Romantic Fiction, Reality Shaping and The Work

Jones

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Come back to reading some romance fiction while I'm waiting for another book to arrive and have have just finished book 3 of The 1797 Club, The Silent Duke.

The predominant message in this one seems to be about the drama of the family scapegoat, the one that wears the blame for or who is burdened with the projections of the toxicity of the family and the ensuing prison for the mind created by the negative introject, which becomes the illusion of reality for the scapegoat leading to self sabotaging thoughts, feelings and behaviours.

This is a theme that has been covered in other series, but for whatever reason it was clearer for me with this book.


Ewan being mute can be symbolic of an adaptation of a scapegoat where talking about what's going on in the family can attract more trouble and abuse. It also mirrors, in a sense, his mother who did and said nothing to stand up for him or protect him.

The other point uncovered, and one that probably protects the scapegoat from total annhilation is that there are usually others around that see exactly what is going on and become their friends and protectors to the extent that they can.
 

Ben

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I've finished the Survivors' Club series. I found the first book to be the most emotional. There's no obvious pattern as to what will cause an emotional reaction and what I will read with complete indifference, it just happens sometimes (examples: Gwen watching Hugo with his lambs, the Lieutenant speaking in defence of Hugo and the truth). I think there's lots of examples of people acting with honour and integrity, but out of love or care for others instead of just rigid principles or duty. These situations are just satisfying, for want of a better word, and really rare in everyday real life. I think one thing that is required in all these scenarios is courage, that might be the underlying theme. Courage to trust someone, courage to be honest about your faults and let go of the things that you know are harmful or hold you back even though they served a purpose.
 

hlat

The Living Force
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For Mary Balogh's Survivors' Club series, the audiobook for book 1.5 The Suitor is combined with the audiobook for book 3 The Escape. I recommend reading/listening to book 1.5 before book 2. I'm sure there's a reason why book 1.5 is at the end of the audiobook for book 3, though it is certainly inconsiderate for the readers.
 

Voyageur

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This morning, happened upon an old magazine found when cleaning - the 1959 December 12th addition of the Saturday Evening Post; it was 15 cents to purchase back then. :-)

The reason it is mentioned, is that I read an article within by William Forrest, called 'A Wife Must Know' - it starts with the caption Outwardly their marriage seemed ideal. Yet she had to put it to the test. The story reminded me of some characters in the books in this thread, albeit here from another time from most of the Romance stories. This story contained elements of things not said, or said the wrong way; complacency, unknowing, unacknowledging, inner pain.

This is outside the scope of books here, however if interested the photos of the article are in sequence below and one should be able to read this short story from 1959:

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jess

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I have finished reading the novel Ever Yours, Annabelle, Elisa Braden, from the Huxley series. As well as the first five novels in this series (The Madness of Viscount Atherbourne, The Truth About Cads and Dukes, Desperately Seeking a Scoundrel and The Devil is a Marquess) although by mistake, I read at the end this novel which should have been the first.
I found this to be the sweetest of the first five novels in this series. Although in general I was annoyed or angry with Annabelle's character, because of her recklessness and being so obsessive with Robert, (although it seems to me that this is a common trait of the female characters in these first novels, except for one of them, where it is a male character who stars irresponsibility and recklessness) although later she seems to redirect her impulsivity into something constructive.
I could not understand Annebelle's obsession with Robert, the obvious thing in the story is the drama that develops as part of the love story, but I felt that it is a little sick that a person is so obsessed with another person, I do not know, which makes me think that a similar story in real life, perhaps, would not have a happy ending, because it seems to me that the obsession would have to do more a problem of the sufferer and not a persistence or excessive interest in something.

I've finished the Survivors' Club series. I found the first book to be the most emotional. There's no obvious pattern as to what will cause an emotional reaction and what I will read with complete indifference, it just happens sometimes (examples: Gwen watching Hugo with his lambs, the Lieutenant speaking in defence of Hugo and the truth). I think there's lots of examples of people acting with honour and integrity, but out of love or care for others instead of just rigid principles or duty. These situations are just satisfying, for want of a better word, and really rare in everyday real life. I think one thing that is required in all these scenarios is courage, that might be the underlying theme. Courage to trust someone, courage to be honest about your faults and let go of the things that you know are harmful or hold you back even though they served a purpose.
To what you say Ben, about the emotional impact, (I stopped reading the novels six months ago, and only recently resumed reading them to finish one more of the Huxley series) it never ceases to amaze me about the internal emotional dimension that can make these readings, it sure depends on each individual person, I do not understand how sometimes consciously know that they are just stories and sometimes seem very simple or silly, they make me cry or make me feel a lot of discomfort. That is, it just surfaces, it's not something you can consciously control.
It has happened to me in my dreams, it makes me wonder how long we can keep feelings without letting them go, they can be with us without realizing it. They can affect us or be present without consciously noticing them or affecting our lives. It's strange, I certainly don't know how to explain. It happens to me that lately I have had dreams with old partners or passing boyfriends in my youth, that present very strong feelings in the dream, or with my mother, when I lied to her to be able to enjoy my freedom or simply not coming home when I decided to do so.

It seems funny at the same time, in this time frame of the 1800's, where these novels take place, I had 3 dreams, - in one of them I was in a couple with a man, I felt that I was his friend or lover, we were going to a place and we were walking along a stone street, everything happened at night and there was very dim lighting as if it were candles, I saw the long dresses and suits of the men as if they belonged to this time, with a tall hat, it did not seem too luxurious, just maybe like upper middle class, we arrived at the place and inside everything seemed to be made of stones and illuminated with candles, then a woman was talking loudly to the group of people in which I was, then I felt uneasy, I was a little afraid of the man I was with, I think I saw myself as a mid 20 years old and this man looked like 50 years old, but what worried me is that this man was not the age he looked, I felt that this man only had a human "disguise", then a woman helps me to escape, she took me by the hand and we both left this place.
- In another dream I was in front of a mirror, it was about the size of a door but wider, I looked like a teenager, probably less than 18 years old, and a woman was next to me helping me get dressed, because I was going to get married, the curious thing is this abundant clothing, it had the impression of being from the XIX century.
-In another one of those dreams, it was very short, I was on the arm of a woman, we were both wearing these long and abundant dresses, they were white and we were wearing a simple hat, we were walking very fast like running away, I had a very intense feeling that I was doing wrong, I felt like I was in a couple relationship with her. It was very strong.

" really rare in everyday real life" , I have the impression that what these novels do, or what has happened to me, is that they confront you with your own experience, surely in everyday life, sometimes we forget to meditate or be more aware of how we feel internally or emotionally in the present, it has happened to me or I have seen that I have kept many past feelings of which, it seems that I did not process at the time, when they happened in the past.
 

Voyageur

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I have the impression that what these novels do, or what has happened to me, is that they confront you with your own experience, surely in everyday life, sometimes we forget to meditate or be more aware of how we feel internally or emotionally in the present, it has happened to me or I have seen that I have kept many past feelings of which, it seems that I did not process at the time, when they happened in the past.

Especial so connecting them with other works read offered here on the forum - kind of all combine to make one reflect and think. Past memories of self and others can really open up.
 

Alejo

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For Mary Balogh's Survivors' Club series, the audiobook for book 1.5 The Suitor is combined with the audiobook for book 3 The Escape. I recommend reading/listening to book 1.5 before book 2. I'm sure there's a reason why book 1.5 is at the end of the audiobook for book 3, though it is certainly inconsiderate for the readers.
heheh that happened to me too, but I didn't even take the chance so I read the book before realizing it that it was included in the other one.

The suitor was such a pretty little novella, I enjoyed it, those two kids really liked one another and made it all work out, in such a silly way too lol.

I blame Recorded Books for pulling that stunt off, but I didn't mind it.
 

Voyageur

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Here are a few various quotes from a cross section of books read that were noted and near forgotten:

Society
"Society is an idiot, " Josephine said indignantly.
"Perhaps," he said. "But it is an idiot we have to live with."

Need one say more
"Honestly," Edward said, crunching a piece with a decided lack of table manners, "is this not the finest thing you have ever tasted?"
"The finest?" she asked doubtfully.
He waved her off. "It's bacon. How can anything in the world seem bleak when one is eating bacon?"
"An interesting philosophy."
He gave her a cheeky grin. "It's working for me right now."
;-)

Fear
"I don't know, dearest gel," the old lady said softly,
"Whatever the source of your fear, it is buried deep inside you. Look inside your heart, child, for what you truly want. And then ask yourself what you're so afraid of. Because until you know what it is-and confront it-you'll be forever running, and never knowing why."

War, struggle and the pathological
"A soldier does obey orders, and I did that for very long and unpleasant years. It is going to take me some time to accustom myself to following a different set of orders, when I cannot comprehend the purpose behind them."
"Woman can be victimized in ways men cannot be, as you are no doubt aware. When the victimizing is blatantly violent, it can raise questions why any woman would ever have anything to do with a man."
"What do you mean?"
"Ah, Emmie...' He dropped her arm and paced of a few feet. "After the siege, the generals would let the troops storm a city. Those fellows whom you've seen parade about so smartly in their regimentals become animals, murdering, looting, and worse, until strong measures are taken to curb their behaviors. It's tactical, as each city so abused is an inspiration for the next one to capitulate without resistance."
"So even man's base urges become weapons for the Crown. His own commanders set him up to lose his own dignity, his humility."
"War sets him up."

On Romance
"Perhaps I read romance," she said, looking deliberately into his eyes, knowing that she was being goaded to say what she should not even dream of saying, "not in order to find an imaginary lover to warm a lonely maiden bed, but in order to recall the more lovely aspects of life, those in which love and commitment and relationships give joy and meaning to an existence that is so often wasted in self gratification and basic unhappiness."

Teaching children :love:
"What about that one?" she asked, gesturing towards a squiggle that looked like the letter W.
"Cassiopeia."

More on Bacon:bacon:
Everything was better with bacon.
Life was better with bacon.

Cleaning your room
"A past without error is like a library without books
-empty and useless. Though, I daresay, every
library needs a good cleaning now and then."
-The Dowager Marchioness of Willingham

[The Butler, Wheelock and Lord Nicholas]
"Your father is waiting in his study."
My father is always waiting in his study."
"A most astute observation, sir, but this time he is waiting for you."
Nicholas groaned again, this time with purposeful volume.
"Shall I divert your refreshments to Lord Manston's study, then?" Wheelock asked.
"No. To my room, please. I won't be there long enough to eat."
Wheelock looked dubious, but he nodded.
"You're going to send them to my father's study, aren't you?"
Nicholas asked.
"To both locations, sir."
Nicholas should have seen that coming. "Good God, you're impressive."
Wheelock nodded graciously. "I do my best, sir."
Nicholas shook his head. "If butlers ruled the world..."
"We can only dream of such a utopia."

Author's historical research:
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:lol:
 

Alejo

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Hi everyone,

I had finished the second book of the McKenzie series by Jennifer Ashley a little while ago, but did not get around to post about it, then weeks went by and I realized I wanted to re read it so that I may have some fresh concepts, so I picked it up once again and I am glad I did.

I had missed a few things the first time around, I will be sharing a few things on the spoiler section that I think are key to the story and that caught my attention.


So, this story was actually refreshing in the genre, usually these stories depict two strangers who meet one another, fall in love, find themselves and end up together. In the first book of the series, we met Isabella in passing, who is already married to Mac Mackenzie, but they're separated. In this book we explore their marriage, and their reconciliation.

This book was greatly about redemption, not one achieved from outside forgiveness, even though there's some of that for sure, but the redemption that one drives at by sheer will and determination. Isabella and Mac had a toxic, poorly constructed and awful dynamic as husband and wife, they went from completely besotted with one another, to distant and hurt where Mac would simply take off and leave her alone.

The entire book we see them talk things through, recognize their mistakes, recognize their hurt and the hurt of the other, express anger at the wounds received, regret at the ones conveyed and move on to the next step. And despite having been separated for three years, they're far from being completely done with working things through.

And it was interesting to see that dynamic of growing back together, because it showed that forgiveness comes from two places that dispense the same thing, honesty. It's the honesty with the other about the wounds one has, it's the honesty with the self about those same wounds, it's the honesty with the self about being the cause or the receiver of such wounds. Truth is the only thing that will get you through to redemption.

As such, forgiveness isn't really an entirely pleasant journey, but once one gets past that difficult portion of bearing one's soul, and depending on how the other responds, joy may be found, joy and peace. But it's a lot of work. I remember hearing a song years ago that said something along the lines of "Don't forget that forgiveness is a divine thing.." and it really takes a lot to forgive, and seek forgiveness, mostly because you have to get over your self.

Now, Mac had a very interesting arc in this story, he experienced the most drastic transformation of the two, and indeed he needed to. He was immature, afraid and hurtful towards Isabella, even if his feelings for her were sincere and his loyalty was solid. He had no idea who she was, and it wasn't until he lost her that he realize that she was the outlet for the beauty and creativity of his life.

He cleaned up his act, stopped drinking, and changed his friends. He even decided to learn to court his lady. He willed himself towards redemption. He lived his apology, he wasn't merely sorry... he was better than he had been before.

And there was a very interesting depiction of what it takes to really change oneself with Mac and his doppelgänger. There's a guy who is obsessed with Mac and Isabella, he impersonates him and goes around pretending to be Mac, he even resembles him physically and is a great painter, like Mac.

For some reason it made me think that a lot of the personal work that we may undertake is akin to dealing with a doppelgänger who is obsessed with stealing our lives. It's our false personalities who fight for attention and for the prime position in our existence, they look like us, talk like us and even possess some of our great qualities, our looks, our charms and talents... but they are not us, not the us that we choose to become.

And like in the story, they may come very close to actually succeeding, and killing our real selves and replacing us with a fake double. And like in the story, they may reflect back to us the rotten aspects of ourselves, aspects we ignore or refuse to see, aspects we're regretful of, aspects we're ashamed to admit.

It was a very interesting image, what if we conceived of our false selves, or aspects we are trying to master, as a doppelgänger who is attempting to steal our lives and take over the reins of our existence? I bet it could be a useful way to navigate through some of these aspects of ourselves.

Because that is how it feels like sometimes, like a stranger has taken over the reins, but the resemblance is so uncanny, that it becomes almost impossible to distinguish and determine that it isn't us. Not until we choose to change, which is also shown in the story, Mac had already changed enough and put enough effort to become someone else, that the doppelgänger, despite his following and obsession over Mac, could not be anything but a caricature of the real one.

And it works like that sometimes, when looking back and the person we used to be, it does feel like that person was such a caricature, of who we have become. So, the only way to distinguish between ourselves, and our false personalities, is to... well.. make sure that there's a distinction, and that begins by choosing who to become.

But I am extending myself I feel, In summary, it was a very nice story about redemption and what it actually takes from us to create it (and I do think it is created and not found), it's an incredible amount of effort, mostly because sometimes it means we must get rid of aspects we're deeply fond of, aspects that are deeply ingrained in our psyches. In Mac's case, it was Isabella who provided the inspiration to find himself and get rid of the false Mac, the doppelgänger, and be whole again.

Thanks for reading.
Now, on to The May Sins of Lord Cameron.
 

Carlos Alberto

The Force is Strong With This One
Hi everybody,

I started reading some of the recommended romantic novels last year. My progress has been slow and I have only read two series so far but I have been enjoying the novels more than I would have imagined.

The first series I read was the Huxtable Quintet. I liked all the books but the 4th and 5th books were my favorites (Stephen's story and Con's story, respectively).

I thought Stephen's character was a good role model. He was strong and didn't let himself be manipulated by Cassandra but, at the same time, he understood that she was a good person who had been hurt. He made a decision to love her and support her despite the risk.

Constantine's character was very interesting. All throughout the first 4 books one is presented with the idea that he is a questionable character but, as it's usually the case in these novels, there was so much about Con that nobody knew about. I found Con's relationship with his brother John very touching. The fact that Con was willing to accept an undeserving bad reputation for the sake of carrying out John's project speaks to his strength of character and good heart.

Yesterday I finished reading Anne Gracie's Marriage of Convenience series and I enjoyed it very much. Books 2 and 3 where my favorites of all the novels I've read so far.

On book 2 the relationship between Edward's grandfather and Lily was very touching, and also how Lily helped Edward go through the grieve and guilt of his war experiences.

However, Thomas' story as a slave was really moving to me. I didn't cry in any of these books but I came close to it when I was reading about Thomas' men going back to England after having been rescued from their slavery and being reunited with their families.

There is, of course, a general pattern in all these stories of people overcoming their shortcomings and traumas by acting on the best interest of their loved ones, communicating honestly and putting in the effort to build loving relationships. I hope some of this is rubbing off on me.
 

Alejo

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Hi Everyone,

I just finished The Many Sins of Lord Cameron, book 3 in the Mackenzie series. I liked it, it was a bit shorter than the two previous ones, but the story had a lot of beautiful and meaningful moments. I will be discussing a few ideas that I was left with after reading it in the spoiler section:

The story picks up after the marriage of Mac and Isabella, and it follows Cameron and Ainsley who had an encounter six years prior to the events on this book. Something I have not mentioned before, that I think is a theme in this story is the old Duke, the father of all the McKenzies.

Their father was such an awful human being and had a deep impact in each one of them, a traumatic one even, and they all carry his influence with them everywhere they go. And this is interesting, because at some point in the three books that I've gotten through so far, they all express the exact same fear: "what if I am like my father?"

And this is interesting, the entire series has explored the impact of the past in the life of an adult, the events that have defined us, and the wounds that have left scars that we're insecure about, or ashamed of.

In this story in particular, Cameron is full of scars from his past, physical ones. Although these were created by his ex-wife, who was an absolute lunatic, to the point of driving Cameron into never wanting to share a bed with a woman again, and sleep behind a locked door.

His Ex would beat him, cut him, and even attempt to rape him. She would hurt their son, Daniel, and sleep around. She hated the idea of being imprisoned by marriage and commitment to the extent that she would physically hurt others in order to show her protest. She then passed away after slicing her own throat, something that Cameron was blamed for.

And in that previous drama, something interesting was explored, because despite Cameron being a McKenzie, and being rough and wild, his character was known to his older brother, and the accusation was abandoned because of it. It reminded me of actions carrying far more weight than words, our character shines through what we do, not through what we say.

A decent man will remain decent even if being treated indecently, now this does not mean turning into a pushover, there are moments when the right answer is violence, but violence can be the decent thing, specially when it is in response to an attack.

In some stories, particularly Balogh and her Survivors club series, the topic of PTSD is explored, how do we react and overcome the trauma caused by life events, by evil to some extent, and she does wonderfully at it.

However, in this one the notion of trauma takes place from a far more intimate place, far more shameful and cunning position. What Cameron's ex did, wasn't only painful physically, it wasn't only evil being evil, I think we can all explain to ourselves tragedy, but it was a personal, intimate and directed desire to humiliate and belittle, to destroy.

It was a harm that he had allowed into his home, that lived with him and that sought to destroy him at his innermost being. That's the difference between a survivor of an accident or tragedy, and someone who lived for years in a deadly nightmare. One of those scenarios is impersonal and tragic, the other one is completely directed at you.

His experiences with his ex had confirmed to Cameron everything he had internalized and adopted from his father, about himself, about women, about the world. So he lived his life hating himself, hating women, hating love and ashamed of it.

When him and Ainsley were growing closer, there was an interesting scene, that repeated through the series with all the McKenzie men, and it's when he's telling her that as a result of the abuse he experienced, he had hurt his son once for waking him up, he was unable to control his fear and rage, so he wanted to continue to sleep by himself.

And we've all been there, to some degree, afraid of what we do when we're not awake if you will. The person we are, when we're not in our full sense of ourselves. When we're not aware, we have certain tendencies and preferences, we're someone we probably despise, capable of hurt and selfish acts, untrustworthy etc.

This was a very interesting idea, the things we do when we're not awake, and it may even be a useful thought to behold from time to time. What do we do when not awake?, when not aware? what parts of our selves take over control and dictate our actions, our priorities and interests? what values do we sacrifice? Who are we, when we're not awake. And is it all true? in Cameron's case it was simply a fear and imagination.

And this connects to the above idea of someone's character shining through his actions. Sometimes, a lot of the times actually, the person we think we are, isn't the person we actually are. We internalize, as Cameron did with the words of his father and the hate of his ex, as the true definition of who we are. We adopt what others project on us.

It took Ainsley getting hurt, and his desire to protect her, which was larger than his fear to finally find peace and spend a night with her. And it wasn't a magical event, it was simply facing himself when he wasn't awake. It was him realizing he wasn't a victim anymore, and he had far more agency in his life than he realized.

Sometimes the answers to our past, do not lie in holding to it tightly and examining it, sometimes those answers lie in our future. Ainsley was the answer to the fear Cameron lived with because of what his Ex did, Ainsley was the answer to the question of Cameron being a horrible man who deserved the humiliation he went through.

And as it was said in the story, his life came back to his body, and he was able to rest again, because being afraid of who you are, or what's to happen when you're not awake, makes you restless and that isn't life. That isn't choosing, that is reacting passively.

Ainsley was a resourceful woman, and her attraction to Cameron was what brought her to him, but it was her faith in him, his character and the things she saw in him that he didn't even see himself, that eventually provided him with the opportunity to realize of who he actually was, which is painful because you have to first acknowledge that you've been living a lie, but the truth that comes after, is liberating.

And this is lovely.

Thanks for reading!
Now, on to The Duke's Perfect Wife :)
 

tykes

Jedi Master
Hi! I recently finished my first romance novel, volume 1 of the Huxtable series, Marry Me by Mary Balogh and I'd like to share a bit of my observations with you.

The reading experience was surprisingly enjoyable, I initially thought I would have to make more of an effort to engage with the tone of this type of novel, but I was hooked from the start. Mary Balogh's style is very enjoyable, she really is a very skilled writer. Especially the detailed psychology of the characters caught my attention, you can imagine them more clearly when their personalities are so well described.

I could definitely connect with the characters, the intensity and eloquence of the dialogues made me think and feel like I was in their minds at times. I came close to shedding a couple of tears in certain passages as well so for me it was a complete experience. It was well worth giving this reading project a try, I was left eagerly awaiting the continuation of the Huxtable saga 🙂
 

ryu

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I finished the 7th book of the bridgertown series, Hyacinth. Hyacinth is the youngest of the Bridgertown children and in the previous books, we see her mostly as a turbulent child. I was so not prepared for the emotional depth she displayed.

Hyacinth is intelligent, brave (a bit reckless on the side), strong minded, loyal and knows her worth. All qualities that makes her a remarkable woman, but one that intimidate some gentlemen (the young ones at least), who would prefer someone more docile:cool:.

She's a bit of a runner on the emotional side of things and witnessing her growth, from realising that she went after the wrong kind of men, to admit that she's scared of being open and vulnerable, that she's uncomfortable around a man she cannot dominate by her wits, that it takes more courage that she thought to be in a relationship with her equal. This is something most can relate to, we say we want something and then do everything to avoid it from happening. It is a big step in one's growth IMHO, to see , I mean really see that too often we are playing it safe in our relationships. That we may be in relation with a person that is no good to us, and we are no good to them, but we stay because it is somehow convenient. It's not really a happy and fulfilling life, but at least there's no stress either.

The dynamic between Gareth and Hyacinth, the contrast between their families, their childhoods, the feelings of fear, worhtlessness, acute loneliness, of believing to be unlovable, a misfit, brought back memories of the worst moments in my life. My ego took a blow too, because I displayed the same attitude as Hyancinth towards men when I was younger :-[. So reading that book was not a walk in the park for me. It took me several days to process this resurgence of feelings and memories, of letting them go through me once more, of forgiving and praying for my younger self who was so confused, so lost, so angry at the world because she couldn't see her own worth yet. I blessed those I crossed path with who showed me I wasn't worthless. I can't thank those who hurted me and I can't say I forgive them yet, but dealing with them made me stronger, more knowledgable.

So after all this heavy talk, on to the next and last book of the series!
 

Voyageur

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I guys,

I have finished The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie by Jennifer Ashley. I switched authors and I miss Balogh :( but Ashley did a well enough job, even if the difference in style is noticeable enough for me to miss Mary. A few thoughts on this book, I think that most of you have already read it, so I will make it brief.


I think in writing style, Ashley could have smoothed out a few of the interactions, not because of their intensity but because of their swiftness. One knew that Ian and Beth would end up together, but it didn't feel quite organic, a bit rushed if I must say so myself.

Beyond some of the story telling techniques, the story does have a very interesting idea at its core I think.

Ian is a "madman", kind of autistic, really good with numbers but not so great with people, suffers from rages and can be cold and direct, yet appreciates beauty in a way that is foreign to most and has an amazing memory, something that can be a blessing and a curse.

Beth, I had a hard time connecting with her for a lot of the story, she strikes me as more of a passive character who have things happen to her for the most part.

Now, without spending too much time in the details of the story, there's murder, jealousy, misunderstandings and some detective work that begins to unravel towards the end, which is when the story captured my attention.

This story made me think of one idea, the fine balance between living in, and being defined by your past, and closely inspecting it. Ian, despite his marvelous memory, was afraid of looking at his past, but also.. didn't even remember it properly.

I think we all have a past we're rather ashamed of, or scared of, or have plainly suppressed and wished it didn't exist. Now, we should not allow ourselves to be defined by our pasts, and this is true, we should move on from it, yes... but not by running away from it. The madness that our past brings into our lives comes with us wherever we go.

As such, there's a lot to be said about being comfortable with what went on in our lives, and this requires honest exploration of it, however shocking it may be, and it needs to be done.. but it should also be done carefully so as to not re traumatize ourselves.

So, this story reminded me of that, the need to spend enough time looking through our past, from the present, in order to decide the future.

Ian, needed to look through the obscure memories, so that he could leave them behind, and reclaim his ability to love someone else, to connect with his emotions and not be the cold calculating "madman" everyone, and himself, took him for. And Beth assisted him in this process, in that sense Beth represented curiosity maybe, that one nagging question in our heads that makes us wonder what went on.

The other ting that Ian reminded me of, which is a very common mistake I have made, and probably most of us, is projecting the present self into the past events and past choices. As I said above, there will always be shame, in our pasts, but sometimes this shame comes from us projecting our present selves into the person we used to be, and feel foolish.

Not that our choices in the past weren't foolish perhaps, but this is an erroneous study of history IMO, one ought not to attribute present values and ideas to events that were made with a different system. There's a difference between knowing that one ought to have acted differently, because one would act differently today, and one's actions and choices were foolish then, and thinking oneself a fool today, because one made foolish choices at one point or another.

This is not to say that one should simply distance oneself from mistakes either, not at all, but one should not hold on to them for longer than it is prudent, one will never learn if one always has the excuse of being a "madman" or a fool or an idiot. Choices ought to be understood through honesty and allowed to be what they have been, and not as defining moments that last forever.

I hope the above made sense, it's an interesting concept and I am probably making it a lot more complicated than it needs to be, perhaps a good way to summarize it would be to say that, the best way to turn our past into learning and knowledge is to visit it with the intent to learn from it and not with the desire to remain there forever and then leave, so that we may in fact live, become active participants of our destines.

In Ian's case, everything in his past dictated that he was a madman incapable of love and capable of hurt, but whether he was going to be that or not shouldn't be defined by those dictates, it's a daily choice that he couldn't make until he made peace with all those indications from his past. We all have a past that pushes at us with incredible force, to turn us into the "by default" version of ourselves, and it does take a lot of work to oppose that, but I don't see any other way to truly live.

Our lives are indeed defined by our choices, and some of those will have longer lasting effects on our lives, but if that is true, and we're still alive, then we can choose everyday to be who we wish to be and not live to meet the expectations of who we think our past dictates we ought to be.

Thank you for reading!
I will follow the series and go for Lady Isabella's scandalous marriage next.

Have just finished this book, and agree with what you wrote up in the spoiler, although with Beth, her story seemed to came out in more subtle ways while reading into her past situational/family nuances - she learned much, and applied it. Her past was not as starkly written about as was Ian's, however one could imagine what struggles shaped her.

Will next read Isabella and Mac's story
 
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