Romantic Fiction, Reality Shaping and The Work

Alejo

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When you read a series of Mary Balogh’s books, it struck me sometimes the villains (I’m referring not to the psychopathic ones, rather just the damaged humans) in one book become the love interest in another. It is really interesting to read that when the character meets their match the interactions propel the couple to evolve and develop their humanity. In a previous story I find I dislike them immensely and then later in the book series, when Balogh writes their story, I find I am sympathetic towards them. Discovering all their strengths and likeable traits.
Yes, that is quite interesting, I cannot think of a single example, but it's like when they meet their match, they're given the choice of facing themselves, or rather... their habit of ignoring themselves is removed from their repertoire of possiblities, and it's in that deep discomfort that their metal is truly tested.

Which is always a very interesting question to ask oneself, because we're all decent and kind so long as our current conditions do not sway too drastically in one direction or another, also we're able to ignore certain aspects of our selves in the process of routinely life, but how would we behave should things drastically change, and we were unable to ignore the things we keep at bay constantly?
 

Stoneboss

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I’m reading The Notorious Rake and I am finding these two characters very interesting and quite engaging.

When you read a series of Mary Balogh’s books, it struck me sometimes the villains (I’m referring not to the psychopathic ones, rather just the damaged humans) in one book become the love interest in another. It is really interesting to read that when the character meets their match the interactions propel the couple to evolve and develop their humanity. In a previous story I find I dislike them immensely and then later in the book series, when Balogh writes their story, I find I am sympathetic towards them. Discovering all their strengths and likeable traits.

I just finished reading The Notorious Rake last night. And yes, I too found it so interesting that "In a previous story I find I dislike them immensely and then later in the book series, when Balogh writes their story, I find I am sympathetic towards them." To me, it's just one of the many things Mary Balogh is so good at - of bringing out the 'humanity' in us...
 

Voyageur

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Just a short review about the last 2 books I‘ve read; I don’t know which one was better!!!!

A.Gracie‘s „Gallant Waif“ and M.Balogh‘s „A Matter of Class“.

Happened across a YT introduction for A Matter of Class:


There are two of Mary's books that are sort of out of reach due to cost (and not on Kindle that could be found):

Gentle Conquest (expensive, not on Kindle)
A Counterfeit Betrothal (expensive, not on Kindle)

Of all the Standalone Novels, must say there were some very good ones, along with a few very heavy ones (a couple with intense emotional warnings - Deceived and Secret of the Hearts comes to minds). Among her books was her very first, A Mask of Deception written near 40-years ago.

July 2022 sees the title release of Remember Love, a new series (Ravenswood #1)

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Good job, Mary!
 

Laurs

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There are two of Mary's books that are sort of out of reach due to cost (and not on Kindle that could be found):

Gentle Conquest (expensive, not on Kindle)
A Counterfeit Betrothal (expensive, not on Kindle)
Hi Voyageur, i got the edition of two novels in one volume of The Notorious Rake/A Counterfeit Betrothel on Kindle from Amazon.com. I see that at present it's USD 5.29. The paperback from them is USD7.99. Enjoy your reading!
 

Alejo

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July 2022 sees the title release of Remember Love, a new series (Ravenswood #1)
I saw that! Really looking forward to it :)

Happened across a YT introduction for A Matter of Class:
This one is on my list, I haven't had a chance to pick it up yet, but it does sound interesting, I will bump it up and make it next probably.
 

Pluchi

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After reading The Beast of Bestwick by A. Howard, which I loved, I adventured into The Rakehell of Roth as it is book #2. In this book, I was a bit annoyed with the main characters playing games with each other instead of professing the love and attraction they felt for one another. Yes, they were both very young, but they clearly liked and then fell in love with each other. When they had opportunities to make amends, Winter (the male character) let the anger toward his father take the best of him and denied himself and his beloved Isobel the happiness they deserved. This happened so often that I was like "Come on! Get on with it!." I disliked the fact that the author created sex scenes in alleys, a nook of an office, an old maid room in a mansion, and in the open hills--this last one beautifully described, so I guess that's all right. I am more of the believe that a lady deserves more than sex in unexpected (even filthy?) places such as the ones named above. Yes, passion, I know... but I don't understand why Mrs. Howard (author) went in that direction. Ladies, just imagine having sex in a dirty alley in which anyone could come by (as described by the author), all sweaty and dusty after a fight with thugs, and the man that you love-- who's behind you also sweaty, dusty, and bleeding, hands you a handkerchief after having sex so you clean off his "seed." Ew..if this is supposed to sound passionate, I'm not impressed😒.

While reading I thought of my younger self when I was in a couple of relationships; I guess the fact that these characters behaved in such a way reminded me a little about times in my life when I could have saved myself some unnecessary grief if I had not played games I did not want to play. So, maybe because of how my love life had been, I was annoyed with these two characters not allowing themselves to be happy or else simply calling it quits. I will now start reading Balogh, her books sound promising.
 

Mari

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I haven’t been posting much lately in this thread but I‘ve been doing the homework. ☺️

When I see book reviews from others, I feel so out of my league and after reading so many of these books I still feel like a beginner. Well, in any case, my method is one or two of M.Balogh and then one new author that I haven’t read before.

So in the last months, I‘ve read 2 Balogh books: An Unacceptable Offer and The Secret Pearl.



An Unacceptable Offer is a book that speaks about not settling on anything less then true love. Like other Balogh‘s books, the characters are deep and real, he is so sure of himself and so proud but also ready to sacrifice himself for wellbeing of others. She is strong but naive, unsure about herself. The book had its twists and turns but it was nothing like the next book.



The Secret Pearl was devastating; I cried and cried. I think I‘ve finished the book in one day; being awake untill 3 in the night, crying and couldn’t put it down (also, noone could see me so I thought I might as well finish the book in peace and cry my heart out). Here Balogh dives in the topics that are hard to swallow in these days the same as it were then.
The couple was so tragic and caught in the web of pathological and egoistic personalities and, of course, still remained sane and uncorrupted.
I mean, it’s not that hard to figure out the end, I assumed what would happen, but not quite in that way. But still, when one reads, in that moment - I was all her and all of him.
This book came out in 1991. - only a year after „The Devil‘s Web“ so you can imagine the struggle and the sad and the painfull overall tone of the book.

Her books are really a stories to remember and to read again and again.



After M. Balogh I‘ve chosen Stacy Reid series: „The Sinful Wallflowers“.

In the 3 books, we read about friends who reject the rules of society and dare to be herself and follow their hearts and wishes. What I liked best of the series were the male characters - they were so strong in mind and spirit.



„My darling Duke“ is a story about unexpected love. I really admired the duke‘s strength of character in dealing with his problems. Not many today‘s men would have this state of mind and many would crumble.



„Her wicked Marquess“ is a story of revenge and being consumed by anger and pain.



„A Scoundrel of her own“ is a story of a never dying love and a fight to become more than society expects when one has zero to none odds of success.



Now I prepared a new author; Amalie Howard and her 2 books series „The Regency Rouges“ simply because the price of those two books is under 2€. 😅



Cheers to all!! ☺️
 

Alejo

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I guys,

I have finished The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie by Jennifer Ashley. I switched authors and I miss Balogh :( but Ashley did a well enough job, even if the difference in style is noticeable enough for me to miss Mary. A few thoughts on this book, I think that most of you have already read it, so I will make it brief.


I think in writing style, Ashley could have smoothed out a few of the interactions, not because of their intensity but because of their swiftness. One knew that Ian and Beth would end up together, but it didn't feel quite organic, a bit rushed if I must say so myself.

Beyond some of the story telling techniques, the story does have a very interesting idea at its core I think.

Ian is a "madman", kind of autistic, really good with numbers but not so great with people, suffers from rages and can be cold and direct, yet appreciates beauty in a way that is foreign to most and has an amazing memory, something that can be a blessing and a curse.

Beth, I had a hard time connecting with her for a lot of the story, she strikes me as more of a passive character who have things happen to her for the most part.

Now, without spending too much time in the details of the story, there's murder, jealousy, misunderstandings and some detective work that begins to unravel towards the end, which is when the story captured my attention.

This story made me think of one idea, the fine balance between living in, and being defined by your past, and closely inspecting it. Ian, despite his marvelous memory, was afraid of looking at his past, but also.. didn't even remember it properly.

I think we all have a past we're rather ashamed of, or scared of, or have plainly suppressed and wished it didn't exist. Now, we should not allow ourselves to be defined by our pasts, and this is true, we should move on from it, yes... but not by running away from it. The madness that our past brings into our lives comes with us wherever we go.

As such, there's a lot to be said about being comfortable with what went on in our lives, and this requires honest exploration of it, however shocking it may be, and it needs to be done.. but it should also be done carefully so as to not re traumatize ourselves.

So, this story reminded me of that, the need to spend enough time looking through our past, from the present, in order to decide the future.

Ian, needed to look through the obscure memories, so that he could leave them behind, and reclaim his ability to love someone else, to connect with his emotions and not be the cold calculating "madman" everyone, and himself, took him for. And Beth assisted him in this process, in that sense Beth represented curiosity maybe, that one nagging question in our heads that makes us wonder what went on.

The other ting that Ian reminded me of, which is a very common mistake I have made, and probably most of us, is projecting the present self into the past events and past choices. As I said above, there will always be shame, in our pasts, but sometimes this shame comes from us projecting our present selves into the person we used to be, and feel foolish.

Not that our choices in the past weren't foolish perhaps, but this is an erroneous study of history IMO, one ought not to attribute present values and ideas to events that were made with a different system. There's a difference between knowing that one ought to have acted differently, because one would act differently today, and one's actions and choices were foolish then, and thinking oneself a fool today, because one made foolish choices at one point or another.

This is not to say that one should simply distance oneself from mistakes either, not at all, but one should not hold on to them for longer than it is prudent, one will never learn if one always has the excuse of being a "madman" or a fool or an idiot. Choices ought to be understood through honesty and allowed to be what they have been, and not as defining moments that last forever.

I hope the above made sense, it's an interesting concept and I am probably making it a lot more complicated than it needs to be, perhaps a good way to summarize it would be to say that, the best way to turn our past into learning and knowledge is to visit it with the intent to learn from it and not with the desire to remain there forever and then leave, so that we may in fact live, become active participants of our destines.

In Ian's case, everything in his past dictated that he was a madman incapable of love and capable of hurt, but whether he was going to be that or not shouldn't be defined by those dictates, it's a daily choice that he couldn't make until he made peace with all those indications from his past. We all have a past that pushes at us with incredible force, to turn us into the "by default" version of ourselves, and it does take a lot of work to oppose that, but I don't see any other way to truly live.

Our lives are indeed defined by our choices, and some of those will have longer lasting effects on our lives, but if that is true, and we're still alive, then we can choose everyday to be who we wish to be and not live to meet the expectations of who we think our past dictates we ought to be.

Thank you for reading!

I will follow the series and go for Lady Isabella's scandalous marriage next.
 

Mililea

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I have finished The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie by Jennifer Ashley. I switched authors and I miss Balogh :( but Ashley did a well enough job, even if the difference in style is noticeable enough for me to miss Mary.
I was the same the other way round, I had to get used to Mary's style when I came from all sorts of stories about the Scots in the novels.

I found it very hard to sympathise with the English aristocrats in the stories at first. By now it works pretty well.

I love the Mc Kenzie series... so far my favourite and also the series that has touched me the most in all directions. I am looking forward to more spoilers from you :flowers:
 

Alejo

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I was the same the other way round, I had to get used to Mary's style when I came from all sorts of stories about the Scots in the novels.

I found it very hard to sympathise with the English aristocrats in the stories at first. By now it works pretty well.

I love the Mc Kenzie series... so far my favourite and also the series that has touched me the most in all directions. I am looking forward to more spoilers from you :flowers:
I am glad you told me this, I will definitely give Ashley an honest try and see how I feel about her. I daresay that just like any other series, the first book is usually the least interesting one, and once one gets to know the characters further on, one gets to become more fond of them.

Stay tuned! :)
 

Mari

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I have finished The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie by Jennifer Ashley. I switched authors and I miss Balogh :(
Yeah, I know the feeling… 😅

Even when Balogh hits to close to the home and some of her work is really painful to read, one really misses her deep, systematic and profound characters.

But! 😁

Mackenzies and McBrides are awesome when you get to know them! 😉

Try not to compare the authors too much and simply enjoy the book.

Some of the other authors are actually very funny. That’s why I like i.e. Gracies books; her characters have the depth of Balogh characters but are also witty, especially the older ladies who don’t care about the properties any more. 😂

Enjoy the book and I‘m looking for your next review!!!
 

Alana

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Although it was a book that has not been read, it was turned into a film series called La cocinera de Castamar, by Muñez, Fernando J. The story takes place in Spain (Madrid area), and it was a toss up between being placed on the Movies & Trivia: Picks & Pans or here. It is Romance, so added it here.

The series had 12 episodes first airing February 2021. It does not say if a second series has been in production.

The English name of the series is The Cook of Castamar. There are a few racy parts in some episodes, however overall, it is tame if not silly in parts. That being said, the costumes, sets and scenes are excellent (IMO), and some of the acting was good, too.

As the name denotes, the story centers on the new cook who had arrived at the Dukes palace. The Duke had also recently lost his love, his wife, which takes place in the opening scene. With the cook, it immediately becomes understood that the she, like many lady's have in the above Romance books, suffered in another life that begins to slowly get peeled away.

There are a number of complete sociopathic characters that are developed through the series, characters that are full of manipulations and violence right to the upper chambers of state court. The series has betrayal and redemption and much courtly pathology. There is love that develops in unusual places and loss on many levels.

The series was at first slow to develop, quirky, however it does develop with the help of some well known European actors, and again, the scenes were marvelous with detail.

Thank you for the recommendation. I watched it and liked it. I can't say I enjoyed it, the evil people and their deeds are truly inhumane. So much so, that after a point I didn't care as much about the romance as I cared about the baddies getting what they deserved.

Has anyone read the book? I have a question in the spoilers below if anyone read it. Or if those who watched the show have an idea:

Did Amelia go crazy in the end? When Gabriel finds her at the monastery (?) it sounds like he will take care of her from now on, but she has that look on her face, as if she is "gone" from reality (I found the actress playing Amelia annoying at times, but also very effective at other scenes, so it's hard to tell if she was trying to show something in that last scene about the mental state of her character or if she was "overplaying" her role).

The entire story ended abruptly (in my opinion). It was drama, drama, edge-of-your-seat drama, more drama and cliffhangers, then the end - a happy ending. Phew, but still. They could have finished a bit more smoothly if they tried a bit.

Other than that, I agree with Voyager, the story was well told, the epoch was portrayed very well, and the acting was excellent. I watched it in Spanish, what a beautiful language! There was cooking and poetry and many human and life truths in the narration. I thought they created a good portrayal of anxiety attacks as well, so keep it in mind, if anyone gets "triggered" by these things.
 

Voyageur

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Has anyone read the book? I have a question in the spoilers below if anyone read it. Or if those who watched the show have an idea:

Did Amelia go crazy in the end? When Gabriel finds her at the monastery (?) it sounds like he will take care of her from now on, but she has that look on her face, as if she is "gone" from reality (I found the actress playing Amelia annoying at times, but also very effective at other scenes, so it's hard to tell if she was trying to show something in that last scene about the mental state of her character or if she was "overplaying" her role).

Was reading about the book itself, and it is indeed a different ending.

However, despite the fact that many were delighted with this strip based on the novel by Fernando J. Múñez, the end of it disappointed more than one.
This is because what is captured on the small screen is very different from what the true writer of The Cook of Castamar dictated in his writings. So much so that the fiction script coordinator, Tatiana Rodríguez Vázquez explained that “From the beginning the chain wanted Clara and Diego to be a couple, but there were problems to relate them organically”.
Later, Rodríguez Vázquez also assured: “At one point we thought that they would not follow their story, but that they could not realize a life in common seemed to us a very sad ending”. And, after this explanation, he stated that they ended up changing the ending: “our big challenge was to make it a little different because everyone expected them to end up together. And the great dilemma was also who gave up his life, since the relationship was forbidden“, He said.
And, at that same moment he also sentenced: “We didn’t want Clara to quit. It seemed to us that it was betraying the character. The cook is a woman who prefers her training to getting married“And, to close, he snapped:”but in the book they get married and she gives up cooking, which was one of the things we resisted against”. Although, to know if the story of Diego and Clara continues, the series should produce a second part even though the book does not have a sequel.
 
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hlat

The Living Force
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I'm in middle of the Horsemen trilogy by Mary Balogh. I finished Indiscreet (book 1) and liked it overall. Catherine's suffering touched me and made me cry. One aspect I didn't like.
I thought comparing Rex to a rapist was going too far. It's true that his harassment and indiscretion ruined Catherine's 2nd life. I just can't put that side by side with rape. Maybe I'm wrong.
I'm in middle to Unforgiven (book 2). There was a scene so unbelievable that it really was absurd to me.
It's like a corny high school joke. You're so cold baby, so let me have sex with you to warm you up. I felt like I was watching the Simpsons.
 
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