wagers of Sin. I finished the first book in a couple of days! Very easy to read, engaging story, enough drama but not Baloghian proportions :-P, interesting characters, some nice sex scenes but not the Cambellian descriptions and repetitions. All in all, a good old romance story. Looking forward to finding out what happened to Elisa!

Yep, me too, and it was quite a story, albeit nothing really groundshaking or tragic. It did have an impact on me because when growing up I had issues with appearance, especially when it came to possible attention from the opposite sex. So I could relate to Elisa's concerns.

And now am listening to the first Bridgerton novel, "The Duke and I", also because I was curious after reading Alejo's opinion here and wanted to compare the narrations. :-)
 

iamthatis

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FOTCM Member
When my Dad was born, he was the youngest of 11 children, born into a Mennonite family in Alberta, Canada. My Dad's oldest brother is 19 years older than him. My Grandma, bless her soul, was having children for 19 years - and as far as I know, no birth complications or issues with any of my eleven Aunts or Uncles. She also grew most of their food in the empty lot beside the house in a big incredible garden. She was always baking pies and muffins 'by instinct' that is to say, without a recipe. What an incredible woman.

Books like the Bridgertons and the Mckenzies are so wonderful in part because I can get a sense of what it's like to have a huge family. The loyalty is astounding. When there is trouble in someone's life, this small army of people who will love you show up, defend you, support you, hold your hand, talk straight with you, say a kind or gentle word, laugh with you, cry with you, or even fight with you on your own behalf. It is so beautiful to read, so heartening to know that this is what family could be like. I've shed so many tears of happiness at that. To see that in those terrifying, desperate moments, there are people there to rely on.

It left me wondering what my Dad's big Mennonite family experience was like. I know a bit of it. As the youngest of eleven, his Mom didn't have a lot of time for him. He was loved, but he lacked the nurturing that is so crucial to the proper development of a little boy. This, paired with some of the guilt and shame programming in the Mennonite Church, has been one of the main lessons he had to deal with his whole life.

When him and my Mom got together, they figured out what to do about it. They made a conscious decision to nurture and love my brother and myself as fully as they could. So my Dad learned from the deep pain of his early childhood abandonment, and made use of his pain in order to stop that pattern from repeating in my brother and I. Their love and their care when my brother and I were small saved us from a world of pain and trauma. Dad had to experience that in order to know it, and make the choice to end it with him. I know that it was a struggle for him. But he made that choice. I feel so grateful and blessed to have such wise and loving parents.

I haven't seen many of my Dad's relatives in many, many years. I have so many of them - but most of them I don't know at all. So there is grief in that, in reading these books and seeing what family could be like, and then looking at how I distant I am from my own family. Recently, I asked my Dad if he had the contact info of my Aunts and Uncles, so I could just say hello, ask them how they are, to make contact. Maybe in remembering that I belong to a large, complicated, messy group of people, I'll a better sense of who I am, and we all will get a better sense of who we are as a family. Although it has been many, many years, I see that it's never too late to speak. Who knows? Maybe Love will reply.
 

Adaryn

The Living Force
Thanks for sharing @nicklebleu. I haven't yet had any re-surfacing of old memories while reading the novels, let alone possible memories from a past life (still only on book no. 6 after all) but I keep an open mind without having any expectation. I was still able to relate to some of the dynamics between the main characters, especially those from Balogh's Web Trilogy and reflect on my own shortcomings when dealing with similar situations in the past.

Thinking back on why I have been struggling in getting into a serious relationship, I always had this deep sense of insecurity which prevented me from opening up to others and created narratives to justify my emotional unavailability when getting close to someone, focusing on our differences and how it could never work in the long term. While I enjoyed the company, the conversations, the going outs, as soon as there was a hint of intimacy I would become distant to avoid opening up about my feelings.
Opening up is always harder for men, so these books are very helpful in that regard. You can have emotions/feelings and even express them, and still be a man ! Amazing ;-)
I'm a bit at the other end of the spectrum: I abused the opening up / intimacy angle in most relationships (not necessarily romantic ones). But I realize more and more (I kind of knew it before, but these books make it perfectly clear, when comparing the protagonists' behaviour to my own), that it was more a way to manipulate the other emotionally and feed on the drama. It was fake intimacy and fake opening up, with no real commitment on my part, and no real will to make it work. That's why, I suppose, I never married. I always left the door open for a way out, because "who knows? If that's 'not it' (and I always decided after a while that it was not 'it'), I can call it quits and somewhere down the road, someone 'better' will come along". It was like chasing some fantasy and some impossible ideal, and hurting others in the process; it didn't matter if *I* was lacking in terms of matching any feminine ideal, and in the end I only ever hooked up with men-boys; in a way, you attract what you are… well not always (thinking of decent women who 'love' psychopaths), but in some cases you do. At least, I think I attracted partners whose level of Being was similar to mine.

Anyway, after kind of dragging my feet to finish the Horsemen Trilogy, I'm really enjoying The Secret Pearl. I like the male hero (a disfigured man with a somewhat foreboding appearance and a strong sense of duty), and the tension (the heroine is in mortal danger, which makes the stakes higher and the story more gripping than the rather slow-paced and "placid" Horsemen trilogy).
As an aside, I found it funny that Mary B. said in her interview that today, she'd never write a story such as James and Madeline's (Web series) because it was so harsh. But however painful it was, it's still my favourite book so far (along with Seven nights)!

Just a comment to what Chu wrote to me in a previous post:

(Chu) But the risk there is in concluding that "innocence is lost", "I can't trust anyone", "everyone is sh**", etc. Perhaps that's part of the "lesson profile", and you're meant to learn the opposite in spite of the traumatic experiences.
Though there's probably something like that going on (being afraid to trust etc), I think you're most generous here :-) Lately, I've been wondering: what if I'm the one who's untrustworthy? What if I was unreliable for any kind of close authentic relationship? What if I was unable and, actually, unwilling to commit? I'm not waiting for an answer, no one here can do that for me, but those are just the things I've pondered over, reading those books.
 

hlat

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
I finished The Accidental Wedding (Anne Gracie's Devil Riders book 4). At this point, I'm unable to determine whether my thoughts and feelings are due to this book alone or to the overall romance novel project. There's family rallying around each other and sticking together, but also real conflict within family that only heals after people actually change, stand their ground in the name of love and truth, and air out their positions bluntly. Sometimes external consideration and bull just won't do the job for a close relationship.
I refer to Maddy and Aunt Gosford blasting each other. Apparently it's not just men who can fight and then become closer. But Aunt Gosford would've kept rejecting Maddy had Maddy tried to play nice and say what she thought Aunt Gosford wanted to hear. Instead of Maddy saying I love him, it was it's none of your business! Aunt Gosford would've never believed Maddy had Maddy said I love him.
I guess I see a lot of people afraid, unwilling, trying to avoid conflict with family and loved ones. But if they're smart, they'll sense bull and lack of sincerity, and that will not resolve the issue in a meaningful way. Sometimes it takes head on conflict with family and loved ones, for a chance of a positive resolution. A superficial relationship may transform through conflict into a good relationship, or conflict may end the relationship.

Recently, I asked my Dad if he had the contact info of my Aunts and Uncles, so I could just say hello, ask them how they are, to make contact.
Something to think about before making any contact is, what is Dad's relationship to them? Perhaps you could learn something from your Dad, and through that lesson find that it is not necessary to contact them. After all, in your family, isn't loyalty to your loving Dad more important than some distant family with whom you have no relations? Maybe your Dad has some very good reasons not to be in contact.
 

seve

Jedi
Hello everyone, I have finally "accepted" the purpose of these readings. I have some relationship problems and an expression of hurt emotion. I understood one thing a few years ago, it's the explosion of good emotions when we are moved by something, it opens the heart, it's the same for these readings it opens the emotional channels and releases our blockages. :flowers:
 

Eboard10

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
Though there's probably something like that going on (being afraid to trust etc), I think you're most generous here :-) Lately, I've been wondering: what if I'm the one who's untrustworthy? What if I was unreliable for any kind of close authentic relationship? What if I was unable and, actually, unwilling to commit? I'm not waiting for an answer, no one here can do that for me, but those are just the things I've pondered over, reading those books.
That was very nicely put Adaryn :-) The above quote is also the same conclusion I have come to after much thought. I was always focusing on leaving the door open for a way out, fearing that if it wasn't the right person I would have a hard time getting out of the relationship due also in part to my timid and introvert personality, not realising how selfish and self-centred those thoughts were. My parents' own expectation of the kind of partner I should be with has also added to the burden and my reluctance to confront this issue has contributed to my current situation.

I have since realised that I may very well be the untrustworthy one, not being willing to commit, to take on the role of a responsible person that my partner can look up to and find comfort in times of need while I should instead be working towards becoming just such a person and finding common ground where differences are present. And that of course requires opening up and talking about these things to begin with, something I clearly need to work on.
 

France

Jedi Master
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

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.....

Indeed, for some series I have that touch a range of beliefs or ridiculous interpretations according to certain social classes, that make me "deconstruct" certain schemes of thought and pass some stages of grief to reconstruct a new way of seeing.

When I was young, I perceived the haughty and I got away from them.

And reading these books, the authors demonstrate the illogical rules of those times to keep the image of the "correct" aristocrat.

Anger often came at the beginning of my reading of these books. And now, I don't feel it anymore when I read "these absurd rules", I catch myself laughing.

And as I go through the readings, when situations come up in my life and I see or hear "haughty or unaccountable" people talking about their rules or obligations, it makes me laugh because I see things differently.

The haughty or indifferent side no longer brings anger but detachment. This is different from the attitude of walking away that I used to have and that was part of my baggage as beliefs

Effectivement, pour certaines séries j'ai qui touchent une gamme de croyances ou des interprétations ridicules selon certaines classes sociales, cela me faire "déconstruire" certains schèmes de pensée et passer certaines étapes du deuil pour reconstruire une nouvelle façon de voir.

Jeune, je percevais les hautains et je m'en éloignais.

Et en lisant ces livres, les auteurs démontrent les règles illogiques de ces époques pour garder l'image de l'aristocrate "correct".

La colère venait souvent au début de mes lectures de ces livres. Et maintenant, je ne la sens plus quand je lis "ces règles absurdes", je me surprend à me voir rire.

Et au fur et à mesure que j'avance dans les lectures, lorsqu'il arrive des situations dans ma vie et que je vois ou que j'entends de personnes "hautaines ou non-responsable" parler de leurs règles ou obligations, ça me fait rire car je vois les choses autrement.

Le côté hautain ou indifférent n'amène plus la colère mais le détachement. C'est différent de l'attitude de s'éloigner que j'avais avant et qui faisait parti de mon bagage comme croyances.
 

Andrian

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
I've read the first two books from Merridew series by Anne Gracie. The first book, The Perfect Rake, i've found it heartwarming and pretty funny thanks to Gideon's character. Prue's unconditional love and protectiveness for her sisters changed the course of their lives and other people in a dramatic way.

Once again while reading the story one gets a closer glimpse at the vulnerabilities and weaknesses that one develops when exposed to a painful and traumatic event in one's life and how with the help and assistance of others one is able to grow from his own weaknesses and become wiser and stronger.

While reading the second book The Perfect Waltz I think I've started finally to learn what it means putting oneself in other people's shoes and I know that it will take me awhile to do that. I never thought how really messed up, self absorbed, emotionally and empathically blind one can be when exposed to a traumatic event or abuse in his life especially if at that moment there was basically no one for him to show him his love, compassion and kindness.

By observing Sebastian's, Elinore's behavior and attitude towards others you can see clearly how their actions can impact other people's lives in a radical way. Can you imagine the karmic burden one could carry and pay afterwards due to his messing up with the destiny of other people?

BTW, I must admit that the book stirred my emotions pretty hard, it seems it touched a nerve in me. I've enjoyed reading the story a lot.
 

Laura

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One thing about the stories that irritates me to no end, is the whole social scene of balls and parties and wanting to be "in" with the movers and shakers, so to say. Or at least that people are ruled by such petty, ridiculous motivations.

Yes, I realize it is more or less a metaphor for our own society's rules and how people have to "keep up with the Joneses" no matter what social environment they are in, and I guess that is really what irritates me: that people are so concerned about things that matter so little.
 
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