Romantic Fiction, Reality Shaping and The Work

Niall

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I began this Romantic Reading Rollercoaster with Anna Campbell's steamy - but fun and satisfying - Sons of Sin series. Then I read Annie Gracie's Marriage of Convenience series, followed by her Devil's Riders series. Those were richer, deeper reads than Campbell's, but it's only from now reading Mary Balogh's Web series that I've encountered a book that is emotionally difficult to get through.

I never imagined I'd read one of these and it would be set somewhere I once lived (in this life), and about which I've previously pondered a past-life connection. I'm talking about Web of Love, which - unlike other books in which 'the wars against Boney' are background context - takes place at the time of the Battle of Waterloo and is largely set in Brussels.

I was intrigued so I've been reading up on the history of the Battle of Waterloo and using Google Maps to check locations/events mentioned by Balogh. She indeed got all the details correct - specific battlefields, military balls, street and place names, and even the weather at the time.

In the course of doing this, I discovered - or remembered, I can't tell which - that the first house I lived in when my family moved to the area (and I was age 9), was about a mile from the scene of the main battle. I remember feeling sad, anxious and homesick there, though I suppose I later attributed that to the trauma of moving to a foreign country.

Maybe it was 'the energy of the place', given its proximity to the main battlefield, and/or maybe there's a past-life connection, but in any event the coincidence of details, combined with the harrowing struggles of the characters in the book who survive the final battle against Napoleon's army, makes this book a whole different read for me than any other I've read.
 
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primeaddict

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I am now able to see where and how I may have hurt others and why and how I should forgive those who hurt me. I can't DO anything about most of it, but knowing and sending out the thought that I'm sorry or I forgive may mean something.
That very fact of life review has made this reading project extremely valuable to me. While reviewing my past emotional abusive, arrogant and smart ars behaviors I dig deep for the why's and what for's. The revelations has changed my present behavior and inner awareness of my affect on others. This has helped me to tread more softly among the hearts of others. I believe this is how I am forgiving those who hurt me and walking the talk of forgiveness from others. At least I hope this is how it should be done.
 

primeaddict

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Reading so many books in such a short amount of time has cause so many bleed-throughs among the storylines.

I am rereading Indiscreet by Mary Balogh. Rex's stalking behavior towards Catherine was more discussing upon the second read. I realized that by taking away his wealth, looks and title this story would be a non-romance. What made this story palatable was the fact that he was wealthy, titled and handsome and Catherine was not completely horrified by him.

I behaved this way in my early teens but thankfully I realized it's discussing nature and stopped it. This brought up my self revulsion toward such behavior.
 

Keit

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I agree with your spoiler, Thorbiorn. IMO what the father did was worse than what the son did, but maybe that's me. I have been thinking about this distinction between physical and emotional abuse. I don't want to condone what Anthony did, it was wrong, but I did understand why he lost it as his father was taunting him in a most cruel manner, unbeknownst to Charity. That's why it is so important to gain full control over our limiting emotions, so nobody will be able to push us over the edge.

I am putting my comments as spoiler just in case they reveal enough of the plot that people don't want to know about.

I am still reading the book, but just wanted to remark that despite the narrative being about the conflict between domineering and abusive father and avenging son, I do find a lot of similarities between myself and my mother, who was both emotionally and physically abusive. And while I don't see myself doing the same thing Anthony did, in effect it is still similar, because in my case my "revenge" is not sharing my life with her and refusing to participate in her plans that she had for me. I actually have zero contact with her for several years now.

So to be honest, even if I don't know if this issue will be resolved, and how it will be resolved, it does make me very uneasy as I continue reading, thinking that this book will present a scenario where reconciliation and making amends will happen because "it's the right thing to do", and because the father is ill and may die soon. It does bring up similar concerns of mine and thoughts. Not saying that I wouldn't want reconciliation. Actually, I would love it, especially since my mother is also getting older and there is not much time left.

But what concerns me, that if this book will present a scenario where the father "will see the light" and apologize to the son, would this happen in my case as well, knowing that my mother hasn't changed? (having contact with her friend and getting feedback proves it) And if I would make a step toward reconciliation, would I be putting myself in the position of "returning to the poisoned well" and making myself exposed to the same toxic dynamic, since I do know that I am unable to not let her affect me to some degree.

And speaking of Charity, that's why I also have a slight annoyance at her "medling" because "she doesn't fully understands how it was to grow up with such a parent". In comparison to Anthony she had good childhood.

Obviously the book isn't an instruction, and I actually don't know what will happen yet, I just wanted to share that so far this has been the narrative that is most uneasy, while other plots and narratives were also thought inducing, so far they didn't cause as much contemplation and turmoil. Guess it does exactly what it supposed to. ;-)
 

Andrian

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I am putting my comments as spoiler just in case they reveal enough of the plot that people don't want to know about.

I am still reading the book, but just wanted to remark that despite the narrative being about the conflict between domineering and abusive father and avenging son, I do find a lot of similarities between myself and my mother, who was both emotionally and physically abusive. And while I don't see myself doing the same thing Anthony did, in effect it is still similar, because in my case my "revenge" is not sharing my life with her and refusing to participate in her plans that she had for me. I actually have zero contact with her for several years now.

So to be honest, even if I don't know if this issue will be resolved, and how it will be resolved, it does make me very uneasy as I continue reading, thinking that this book will present a scenario where reconciliation and making amends will happen because "it's the right thing to do", and because the father is ill and may die soon. It does bring up similar concerns of mine and thoughts. Not saying that I wouldn't want reconciliation. Actually, I would love it, especially since my mother is also getting older and there is not much time left.

But what concerns me, that if this book will present a scenario where the father "will see the light" and apologize to the son, would this happen in my case as well, knowing that my mother hasn't changed? (having contact with her friend and getting feedback proves it) And if I would make a step toward reconciliation, would I be putting myself in the position of "returning to the poisoned well" and making myself exposed to the same toxic dynamic, since I do know that I am unable to not let her affect me to some degree.

And speaking of Charity, that's why I also have a slight annoyance at her "medling" because "she doesn't fully understands how it was to grow up with such a parent". In comparison to Anthony she had good childhood.

Obviously the book isn't an instruction, and I actually don't know what will happen yet, I just wanted to share that so far this has been the narrative that is most uneasy, while other plots and narratives were also thought inducing, so far they didn't cause as much contemplation and turmoil. Guess it does exactly what it supposed to. ;-)

Thank you for sharing your story Keit, I had a similar story to yours, in my case with my father. BTW, I've read the book and as concerning how the story ends between Anthony and his father, let's say that I've got something for myself from their story.

Though, the thing is that mine story, your story and other people's similar stories have their own particular details and weight and one has to make his own choice on how to settle the things between himself and the person who hurt him.

In my case, my father wasn't able to give his love to my mom, to my brothers or to me, instead he chose to hurt us to the point that my mom had had enough and divorced him when I was 13th years old. Since then I saw him occasionally for some years and back then I was thinking that I've forgiven him for how he treated us but I was wrong, only recently did I realized that back then I've dissociated from my feelings, repressed them very deep inside and chose instead to be fooled by my own predator giving in to various kinds of addictions for many years.

Only recently did I realized how badly messed up I was for many years due to my father's treatment and to some degree due to my own fault by not being strong enough to overcome those destructive emotions I've buried inside and were poisoning my whole being.

It has been more than 12 years since I saw him last time and a few months ago I came to know that he passed away. As far as I understood from others he didn't changed much since I saw him last time and to be honest when I've heard that he passed away I didn't regret not having had the chance to reach a reconciliation with him. He made his choices in life and lived accordingly and recently I've managed to learn to forgive him, not to judge, nor hate him for who he was but also I've learned for my own sake to show no pity nor to forget the lessons I've learned from that experience. This is how I've concluded my story with my father and I don't have anything to regret. Though as I said, everyone's painful story is different and one should choose for himself how he wants it concluded.

I hope I didn't made a confusing mess out of my message. I hope you'll find the right approach with your mother Keit.

Be true to your own nature, fear nothing and take care!!!
 

Mariama

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It has been more than 12 years since I saw him last time and a few months ago I came to know that he passed away. As far as I understood from others he didn't changed much since I saw him last time and to be honest when I've heard that he passed away I didn't regret not having had the chance to reach a reconciliation with him. He made his choices in life and lived accordingly and recently I've managed to learn to forgive him, not to judge, nor hate him for who he was but also I've learned for my own sake to show no pity nor to forget the lessons I've learned from that experience. This is how I've concluded my story with my father and I don't have anything to regret. Though as I said, everyone's painful story is different and one should choose for himself how he wants it concluded.
I am also learning to forgive my parents and I think I partly owe it to the romance novels and this insightful and intelligent thread with so many beautiful contributions.

A while ago I decided to visit my mother after a hiatus of about 20 years. I needed that time for my own sanity and establish my own way in life, but found during that time despite the physical distance she was very much part of who I was and I had to spot and change my own monstrous side. When I felt strong enough and was up to the challenge of meeting her again and prepared for the worst a shift took place in our relationship. Maybe it was the shock that I had administered, the fact that she been very ill again or maybe it was just me being able to develop more tolerance for her as a mother, as I know I have made my own share of serious mistakes with my kids and others. I am learning to accept my own family history without judgement and spot and comprehend the 'simple karmic understandings' that have been manifesting themselves in my life.

In a way my parents enabled my growth and my increasing strength when I decided to put all that misery I had endured to good use. :-) I think the romance novels are teaching me to see things less black and white and even in the case of my parents and grand-parents it IS possible. They had their own struggles and in a way they were quite tough, granted it was at my expense, but I can now draw strength from their toughness, because my opinion of them has changed.

For a time I was very intolerant and uncompromising towards their suffering, as I needed that wall around me to withdraw, lick my wounds and work on myself. But I am glad I made that decision to go back to that 'poisoned well' as she is old and fragile now and needs my support. At least I will be able to say that I did what I could in order to mend fences before she passes, but that's just my story.

My opinion of Anthony's father changed when I heard his side of the story. And the person who should also be held to account for his misery (his mother) was exempt up till a point in the novel as she was already dead when the story began.
 

Laura

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That very fact of life review has made this reading project extremely valuable to me. While reviewing my past emotional abusive, arrogant and smart ars behaviors I dig deep for the why's and what for's. The revelations has changed my present behavior and inner awareness of my affect on others. This has helped me to tread more softly among the hearts of others. I believe this is how I am forgiving those who hurt me and walking the talk of forgiveness from others. At least I hope this is how it should be done.

Yes, very relevant and astute comments on this effect.
 

Konstantin

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I finished 2 more books in the Mckenzie series. The Mackenzie Family Christmas and The Seduction of Eliot McBride.
I noticed some interesting things. Until this moment I read a total of 15 romantic novels. My reading is much faster now.
After a short time of reading, I have much more vivid images forming in my mind while reading. It is like entering another dimension like character and places become live and real.
I've learned to recognize love and compassion much better even it is not said directly or aloud. The stories are like some kind of emotional therapy and after each book, I feel like a more grown person and less childish. Maybe this is not the best description of this feeling but I cant find better words. The happy-ends of each of these books make me feel like I have accomplished something big. like a big satisfaction that it ended well.
Whatever it is, it is a good thing. Going to the next one in the series.
 

seek10

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The sequence of books in the Dark Angel Series
In the spreadsheet Dark Angel/Lord Carew's Bride are listed as 1 in the Dark Angel Series, but one could also say that Lord Carew's Bride is really number 2 in the Dark Angle Series, and altogether list them as 1/2. I found a copy that had only one story and then just read that, thinking the other was not part of it.
In her Dark Angel/Lord Carew book, Balogh wrote the background of the packaging ( 2-in-1 volumes ) as an attempt to choose which books republish under what category( not sure of year of this writing)
Dear Reader,
Over the next two years Dell will be publishing ten of my older, out-of-print books in five two-in-one volumes. Many of you for a number of years have been asking me where you can find these books, and I have been unable to offer very helpful answers. Until now!

The problem was choice. How did I pick just ten of the fifty or so books that are just begging to be republished? I listened to you. Those of you who have read those old books have your favorites, and some titles pop up over and over again. Other readers like the books with connected characters, since series are very popular at the moment.

We are starting with both categories of readers in mind. Dark Angel and Lord Carew’s Bride are the first two of five connected books—the other three will be out soon. Lord Carew has always been a particular reader favorite. And both books have the same villain, Lionel, whom readers love to hate. But please note that the answer is still going to be no—I am not going to redeem him in a story of his own. Some villains are just too villainous!

I hope you will enjoy (re)reading these two books and will come back soon for the next two.

Where does A Christmas Bride/Christmas Beau belong?
A Christmas Bride/Christmas Beau is at present listed in the spreadsheet as a standalone. On the author's site, it is listed as belonging to The Dark Angle Series and The Ideal Wife Series. How is that possible?

According to the description of A Christmas Bride, Sir Gerald Stapleton's stepmother Helena, Lady Stapleton is the heroine of this story. This would tie the book with The Ideal Wife series, as Sir Gerald Stapleton appears as a friend of Miles Ripley, Earl of Severn and male protagonist in The Ideal Wife. The Ideal Wife is in the spreadsheet listed as number 5 in the Dark Angel series, but the author lists it as The Ideal Wife Series.
A Christmas Bride is an interesting read w.r.t Helena character who was not conventional heroine and more like arrogant, narcissistic villain until Edgar falls back to his professional skills to take control of the situation. I liked Edgar's character, but puzzled about the Helena's background. Helena supposed to be wicked stepmother from A precious Jewel, (that is Book 2 of the The Ideal Wife series).

I decided to read The Ideal Wife series in sequence. The Ideal Wife book (Book 1 of the The Ideal Wife series) is another little brown mouse entertaining story with some crazyness and love.

I liked the A precious Jewel and it is another unconventional difficult story. Some reader put it as "Heart wrenching and Heartwarming", which I agree. I thought this is one of the best from couple of dozen Balogh's books I read as of now. While reading, I get a feeling that Balogh might have read Gurdjieff's work and there is a episode in the book it sounded like Madam Salzamann's First initiation.

I added A precious Jewel to our list. If it is not recommended, please let me know I will remove it. Balogh wrote about the origin of A precious Jewel:
A Precious Jewel is that book of mine that insisted upon being written even though I knew it was quite impossible to write. Sir Gerald Stapleton was a minor character in The Ideal Wife, the hero’s best friend, who several times bemoaned the loss of Priss, his longtime mistress, after she had left him to marry another man. I had no intention of writing his story, much less of writing Priscilla’s. I was writing traditional Regencies at the time and could hardly have a working prostitute as a heroine and a beta male as a hero! When I tested the idea on a few fellow authors at a writers’ convention, they agreed with me wholeheartedly.

But I was haunted by those two characters to such a degree that finally I had to write their story anyway. And I couldn’t put it down once I had tarted. I completed it in two weeks! Then I put it up on a shelf to gather dust for a while, quite certain that my editor would have a fit of the vapors if she read it. At last I sent it in anyway and waited for it to be rejected. And waited…. When I finally called about it, I was told it was in copyediting. No rejection, no revisions!

That book became a great reader favorite in 1993, when it was first published.
It looked A precious jewel written after the fact of single book The Ideal wife. Interestingly, amazon puts the 2 books as Ideal Wife series as Stapleton-Dowen series, even though there is no Dowen in 2 books. Dowen link only comes in A Christmas Bride. That's why Balogh's website puts the A Christmas Gift/Christmas Beau in both Dark Angel and Ideal wife series.
And under Dark Angel/Lord Carew's Bride one finds:
In the description of one volume/two stories of the Dark Angel Series not listed, there is also:
From this it appears that A Christmas Bride connects both to The Ideal Wife Series and The Dark Angel Series, while Christmas Beau is a standalone.
I read Christmas Beau, i agree that it is standalone book. I made a mistake in my above post in linking it other book. She grouped it 2-in-1 for its Christmas theme (redeeming for the past) rather than character reuse.
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thorbiorn

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In her Dark Angel/Lord Carew book, Balogh wrote the background of the packaging ( 2-in-1 volumes ) as an attempt to choose which books republish under what category( not sure of year of this writing)
Thank you for finding and quoting Balogh on this issue. Earlier in the thread Tangled was recommended:
And then, standalone: Tangled.

Oh boy. This one was a complete doozie! It is one book that seems to me to give a really good picture of private life in Victorian England (not Regency.) I don't think I've ever read about a heroine who was so brainwashed, so programmed by her society and family, and so lacking in insight as this one. And the PAIN! Oh my gawd! This one just tears your heart out for the poor hero!
But Tangled was hard to find, and I wrote to Mary Balogh explaining the difficulty. There was no answer, but what you quote could be it, even if written before my mail:
Many of you for a number of years have been asking me where you can find these books, and I have been unable to offer very helpful answers. Until now!

The problem was choice. How did I pick just ten of the fifty or so books that are just begging to be republished? I listened to you. Those of you who have read those old books have your favorites, and some titles pop up over and over again.
Most likely what gets republished is not only decided by her, but also by the kind of contracts signed with the original publishers and what is deemed viable based on market trends.
 

Redrock12

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Lately I've noticed a sea change in how I feel or regard women in general. It's like the romance novels have awakened within me an awareness and feeling of the true feminine nature of the opposite sex. I know, I've written about how completely different men are from women, but I'm talking about something that is far deeper than that, at least in my case.
Maybe it's what Laura described in, I think, her introductory post to this thread, that participating in this reading project could effect a positive change in one's DNA.
I guess it could be illustrated as being released from the shadow illusions of Plato's Cave to the sunlight of reality.
I'm still not out of the woods trying to get this whole issue figured out in my own mind, so if anyone would care to add to or criticize what I've stated, please feel free to do so.
FWIW
 

Redrock12

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Addendum to the above. I really am enjoying this reading exercise, and I have definitely benefited from the knowledge I have aquired, even if at times I feel like I could never read another romance novel. But that's just one of my idiosyncrasies.
So a million hugs to you Laura, and everyone who has added their thoughts and energy to this project.:hug2::hug2::hug2::hug2::cool:
 

thorbiorn

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For those who do not have English as a first language, but DO manage to communicate pretty well, I would recommend reading the English versions if possible. If you read them on kindle, you have the advantage of the dictionary for any word you do not know. I rather suspect this approach will manifest a huge boost in English proficiency. PLUS, all the books are available in English, but not all of them are available in other languages.
More on using Kindle to gain proficiency in reading English
Even in the case one does not yet "manage to communicate pretty well" in English, there are options open if one has a Kindle readable format of one of the titles translated into one's own language, say Spanish, and also has a Kindle version of the same book in English. Besides, one will need Kindle dictionaries connecting the two languages; in this case Spanish-English and English-Spanish dictionaries. If one is used to an English-Spanish dictionary, one could try out an English-English learner's dictionary.

First, one reads the language one is familiar with, here Spanish, while noting and looking up some of the words in the Spanish-English dictionary. When one has build up a vocabulary that will help read in English, one can change the setting for the dictionary and read the same pages, or chapter or book in the original now using an English-Spanish dictionary or an English-English learner's dictionary.

While reading in English, one can use the Kindle Highlight function to save words to My Clippings for later review, or simply write them down which may prove simpler. For similar and more on the same topic, including notes on French, see this post.

If someone would ask how many words to note down, I would not know what to say. What is meaningful and enjoyable? Some would choose the words that interest them, some the ones that are short, some would focus on word classes, like prepositions, or verbs, others the ones they find difficult. And some will focus on all the unfamiliar words in the first chapter and leave the rest much easier. Their thinking is that most of the vocabulary for a book and an author will be already present in the first chapter. Perhaps, but in the case of a romance novel, there will be different language used for describing the surroundings of a house, a walk in the park, the clothes used for a ball, the intimate scenes, and internal dialogues.
 

Redrock12

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Finished Someone to Love, book #1 of The Westcott Series. This one really pushed my emotional buttons, moreso than anything else I've read of MB's to date. It was a real page turner as well.
Anna is the epitome of grace and dignity. A true heroine. If I had to do it all over again, someone like Anna would be at the top of my list.
In fact, all of the characters-physically, emotionally, psychologically-are
well-and accurately-defined, the settings (architecture, countryside), beautifully portrayed, the plot designed to hold the reader's attention.
Overall, a well-crafted work.
IMHO
 

iamthatis

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I began this Romantic Reading Rollercoaster with Anna Campbell's steamy - but fun and satisfying - Sons of Sin series. Then I read Annie Gracie's Marriage of Convenience series, followed by her Devil's Riders series. Those were richer, deeper reads than Campbell's, but it's only from now reading Mary Balogh's Web series that I've encountered a book that is emotionally difficult to get through.

I never imagined I'd read one of these and it would be set somewhere I once lived (in this life), and about which I've previously pondered a past-life connection. I'm talking about Web of Love, which - unlike other books in which 'the wars against Boney' are background context - takes place at the time of the Battle of Waterloo and is largely set in Brussels.

I was intrigued so I've been reading up on the history of the Battle of Waterloo and using Google Maps to check locations/events mentioned by Balogh. She indeed got all the details correct - specific battlefields, military balls, street and place names, and even the weather at the time.

In the course of doing this, I discovered - or remembered, I can't tell which - that the first house I lived in when my family moved to the area (and I was age 9), was about a mile from the scene of the main battle. I remember feeling sad, anxious and homesick there, though I suppose I later attributed that to the trauma of moving to a foreign country.

Maybe it was 'the energy of the place', given its proximity to the main battlefield, and/or maybe there's a past-life connection, but in any event the coincidence of details, combined with the harrowing struggles of the characters in the book who survive the final battle against Napoleon's army, makes this book a whole different read for me than any other I've read.

The scene in this book featuring Ellen on the morning of the Battle of Waterloo was indeed deeply touching.

I remember visiting my Grandma in a suburb of Vancouver when I was small. There are show jets called Snowbirds that were practicing in the area, flying low over the houses in formation. When they flew over her house, she had a panic attack, a flashback form the time when she was a little girl in Holland during WWII - a time when planes flying overheard had a much different meaning.

I was remembering this as I was reading about Ellen, where she feels the vibration of the guns from the brim of her hat to the soles of her shoes. She can sense something coming, with a kind of deep foreboding, but could not guess the ramifications at the time. I saw myself in her, in a way - I am of a generation that has not known the horrors of war. It's always something that happens over there, or back then. For all my reading, trying to learn, to prepare, war remained incomprehensible to me.

In Ellen's scene, and through the recollection of being with my Grandma, I could finally access the horrors of the great changes that may be coming our way. I don't know if any of us will be called on to receive the wounded in the way Ellen was... but may it be so that if we are indeed called to that duty, that we can be worthy of that call, and do what we can in the spirit of her example, her dignity and dedication.
 
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