Romantic Fiction, Reality Shaping and The Work

Hi guys,

I have just finished Heartlesss by Mary Balogh, this was an intense, well written, adventure of so much pain and joy. It's probably up there in my top three books from her, I know that a lot of you have read it, so I will write a short review this time, I will skip a few details, but I might spoil it nonetheless, so:

What a story, and I am not even sure how to go about it, as a review of a work of literature, it's splendidly written, it's suspenseful and tense, it's touching and tender and sweet but also... it cuts deep, it makes you uncomfortable and sad, angry and frustrated. What a well written story I must say.

Luke goes through a literal revival, back from the dead. He had buried his heart and thus his connection to love, light, knowledge and life, because of what he had assumed had happened in his life. Because he was proud, and ultimately because he was manipulated into believing a feminine vampire who had designs over his inheritance.

His transformation is so gradual, it actually takes place over a year and it is outstandingly done. And through him, the idea of doing the right thing vs doing the right thing lovingly makes all the difference in the world. He had to take charge of his family and assert his authority, thus angering his family members, but since he did it without a heart, he hurt his relationships. When he brought love into his interactions with his family, his same focus for their wellbeing, became a creative force.

Luke is a satisfying character to follow, he literally goes from a zombie, swimming in pleasure and fleshly existence (as Paul would put it perhaps), using make up and cosmetics, to a living being who has found his spirit through the love of life, the truth of his own poor behavior, and pride, and the love of his daughter and his wife.

Ana is frustrating, she is frustrating, but she has a role in the story, bring light wherever she goes, enough to warm Lukes frozen heart. But the way she handles her secret is frustrating, though I knew it was necessary for the story, and also to truly give life to the lunatic criminal Blakely... What a villain, what a depiction of the criminal mind, possessive, obsessed and cold. Threatening, and intimidating, and ultimately a coward.

There has been so much literature of the effect dealing with a psychopath has on a human psyche, that Ana's behavior throughout the story makes total sense, it literally twisted and warped her perception of reality, of herself and her priorities.

Ana's mute and deaf sister was such an endearing character, she was innocence, believe it or not, she represented truth in this story. And how much does truth operate like an innocent mute and deaf child in our lives? How many times do we simply refuse to see and understand the truth of our lives, of our actions, of our selves? we ignore it or become frustrated with it, despise it, dismiss it or simply laugh at it and keep on living as we are.

Truth was the catalyst for change, Emily was one of the first characters that Luke had no other option but to be himself with, she spoke to her eyes and read lips, expressions, all the signs that we hide behind the tones of our sarcastic or well rehearsed words.

This story also made me think about sex, and I think that JPB said recently in one of his interviews that sex is often an expression of so many other emotions, possession, anger, fear, need, love, affection, attraction, control and so many others. This story had a particular and clear differentiation between sex, making love, and having sex as a way to express other emotions.

And it struck me as true, in some cases, it's the only outlet for certain aspects of ourselves, that if not worked on, will only express themselves in such a manner. I suppose this idea could be expanded upon, but I found it interesting how Ana expressed her needs, her fears, her love, and care through sexual behavior, or behavior that was very intimate. it was her soothing mechanism, it was her way to love.

Lastly perhaps, Joy and Pleasure. (joy is also the name of their daughter)

The C's said it once, and it makes absolute sense, Paul speaks about it too. There's pleasure which is of the body, it remains in the flesh, and it can be the expression of so many other darker aspects of ourselves, and we may live our entire lives submerged in it, and fair enough. There's joy, which can and does touch upon pleasurable aspects of our existence, but transcends them.

it's the touch that means care and love, it's the kiss that means trust, it's the hug that speaks of feelings and intentions that extend well beyond the physical realms we inhabit. It's so much more, but it's also physical and it can be confused, and sometimes contaminated by it. Having access to joy, is a daily task.

I think we all have had an intimation of that idea, reading this forum, following Laura and the C's and recently exploring Paul's theology.

But, this story.... gosh, Joy is of the soul, yes, but so is sorrow and regret, and pain deeper than that which would mean loosing a limb. And that's the dark side of Joy, a pain that transcends the depth of our skin, and it's one of the reasons why a lot of us close ourselves to love. It implies a pain equal to the potential of joy it can bring.

But also, sometimes we won't be capable of loving, or of being loved, until we have faced the pain already stored in our souls. And face the monster it has turned us into.

And so, like at the end of the story, Luke had to face the potential death of his wife and daughter, but only because he had found love, otherwise he wouldn't have have to face such great danger.

And I thought, that one has to face love, so to speak, with equal seriousness and respect, with equal faith and resolve. Or one could refuse to do so, but I don't think there's another way to really live and become ourselves.

Than you all for reading, now onto Silent Melody.
Alejo, I love reading your reviews! You have remarkable perception and a way of conveying what you have perceived that is truly beautiful. It has helped me to think about my reading in a new way.
I also want to thank @Alejo for his wonderful reviews. I've been reading them with pleasure for a long time, even for those books that I haven't read myself yet.
Heartless is in the top of my favorite books. I read it at the beginning of the summer. It was especially nice this morning to remember this story once again and thanks to you to look at it more broadly than before!
In an earlier post back in March, had looked to Balogh's book titled Truly.

The story takes place exclusively in the Welsh environs at a time when people were in great struggles as farmers under economic loads of poor crops, escalating rents, constant tithes, and what was breaking their backs were tolls.

Recently, an older book read of Mary's (1995) also takes place in the Welch environs. The title of the book is Longing, and it was Mary's first book written from the perspective of her Welch background. This book carried some of the same undertones as Truly, and yet there were very different.

There are so many of her books that one could comment upon; have meant to do so having read more of her single non-series books - some are excellent. This one is worth mention (IMO).

With this book Longing, the very name ties to the words, sense of longing - to the Welsh word Hiraeth (more from Mary on this below), and this is for the community, the people, the environs, the soul - coming through in Welsh song and linked to love. Longing, occupies two peoples separate, and yet linked yearnings; to stay, to be together, to find out who they are, and their struggles that may force them to leave while never finding true lasting joy together.

One thing for me in reading, was the writing looked deeply at working conditions then, at the whole social fabric that hung from a tread, and those who kept it there and why. At the same time, the book looked to the Chartist movement, and those who either understood that things would change slowly (there would be suffering), or through the actions of those that enforced change and the violence that so often accompanies (parallels to the past and future abound).

Mary writes a nice description, so will leave it with her words (added some emphasis).


Dear Reader,

Most of my books are set in England. But this one is set in my native Wales, and I immediately felt a change in myself, a heightened emotional involvement, as I wrote it. Wales is a land of hills and mountains, sea and cliffs, its own ancient language and culture, a deep spirituality, and music. Always music—the harp, church congregations singing in full harmony, choirs, particularly male voice choirs, often in the past made up of coal miners. Just the thought of it all can bring me to tears. Most of the Welsh coal mines are gone now, but there was a time when they dominated and blackened the countryside along the beautiful river valleys of South Wales.

Longing, my first all-Welsh book, originally published in 1995, has always been very precious to me. It is set in one of the coal-mining valleys in the first half of the nineteenth century, at a time when the owners were almost all wealthy Englishmen and life for the Welsh workers was hard, to say the least. Many of them became involved in the doomed Chartist movement to improve their living and working and political conditions.

The Marquess of Craille is a new owner, having only recently inherited and come to Wales. Siân Jones is the illegitimate daughter of an owner but has deliberately identified with the workers. She is the widow of a miner and is now engaged to the leader of the local Chartist movement. She is soon caught in the middle of a conflict between two men who seem destined to be natural enemies.

A common theme through the book is music, in particular the Welsh song “Hiraeth,” roughly translated “Longing,” that soul-deep yearning we all feel for our homeland and what is beyond our reach and our full understanding. The story is a deeply felt piece of the history of my own people and a passionate love story between two people for whom a future together seems an impossibility.

I do hope you will love this book as much as I always have.

Mary Balogh

Indeed I did, Mary. Thank you!
Alejo, I love reading your reviews! You have remarkable perception and a way of conveying what you have perceived that is truly beautiful. It has helped me to think about my reading in a new way.
I also want to thank @Alejo for his wonderful reviews. I've been reading them with pleasure for a long time, even for those books that I haven't read myself yet.
Heartless is in the top of my favorite books. I read it at the beginning of the summer. It was especially nice this morning to remember this story once again and thanks to you to look at it more broadly than before!
Thank you very much! It's truly humbling to know you guys enjoy reading my reviews, sometimes as I am almost finished typing them, I sit there and feel like... "no one is going to read this much about a book that they could read themselves" and I am also always unsure whether the ideas are clearly expressed.

So, I thank you once again :)
In an earlier post back in March, had looked to Balogh's book titled Truly.

Recently, an older book read of Mary's (1995) also takes place in the Welch environs. The title of the book is Longing, and it was Mary's first book written from the perspective of her Welch background. This book carried some of the same undertones as Truly, and yet there were very different.

There are so many of her books that one could comment upon; have meant to do so having read more of her single non-series books - some are excellent. This one is worth mention (IMO).

With this book Longing, the very name ties to the words, sense of longing - to the Welsh word Hiraeth (more from Mary on this below), and this is for the community, the people, the environs, the soul - coming through in Welsh song and linked to love. Longing, occupies two peoples separate, and yet linked yearnings; to stay, to be together, to find out who they are, and their struggles that may force them to leave while never finding true lasting joy together.

One thing for me in reading, was the writing looked deeply at working conditions then, at the whole social fabric that hung from a tread, and those who kept it there and why. At the same time, the book looked to the Chartist movement, and those who either understood that things would change slowly (there would be suffering), or through the actions of those that enforced change and the violence that so often accompanies (parallels to the past and future abound).

Mary writes a nice description, so will leave it with her words (added some emphasis).

View attachment 54432

Indeed I did, Mary. Thank you!

Here is the song, Hiraeth, that she mentions.

The lyrics:

G)Dwedwch, fawrion o wybodaeth
O ba beth y (D)gwaethpwyd (G)hiraeth;
A pha ddefnydd (D)a roed (G)ynddo
Na ddarfyddo (D7)wrth ei (G)wisgo.

(G)Derfydd aur a derfydd arian
Derfydd melfed, (D)derfydd (G)sidan;
Derfydd pob di(D)elldyn (G)helaeth
Eto er hyn ni (D7)dderfydd (G)hiraeth.

(G)Hiraeth, mawr a hiraeth creulon
Hiraeth sydd yn (D)torri (G)’nghalon,
Pan fwy’ dyrma’ ’r (D)nos yn (G)cysgu
Fe ddaw hiraeth (D7)ac a’m (G)deffry.

(G)Hiraeth, Hiraeth, cilia, cilia
Paid â phwysgo (D)mor drwm (G)arna’,
Nesa tipyn (D)at yr (G)erchwyn
Gad i mi gael (D7)cysgu (G)gronyn.

And English translation:

Tell me, masters of Wisdom from what thing is longing made;
And what is put in it that it never fades through wearing it.

Gold fades, silver fades, velvet fades. Silk fades,
Everything fades - but longing never fades.

Great and cruel longing breaks my heart,
When I am sleeping at my heaviest at night.
Longing comes and wakes me.

Go away longing and don’t wiegh so heavily upon me,
Let me have a moment of sleep.
Thank you very much! It's truly humbling to know you guys enjoy reading my reviews, sometimes as I am almost finished typing them, I sit there and feel like... "no one is going to read this much about a book that they could read themselves" and I am also always unsure whether the ideas are clearly expressed.

So, I thank you once again :)

Not so at all! Your review spurred me on to reading Heartless and highlighted some aspects of the book I might have otherwise missed. Especially Emily as a symbol of the truth, the many different emotions expressed through sex, and Luke facing such dangers because of his decision to love.
Here is the song, Hiraeth, that she mentions.

Thank you for that, and after reading and trying to imagine the song sung, what you provided was really close and uplifting for the male baritone voice. I tried to hear the Hiraeth song sung by a soprano, however have not found it. Mary had written that Siân had sung in a "sweet soprano voice"

After the books Truly and Longing, next was Beyond Sunrise. This book was a slightly longer story than is typical, and almost all of it takes place either in Portugal or Spain. The book also follows history, although at the end of the story Mary discuses some allowances for the plot.

Mary says in her blog (the book was written in 1992):

The third book based heavily upon actual historical events is BEYOND THE SUNRISE, my most action-packed book, set in Spain and Portugal during the Napoleonic Wars. My hero and heroine helped shape those events, so I had to make them accurate.

So, this is a very different story than usual, starting with a 17year old boy in England (identified right from the start as a bastard son). This son sees his own mother who had died when he was younger, and a step-mother who hates him, while his father generally tolerates him when in company of his then wife. But it is deeper than that, as memories emerge with the main character later in the story. The second character is a young girl of 15, she is French, and an aristocrat (father a diplomate), with an English grandmother in the past.


On Mary's blog, she writes about it this way:

Jeanne and Robert fall in love when they are young, but it is a forbidden passion, and they are soon firmly separated. By the time they meet again they have both changed in many ways. Robert recognizes Joana, but she does not know him—she was told years ago that he had died and she had known him only by his first name. Each of them is an occasional spy for Wellington, and now they must work together on a dangerous mission of deception that is vital to the survival of the allied cause. Only Joana, though, knows that she and Robert are on the same side.

Robert finds himself having to deal with Jeanne and her French heritage, with the marquesa and her haughty, flirtatious ways, and with Joana, the peasant Portuguese freedom fighter bent on her own private mission of revenge—all rolled into one woman to whom he is increasingly drawn, much against his will.

And Joana finds herself contending with a tough, morose, unbending British officer, who bears a growingly disturbing resemblance to that poor dead boy she loved so dearly years ago.

The above more than sets the stage for the story without giving it away, and to add, Mary states in the book that she "absolutely loved writing it" - it was a labor of love, she is saying.

This is a hard story to read in some ways and levels, too, and when reading it, it is deeply tied to the history of the events of war that shaped Europe. There is much suffering upon citizens and armies alike who die or are injured by the score. Everything is uprooted - destroyed, burned or burred.

Part of the story takes place in Lisbon, Portugal and Salamanca, Spain - and in the in-between, and reader of Mary and other authors books will recognize this Salamanca with its deadly skirmishes that had shaped many men who survived.

Historically, Mary looks to the 1810 fall of Ciudad Rodrigo, including Alemeida. Mary also writes of the Battle of Bussaco, and most interesting was the whole issue around the Lines of Tores Vedras - this was a surprise, very interesting and important to now have now read about it.

With the below, Mary adds to the overall history in note. Could not fine this historical note online, so reproduced it and kept it spoiler form as it was written at the close of her story for specific reasons:

I have tried to keep as closely as possible to history in my description of the events leading up to and including the French advance into Portugal in the summer of 1810-the fall of Ciudad Rodrigo and Alemida, the Battle of Bussaco, and the allied retreat behind the Lines of Torres Verdras.
The existence of the Lines really was one of the best kept-kept secrets in military history. Very few even in Wellington's senior officers knew of their existence before the army arrived at Torres Vedras and found itself suddenly and unexpectedly safe from French pursuit. There is no historical evidence that the French had any idea at all of the existence of the lines. That is my invention.
I have taken two other deliberate liberties with history, neither very serious, I hope. First, the Convent of Bussaco was in reality lived in by monks, not by nuns, as in my story. Second, the French paused for several days before the Battle of Bussaco at Mortagoa, not at Viseu. It was more convenient for my plot to make the change.
Any other errors of historical facts are unintentional.

As for the characters, well I just think you will have to read the book and see for yourself. Because both characters are mixed up in the work of spying, and that can get frustrating as one reads. It is an emotional story with the characters, too, fighting battles within internal battles, too. Given that, and with what Mary does so well, one also knows that she will unites the hero and heroine at conclusion, but what kind of conclusion will that be...

Some may find it difficult or they many not even enjoy reading it, and some my see the opposite for their own reasons. Fwiw, I'm glad I read it, it is different than so many other books - had also remembered in the SOTT MindMatters interview with Mary discussing some of these old 90's stand-alone stories as being different, a little darker.
Just a short review about the last 2 books I‘ve read; I don’t know which one was better!!!!

A.Gracie‘s „Gallant Waif“ and M.Balogh‘s „A Matter of Class“.

If you want a good chuckle with warm and stubborn characters - pick up Anne!
An instant depression removal!

Mary‘s book was very short (usually these books have around 400 pages, this one was around 200) but the book was perfect!!!
I cannot say the plot because - well, you‘ll see 😆, so just dive in!!!
My heart was so full!!!

A HIGH recommendation for these sorrid times!
Hi guys,

I have just finished Silent Melody by Mary Balogh, it was a good story, it picks up years after the previous story, Heartless, it was an interesting story that picks up some of the themes from the previous book and it explores them rather well I think. There's intrigue, manipulation and obsession, lies and so much more, it's a good story to get through.

I will be sharing a few ideas that might contain spoilers below:

If you read Heartless, it's not surprising that this story focuses on Ashley and Emily. Luke's brother and Ana's sister who had a connection while the events of the previous book were taking place. At the end of Heartless Ashley leaves for India and says his goodbye to Emily with a kiss. He returns after seven years, traumatized and filled with guilt over the death of his wife and child, finds the truth about all the events that surrounded his late wife's life, confronts and kills an incredible manipulator, and marries Emily, who he finally accepts as a woman and not as a child.

So, this story was about communication, but more than that it was about communion with oneself and with the world at large. Emy is just as endearing a character in this book as she was in the last one, though in this one an exploration of her character and personality is far deeper. Emy is a deaf mute and as such her introspection is delightful, but she must ultimately learn to speak to reconnect with the world at large.

Now, Emy's path in this story is actually very interesting, and it reminded me of this thread here by Chu, and I will try to make the idea justice if you bare with me for a bit. I will try to be brief. As a deaf and mute person, she was very much in touch with her emotions and her inner thoughts, but she was also a bit "wild" always being contrary to the rules of society and propriety. She was also very aware of the melody of nature, how life happened and how all was part of everything. She was mostly essence, or that was at least her defining characteristic. This is in fact what attracts Ashley to her in the first place, her authenticity and empathy. She is someone that he felt safe communicating with. He trusted her. It's like G's essence vs personality dichotomy, Emy was pure essence.

But, as much as she dwelled in this world of meaning, the place where sounds had not yet robbed meaning out of the words it produces, she was also mostly potential, low resolution potential as JBP would put it. And that's where I was reminded of that thread above. The meaning of words resides outside of the sounds it informs in our speech, but it is only through the constriction of our vocal cords that words become a reality, audible to others and ourselves. That constriction represents, perhaps, a loss of potential meaning for all the information that could be contained in a single molecule of language, but at the same time it represents realization, existence in high resolution.

And that is Emy's path in a nutshell, even though at some point she goes way too much into personality, and sacrifices to much of her self. But she had to come from that world of infinite possibility, of wild nature and essence, into her self realized self. And it struck me that a lot of us, if not all of us, have to do this at some point, it's part of growing up not only as adults but also as people engaged in any goal. We have to grab all our silent potential and submit it to a set of rules, that yes are limiting in a sense, but also liberating.

Specially because that is how we communicate with others, the meaning of the concepts in our thoughts, our values and principles, our intentions. What is sacred, our fears and our courage. It is how we regulate ourselves intellectually, morally, and emotionally, how we find one another and make our lives whole and meaningful. It's through our spoken language, it's the interface between information and communion.

And with her it was always a whole set of emotions and thoughts, and think of all the denial and refusal at some many levels that goes on inside ourselves that can be distilled in a simple "No" or the excitement and happiness in a "yes" or the commitment and fear, the vulnerability and knowledge of "I love you", the intent and wishes of "I care about you" etc, that is the importance of language and communication.

In the end, Emy finds her balance, enough rules and enough wildness in her being. The thing with her is that while she felt safer alone and inside her own mind, that's where her fears also resided and so long as she was unable to formulate sounds, she would be unable to face her fears. She could not articulate them.

She found a way for her spoken language to express her inner world in a clear manner, and I daresay that as simple as that sounds, it's actually rather a difficult task, but such a virtue to possess... that our words express our thoughts, and feelings, our very inner selves clearly to the world in an impeccable manner.

Ashley's path is also interesting, it was about forgiveness, it was about the same thing that it was Emy's but on the opposite side. Emy knew herself very well, Ashley had forgotten who he was, so much so that he had forgotten Emy entirely. Seeing her upon his return is what initiates his entire arc, she reminded him of who he was, but she could not speak sense into him, quite literally.

So they spent the whole story reaching out to one another, and that's why I said that this story was about communication, or communion, deep communion, the one that brings inspiration out of you when in the presence of another soul. They spent their whole story learning how to communicate deeply.

He brought her out of her comfort zone and into the world of restriction, necessary restriction for growth, and she brought him inside himself so that he could remember who he was. Their first meeting, she was completely uncomfortable having to fit inside a dress she'd never wear, looking to get away from the crowd, needing to recharge by herself. He on the other hand, could not fall asleep and be alone with his thoughts and feelings, could not get enough social stimulation and distraction from his guilt.

And that is a thought, how essential silence is in order to hear the entire universe, particularly that one inside ourselves, so that we may see our place in the silent melody of life. But, at the same time, how crucial sound is to connect ourselves with that very universe.

Perhaps put another way, and thinking about archetypes, it is said that the hero's journey is that of one who goes down to hell and returns to share his gains with his community and the world at large. Silence could very well represent that deep dive within ourselves, which could be hellish, and sound is the only way for us to share those gains with the world around us.
Now, onto Longing perhaps,

Thanks all for reading.
Hi everyone,

A few days ago I finished Longing by Mary Balogh, it was a very engaging story to say the least. I think I have enjoyed all of her books, some more than others, but this one had me glued to the seat for several reasons that I will explain below. I will probably spoil parts of the book so without further ado:

The story follows Sian Jones and Alexander, Alexander is the new owner of the mine where Sian works in a town that she desperately wants to belong in, so much so that she sought a husband (who passed away) and is currently being courted by someone else. Sian and Alexander meet in dangerous circumstances, there's attraction and through several really difficult times they get to know each other, declare their love for one another and decide to marry.

Now, there's several themes that were truly interesting in this story, one of them is the impending danger of the outside world. The Scotch cattle are constantly present as a force of darkness, coercion and violence. Always present but invisible, it's first story of Balog's that I read where there's such darkness. I think I have read other books of hers where there's an evil villain, but it was somewhat acting in the light of day, even if deceitful.

But in Longing, the danger is more part of the nights, it's part of the wild. And maybe she did this on purpose as part of the effort to contrast Wales to Britain. There's passion in the air in Wales as depicted by Balogh, there's love and generosity, there's music in their speech and this brings with it joy, but at the same time, such passions can be violent and instinctive, base drives can flourish in the wild.

Navigating the terror of the unknown was always present, particularly for Alexander who could at any moment simply return to England, to civilization, as such courage plays a very big role in this story. And that is life sometimes, the courageous act of facing the terror it represents to leave the safety of our secure sacred grounds for a higher goal. Sometimes even if it is to chase an impossibility, as it would represent the owner of the castle, Alexander, to marry an iron worker's daughter, Sian.

Another very interesting idea is explored through the dynamics between Alexander, Sian and her boyfriend (is I guess the best way to describe Owen). The idea is that of possession, ownership and responsibility. Sian in their dynamic represented love, she is a generous lover, a generous heart ready to give all of herself, fully.

Owen represents the owner that loves in a self serving manner, he sought to "protect" Sian by coercing and even threatening violence (and ultimately delivering on that threat) Owen represents the jealous possessive darkness of the wild (that theme again) aspects of love and passion, of emotion. Owen saw Sian as his, for himself.

Alexander represented the owner that loves in a serving manner, complimentary of her existence and his, the half of a whole, who still sought to protect Sian, but by working with her freedom of choice. Alexander saw Sian as his for herself, Alexander saw Sian as his.. responsibility, his mission. It reminded me of a quote from that movie Kubo and the two strings, upon falling in love a character tells another "You, are my quest"

That was a lovely depiction of the potential for love, for relationships, not only romantic ones but all relationships, with children, friends and family. There's the idea that one ought not to have an object relation with one's loved ones. But that may be impossible. An object relationship is how we, in this reality, attach value to the world and people around it. It's the relation that matters.

How we relate to the object of our affection, how their free existence transforms us, not merely how it augments our preexisting notion of ourselves. Owen, Sian and Alexander depict this wonderfully in their dynamic. And it's difficult, we all live in jealousy, we have all the capacity to be jealous and possessive, we're insecure and damaged and would hate to be hurt again. But it's worth it.

It's the difference between leading by force and power, it's the difference between shackling someone to you by coercion and force, or by being a light that shines and warms that attracts. It's the difference between being feared and being trusted. There's two ways to relate to the wild, to passion and nature, to love. By fear or by trust, by possession or responsibility.

Another really interesting thing that caught my attention is when Owen and Sian are breaking up, she tells him at some point, that the only way he could relate to the world was with violence because that's al the had to offer, because of his past. Owen is the person we all become if we allow our past to define our present choices. If there's violence, lies and manipulation, and we do not intervene, that's all we have to offer to the world.

Owen was a man with a single tool, a hammer, and so every problem to him needed to look like a nail. What do we have within us? and if we don't know then maybe the best way to find out is to realize how we related to the world at large, what is our default mode.

There was another lovely idea that made me think that Balogh definitely does some interesting reading, or downloads from somewhere familiar to the people of this forum. At some point Sian sings a song called "hiraeth" which is a welsh word, hard to translate but that means, more or less "Longing".

Both Sian and Alexander share their feeling foreign to the world they are in, which explains Sian determination to be one of the people and marry one of the miners, and seek to be courted by Owen. Though in the process, she was sacrificing her potential. Alexander, had never been in Wales and would always feel separate form all the people that surrounded him.

They both felt the longing to belong, the terrible sadness and loneliness. But when she sings that song, and Alexander asks her about it, she replied with something so similar to something I read in SRT by Baldwin, that I will just quite him here instead:

“All That Is, the I Am that I Am. In this state of total peace, unadulterated perfection, unmoving bliss, there seemed to develop a feeling of boredom, a longing for something else.

This urge for something else impelled Source to split off individual sparks of consciousness in order to explore itself in all dimensions, to experience what there was to experience, and finally to rejoin, enhancing the original Source with the gathered experience. Each spark of this Oneness has a slightly different and recognizable vibration. Each is individual yet an integral and essential part of the Oneness, the Totality.

Each particle, or spark of the original Totality, is termed a "monad." “the parts of a hologram, each fragment of the whole contains a complete replica of the Totality when it was in its perfect state. The monad is endowed with an urge to return to this perfect state, which keeps it in perpetual motion toward eventual reunion with God”

That's how she describes longing in the book, our souls wish to be something more than what we are, a return to god, so to speak, and in light of the book title and the theme. it is beautifully apt, Alexander and Sian longed to be more than they were, and they could only achieve that by finding one another.

There's something endearing, funny and beautiful about Sian, her attitude was well written, the townsfolk are humble and one can easily tell that Balogh wrote a special book for her home country. There's also a political and social aspect of the book which mirrors the dynamics of Owen and Sian, possessiveness and leading by force, for the people's own protection which ends up in a bloody outcome.

If I had to summarize the story, I would probably say that it was Balogh's way to describe the relationship we can all have with one another, but also with the wild beauty that passion and love can be perceived as having. When we're in love, we can experience it as such a scary and wild force, that it's almost like an uncontrollable beast. But we can, though conscious work, resonate with it in a way that serves us and it's free existence.

And that applies to all of our relationships, those relationships can enhance our existence through the expansion of our beings or we can attempt to capture it and force it to conform to our vision of ourselves, collapsing it within ourselves. We either interact with reality by moving outward, or by attempting to bring everything inwards

Thank you all for reading, next up, the Mistress trilogy.
Hi everyone,

I have just finished More than a mistress by Mary Balogh, the first one in the Mistress trilogy. It was an interesting story it its own right, not my favorite from her but it was good and it has a few interesting ideas that I wanted to share on the spoiler section.

The story follows Jane and Jocelyn, she is running away from being accused of being a thief and a murderer by her cousin, found a job in London, and on her way to work she runs into a duel where he is a participant.

She causes a distraction trying to stop it, he gets injured and she is late for work, looses her job, she goes to confront him about it and he ends up offering her a job as a nurse.

There’s attraction and chemistry, he hires her as a mistress, she accepts and both of them find love. He helps her navigate through what sent her running in the first place, and she ends up helping him navigate through what sent him into the duel, they marry and the story ends.

Their story as a whole is a lovely depiction of the hero’s journey, the events that sent them into chaos, set them on the path of the other also. And that’s like and that concept has been explored in so many of her stories that I feel I would be redundant if I were to mention it again.

But there’s a contrast between the two approaches, even if both of them are tied to the idea of truth, and how trying to navigate life without it can sent you on the path of chaos.

Jane is running away from being accused of being a murderer, she is hiding away unable to trust in anyone with the truth, but quite interestingly, she hides behind her true name, she hides who she is supposed to be behind who she actually is. She hides Sara (her first name) behind Jane. This is what draws Jocelyn to her in the first place, her authenticity and character, tied to what she had learned as a lady.

She was a nice balance of nature and nurture, personality and essence. A very endearing character who always spoke her mind and was witty to always have the last word.

Jocelyn is, on the opposite side of that same equation, he was hiding Jocelyn behind the Duke of Tresham (his title), he hid his artistic and passionate side behind the ducal, cold and heartless proper man. Yet despite this, he actually showed his emotionality is how much and how harsh he lashes out at Jane. So ironically, he sought to hide his interest by being cold, but the fact that he went to such lengths was actually something that betrayed his heart.

That’s a really interesting thought, sometimes we believe we’re doing an outstanding job at hiding ourselves from the world, but in doing so we construct a disguise with the only parts that we have available to us, that is to say that we only have other parts of ourselves, specially the ones we seek to hide to build a disguise. And it takes great observation to see it, but it’s evident.

I don’t think anyone can fake love, no matter how affectionate or attentive they pretend to be, if it is not in their hearts. No one can pretend to be heartless no matter how cold and distant they pretend they can run from their own burning hearts. It’s a lovely idea, but it’s also rather comical at times, how ridiculous we must look trying desperately to hide something we’re quite simply unable to hide.

Now, there’s also a lot of talk in several of her novels about vulnerability and authenticity, so I will try to avoid repeating myself too much. But there’s a vehicle of expression, it wasn’t the sexual encounters, nor the attraction, not even the gentile and kind gestures. It was their den, Jane had created a room for her to be herself and invited Jocelyn into it… a place where there were no rules or titles, a place to simply be themselves in company with one another.

That is what brought them together, that is what allowed them to know each other in their truest sense. That’s where Jane saw Jocelyns essence, and where he saw her light from within. And that room on her novel, is a beautiful way to describe at what level a relationship, a loving one, with anyone, should take place. A place of trust and authentic vulnerability.

There’s also the idea of their names, Jane’s name is Lady Sara, and Jocelyn’s name is Tresham, no one else alive calls them by those respective names. Upon hearing his name on her lips, and experiencing the shock of being seen so uniquely in her eyes, Jane says something rather lovely, something along the lines of “we should all have the opportunity to be who we really are in essence, me Jane and you Jocelyn” Their essential identity wrapped around in personality and propriety.

And how healing is that, to find our own haven for ourselves to be with ourselves, meditating, journaling, chatting or simply walking, be it our subconscious or our higher selves. I felt that Jane and Jocelyn were the parts of Sara and Tresham that were in touch with the truth.

Now, Tresham is obnoxious and rude, but it reminded me of Stranger to ourselves, he really went to great lengths to disguise himself, but he constantly acted against his own destiny. It was probably one of the best depictions of acting agains one’s destiny that I have seen in a while. Reckless and ready to die, cold and distant and content with his loneliness. Arrogant and self sufficient.

It wasn’t until he met Jane that he hadn’t encountered life… actual life, and so dying suddenly became something that he would not welcome any longer. And it could be said that it was simple fear of dying, and sure… but also, it was life had attained meaning for him. Lovely idea.

They do a decent exploration of his reasons for hiding, his father and his father’s mistress planned a ruse to have him sleep with her, in order so that his father could prove to him that he was not in love with a neighbor. His father essentially manipulated him into killing his own pure first love. Jocelyn obviously hated his father and never went back home, but he also lived in deep shame, for having been so stupid, and so cruel. He believed his father’s narrative about how cynical and dull and cold the idea of love was.

He even throws this as Jane at some point, “all we have between us is an attraction, sexual gratification and mutual benefit”. A cold and nihilistic vision of life, seemingly pragmatic and technically accurate but… void of spirit.

Jane is the one that allows him to heal and forgive. She said something interesting at some point, she said that “ it’s not wise to mock our younger selves too much”. That Is a brilliant way to put it. We tend to judge ourselves through the eyes of the adult being that we are, and tend to attribute so many motives and knowledge to the innocent, ignorant and naive people we used to be.

Sometimes this is where shame comes from, if not all the time, judging our younger selves as if it were our present selves who had committed deeds for which we’re not proud of. Jocelyn had incarcerated his own heart behind layers of cold pragmatic personality.

We need to humbly accept our nature, our weaknesses and our drives. We need to also humbly accept our ignorance and naïveté, we need to realize and stop taking ourselves so darn serious as if the 4,6, 8 or even 18 year old silly person we used to be were the adult we are today with the knowledge we possess today.

We also need to understand progress personal progress and how if we look behind ourselves, the person standing here today is not the same one that made those mistakes, hopefully, and if it is the same person, then we can always choose to change.

And forgive our parents for even if mistaken and even utterly wrong and hurtful, it’s sometimes, most of the times even, the best they could do considering everything, we should stop blaming them for our shortcomings, take responsibility for how we behave and how we treat others.

It took Jocelyn a bullet to pierce through his arrogant and cold pragmatist, it took a bullet to pierce through his armor and expose his heart. Jane simply had to shine for Jocelyn’s heart to year for her company, and she had to find the courage to face the life of Sara with Jane’s strength.

Overall a good story, I hope I haven’t over extended myself or repeated myself too much. Now, onto No Man’s mistress.

Thank you for reading
Hi everyone,

I have made my way through No Man's Mistress by Mary Balogh, the second one in the mistress trilogy and I enjoyed this book, though enjoying might be the wrong word to use, as you shall see in the spoiler section, I will try to keep it brief, as several ideas repeat from other stories of hers, and I feel like I am becoming a bit repetitive.

The story picks up a few years after the last book, it follow Ferdinand (Jocelyn's brother) and Viola someone with a troubled past.

He is a man who loves a good challenge, foolishly loves a good challenge. She has found herself at the hands of a criminal who turned her into an exclusive high end courtesan. Ferdinand wins a card game and as payment he receives a property that belongs to Viola, he goes to claim his prize and finds her already living there. And the entire dynamic that they develop in that situation defines the rest of the story.

If I understood it correctly, No Man's mistress was a story about courage and victory, or more about contests.

Viola had worked and sacrificed much, to be where she was, the property that Ferdinand came to claim was the light at the end of the hellish tunnel that she had been in for years, as such she fought relentlessly to take it off Ferdinand's hands. She was so determined to win, that she did not spare any resource, manipulation, lying and scheming, and even at the end... reducing herself to her old courtesan persona to win the property back.

Ferdinand was the other end of that same situation, he simply liked a challenge because he enjoyed winning and beating others, his whole identity was based on being victorious. There's some hilarity as these two are poised against one another, but the funny set ups start to become frustrating, and then plain shocking and sad as they become harsh and hurtful.

And that is the set up.

And it made me think of picking and choosing your battles, about this obsession we have of being victorious all the time, so much so that we'd sacrifice ourselves in the process. And this touches on several aspects of our psyche I think.

Cognitive dissonance could be also described simply as our beings refusing to loose, refusing to admit that we're wrong, that this infantile need to be correct or vindicated or victorious is only that, a self centered instinctive need that actually gets in the way of real growth and real process and as such, real gain.

The things we keep forever in our souls are rarely the victories, however large, we had over others. So it made me about the value of loosing, of retreat humbly, of conceding defeat, not by default but as a conscious act of choosing against "it", or perhaps put another way, of doing what it doesn't like.

And it wasn't until Ferdinand was willing to loose, consciously, that he didn't find the real way towards resolution of his issues and the best way to help Viola overcome her own need for victory.

Now, there's the other aspect of it, which could be perhaps described as faithful determination, and it's similar superficially, but very different to the instinctive drive to be victorious. There's a difference between aiming for a goal, with faith and some abandon, and being obsessed with winning.

At the end Ferdinand was simply aiming at being successful in loosing in the most gracious way possible, if that makes sense, he was determined to give Viola everything he had realized she deserved, not just the property but her freedom, the admiration of everyone who could have never made such a sacrifice as she had for her family, and the love she had felt for others but was lacking in her life.

Ferdinand sacrificed himself in the name of someone who was worthy of such an honorable woman as Viola.

Viola went through her own trials, she had gotten so used dealing with life on her own, that she became arrogant and capable of hurting others deeply, distrustful and almost entirely self reliant. So she was ultimately an admirable woman, yes, but also... we can become enamored of our own greatness and self reliance to the point of loosing touch with others and becoming arrogant and despondent.

Her biggest trial, which I am not sure if she ever overcame, was trust, she was afraid of judgement, of scorn and condemnation, so much so that she would go out of her way to not ask for help from anyone. It's as if she was obsessed with never asking for a favor so that she never owed anyone anything, and the was her obsession with winning.

Most if not all her issues wold have been resolved if she had learned to lose, to trust, to be honest with someone else, to ask and accept help, but she could not.

So this novel made me thing of that, defeat and how distasteful it sounds to even consider it, we must be winners at all costs but winning or this obsession with winning is what is at the core of our egos that tend to blind us most of the times. Defeat, a strategic one, not one by default created by weakness or lack of boundaries, can be one of the keys of working on ourselves.

But like Ferdinand, that doesn't mean throwing out the baby with the bath water, defeat doesn't mean becoming fragile, it doesn't mean sacrificing one's capacity for determination and sacrifice and tenacity, it's quite the opposite, it's using all that resilience for a conscious goal.

If we were as obsessed with the truth as we are with victory, imagine the world we'd live in?

Imagine if we were able to escape toxic and draining dynamics by simply conceding defeat? If being winners wasn't such a huge part of our identity, and I don't mean to turn ourselves into a looser, no, more... into a warrior/gentleman who is aware of him/herself to the point of knowing when its appropriate to engage, to push on or to retreat. Like JBP would say, someone capable of sacrificing today for tomorrow.

So those are my thoughts on this one, defeat and victory, sometimes loosing is the best way to win ourselves back.

Now on to The Secret Mistress.. Thank you very much for reading.
Over the winter had made my way through much of Mary's remailing books, with the last focus on older publications (1990's). These where all standalones, with one that crossed over with another book. however many were novella's, arranged in three stories per book.

I'll list them and add further details later (they are not on the forum list i don't think). Of these book, a number of them focused on All Saints Day and were very unusual. In that respect, Mary writes well when jumping into alternate realities, spirits, splitting and such. The different and conjunct struggles of a character caught between two realms that bear down. Vindication of old wrongs made to right are factors.

In one of the novella's (NO ORDINARY LOVE); and this was a fist and the only time I've seen it, Mary has the two characters living in our times in the story titled The Heirloom (or at least the 90's). The characters represent a man (John Chandler) from London, who is a lawyer, with his fiancé who had just started up some type of an exclusive clothing shop for woman in London, and there is a sense that the country would be to rustic for her - subtle pushback against a guy who seems conflicted with living in London.

From London, both decide to take a short trip to get away, and they drives his sports car to Wales, to an old hotel (it was strange to read Mary's words outside of the regency period for which she is know to write).

The hotel depicted was once in John Chandler's family roots as one of their ancestral homes, and the home had been sold in the 1800's and converted to a hotel - he also cannot understand what had happened to his family from that period, as the picture of history runs dry.

Quickly in the story, John Chandler also seems to be not quite sure of his fiancé, his feelings/love for her, however being interested in his family tree, and after being given a heirloom ring from the matriarch line, he places it on his fiancé's finger and immediately the rings memory impression causes the story to change. The character begins to live a whole other life with another woman, who is his new wife. In that life, he is also John Chandler and is near to death, extremely ill with a wasting disease. In that life, his new wife nurses him from deaths door - it is a pretty neat little story.

John Chandler, in the older life, is also somewhat aware that he is in the other life simultaneously, and yet he does not interact with the modern time fiancé until the end.

Not giving much away here, as most of the story takes place in John Chandler's former life with his then wife. All the above is more or less grasped in the first chapter.

The other two stories are The North Tower and The Dark Rider, both of which look to All Saints Day and are interesting in their own individual ways.
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