Romantic Fiction, Reality Shaping and The Work

Beau

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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.

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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
Almost done with this one too. I really like Vanessa, she is not scared to speak her mind and she even went against common tradition to get what she wanted. She is very much an underdog who is easy to root for. Elliott on the other hand, it's taking a bit of time to warm up to him. He's not so much a cad as he is emotionally immature although that seems to be changing the more he is with Vanessa.

One thing I really like about Balogh's writing is that the sex stuff is not heavily emphasized. She's more about relationships/interactions and people learning from them. In fact the intimate scenes have more heft/meaning because of that. Could hardly place her in the "bodice ripper" category, at least from what I've read.
 

Voyageur

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Hi guys,

I have just finished making my way through The Duke's Perfect Wife by Jennifer Ashley, this is book 4 in the McKenzie series. The book itself followed the McKenzie's template, there's a story that is transversed with a heavy crisis that is overcome and a new chapter begins for the main characters. I will be including some ideas that caught my attention in the spoiler section.

Jennifer Ashley teases her next story in her books, and so in the last book she mentioned the title characters for this one. The McKenzie's oldest Hart, Duke of Killmorgen, and Elenor are the central characters of this story.

They had been an item before, but Harts arrogant desire for control, and inability to be honest, ended up causing her to push him away, he never really got over her and spent years trying to move on from having lost her. After Ian, the mad Ian McKezie, sets up a scheme to bring them together, they team up to uncover a "blackmail attempt" on Hart, who is going for the office of prime minister, and their love re ignites.

The story itself hinges upon honesty, control, and intimacy. There are also the repeating theme of inheriting the traits of their father, and. how truth liberates them from such a destiny.

In all the four cases for the McKenzie brothers, there's an underlying fear that they will turn as their father, or at least embody one of his character traits, and it is always through their daring to push past the fear, with the help of their objects of devotion in the shape of their wives, that they realize that their fears were real, but unfounded, that is, they weren't reality.

And that's an interesting idea I think, our fears, whatever they may be are real. We really feel how we feel, but their reality is another question entirely. And I think it's something to navigate carefully, the real vs reality of our feelings, it doesn't have to be a fear, it could also be an illusion, infatuation, jealousy, excitement.

We may feel a certain way, positive or negative, and that ought to be acknowledge if we hope to face it, but it may not correspond to reality. And it takes a lot of will power to get to that point. All of the McKenzies had to undergo that very transformation.

In Hart's case, it was very clearly depicted as a descent into hell, almost quite literally. After an attempt on his life tears a whole in the ground beneath him, he falls into a dark pit of the sewers of London. He had to face himself there, he had to face his father, he had to face an existence with none of the power of one looking to become prime minister.

As in some of the shamanic visions described elsewhere, he was quite literally stripped to the bone, no power or influence, no riches, not even his sight was there to help him out. He was alone against himself, surrounded by filth, with only one saving grace.. honesty, in the same of his brother Ian, more on that later.

That was quite an effective way to depict what life throws at us sometimes, these disintegrative proceses that have the power to level our lives, where we realize there's nothing we can do to stop the onslaught of events, no matter how much we want to, or how unfair it may seem.

For Hart, it was the realization of the world carrying on spinning despite his absence. Destiny force his had to let loose of the reins that he constantly held on anything he had influence over.

And how many of us have that tendency, maybe self important tendency, to believe that without us the world would cease to exist, or maybe not the world, but... life. Or that without our controlling designs on events, things would fall apart.

Now, the need for control in Hart, as in most of us I daresay, comes from a wound that taught him that without it, the uncertainty of life would be too overwhelming. He had placed upon his shoulders the task of protecting not only his family, but his business, his estate, his country and the world if he could have.

As explained elsewhere, these drives for control and manipulation, may come from an unfair wound, and hurt and trauma, but if left unchecked, it'll simply turn us into whatever caused us such pain. Ironically, giving up our agency to choose, in the name of wanting to feel like we can choose over everything.

Now Ian, has one of the most interesting roles in his brother's stories. He represents honesty, truth even. He's appeared in all their stories to encourage them to bare themselves to their love interest, as the only way to create a real opportunity. Ian was the only one that was down there with Hart, and that's an interesting idea, it's as if, the only thing you may carry in your disintegration processes, or the only thing that will help you, is truth.

After Hart is found, he finally relaxes the control he taught he had on the word and his life, he bares himself to his wife Elenor, and he discovers something else. Once he let go of the attempt to control everything, he became a whole being and was accepted by his wife as the whole person that he was, not as the bright creature he portrayed.

Not as the split persons that he kept at bay form one another, the controlling cold powerful man on the one hand, and the passionate, playful and kind man on the other, never touching. After his descent into hell, he came back resembled as someone who had integrated the betters aspects of both, and built himself anew.

Elenor, was always his catalyst for change, her personality is quite lovely, always curious as the daughter of a scholar, inquisitive and daring. Someone unafraid of Hart, someone who had the way to make both of his personalities mix and merge. Someone who was able to care for him, in a way only she could.

Having access to both sides of Hart, Elenor was able to care of him by not letting him forget who he actually was. And sometimes that's all care is, not an affectionate protective act, although there was some of that for sure in their story, but a reminder of who the other is.

And this was lovely shown when Hart finally admitted to Elenor, that he wasn't able to face his monsters without her, specially his father, she reminded him that his fears were real, but not a reality, and that was enough for him to anchor himself in that reality and push through those fears.
Thanks for reading, now I will get to The Seduction of Elliot McBride

Again, would not change or add a thing that you have written. It very much captured the story on deeper levels. I'm also glad you brought up Ian, a most interesting character who is so important to all the stories, particularly the last as you point out. Not only that, was Ian's ability to help steer his brothers through their inner turmoil's, including helping their future spouses to see what had not been seen of each other, and of the past.
 

Alejo

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One thing I really like about Balogh's writing is that the sex stuff is not heavily emphasized. She's more about relationships/interactions and people learning from them. In fact the intimate scenes have more heft/meaning because of that. Could hardly place her in the "bodice ripper" category, at least from what I've read.
Completely agree on this one, specially when compared with Ashley, at least in my opinion, sex doesn't carry the same weight in Ashley's writing as it does with Balogh.

Again, would not change or add a thing that you have written. It very much captured the story on deeper levels. I'm also glad you brought up Ian, a most interesting character who is so important to all the stories, particularly the last as you point out. Not only that, was Ian's ability to help.
oh absolutely, one of my favorite phrases in that whole series (so far) is the one that Ian tells Hart and his wife at several points.

"I can always find Hart" which carried more weight than physically finding someone, it was always about knowing how to reach them when they were veering off course, off the course of their true selves... it was splendid.
 

Steph_rivers

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Hi everyone. This is very new to me. As a man (laughing inside) I find this out of my comfort zone, but I see great potential for self reflection and perhaps view the world through the imagination of a woman, since it appears a lot of these books are written by woman (to better understand my woman!) Is there a recommendation from the list of novels that you would suggest reading first? Or one that captured your attention the most? In particular for a man to read? Or it doesn’t really matter?
 

Alejo

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Hi everyone. This is very new to me. As a man (laughing inside) I find this out of my comfort zone, but I see great potential for self reflection and perhaps view the world through the imagination of a woman, since it appears a lot of these books are written by woman (to better understand my woman!) Is there a recommendation from the list of novels that you would suggest reading first? Or one that captured your attention the most? In particular for a man to read? Or it doesn’t really matter?
What's most interesting is that you will probably end up seeing yourself a lot clearer too.

It happened to me when I got started with this project, I think a few times per story I have stopped and gone "oh man... what a child I have been" and laugh at myself lol

So, I'd say start anywhere, but Mary Balogh is a solid choice!
 

herondancer

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So, I'd say start anywhere, but Mary Balogh is a solid choice!
Mary Balogh is an excellent place to start. Her psychological insight into both men and women is excellent. She writes a rich range of characters from the very young, to the middle-aged and beyond who find themselves in all sorts of interesting circumstances. You're sure to find yourself in some one or another of her stories. Enjoy! :read:
 

Voyageur

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She writes a rich range of characters from the very young, to the middle-aged and beyond who find themselves in all sorts of interesting circumstances.

Speaking of Mary, had started her latest book (recently published) Remember Love.

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Without saying too much about the details within the book itself, the first part of the book (and it is not to conclusion) does as herondancer has said, builds up a network of rich family and community characters - so it takes some time as they are introduced, and you will, as the reader, get to know many, if not just by name. Mary does this well, she has a writers knack for it, for bringing in people from all walks of life into her stories.

The opening scene of the story starts with the idyllic life of one main family in Wales and the community at large. Father, mother, four boys (the second boy the Heir), two daughters, grandfather and mother, uncles and aunts and so on. This primarily is the story of the second boy, although not exclusively, who has become a man and is looking for love, just as he is loved, until calamity sparks from seemingly out of nowhere, and the ripple effects cannot be underlined enough.

This is a story of 'TRUTH' and the telling of truth when faced with the shattering of illusions. This is also a story of what can happen with the telling the truth, and more so, the way in which it is told told, when some would have favored the middle ground, sticking to the grey. What happens as the ripples immediately hit all involved, wherein people find themselves at odds with what they once thought. When the truth-teller bears the brunt. When pain from truth spreads. When the teller must reconcile the words told and what they do.

You see everything in terms of good and evil. Right and wrong. Truth and lies. With nothing in between. Yet in this world we live in almost everyone fits somewhere between those extremes.
Balogh writes above of one brother to the other.

One brother had also, as a result of truth, partitioned himself from emotions. The second part of the book looks to facing these emotions, and all the ripples that had moved out from the original focal point of saying truth against the lie discovered.

Found it very interesting that Mary has grabbed this theme and has worked it as the story, along with much more that comes out of it.
 

Altair

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Found it very interesting that Mary has grabbed this theme and has worked it as the story, along with much more that comes out of it.
I noticed that too and quite enjoyed the book which is actually a first book of a new series: The Ravenwood Series.

“It seems I am a man of firm principle and am about to be faced with an impossible choice between a destructive truth and a corrosive lie.

We have all been living a cheerful, genial, laughter-filled lie. Because it is not the thing to tell truth and upset the status quo. It is not genteel. It is not good manners.”
 

Yas

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Found it very interesting that Mary has grabbed this theme and has worked it as the story, along with much more that comes out of it.

Nice review! I want to read it already! :-D

It's been a while since I don't share my reviews here and the problem when taking so long after finishing a book to post about it is that I don't have it fresh in my mind to talk about the details. But well... I finished the Survivors Club series and it was brilliant. I completely loved it.

Imogen's book was the most touching for me and also one that gave a lot to think about. I saw that some of you have recently commented on it and yes, I agree with you all on that. I'd like to add that (SPOILER), in the end, there is a choice she needs to make in order to 'let go' (although some of the pain and memory will always remain with her for sure) of the self-punishment and start living fully again. That gave me lots to think about.

I also got a lot from Ralph's story. What we learn is that he was this bright guy, a leader, full of creativity, conviction and motivation, a sensible and sensitive man, is the impression I get. And because of what happened to his friends he didn't want to feel anymore, he thought that these traits (and he himself) were to blame to what happened so he tried to block his 'light' and also punish himself for it. That made him cynical. He was in a bad mood. And, as he said it in some occasions, he couldn't love. But Chloe was courageous and she taught him to face his own past. And then, by allowing himself to love, he opened himself to all his sensitivity again and his light came back. That was beautiful. And also a lesson on how sometimes we dread facing the past or some situation because we think that it will be THE worst thing to do, but then when we do it, it turns out it wasn't that bad, yet the effects can be profound.

George's story is also touching, of course. It is amazing how this man became such kind and giving person after all he had suffered and how this, in a way, helped him live trough the pain and remain sane. Yet, this also meant that he kept too much for himself and never had someone to be his own confidant, while he was that for everyone else. He also needed to face the past by sharing it with Dora. And there are some very beautiful conversations between Dora and George too. There's also a clear example of how when we don't communicate or share there can be misunderstandings that can be destructive, in this case, even put someone's life in danger.

I have a quote from Only Beloved which I liked a lot:
(I don't think the quotes are spoilers, but I'll blur them just in case)

“Talent is rare in any field,” she said. “ Real talent, I mean. But if we all avoided doing anything for which we are not exceptionally gifted, we would do almost nothing at all and would never discover what we can become. Instead we would waste much of the span of life allotted us in keeping to safe, confining activities. Lord Darleigh has a talent for perseverance, for stretching himself to the limits of his endurance despite what must be one of the most difficult of handicaps—or perhaps because of it. Not many people given his circumstances would achieve what he has. He has learned to give light to the darkness in which he must live out his life, and in so doing he has shed light upon those of us who think we can see.”

And then, the ending scene which is absolutely beautiful:

“Has anyone missed our meetings?” George asked.

“Perhaps,” Hugo said, “we do not need them any longer.”

“I believe you are right, Hugo,” Imogen said. “Perhaps all we need now when we are together is to celebrate friendship and love.”

And life,” Ralph added.

And memories.” George’s arm tightened about Dora’s waist. “We must never forget any of the people and events and emotions that have made us who we are today. Not that it is likely we ever will.”

I want to read another by Mary Balogh soon, but I still don't know which one. I'm going to look at the list to pick a series. :lkj:
 
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