Romantic Fiction, Reality Shaping and The Work

Chu

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I can see analogies from the book applying to our lives, mainly in the form of family responsibility. In the book, Henry was a bad lord, abandoning his pregnant wife and subsequent daughter, firing servants and condemning them to unemployment without the culturally necessary letters of recommendation or not providing a pension for those too old to work. On the other hand, protagonist Cal cleaned up his brother Henry's irresponsibility, arranging for the proper care for the abandoned daughter and servants. I felt I could relate to cleaning up after my in laws when they abandoned their daughter. I also thought of the concept of noblesse oblige, at least as I superficially understand it, where the rich and powerful act responsibly towards their family, servants, and society. The idea that a lord would pay a pension to his retired servant was new to me.

Funny how, depending on our background, one can get more details than others regarding some parts of the books. You picked up on those things immediately as being relevant, and could relate to the more personal aspects of them. I know I do that too. We have a "zooming lens" for what is familiar to us/part of our profession.

But I think it's a good exercise to try and pick up on things that would normally go over our heads too. It can be details about how the two protagonists relate, or the setting, or their friends, etc. Something that does what Laura has explained several times in this thread, especially when it comes to emotions. I think it's a good idea to re-read her posts here once in a while, to make sure that we stay on track and within the stated goal.:-)
 

Laura

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Right, Balogh was just setting up how it was Julia was part of the family without a direct blood connection, so that courting her 'cousins' whom she'd grown up with wouldn't be incest.

Well, cousins marrying at the time would not have been considered incest so that's an anachronous concern on the part of the author. Geeze, my genealogy is full of cousin marriages and even an uncle-niece marriage in fairly recent times (19th century). It WAS a concern to the Quakers because special permission had to be obtained for first cousin marriages and was rarely granted. The couple would then leave the congregation and marry in the Anglican church where it was permitted.
 

Laura

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Funny how, depending on our background, one can get more details than others regarding some parts of the books. You picked up on those things immediately as being relevant, and could relate to the more personal aspects of them. I know I do that too. We have a "zooming lens" for what is familiar to us/part of our profession.

But I think it's a good exercise to try and pick up on things that would normally go over our heads too. It can be details about how the two protagonists relate, or the setting, or their friends, etc. Something that does what Laura has explained several times in this thread, especially when it comes to emotions. I think it's a good idea to re-read her posts here once in a while, to make sure that we stay on track and within the stated goal.:-)

The things Hlat noticed are really good catches and contribute to the overall character of the hero versus how things were often done by the upper classes. Yes, Lords very often left bequests and pensions to faithful servants, but it wasn't mandatory, so it was very likely not done by everyone. Though I do think that such a Lord was not held in very high esteem by his peers.
 

Tauriel

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I finished the 2nd book of Jennifer Ashley's Mackenzie series "Lady Isabella's Scandalous Marriage" and it hit home big time.
Little spoiler alert ahead:
Isabella is a strong woman with a huge heart who's standing her ground even if it breaks her heart. She knows that she'd be destroyed if she stays with wild Mac and his ways.
I realised that much too often in my life (and even now) I stay in a relationship despite better knowledge. To see her strength was a humbling experience.
Even as it became clear that Mac desperately wants her back she only partly gives in and he really has to go the full way of 'laying bare his soul' before she wholeheartely agrees to be with him again.
And Mac Mackenzie is absolutely endearing in his endeavours to get her back into his life by doing the deepest soul searching.

There's also a lot of humour in the story which rounds it up nicely.
In the end I had a bittersweat sentiment towards my own marriage which I haven't really worked hard enough for and thus it came to an end.
I'm not bitter about it, it's more of a painful realisation that I never really laid bare my soul as the characters in the story did.

One little detail I thought to be a bit glib. All the Mackenzie brothers are described as strong, huge, brawny men (of course) but Mac has got sore arms after playing the cymbals for the duration of one or 2 songs. What the heck! :lol:

I'm half way through the 3rd book of this series but so far it didn't get to me as the 2nd one did.

But what became obvious is that reading these books really helps me emotionally to navigate these times. They have a soothing effect.
 

Gaby

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I hope that someone will start with the 1797 club the "sins and scoundrels" series and give feedback on those. Both are excellent.

A bit of feedback on "Sins and Scoundrels":



I've read 14 books so far and "Marquess of Mayhem", third book from Sins and Scoundrels series by Scarlett Scott is one of my favorites. But in a sense, I loved ALL the books I've read. Even the ones that Laura mentioned briefly on her first post and "didn't make it to the final preferred list."

Right now I'm reading "Rescued from Ruin" series (10 books) by Elisa Braden and its prequel - "Ever Yours, Anabelle" was also totally captivating. I haven't even started on books everybody else is reading in this thread. So I surmise that a wonderful reading journey awaits me. :thup:
 

Laura

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A bit of feedback on "Sins and Scoundrels":



I've read 14 books so far and "Marquess of Mayhem", third book from Sins and Scoundrels series by Scarlett Scott is one of my favorites. But in a sense, I loved ALL the books I've read. Even the ones that Laura mentioned briefly on her first post and "didn't make it to the final preferred list."

Right now I'm reading "Rescued from Ruin" series (10 books) by Elisa Braden and its prequel - "Ever Yours, Anabelle" was also totally captivating. I haven't even started on books everybody else is reading in this thread. So I surmise that a wonderful reading journey awaits me. :thup:

Those are terrific books and I hope to see more people getting to them. "Ever Yours, Annabelle" was haunting and deeply moving.

Another thought I had this morning that I forgot to mention is this: Obviously, "polar opposites" is an extremely rare phenomenon and, for the most part, that is not what we are seeing in these books. We are seeing people who have some basic compatibility and strong sexual attraction that brings them together and holds them there long enough to work out their issues and then make more lasting ties and commitments. Pay some attention to this factor as you read.
 

Andrian

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Those are terrific books and I hope to see more people getting to them. "Ever Yours, Annabelle" was haunting and deeply moving.

Another thought I had this morning that I forgot to mention is this: Obviously, "polar opposites" is an extremely rare phenomenon and, for the most part, that is not what we are seeing in these books. We are seeing people who have some basic compatibility and strong sexual attraction that brings them together and holds them there long enough to work out their issues and then make more lasting ties and commitments. Pay some attention to this factor as you read.

Thank you Laura for the input. Will like to read at least some of the books mentioned on the following thread but after reading first the Secret history of the world series and other books on my list. I'd love to read about these kind of dynimics between people since there are a lot of things that may make you ponder about relationships in general.

On a different note, and i apologize for going off topic here, i was thinking that these kind of relationships described in some of these books won't do for those that chose to try to do the Work, i mean for those that aren't yet in a relationship. From my limited perspective, if someone chooses to commit himself seriously to do the work considering the crushing force of the general law he will have to face as a consequence the only companion in life with whom he would be able to enjoy such an adventure will be a like minded person, both of them being on the same wavelength, othwervise me thinks, there will be a lot of waste of time, suffering and nothing good will come out of it for both of them.

The strong physical attraction won't be enough in this case to bound oneself to a person with whom there is no deep understanding between them, in this case i'd say it will be pretty selfish from one's part to engage in such a relationship if not for the sake of not being alone or other carnal reasons.

In this case the option i'd choose will be to walk alone on this path rather than along with someone with whom i can't speak the same language. Of course here i speak for myself only and also would like to add that in general the dynamics between people, the relationships and people in general are different, complex and everyone of us has his/her lessons to learn so my above comment i'd say applies to me though it may not aplly to no one else here. Anyways, will love to read at least some of the mentioned books when will have more free time ;-D Just in case, would like to apologize for the noise.
 

Adaryn

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Andrian said:
On a different note, and i apologize for going off topic here, i was thinking that these kind of relationships described in some of these books won't do for those that chose to try to do the Work,

As far as the books are concerned, what they depict in effect (though I have only read 1 book and have nearly finished the second book of the same series, ie the MacKenzies) is people getting rid of their programs for the other's sake, learning to be honest both with themselves and with their partner, getting over their fears with the help of their partner, baring their souls, learning to give what is asked, and to ask what they need in perfect honesty, etc. In the end, both individuals become better persons, as they learn to develop their potential and their true creativity - with the other's help. So in that sense, I think it has very much to do with the Work in the context of a relationship.

That might be enough if we lived in a normal world. But we don't, and we're living in very special times. So the way things are now, I don't think strong attraction and basic compatibility would be enough - at least, not for me. Doesn't matter if that person is decent, has moral values and so on, if he believes the lies wrt, say, COVID or global warming, or darwinism, well, no. Wouldn't work for me. Those divergences of opinions would certainly lead to great clashes, misunderstandings and unnecessary suffering on both parts. I would want to impose my vision, effectively violating the other's free will and hindering his personal path - possibly preventing him from finding the right person for him. A recipe for disaster.
Things are definitely more complicated/complex in real life, especially in this crazy world we're living in.
 

Mrs. Peel

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I hope that someone will start with the 1797 club the "sins and scoundrels" series and give feedback on those. Both are excellent.

I finished the first 1797 Club, "The Daring Duke" ** SPOILER ALERT! **

The series is set up here, James forms the club in boyhood, the first book is about him, and I'm guessing the rest are about the other members of the club. At the end of this one, we still haven't settled the problem of his sister Meg who isn't looking forward to her upcoming marriage to Graham. Of course it's obvious she's in love with Simon instead but wishes to honor the engagement that her brother made for her with Graham, one of his closest friends. Of course, Simon is one of his closest friends also so if they pulled a switcheroo she'd still be marrying his close friend. So one of the books will probably detail the story of how that takes place. I noticed mention of a club member who was mute, so I'm guessing he'll be "The Silent Duke," Book 4.

We are seeing people who have some basic compatibility and strong sexual attraction that brings them together and holds them there long enough to work out their issues and then make more lasting ties and commitments.

In "The Daring Duke", the heroine (Emma) outwardly doesn't have much obvious compatibility with the hero, he is way above her in social rank, handsome, and very popular and sought-after, where she is not a beauty, has a scandalous father, and is also a "wallflower and a bluestocking." She comes to his attention via an act of kindness she does for his sister (and mother) and if it weren't for that "sexual attraction" thingy, that probably would have been the end of it. To repay her, he offers to pay some attention to her in hopes his popularity will rub off on her and make her attractive to other men. When her father tries to marry her off to some disgusting, older jerk, he proposes to her just to "save her" from that awful fate. Of course, you can guess that in the end, he realizes he does love her after all! :-D
 

Approaching Infinity

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A bit of feedback on "Sins and Scoundrels":



I've read 14 books so far and "Marquess of Mayhem", third book from Sins and Scoundrels series by Scarlett Scott is one of my favorites. But in a sense, I loved ALL the books I've read. Even the ones that Laura mentioned briefly on her first post and "didn't make it to the final preferred list."

I'm on Marquess of Mayhem right now, and the stakes have sure been raised for this volume! Luckily, the couples from books 1 and 2 are around to provide some support and advice, because Morgan and Leonora's issues are a tougher nut to crack than Crispin/Jacinda and Duncan/Frederica's. Call in the big guns! Spoilers for all 3 below:

In book 1, Crispin is a broken man, consumed by guilt for having failed his best friend Morgan in the war, leading to his capture, torture, and death, and traumatized by the brutality he witnessed. He tries to dull the terror and guilt with alcohol and prostitutes. Jacinda shows up posing as a governess in order to find evidence that he is collaborating with the French. He's not, which she eventually discovers, but she has to keep up the pretense otherwise her father will be ruined. So Crispin is convinced he's broken goods and can't possibly marry Jacinda, who he becomes uncontrollably attracted to and wants to keep as his mistress. And Jacinda knows she's lying about who she is, and naturally rejects such an offer. Luckily things work out. Jacinda brings Crispin back to life, and his love for her allows him to instantly see why she did what she did and forgive her, once the truth is revealed.

In book 2, Duncan - the proprietor of a gambling and prostitution 'club' - plans to use the young Frederica as a way of ruining his own father. (He's the bastard son of an earl, and Frederica's father owns the earl's debts, so Duncan plans to acquire those debts in order to ruin his father out of revenge for never being there for his mother or him.) Frederica, meanwhile, is promised to the earl's son - a masochistic SOB. So he has to wrestle between his desire for revenge and his love for Frederica. Frederica has to extricate herself from her upcoming marriage, and plans to use her dalliance with Duncan in order to 'ruin herself' so she will not have to marry. So each is using the other, though their attraction and feelings for each other develop genuinely.

In book 3, Morgan (revealed to be alive, having been captured and tortured by the French before escaping) returns and decides to use Frederica's best friend Leonora as a way to get revenge on the earl responsible for him getting caught by the French, who is Leonora's half-brother. So right from the beginning, he is using her, though a real attraction starts developing from the start. STO tendencies are on full display with Leonora, already hinted at in book 2 in her friendship with Frederica. Forced by circumstance into her marriage with Morgan, she nevertheless does everything in her power to accept him as he is, to tell him the truth, even if it might provoke him, and to give what he asks. That's not to say she's a pushover. When he mistreats her, she knows it, and makes sure he knows it, and that it isn't acceptable. But she doesn't hold it against him. When he meets her half way (or as far as he is able) and acknowledges his bad behavior, she accepts it. And Morgan can see how kind, loving, and giving Leonora is. Which only feeds his guilt, because he has been using her. I'm just at the spot where Leonora has found out he has been used, and her reaction is appropriate: she's devastated. After giving herself so completely to Morgan, and falling in love with him in the process, she finds out she has just been a pawn. Well, not "just", but she doesn't know that yet.

So each character has some baggage, some lie or hidden agenda in conflict with their burgeoning love for another. Like genero81 said:

From what I'm surmising so far, this sort of raw physical attraction that draws these characters into, let's call it charged sexual engagement, seems to provide the energy that fuels the process of bringing to resolution unresolved issues that have hindered the soul's involved in said engagement from reaching full expression of their latent potentialities by way of genuine concern for the welfare of the other driven by a developing genuine love.

It is their developing relationships that give them the power to heal their past, recalibrate their prior motivations and goals (e.g., revenge, using someone for one's own purposes), shine light on their false beliefs (about themselves and others), and open themselves to letting each other in. Each loving encounter and sexual exchange seems to have the effect of breaking down a piece of the wall between them. They learn to tell the truth, to be open and honest. To stop lying to themselves and to each other. And they didn't imagine finding themselves in these situations, so naturally they fear revealing certain things (like the conscious deceptions used early on). Luckily trust has developed. More later - those were just some quick thoughts off the top of my head!
 

Michael B-C

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Well having held back thus far I know its time to dive in.

Why hold back? An excess of English lit 'romantic' novels in my youth and the mental mess it got me into! Also not a work of fiction read in near a decade. But Laura knows best...

And I also know there is something in this that makes deep sense... something I like others here have been avoiding...

So I actually can't wait!

... so off to Amazon and have ordered Marry In Haste: 1 (Marriage of Convenience) by Anne Gracie, Indiscreet (Horseman Trilogy) by Mary Balogh and A Rake's Midnight Kiss by Anna Campbell (balked at the €30 inc P&P price of the first in the series but I think I can dive in with this one) ... all on their way. I'll report back when I get somewhere.
 

Lukasz

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I have finished "Heartless" and now I'm reading "Silent Melody" by Mary Balogh. While reading, I felt the urge to write this post.

In the beginning, I should mention that for the last dozen years I haven't picked up any book that was not on the recommended list or somehow related to the topics presented there. I used to tell myself that I'm so much behind with reading, that probably I won't have enough time to read all that I want, so I thought that reading anything else would be a waste of my energy.

Recently, it has been very difficult for me to read anything at all. What once came with ease, became really hard lately. And thanks to reading these romances, I realized that I was probably out of balance and I was reminded of the Cs words: "Balance is key." Now I think that reading a historical romance can give me the needed energy to read and better comprehend other books. I came to the conclusion that reading should not only serve the intellectual center but also can be of great help to the emotional center as well.

It doesn't stop to amaze me how these books affect emotions! I was astonished to see how, completely unconsciously, my mood changed under the influence of the fate of the main character. When I started Heartless, I was full of the joys of spring. So much happiness surprised me. I even danced a little during the preparation of breakfast while, in the book, Anna was dancing at the ball ;-)

I was just delighted with the reading. I haven't liked any book so much like this one for a long time. All this continued until the difficulties began to emerge for Anna. My mood immediately collapsed then. I started to wonder how is it possible that the fate of a fictional character can have such an impact on my life. I experienced this emotional ups and downs until the end of the book. And ultimately, I found myself reading in the middle of the night just wanting to make sure as soon as possible that there's a happy ending ;-)

A few notes about this book (little spoilers may be here):

  • in my opinion, the work on the self is nicely shown in the book. It's interesting to observe Luke, who gradually resigns from strict clinging to his life plans in favor of greater openness to what life brings to him. He moves from control to greater acceptance. I think that the process of gradually becoming more open to cosmic influences is depicted here.
  • I perceive the main characters as a polar couple. The fact that they found each other brings benefits to many people around them. They both truly serve others and also serve as a model for others.
  • I really liked that the author clearly pointed out the difference between pleasure and joy. I was immediately reminded of this session:
    Q: (L) Okay, you say they can't experience true joy, but I'm sure they experience plenty of pleasure. Is there a difference?

    A: Indeed. Pleasure is rooted in physiology and joy is of the soul.
  • as for sex, in my opinion, it was not disturbing and was actually relevant to the story. I liked that the author clearly pointed out the spiritual aspect of it, and not put attention only to the physical experiences.
  • in the end, the main characters thoroughly analyze their deeds together and draw conclusions which, in my opinion, allows the reader to reinforce positive values.
  • I think that this book portrays the figure of a psychopath quite well, which probably contributes to building vigilance in the readers who otherwise might never approach any serious book on the topic of psychopaty.

Soon after completing Heartless, I started Silent Melody. I'm in the middle of the reading now and I need to say that so far I like this book even more than the first one. I'm just enchanted with the character of Emily! The first dance in her life even made me shed a tear.

I am very grateful to Laura for recommending these books. If it hadn't been your recommendation, I probably wouldn't have given a chance to any romance book ever. And I think it was something that I needed greatly. Over the past years, I have probably neglected my emotional center, and now I feel like something is opening up again in me.
 

NewEngland Seeker

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This topic has refocused my self-observations of my sexual thoughts, feelings, behavior. I clearly remember my infantile obsession with female body and my conceited belief that if I did her, she would admire my magnificent manliness. So childish and so creepy.

I am now in my late 60’s and sex is no longer occupying my thoughts, feelings, or behavior. When I was young sex thoughts dominated my consciousness and sex dreams were frequent. Currently, my attention is towards my objective awareness of what is happening and how am I behaving in the now.

That said I have taken the challenge to see what lies hidden and needs work.

My life’s experience and observations.

Once I started dating and more so after marriage, I was surprised at how disconnected the expectations was with the reality. My anticipations were never realized because I often misread my wife’s needs and misjudged my own potential. Because of this persistent pattern I kept dissecting the subtle pre and post whole-life patterns around sex.

During the arousal stage, which could last for days in some cases, I noticed that there were frequent roadblocks or unexpected dramas. Our 2 daughters would often have a crisis that needed our attention. Friends and family were also calling or stopping at the wrong moment. If not people, it was things would break and I would have to do emergency repairs. A very hilarious yet predictable occurrence.

Post coupling affects took years to see but after connecting the dots it was unmistakably obvious. This realization hit home late in my 50’s so I was a slow learner. What I noticed was that there was a 3-day shit-storm post coupling. The intensity of the crap that I had to deal with was more than the pleasure. Thus, the pleasure/pain balance was significantly more pain than pleasure. What surprised me the most, was that the more my wife had lovey-dovey feeling for me the morning after the more crap I was going to have deal with that day. I was never able to figure out how to reduce or mitigate these annoying aspects of sex energy. It is just the fact of life that every high has a low, a drunk has its hangover, and for me at least every orgasm had its 3-day pile to shovel. The past tense is used since this time of my life sex is no longer happening. Too much pain for her and to little need for me. We’re both content with this, it is one of the many things that we have to deal with these old bodies.:violin:

How the romantic fiction is uncovering my unfinished work.

I read the first 2 books in the ‘The 1797 Club’ by Jess Michaels. My reactions to them were different than most. The story line was thin and one tract with no side plots to beef up the interest. My reactions to the erotic parts was clinical indifference. I even was interrupted while in the middle of one of the erotic scenes and did not even hurry back to it. My energy level was slightly higher but with more anxiety due to my instincts for negative feedback with sex energy. However, I had a sex dream where my dream lover said no, a first for me and remarkably interesting change in my sex dream pattern!

For me, the behavior of the main characters towards each other sexually was subtle form of manipulation and abuse. The dukes in both books took their women before there was an explicit agreement in order to seal their fates. The women in both books allowed their man to have them in order to feel their man’s love that they needed validated. Since both were using negative justifications for their behavior, I would expect a greater negative consequence than the story played out, thus the author is weak in moral insights. Because of this I have lost interest in continuing with the series. I switched to and currently enjoying ‘Irresistible’ by Mary Balogh .

What I have learned more from reading this forum than from the books was that I had quickly depleted my sex center energy during my youthful stupidity. In my mid-life, I unknowingly was using my higher emotional and mental centers to keep the sex going which is why there was negative feedback loops. In my old age I am rebuilding and harmonizing all my centers and giving the sex center a rest. Long walks, strenuous aerobic exercises, EE, and meditation has been necessary work for me.

This topic is fantastic, and it has helped me understand my past stupidities, my present necessities, and hope for future amities.:thup:
 

trytofly

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Having completed "Untouched" by Anna Campbell, I'm going to give you my impression, trying not to spoil too much.

It is a terrible situation in which the heroine finds herself from the beginning of the story, prisoner and destined to satisfy the impulses of a stranger who is ultimately no more free than her.
The man, decked out in principles, refusing to take advantage of the situation despite his extreme attraction to her, very strong shared but not admitted feelings gradually arise between them.
It is in an oppressive atmosphere that the love story will develop, only ray of sunshine in a horrible situation seemingly impossible to resolve.
Grace's great distress is assuaged by Matthew's reassuring presence. And Matthew finally finds meaning in his life through Grace's presence. Thus, their relationship is not just an escape from their unhappiness, but becomes the only thing essential to their existence. Their only reason for continuing to fight to live. Their love transcends their condition of life as sequestered. Their shared love, based on trust and admiration, in addition to physical attraction, develops the notion of sacrifice and altruism. [The partner is more important than oneself.]
Their love is ultimately their best way to exercise their free will. And that's what will ultimately save them.

I must admit that I was quickly caught up in history despite my bias.

I ordered Merridew series by Anne Gracie and Heartless by Mary Balogh (Silent Melody is not translated into French for the moment). And I'm still waiting to receive Sons of Sin series by Anna Campbell.
My new dilemma is therefore going to be choosing which ones to read first if I receive them at the same time. ;-)
 

Mari

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A Rake's Midnight Kiss by Anna Campbell
This book is 2nd book of the series (or 3rd if we count novels).
The 1st one is "Seven Nights in a Rogue's Bed" :-)

Here is google sheet with the list of books that were mentioned so far in the thread (in case you´ve missed it - the thread is getting bigger by the day :-) )
 
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