Romantic Fiction, Reality Shaping and The Work

I have just finished reading Mary Balogh's A Christmas Promise and it deals with loss of a loved one and I think she does this so beautifully. Also, she describes one of the characters having deathbed visions. Hopefully, it will help inform her readers what to expect when a loved one is dying and is having these visions.

The next quote describes what grief looks like and I think it is really comforting, because it shows us that grief comes and goes and that's why we can deal with it, OSIT. It doesn't hurt all the time.

At first she thought that the pain and the agony would tear her in two. She could not bear to look at that miniature likeness, so accurate in portraying him as he had been before the ravages of his illness had changed him. She could not bear to think that he was gone forever, that she would never see or talk with him again. Never hear his voice again.
But then the pain eased, almost as if it were flowing away with the tears. And there was comfort and warmth. There was something holding her to life, something assuring her that she must let her father go, that there were other people to live for, other people to love. A leftover sob shuddered out of her and she turned her head to rest her cheek against his damp shoulder. She closed her eyes. She felt more at peace than she had felt for a long time.
In the past, had started a Grace Burrowes series (not on the list) called the Windham Series. Had not meant to do this following another of her short series called Mischief in Mayfair (also not on the list). The latter series comes from 2021 publications, and involve a group of men from the war damaged and struggles - Colonel Sir Orion Goddard, Alasdhair MacKay and Captain Dylan Powell.
The Moreland family is looked at roughly 30-years later - there are ten children, two of who are by-blows, along with the two who had died. These stories look to taking one individual step at a time to overcome inner demons and external circumstances, as partnerships form and begin to grow. The parents are in the background (sometimes foreground), and each child now grown to adulthood realizes their own place in the family, with some grappling with their forgotten or unrecognized true nurture.

There are two books read, or only partially read as it is with the second book by Grace Burrowes in this series. However, in all the authors/books read I can't recall any being written in the first person, and yet these are. The first person being Lord Julian Caldicott.

The books are titled:

1. A Gentlemen Fallen On Hard Times
2. A Gentleman Of Dubious Reputation

No exactly regular Romance novels, although it is there.

Julian is one of three brothers, one of whom is a Duke. In the opening of the fist book, it is quickly revealed that Julian had followed his older brother Harry into French territory - both were reconnoissance officers, and they were separately captured by the French, with Harry dead. Julian comes back to Merry Olde a changed man, having been impassioned with later damaged eyes due to his long captivity in darkness, along with mental manipulation. No other injuries, except that he sometimes forgets everything (this was even before war); who he is, where he is, everything. These episodes last not more than a day, sometimes a few hours only, and they are irregular.

Note: there is an aside to this, as Grace's own father in real life had this affliction. He was a scientist, and Grace mentions that the first time it happened to him was during a public lecture, and suddenly he did not know who he was and why he was there. That of course is frightening, although Grace said that "he was quite alert and articulate throughout." It was also said he never gave another lecture - these memory 'lapses' did continue. As with the character, Julian, these episodes did not last long for her dad. As Grace also notes of the condition itself, "my father had transient global amnesia, a rare condition of which we still know little."

There is nothing being given away here as it all in the opening chapter, that Julian is not liked on account that many perceive him as a traitor, although the military tribunal did not pursue this. So, he is persona non grata in society, yet still the brother of a Duke, although he is snubbed - often given the cut direct.

The story begins with Julian being forced to drive his Godmother, Lady Ophelia into the country where she is to attend a house gathering with friends. Julian will leave immediately after dropping her off, and yet encounters some nasty peers and one woman, Lady Hyperia, who he had once nearly been engaged and had to end their relationship on account of his heading for war.

Immediately things at the gathering happen that sets Julian and his powers of observation as a former reconnoissance officer to investigate.

Within the story there are pathological people who lie and even embark on psychological gaslighting.

Will leave the first book there with one small note to the above Windham series and the Moreland family. Julian wanders over to an neighbouring estate to find the Duke's bastard son at home, St Just, who like him was a soldier at war and is featured in Grace's book by the same name, The Soldier.

The second book sees Julian summed to his own family seat by his brother, the Duke. Again, things happen that task Julian's skills and also sees him succumb to mental lapses.

After staying with reading from Grace Burrowes for many books, she can be very thoughtful and deep at looking at the conditions of men and woman together and within society, and of politicians and war. Grace can well account for the criminal mind, or so it seems.
I haven’t posted here in a long time as I haven’t read anything new after the Westcott series, but I did re-read some of the books that I‘ve read before at the beginning of this project.

Now that Christmas is approaching, I‘ve decided to read more of a Christmas themed romances and searched which one I haven’t read before.

And I found it - beautiful Christmas treat, written by our favorite, Mary Balogh.

The book is called „Christmas Gifts“ and is a set of 3 novels.

Each story is around 1,5-2h read and the stories are simply amazing, inspiring, hopeful, heartwarming and filled with Christmas miracles. I laughed and cried and my heart was full.

The first story, „The Best Christmas Ever“, is both a heartbreaking and a heartwarming story told (for the most part) from the point of view of a 5 year old girl who wishes a mother for Christmas.

The second story, „The Porcelain Madonna“, is a story about one bitter and cynical earl, one poor and beautiful baronet’s granddaughter with a big heart (of course 😁) and one urchin, and is entirely told from earl‘s point of view. I had a nice chuckle (even laughed out loud) reading about his cynical mussings and him doing the opposite. 🤣

The third strory, „The Surprise Party“, involves 3 siblings, and a man and a woman who „can’t stand“ each other. 😁 it is also a heartbreaking story with very amusing interactions between the main characters.

I hope that this book will bring you all a bit of light and happiness in this dark times as it brought them to me. ❤️

Next what I plan to read is also Balogh‘s set of 3 novels called „Christmas Miracles“, or re-read her book „Under the Mistletoe“ which is a set of 5 novels.

Happy and blessed Christmas everyone! 🎄
So refreshing to see balls are still being done in the present day, this is Belarus from New Year's Eve 2020.

Holding a New Year's Eve ball in the main Palace of Independence has been an annual tradition in Belarus since 2018. The president attends the ball every year. This year, he said that in 2017, the Austrians offered him the tradition of Viennese balls. The Vienna Balls are classified as UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage monuments and are an integral part of world culture.

Lukashenko said: "I think: Are we worse than the Austrians? A good, intelligent nation, a beautiful country, the Vienna Opera… But ours is better. Our people are good and talented. I thought it was a good idea to invite a bright and talented part of our society on these December evenings. These are, of course, our girls. And we are catching up to this time: both military and civilians are just handsome men. And today I am glad that I made a decision then: no, we Belarusians are a beautiful nation of a beautiful country, we have beautiful girls (men will pull up - they will also be handsome), we will hold our ball. And it will be called the New Year's Ball."
Республиканский новогодний бал для молодежи во Дворце Независимости | Официальный интернет-портал Президента Республики Беларусь
On December 27, 2023, more than 330 boys and girls from different regions of Belarus took part in the ball. These are gifted students of universities, colleges, pupils of cadet schools and the Minsk Suvorov Military School, who have shown themselves in studies, scientific and creative competitions, youth projects, social and sports life. It is not necessary to be able to dance. Long-term training and rehearsals take place before the ball.
Girls are required to wear floor-length dresses, with bouquets of flowers in their hands and tiaras in their hair.
Traditionally, the holiday was opened by a polonaise of debutants, which was attended by young and unmarried people. The program continued with one of the most popular dances, which is also called the king of dances and the dance of kings, the waltz. And after a few concert numbers, the couples rearranged for the polka. This incendiary dance is called an ornament and a fun game, without which a real ball cannot do.
The boys and girls demonstrated their skills by performing a quadrille and a complex, but brilliant and energetic mazurka. The evening continued with an exciting gallop and a chacon built on elements of a gavotte and a minuet. The "Midnight Quadrille", which was performed by all the participants of the celebration, completed the classic part of the holiday, as befits centuries-old ballroom traditions.
It looks amazing. A wonderful tradition!
Mary Balogh's new book Always Remember is out. It's book 3 of the Ravenwood series. I'm in middle of it and enjoying it.
There's a surprising throw away line about reincarnation, and groups of people reincarnating: "maybe we reincarnate in groups, and somehow recognize one another when we meet again in the new life". With the after death experience at the end of book 2, seeds are being planted about what happens after everyone's current life.
Yesterday I finally started some sirious reading of this romantic fiction novels listed here.
I admit, it took me too long to start and now I'm sorry.
Reading this kind of stuff brings me joy and relaxation.
Last few months I read Jane Austen's 'Pride and Prejudice' and 'Sense and Sensibility'
and Luisa May Alcott's ' Little women' cause I accidentaly run at them in croatian so I took them first.
And that's was exactly what I needed.
But now, after I saw Alejo's beautiful and insightful videos about Mary Balogh's Westcott series that was it.
Yesterday I finished 'Someone to love' and started 'Someone to hold'.
To say the least - I'm delighted :love:
'Someone to wed' is even better, wooow.
I could easily fall in love with a guy like Alexander Westcott myself.
At very beggining when he said to Wren ' There are many kinds of beauty, many of them are not seen
right away'.
He reminds me of Little Princ 'It is only with the heart the one sees clearly...'
and reminds me of Paul's love.
Truly wonderful. :love:
Mary Balogh's new book Always Remember is out.

Have only just started it and like the direction it is going. Was hoping she would look to these characters lives.

Copied this brief Balogh character (Jennifer) quote:

Maybe we reincarnate in groups and somehow recognize one another when we meet again in the new life.

Lady Jennifer, as a reflection during their year of mourning from family elderly when they transition :

A mourning period ought not to be like that. Not, at least, for elderly people who have lived long, full lives. It ought to be full of happy reminiscences and laughter instead.
I finally got through the entire MacKenzie's series. It was wonderful! Ian, his brothers and his nephew, and their respective ladies, where really touching. I liked those better than the ones about his ancestors, but they were still very good. I particularly liked how she managed to keep the characters from previous books so involved in the next ones.
I did a search for Stella Riley in this thread and realized there's nothing :scared:.

Laura recommended her books last year, and I was lucky enough to give them a try. I thought the first series, a historical romance novel set during the Civil War in England, would take me at least half a year to read. It took me practically less than a month! She's just an EXCELLENT writer, and some of the stories are totally fascinating. The historical background gives them a punch. The author dug up old records and even cites word by word (but in modern English) the court case against the King.

Her non-historical romance novels are also great, and I just finished with the Rockliffe series. In total, some 11 books. I still have some left from other series, thanks God!

It doesn't matter how you feel or how busy or not you are, you can always count on Stella Riley to put you in a different state of mind.

For me, it felt like time travelling through history and healing wounds as you resonate with the dramas that the characters go through as they resolve their issues. It puts things into perspective, too. We surely live in interesting times, but when you re-visit history, you definitely get the sense of being in a time-loop.

Here's her website:

Thus far, I read the Roundheads and Cavaliers series, and the Rockliffe series.
It doesn't matter how you feel or how busy or not you are, you can always count on Stella Riley to put you in a different state of mind.

For me, it felt like time travelling through history and healing wounds as you resonate with the dramas that the characters go through as they resolve their issues. It puts things into perspective, too. We surely live in interesting times, but when you re-visit history, you definitely get the sense of being in a time-loop.
Thanks for bringing this up, Gaby, and recommending this writer last year! I feel exactly as you described in your post. I am at the end of Book 3 of the Roundheads and Cavaliers series and absolutely love it! I started with Book 1 in January and only read at night before sleep (going to bed earlier and earlier :)), but i just fly through those books. I didn't know much about England's history, and definitely not much about this time period. Stella Riley provides a lot of details, with sophisticated character development and she writes in a very vivid way. Reading about those long years of awful civil war, the psychopaths involved and the atrocities that took place gave me also the sense that 'l'histoire se repète,' over and over again.

I already kind of dreaded the moment that i finish the Roundheads series, but now i can joyfully look forward to the Rockliffe series (7 books, yayyy)!
Yesterday I finally started some sirious reading of this romantic fiction novels listed here.
I admit, it took me too long to start and now I'm sorry.

I confess that I haven't been able to bring myself to give these romantic novels a try, though I get the idea of them having indeed a place and a function within our current lives, though I'm not really sure whether my conceptualization of their value is off the mark or not. To me, any fiction literature in general, whether it is romantic, fantasy, horror, science fiction, or any other genre, is a powerful tool for developing certain abilities that will eventually enable us to "transcend" our current limited 3D reality. Possibly, the two main tools to achieve this goal are:

Creative Imagination: our now somewhat dormant capacity to create realities and inhabit them, presumably put in abeyance through interference but maybe also through our personal decision to give preeminence to the Ego sphere. Once the skill is sharpened to a high degree we will presumably get to a level of expertise where we are able to flesh out the image-prompts supplied by the novel (landscapes, characters, events) to such a "realistic" level that they become totally immersive and as legitimate as any other reality. At this point we may be able to reclaim our status of co-creators.

Empathy: forget the all-consuming, ego-centered personal concerns and plunge into the reality of others to the point where we can feel as they feel and we can indeed "merge" with them for a while. This would be a sort of "drill" or practice-run to develop the abilities that will eventually enable us to merge with our multidimensional selves.

That said, I think though you could just as well become a powerful creator of realities with the Creative Imagination tool alone, but developing the Empathy side of the equation will possibly enable us to align with more desirable STO realities.

It goes without saying that literature, whether printed or in audio-book format, is particularly useful to acquire and develop this Creative Imagination tool, whereas movies and TV in contrast, in my opinion, can very well stifle it.
Thanks @Gaby for recommending Stella Riley’s books, sounds like they are very much worth reading!

I had a look at her bookshelf you linked, and noticed that the book covers are quite exquisite and classy, and not at all like the usual ”harlequin” ones. It almost appears that certain elements of the covers are taken from paintings from that particular era. All in all, seems like her books can be judged by the cover!


There is a comment section at the bottom of the bookshelf page, where Stella replies to the readers’ questions. She shows some backbone in her comment, where she remarks whether she would like the Rockliffe books to be adapted into a tv-series:

It’s very flattering that you think Rock & Co worthy of a TV series but, truthfully, I’m not sure how I’d feel about that. I’ve seen what television has done to Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton series. I don’t think I’d like that done to Rockliffe – regardless of the money.

I haven’t seen Bridgerton (the books are brilliant), but it was critiqued for the unnecessary race swapping, and also the overall quality of it was not quite up to par from what I understood. So kudos to Stella for not ”selling her soul”!


About book covers… when writing the Survivor series, Mary Balogh ”fought” with the publisher to not have "half-naked men with white shirts" on display on them:

It happened when the powers that be insisted despite all my pleas to the contrary upon giving me the half-naked men covers for some of my Survivors' Club books.
Thankfully she
changed publisher halfway through the Survivors' Club series and now have full control over my covers (at the expense of more work on my part!) And I must say that so far I have been given covers so gorgeous that now I can almost weep over them for an entirely different reason!

Apparently the reprints/new editions of those earlier Survivors’ Club books have different, more sophisticated covers now.





Definitely an improvement! :-D
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