Romantic Fiction, Reality Shaping and The Work

Laura

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Hi Laura, Sorry for noise but is it necessary to read them as You listed or each book is story of itself? One title cuaght my attention because of You but it is in the end of the list.
Michal

Usually, if it is a series, it really helps to read them in order. However, in the case of the Huxtable series, you can read the last two books together without all that went before since they only use a character from the previous books and the environment is very different.

Nevertheless, in your case, I would start with Mary Balogh as her books seem more likely to help you. In fact, in your case, I would start with the Web series which is only three books.
 

Michal

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Usually, if it is a series, it really helps to read them in order. However, in the case of the Huxtable series, you can read the last two books together without all that went before since they only use a character from the previous books and the environment is very different.

Nevertheless, in your case, I would start with Mary Balogh as her books seem more likely to help you. In fact, in your case, I would start with the Web series which is only three books.
Thank You Laura.
 

Gaby

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Hi Laura, Sorry for noise but is it necessary to read them as You listed or each book is story of itself? One title cuaght my attention because of You but it is in the end of the list.
Michal
It's part of the series, and I've read the first 6-7 of them. Characters are interrelated, so reading them in order is the way to go for context.
 

Voyageur

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I finished Merridew series and this series is a very good page turner. Gracie uses hardship, hope(dreams as a motivator), Love, comedy and dash of deja vu. I laughed loudly in the 'the perfect rake' with the honest
goof ups Prudent made at duke's place
. But the best joke is in her third book 'The Perfect Stranger'
when the faith threatened the caption
. The perfect Waltz is full of hope-ful quotes. If the right ideals are instilled in the kids in the early age with love, it will go long way to motivate them to face the reality with optimism and adventure. In this case, it is " love and laughter and sunshine and happiness".

"The Perfect Stranger" is my favorite book in this series. It was a heart warming to read the life of Soldier's Wife. How easily our current scientific priesthood forget the complex patterns of human reality with one theory or other. some quotes
Had jumped back over to Gracie for the Merridew sister (the virtue sisters) series, and enjoyed them, too. These stores like many were built upon the foundation of a horrible upbringing, then the family bond that grows, learns, forgives, loves and branches.

As you said, seek10, had had fits of laughter with Prudence in the first book, and that was different from almost ever book read so far - Gracie's ability to tease this out. It was welcomed. Also resonated with the book about Faith, as steps were traced across France and Spain (and having been right at the place in Spain that the book ended at - could really feel this).

There were two characters in the stores (related to Hope's story), that my heart really went out to; Cassie and Dorie.

These were also one of the first books whereby lady's:

armed themselves at various times with weapons and they were not afraid to use them.

In many books (Balogh, Gracie) the Peninsular War factors (1807–1814). Had a look at what was going on, where and who was impacted. What a horrible state of affairs for everyone:

Casualties and losses
Spain 215,000–375,000 military and civilian dead[7]
Spain 25,000 guerrillas killed[8]
December 1810 – May 1814:
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland 35,630 dead[9]
  • 24,053 died of disease[9]
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland 32,429 wounded[9]
180,000–240,000 killed[8]
237,000 wounded[8]
1,000,000+ military and civilian dead[8]
 

hlat

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I finished The Perfect Stranger, book 3 of Merridew Sisters by Anne Gracie. I liked it with Gracie's usual humor to give some relief from the pain, though I connected less with this book than the first 2 books. I was surprised by
the paranormal aspects: twin telepathy, prophecy/precognition, and miraculous healing. It was disappointing that Faith was deceived by the man and didn't learn from Pru getting deceived by her man.
I can't wait to finish the series next month with The Perfect Kiss.
 

primeaddict

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These books are great emotional therapy and very often the effects of reading them are happening deep inside us before we are even aware of it consciously.
The most difficult aspect of this project is dealing with these emotional scenes in public. How does a 60++ man stifle tears in public while reading about the emotional pain of a grandson due to his beloved grandfather's death in Only a Promise by Mary Balough? This was a gut-blow for me on so many levels. My past memories as a grandson, my current status as a grandpa and as a reader trying to be an objective observer.

I admired Chloe's ability to face her fear of humiliation from the Ton. This is like dealing with the current cancel culture, a very painful endeavour. I thought Ralph's reaction to the horrors of the war was way out of character. His survivor's guilt and emotional shutdown seemed to be a arogant display of petulant anger at the gods. It was extremely lame for him to avoid the parents of his group of friends that did not survive the same battle that he was injured in. Chloe challenged him to face his fears like she faced her's, but I wanted to say, "grow a pair man and honor your friends by telling their parents what great men they were to all."

Balough is very good at inner character development but she made a pre-war-strong man into a post-war-wimp, just from one brutal battle. To turn a stong man into a wimp would be more believable if Ralph had suffered a blistering string of defeats do to his blunders. If his screwups caused his friends deaths than he had reason to go full wimpish-nuts.

I enjoyed the story even with the public display of tears.😭

If I were reading the news in public it would not be tears that I would be displaying!!! Public cursing would land me in the slammer, so thanks Laura for this diversion and keeping me out of jail.
 

Mariama

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Finished The Temporary Wife. I don't quite know how to reconcile my feelings of anger with the above-mentioned scenario, and the emotion generated by the character of Charity. She is so much the quintessential heroine, willing to sacrifice material wealth in order to maintain her integrity and decency. Balogh even gives her a near-psychic ability to know what Anthony is thinking and feeling.
Compassion and gentleness, spontaneity, her love of family, stand in stark contrast to Anthony's, ruled by decorum, customs, and tradition, as well as anger and resentment.
Charity's character emotes a feeling of love and protection for her. In fact it could be said she is the embodiment of love, judging by the influence she has on Anthony and his family.
Any feeling of empathy I might have had for Anthony was severely dampened when he hurt Charity.
Balogh has the uncanny ability to bring her characters to life, and drawing out emotional responses from the reader.
This one anyway.
I didn't like Charity's behaviour at times as she put herself in an impossible situation (for the right reasons, yes!) by marrying him while she didn't know him at all and therefore invited disaster (ignorance endangers), didn't network (and let her family know where she was), told fibs, but what made me realise she was not completely selfless in all of this was when she left him on the day of his father's funeral.

A thing that worked in his favour, is that he became a responsible human being the moment his father was dying. He made peace with his father (a beautiful and moving scene), accepted responsibility for his young sister and then went to look for Charity who had disappeared without telling him where she had gone. I would have applauded her, had she been abused, but that was clearly not the case. She lost her objectivity and perhaps believed her own narratives, but maybe I'm just more outspoken when it comes to my own sex. :-)

I am a bit behind with this thread, but I have been reading steadily and at times I am just completely immersed in the story-line and characters. Mary Balogh, but the other writers too make me feel so wealthy in a spiritual way (I don't really know how to put it) , as if I myself have been blessed with all these riches that in the end are bestowed on the main characters. The fact that we are a witness to incredible suffering and hardship and subsequently some kind of catharsis (?) by living vicariously through these characters really is quite amazing! (Apologies if I'm repeating myself.)
 
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Mimmo

The Force is Strong With This One
The McKenzy series and the Survivors Club can be described really well with the phrases 'broken machines' or as Laura put it, 'the walking wounded'. (thanks again Windmill knight for bringing up that description elsewhere).

I always wonder how I get emotionally immersed in these stories and get so upset at certain points that I want to tear up the book when the characters (so felt) talk past each other for the hundredth time or just don't talk to each other to validate their impressions and thoughts. Or I suddenly can't continue reading, because a deep sadness rises in me at scenes in which love seems lost or the unbearable suffering is depicted that the characters go through. Surprisingly, this happens quite often. But already as a child I felt how sad and angry injustice, ignorance and malice made me. I still have to hold back my tears when I watch "Little Lord Fauntleroy", even though I have probably seen this movie 4 or 5 times in my life.

Since injustice, ignorance and malice are also a part of my life, it touches me perhaps also because I deeply regret these parts. Through these books, I have realized another perspective in working on myself. Especially the McKenzy series and the club of survivors shows very vividly how the experiences in life, just form the sorrowful qualities that seem inappropriate from a certain point of view. So my experiences have made me rather a silent and critical observer. And in the negative form to someone who quickly evaluates and condemns.

The positive side to it is that I find it helpful that I first understand my surroundings in detail in order to get a picture of the situation in peace and quiet. It gives me the opportunity to gather information first before I draw hasty conclusions or even act hastily. Of course there are more than enough situations in which I act impulsively. But this quality of observing things carefully helps me when it comes to learning something new, starting a new job, cooking a roast in such a way that you don't need a knife to cut it, etc. This quiet, reserved observation, which has formed a character trait from my experiences and did not seem helpful to me in childhood and adolescence because it also meant loneliness and exclusion, I now see as a welcome trait that I can use consciously in certain situations. Provided that I am also aware.

In the course of the stories, the characters overcome their suffering / self-pity, fathom their narratives and their resulting traits, and are able to transform their behaviors and traits created from suffering into potentials and use them for good. Maybe that's not quite it, and it's more like the characters are working through their issues, making room to realize their potentials and know how to use them for others.

The stories and the developmental processes help me to see my traits from a different perspective, to realize that I can decide when, for example, I want to be more of a silent observer and when it is appropriate to say something, to act, and that I am not just a silent observer and not just the sum of my experiences, but can decide how I use the trait to help others.

What drove me almost insane about Eloisa James' series were the narratives that were maintained until almost the end of the book. With what I consider brutal persistence, the narratives of each character are maintained, inevitably leading to one sorrowful drama after another. The theme of narratives runs through all the series I've read so far, but to an unexpected degree in Eloisa James.

But exactly this intensity in which one narrative chases the other shows me insistently which narratives have ruled me in the past and today and offers me again the possibility from another perspective (observer of myself) to recognize, to look at, to express and to check the everyday narratives. I find it truly frightening how full my everyday life is still of narratives as well, and how my thinking, emotions, and actions are influenced by them. The stories of Eloisa James show in a really dramatic, almost unbearable way how important it is to recognize narratives, to speak them out, to examine them with others in order not to drift from one's inner alignment. Narratives can lead to inconceivable actions, to emotional chaos, and actions that one bitterly regrets in retrospect.

I find myself time and time again coming across work colleagues as very short tempered and stern because I give in to my narratives. It may not be all that black and white in a stressful workday where some things don't work out the way they should, unplanned things come up on top, and yet narratives creep in. For example, one day I'm rushing from one appointment to the next and pass by a colleague who is just sitting at his desk and at that moment I form a story: "he sits there all day and lets the sun shine on his belly ...") and suddenly I have my story, my emotions and I look at him angrily or even worse make an exaggerated and stern remark. This can open up a dynamic that can degenerate into an argument or worse. If good intentions are the road to hell, then narratives are the gateway to hell.

Very poignantly portrayed in "Enchanting Pleasures" by Eloisa James was the issue of "good intentions." The protagonist acts against the free will of the antagonist. Even the feedback from the experienced wise man does not stop the protagonist from secretly instilling her good intentions against the antagonist's will without regard to deadly consequences. Even when everything is over, nothing seems to be learned and everyone looks forward to the happy ending. But it remains unclear whether there will be a happy ending next time, when good intentions are again acted out against someone‘s free will.

And again, I shudder to think of my own well-intentioned intentions. These books are really good at illuminating my own issues in a romantic theatrical way.
 

Redrock12

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I didn't like Charity's behaviour at times as she put herself in an impossible situation (for the right reasons, yes!) by marrying him while she didn't know him at all and therefore invited disaster (ignorance endangers), didn't network (and let her family know where she was), told fibs, but what made me realise she was not completely selfless in all of this was when she left him on the day of his father's funeral.

A thing that worked in his favour, is that he became a responsible human being the moment his father was dying. He made peace with his father (a beautiful and moving scene), accepted responsibility for his young sister and then went to look for Charity who had disappeared without telling him where she had gone. I would have applauded her, had she been abused, but that was clearly not the case. She lost her objectivity and perhaps believed her own narratives, but maybe I'm just more outspoken when it comes to my own sex. :-)

I am a bit behind with this thread, but I have been reading steadily and at times I am just completely immersed in the story-line and characters. Mary Balogh, but the other writers too make me feel so wealthy in a spiritual way (I don't really know how to put it) , as if I myself have been blessed with all these riches that in the end are bestowed on the main characters. The fact that we are a witness to incredible suffering and hardship and subsequently some kind of catharsis (?) by living vicariously through these characters really is quite amazing! (Apologies if I'm repeating myself.)
"I would have applauded her, had she been abused, but that was clearly not the case."
I agree, she did not leave because she had been abused. And yes, thank you for pointing out Charity's shortcomings Mariama.
Nevertheless, she was clearly abused by Anthony when he tried in the presence of others and clearly out of anger, to yank the necklace off of her and drew blood, and no one intervened. Does Anthony's title of a duke give him the right to physically asssault women? For whatever reason, Balogh seems to heve glossed over this incident.
Imho, it besmirched Anthony's character, and perhaps it's why I overlooked Charity's character flaws.
But I could be wrong.
 

Laurs

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I have just finished the trilogy by Caroline Linden Wagers of Sine series. Loved it, she writes in a very easy and gripping style.
Although Caroline Linden doesn't offer any psychological insights in these Wagers of Sin series the way Mary Balogh does it becomes perfectly clear just by reading the story OSIT.
I was also thinking that, the characters were somewhat superficially developed and she could have gone much deeper. Having said that, there were some things i would like to share. In the second novel, An Earl Like You, it kind of struck me that Eliza had some sort of transcendental quality over her. The embodiment of goodness and virtue. She wasn't beautiful and she knew it and had completely accepted it and, the world being what it is: rewarding beauty, she was perfectly resigned to spend her life in her own company and was happy with that prospect. She then served others by (unknowingly) inspiring them to develop/see their own positive traits to do good. So yes, the characters could have been developed to a much deeper level, but there is still a lot there imo. Also when Mr Cross went to the casino to 'seek out' a man who could 'lose graciously', that being a sign of strength of character to him, even though he himself clearly demonstrated psychopathological traits, was interesting to consider. Guess it is all too human.

The last one in this series, 'When the Marquess Was Mine', had me laughing out loud at times, especially when they were at Osbourne House. It had also some inspirational lessons that were learned through suffering: Rob using a nasty catalyst to become a better man, helped by noticing and evaluating the caring of others around him. Also all three main female characters in all three books were kind of on their own from a young age and used the setbacks and obstacles to become resilient, responsible, thinking and loving young Ladies.

Onto Elisa Braden now, they are in the mail. Am so grateful for this great experience, really looking forward to my bedtime reading, and i clearly see so many benefits in reading the works of different authors. And so far, for me, Mary Balogh rules!
 

Alana

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I have just finished the trilogy by Caroline Linden Wagers of Sine series. Loved it, she writes in a very easy and gripping style.
I am taking a break from Balogh and started reading Wagers of Sin. I finished the first book in a couple of days! Very easy to read, engaging story, enough drama but not Baloghian proportions :-P, interesting characters, some nice sex scenes but not the Cambellian descriptions and repetitions. All in all, a good old romance story. Looking forward to finding out what happened to Elisa!
 

seek10

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Mary Balogh, but the other writers too make me feel so wealthy in a spiritual way (I don't really know how to put it) , as if I myself have been blessed with all these riches that in the end are bestowed on the main characters. The fact that we are a witness to incredible suffering and hardship and subsequently some kind of catharsis (?) by living vicariously through these characters really is quite amazing! (Apologies if I'm repeating myself.)
I think that is due to current condition of the society which only promoted dog-eat-dog materialistic mindset that only produced sense of confusion. There are endless surface level preachings in all flavors that nobody seems to question that triggers some anxiety or doubt. Reading the novels is sort of validation of the values and comfort of not being alone. Happy ending is always good.
 

jess

Jedi
I finished "Only A Promise", Mary Balogh, Series: Survivor's Club. At the beginning of the story I thought Chloe had very low self-esteem in general for proposing to the arrogant and insensitive Ralph, but then as I continued with the story I understood very well the courage and sense of "doing something" to change her life, there was no other way but to "do it, take action" in pursuing the possibility of changing her life. I admire Chloe's humility and good heart, because at least for the things she endured from her mother and sister, by affecting her in her unconscious actions she could have rather kept some hatred towards them.

I felt a lot of repulsion for Ralph's character, I never liked this character, throughout the story I could not understand how someone can be attached for a long time to his "suffering", without caring much about the people around him. At the end I understood a little bit his behavior so attached to his "childhood memories" towards his friends.
In opposition to Ralph's character, I loved Graham's character, his way of understanding the "things in life, his philosophy of life" and his affectionate support and guidance for his sister.

Overall I didn't find the reading too heavy, I think these are things that people have to deal with in life, things like the "group or society" that we interact with to learn about ourselves and others, marriage, war, etc.
Also the story is not focused on the disembowelments and viceras of war, but rather on his reflection about it, I think.
Maybe it could be worse, how about the story of the European inquisition, being burned at the stake, just because someone thought you were a witch, or being eaten by an animal.
I find the stories quite enjoyable, sometimes I get the impression that people are a bit childish or innocent in their thinking in general, I don't know if it has to do with the degree of knowledge in general as a society.

During the reading some feelings bloomed that were not directly related to the story but made me think how many emotions we can keep without realizing that they are there just a weight, a hindrance in our life, maybe little things that I never realized they were there.
Because these two weeks I'm also a little bit with the physical discomfort of something "similar" to covid, chest discomfort, constant cough and a lot of sense of taste and smell, I have realized the importance of cleaning as much as possible or purify the feelings. I'm working as much as possible on the meditations and breathing exercises of Éiriú-Eolas, EE.

thanks :-)
 

Chu

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It took me some time to read it because of the emotional outbursts i've experienced while reading the entire Web/Dell series, there were just a few of them but quiet strong that have unburied some pretty strong memories from childhood and some pretty strong emotions.

I hear you! Just finished Balogh's Web series, and boy... I had read 10 or so Baloghs before, but these, I found SO much better! Deeper, the stories all related, the struggles depicted with such complexity, pain and beauty... They brought a lot of emotions up and almost forgotten memories, etc. I caught myself feeling "raw" a few times, for lack of a better word. And relating events or patterns from the past in ways that I hadn't done before.

So far Anne Gracie was my favorite, but I think I've changed my mind with these. They are different, and I still LOVE Gracie, but there is a depth to the characters in Balogh that I imagine is hard to match. I'm and early sleeper usually, but be careful, these will probably keep you up late! They are quite a roller-coaster.
 
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