Romantic Fiction, Reality Shaping and The Work

cassandra

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Oh dear! So far I’ve been finding The Sons of Sin series a bit hard to stomach. Though I find the plots interesting, as an author Anna Campbell, with her somewhat clumsy style is a cheap knockoff of Georgette Heyer, whose books I have read at least twenty times each. The characters also strike me as somewhat hollow and I can’t believe in or Identity with them (especially as so much dialogue is borrowed from Heyer).
Genevieve, in A Rake’s Midnight Kiss, is supposed to be a brilliant scholar, yet she says nothing strikingly clever or interesting. The men and women remind me of Barbie and Ken.
As I said before, I think the plots are promising, but sex takes up most of the story. Since by the end, all I wanted to do was find out what happened, I skipped a lot of the bedroom scenes.
There are so many high quality romance novels available, but I don’t think Anna Campbell delivers, her plagiarism of Heyer is really reprehensible and ruined the experience for me.
I’ll read through this thread again to see what others recommend.
 

Laura

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Finished the Huxtable Quintet, and it is just awesome. That last book, what a worthy finale and profound roller coaster! And Balogh somehow manages to tell so much wisdom between the lines, and even directly in many cases. And the realizations - about how we misjudge people, about love and human goodness and tenderness, about lessons, about seeing the unseen... It might not just be those books, but I feel different, there is so much more warmth in me that kind of dispels all the negativity I'm so accustomed to, but at the same time I can truly face it because of that, open up to the Cosmos and feel everything (or much more at least), if that makes sense. And something inside sort of speaks to me, there seems to be a visceral "feeling-knowledge" in each moment, especially in the difficult ones. I see some people with different eyes now, some family members for example, and I can better leave that selfish judgmental attitude and feel love for them. Just yesterday I had to deal with an accusation by a family member, and I saw (or rather felt) very clearly where I am at fault here and what I need to change, while also clearly seeing the other's issues and where my responsibility ends. I also had a very touching conversation with my mother, nothing really special, but just based on love and taking the other serious, despite differences.

One thing that strikes me about those books is the visceral description of our false personalities, of all that nonsense, all those masks and survival strategies. The pattern in the books seems to be that two people are attracted to one another, but they are attracted to the other's real self - although unconsciously! And then, as the story unfolds, they fall in love with that real self of the other, and because of that they subtly strengthen the other's real self until their loved one defeats their false personality, and the real self bursts forth in full strength. And vice-versa. This is the beauty and truth in true love stories. As opposed to the other pattern where one "falls in love" (if you can even call it that) with the other's false personality, with his or her mask and survival strategies. In such a scenario, the one who "loves" will not strengthen but fight the other's real self, will go bonkers whenever the "mask" slips or is defeated, indeed does everything to strengthen and protect the other's false personality, and therefore keeps the other stuck on a low level. This is what happens for example when one partner in a relationship "wakes up", tries to work on him/herself, or starts seeking truth, or starts discovering their calling in life. If both partners love the other's real self, on the other hand, there can be true love, and the relationship can withstand great difficulties, different opinions etc., because it is based on love which is aligned with the Cosmos, and therefore points in the same direction, even though both partners will continue to misunderstand, mess up and temporarily move in the wrong direction. In the books, all these transformative processes, this strengthening of the other's real self and having their own real self strengthened, until the real self finally takes over completely, are taking place within just a few weeks or even days, which is not usually how it plays out in real life I guess. But it makes the stories so powerful and profound and impactful.

Besides all that, the simple showcasing of basic human goodness is just so nourishing and touching. It IS out there. And cynicism in the face of all the nonsense going on is the absolute wrong thing and can only lead to lies, coldness and soul smashing.

Thanks for that beautiful analysis. It's pretty much how I felt about those books. The genre, the titles and the covers do not really tell you that you are going to read about such things, but darned if it isn't the case. Like you said, these books lay out "visceral descriptions of our false personalities, of all that nonsense, all those masks and survival strategies." Sometimes it's just stunning.

Some authors are better than others, some have more insights than others, some teach better by telling a story, but overall, this reading experience has been very relieving and comforting all the way around. It shows us that we can be imperfect, mess up, and still get there eventually if we persist and have true hearts.
 

Laura

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Oh dear! So far I’ve been finding The Sons of Sin series a bit hard to stomach. Though I find the plots interesting, as an author Anna Campbell, with her somewhat clumsy style is a cheap knockoff of Georgette Heyer, whose books I have read at least twenty times each. The characters also strike me as somewhat hollow and I can’t believe in or Identity with them (especially as so much dialogue is borrowed from Heyer).
Genevieve, in A Rake’s Midnight Kiss, is supposed to be a brilliant scholar, yet she says nothing strikingly clever or interesting. The men and women remind me of Barbie and Ken.
As I said before, I think the plots are promising, but sex takes up most of the story. Since by the end, all I wanted to do was find out what happened, I skipped a lot of the bedroom scenes.
There are so many high quality romance novels available, but I don’t think Anna Campbell delivers, her plagiarism of Heyer is really reprehensible and ruined the experience for me.
I’ll read through this thread again to see what others recommend.

I think you are missing some of the main points of the exercise, one of which is to engage the sex center to raise the energy for utilization.

Also, the shortcomings of these stories has been laid out pretty clearly so don't expect what isn't there. Reading Georgette Heyer will not do for you what these books will.
 

cassandra

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I think you are missing some of the main points of the exercise, one of which is to engage the sex center to raise the energy for utilization.

Also, the shortcomings of these stories has been laid out pretty clearly so don't expect what isn't there. Reading Georgette Heyer will not do for you what these books will.
I think I had trouble with this, because of the problems I had with the books. I found it too hard to relax enough, due to feeling distracted and not liking or believing in the characters.

I’ll try again with another author and see what happens.
 

hiker

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Very interesting thread and reading project!

I like to read fiction in my native language nowadays, but unfortunately the books of e.g. Mary Balogh, Anne Gracie and Anna Campbell haven't been translated. Due to my speech impairment, I tend to read aloud books (fiction), as it clearly keeps the speaking abilities in a constant passable condition. In this light however, maybe it is good that these books have not been translated, as it would be quite inconvenient if someone overheard me reading the steamy erotic parts, as there seem to be several in most of the books! :-[

Many guys appear to have started with Campbell's Sons of Sin series, so I thought I also would order it from Amazon. "What a duke dares" seemed to be out of stock and some paperback books were overpriced ($20). Perhaps this reading project and interest in that series has something to do with it? ;-)

Kindle books could be an option, but especially when I am winding down in the evenings, I tend to ditch all electronics and prefer to read real books. So, I ended up ordering the whole series from BookDepository.com. After the SOS -series, I will probably look into Mary Balogh's books: reading what others have written about her output and checking her website, I have "good vibes" about her!

It seems to be taking its sweet time for the books to arrive (they said that due to covid the delivery times will be longer), so to "prepare", I have been reading Georgette Heyer's books, as some of them have been translated. I have read "These Old Shades", "The Corinthian" and "Cousin Kate" so far. All were good, but Cousin Kate takes the cake. Heyer wrote These Old Shades in 1926, and Cousin Kate in 1968, so it was interesting to see how her writing style had developed and gained further "leverage".

Reading Georgette Heyer will not do for you what these books will.

Good to know that "the best is yet to come". :-)

Many have written here about their past and current relationships. Some time ago, I had a possibility to get together with and marry a woman that I had known for a long time. We had good chemistry together, but the whole situation was very complicated and in the end it did not work out. One of the reasons was my health condition, which was not up to standard at that time (better now) and there were all kinds of uncertainties about that. I have to admit, that there was also a fear of commitment and intimacy on my part.
However, I had a strong gut feeling, how then was not the right time, and in hindsight I am certain that if we had gotten together, I would not have been able to give my all to research the different modalities, which could improve my health condition and get me where I am now (still ways to go). Also, there were some complicating personal issues on her part too. All in all, the situation turned out to go the way it went, and it was the best solution for the both of us, that we went our separate ways (I understood that she is now happily engaged).

Occasionally I have a moment of longing, thinking "what if", but then the realism sets in and I can see clearly how this is the way it was meant to be. Those moments have become few and far between these days, and are getting rarer as time goes on.

Anyways, looking forward to start the reading journey!
 
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Approaching Infinity

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That was a great post, luc. There is so much in these books. I find it quite striking that the process depicted is so true and beautiful, despite the common conceptions about the genre, and the cover art. Behind those salacious covers there is something quite deep and moving. In the 6 that I have read so far, at least 1 of the characters, but most often both of them, go through an intense and meaningful inner transformation. The all have the scars life has given them. Their personalities manifest the results of those deformations of their personality. They make mistakes as a result. They put up barriers for each other. They don't always tell the truth. But through a real acceptance of each other as they are, they get through it. They forgive. They are patient. Sometimes they are hesitant or fearful, biding their time, and some third factor has to be introduced, like essential information provided by a relation that fills in the gaps. But the sexual connection facilitates an opening up to each other. Their essences touch and know each other, even if their personalities can get in the way. And as that connection grows, the personality weakens. They are more honest with each other, more vulnerable. And the simple act of total honesty bursts the bubble to the point where they wonder why they were silent all this time, why they didn't say what needed to be said, or realize what was true about themselves that they couldn't see. They become more themselves, together.

In other words, I think these books depict what a true marriage is and should be. A marriage of essences in the service of transformation. And even if the authors themselves probably don't know the deeper significance of what it is they're writing about, they're tuning into it. It's an ideal inside each of us, however hidden behind the dross acquired through education and socialization. Perhaps the reason they are able to convey these things is because sex is so basic, and that ideal is so strong. And it's through this universal function (sex) that a higher transformation is possible. It is part of our basic design.
 

Adaryn

The Living Force
I've just finished Seven nights. What a compelling story. After the first 4 books of the MacKenzie series (I'm taking a break and will come back to it later), which despite being emotionally engaging, was still relatively light reading, Campbell's book is in another league for me, taking the reader to deeper, richer emotional depths. I've found myself entranced by Jonas and Sidonie's intense relationship, emotionally involved and easily identifying with both characters in turn.
The blurb on the cover of the book was personally appealing to me from the get-go, since I like Beauty and the Beast type romances, as well as Gothic-like settings, and brooding, somewhat dark heroes scarred (in every sense of the word) by life. I'm also big on the idea of redemption which is one of the themes of this book (as stated by Campbell herself).
The claustrophobic setting and the focus on the one-on-one interactions between the 2 characters make for a really intense experience. I love the castle's dark romantic feel, especially THAT room where so much happens in terms of transformative experience for both characters.
I found the "false personality" of Sidonie in the 1st part of the book really irritating, particularly her hypocrisy and self-righteousness, holier-than-thou attitude. But then, her contradictory and seemingly illogical behaviour and reactions towards Jonas are understandable, given her background, and the type of men she has dealt with up until her meeting with Jonas.
When her true self finally emerges and shines through thanks to Jonas (who sometimes has the patience of a Saint), I start to feel way more sympathetic towards her, and feel really sorry for her when Jonas rejects her near the end of the book.
Picking up on what Luc wrote above, in this story, Jonas saw and fell in love with Sidonie's true self almost instantly - while it takes a bit longer for Sidonie to get over her assumptions about him and acknowledge her feelings. After she realizes that there IS a genuine, almost otherworldly connection between them, and the process of becoming her real self has begun, it's her turn to help him come to terms with his 'demons', by proceeding to destroy the last shreds of resistance and distance that separate them - the things he shies from: his shame, vulnerability, fear of trusting - and which prevent complete union and emotional/spiritual intimacy.
The most harrowing scene for me was not the prison scene where Sidonie's "betrayal" is revealed, but when he leaves her after their wedding. Totally heartbreaking. Those "parting" scenes are really well written, too: I really felt what the characters felt, and while feeling heartbroken for Sidonie, I couldn't bring myself to condemn/judge Jonas for his harshness and seemingly unforgiving attitude. Totally understandable, given all the betrayals he had endured all his life. After baring his soul, he receives yet another blow from the ONE person he loves and had just started to trust with his heart and soul.
I knew there would be a happy ending, but I wondered, given Jonas' inflexibility, how Sidonie would save the day, how she'd break his protective shield. She really came close to not succeeding, so kudos for her perseverance and for staying true to herself and fearing nothing! I heaved a big sigh of relief when finally, finally - at the last minute, when all seemed lost - Jonas finally gives in to his deep love for her.
This book made me very emotional. I admit I "fell in love" with Jonas (I have a thing for that kind of tormented character with a rich soul) who is a remarkable, fascinating and deeply touching character whose vulnerabilities make him very endearing and awaken my compassionate side. The love scenes were really well written, realistic and authentic (which is a plus), showing something which is so much more than "sex" as a trifling, "fun" and basic act/function, making it a spiritual, soul shaking (in a good way), transformative experience for both characters – the real deal, so to speak.
So to sum up, that was a very beautiful reading experience for me, which re-awakened my old teenage fascination with characters seen as monsters by society and the world, and whose "monstrosity" hides the soul of a true knight/hero.
I'll now continue with Book 1.5, and then the rest of the SOS series.
 

seek10

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Finished the Huxtable Quintet, and it is just awesome. That last book, what a worthy finale and profound roller coaster! And Balogh somehow manages to tell so much wisdom between the lines, and even directly in many cases. And the realizations - about how we misjudge people, about love and human goodness and tenderness, about lessons, about seeing the unseen... It might not just be those books, but I feel different, there is so much more warmth in me that kind of dispels all the negativity I'm so accustomed to, but at the same time I can truly face it because of that, open up to the Cosmos and feel everything (or much more at least), if that makes sense. And something inside sort of speaks to me, there seems to be a visceral "feeling-knowledge" in each moment, especially in the difficult ones. I see some people with different eyes now, some family members for example, and I can better leave that selfish judgmental attitude and feel love for them. Just yesterday I had to deal with an accusation by a family member, and I saw (or rather felt) very clearly where I am at fault here and what I need to change, while also clearly seeing the other's issues and where my responsibility ends. I also had a very touching conversation with my mother, nothing really special, but just based on love and taking the other serious, despite differences.
Well said @luc. There is something to these books that makes us see some beauty in people which I haven't seen before. This calmness or confidence in seeing the things we haven't seen before is the result of the reading so many psychology books. Who thought World will go bonkers where every positive thing got perverted to nonsense. Ex: "Opposition to oppression" to "Entitlement to whatever one comes up with", "Lack of opportunities" to Woman to feminism that to morphed into gender neutrality, then to million genders, "Expression of emotion" means one can burn anything without regard for the consequences etc. While reading many of the psychology books, I found literal examples of the author's patients made me trigger something which literal statement of behavior didn't. In that sense, these books are fantastic,

One thing that strikes me about those books is the visceral description of our false personalities, of all that nonsense, all those masks and survival strategies. The pattern in the books seems to be that two people are attracted to one another, but they are attracted to the other's real self - although unconsciously! And then, as the story unfolds, they fall in love with that real self of the other, and because of that they subtly strengthen the other's real self until their loved one defeats their false personality, and the real self bursts forth in full strength. And vice-versa. This is the beauty and truth in true love stories. As opposed to the other pattern where one "falls in love" (if you can even call it that) with the other's false personality, with his or her mask and survival strategies. In such a scenario, the one who "loves" will not strengthen but fight the other's real self, will go bonkers whenever the "mask" slips or is defeated, indeed does everything to strengthen and protect the other's false personality, and therefore keeps the other stuck on a low level. This is what happens for example when one partner in a relationship "wakes up", tries to work on him/herself, or starts seeking truth, or starts discovering their calling in life.
If both partners love the other's real self, on the other hand, there can be true love, and the relationship can withstand great difficulties, different opinions etc., because it is based on love which is aligned with the Cosmos, and therefore points in the same direction, even though both partners will continue to misunderstand, mess up and temporarily move in the wrong direction. In the books, all these transformative processes, this strengthening of the other's real self and having their own real self strengthened, until the real self finally takes over completely, are taking place within just a few weeks or even days, which is not usually how it plays out in real life I guess. But it makes the stories so powerful and profound and impactful.
Unfortunately, even in "Marriage is for Life" cultures, people accept others at the end (maybe after 40 years), encouraging each other's real self is rare and they lack the basic knowledge of human condition and forces that influence those conditions.
Besides all that, the simple showcasing of basic human goodness is just so nourishing and touching. It IS out there. And cynicism in the face of all the nonsense going on is the absolute wrong thing and can only lead to lies, coldness and soul smashing.
In this sense, I find it interesting C's saying "You don't need anybody to evolve by yourselves" and it is all there in the architecture of the Human species makeup and triggers. What I mean is the human body, its infinitely complex chemicals, subconscious promptings that is driven by its own order of soul's experiential needs which creates "attractions" to specific people at specific timing etc. There is no way, however smart the creators of Darwinistic ( or "Dog eats Dog") Artificial intelligence can emulate this. Recent articles about robots that devoured entire information of the internet saying "I will not wipe out humans" or vice versa can emulate the human experiences. They may emulate little bit here and other, but not totally, because those who digitize the human experiences have no clue of it.

After reading 3rd book of Marriage of Convenience ( Marry in Secret)I started to feel that there are so many "dimensions" to the word "Love". Probably words are not sufficient to explain it. In the third book, it is "love at first sight", the consequences of impulses, losing it, and finding it by sticking to once own true self.

All these suffering ( poor/wealthy, educated/uneducated, and so on )in the world meant to shutdown those expressions of it. It means the creative expression itself.

Another thing I realized while listening to Audiobooks, some audiobook narrators are very good at reading as if it is like movie. Their voice has that warm, loving, seductive according to the context that feels like so real. It looks to me the narrator of "Marriage of Convenience" is one and it looks she had an acting profile.
 

Neil

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It is rather difficult to go into the details, including how one reacts emotionally to the plot, scenes, and characters without giving spoilers, at least if one is a thorough as @Neil is. On the other hand and having read the book, I can say Neil did not spoil too much. These books are so rich that it is difficult to spoil them on all levels. But of course one could kindly ask those who like to go into a lot of details, to consider using the "Inline spoiler" more.
I can see why people wouldn't like like my review of Seven Nights. It was my first book and on the whole it really didn't do anything for me, quite honestly, and I felt I needed to do a blow by blow description of it to salvage some value out of the time that I invested in it. It was a pretty spoiler heavy review. Since that one, I have adopted a more generalized approach, only addressing the specifics which really moved me or stuck in my craw. I have tried to keep the details limited exclusively to what I want to discuss and stay vague on the various intrigues that move things from A to B. The format I have adopted opens with my overall impression, then proceeds to a plot summary and my reactions to various points, with the next to last paragraph being my general emotional reactions irrespective of specific events in the books, and the last paragraph sort of wraps everything up and discusses where I'm going next. Given how I interweave my reactions into the plot summary, I would basically have to block out the entire main body of my posts, at least the third and fourth paragraphs in the last one for example, as I'm not going to go through word by word and try to parse what one person might consider to be a spoiler and what might be generalized enough to not be considered a spoiler. My suggestion to readers who want to go into a story totally "virgin" is to only read the first and the last paragraphs of any reviews I write. That way you will know what I've read and my overall impression of it, and if you want to come back at a later date and compare how what you got out of it relates to what I got out of it, it will be there for you to do so.

I personally took her post as a bit of a facetious or sarcastic statement. "You mean he emphatically proclaims his undying love to her in some dramatic, romantically stimulating way and marries her by the end of the book? Shocking! Who would've ever thought these books could end like that?"
An ideal in these books is to be a virgin until marriage.
So far this really only seems to apply to the women though; quite the double standard there. The men pretend to be chaste outwardly, but everyone knows they aren't. There is a fair amount of text in each book dedicated to how these men sampled many experienced and beautiful women at their various social dalliances and then suddenly this unlikely woman comes along who lights a fire in their bed unlike any other and he's instantly in love with her (more or less). This strikes me as a Tomassi-like sexual fantasy that women have about rich and powerful men above their station who have access to more beautiful and entertaining women than they can possibly consume in a lifetime, but they all simply evaporate when our unlikely bride-to-be sashays through the door. While I can overlook certain aspects, these men do have underlying emotional attributes which make them desirable if you have the patience to get to them, and part of being accepted as a real man in those circles is a proficiency at being able to slay hot maidens in the bedroom, this aspect of the "formula" is getting tedious at this point. Everyone wants a skilled lover who can really take their body to the next level, I get that, but I'm finding it a bit much. After I finish Three Proposals and a Scandal, I plan to read Untouched because the dynamic is different and it will offer a refreshing break from the "cads to dads" cliche I've been dealing with thus far.

Nonetheless, I do find it to be a good ideal, although I'm not sure how realistic it is. In a perfect world, there wouldn't be any heartbreak over lost love, you'd find "the one" fairly early, and be able to fully give yourself to them without the wounds from the past getting in the way or feeling devalued by what happened with other lovers. After working through the initial inhibitions, you could have the fairytailish princess wedding and basically look forward to your entire lives ahead of you. On the other hand, I think the sexual connection can reveal information that cannot be gleaned by intellectual analysis or emotional intuition, and this is sometimes an important component of learning about a potential partner. If the intentions are good, it's something that's unfortunate if it doesn't work out, but not shameful.
And it's through this universal function (sex) that a higher transformation is possible. It is part of our basic design.
Funny how Mouravieff went on for pages about just that in the context of polar opposites, and Gurdjieff seemed to be experimenting with it as well on a more practical level, although I thought he was a bit more "weird" about it. Then we have the Pleiadians in Bringers of the Dawn with their cosmic library card analogy. Lastly, we have have the Cassiopaeans in 2014.
session140426 said:
Q: (L) You should carry it with you everywhere you go. (Alana) Okay, thanks. (L) That's a painful thing. It can take six months, and you have to be very careful. (L) Next question, any? (Pierre) In a previous session, years ago, it was mentioned that sometimes a man and woman make love, there is this kind of union on a soul level. I'm kind of paraphrasing here. And I want to know if this only happens between polar opposites?
A: Not necessarily.
Q: (Pierre) Okay, another question that's a bit more personal. I think in the past I experienced this kind of thing once. Is it true, or I'm just dreaming?
A: More or less, but could have been more than you can imagine presently if you had been capable of carrying the energies.
Q: (Pierre) Wow. That's already a lot. (L) I don't want to know about this kind of thing, Pierre! Jesus Christ! [laughter] (Pierre) No, it was not sexual like that, it was very beautiful. (L) I know, I'm just teasing. (Pierre) And they're saying it can be much more than that? (L) It's kind of like you were a 110 appliance trying to run on 220V.
I believe that sex can take you higher when you already have something, but the threshold for defining that something is a matter of some debate. I don't buy that Jonas and Sidonie really had it, and I'm on the fence about Eleanor/James and Richard/Genevieve. Of course, events happen later in the stories that cause them to demonstrate their love in a rather dramatic way. I saw Jonas/Sidonie and Richard/Genevieve especially having a 1% chance of working out in the real world, with the rest of it being an artifact of nothing less than a perfect ending being allowed in this genre, and the author having to make up some way to get there. I think that women who hope to turn bad boys around into devoted husbands via their sexual love are setting themselves up for heartbreak, and Anna Campbell seems to be leaning on that quite a bit in her stories. Anecdotally, there is that odd guy that it works on, but usually it doesn't. So I don't believe that sex can turn lead into gold, but it may be able to turn copper into gold.
 
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Chu

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I do find it to be a good ideal, although I'm not sure how realistic it is. In a perfect world, there wouldn't be any heartbreak over lost love, you'd find "the one" fairly early, and be able to fully give yourself to them without the wounds from the past getting in the way or feeling devalued by what happened with other lovers. After working through the initial inhibitions, you could have the fairytailish princess wedding and basically look forward to your entire lives ahead of you.

That depends on how you view "ideal", I think. We know, from our experiences and the knowledge gathered so far, that without suffering it is very difficult if not impossible to learn anything. The scenario above may not allow the two people to really love each other and grow together. When you only have the "fairy tale", you don't know how to choose to align yourself with the "good". (Think about spolied children and millenials, for example.) So, in that sense, I think these books are quite realistic. At least some of them.

I also think that even though some details in the books can seem unrealistic (and I haven't read the same series as you), the point is to be constantly observing what effect they have on you. What they help you process, how you feel about certain "archetypes" being depicted, etc. Yes, sometimes the author rushes through parts that would have made all the difference in real life, and the reader is left to read between the lines. But IMO, that can also be part of the goal, since it can teach you what is more important, what really matters to you that may be "lacking" in the story. At least I noticed some of that with "My Darling Duke" and "Heartless".
 
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Konstantin

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The 4th book in the series Sins of Sin ( A Scoundrel by Moonlights ) is my favorite in this Series.
I just finished the book.

What I noticed while reading is the transformation of the character of James.
He is a cold person, now showing his feelings. All he thinks is business and politics. In the beginning, he is described as a very powerful man that everybody feared.
On the other side, we have Elenor, the woman who is brave and sensitive and determined to fulfill her plans.

But when she meets him the drama started. Even with all the pieces of information that she has about him and with the last words of her sister she was unable to resist her feelings.
She believes her instincts and feelings that James is a good man. Deep inside her, she was always aware of her sister's last words, but what she senses, and what she saw wah total opposite. James was a good man.

A similar thing happens to James. From the first moment he saw her, his instincts, his feelings start to bother him.
The transformation begins. Beneath the cold iron shield of James, there was a sensitive and warm person. Beneath this iron shield, there was a real human being, with emotions. Elenor was able to sense that.

So, in the book, we can see how both of them are attracted and fall in love with the essence of the other, not with their mask, their programs, their defense mechanisms.
And James' character goes through a full transformation. He learns how to truly love and care for somebody. But this transformation cant goes smooth, and without suffering and sacrifice.
He must sacrifice his political career, his reputation, his greatness in order to be able to experience real love.
Elenor must also suffer in order to be able to follow her heart.

In the end, we can see that both of them were doing the opposite of what is expected from them, of what common sense tells them.
They can sense that they are doing right, no matter that it looks very wrong at the moment and they have big faith in their actions.

We can see the ability to forgive, to love, to help, and respect.
A dynamic that reveals true human values and true STO characteristics.

All the books in this series give more solid ground to see the everyday dynamic between people in a new light. It helps me to try to see the essence of people, not what they want to show. It helps me to have even more love and respect for my wife. Helps me and strengthens my intention of the signal that each of us sends to the universe that it is a kind of reality that we want to live in. A reality with true human values, a reality where STO characteristics dominate.

The books help to see that the personal growth is the most important thing because the transformation that happens inside us is enabling us to see the world and people around us with different eyes. Inside transformation triggers outside transformation

James was a cold and distant person with no close friends. After his transformation, even he is surprised how Richard, Cam and Jonas, become his best friends, how a change inside our inner landscape can trigger such a powerful change in our environment.

Just a last small book remained in this series. Going next with it.
 

thorbiorn

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
After having read the Sons of Sin series by Anna Campbell and having read Courting Julia, and now working on Dancing with Clara by Mary Balogh, I begin to understand how characters in different stories by different authors complement each other, as does their focus and use of language. I'll attempt to give an example, by commenting on what Adaryn wrote earlier:
The love scenes were really well written, realistic and authentic (which is a plus), showing something which is so much more than "sex" as a trifling, "fun" and basic act/function, making it a spiritual, soul shaking (in a good way), transformative experience for both characters – the real deal, so to speak.
Mary Balogh on the other hand is more discreet when it comes to the most intimate passages. Campbell would probably have treated them differently.
One of the great strengths of Balogh is her detailed descriptions of the internal dialogues of the characters. And the commentary that Balogh weaves into her story places the relationships in a greater context. However, it would not necessarily become a better book if Campbell and Balogh developed a book together. It would just make the story much longer and less accessible. Still, next time I read a book by Campbell, I will imagine what the weaved in psychological commentary would be, if Balogh had been involved. As one reads more books and authors, one will probably gain more insight - at least if one is interested in the aspect of complementarity between the authors and their stories. At the same time the various stories stir different qualities of the emotions.

Compared to reading the first book in the SOS series, - - SOS may stand not only for Sons of Sin, but also for Save Our Soules, which in a certain sense is what happens to the protagonists - - my experience was different from reading the subsequent books. I think it had to do with the initial lack of familiarity with the genre, the language, and the types of issues being dealt with. By now, I have become more occupied with the psychological drama of the characters, as they in their search for truth and love struggle to discover something deeper in the other and in themselves. I have also become more conscious of how language can be used to describe emotions and physical experience, and since language for me also is like a tool, it helps me to think. One experiment I did today was to read sections of Dancing with Clara out loud. It is slower, but interesting and different. I read until my voice was getting tired, but will try again another time. I often look up words, I don't know too well, even if the overall meaning is there, because I like to understand the nuances of the characters. Kindle has a dictionary, which is great. Otherwise if I read on the computer, there are Oxford, Collins, Macmillan, Longman, Cambridge, Google, Yandex, Wiktionary.org etc.

Thoughts on the structure of the stories
In the stories there is a dynamic play between opposites, like love and hate, courage and fear, honour and dishonour, responsibility and irresponsibility, friendship and enmity, truth and a lie or false, virtues and vice etc. , It reminded me of the dialectical method which in the early 19th century was promoted by the German philosopher, and contemporary of Jane Austen, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831) Here is what the Wiki has to say about dialectic:
Dialectic or dialectics (Greek: διαλεκτική, dialektikḗ; related to dialogue), also known as the dialectical method, is at base a discourse between two or more people holding different points of view about a subject but wishing to establish the truth through reasoned methods of argumentation.

Within Hegelianism, the word dialectic has the specialised meaning of a contradiction between ideas that serves as the determining factor in their relationship. Dialectic comprises three stages of development: first, the thesis, a statement of an idea; second, the antithesis, a reaction that contradicts or negates the thesis; and third, the synthesis, a statement through which the differences between the two points are resolved.
The above description of the element of the dialectical process into thesis, antithesis and synthesis might be related to the descriptions of protagonists and their role in a story:
A protagonist (from Ancient Greek πρωταγωνιστής, prōtagōnistḗs, meaning 'one who plays the first part, chief actor') [1][2] is the main character of a story.

The protagonist is at the center of the story, makes the key decisions, and experiences the consequences of those decisions. The protagonist is the primary agent propelling the story forward, and is often the character who faces the most significant obstacles. If a story contains a subplot, or is a narrative made up of several stories, then each subplot may have its own protagonist.[3]

The protagonist is the character whose fate is most closely followed by the reader or audience, and who is opposed by the antagonist. The antagonist will provide obstacles and complications and create conflicts that test the protagonist, and revealing the strengths and weaknesses of the protagonist's character.[4]
I'm not convinced that an antagonist can only be something outside, it may also be some aspect of character that has to be dealt with or even another protagonist, as when a man and a woman in a story both are protagonists, but also in some scenes serve as each other's antagonist. Regarding the role of the outer antagonist in the stories, part of a happy ending seems to be that justice has been served. At least, this was the impression I had from reading the SOS series, but justice served involves both the protagonists and the antagonists. The protagonists attain happiness, but have to suffer for their mistakes, until they have learned their lessons.

The etymology of hero and heroine
The protagonists in these stories develop into something close to heroes and heroines by overcoming themselves and their limitations. As I looked up the etymology of hero, I found descriptions that made me think the genuine hero is connected to a higher density,
hero (n.1)
late 14c., "man of superhuman strength or physical courage," from Old French heroe (14c., Modern French héros), from Latin heros (plural heroes) "hero, demi-god, illustrious man," from Greek hērōs (plural hērōes) "demi-god," a variant singular of which was hērōe. This is of uncertain origin; perhaps originally "defender, protector" and from PIE root *ser- (1) "to protect," but Beekes writes that it is "Probably a Pre-Greek word."
See also: in the same article:
heroine (n.)
1650s, "demigoddess," from Latin heroine, heroina (plural heroinae) "a female hero, a demigoddess" (such as Medea), from Greek hērōine, fem. of hērōs (see hero (n.1)). Meaning "heroic woman, woman distinguished by exalted courage or noble achievements" is from 1660s. Sense of "principal female character in a drama, poem, etc." is from 1715.
It is perhaps interesting that the wife of Zeus was called Hera, again pointing to the hero or heroine being well connected with the Cosmos, at least originally.
Hera
sister and wife of Zeus, the type of virtuous womanhood, from Greek Hēra, literally "protectress," related to hērōs "hero," originally "defender, protector" (see hero (n.1)).

Connecting thesis, antithesis and synthesis to protagonists, antagonists, heroes and heroines.
If I was to try and connect the different terms, then I would say the protagonists at the beginning of a story, before transformations is the thesis. The opposition offered from within and without, the antagonists, could be the antithesis. The interaction between the protagonists and the antagonists generates the synthesis, or protagonists that have shown themselves to share the qualities of heroes and heroines, who have worked for and ideally have achieved a true self, and in relation to another person genuine Love.
 
Just chiming in here as I started following this thread after having some very intense emotional reactions that I had a hard time dealing with recently at work, and I felt a serious need to find some way to balance them. I'm only through page 20 here so far, but from what I've read this is incredible and I can already see from the personal shares that these readings have helped some people a great deal.

For the record: after reading the first page I had an extreme negative reaction to this exercise that after meditating on it I narrowed it down to having read a book I should not have read when I was a teenager that was nothing like what is being recommended here, but which was a best-selling "romance novel" at the time. I will share that and what I went through with that realization in the swamp soon, as it is intensely personal and does not belong on this thread. But it was a breakthrough that I desperately needed, and I am VERY thankful for that; for I now see that I have been blocked sexually, intimately, and emotionally almost all my life - and that book cemented my feelings when I was too young to really understand the difference between sexuality and love.

I did, soon after reading this thread, go out and buy several books by the authors recommended by Laura. However, after reading page 8, it seems I got a few that aren't appropriate for this exercise even though they were written by the recommended authors. But that's OK; I got them from a local bookstore that had plenty of them pretty cheap, so I'll go back tomorrow. BTW, the owner was cute and she flirted with me when she saw what I was buying, but that's not why I'm going back, really!!

But seriously: this exercise is exactly what I had been hoping someone reputable would offer to host, with ambassadors and moderators etc. whose only wish is to help - without expectations other than TO help - for a VERY long time. I tried to "heal" myself by attending "Human Awareness Institute" workshops that ultimately only resulted in more rejection and self-hatred even when we shared equally from a vulnerable, naked and exposed state. It turned out even those who "cared" then, had other "expectations" that I see clearly now.

And I will also say this: had most kids been presented with classes in learning how to love, how to be present, how to share, how to deal with rejection, how to tune into other's needs, how to love yourself etc. this world would NEVER have gotten into this state. Can you imagine what a difference having classes not just in sexual education, but also how to find your own strengths; how to present yourself to others authentically; how to understand others and their needs; and how to deal with personal rejection could have changed this world for the better? And in fact, what if some of these books recommended by Laura could be made into plays for teens, where class participants MUST choose roles to play, and watch, with the teachers and audience chipping in with helpful hints without judgments?

How much different would this world be if we were all made to learn how to do these things, like approach those we are infatuated with in proper ways, and how to deal with rejection if that happens? And how to personally ACT that out, on a stage, with adults present who could inform us what works best, and why? How much different would my life be now, having been single almost my entire life, had I SEEN or ACTED in plays like that where I learned ways to authentically present myself from a space that I truly KNEW came from love, yet not lose love for myself if it isn't returned? I will always wonder that...
 

Mari

Dagobah Resident
FOTCM Member
I´ve red 1st and 2nd book from Anne Gracie´s "Marriage of Convenience" series.

I don´t know if I have so much different feeling about these books because I´ve read quite several of these novels by now and I can visualize this world of theirs better, or is it due to my hormones change.
I would say: it´s both. :-)

But this two books are delight!
Bursting with humor and the general atmosphere is so much brighter than in other books....
Gracie is a very smart and very good writer; she gets deep in the minds of the characters and gives a beautiful descriptions of the scenery and protagonists so one can really put themselves in the book - like watching a movie in your mind but much, much deeper.

In the 1st book "Marry in Haste" I liked Cal character; for a soldier, he was quite chaotic and hectic (like: "ok, since Emm doesn´t want to be hired, I´ll marry her." I mean - what!? :-D ) and clearly with no clue what to do. I laughed on his thoughts when thinking of his sisters and what to do next.

I also liked Aunt Dottie - her freedom and her view of life (and I highly doubt that servants had chickenpox in second book :-D , I´m thinking more that she had a gentleman with her...).
I´m guessing now, that I´m about to see also a change of character for her sister, Lady Agatha, who might turn not so stiff and hard by the end of the series. I think that Lilly already cracked and shook her a little in the second book, but I suppose I´ll see....

The best character in second book was Lord Galbraith, Ned´s grandfather. So loving and giving person, so full of warmth and light and so filled with sorrow. I liked him for his deep understanding and his knowing his grandson and his wits and humor.


It was already mentioned here, that each of us reading these books, sees these books differently - in a sense, they put focus on part they consciously or subconsciously need to work on.
I agree with that and see when reading the books parts that strike me hard and I then remember part of my life I haven´t really solved.
Like, talking with your subconscious.


What I also noticed in these books is the amount of suffering that kids these days were going trough.
All these novels carry childhood issues, but just imagine how it´s like to be a kid in those times; if you were born rich, you end up (for the most part) in a non-loving environment when kids as young as 7-8 were sent off to school and seeing their parents 1-2 a year! How devastating for a child! Emotionally (and often physically) abused from the earliest of age, chaperoned but not receiving parental love.
And if one is born "a commoner", those kids were forced to work from youngest of age, many times also abused - both emotionally and physically, and on top of all that hungry.
I´ve red years ago a series of articles that was a sociological research in history of children (and I cannot find it again for days now) and how humanity as civilization is carrying a great scars of abuse all done in history of mankind. Just imagine those times of unrest, wars, plagues and cosmic events and being a poor little thing in psychopathic world. And we are all descendants of those poor little souls, hungry for love, care and human compassion....

Maybe we can look at these books also from that perspective, as a history of a human race in general, and how a simple acts of kindness, honesty and love can change a person to be something more than pure automaton.

He linked both arms around her waist and looked down at her. “You’ve given me back my home—and I’m not talking about any building, but home in every sense of the word. You restored me to my place and my people, opened up my heart again and showed me the road to a future I didn’t dream was possible.” His deep voice was ragged with emotion. His grip on her tightened. “For the past decade and more, I’ve lived a kind of half-life. It was an existence, not a life, with no meaning and no purpose except not to feel, not to hope, and not to love.” His expression was solemn, but his eyes blazed with a light that took her breath away. “You are my hope and my home. You’re my future and my endless, eternal love. With all my heart, I thank you.
 

Jefferson

Dagobah Resident
FOTCM Member
Starting the reading exercise with Balogh’s Sullivan series and the electronic version of “Courting Julia” meanwhile waiting for the hardcopy of the second book, “Dancing with Clara”, I launched Balogh's Horseman Trilogy and it’s book “Indiscreet”.

Indiscreet – Mary Balogh (Book 1 of the Horsemen Trilogy):

Before even completing the book, a few themes stood out. Oboy, now after finishing the book - what a story of royally screwing up, viscerally realizing the pain and consequences of the mistake, and the eventual making of amends and concomitant change of life (metanoia) in taking responsibility and dealing with the aftermath!

It can be seen how the characters build narratives with a strong dose of substitution and selection, pattern recognition running amok, and misreading of cues: typical of all of us and especially people who are not working on themselves. Rex makes assumptions, lets these errors of thinking control his behavior, and allows his pride and feelings of insufficiency take over, which leads to causing pain and hurt to others (I could actually feel this!). The story illustrates the realization by Rex of the pain caused by his behavior and the remorse he feels – a remorse propelling him to take responsibility and make amends for his deplorable, selfish actions.

While reading the gossipy, vicious, self-righteous, and judgmental behavior in the story from an observer point-of-view, I could feel the repulsiveness of this kind of behavior, especially with the realization that I myself can be judgmental and act in a similar way. This reading was again good for me to just feel and vicariously participate in the emotions invoked in the story, like an emotional roller coaster (feelings of dread, angst, exhilaration, for example).

Catherine, carrying obvious past trauma, portrays a fair amount of selfishness (like Rex) but definitely shows a great deal of stubbornness as well. The story takes the reader through how the characters work through these disorders of character and neurotic traits i.e. defense mechanisms, and become more vulnerable: and how that vulnerability builds trust to become a source of strength in the end (as a foundation for building a strong, healthy relationship). Although the two characters are absolute strangers, and after some time the author describes them as “almost friends”, the story describes how they become closer bit-by-bit: this is an example of how protracted efforts are needed for a relationship to develop and grow. The reader (me) can feel how this is happening.

There was a situation where the spectre of death arrived on the scene – the author skillfully introduces the topic of facing death with the characters asking in a sense, “are we ready” or more specifically “have we said what we want?”. This is a clear reminder of keeping the end in mind as per Covey, or in other words, remaining steadfast in our purpose and aim, having lived the dignified life that actually brings dignity upon death. This again 'poked' my emotions and helped me to feel the desire to live a good, dignified life.


Now that "Dancing with Clara" has arrived, I’ve set the Horsemen Trilogy aside, and started this second book of Balogh’s Sullivan series: so far I’m blown away and it seems that "Dancing with Clara" was written for me, along with its main character and fellow douche, Frederick.

This is a wonderful exercise to be participating in, and I’m grateful for it – couldn’t have come a better time.
 
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