Romantic Fiction, Reality Shaping and The Work

I´ve read Anne Gracie´s Merridew sisters after the weirdo-romances in parallel thread and I must say - what a marvelous change!

I actually laughed out loud several times and the vibe, the atmosphere and the dynamic between the characters was simply beautiful.
I also cried a couple of times - so, it was perfect Gracie - gives you all the emotions.

Amazing is how Gracie put such a heavy topic in such a nice wrapping, it kind of reminded me that in life is not all so bad, to be strong and that one can find laughter even in dark hours.

Also I like how Gracie keeps the reader glued to the story and moves the story forward in such a way that something thrilling keeps popping up.

The Merridew sisters grow up with loving parents and then, after the parents die, move to live with their psycho-grandfather who was beating them and imposing heavy religious upbringing on them.
Older sisters remembered the love that their parents shared and it was a straw they were holding on through difficult times. The youngest sister, Grace, on the other hand was a baby when her parents died and she has only the stories of her parents that her sisters told her.
They all are beautiful, but programmed into "beauty is a sin", so they are not aware of that fact, until the oldest one, Prudence, creates a scheme to run from their grandfather and to live with their granduncle who made them come out into society.

In the first book, Prudence almost lost her love because of her holding to a dream - to a childhood love that was all but a real love.
I laughed out loud in the scenes with Gideon - this book really made my days!
Prudence was strong and caring and luckily for Gideon to show her her own worth.

In the second book "The Perfect Waltz", Hope was attracted to Sebastian, but because of appearance that reminded her of her grandfather (he was big and strong), she was at first kind of repulsed by him, but also interested.
So, because of negative memories and negative imprints - she almost lost the love of her life.
p.s. I also wanted to smack Sebastian for his stubbornness and prejudices towards Hope.
I was also very much tensed the whole book, with a knot in my stomach, hoping that the girls didn´t go through the horrors and abuse the story was pointing to.
It was a hard story, but also threaded with love and laughter that shined from Hope.

On the other hand, in the third book "The Perfect Stranger", Faith ran off with a completely wrong person, because she thought he was the right one - based on her dreams and imagination, and also imprints based on the story of her parents' love!
I´ve searched on-line the symptoms Nick had - I couldn't figure out what is wrong with him!
I cried for Nick and Faith and was so mad at Nick, but I also understood his point of view.
I also liked the side story with the gypsy girl and the Scotsman - they were really funny.
I love a bit of mysticism in these novels so the ending was perfect; I also liked the same elements in "The Taming of a Highlander" from E. Braden.

In the fourth book, I was so angry with the grandfather, how he put the blame on Grace, that no one will love her, and how it affected her life later.
It left deep scars in poor Grace and I cried for her and her realization that she is also loved and deserves love.

Gracie really is a marvelous writer.
I felt so uplifted and it was such a satisfying feeling after reading the series.
A perfect gem in these crazy times.
I also picked up Anne Gracie after the dark romance novels. The Devil Riders series is amazing so far, and witnessing the noble behaviour of her characters in the face of trauma and tragedy is a welcome antidote to the general madness going on in the world right now. It puts you face to face with the possibilites that are open to human beings, and which are sadly being pushed to the side in our era thanks to modern education, ideologies and so forth.
When I read More Than a Mistress it was very clear that something was cut unusually short. Similar but less so with No Man's Mistress. Although Now a bride is short it was a worthwhile addition.
Had missed this, the #2.5 story (Now a Bride), which seems to fill in some of the gaps, as you say. Thanks for that!

As for the second book (building on the Mistress aspect from the first book), it is indeed heavy subject matter, insofar as Mary lays out a neat little plot which delves into so many aspects that can burden forever a young woman's life. In this case (go to spoiler if need be):

The main character is one Viola Thornhill, and her past haunts her as one of London's prime courtesans working under the alias name, Lilian Talbot. She meets Ferdinand Tresham, brother of Duke Tresham under odd circumstances that you don't exactly see coming. She is not recognized, at first. Their relationship developes and begets deep material possession conflict between them; there is attraction, there is judgement, embarrassment, fear and the usual 'not' saying what needs to be said, as Mary writes so well as she pulls the reader along.

The person, Viola, and the person Lilian, are in conflict between what is, what was, and what she is being forced to reconsider as Lilian. Both persona's struggle to survive and try to make sense of the live's that would again be encountered. Tghere is a bases in deceit. Viola, as might be expected, also has trouble sometimes knowing which mind and heart are factoring as she tries to set the right path for her over the love of her family. To be either persona is suffering as reality comes smashing back into her life.

Viola, years ago fell under the manipulations of one named Daniel Kirby - not a rake, no, he is the modern day equivalent of a pimp. Viola's second persona was created and groomed under the pretence that her family would suffer great hardship if she did not submit. Grooming was not by way of drugs and all the other exploitive methods one of those pimp types uses today, it was though the exploiting of debts of another - ownership of them, used against the deep love Viola had for her family, as said. Kirby, through threat, was also making it known to Viola that her younger sister was targeted - another leaver he employed.

Unlike other books where some of the characters are pretty bad, Kirby is the lowest of lows. He is a psychopath by any other name.

The conclusion was interesting.

Edit: this is a Balogh series.
The books on our project list are all written for adults, so I was wondering if something like this can be done for children, and I found only one such experiment which showed that it can be done with the appropriate literature. But it is certainly something that is lacking in our culture.

Reading and Feeling: The Effects of a Literature-Based Intervention Designed to Increase Emotional Competence in Second and Third Graders

Emotional competence has an important influence on development in school. We hypothesized that reading and discussing children’s books with emotional content increases children’s emotional competence. To examine this assumption, we developed a literature-based intervention, named READING and FEELING, and tested it on 104 second and third graders in their after-school care center. Children who attended the same care center but did not participate in the emotion-centered literary program formed the control group (n = 104). Our goal was to promote emotional competence and to evaluate the effectiveness of the READING and FEELING program. Emotional competence variables were measured prior to the intervention and 9 weeks later, at the end of the program. Results revealed significant improvements in the emotional vocabulary, explicit emotional knowledge, and recognition of masked feelings. Regarding the treatment effect for detecting masked feelings, we found that boys benefited significantly more than girls. These findings underscore the assumption that children’s literature is an appropriate vehicle to support the development of emotional competence in middle childhood.


Over the past two decades, there has been an increasing interest in the importance of emotional competence not only in adults but also in children. Children with a high level of emotional competence are more able to regulate their feelings and are more successful at interacting with their peer group (Schultz et al., 2001; Smith, 2001; Trentacosta and Fine, 2010). They are not only quite popular among their classmates and make more friends but they also have better relationships with teachers (Ladd et al., 1999; Hamre and Pianta, 2001) and perform better academically (Gumora and Arsenio, 2002; Trentacosta and Izard, 2007; Denham et al., 2012). Thus, emotional competence is just as important as the improvement of cognitive and social skills.

Every individual will acquire various emotional skills in the course of his or her lifespan, thus becoming more and more emotionally competent.
  1. Awareness of one’s emotional state, including the knowledge that it is possible to experience mixed feelings
  2. Ability to discern others’ emotions based on the knowledge about situational and expressive cues
  3. Ability to use the vocabulary of emotion and expression terms of one’s (sub)culture
  4. Capacity of empathic and sympathetic involvement in others’ emotional experience
  5. Understanding that inner emotional states do not need to correspond to outer expression, neither in oneself nor in others (masked feelings)
  6. Capacity for adaptive coping with aversive or distressing emotions by using self-regulatory strategies
  7. Awareness that the structure of relationships is largely defined by how emotions are communicated within the relationship
  8. Capacity for emotional self-efficacy
Saarni (1999) pointed out that these skills are not independent from each other because an increase in one skill can lead to gains in competence in one or more of the other skills. Like Denham (1998), she emphasized that each child has an emotional understanding and knowledge according to the child’s age which can be practiced and increased only within the framework of interpersonal situations. The quality of interaction with parents as well as the management of emotions in interaction with peers or teachers is decisively influenced by the child’s possession or lack of these skills. Thus, emotional and social competence are not entirely distinct: both follow overlapping developmental pathways and are complex, transactional, multifaceted constructs, consisting of a number of components (Rose-Krasnor, 1997; Saarni, 1999; Halberstadt et al., 2001) which are influenced by the continuous interplay between internal (e.g., ego identity, emotional self-efficacy) and external (e.g., school practices) factors (Humphrey et al., 2010).

The transition from kindergarten to elementary school can be regarded as an important milestone for social emotional development. With the start of kindergarten or school, the daily emotional challenges children have to face become more manifold, complex, and intensive. It is not only the case that children’s attachment needs with peers, (Salisch, 2001; Kerns et al., 2006) as well as with teachers, (Hamre and Pianta, 2001; Garner and Waajid, 2008) play an increasingly important role—the emotional lexicon, viewed as the comprehension and the use of mental states with an emotional dimension, also grows decisively in the time period from kindergarten to fifth grade (Baron-Cohen et al., 2010). Thus, it is especially important to foster emotional competence in elementary school, that means to train children explicitly in understanding how certain situations evoke specific emotions, in how to reflect one’s own and others’ emotional experience and in how to talk in an adequate way about them.

To improve emotional competence, intervention programs designed for children can play a major role. Nevertheless, Buckley et al. (2003, p. 11) criticize:

“Intervention programs most often emphasize broad social competencies as opposed to emotional competencies (…). For the most part existing assessment tools focus on three specific skills of emotional competence: emotional expression, empathy, and adaptive coping (see skills 3, 4, and 6). Less attention has been given to the remaining three skills: emotional awareness, understanding the emotions of others, and emotional dissemblance (see skills 1, 2, and 5). Given that the skills of emotional competence are reciprocally related, these omissions present a noteworthy limitation.”

Indeed, the socialization of emotional competence includes not only behavioral but also emotional understanding and knowledge aspects (i.e., knowledge about one’s own feeling, emotional dissemblance). The level of a child’s understanding of emotions or emotional knowledge is one essential source of individual differences that correlates with socioeconomic status in the peer group, attachment to teachers and school achievement (Izard et al., 2001, 2008; Miller et al., 2005). For instance, children with a low level of emotion knowledge are often rejected by peers, what in turn leads to withdrawal and, under vulnerable dispositions, to social anxiety (Schultz et al., 2001) or other, more externalizing, behavior problems (Speltz et al., 1999). In addition, Izard et al.’s (2001) path analysis identified emotion knowledge as a mediator of associations between verbal ability and academic competence. They argued that deficits in this ability, viewed as misperception or misinterpretation of emotion cues, contribute to negative behavioral outcomes and learning problems. Furthermore, to be aware of one’s own feelings and to acknowledge associated causes can be seen as a resilience factor in adolescence. For example, a teenager who is able to be aware of his or her own feeling of anger has a lower risk of drug abuse (Hessler and Katz, 2010). In sum, the knowledge and understanding aspects of emotional competence provides the foundation for emotional communication and social relationships with a long-term effect on motivational, psychological, occupational, and private development (Saarni, 1999; Izard et al., 2001; Trentacosta et al., 2006).

Furthermore, children in elementary school with lower emotional competence not only exhibit poorer academic development but they may also have less opportunity to improve their emotional skills, both at home and in the classroom. Therefore, a process that promotes emotional knowledge and understanding needs to be implemented within the framework of the peer group.

From the aspect of an adequate means to influence and enhance emotional competence, it is evident that a large body of stimulus material can be found in the field of children’s literature (Hogan, 2011). Through the reading of books which explicitly represent emotional experience through words, children gain not only in their cognitive abilities but also in their emotional knowledge (Beazidou et al., 2012). Obviously, both language abilities and the representation of emotional processes can be communicated via the framework of children’s literature (Hogan, 2011; Isbell et al., 2004; Wasik et al., 2006). Beazidou et al. (2012) indicated that, if teachers use the right literacy strategies, children’s books hold the potential to increase the specific emotional vocabulary (see skill 3). Moreover, storybook reading provides the opportunity to adopt several emotional perspectives of various characters and to engage children in emotional discourse (Hogan, 2011).

Language abilities, especially the presence of an emotion vocabulary, operate as a key factor in increasing emotional competence (Saarni, 1999, 2002). For instance, Troesch et al. (2012) showed that language skills predicted emotional knowledge in kindergarten children with an immigrant background. Indeed, a considerable amount of research revealed not only a significant relationship between language and emotional competence (Cutting and Dunn, 1999; Izard et al., 2001; Schultz et al., 2001; Harris and Pons, 2003; Pons et al., 2003; Bosacki and Moore, 2004; Beck et al., 2012), but also demonstrated that children with language impairment have limited abilities in several aspects of emotional competence (Redmond and Rice, 1998; Lindsay and Dockrell, 2000; Ford and Milosky, 2003; McCabe and Meller, 2004; Brinton et al., 2007; Nelson et al., 2011). This is in line with new research results that confirm a strong interrelation between various facets of emotional and language competences in middle childhood (Beck et al., 2012).

Altogether, it seems that language and literature are appropriate vehicles to develop emotional knowledge. Nevertheless, after thoroughly reviewing the existing literature we did not find any study that explicitly used the interactive reading of books to foster emotional competence in middle childhood. Hence, the major aim of the present study was to develop and evaluate a new intervention program on the basis of children’s literature aimed at improving emotional competence in children within the peer group setting. The development of adaptive and age-appropriate material and techniques was ensured by an interdisciplinary research team consisting of psychologists, linguists, psychiatrists, and literary scholars. Within the intervention program, the following aspects of emotional competence should be addressed: the understanding of emotions and emotional processes of others (in children’s literature), and the conscious perception and comprehension of emotional dissemblance and mixed feelings as well as emotional language in the story.


Future Implications and Directions​

In summary, our findings indicate that our relatively short literary program is a feasible and promising intervention to stimulate greater understanding of emotions and emotion-related phenomena that was successfully implemented in 104 children in after-school care. The implementation of the literature-based intervention has shown that—contrary to behavioral-based approaches used in most interventions—a literary approach can influence children on a cognitive-affective level. This implies as well that the changes are not context specific. Rather, they form the foundations on which this new knowledge can be applied in a variety of different settings. Furthermore, we consider the greatest strengths of the present study to be found in the interdisciplinary approach (combining psychology and comparative literature) and the high degree of standardization of the methods and measures (e.g., the development of a manual with precisely formulated questions or the training and weekly supervision with the intervention instructors).

In conclusion, although further studies are required for analyzing the conditions under which emotional competence is best promoted in children, our present findings can be considered as an appeal for utilizing the multifaceted opportunities children’s literature provides in the school environment. Not only are early academic skills promoted by children’s literature, going beyond this, it also provides the potential to foster the theoretical education of emotional competence as well as social relationship skills through presentation in an emotion-focused way.

No one understood. But how could they? She was on a journey that she could not explain in words, even to herself. She did not know what the next step would be, and had no idea what the final destination was, or even if there would be one. She knew only that she must take one step forward at a time, and that she must do it herself, even if when that made her family unhappy.
Mary Balogh, Someone To Honor, Westcott #6
Life was a challenge. One big challenge, forever splintering into smaller ones. Just like a felled tree trunk under the axe. And if one got wounded, one licked the wound, applied a bandage if it would not stop bleeding, and kept reducing that trunk to logs and sticks of firewood and kindling, until the next one came crashing down and one had to start all over again.
Mary Balogh, Someone To Honor, Westcott #6
In Mary's first book of the Mistress series (More than a Mistress), had noted the words by Mary through the character, Jane. This has to do with our young, one's own youth suffer under love:

It is not always wise to mock our younger selves. Love is as serious and painful a business to the young as it is to older people. More so. There is so much more innocence.
I watched this interview with Catherine Austin Fitts and Rocco Galati today and towards the end Fitts addresses the entrainment of the population and makes a comment along the lines of 'Men can be entrained and women can be entrained, but where you have a man and a wonan working together, they can almost never be entrained.' There's probably more to it than that and Galati makes reference to incidences where one member of a couple has pressured the other into having the jab and questioning what kind of relationship you have if a partner doesn't have respect for your bodily integrity. Fitts doesn't reveal how she come to this conclusion, but it's interesting in relationship to this subject.
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I watched this interview with Catherine Austin Fitts and Rocco Galati today and towards the end Fitts addresses the entrainment of the population and makes a comment along the lines of 'Men can be entrained and women can be entrained, but where you have a man and a woman working together, they can almost never be entrained.' There's probably more to it than that and Galati makes reference to incidences where one member of a couple has pressured the other into having the jab and questioning what kind of relationship you have if a partner doesn't have respect for your bodily integrity. Fitts doesn't reveal how she come to this conclusion, but it's interesting in relationship to this subject.
Great catch @Jones. IMHO, everyone in the Fellowship and/or the forum should watch this interview. Also, and this really hit home with me, she said that 'there are worse things than dying.' If that isn't love, I don't know what is. It speaks volumes of her integrity, courage, and knowledge. And Rocco's as well.
As an aside, I remember reading or watching a quote by Rocco where he said that, because of the nature of the corruption (I think he was referring to the banking system) he was fighting, he would never get a judgeship appointment. But he didn't care. What matters most is doing the right thing, being true to yourself. IbuI
A small update.

I started with Anna Campbell´s "Lairds Most Likely" series a few weeks back.
I finished the first 3 books and they are quite different from "Sons of Sin" series. Here she is more into the psychology of the characters. Or maybe it´s only my impression, but I find Lairds very good written, more involved with characters' personal development, and more emotions and feelings described.

It´s an interesting dynamic between the characters.

In the first book, she explores 2 very strong people; both very self-sufficient, she has no need for a man, he has no need for a woman, at least not a strong one, always imagined that he´ll have a meek and obedient wife, while she thought she´ll never marry.

In the second book, she explores also 2 different personas, she was in love with him all her life and then decided she´ll forget about her childish infuriation, he was a rake that never really looked at the women as persons, but as objects. She is plain (or at least that´s what she thinks) and determine, he is handsome and in shock that she´s not falling for him.

In the third book, she explores 2 very damaged people; he had a selfish and beautiful mother who thought of nothing but herself and therefore he developed huge mistrust in women. She was beaten and hurt by men in her life and therefore developed a huge mistrust in men. Both of them are so good and caring people, but also so distrustful towards the other.

They were complicated stories; very complicated emotions and feelings and programs, and I must say that I'm looking forward to continuing with the series, as soon as I finish Pierre´s book.

At the same time, one thing led to another and I ended up on Polar Beings thread, and I´m still not finished reading it.
But I found also here in this thread a quote that says:
When you meet each other it is likely that neither one of you will be "perfect" because we are polar beings and part of the learning process here in 3D is to help each other.

We talk a lot about programming that leads to bad matches and then we are in "love" with this particular person. Like was described in The Wave and like Laura explained here.
But reading Gracie´s Merrridew and Campbell´s third book, I cannot keep thinking in the other direction; have we missed the right person in our lives because of our programming? Because a person in our childhood had mustaches or long blonde hair and we carry negative imprints about that, and when we encounter a particular person later, our imprint triggers nad we feel hostile towards that person, now knowing why. I learned about that back in 2007 when I was in some Neuro-Linguistic Programming training that was part of my ex-company training. I found it shocking but it took the time (obviously) to really sit.

This project shows me more and more how much I still have to learn and that there are so many things I don´t really understand.
Hi everyone,

I took a bit of a break from the romance novels while I was halfway through "Only a Promise" and so I restarted it and have now finished it. I wanted to share a few ideas that occurred to me while listening to is that I will be sharing on the spoiler section below, it's probably my second favorite novel from the Survivor's Club series.

This story follows Ralph and Chloe. He believes himself unable to love, and she's a growing spinster who has had bad experiences in life. They share several connections from their youth, Chloe's brother attended school with Ralph and they're both the grandkids of Ralph's grandmother, a duchess, who invites Chloe over to stay with her (as she's running away from the possibility of her dad not being her real father) and as the duke, Ralph's grandfather, is aging and ill, she invites him over to pressure him to find a wife him being the heir to the dukedom.

Chloe offers Ralph a bargain, a marriage of convenience, she offers him the solution to his predicament as she'd be a perfect fit for him, because she would not be expecting love from him, only a home and a family, which is what he believes his duty to be to his grandparents.

Ralph accepts, they marry just in time before Ralph's grandfather passes and he becomes the duke, and through their difficult experiences together they learn to love each other. It's a beautiful story.

There are several interesting concepts explored in this book, following the theme of the survivor's there's trauma to be processed. Although this story deals very particularly with a few main ideas: Greif and Guilt, Courage and fear, memories and reality, duty and so on.

One of the first ideas that the book echoes from the rest of the series is that of healing, it's more than just mending wounds and broken skin. It can be a lifelong process, and not only that, it takes the living will of the wounded to heal the body and the spirit, not only the efforts of the medic. And as such, they start establishing the incredible role of George, the owner of Panderris Hall who hosted all the survivors for years.

George has a very interesting observation that he makes to Ralph, who believes himself to be unable to love or having anything to offer anyone. He mentions that the fact that he is aware of what he deems a lack of love, or having nothing to offer, denotes his ability to care for someone else. To not desire to dash some innocent girl's dreams. George becomes that fatherly presence in the series that nurtures all the characters through their specific hell.

Ralph's idea of his inability to love is depicted beautifully in the story, he is rude and cold. His eyes are described as void of feeling or emotion, he is unable of true intimacy and hurts Chloe a few times with his personality.

The origin of all this is his wish to die, to end his life because of the guilt he feels for having, according to him, convinced his three childhood friends to join him in the war, and then having to watch them die. He lives in shame, afraid of the world and afraid of his emotions, completely guilt ridden and so his solution was to distance himself entirely from any emotion whatsoever, positive or negative.

And that's an interesting concept which I think we can all understand, when you prevent yourself from feeling terror, shame or hurt, or anything negative, you're also cutting your connection with love, care and affection. You deny yourself the negative emotions, and you're also throwing out your positive ones.

The way the story depicts his transformation, or his growth process, is actually very nicely done and it's all tied to Chloe's presence in his life. She serves as his inspiration and mirror. it all starts when the old duke dies, and he finally displays some emotion, begin him silently not to die.

We begin to see his character described in his annoyance at his Chloe for being excellent, she was caring, kind and rose to the challenge when his grandfather died. Her being correct about his responsibilities and not being simply a quite inactive wall flower made him feel invaded and reflected on him, everything he was afraid of.

He was irritated by having lost his independence, but in reality what he was irritated about was having someone there to make him realize how self centered he actually was. She reflected upon him all his innadequacies, this is what begins their troubles, but it's also the catalyst for his transformation.

She also goes through a big crisis when she decided to cut her hair, which was the symbol of her feelings of inadequacy and a reminder of the possibility of her dad not being her father. Even her cutting off her hair, was a way in which she was showing him something about himself he had refused to acknowledged existed, his ability to care for someone who needed him, his wife no less.

Another way in which she becomes his inspiration is when she has to confront the possibility of her legitimacy, terrified though she was of the possibility, she walk right through her fears and into the truth.

This was beautifully done with Chloe, she used her brother as an inspiration and constantly faced her fears. For Ralph, this made him feel unworthy of her, yet.. she could not have done it with him by her side, and this is another big influence that she had on him. It made him realize his own importance, not self importance and vanity, but how he could have a positive and caring gesture with another soul, she challenged his notion of having nothing to offer.

After Chloe faces her fears and comes on the other end renewed, Ralph is inspired to do the same. That woman he had considered a little above a maid, had come from running away from her problems and faced the world. He faces his guilt by visiting the family of his friends who died in war and discovered that all his ideas about what other people thought of him, were quite wrong from the beginning.

And this is the climax of the story where all the concepts come together in a lovely scene.

Ralph retires to his study and Chloe comes to find him. They have a lovely chat about memories, about grief and guilt and about feelings, about fear and courage. He breaks down in tears and all that he has been avoiding feeling comes in a rush.

This story made me think of a few things, there's a big difference between grief and guilt, but they're related and sometimes go hand in hand. Greif is the sensation of loss of someone else and a part of oneself as a result, that we undergo. It's a process to be honored and respected, it's tied to memories and imagination, it's tied to ourselves intimately but also to someone else.

it's natural and painful, it's sad and sorrowful, it's the I lost you in my life but I also lost myself with you in it. My role and my potential with you in my life, and I have been thrown into the unknown. It's a rather cliche saying but honoring and remembering the good and learning from the bad, the happiness and joy that people brought into our lives is a much better thing to keep present as a way to grieve, unpossesively that is, grateful that one had the chance to live with someone.

Ralph also grieves for the loss of innocence, of young wonder, of dashed dreams and childhood.

I remember reading from Viktor Frankl that one of these great gestures one could have for someone else was to outlive them, to avoid them the pain of watching you go, because it's immense. And I think that grieving, as Balogh points out in this story, is related to that, celebrating the joy the person gifted us with while they were alive and being content at the thought that the one thing that you won't give them is such grief.

We grieve best by honoring the person's we loose, and us in them as well, but not by making us the center of their existence or their reason for being gone. Which is where guilt comes from, at the end Ralph realizes that his guilt was a form of vanity, in which he placed himself at the very top of the reasons why his friends died, of having such a large influence on their lives that it was his fault and he could not live with that, yet... he refused to live without that guilt. It defined him.

That's why he declared himself unable to love, resented Chloe in her inspiring behavior and found himself unworthy of her. She even tells him at some point, that if he refused to face his fears and let go of his guilt, he'd be living in hell for the rest of his life.

The C's said as much once, guilt is an ego thing of a very covert nature, and Ralph was such a nasty character, that it made me realize that, much like him, we can hold on to our guilt for way too long, even defend it and dismiss all the signs that may reflect our selfishness when holding on to guilt for longer than necessary.

The other idea is courage, and it's rather simple but it's acting despite the fear, it's walking through our fears. Usually, much like guilt, our fears are way smaller than our imagination makes them out to be.

Another idea was that of inspiration, by behaving in our best manner. But this has also been explored on several other novels, the interesting theme here, because of the relationship of the two, was that Chloe would not have been able to be courageous without Ralph's essence coming through his hard shell of guilt that made him unaware of how much she needed and used his support.

Put another way, and as a last thought of the novel, perhaps: It's the story of how Ralph's essence, of which he was unaware of as he had hidden it behind vain walls of guilt, found a way to give Chloe the security and the nudge she needed to act in a courageous way that in turn inspired Ralph to break down those very walls he built, to find himself and her in the process, as she found him.

And lo, a marriage of convenience was a love match all along.

Sorry for the lengthy post, and thanks for reading.
Now on to Only a Kiss :)
Hello everyone.
After reading the billionaire banker series I made a break with reading, I needed to digest those books.

A few days ago I started the "Gilded Web" from Mary Balogh. It seemed a favorite among the forumites, so I gave it a go.

Mrs Balogh doesn't disapoint as usual. Again, she manages to make us identify with the characters. I could see where Alexandra came from. She had been controlled by men all her life, and she wanted to be free at last. She had become resentful of men and of society for not acknowledging her worth as a human being. Wanting to be a governess is something I understood, and I had been in her situation, I would have seriously comtemplated that option. But she grew out of it and I grew up with her so to say. Many moments I found saying to myself "oh yeah that's right...I already knew that". I had the impression that this book was fishing knowledge I had inside me to bring it to my consciousness.

What I liked about Edmund is his selflessness and consideration of others. I thought at first that he was ahead of his time, but in fact, those qualities of courage, respect, compassion and kindness are universal and intemporal. It was good to see that they could marry because they choose to, because they had something to offer to one another, and receive from one another.

Also for me this book is also another punch in the gut for the modern woman (you get a few other ones with the billionaire banker series😁). The western woman is taught to be independant, ambitious, outspoken, fit, pretty (the list goes on...)and while those qualities aren't negative in themselves, our societies turned them into weapons against men, against other women who don't quite reach that ideal and against the family.

That's the behaviour Alexandra displays at the beginning, to then learn that the world is a dangerous place if you are without friends or family, that life isn't worth living if there aren't loved ones to share it with, that one doesn't grow if he/she doesn't learn to see oneself and others.

This book wasn't the easy read I expected, it had a lot of emotional dephts. I'll carry on with the next ones of the Web series🌼
Like you I have also taken a break after reading the billionaire series.

As for the Gilded web, you have made a good choice by the sound of it. I am also one of those forumites who really enjoyed it.
What I liked about Edmund is his selflessness and consideration of others
The character of Edmund also spoke to me, He displays not only in the first book but in the others in the series as well, a bastion of solidity, of respect for free will, for being a good listener and dispenser of good advice as well as being solidly there for his family.

I wish you happy continuation with the other books in the series. The Westcott series is next on my list after I have finished a few other non-romance books.
Been re-reading The Wave and come across the following collection of quotes that describe both the soul of some of our romantic leads and also the struggles that they are working with in character development that seems to be assisted by their relationships.
Master K'ung: There are three sorts of friends that are profitable, and three sorts that are harmful. Friendship with the upright, with the true-to-death and with those who have knowlegde is profitable. Friendship with the obsequious, friendship with those that are good at accommodating their principles, friendship with those that are clever at talk is harmful.

Confucius: People of superior refinement and of active disposition identify happiness with honor.

Aristotle: But to die to escape poverty or love or anything painful is not the mark of a brave man, but rather of a coward; for it is softness to fly from what is troublesome, and such a man endures death not because it is noble, but because he is afraid.

Sir Thomas Malory: Ever will a coward show no mercy.

Confucius: To see what is right and not do it is cowardice.

Montaigne: Cowardice is the mother of cruelty.

Emmerson: Persons with character are easy to spot as if they were a different color. Self-trust and the perception that virtue is enough is the essence of character. It is the natural tendency to defy falseness and wrong. It speaks the truth, and it is just, generous, hospitable, temperate, despises pettiness, and is scornful of being scorned. Character persists when the mood has passed in which the decision to act was made. Character displays undaunted boldness and a fortitude that does not wear down or out.

When the soul is not master of one's reactions to the world, then that soul is everyones dupe. The person of character is not for sale. He does not ask to dine nicely and to sleep warm. He does not need plenty; he can lose with grace. Character is persistent. The person of character makes a choice based on honorable considerations and sticks with it and, no matter what, does not weakly try to reconcile itself to the world.

Most outstanding of all is the good humor and hilarity of the person of character. The great will not condescend to take anything seriously. The heroic soul is not common nor can the common be heroic. The person of character always does what he is afraid to do. Greatness ignores the opinions of others.

The value in reading the romantic novels has been both a lesson in discernment of true character and virtue, as well as giving an insight into our own weaknesses in contrast to the partners in the couples of the stories.

I still have trouble reconciling the rapidity of them forming a relationship. That could be because I've been further behind in the karmic and simple understandings than the couples in the stories of discerning true character and virtue that isn't a mere act or facade. It could be that I have had a white knight or saviour program running. It could be that I hadn't really and squarely faced my own character or virtue deficits. I think that it's some combination of all of the above.

Also if we take into account the impact of the honeymoon period of relationship then there's more to consider. The problem with most honeymoon period psychology that I've read offers suggestions for how to keep the relationship going without councelling on how to discern the true nature of either self or other and that's problematic because it gives the idea that one should stick at making the relationship work no matter what the cost, rather than arriving at the conclusion in a timely matter that the relationship is actually harmful to the soul of either self or other. With that in mind, here is one snippet about how, under the influence of both a soul that still has a way to go in development, and our own physiology and emotional lives we can be dooped, unlike our dookes and their ladies.

Ah, the honeymoon stage—that magical time when your partner is still perfect and you are very much in love. This period features high levels of passionate love, characterized by intense feelings of attraction and ecstasy, as well as an idealization of one's partner. The strong emotions associated with passionate love have physical manifestations, such as butterflies in the stomach or heart palpitations. Recent research has begun to explore how these feelings manifest in the brain and in one's physiology.

Using functional MRI, investigators have identified several brain regions associated with feeling love. Individuals who experience passionate love (typically brought on by pictures or thoughts of the beloved) show greater activation in the caudate nucleus, important in learning and memory, and the ventral tegmental area, central to emotional processing. Both brain areas tend to be rich in dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with reward and motivation.

Another study found that when women who were madly in love thought about their partner, instead of a friend, they exhibited elevated levels of the stress-buffering hormone cortisol.

Researchers have also examined how experiencing passionate love can influence an individual's brain chemistry. One study revealed that recent lovebirds had higher levels of nerve growth factor (NGF), a protein that aids in the development and functioning of neurons, than people who were single or in long-term relationships. The authors speculated that elevated NGF levels might increase a person's feelings of euphoria or connection. When measuring cortisol and NGF levels 12 to 24 months later, they found that differences between the passionate love group and the others had disappeared.

So basically there is some stress involved in the situation, but this new stressor can actually mask the stress we might ordinarily feel when we think we may have detected a character or virtue deficit in either ourselves or the other and like an addict, we can continue to try to recreate the euphoria and connection and get the dopamine hits despite large signs that the relationship is not either a healthy one, one that is moving in a direction that is satisfying for both partners, or one that helps to grow character and virtue - or soul strength of both partners. Ultimately then if there is an addiction involved and a soul in struggle, the chances that there is a misuse of ego and selfishness that contradicts character and virtue are also involved increase and the games that we play, the lies that we tell ourselves and our partner in this situation can limit soul growth for both.

That's as far as I see it at this time so maybe the simplest question to ask to discern whether the relationship is of the kind that we are seeking is does it support the growth of soul, character and virtue of both partners? Or is it just a lesson, meant only to last for as long as it takes to be able to truly discern the difference and recalibrate aims? Probably more to it than that.
Just realised that I missed the end of Emmerson's quote and rather than editing the above will add it here since I'm typing with one finger on my phone.

Emmerson cont:

The person of character knows that he is born into a state of war and his own well-being requires that he should not go dancing for peace. Knowing this, he collects himself and neither defying nor dreading the thunder, he takes both his reputation and his own life in his hand, and with perfect calm and politeness, dares, the hangman with the absolute truth of his speech, and the correctness of his behaviour. Toward all external evil, the person of character affirms his ability to cope single-handedly with an infinite army of enemies. To this military attitude of the soul we give the name heroism.

Heroism is self-confidence which ignores the restraints of prudence, because of the natural energy and power of the belief that it can repair any harms it may suffer. The hero possesses a mind of such balance that nothing can shake his will. Pleasantly and merrily, he marches to the beat of his own drum no matter what disasters or dissolutions take place around him. He is in the world, but not of it. He does what he does because it is the thing to be done at the moment and he is present and capable of doing it. There is a quality in him that is negligent of expense, of health, of life, of danger, of hatred, of reproach, and knows that his will is higher and more excellent than all possible antagonists.

His victories are by demonstration of superiority. The most violent or conniving person learns that in this person there is resistance on which both impudence and terror are wasted. This resistance is faith in fact and right. The natural power of the heroic character is like light and heat, and all nature cooperates with it. The reason why we feel one man's presence, and not another's is as simple as gravity. Heroic characters are the conscience of the society to which they belong.

No change of circumstances can repair a defect of character. The heroic character does not accept the conventional opinions and practices. He is a nonconformist. Acquiscence to the establishment indicates lack of character which must see the the house built before they can comprehend the plan.

There is a class of individuals which are endowed with character, heroism, insight and virtue. They are usually recieved with ill-will by the masses. No one can use common beliefs to understand these characters. They cannot be judged ftom glimpses. They need perspective, as a landscape. You cannot understand them by popular ethics nor by simple observation of their actions. It is said that He who confronts the gods knows heaven. This is the nature of the person of character.

In past times of violence, every person had many opportunities to prove his worth; therefore, every name that has emerged from the masses can teach us something about heroism, character, and manners. Persons of valour become known and rise to their natural place. In any milieu, heroes and pirates are worth more than talkers or clerks.

The heroic character perpetuates good breeding. Good manners are a spontaneous fruit of the heroic character. The heroic character is a person of truth, master of his own actions, and expresses that mastery in his behaviour, not in any manner dependent and servile either on persons, or opinions, or possessions.

People of character are an energetic class, full of courage and attempts which intimidate their paler brethren. Being up to the demands of their very nature, they can out pray saints, out general veterans and outshine all courtesy. They are comfortable with pirates and scholars. Persons of character sit carelessly in their chairs and are too excellent to value any conditions.

Money is not essential to the aristocrat, which is the true class of those of heroic character. Society among aristocrats is mutually agreeable and stimulating. By swift consent, everything superfluous is dropped, everything graceful is renewed. Good manners are a formidable defence against the common people.

The manners of the aristocrat are aped by the commoners, but are never understood.

Aristocrats never do as the common people do when following fashion. They understand that "fashion" is virtue gone to seed. Aristocrats are sowers, people of fashion are reapers.

Each person's position in life depends on some symmetry in his inner makeup. A natural aristocrat will find his way to those of his own kind. Those of good breeding and personal superiority readily find each other. A person should not go where he cannot carry his whole sphere with him. A defect in character or manners is usually a defect in perceptions. In addition to personal force and perception, an aristocrat is also good natured, generous and obliging.

Times of heroism are generally times of terror, but the day never dawns in which this element is without value. Latent inner power is what we all call Character, a reserved force which acts directly by presence, and without means. It is conceived of as a certain indemonstrable force, a Familiar of Genius, by whose impulses the hero is guided, but whose counsels he cannot impart. Character is if a stellar and indiminishable greatness.
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