Romantic Fiction, Reality Shaping and The Work

Jones

Ambassador
Ambassador
FOTCM Member
She can be very funny! There is this sour post-menopausal woman who is actually pretty insightful and at times hilarious and I love that about these series.

And the 'running gag' of The Dowager Marchioness of Wallingham indeed is hilarious!

I've enjoyed her too. Had a good chuckle at her new companion after the scene she made on the subject :lol:
 

thorbiorn

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
At times, reading Devil's Web felt like listening to nails on a chalkboard. The tension between Madeline and James is agonizing. I didn't have anything like James Purnell's bible-thumping upbringing, but I recognized myself in some of his moroseness and arrogance about love and 'sentimentality', and his rigidity in morality.
Not only bible-thumping [referring to the above example from the Web series by Mary Balogh]. It was harsh.

The settings for the stories are somewhat idealized and of lesser importance, while the more important themes appear to be the inner conflicts of the characters, the tensions between the protagonists and the other actors and how these find a resolution. Understanding a little about the settings and what they could have represented if they had been real may help to understand some of the characters, their thoughts and choices. For instance, the prayer regimes Alexandra had to endure were serious, but I then learned that she had contemporaries who occasionally had a similar diet, but had to work and could not be sure a better diet would be there a week later. Alexandra would have been aware of such facts.

Trying to explain the rough child education
And then I began to think about how to explain the actions of James Purnell. As for the motivations to punish the way he did, assuming that he loved his children, one place to begin with is the Christening ceremony. This site explains:
Christening ceremonies are a big rite of passage in the Catholic or Anglican church. [...] The ceremony itself has a special order and passages for the clergy to read from. After the welcoming, the parents and godparents make certain promises to the child. Among these are to pray for the child, give them a good example, to take care of them, and to guide them in the faith.
Physical punishment
"[T]o guide them in the faith". We often read about canning in the books. It was used as a mean of punishment according to Britannica. The Wiki on Flagellation mentions its widespread use in the British military during the time period in which the Romance novels are placed:
In the Napoleonic Wars, the maximum number of lashes that could be inflicted on soldiers in the British Army reached 1,200. This many lashes could permanently disable or kill a man. Charles Oman, historian of the Peninsular War, noted that the maximum sentence was inflicted "nine or ten times by general court-martial during the whole six years of the war" and that 1,000 lashes were administered about 50 times.[20]
These practices would not exactly have prevented them from remaining accepted by officers returning to civilian life. Nor would it be easy if the British public were as the French who did not even with it on their enemy:
Meanwhile, during the French Revolutionary Wars the French Army stopped floggings altogether. The King's German Legion (KGL), which were German units in British pay, did not flog. In one case, a British soldier on detached duty with the KGL was sentenced to be flogged, but the German commander refused to carry out the punishment. When the British 73rd Foot flogged a man in occupied France in 1814, disgusted French citizens protested against it.[24]

Child education ideas from the Bible, the DIY guide of a religious father of the early 19th century.
For practical guidance about how to bring up children which might have influenced religious people including fundamentalists, there are many verses in the Bible related to the education of children. Looking into the Book of Proverbs and using King James Version (Look for KJV in the list), there was:

Chapter 2 presents the ideal situation, what the father of James might have hoped for:
My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee; 2 So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding; 3 Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding;* 4 If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; 5 Then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God.
Chapter three has a quote that may be perceived as the father of James as the representative of God on the earth. The father loves his son as God does man and so he gives him corrections.
11 ¶ My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD; neither be weary of his correction: 12 For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.
Reading chapter four, the father of James admonishing his son or daughter might argue:
Hear, ye children, the instruction of a father, and attend to know understanding. 2 For I give you good doctrine, forsake ye not my law. 3 For I was my father’s son, tender and only beloved in the sight of my mother. 4 He taught me also, and said unto me, Let thine heart retain my words: keep my commandments, and live.
Chapter 13:
A wise son heareth his father’s instruction: but a scorner heareth not rebuke.
Chapter 15:
9 The way of the wicked is an abomination unto the LORD: but he loveth him that followeth after righteousness. 10 Correction is grievous unto him that forsaketh the way: and he that hateth reproof shall die.
Chapter 17:
10 A reproof entereth more into a wise man than an hundred stripes into a fool.‡‡
Chapter 19:
18 Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.††
29 Judgments are prepared for scorners, and stripes for the back of fools.
Chapter 20:
11 Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right.
30 The blueness of a wound cleanseth away evil: so do stripes the inward parts of the belly.†††
Chapter 22:
6 Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.§
Chapter 23:
12 Apply thine heart unto instruction, and thine ears to the words of knowledge. 13 Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. 14 Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell. 15 My son, if thine heart be wise, my heart shall rejoice, even mine.
Chapter 26:
3 A whip for the horse, a bridle for the ass, and a rod for the fool’s back.
Chapter 27:
5 Open rebuke is better than secret love.
Chapter 29:
15 The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.
Is it possible some of these verses could have motivated people like the father of James to apply harsh punishments?

The situation of child education in the 19th century
One could also look around in the surrounding society and read Flogging Of Juvenile Offenders Volume 162: debated on Friday 26 April 1861 which explains that minor offences really could receive a very harsh treatment and in JUVENILE CRIME IN THE 18TH AND 19TH CENTURY one finds:
It must be remembered that for hundreds of years, families put their children to work on their farms or to whatever labour was necessary for the family to survive. Up until the last one hundred years or so, children were considered to be the property of their parents and when parents could no longer afford to feed them or could find no work for them they were often forced to sell them.
While owning might leave children open to severe punishment there was in many cases fate still worse.
Many sold their daughters into prostitution. In 1848, it was claimed that almost 2,700 girls in London between the ages of 11 and 16 were hospitalised because of venereal disease, many as a result of prostituition. [...] In 1875, the age of consent, which had remained at 12 since 1285, was raised to 13, partly as a result of concerns about child prostitution.
This brings up that one in five people who lived in London during the later 18th century was estimated to have had syphilis according to this article The pox in Boswell's London: an estimate of the extent of syphilis infection in the metropolis in the 1770s† summarised in the Minneapolis Post. Although the poor and impoverished were most affected, rich promiscuous men also were while those in between were not. This picture remained until just prior to World War One. There is a very good reason then why rich Regency rakes, apart from gambling, womanizing and drinking were not popular among those who wished for their daughters to have a good marriage. It was not even healthy for the victim, the woman, let alone heartaches and fears for material security.
No one who has read the surviving diaries of James Boswell (1740-1795), the biographer of the great English writer and wit Samuel Johnson, will be surprised by the findings in this paper. In his diaries, Boswell recounts no less than 19 episodes of venereal disease between 1760 (when he was 20) and 1786.
A harsh upbringing might have been preferable to a worse alternative
Therefore, whether for the healthy life of one's descendants or for the sake of a moral life as advocated in the Book of Proverbs etc, it is possible that prevention was considered safer. That apparently included punishments, as those administered by the father of James and Alexandra, at least if one is to believe that he wished them well and genuinely loved them.
 

mocachapeau

Dagobah Resident
After reading the latest Cs session I'm going to grab a book or two from the reading list and jump in.

On the subject of men maybe appreciating this literature somewhat less than women, I'd say maybe, but they might be pleasantly surprised. I've never read this genre, with the exception of Wuthering Heights (Charlotte Bronte) and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (Anne Bronte), both of which I loved.

I also have a soft spot for romantic comedy movies - I love them, for some reason. I usually watch them alone because my wife doesn't get into them (and she's not around to laugh when I'm crying near the end). When I find one I love I'll watch it 5-6 times (not in one sitting). I have a number of favorites, one I've watched many times is The Proposal (Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds), which definitely fits the description of "getting over yourself for the sake of another".

I'm looking forward to reading something in this genre. Might be good to get my "romantic comedy fix" while spending less time in front of a screen.

Thanks for the suggestion!
 

seek10

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
So I'm looking to buy entire series at a time. I was looking for the Dell Historical series from Balogh when I came across a five book series on ebay from Balogh, the 'Dark Angel' series for $19.95. Do we have any experience with that series? Can we assume that anything from Balogh is a safe bet at this point?
Actually, 4 out of 5 books/sets are in the recommended list. It was discussed here here, here and here. There is some confusion w.r.t what series they belong to though.

I read 4. I liked A precious jewel and A Christmas Bride / Christmas Beau more than others. It may vary for others.

The Ideal Wife/Stapleton-Downes 1The Ideal Wife
The Ideal Wife/Stapleton-Downes 2A Precious Jewel
Dark Angel Series1Dark Angel/Lord Carew's Bride
Dark Angel- The Ideal Wife Series3A Christmas Bride / Christmas Beau
 

Korzik18

Jedi
FOTCM Member
This is something that could be posted on the Romantic Fiction thread! Very, VERY interesting. And exactly the sort of thing we have been observing.
Laura is absolutely right, this information is the most appropriate place here.

There is also something about reading that is very different than watching a romantic period drama on TV, for example. Maybe that's just because it involves the imagination more or something?

Reading these specific romance novels appears to be an antidote in multiple ways to the madness of the world. It's also the most positive of any dissociation that I've ever engaged in so far, and I've learned quite a bit about both myself and others.
One study came out a month ago where scientists showed how fiction affects the human brain. After reading this news, I immediately remembered the importance of reading romantic books.

The results of a study published in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience showed that people who associate themselves with fictional characters activate a part of the brain called the ventral medial prefrontal cortex (vMPFC), which usually becomes most active when a person thinks about himself. This means that people who are keen on the heroes of the book evaluate and perceive them the same way as themselves.

“The findings show how important fiction is for some people. For them, books are a chance to find a new identity, see the world through the eyes of another person, and perhaps even change after the experience they lived while reading,” said Dylan Vanger, one of the from the authors of the study.
The current study demonstrates that the neural representation of fictional characters within the vMPFC differs between those who readily and regularly experience narratives from the perspectives of characters and those who do not.
For individuals high in trait identification, who internalize the experiences of fictional characters, accessing knowledge about fictional characters more closely resembles accessing knowledge about the self, and this may especially be true for those characters to which they feel closest and who they like the most.
The evidence presented herein shows that the merging of self and other that identification with fictional characters entails can last beyond the confines of the narrative experience itself. When fictional characters are brought to mind later outside of the narrative context, individuals nevertheless differ in the levels of self–other neural overlap they exhibit.
There are countless examples of narrative fiction altering the course of people’s lives by influencing their attitudes, values and, in some extreme cases, even major life decisions such as what career to pursue. When individuals experience stories as if they were one of the characters, a connection with that character is formed and, as our findings suggest, that character becomes intertwined with the self.
 

PERLOU

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
Promeneur, un grand merci, et oui le dernier livre de la famille Huxtable de Mary Balogh est le 5ème " Le temps du Secret" et non le 4ème... Je le lirai à la suite du " temps du désir "... Merci pour votre attention...

Stroller, many thanks, and yes the last book of the Huxtable family by Mary Balogh is the 5th "Time of the Secret" and not the 4th... I will read it after "Time of Desire"... Thank you for your attention...
 

Alana

SuperModerator
Moderator
FOTCM Member
What a great discussion about how the reading of these novels prepares us for such extreme transitions as ones to a different density even, whether 4th or 5th.

A thought I had while reading all your posts, is the example of when we are in any negative state, and we act and push ourselves to feel as if we are in a positive state already. Not just think about it, and “what a lovely idea”, or "give it a try", but to actually do it. It hasn’t always been a successful experiment for me, but I found it truly remarkable how I change, and with me, my entire world, and even the people around me, when I stick to it and there is a success. Because I am no longer in that negative state, I find that I have more patience, more practical solutions, more generosity of spirit even!, I am more open to understand and empathize, everything and everyone is seen from a more positive/hopeful frame of mind. Like the C's said, negative emotions are constrictive, while positive ones are more encompassing and open you up to unlimited possibilities. And it’s truly what external consideration is about, as a friend reminded me.

And when I start seeing the difference in my change of perspective, I start thinking of death (who doesn't! :-D) how when we are in a completely non-physical existence, how our thoughts create our reality. That scares me a bit, even in the mention for 4D. I can go into really dark places in my mind, so what kind of horrible surroundings will I find myself into in a non-corporeal existence if I have no control over my own thoughts and emotions? Any of you who have watched the movie, What Dreams May Come, with Robbin Williams, might understand what I am trying to describe. It is basically about life after death, and where our emotions and thoughts and states of our minds can take us after we die. That's what helped me understand a bit how this experiment seems like a preparation for the life beyond this world.

In our romantic novels, it is laid there, in front of our eyes, that it can take one second, one word, one action, to destroy the chance of happiness for our dear protagonists. And so many of them have come so close to missing that chance, almost threw themselves into a life of misery. And yet! It takes one second, one action, one word to bring it all around again and have our Happily-Ever-Afters! Very generally, all these characters are teaching us, story after story, how to come out of this negative constrictive way of seeing things and gain control over their limiting thoughts and emotions, but also, very importantly, why.

Because of how it also changes the people they love and it offers the opportunity for them as well to come out of their own negative pit. A small “coming to meet the other where they are” from one person, allows the way for the other to come closer. As in an invitation: “You can come, it’s safe, I won't let you down”. And it has been a very beautiful and heartwarming experience. Most often my past-midnight tears are tears of joy and victory. I know they are just fictional characters, but some of them I felt them so deeply as if they were parts of me. Both male and female characters. Perhaps from previous lives or even parts of me from this life, as some of you have mentioned.

As a woman, I am grateful to many of the female heroines who are teaching me how to be a real woman, how to embody my femininity with all its life giving aspects, and how to identify the not so favorable traits that we adopt due to upbringing, education, wounds and fears. And it is a good window into the male psyche as well, all the things that hurt men, the wounds they carry, how they truly feel about themselves, their inner possibilities for love and tenderness and their deep need for same, even if they hold the mask of a strong and invulnerable man to the world. And finally, how the difficult inner changes they allow themselves to undergo for the sake of love, for the sake of the other, transport them into a different reality, opens them up for these unlimited possibilities...

What a great way to be taught how to change our own reality! And I think that the more practice we get in this lifetime for it (actual, from personal experience but also from vicariously living the lives and stories of these characters) the more able we will be to apply it in other not-so physical states of existence, where the states of our minds will create our reality more directly. Or so I understand so far.

In any event, thank you all for all you've shared. It is so much more educational and enjoyable to read these books in good company. Go team Romance Novels! :hug2:
 

dennis

Jedi Master
Thank You all for your contributions! My reading proclivities have lately been history and biography but the enthusiasm sort of became stale. I started reading Dream Stone of the Chalice trilogy but found following the names and terminologies somewhat confusing. Will give it another go with suggestions made.

Yodeling is apparently universally liked

 

Darek

Jedi Master
FOTCM Member
Here's the list of novels that were translated into Polish language:

Anna CampbellSons of Sin
1​
Seven Nights in a Rogue's BedSiedem nocy z rozpustnikiem
Anna CampbellSons of Sin
2​
A Rake's Midnight KissPocałunek rozpustnika
Caroline LindenWagers of Sin
1​
My Once and Future DukeMój raz na zawsze książę
Grace BurrowesTrue Gentlemen
1​
The Duke's DisasterPorażka księcia tom1, Porażka księcia tom2
Julia QuinnBridgerton Series
1​
The Duke and IMój książę
Julia QuinnBridgerton Series
2​
The Viscount Who Loved MeKtoś mnie pokochał
Julia QuinnBridgerton Series
3​
An Offer From A GentlemanPropozycja dżentelmena
Julia QuinnBridgerton Series
4​
Romancing Mr. BridgertonMiłosne tajemnice
Julia QuinnBridgerton Series
5​
To Sir Phillip, With LoveOświadczyny
Julia QuinnBridgerton Series
6​
When He Was WickedGrzesznik nawrócony
Julia QuinnBridgerton Series
7​
It’s In His KissMagia pocałunku
Julia QuinnBridgerton Series
8​
On The Way to the WeddingŚlubny skandal
Julia QuinnRokesby Series
1​
Because of Miss BridgertonWszystko o pannie Bridgerton, czyli jeden pocałunek
Julia QuinnSmythe-Smith Quartet
1​
Just Like HeavenJak w niebie
Julia QuinnSmythe-Smith Quartet
2​
A Night Like ThisTylko ta noc
Julia QuinnSmythe-Smith Quartet
3​
The Sum Of All KissesWszystkie nasze pocałunki
Julia QuinnSmythe-Smith Quartet
4​
The Secrets of Sir Richard KenworthySekrety małżeństwa
Mary BaloghBedwyn Prequel
1​
One night for loveNoc miłości
Mary BaloghBedwyn Prequel
2​
A Summer to RememberNiezapomniane lato
Mary BaloghDark Angel Series
1​
Dark Angel/Lord Carew's BrideMroczny anioł
Mary BaloghThe Ideal Wife/Stapleton-Downes
1​
The Ideal WifeIdealna żona
Mary BaloghFour Horsemen trilogy
1​
IndiscreetNiedyskrecje
Mary BaloghFour Horsemen trilogy
2​
UnforgivenNie do przebaczenia
Mary BaloghFour Horsemen trilogy
3​
IrresistableZauroczeni
Mary BaloghSignet Regency Romance
2​
Christmas BelleGwiazdka
Mary BaloghThe Heartless/Silent Melody duo
1​
HeartlessBez serca
Mary BaloghThe Heartless/Silent Melody duo
2​
Silent MelodyPieśń bez słów
Mary BaloghThe Huxtable Quintet
1​
First Comes MarriageNajpierw ślub
Mary BaloghThe Huxtable Quintet
2​
Then Comes SeductionPotem uwodzenie
Mary BaloghThe Huxtable Quintet
3​
At Last Comes LoveW końcu miłość
Mary BaloghThe Huxtable Quintet
4​
Seducing an AngelUwieść anioła
31 novels so far and most of them you can buy cheap on the net (e.g. Allegro) :dance:... only 69 more to go 😉
 

iamthatis

Jedi Council Member
FOTCM Member
I've been thinking about this also, although the stories seem to be filled with heartbreak and suffering, which is in part what makes some of them so moving, but there's always the choice of making the ending joyful, or at least set oneself on the path of it, because as the stories end the idea seems to be that something was found, after overcoming difficulty, that is worth protecting and fighting for, that is worth continuing to work and growing.

And I would say it takes some of us longer than it may take some others, I am reminded of the work of Carl Wickland and how easy it is to bring our earthly troubles beyond the veil and not be able to let go, or see a happy ending to it all. And I think there's several reasons for it, karmic and otherwise perhaps, but one of the main ones that is maybe tied to this reading exercise is because that choice of setting oneself on that path of joy is hard to come to, or it requires work and risk.

And I think it's a longer topic, but perhaps one of the main points of this reading exercises is to bring to our awareness that it is possible and worth to, in life, seek a life that at its end, we could peacefully and graciously consider as "happy".

As you (rightfully) put happy in quotations, I'm reminded of the excellent MindMatters interview with Stephen Hirtenstein that I recently listened to, The Alchemy of Human Happiness. It is an wonderful interview, and has inspired me to get a hold of the book.

Happiness in this discussion, according to Mr. Hirtenstein, is not a fluctuating state that is predicated on the fulfillment of desires. It is an enduring recognition of one's true nature, a reception of the holy gift of existence itself. Saaid is said to be the blessedness of being in paradise.

"It's not about whether I'm happy or not in that sense, in a transient way but whether I am deeply content with being exactly who I am, where I am. That's more of the quality of it."

This means not imagining oneself to be in paradise through the exclusion of shadows. It means turning towards those shadows with an open heart, and by including them and accepting them, transcending them.

Know thyself, then, has a deep correlate - Love thyself.

I had an experience in POTUS mediation recently where a sort of 'negative life review' started happening out of nowhere. I think it was definitely connected with this beautiful reading project. All the ignorance and arrogance and my past mistakes, particularly in relationships, started showing up, one after another. Sort of like my subconscious sat me down and, "Look son, it's time we had a talk," and started up a kind of 'recapitulation slideshow' of all of what I've done - the darker side of who I am.

There wasn't any associated emotions of despair or guilt, shame, or rejection. Instead there was a sense of release, of calm, and a contentedness in the recognition of who I am. As if to say, "Ah, bless you, you silly fool." So I can cautiously claim it was a happiness. Perhaps even Saaid.
 

gottathink

Jedi Council Member
FOTCM Member
In light of the last C’s session about sharing reading and learnings, I’ve decided to share something.
There is one thing about the male characters that hasn’t permeated any new understanding for me , yet. I’m hoping I’ll get there.
I find it incredulous that the men love these women so deeply. I feel like it is the most foreign thing to me. Intellectually I understand men as being capable of loving but my lived experience is not this. I have a total cognitive dissonance in this matter when I’m reading these stories.
I’m totally lost with it, I’ll just keep reading I guess. I feel like I have lived with a broken heart my entire life.
 

Gandalf

SuperModerator
Moderator
FOTCM Member
Somewhere I saw the idea of listing the books one has read in a spreadsheet, or alternatively write them down. Like that it is easier to know when one after a year or two is about to read the same novel again.

Since I read them as e-book on my kindle, as soon as I have finished one I move it to a section called Romance books. So it is easy to see how many that i have read and of course which ones.
 
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