Romantic Fiction, Reality Shaping and The Work

Alejo

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Hi guys,

Just finished Only a Kiss, from Mary Balogh, Book 6 in the Survivor's club series. This was a particularly enjoyable story, probably my second favorite from the series so far. It follows Imogen and Percy, who has now inherited the title that would’ve been her ex husband’s should he have not died in the peninsula.

I’ve enjoyed all of Mary Balogh’s books, but I particularly enjoy the ones with older couples, there’s a frankness of discourse and a certain maturity that makes for a very nice flow of conversation, the challenges are different and both Percy and Imogen being older, makes this one of those stories.

There are several interesting ideas that I wanted to share with you guys, I will leave out the big reveal out, even though some of you might've read it already, but for those who haven't I do not wish to take that moment away from you. So, on to the spoiler (ish) section.

He moves in to his home, in which she’s staying and the story progresses from there, he propositions her for an affair, she decides to take a vacation from her life of solitude and accepts, as a result of their conversations, mostly pushed forward by her frankness and his bold curiosity, they get to know each other and fall in love.

She runs away, afraid of living and thinking herself unworthy of life, and he goes after her, asked her for a chance in a very powerful scene, very powerful! And they marry.

I will try not to spoil the big reveal, indeed I’ll do my best as I feel everyone should read it on their own, but it matters to their story.

Throughout the series, Imogen is always shown as the most put together of the survivors, the most disciplined, the most civil but this was a facade.

Percy calls her a marble lady, wearing a mask of marble. Though she retorts with the observation that Percy, instead, wears a mask of charm. And it occurs to me that this is a perfect description of what G would call our personality, our interface with the social world.

The structure we build to interact with it, our facade, created sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously as a way to respond to the happenings of our lives, or our previous choices.

This is a central theme in the story, at one point they’re talking about innocence, and whether it’s possible to regain it, Imogen thinks not, Percy disagrees. Because of her experiences she thinks that such events have shaped her unavoidably into who she chose to become.

There’s a conversation about this very topic, upon realizing what a jovial bored man he had been, always seeking thrill and immaturely simply existing. He asks her if it was possible to change, she responds that it is, though it sometimes takes a great calamity, as it happened to her.

This is interesting, for she’s not wrong, a great calamity brought her life from one point to another, charged her priorities and her outlook as well as her self perception, so this is true... calamity can and indeed changes us, but it could also crystallize in us the wrong change, the wrong personality and the wrong habits. So this is one of those points in which we sometimes identify with our defensive programs, born out of trauma, and become them. But it’s not the only way to achieve change.

Change can also be achieved through inspiration and allowing the light of others to shine upon us, something he says to her at the end. When she’s telling him that she’s full of darkness and would drain his light out of him, and he responds that he would fill her with it, light that is (and this is really beautiful) so that he may find his way to her in the dark, as she’d be glowing.

That’s a beautiful thought, it could sound like you're saving someone, and maybe, but also if that someone is willing to accept the light that you could offer them, then it does end up residing on them and shining back out to the world. I think that I read somewhere that there are a few ways to achieve immortality, and one of them is by living in the people that survive you by what you gave them in terms of knowledge, which is light, which is love. So in a way, what we do, and teach others, can shine on them as they live and pass it on to others.

Specially in the context of the scene, Imogen, after running away, refuses to see Percy, but Vincent, the blind survivor, comes to her and tells her that her wishes will be respected, if she refuses to see him. But that she should realize the following

We all have the right to make ourselves miserable, but that we’re not all alone and do not have the right to make someone else miserable. We’re all in this life together for better or worse (paraphrasing)

The impact of our darkness, chosen or unconscious, or that one of our light, on someone else is something we ought to attempt to be responsible for, or at least recognize. What we do, and how we do it, matters whether we realize it or not.

And that is external consideration. And with a loved one, friends, fellow members or partners, it’s an even larger effect.

There’s another aspect that I wanted to speak of and that is guilt, Imogen chose to do something that marked her for life (I won’t spoil it) and that had been her impetus for stopping to live and love. She had chosen the rest of her life to be her penitence for her actions.

And guilt can and more than likely is a very covert ego thing, it is even mentioned in this story, we wear our wounds ostentatiously in order to put ourselves above others. I’ve seen this at work, and in society in general, the whole victim mentality is precisely this. Find a deeper wound to increase your specialness. This has been discussed at length elsewhere.

But, they also explore something interesting about guilt, it’s also built upon the stories we tell ourselves, about what happened and about ourselves.

Without Percy’s curiosity, Imogen wouldn’t have been pushed to complete her story about herself to him and her, she wouldn’t have been able to escape the constant narrative she had created. We all need to add another point of view to the stories we tell ourselves about us, those that hold our guilt firmly in place. We need complete stories indeed, otherwise we shall be prisoners of the bits of it we tell ourselves.

Without this, a mistake becomes a monstrous act and defines us going forward, instead of simply being a mistake, an act of innocence, ignorance or lack of vision.

It made me ask myself a few questions: What stories do we tell to/about ourselves? and how do we narrate our lives to ourselves? What do we leave out? What do we put special focus on? How are those stories, and the way we’re telling them, defining and holding, something like guilt, shame or resentment in place? Or greatness and vanity?

And how are all those stories and their mode of speech, the mask of marble or charm that we use to either make ourselves or someone else miserable, all the while feeling completely grand about our wounds?

Does that make sense? We narrate events and choices in a way that’ll make us, inForm us, in a specific way, and thay way we construct us to ourselves and others, sometimes justifies something about ourselves we wish to hold on to.

But if one curiously pokes through these stories, with the goal of truth, the whole stable structure can fall apart and out of that calamity, change is possible.

This is beautifully depicted in this story through Percy, he’s a very likable guy, he’s funny, curious, witty and inventive. His self dialogue is one of the funniest and most engaging I’ve read in a long time, I really liked him. And one spends quite a bit of time with him and his thoughts, it's great.

As a tiny example, there's this one part of the book where he's nagging about things and he goes "I'd bet half my fortune that this would happen.... I'd bet half my fortune that this is so.... I'd bet half my fortune that... wait, that's three halves... no matter.. that this is so"

But the way it’s depicted it’s through the background of their love affair (which mirror's their dynamic), this book is also a detective story of sorts. Up until the point that Percy showed up and started to question the stability of his property, he didn’t discover a smuggling business that extended far away enough, even to cause Imogen's late husbands death, it wasn’t until his curiosity started poking, with the goal of protecting her, and finding the truth, that the stability that seemed unbreakable and better left alone (even though It was causing pain), wasn’t brought down.

And it occurred to me that this is a good idea to meditate upon, sometimes it’s all it takes to break down the structures we create about ourselves. A bit of healthy curiosity with the goal of truth, without taking ourselves so seriously, might be an easy way to navigate some of these things that we’ve had trouble with.

We can't change something that has troubled us without questioning it, and without changing our mindset about it. We can't ignore things just because we've reached a point of contentment and complacency with aspects of ourselves.

As a last thought, to summarize, we all tell ourselves stories about ourselves, but it sometimes helps to see ourselves through someone else's eyes, so that we may take on their light and thus, have complete stories. Sometimes the stories we hold on to and refuse to question, are the ones hurting us or someone else.

A curious, and funny approach to questioning these stories might be the easiest way to get there, as we wouldn't be taking ourselves too seriously.

And we all need complete stories, because how we remember ourselves might not be the truth at all, and sometimes writing these stories can be painful and shameful, but it can also be quite liberating and serene.

Thanks for reading! Now, onto Only beloved.

There's a few more observations that I've made about the series as a whole, but I will wait to share them until after I've finished the series.
 

ryu

Jedi Master
FOTCM Member
Hi guys,

Just finished Only a Kiss, from Mary Balogh, Book 6 in the Survivor's club series. This was a particularly enjoyable story, probably my second favorite from the series so far. It follows Imogen and Percy, who has now inherited the title that would’ve been her ex husband’s should he have not died in the peninsula.

I’ve enjoyed all of Mary Balogh’s books, but I particularly enjoy the ones with older couples, there’s a frankness of discourse and a certain maturity that makes for a very nice flow of conversation, the challenges are different and both Percy and Imogen being older, makes this one of those stories.

There are several interesting ideas that I wanted to share with you guys, I will leave out the big reveal out, even though some of you might've read it already, but for those who haven't I do not wish to take that moment away from you. So, on to the spoiler (ish) section.

He moves in to his home, in which she’s staying and the story progresses from there, he propositions her for an affair, she decides to take a vacation from her life of solitude and accepts, as a result of their conversations, mostly pushed forward by her frankness and his bold curiosity, they get to know each other and fall in love.

She runs away, afraid of living and thinking herself unworthy of life, and he goes after her, asked her for a chance in a very powerful scene, very powerful! And they marry.

I will try not to spoil the big reveal, indeed I’ll do my best as I feel everyone should read it on their own, but it matters to their story.

Throughout the series, Imogen is always shown as the most put together of the survivors, the most disciplined, the most civil but this was a facade.

Percy calls her a marble lady, wearing a mask of marble. Though she retorts with the observation that Percy, instead, wears a mask of charm. And it occurs to me that this is a perfect description of what G would call our personality, our interface with the social world.

The structure we build to interact with it, our facade, created sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously as a way to respond to the happenings of our lives, or our previous choices.

This is a central theme in the story, at one point they’re talking about innocence, and whether it’s possible to regain it, Imogen thinks not, Percy disagrees. Because of her experiences she thinks that such events have shaped her unavoidably into who she chose to become.

There’s a conversation about this very topic, upon realizing what a jovial bored man he had been, always seeking thrill and immaturely simply existing. He asks her if it was possible to change, she responds that it is, though it sometimes takes a great calamity, as it happened to her.

This is interesting, for she’s not wrong, a great calamity brought her life from one point to another, charged her priorities and her outlook as well as her self perception, so this is true... calamity can and indeed changes us, but it could also crystallize in us the wrong change, the wrong personality and the wrong habits. So this is one of those points in which we sometimes identify with our defensive programs, born out of trauma, and become them. But it’s not the only way to achieve change.

Change can also be achieved through inspiration and allowing the light of others to shine upon us, something he says to her at the end. When she’s telling him that she’s full of darkness and would drain his light out of him, and he responds that he would fill her with it, light that is (and this is really beautiful) so that he may find his way to her in the dark, as she’d be glowing.

That’s a beautiful thought, it could sound like you're saving someone, and maybe, but also if that someone is willing to accept the light that you could offer them, then it does end up residing on them and shining back out to the world. I think that I read somewhere that there are a few ways to achieve immortality, and one of them is by living in the people that survive you by what you gave them in terms of knowledge, which is light, which is love. So in a way, what we do, and teach others, can shine on them as they live and pass it on to others.

Specially in the context of the scene, Imogen, after running away, refuses to see Percy, but Vincent, the blind survivor, comes to her and tells her that her wishes will be respected, if she refuses to see him. But that she should realize the following

We all have the right to make ourselves miserable, but that we’re not all alone and do not have the right to make someone else miserable. We’re all in this life together for better or worse (paraphrasing)

The impact of our darkness, chosen or unconscious, or that one of our light, on someone else is something we ought to attempt to be responsible for, or at least recognize. What we do, and how we do it, matters whether we realize it or not.

And that is external consideration. And with a loved one, friends, fellow members or partners, it’s an even larger effect.

There’s another aspect that I wanted to speak of and that is guilt, Imogen chose to do something that marked her for life (I won’t spoil it) and that had been her impetus for stopping to live and love. She had chosen the rest of her life to be her penitence for her actions.

And guilt can and more than likely is a very covert ego thing, it is even mentioned in this story, we wear our wounds ostentatiously in order to put ourselves above others. I’ve seen this at work, and in society in general, the whole victim mentality is precisely this. Find a deeper wound to increase your specialness. This has been discussed at length elsewhere.

But, they also explore something interesting about guilt, it’s also built upon the stories we tell ourselves, about what happened and about ourselves.

Without Percy’s curiosity, Imogen wouldn’t have been pushed to complete her story about herself to him and her, she wouldn’t have been able to escape the constant narrative she had created. We all need to add another point of view to the stories we tell ourselves about us, those that hold our guilt firmly in place. We need complete stories indeed, otherwise we shall be prisoners of the bits of it we tell ourselves.

Without this, a mistake becomes a monstrous act and defines us going forward, instead of simply being a mistake, an act of innocence, ignorance or lack of vision.

It made me ask myself a few questions: What stories do we tell to/about ourselves? and how do we narrate our lives to ourselves? What do we leave out? What do we put special focus on? How are those stories, and the way we’re telling them, defining and holding, something like guilt, shame or resentment in place? Or greatness and vanity?

And how are all those stories and their mode of speech, the mask of marble or charm that we use to either make ourselves or someone else miserable, all the while feeling completely grand about our wounds?

Does that make sense? We narrate events and choices in a way that’ll make us, inForm us, in a specific way, and thay way we construct us to ourselves and others, sometimes justifies something about ourselves we wish to hold on to.

But if one curiously pokes through these stories, with the goal of truth, the whole stable structure can fall apart and out of that calamity, change is possible.

This is beautifully depicted in this story through Percy, he’s a very likable guy, he’s funny, curious, witty and inventive. His self dialogue is one of the funniest and most engaging I’ve read in a long time, I really liked him. And one spends quite a bit of time with him and his thoughts, it's great.

As a tiny example, there's this one part of the book where he's nagging about things and he goes "I'd bet half my fortune that this would happen.... I'd bet half my fortune that this is so.... I'd bet half my fortune that... wait, that's three halves... no matter.. that this is so"

But the way it’s depicted it’s through the background of their love affair (which mirror's their dynamic), this book is also a detective story of sorts. Up until the point that Percy showed up and started to question the stability of his property, he didn’t discover a smuggling business that extended far away enough, even to cause Imogen's late husbands death, it wasn’t until his curiosity started poking, with the goal of protecting her, and finding the truth, that the stability that seemed unbreakable and better left alone (even though It was causing pain), wasn’t brought down.

And it occurred to me that this is a good idea to meditate upon, sometimes it’s all it takes to break down the structures we create about ourselves. A bit of healthy curiosity with the goal of truth, without taking ourselves so seriously, might be an easy way to navigate some of these things that we’ve had trouble with.

We can't change something that has troubled us without questioning it, and without changing our mindset about it. We can't ignore things just because we've reached a point of contentment and complacency with aspects of ourselves.

As a last thought, to summarize, we all tell ourselves stories about ourselves, but it sometimes helps to see ourselves through someone else's eyes, so that we may take on their light and thus, have complete stories. Sometimes the stories we hold on to and refuse to question, are the ones hurting us or someone else.

A curious, and funny approach to questioning these stories might be the easiest way to get there, as we wouldn't be taking ourselves too seriously.

And we all need complete stories, because how we remember ourselves might not be the truth at all, and sometimes writing these stories can be painful and shameful, but it can also be quite liberating and serene.

Thanks for reading! Now, onto Only beloved.

There's a few more observations that I've made about the series as a whole, but I will wait to share them until after I've finished the series.
Thank you for your fantastic review! I you are going to love "Only Beloved".
 

Alejo

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FOTCM Member
Thank you for your fantastic review! I you are going to love "Only Beloved".
Thanks! :D

I think so too, George has been built to be such a figure in the lives of all the other survivors that there's a certain level of respect I have for the man, but also, I just realized that his story has been building throughout the 6 books, so I can't wait to see how it's all tied together. :)
 

whitecoast

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
I finished the Kerrigan Byrne series, which had a lot of pretty damaged people in it. I think my favorite one was "The Duke." I think this is a good book for people who had a lot of adversity in certain parts in their life, but who overcame them, and who had to deal with people around them who knew them from those past times and who have trouble seeing them as the person they ARE, instead of the mental image of the person they had years or decades back.

Like many of Byrne's books, it showed a lot of preoccupation with the downtrodden in society, following a nurse who moonlit as a server at a brothe to pay her late father's debt. That is how she ended up getting entangled with the duke Cole, who was a British Spy who paid off nearly a third of her debt to sleep with her. A year later she nursed him back to health at the hospital, even though she was treated rudely after he came to (not recognizing her) and got dismissed by her boss for going against the treatment protocol that would have killed the patient. After extrenuating circumstances, she ended up marrying an ailing ex-patient of hers to save her from trouble with some clients at the brothel, and as a widow took up charitable causes. Even though she ended up as Cole's neighbor he couldn't recognize her from the brothel, because of the wig and makeup she wore there for the night they spent together... in spite of this Cole has financed a lot of investigations into trying to hunt down "Ginny" because of his preoccupation with her. When they eventually meet and at a fundraiser of hers he treated her contemptuously for the poor and ex-convicts she kept in her employ at her estate. Then someone winds up dead after the fundraiser and Cole ends up coming to her rescue a few times due to a murderer being on the loose and for people who had grudges against her from her days at the brothel. Later on when Cole discovers Imogen's true identity (or false one as it were) there's a large denoument of how he's been searching for her, and yet he was in love with a fictitious illusion. The person she actually was, who wasn't meek at all and who could stand her ground for what she thought was right, even if he disagreed with her, was who she actually was. The bulk of Cole's lessons came down to accepting this fact and for loving her as she actually was and who her struggles in life made her out to actually be, and that he had to have more to offer a woman than just the power and privilege of his station. A foil to this was the antagonist who was revealed at last in the denouement, and who also could not see past the weak and vulnerable persona she had in the past. So there was an interesting contrast there I thought.

I am just starting the last book of the Bedwyn series. Two thumbs up: a solid Mary Balogh series.

The first book was about an army Colonel named Aidan Bedwyn, and a coalmine owner's daughter named Eve he promised a dying soldier (Eve's brother) to protect at all costs. A consistent theme throughout this book was about the importance of keeping one's word good, and the importance of duty to family. At the same time, there is also a counterbalance of one's own private feeling and what is necessary to make oneself truly happy as well.

There was a lot of back-and-forth in which different types of duties to family, the army, and society presented themselves. Aiden saw his duty to marry Eve to save her ownership of an estate that was filled with many downtrodden or vulnerable people on account of her own sense of duty and compassion. It is agreed to be a marriage of convenience, after which they would part ways. In exchange this came with it Eve's own duties and responsibilities as a representative of the Bedwyn family (headed by the Duke of Bewcastle), and all the more as a husband of a distinguished colonel in the army. She was forced into an alien environment of the city, and felt totally subjected to their social pressures for dress and behavior. In being presented to the Queen, she defiantly wore a black dress to mourn her brother. Against everyone's recommendations, that decision payed off with a positive regard and complement from the Queen, which was a nod to the importance of authenticity in spite of the importance of decorum. Later on the antagonist who was "cheated" out of the ownership of the estate due to Eve's marriage takes blood children of his family's from whom they were estranged to punish and get back at Eve. This spurred a departure of Eve from London, and Aiden went with her in deviance of his elder brother the Duke to help save them. They spoke and negotiated with the magistrate, and made the case for the exploitation of the children by this antagonistic uncle. Ultimately the Duke of Bewcastle himself showed up to that hearing against demands also being made against him to also petition for the return of the adoptees, on the grounds that Eve was a Bedwyn and their family matters deserved the full attention and support of the family. After the return of Eve's adopted children, there was no more official reason for Aiden to stay with Eve, but he kept delaying his departure for the army. At the end ultimately he took her for a romantic trip out by the river of the estate late at night, and told her there he was going to sell out of the army and live full-time with her as a steward for the property.

I really enjoyed this story, because of the many ways it depicted the sense of duty, and how it can be multilayered, sometimes contradictory, but no less essential fabric that makes up a marriage. In the end it was Aiden choosing his own happiness of being with Eve over his martial duties, but in a way it was also about the duty that a husband has to make a marriage work, where everyone's happiness is essential to is functioning properly. In later books Even admits they married for horribly wrong reasons (duty), but that it ultimately worked out in the end because it was in fulfiling the duty that made them happiest.
 

Alejo

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The first book was about an army Colonel named Aidan Bedwyn, and a coalmine owner's daughter named Eve he promised a dying soldier (Eve's brother) to protect at all costs. A consistent theme throughout this book was about the importance of keeping one's word good, and the importance of duty to family. At the same time, there is also a counterbalance of one's own private feeling and what is necessary to make oneself truly happy as well.
I really enjoyed the Bedwyn series, they make sporadic appearance in the Survivor's club series and it's such a treat.
 

whitecoast

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
I really enjoyed the Bedwyn series, they make sporadic appearance in the Survivor's club series and it's such a treat.
Looks like I read the two series in backwards order! 🙃

The second book of the Bedwyn series starred Judith and Rannulf. This was a good book for people who have had self-image issues most of their lives and were shamed into being demur and not allowing their own talents and gifts to shine in the world. There are issues also related to elephants in the room in family dynamics and how silence (even well-intentioned) can sometimes wreck a family. More negative family dynamics were also at play, where someone was continuously put down and made invisible to alleviate the insecurities of a relative of similar age. The male protagonist gets a strong foil for his own rakish and profligate behavior in life as well, and how if he were from a less well-to-do family he may also be jeopardizing people's well-being by his own immaturity and gallivanting. Familial duty plays a smaller role than in Book 1, but do under-gird Rennalf's story arc in turning towards settling down finally. Good lessons here were about how loving someone means wanting them to shine and come into their own glory and expansiveness, rather than fearing for its exploitation and misuse (with regard to Judith's father).

Judith and Rannulf meet up on the road and end up shaking up together (posing as newlyweds at the inn) en route to their new homes, which unbeknownst to them are located very close to one another and have many social interactions together. In this environment she got to be herself and adopt an identity in which she could act out all the theatre arts she adored but was discouraged to express by her family. Rannulf catches this glimpse of her, and then later on wishes to get her to share that gift of hers with others, which is a pivotal accomplishment for Judith later.

There seems to be a lot of plot similarities between Bedwyn Book 2 and Survivor's Club Book 2 (Vincent & Sophie), wherein the female protagonist is a poor relation who gets cast out of the house for sabotaging an attempted marital entrapment conspiracy. In Survivor's club it only takes up a small portion of Sophia's story arc, whereas it takes up 2/3 to 3/4 of the story. The chief difference is that in Bedwyn Book 2 Judith is seen very much as a material threat to the succesful matchmaking of one of antagonists, and her beauty has given her a lot of sometimes unwanted attention. Part of Judith's lesson was not to see others appreciating her beauty as a threat (she almost gets sexually assaulted), although the attempted rape Rannulf thwarted triggered every instinct of hers to run away and hide. I was really touched by the letter Judith received from her grandmother at the end of the story, before the attempted framing condcuted against Judith was uncovered; her grandmother apologized for having a moment of doubt and believing that her granddaughter was capable of stealing, and begged her for forgiveness. I guess it was the faith and love she had for her granddaughter in spite of apparently compromising circumstances was particularly sweet and powerful.
 
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Alejo

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Looks like I read the two series in backwards order! 🙃

The second book of the Bedwyn series starred Judith and Rannulf. This was a good book for people who have had self-image issues most of their lives and were shamed into being demur and not allowing their own talents and gifts to shine in the world. There are issues also related to elephants in the room in family dynamics and how silence (even well-intentioned) can sometimes wreck a family. More negative family dynamics were also at play, where someone was continuously put down and made invisible to alleviate the insecurities of a relative of similar age. The male protagonist gets a strong foil for his own rakish and profligate behavior in life as well, and how if he were from a less well-to-do family he may also be jeopardizing people's well-being by his own immaturity and gallivanting. Familial duty plays a smaller role than in Book 1, but do under-gird Rennalf's story arc in turning towards settling down finally. Good lessons here were about how loving someone means wanting them to shine and come into their own glory and expansiveness, rather than fearing for its exploitation and misuse (with regard to Judith's father).

Not to worry, I remember I got through the 4th book in the series before touching the first one... lol it spoiled it a bit but not majorly, it did however gave me a lot of impetus to catch up with my own mistake.

I remember really liking Judith in this book, she had a few very powerful scenes. It's about recognizing who you are and allowing that to shine through instead of who you think others which to see.
 

Voyageur

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Finished reading the 10 Dukes and Duchesses of The 1797 Club series by Jess Michaels. It seems to me that this series was commented upon early on in the thread, so not a lot needs be repeated.

Each Duke and Duchess came from lives of parental traumas, in one form or another, and for the author's 'club' title, there are so many instances to draw upon when featuring twenty main characters and their friends and families. The books were somewhat prescriptive, yet there was enough differences of the characters to make the things they overcame important. One of the main importances, was both the Dukes and Duchesses had such strong support for each other - rallying around as a group - a network, to help elevate those who were internally suffering and externally being exposed to those who wish them ill, or those that laid their own violence and failings upon their own children.

Again, overall, Balogh's stories seem to capture some spark that does not exists with other authors, which does not mean that other authors to not capture their characters, plots, and their individual troubles and emotions well - can't put my finger on it exactly, other than to say that there is a little more that Mary offers to the imagination, and a deeper knowing of the human being, biases notwithstanding.

Not sure if anyone read Jess's follow up titled The Duke's By-Blows series, as it was noted at the end of Book #10 that continues with the character, the Duke of Roseford from the 1797 series. The book is named The Love of a Libertine (and Roseford knew a great deal about being one):

When Morgan Banfield wakes up in Newgate after a night of debauchery, the last thing he wants to see is his estranged brother {his would be Roseford}. But in exchange for his help, Morgan must agree to take on responsibility and try to get his life together by taking on the job of Man of Affairs for a friend.
If it was mentioned, must have missed it in search of it. So will wait to see if it was recommended.

Edit: fix and add:

Went ahead with this book, and right away the story begins where book #8 of the 1797 Club starts, with the Elisabeth (Lizzie), the sister of Hugh Margolis, the Duke of Brighthollow (The Duke who Lied). For people who have read #8, you already know that the sister, Lizzie, due to circumstances, meets Aaron Wallters only to discover who he was.

Fast forward to this new book, The Duke of Roseford interacts with Brighthollow regarding his step-brother, Morgan, so you can see where this might be going in regard to book #8, so do not want to say too much.
 
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ryu

Jedi Master
FOTCM Member
I'm still reading the Web series, but I wanted to share a video of Michael Brown, author of the Process of the Presence. It's a short extract of the interview where he talks about how Intimacy and sexuality can be used to heal, to share, to support one's partner and to see oneself better. I think it fits what we're talking about here:
 

hlat

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
I finished Someone to Cherish, the last book currently available in Mary Balogh's Westcott series. I liked it and highly recommend the whole series, and this book could've been the natural conclusion of the series, if I didn't know the next book is coming out next month.

The first book of the series Someone to Love was light and fun so I thought the whole series might be, and it was for a few books, but then the later books were darker with psychopathic narcissistic masterminds, murder, rape.

I found it bizarre for there to be a virgin widow. Is there really such a thing as a man who loves priesthood and celibacy so much that he won't sleep with his wife? Is this found in the real world, or is this a Fonzie jumping the shark moment? It certainly does not seem like a common human experience.

I liked the concept of a young man on the wrong path headed towards becoming a scoundrel, who then suffers unimaginable horrors and survives and heals to become a good man that he never would've been without the suffering. His story runs as an arc across the entire series, and only at the end do we see the whole of his experience. He put on a good face and called war a lark, but he kept his hatred inside and endured depression and went through a 10 year arc before finally finding happiness.
 

Laura

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I finished Someone to Cherish, the last book currently available in Mary Balogh's Westcott series. I liked it and highly recommend the whole series, and this book could've been the natural conclusion of the series, if I didn't know the next book is coming out next month.

The first book of the series Someone to Love was light and fun so I thought the whole series might be, and it was for a few books, but then the later books were darker with psychopathic narcissistic masterminds, murder, rape.

I found it bizarre for there to be a virgin widow. Is there really such a thing as a man who loves priesthood and celibacy so much that he won't sleep with his wife? Is this found in the real world, or is this a Fonzie jumping the shark moment? It certainly does not seem like a common human experience.

I liked the concept of a young man on the wrong path headed towards becoming a scoundrel, who then suffers unimaginable horrors and survives and heals to become a good man that he never would've been without the suffering. His story runs as an arc across the entire series, and only at the end do we see the whole of his experience. He put on a good face and called war a lark, but he kept his hatred inside and endured depression and went through a 10 year arc before finally finding happiness.

I just finished that one recently myself. What's the title of the upcoming one and when will it be out?

I was a bit surprised about the 'virgin widow' thing myself, though there were a few hints early on. And yeah, I think there are fanatics like that though usually that sort of fanaticism has a much darker side where the person is a saint on the outside and a pervert in private. But then, forcing a woman into such a marriage is surely some kind of perversion itself.
 

Alejo

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Hey guys,

I have just finished Only Beloved, by Mary Balogh, the last book in the Survivor's club series, very nicely done I must say, I will share a few ideas from this book that I found interesting and then a few ideas about the series as a whole, which I don't hints represent a spoiler, so those will be after the spoiler section.

As it couldn't be otherwise, the story follows George, the Duke of Stanbrook and owner of Panderris hall, where all the survivors spent years healing, and Dora, someone we met in a previous story. George, after Imogen's wedding finds himself feeling lonely and when considering the idea of marrying, he can think of only one candidate, Dora.

She is a 39 year old spinster who sacrificed her life to make sure that her sister Agnes had a "mother". He calls on her, proposes marriage and she accepts as that had been part of what she had always yearned for, and George had already caught her interest. Her life changes dramatically, they go through some horrible trials, and in the end admit to loving one another, and the story ends with a big celebration of life by all the survivors and their supposes, and children on Panderris land.

Now, there are several ideas in this book that caught my interest, George is such an interesting character, probably one of the most integrated persons in the whole series, kind, gentle and self aware. With a heart of gold and a gift for bringing people happiness, very mature and ready to help and share love with those in need. But, he has a hard time receiving.

He is described as someone with kind eyes, but those eyes also showed sadness, deep sadness. He had grown to comfort himself by comforting others, as Dabrowski would suggest perhaps, the best way to deal with our depression is to help someone else, and George is such an example of this principle. The lovely scene occurs with Dora suggest to George that he comforts her, if that comforts him, but that he should allow her to comfort him as well.

She knows, and this is made clear on several spots during their story, that George, has a hard time opening up to others about himself, about letting others help him directly, about receiving comfort. He had instead attempted to address the emptiness he had inside, from the grief he lived with, after loosing his ex-wife and son (though there's a lot more to this story! more on that below), by filling the emptiness outside (in his large lonely estate) by turning his home into a hospital.

The way he describes the decision making process of such an endeavor is interesting, he said something like, if you ask a question out to the universe, and take care enough not to invent the answer, the answer will come. And as such, he spent 12 years giving his pain some meaning, seeing himself in other human beings, using his tragedy and the abuse he had been prey to into empathy for others.

That was a terribly complex concept presented in such a simple way, to find a way to give utility to your feelings, not as a way to ignore them, or self aggrandize, but as the only path to salvation and healing. To turn terrible darkness into incandescent light. The type that shines but also warms and heals.

And only after spending that time doing exactly that did he find it in him to seek happiness, joy and company. Now, that made me think that, sometimes our work won't pay off right away, and maybe not at all, but our efforts aren't in vain, George healed dozens of souls and bodies, and gain the love of 6 patients, and when the time was right, love showed in his doorstep. Not as a reward exactly, but as an answer from the very universe to who he had become.

George had such an awful marriage, his wife was in love and pregnant with her half brother, who made their life impossible, and then came back after to try to kill Dora. Despite this, George loved his step son, and mourned his loss after he begged him to send him off to war, his wife was pregnant again and could not widtstand the loss, so she killed herself, her lover and half brother, accused George all his life, to the point of wanting to kill Dora and her unborn child, though he dies in the attempt.

There's a nice contrast between George and his ex-wife, there's the fact that George used his pain and grief and the awful hand he had been dealt to rise and shine, she could not withstand it and chose oblivion. Between George and his ex-wife's lover, he took the tragedy of life and chose obsession and revenge, he chose to remain decent and kind, and use grief to help him see it in others and help them out of the hole.

It could be said the George was the example of giving until it hurts, and I think there's a risk of seeing the story as such, however, I think there's another way to look at him. As an example of integrated values, of being gentle despite what's thrown at you, of being decent in indecent times or indecent conditions, of choosing the high road when it would be so understandable to do otherwise, when most would do otherwise.

And what you get in return may be a bit more suffering, but the change of making conscious decisions in your soul extends beyond immediate pleasure or satisfaction. It's also interesting in terms of lethargic entropy, behaving by default is not applying our conscious selves on to what life throws at us, it's allowing base drives and default programs to run our existence for survival, it's not really choosing to live when you think about it.

George had, also, grown so accustomed to helping others navigate their issues, that he had a hard time letting Dora in, not sharing with her sooner is one of the reasons that she found herself at death's doorstep. So, knowledge protects was beautifully depicted in this story.

Which brings me to the end of the book, life, that's what the survivor's chose throughout their stories. That's what it's about, we're all handed awful hands in one way or another. We're all in a bad place and have experienced wounds and injury and betrayal, we have been cheated on and humiliated, made mistakes, costly ones and silly ones. We have all disappointed someone we love, or felt disappointed by them, been abandoned, mistreated, hurt by ignorance and malice, hurt others ignorantly or with intent on revenge.

All and way more than that, the daily question, the book presents us with, and in truth the series as a whole, is what do we do about it? Do we choose life? which implies choosing over our reactions about all of the things that have happened to us, or do we allow those events to define us, not to help us build ourselves and see other human beings (and the universe) better, but to define us.

To turn us into the hurt, the betrayed, the resentful and vengeful beings that we can be? or do we choose life? which isn't being a meek individual, but who has the capacity to choose how to react.

There was a realization about the series, may have been on purpose or maybe not. Panderris Hall was their safe haven, their place of network and sharing and healing. The place where they all looked forward to be in, the one where they could go and nourish their souls and, their fellow survivor's were confidants. And without Panderris Hall in their lives, they could not have moved forward with their lives, indeed, sharing openly and honestly, having someone to see you as you are and reflect upon you with sincere wishes for your well being is a priceless commodity to have.

However, they all needed to work their issues out there in the real world, to test our their progress in the real world with people who weren't friends or even knew anything about their issues. And it struck me that, it's like that with everything, we have our safe spaces of thought and friendship, but we really have to step out of our comfort zones to try on our new muscles, to see if we actually did learn to walk, or speak, or see, or trust, or feel, or think.

So, it was interesting to see that, real progress can't be made in a safe space, we need some scrapes from the real world to test ourselves out. We can't talk ourselves better, or put another way, progress goes beyond simply describing our issues and describing the path to health, more than intellectually seeing it, one has to walk one's words.

Thanks for reading!

I thoroughly enjoyed the survivor's club series, I think next up will be the Simply Quartet.
 

PerfectCircle

Jedi Master
I started this project with a big scepticism, to be honest, but it wasn't bad at all.
It was both, useful reflection of inner struggle one can deal with, which can be translated to our own lives, but also kind of an escape from our current, crazy times.
Having completed the Bridgertones, I see that many people read Mary Balogh, so which one of her books would you recommend me to begin with?
 

hlat

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
I started this project with a big scepticism, to be honest, but it wasn't bad at all.
It was both, useful reflection of inner struggle one can deal with, which can be translated to our own lives, but also kind of an escape from our current, crazy times.
Having completed the Bridgertones, I see that many people read Mary Balogh, so which one of her books would you recommend me to begin with?
I like the Westcott series, starting with book 1 Someone to Love.
 
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