Romantic Fiction, Reality Shaping and The Work

Alejo

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That was a beautiful analysis/review of this book. The problems of the protagonists were seemingly insurmountable, but what they did with their lives was just amazing.
This is true, it has been one of my favorites, if not my favorite story so far :)

Thank you Alejo for that very moving description. I felt everything you did but would never be able to describe it as you have done. You are a word-smith.
I thank you very much for your kind words! :)
 

Alejo

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Hello all,

I have just finished The Escape - Mary Balogh, book 3 in the Survivor's Club series, it was a heartwarming story and there were a few things that I wanted to share with you all on the spoiler section :)

The book follows Ben and Samantha, Ben is a survivor who was badly wounded in battle and has partially lost the use of his legs, one of his dreams is to dance. He walks around with canes, is in constant pain, but is also restless as he can't find his place and purpose in life, all he knows is he won't stay still as that would be admitting defeat.

Samantha is a recent widow, who is in mourning at the hands of an incredible depiction of a petty tyrant (her sister in law) who imprisons her by throwing propriety in her face constantly. Her husband died from wounds sustained during the war, his biggest loss was his beauty, their marriage was a sham and he had been cheating on her. Samantha did her duty for as long as he was alive and specially while he was convalescent, this exhausted her, and after a while, she started to grow restless.

They both meet by accident, but not really, they meet when Ben is riding a horse and as a way to push himself to live, and prove to himself that he was capable of pushing boundaries, he jumps a hedge and almost falls on her (and her dog, which is adorable). She is walking her dog as a way to defy her petty tyrant who would have not do nothing but stay home in a dark house whilst wearing black.

So they meet because they both pushed the boundaries of the freedom allowed to them by circumstance. Very adequate way.

After swearing and cursing, Ben felt guilty, sought to apologize to Samantha so he pays her a visit, during this visit she confesses to him that she wants to dance too. This is an important fact. After an invitation from him to her to go riding horses, her petty tyrant of a sister in-law, throws a tantrum, leaves her, tells on her to her father (samantha's father in law) who seeks to punish her by removing her from this place and having her live with him where he would, more or less, set her straight.

Samantha remembers she has a cottage somewhere in Wales, Ben offers to take here there. Along the way they admit their attraction, get to know one another, have an affair, fall in love and after her mourning period is over, they marry. Skipping a lot of details of course.

This story explored the idea of freedom, of running away from life, of libertine existence, of propriety and of pain.

They both clearly felt in shackles by their lives, him by his injury and her by her mourning period, though it is in her that the urgency to be free comes out stronger, Ben is a more grounded person, always considerate, finding a way for Samantha to be free while reserving some propriety to ensure she was safe.

That was rather interesting, he did not infringe on her freedom, the freedom she so desperately needed and wanted, but he still cared about her enough to find ways to explain their situation in a way that wouldn't hurt her, where her actions wouldn't simply look careless and she'd be the object of judgement. Even though she didn't realize how valuable this was.

This to me was contrasted against her petty tyrant, in both cases the idea of restricting some freedom for the sake of duty was present, but there's a subtle difference between setting boundaries to ensure success and simply restricting for the sake of restricting. Ben sought to do it for Samantha's sake, because in her urgency she didn't realize she needed some boundaries and restrictions. Her sister in law did it for her own sake, because she wanted to control Samantha's behavior.

And this is also explored in the idea of dancing, dancing isn't only moving around aimlessly for the sake of movement, it's a movement that is restricted by melody, rhythm and your partner. There's a proper way to be free, a gracious way that can create and expand on itself. There's the steps you learn to dance, to freely dance, but you ought to know the steps, otherwise you're not dancing, you're silly moving.

The title of the story is also interesting, and this happens to both of them, they're both escaping something. Samantha is escaping her confinement, the tyranny that she's lived with for 6 years and that her in laws were determined to keep her in, she's escaping shame of her past and the pain that living with her ex husband represented. Ben is escaping responsibility, he's allowed his brother to take control of his property, he's escaping admitting that he's injured, and they both do it in their own way.

She is rebellious and feisty about any restrictions, he's proud about being able to walk and tolerate pain. But then at some point, there's a conversation that illustrates a very important point. We bring ourselves wherever we go, we may all run away to Wales seeking to escape our lives, but we're not able to.

We may escape from the pain that was caused in a specific location, but we still bring the pain, we still bring the person that was hurt (or is hurting) we still bring the memories, and our reaction to them. We bring ourselves wherever we go, we carry our bags with us regardless of how far we run.

This made me think of how many times we live in addiction, or dissociation, or just busywork, just so that we don't have to look at our pain, just so that we don't have to carry our weight. Mary made Ben the illustration of how it can be dealt with.

At one point, when they reach Wales, and they set foot on the beach, they have a conversation, she mentions how the ocean is indtimidating, and he responds that staring at the ocean, at all that intimidating and scary vastness, can bring pain, but that also knowing the truth about our pain, not ignoring it (as he is unable to do so all his life) may bring one peace about it.

Her ex husband could not handle pain and eventually died, he simply could not find peace with his injuries. Ben on the other hand, took his pain as a challenge, accepted it and sought to move forward. It reminded me of what Aleta Edwards said about staring into the abyss, we will most certainly find pain and hurt, horror and regret when we look at that part of ourselves that we ignore constantly. but that is what is there, for better or for worse, it is what's there and that realization, brings peace and it's the first step towards healing or towards deciding about our existence.

She was running away from her pain, but she wasn't going to find peace until she stared at it, admitted how much everything that went on hurt her. How it hurt her to have been a game, a tool of her ex-husband to spite his father. And on that line how much it had hurt her that her family had all abandoned her in her childhood, something that made her feel alone.

At this point the idea of their affair is starting to take shape, she's pushing with her freedom towards "why not?" but he has a thought that I really liked. He realized, after getting to know her, that the one thing she had not had in her life was constancy of love, her father, mother, husband and in laws, everyone that she had ever relied on, trusted on, had abandoned her eventually. There was nothing constant in her life. And as such, he doubted going through with it, as it would have to be a short affair and he'd be essentially recreating the same dynamic, loving her for a week to only leave her afterwards. One more non-constant source of affection. That was beautiful, as this is when his care for her was starting to become very apparent.

Another lovely thought that was mentioned in this story, related to running away from pain, was from Samantha's grandfather, who had loved his first wife until she ran away, after this he became a drunk for years and his behavior led to Samantha's mother running away. He realized after all this that one will not be able to avoid pain when one loves another, but the one ought to love from a position of strength, and not only strength but from a position of wholeness. This idea of loving from a position of wholeness was rather incredible.

If one is whole when one loves, one can offer oneself fully to that person, and when the inevitable pain of life comes, one will be able to remain whole, bruised, beaten and crushed, but whole. So that pain may not destroy the love, or the lover in the process. One ought to make the love one feels for someone, and the one received by that person, or the universe, something that expands one's existence into being part of something larger, not something that comes to fill voids within.

Not that one ought to be independent within a relationship, or that things like affection, or reassurances don't have a place, we will always have insecurities, but even admitting these insecurities (staring at the sea) which are part of one's wholeness, should be made conscious so that pain won't entirely break us when it rears its head in our lives.

Overall, this was a lovely story, I think it explored several concepts of freedom, pain... constant pain, purpose, tenacity, humility (as by the end Ben finally admits he's not like everyone else and accepts a wheel chair, thus gaining mobility!) And most interestingly, the purpose of liberty.

Not just freedom and libertine behavior, because you live only once and so you should do whatever pleases you, but of liberty, which grants the same freedom, but carries with it the recognition of responsibility, of boundaries, of limitations, which aren't incompatible concepts.

This idea was beautifully illustrated at the end, when they do finally get to dance, but in order to be able to do it, they had to find their own little place and their own specific pose that allowed them both to dance with one another. By accepting a limitation, they found their way to be free from what was holding them back, without actually running away from themselves.

Now, onto Only Enchanted. Thank you all for reading.
 

Voyageur

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Over the many books, childhood is a main theme - and what comes out of it depends on the circumstances. In many of these books there are also major aspects of abject poverty in those times, and the horrendous conditions children found themselves in. Thus, read a brief historical account of many of these children's plight - their relocation and what they then endured. The time period was post 1869, however it was well before that, too.

It is quite a read and accounts for much of what was going on behind the words in many of these stories, although many of the stories themselves don't hide these realities:

British Home Children​

Canada declared 2010 the year of the British Home Child to commemorate the thousands of poverty-stricken children sent here from Britain between 1869 and 1948.
Text by Canada’s History
— Posted June 23, 2010

ExpSetBritishHomeChildrenLanding768x511_1.jpg.aspx

British immigrant children from Dr. Barnardo's Homes at landing stage, Saint John, N.B.
ISAAC ERB / LIBRARY AND ARCHIVES CANADA / PA-041785

Throughout the late nineteenth century, Britain was faced with poverty, pollution, and social inequality. As a result, hundreds of thousands of people — especially children — were forced to live in horrible, slum-like conditions. These children had limited options.

Many went “into service,” and toiled in workhouses or served as indentured labourers. Others lived on the streets. By the late 1800s, it was impossible to ignore how bad the living conditions had become, and organizations in both Britain and Canada decided something needed to be done.

The British Child Emigration Movement officially began on October 28, 1869, when Maria Rye — an English social reformer — brought sixty-eight children from London and Liverpool to Canada. Rye wanted to free children who were too poor to survive on their own, and provide them with opportunities they couldn’t find at home.

The plan was to have younger children adopted by Canadian families, and to have older children provided with shelter and food in exchange for farming help until they were eighteen-years-old.

Both the Canadian and British governments supported the program; Britain, because it reduced the costs of having to support struggling children; Canada, because it provided workers-in-training and young children that could be adopted.

Rye’s initial movement spawned a number of organizations, and over 100,000 children were sent to Canada between 1869 and 1948. In total, 150,000 children were sent to Canada and other Commonwealth countries such as Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. Most of the children were between six- and fifteen-years-old, but some were as young as six-months-old.

Living conditions varied for home children. Some were treated very well, and found loving and caring families to adopt them. Others, however, were faced with a variety of circumstances not unlike those they left behind in Britain.

Education suffered horribly. Many farming families saw the home children as free labour that would take up the slack created when their own children left home to attend school. Many home children grew up with limited or no education.

While most of the children were called orphans, two-thirds of them had a parent in Britain. Most parents were just too poor to keep them...

The rest follows political apologies.

Edit: fix
 

dennis

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Voyager: Most parents were just too poor to keep them.

My grandfather was one of 17 children in his family. At about age 13 or 14 they were kicked out of the household, boys into the military and girls into craft labor or they fell into prostitution.

Grandpa first went into the merchant marine as a cook's helper, but was then in the army. He was wounded on the first day of the battle of the Somme where the British Army suffered over 60,000 casualties in that one day. He convalesced and was sent back to the trenches and was wounded again near the end of the war.

When I was 10 years old my mother took me over for a visit. One day he and I were puttering about in his garden and he said:

Hey do you want to see something funny? I said sure!

He took a drag off his cigarette, started making facial contortions like he was trying to swallow an egg without breaking it. Suddenly smoke started coming out of his ears and he popped out a ring or two.

All the shell blasts had blown open or rearranged his eustachian tubes. Nevertheless he kept up his creative cheerful spirit and lived to be about 78 until he passed.
 
This is my first post here. I read through the first 40 pages of the thread and the last 5 to get an idea of where to start and how best to assess (also avoid spoilers). For some reason Victorian Rebels called to me and so far I have enjoyed it very much.

It is intense and I’m only about half way through the first book. But it immediately had a grounding affect on me and at a good time because the last two weeks I have been on high alert (perhaps feeling attack, also people get agitated in my area when smoke from fires blows through).

At an emotional level I can relate to theme of first love lost too soon at a young age. It ended as soon as it started for me but felt eternal. I’ve reminisced and wondered what happen to her over the years yet by reading the story I reflected further on those early experiences of my in relation to the protagonists — albeit not as traumatic.

And while too deeply personal to share here for now at some of my lowest moments I’ve been able to channel back to those days and find the strength to climb out of some awfully dark situations.

So, I’m grateful for this exercise even if a little late to the party. It’s a nice break from all that non-fiction. Ok, all for now. Back to The Highwayman…

:read:
 

Jo Bugman

Padawan Learner
I started the Survivor Series by Balogh and finished the first book yesterday. I was moved to tears a few times by the lessons on forgiveness both the characters went through, more specifically: forgiving themselves. It's an important lesson I still struggle with, that we cannot be responsible for the actions of others. They choose to behave the way they want to because they are humans just like us, and we can do our best to help them when asked, but we cannot make them see things or understand. It is especially hard when they are complicating their own life without realizing it.
The romance between these two seemingly polar opposite characters was great to experience. I could also relate to Hugo's default scowling face he makes, it something I still catch myself doing. Looking forward to book 2.
 

Turgon

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After reading several of the Billionaire Banker series, I decided to give it a break and started on the Web Series, I've read the first two and started the third, but here's my synopsis of the first one. The Gilded Web, the story of Edmund and Alexandra.

Mary Balogh does not disappoint. :-)

They seemed to come from two completely different worlds. Alexandra, having grown up all her life under the strict and puritanical dictates of her father had almost never known joy or happiness growing up, only strict rules, obedience and punishment for what her father perceived as not following his path towards God. She is destined to be married off to a stuffy old Duke who is just as puritanical and oppressive as her father, both see women as the weaker sex, and she has resigned herself to this fate not knowing any other way of life or being. Her very essence has been suppressed most of her life, only to intermittently find expression through art, and even then only when by herself. In many ways, her family represents the quintessential Mosaic law followers.

Edmund and his family are very different. He is thrust into the position of head of his family at a very young age and spent the rest of his life living up to the duty and responsibility of it. He is the kind of person who thinks only of others, even at his own expense and is entirely giving to the point of seemingly not needing anything. Dominic and Madeline, his younger brother and sister are gregarious and headstrong troublemakers who are easily caught up in their own notions and flights of fancy, and who's idea of helping others usually ends in a disastrous (or not) turn for Alexandra that puts her reputation and future at risk.

Edmund, of course, comes to the rescue and offers his hand in marriage in order to make right the situation, but of course, Alexandra, having been so sheltered from the rest of society due to her upbringing and not knowing the situation she is in, declines the offer. She finally does accept but spends the rest of the book trying to find a way out of the marriage.

She comes to see in Edmund exactly what she is trying to escape from her father. Another oppressive man who is attempting to dictate to her what she can and cannot do. Edmund tries to make clear to her that what they are both a part of is the societal norms and rules, and even though they are unfair, he has just as little control over it as she does, but promises her that she will be given equal say in their marriage on most issues. He tries to show her that God and scripture are meant to be inspiring and uplifting, not oppressive and dogmatic. And that love is at the core of this. But still, she wants her independence and doesn't see this so they give each other a deadline to announce whether the engagement is off and to see if they could ever be a real match.

Meanwhile Dominic is obsessed with trying to fix the situation after being the one responsible for all of this in the first place, and win Alexandra's hand in marriage in order to save his brother from a life of loveless marriage. But, being so caught up his own notions, doesn't realize that if he were to succeed, would hurt his brother far more than he could ever realize and leave him humiliated and heartbroken.

This is a love story so Alexandra does eventually come to realize that Edmund, for all his stoicism and giving nature, also hides the fact that he is deeply in need and that his smile is the mask he puts on to not show this side of himself. He has spent his entire life being the dutiful and responsible son, taking on the burdens, giving and being the one that everyone goes to for help, that he does not know how to receive or show that he is in need. He hides the pain and suffering he is going through when Alexandra wants him to call off the marriage, but when she finally sees behind the mask and realizes there is a deep need in him that only she can truly help with and fulfill, she gives up her romantic ideas of independence and realizes that all that independence, freedom and much more can be found with marrying Edmund. It's as if she takes a leap of faith and leaves the 'laws' of her father behind and is born again into a new world where she can truly express and fully come into her own.
 

Voyageur

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Caesar in Romance

Finishing up at the end of the Kerrigan Byrne series after The Scot Beds His Wife, and there was this exchange noted between the character, Samatha, and the character, Gavin, discussing Caesar in that book. This does not give the story away, per se - yet will shade it out so as not to possibly spoil.

The other thing concerning this book itself, is it brings in America much more than any story yet read. The timeline is in the 1880's, so just 70-odd-years prior to when some people were born reading on the forum. It is a time of their grandparents birth, or just prior, and the story moves past the ball and flint to the American Colt.

Samatha says of her pistols when it was asked of her that she probably named them:

Gavin: "I'd wager my fortune that ye named that gun."

"Come, Bonney ... we both ken I'm right."

Samatha: "Caesar and Anthony."

Gavin: "As in Julius Caesar and Mark Anthony?"

Samatha: "Yep."

Gavin: "Great men, surely, but weren't they both slain ?"

Samantha: "Well, they wouldn't have been if they had a set of these.":-P
 

Jones

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I've taken a break from RF reading after the Dark series and decided to re-read The Wave. Reading chapter 24 - The Bacchantes meet Apollo at Stonehenge and play the third man theme, and was wondering while reading if what is going on for our couples is that they are harmonising the left and right hemisphere's of their brains, the developing positive regard for their significant others weakens the predators mind and it eventually flees. While many of our Rakes seem to start off expressing the the twisted version of Bacchic culture with drunken revelry etc. -

The principles of Nature and the Cosmos that were studied and honored by these ancient peoples were later embodied as Bacchus/Dionysus, which concealed the true meaning and protected the tradition for a time. The Bacchic culture embraced three general principles that were, in modern terms, celebration, creativity and chivalry. Throughout history, whenever the mystic traditions have been revived, these three themes become dominant in the society.

The celebration of the Bacchants has been redacted to drunken revelry. Nothing could be further from the truth of the original meaning, though it is entirely likely that later, ignorant perversions occurred among the followers.

The original principle was that the celebrants achieved elevated states of consciousness by music, singing and dancing, often in processions or highly stylized spiral movements. The original purpose was to use their bodies as circuitry, or part of the machinery of the megaliths.
- there is also a harmonisation of masculine and feminine roles through their relationships.
 

Voyageur

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Had finished the Rebel series, by Kerrigan Byrne, and the table that @seek10 had also thankfully put together, listed 6 books (see below), finishing with the Duke with the Dragon Tattoo. This was exceeded without checking the table again.

The series on the chart jumps to Seducing a Stranger (Goode series) listed as #1.

1630983519448.png

Depending on where you look, Goodreads.com has the Rebel series with 8 books (although the eight is not out yet). Book 7 is A Dark and Stormy Night. This is the story of Sir Carlton Morley. Downloaded from Amazon the book is called Seducing a Stranger (Goode series #1 on the table above and also in Goodreads.com), and Byrne discusses the name change and also lists it as part of either series and how it is attached to the Goode series, even though it may make sense to see it as being tied to the Rebel series, which it is, depending on where one looks or thinks about it.

Well, was somewhat confused initially, and that is why I had downloaded extra books over and above the table - following the series number sequences.

Here is a different version to that of the table.

Note: As said in the table, a warning to readers as 1 - 7 are intense:

Rebel Series
1. Dorian Blackwell/Farah Leigh - The Highwayman
2. Christopher Argent/Millie LeCour - The Hunter
3. Liam MacKenzie/ Miss Philomena - The Highlander
4. Collin Talmage/ Imogen Pritchard - The Duke
5.
Gavin St. James/Samantha Masters - The Scot Beds His Wife
6. The Rook (leaving his real name out) - The Duke with the Dragon Tattoo
7. Carlton Morely/Prudence Goode - Dark and Stormy Night (or Seducing a Stranger - Goode series)
7.5. Johnathan de Lohr/ Vanessa Latimer - The Earl of Christmas Past (Goode Girls 1.5)

Book (7.5) roots to the past Battle of Culloden, and it is the first time in any of the series to read to date - a later time period too, that the photographic camera was introduced, used here to photograph a ghost.

8. The Earl on the Train - Sebastian Moncrieff (not sure what is going to go on with this story based on #6 above) - wait and see.

Goode Girls looks to:

Book 1 – same as book 7 in the above series.
Book 1.5 - same as book 7.5 in the above series
Book 1.5 (again) looks to be by multiple authors, starting with Byrne who looks to follow up (meshing it in) with the story of 7.5 above The Earl of Christmas Past.
Book 2 - Doctor Titus Conleith/ Honoria Goode. - Courting Trouble

Note: Courting trouble
should be read after Book 8 of the Rebel series, IMO, as it ties with Carton and Prudence (sister to Honoria) as a follow up.

All the way to book 8 (unvetted and unread).

Overall in the spoiler department (Rebel series):

Book 1 - 7 are steeped in poverty, circumstances and violence; horrendous violence perpetrated upon children - growing to youth in the prison system of Newgate, and later (and earlier in some cases) upon the streets as it is meted out by criminal minds or from those suffering individual traumas. Every imaginal evil is in these stories, resulting in deeply scarred beings (and violent) who try to overcome what befell them in youth. They found anchors; renewed friendships, and hand of love to help pull them out of what they saw themselves to be, one by one.

As people reading here will know, all seven of these characters (double that with the their partners) form supportive bonds with each other reminiscent of some of Balogh or other authors' stories - the time frame is 1880's, generally.
 

seek10

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Thank you for the suggestions @Voyageur.
Had finished the Rebel series, by Kerrigan Byrne, and the table that @seek10 had also thankfully put together, listed 6 books (see below), finishing with the Duke with the Dragon Tattoo. This was exceeded without checking the table again.
I am sorry, I didn't get it when you mentioned exceeded.
The series on the chart jumps to Seducing a Stranger (Goode series) listed as #1.

1630983519448.png
By default this report is sorted by author Name , Series Name and Book Nbr in the Series.
1630995664543.png

you can click on little triangle (pointing up) to change the order of the series. ( 3 in the above picture).

Well, was somewhat confused initially, and that is why I had downloaded extra books over and above the table - following the series number sequences.

Here is a different version to that of the table.

Note: As said in the table, a warning to readers as 1 - 7 are intense:

Rebel Series
1. Dorian Blackwell/Farah Leigh - The Highwayman
2. Christopher Argent/Millie LeCour - The Hunter
3. Liam MacKenzie/ Miss Philomena - The Highlander
4. Collin Talmage/ Imogen Pritchard - The Duke
5.
Gavin St. James/Samantha Masters - The Scot Beds His Wife
6. The Rook (leaving his real name out) - The Duke with the Dragon Tattoo
7. Carlton Morely/Prudence Goode - Dark and Stormy Night (or Seducing a Stranger - Goode series)
7.5. Johnathan de Lohr/ Vanessa Latimer - The Earl of Christmas Past (Goode Girls 1.5)

Book (7.5) roots to the past Battle of Culloden, and it is the first time in any of the series to read to date - a later time period too, that the photographic camera was introduced, used here to photograph a ghost.

8. The Earl on the Train - Sebastian Moncrieff (not sure what is going to go on with this story based on #6 above) - wait and see.

Goode Girls looks to:

Book 1 – same as book 7 in the above series.
Book 1.5 - same as book 7.5 in the above series
Book 1.5 (again) looks to be by multiple authors, starting with Byrne who looks to follow up (meshing it in) with the story of 7.5 above The Earl of Christmas Past.
Book 2 - Doctor Titus Conleith/ Honoria Goode. - Courting Trouble

Note: Courting trouble
should be read after Book 8 of the Rebel series, IMO, as it ties with Carton and Prudence (sister to Honoria) as a follow up.

All the way to book 8 (unvetted and unread).
We had a similar confused situation with Mary Balogh's books. I will take a look at a way to represent this dependency( between series and books) you mentioned.
 

Voyageur

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I am sorry, I didn't get it when you mentioned exceeded.
No worries, your list actually almost matches Bryrne's own website for the one series (1-6 books - missing was the Gavin St. James/Samantha Masters - The Scot Beds His Wife story listed as book #5 by Bryrne), so when I said "exceeded," this was meant to mean downloading other books in the number sequence listed in Goodreads and amazon which adds more books (1 - 8) thought to be on the initial list.

We had a similar confused situation with Mary Balogh's books.
Yeah, and not only some of Balogh's books have had a few name changes and additions parachuted in, a few other authors also. And then there are different websites. It can get confusing.
 
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