Romantic Fiction, Reality Shaping and The Work

Anthony

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
The second book in Balogh's Survivors' Club series, The Arrangement, is another heart-warming story. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

Some of the themes explored in the book:

- Take full responsibility for your life, do not use problems as an excuse no matter what you are dealing with (the main character was left permanently blind during the Napoleonic Wars), and do not succumb to self-pity and hopelessness. Despite his blindness, he did the best with what was in front of him. He decided to see it as a challenge, instead of a handicap.

He would be damned, he thought, before he would allow the darkness to encroach upon his inner being. He would live his life. He would live it to the full. He would make something of it and of himself.

- Not falling into damaging old patterns of behaviour and thinking. The heroine was totally neglected during her upbringing, and in consequence adopted a wallflower personality. Nevertheless, the Universe offered her a second chance. Will she be willing to rise to the challenge and break out of her conditioning? I guess this is something that the Universe is always offering us, but sometimes we remain willfully blind, and continue with our old habitual patterns.

Sometimes one had to make a determined effort if one was not to drift on in life unchanging. Change had come to her life, and she had the chance to change with it-or not.

- When changing your reality for the better and dealing with fears, start small, and take one step at the time. This is what Peterson always suggest. Break down that which is bothering you or that you find challenging into small things you can deal with, and move forward. It's a sort of feel the fear but do it anyway attitude. What else can you do? Dealing with obstacles leads to expansion of being, the dragon is dangerous but it also hoards the gold.

She was terrified.
So what was she going to do about it? Hide in a corner somewhere where it was safe?
Or pretend that she was not afraid at all?
She was about to discover who she was, she realized, and what she was made of.

- Do not hold grudges against people, even if they acted in a hurtful manner. Learn to forgive. Some people are so self-absorbed that they don't even notice how their behaviour is affecting others, and they are not necessarily consciously trying to hurt you. As Marcus Aurelius wrote, "The best revenge is to be unlike him who performed the injury."

There is of course more, but those are some of the things that stood out for me personally. Although most of the other books I've read deal with changing you reality for the better, and moving up in the world and growing, somehow this one brought home that point more clearly.

And one more quote:

But I am glad you are not some sort of superhuman pillar of strength. I would not be able to prevail against it. I am too weak, too fragile. In each other's weaknesses, perhaps we can both find strength.
 
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Michal

Jedi Council Member
FOTCM Member
Hi,
Just finished Seven Nights in a Rogue's Bed.
I am not sure how to describe the feeling I have and to compare it to intention articulated by Laura but anyway there is feeling in me. Hard to describe but it somehow... inspires, by the role models in the book who have aim which is love and who perform all different brave acts for it, they go beyond their limitations, verfy often against their thoughts, the world etc, like going into the dark only with hope for love, with direction for love... they seem very often naked :), ha ha ha... but true, they, in those acts of bravery for love drop their defenses, and they show who they really are. So defensless, so fragile having as their arm only honesty and their mind, their wit their perception, their now. With aim - love.
And in this context it is inspirational for me to keep my mouth shut - for love, think twice or "trice" before I say - for love. Be patient - for love. Have hope - for love. Do not give up - this is for love. Listen to her - for love. Try to understand - for love. Fight for that love. Protect, give freedom, care, ... give love.

Thank You for another inspriation.
 

beetlemaniac

The Living Force
Hi,
Just finished Seven Nights in a Rogue's Bed.
I am not sure how to describe the feeling I have and to compare it to intention articulated by Laura but anyway there is feeling in me. Hard to describe but it somehow... inspires, by the role models in the book who have aim which is love and who perform all different brave acts for it, they go beyond their limitations, verfy often against their thoughts, the world etc, like going into the dark only with hope for love, with direction for love... they seem very often naked :), ha ha ha... but true, they, in those acts of bravery for love drop their defenses, and they show who they really are. So defensless, so fragile having as their arm only honesty and their mind, their wit their perception, their now. With aim - love.
And in this context it is inspirational for me to keep my mouth shut - for love, think twice or "trice" before I say - for love. Be patient - for love. Have hope - for love. Do not give up - this is for love. Listen to her - for love. Try to understand - for love. Fight for that love. Protect, give freedom, care, ... give love.

Thank You for another inspriation.
Thank you for your post Michal. Most of the time I feel an anxiety to just "say something" for the desire of not wanting to be left out or to contribute in some way. However I did not associate keeping silent and being patient as something we could do to keep the spirit of love within us. I suppose we'd need to listen to the inner voice to know exactly when things are worth expressing and when they are not, but when you are sometimes in chaos and turmoil within it's a little more than hard to select amongst the thousands of responses per second that come to your mind. Gurdjieff said that people who don't speak much should speak more while people who do should learn to listen more. Maybe that's kind of the rule to use when we are faced with situations that demand some kind of response. Just a thought I had.

Still reading Book 4 of Sons of Sin and it is slow going. I have more responsibilities at work but I'll work on making more time for this.
 

3DStudent

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
I finished A Scoundrel by Moonlight the other day. It seemed more complex than the other series. It was emotional for me toward the end, possibly most significantly thus far, when
Elena risked her life to save James. This brought up programs of fear of loss for me. And recently enough, my mom told me she would die for me. I didn't understand it, but this helped to understand that idea better.

I just started listening to Marry in Haste today. It seems slow thus far 1.5 hours in, but I guess it's just building the background. I tried to figure out which series impacted the forum the most and went with this one. I want to read the Sons of Sin series novellas. I plan to buy a Kindle or Likebook e-reader to read them. I hope listening to one and reading one different book won't be too confusing. Every year when thinking about getting an e-reader I conclude, "But I won't use it much." :-P
 

Rabelais

Dagobah Resident
FOTCM Member
I fear I jumped into the deep end of the pool by beginning my reading of romance novels with Balogh's, Lady Wallflower. Pretty depressing early lives led by the principal characters, in particular the Lothario, Decker. The shocks it took to begin to work through his early damage is really the essence of the story. I was not prepared for the extended steamy sexual encounters - and how it was the therapy that brought Decker to resolve his guilt and anger which had driven him to lock up all feelings, and shaped his misogynistic attitudes toward women. It took the sincerity of Lady Jo, not to mention the acting out of her not-so-innocent, youthful sexual fantasies, to break down his walls. The sex scenes, of which there are many, are highly graphic. Keep a cold shower nearby. Decker's business assistant, the stout Scot, McFie, injects just enough humor to balance it all out. The other supporting characters are all well developed and skillfully woven into the story line.

I was able to see some aspects of my younger self in this story... and some that I am still working through. Its kind of scary how we are able to drag that old baggage around for decades.
 

Rabelais

Dagobah Resident
FOTCM Member
Gol dang it. I credited Balogh with the authorship of Lady Wallflower, when it is a Scarlett Scott book. I read the whole thing under that misconception. I think two in a row by her might be too much for me. Going to have to rotate a sci fi novel between each Notorious Ladies of London series.
 

zim

Dagobah Resident
FOTCM Member
Hello Everybody,

Thank you Laura from my heart for this project, it has been very nice.

I began to read the books two months ago, I began with The madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie, at the first reading to be honest I was quite upset because of the description of the sexual activities :scared::shock::nuts::whistle:, but meanwhile, I continued to read the book, I felt more comfortable, It was interesting to read the dynamics of the characters, the way how they relate, how they tried to change for the good of others, and deal with their psychology, I´ve never read this kind of novels, they didn't take my attention in the past, funny thing is since I began to read it, I coudnt stop, so now, every night I read a lot of pages of the books.:lkj::read:

After Ian Mackenzie's book, I continued with all the Mary Balogh books:love::love::thup:, ligeramente perverso, etc. in Spanish all of them. I like them more cause the description of the sexual encounter are less descriptive, and how the writer projects the thoughts of the character, how they analyze their feelings about so many things, I didn't pay to much attention that as it was writing by a woman so the novel is referring from a woman perspective I only realize after Laura mentioned, well its interesting, since It is nice to think that maybe there could be relationships with a man behaving like that, don't know how precise that could be in the real life, but just thinking in the possibility it is very nice.

Another thing that took my attention was the titles of the Men they were Lords- Dukes-Barons etc, but it's fascinating how at the end of each history this "title" doesn't have too much value compare to the decisions when they decide for the love and life. Also, how could be present narcissism and psychopaths in the histories.

These books have impacted me a lot, but a lot, I wasn't aware of how a couple could treat each other in the healthy better way that the books showed, thinking all the time in the wellbeing of others not only in the own needs, it was like an open my eyes to a new way to see the relationships, I have been taken by the stories, I cant explain how I feel the change, I realized that Im using more words of respect when talking with someone, Jajaja it doesn't mean that I didn't do before, just I feel different toward the people around me. :-P:cool2::perfect:
 

seek10

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
Also I feel that the novel had a sudden end.
At one point they are standing there arguing and then all is fine.
I missed this fine part where masks fell off between the people.
It took me a couple of reads of the final unfolding chapters (of my sweet folly) to understand it and it was too much drama in those chapters. Author built up the suspense until the last moment and unwounded it few chapters. It looked, she seemed to portray the modern day conspiracies to old generation. But,
the final explanation seems to have not justifed his schizophernic horror of his initial chapters. Drugs can induce it, but his ex-wife's ghost hunting when he is under drug influence didn't made sense. He seems to have no guilt of the ruin of previous marriage, so i can't be his subconscious. The explanations for his psychotic episodes, psychic abilities and its supposed cause( indian guru influence or drug poisoning ) are not satisfactory . But, all are concluded to believe that it is drug poisoning
. The author's account of her writing this novel is interesting.
I actually have little memory of the book myself—people mention scenes to me, and its as if I never even read it! I think I was in a state of creative shell-shock at that time in my life.
Once all the current list is complete (whenever that is), I plan to read other books in the series for their interesting mix of the different subjects.
 

Mari

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
It took me a couple of reads of the final unfolding chapters (of my sweet folly) to understand it and it was too much drama in those chapters. Author built up the suspense until the last moment and unwounded it few chapters. It looked, she seemed to portray the modern day conspiracies to old generation. But,
the final explanation seems to have not justifed his schizophernic horror of his initial chapters. Drugs can induce it, but his ex-wife's ghost hunting when he is under drug influence didn't made sense. He seems to have no guilt of the ruin of previous marriage, so i can't be his subconscious. The explanations for his psychotic episodes, psychic abilities and its supposed cause( indian guru influence or drug poisoning ) are not satisfactory . But, all are concluded to believe that it is drug poisoning
What I understood from the story line (and remember, it was for some reason difficult for me to understand here writing, probably because her writing style):
So, Robert was rich guy in India and married (not so rich) daughter of a Duke.
Duke married his daughter to a merely a soldier in India, because his daughter was sending him money and in India she would be far away from him.
I suspect that she was abused by the Duke, because at the end of the book, the Duke said to "the ghost", not to talk about "that" + she didn´t want to sleep with Robert at all time of the marriage, sending him away from her.
Robert was frustrated because of that fact and blamed himself of loving too much, so later he treated Folly the same as his ex-wife treated him.
Isabella dies by setting herself and the house on fire (???) and at that point he returned back to England.

I didn´t quite get if they already started to poison him in India, but as he came back to England, he was being poisoned by the Duke (and the rest of this rebel crowd) as a revenge for his daughter death + it was a grand scheme to overthrown the Prince Regent - Robert was a test subject to see how the poison is affecting people and a victim of a Duke´s revenge and caught in the middle of forces wanted to overthrown the crown. He was a perfect subject because also they didn´t know if he realized some of their plan back in India so that´s why they took his diaries and thrown him in that mess.

The poison made him paranoid and schizophrenic, hearing voices of his ex-wife so that was the first weird part of the book.

He had no guilt about his ex-wife because she emotionally abused him for years and left him emotionally crippled. I believe she also had some affairs (flirting) with other men, she was emotionally unstable and deeply troubled and hurt person, so all the grand love he had for her turned to hate, but I didn´t got the impression he killed her.

And Folly was caught in the middle of all this mess - handling emotionally unstable man on psychoactive drugs.

So this is what I understood from the story. 🤷‍♀️
 

seek10

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
Well, I just finished reading an absolutely harrowing Balogh book. It was the third in a trilogy. All of them were good.
Web of Gold
Web of Love
The Devil's Web

Interestingly, the main characters of these books are secondary characters in another book: Promise of Spring. The characters in this latter book, reappear several times in the Web trilogy, so it is nice to have some follow up on them. And, of course, about all the characters of each of the Web books appear in the others.
I added them to the list. Balogh's website says these books belong to "Web Series" and Temporary wife Promise of Spring as web trilogy plus spinoff. But Amazon says it belongs to "Dell Historical Romance" 4 books. Other platforms like overdrive have their own categories.

I observed a similar pattern in a few other books. Depending upon platform, the book numbers and title name can vary. "web of Gold" in renamed to "The Gilded Web" in most platforms including Balogh's website.
 

seek10

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
What I understood from the story line (and remember, it was for some reason difficult for me to understand here writing, probably because her writing style):
Aha! I too had similar doubts after 2nd reading of the last chapters. But, I looked up the names to understand. Author used too many characters who were mentioned in passing, which looked unimportant at that time.
So, Robert was rich guy in India and married (not so rich) daughter of a Duke.
Duke married his daughter to a merely a soldier in India, because his daughter was sending him money and in India she would be far away from him.
Robert's father was a big guy in East India Company and was a friend of the Duke. so Duke got her married to his friend's son. But Robert has local spiritual interests and conscience, couldn't fit into the company's ethos or wife's materialistic aspirations (So extramarital affairs). Robert's father was helping Duke's investments which flourished at the time of marriage.

But, after the death of Robert's father, Duke's investments fumbled and made him dependent on Robert. Duke used his daughter's marital unhappyness to extract money from Robert, while experimenting with drug poisoning with the help of other company officials(who had extramarital affairs with Isabella) . Poisoners thought local guru rescued Robert, but his unhappiness in the job leads to the spiritual and intellectual interests of the culture. There is lot of blurring of lines w.r.t cause and effect.
I didn´t quite get if they already started to poison him in India, but as he came back to England, he was being poisoned by the Duke (and the rest of this rebel crowd) as a revenge for his daughter death + it was a grand scheme to overthrown the Prince Regent - Robert was a test subject to see how the poison is affecting people and a victim of a Duke´s revenge and caught in the middle of forces wanted to overthrown the crown. He was a perfect subject because also they didn´t know if he realized some of their plan back in India so that´s why they took his diaries and thrown him in that mess.

The poison made him paranoid and schizophrenic, hearing voices of his ex-wife so that was the first weird part of the book.
yes, they're a lot of interests working at cross purposes experimenting with drugs to make example of him.
He had no guilt about his ex-wife because she emotionally abused him for years and left him emotionally crippled. I believe she also had some affairs (flirting) with other men, she was emotionally unstable and deeply troubled and hurt person, so all the grand love he had for her turned to hate, but I didn´t got the impression he killed her.
Robert didn't kill Isabella. Isabella tried to kill robert by putting the fire under his bed, but he escaped, but it killed her. Officially promoted it as Robert killed Isabella. It is in modern-day conspiracies( fake or real).

A lot of the unwounding of the story is done a few lines here and there in the last chapters as if author is in hurry to end the book.
 

Tauriel

Jedi Council Member
Just want to mention that I had a very smooth transition from Jennifer Ashley and her 'Mackenzies' to Balogh's 'Horsemen trilogy'.
There was some mourning when the series came to an end but Balogh's style gave solace at once and provided another night with not enough sleep.
I like the way she lets the reader be part of what goes on in the characters- the inner dialogues are priceless.
 

iamthatis

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
Finished the Huxtable Quintet, and it is just awesome. That last book, what a worthy finale and profound roller coaster! And Balogh somehow manages to tell so much wisdom between the lines, and even directly in many cases. And the realizations - about how we misjudge people, about love and human goodness and tenderness, about lessons, about seeing the unseen... It might not just be those books, but I feel different, there is so much more warmth in me that kind of dispels all the negativity I'm so accustomed to, but at the same time I can truly face it because of that, open up to the Cosmos and feel everything (or much more at least), if that makes sense. And something inside sort of speaks to me, there seems to be a visceral "feeling-knowledge" in each moment, especially in the difficult ones. I see some people with different eyes now, some family members for example, and I can better leave that selfish judgmental attitude and feel love for them. Just yesterday I had to deal with an accusation by a family member, and I saw (or rather felt) very clearly where I am at fault here and what I need to change, while also clearly seeing the other's issues and where my responsibility ends. I also had a very touching conversation with my mother, nothing really special, but just based on love and taking the other serious, despite differences.

One thing that strikes me about those books is the visceral description of our false personalities, of all that nonsense, all those masks and survival strategies. The pattern in the books seems to be that two people are attracted to one another, but they are attracted to the other's real self - although unconsciously! And then, as the story unfolds, they fall in love with that real self of the other, and because of that they subtly strengthen the other's real self until their loved one defeats their false personality, and the real self bursts forth in full strength. And vice-versa. This is the beauty and truth in true love stories. As opposed to the other pattern where one "falls in love" (if you can even call it that) with the other's false personality, with his or her mask and survival strategies. In such a scenario, the one who "loves" will not strengthen but fight the other's real self, will go bonkers whenever the "mask" slips or is defeated, indeed does everything to strengthen and protect the other's false personality, and therefore keeps the other stuck on a low level. This is what happens for example when one partner in a relationship "wakes up", tries to work on him/herself, or starts seeking truth, or starts discovering their calling in life. If both partners love the other's real self, on the other hand, there can be true love, and the relationship can withstand great difficulties, different opinions etc., because it is based on love which is aligned with the Cosmos, and therefore points in the same direction, even though both partners will continue to misunderstand, mess up and temporarily move in the wrong direction. In the books, all these transformative processes, this strengthening of the other's real self and having their own real self strengthened, until the real self finally takes over completely, are taking place within just a few weeks or even days, which is not usually how it plays out in real life I guess. But it makes the stories so powerful and profound and impactful.

Besides all that, the simple showcasing of basic human goodness is just so nourishing and touching. It IS out there. And cynicism in the face of all the nonsense going on is the absolute wrong thing and can only lead to lies, coldness and soul smashing.

An amazing reflection, luc - thank you!

I am partway done the first book of the Huxtable Quintet series - and I haven't laughed like this in a really, really long time. Totally unexpected. Balogh exposes SO WELL the tragic/comedic way that I (or we) have clung so desperately to my own suffering and my false personality - clung as if it was my only raft on the chaotic waters of life!

I can look back on myself and reflect on the few realtionships I've had now. I can see an internal process - I entered into them all with an almost totally-unconscious naivety... I wanted to love, help, care. So, White Knight or Saviour Program. Then, this false personality met the latent effects of childhood abuse or neglect, in a partner - the storm. It was like: "White-knuckle grip, old boy - hold firm! Here comes another storm! Oh God, are those sharks? Oh God!" And on and on - meanwhile, telling myself I am an expert sailor who knows how to navigate by the stars.

Perhaps our real selves emerged and 'spoke' from time to time. But if they did, those instances were rare. So for me, it was - and is - a complex mix of false and real. A mess! Balogh makes it seem so clear - which is one excellent effect of this exercise for me already. I can cling to the raft in fear, and get tossed around unconsciously, or there can be a more expansive and exploratory spirit of adventure involved. A questioning, a quest - and a conscious movement with the waves. And in that, Balogh shows how sex can be a sort of 'healing love'. Like a lighthouse that caught my eye.

The clinging and rigidity I've noticed about myself comes from being betrayed by partners. So that had closed me off very recently. I had taken a vow of celibacy once in the past, in order to give myself a break and reflect on my relationships, on sex, love, the search for a partner. I also undertook such a vow recently, in light of a deep recent hurt and a desire for solitude. And now, I'm mostly laughing mostly at myself - this brooding guy who thinks he knows something. How stuck he's been in his own rigid and moralistic way of thinking about sex, not as 'healing love', but in a really conditioned way.

I'm reminded of what don Juan says about the melancholy of the warrior - the best way to deal is make fun of it. Seems like Balogh struck a pretty big blow to my self-importance.
 

Aiming

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
Well, I can most of all say that this reading assignment has been quite interesting and fruitful so far. Like others here, I wouldn't have touched this genre hadn't it been for Laura's assignment.

The sex scenes felt awkward at first and too in-the-face, but with time, they faded into the background, but it was well observable how these scenes were stirring up sexual energy and how that seemed to bring things into motion (= e-motion?).

I've been reading the entire McKenzie series together with my husband (there's only the McKenzie Christmas story left, which we'll save up for x-mas time). We've been reading it aloud to each other, by the way, taking turns, finding ourselves, like so many others here, not wanting to stop reading, reading too long and thus getting too little sleep during some nights. I can really recommend reading these books aloud to each other if any of you have the chance. I wonder how it would be to have such a reading session in a bigger group? Anyway, the added layer of the sound of the other's voice imbues the story with even more aliveness, (that will probably work with a good audio book as well) and there's the opportunity to talk about upcoming things just as they are happening. There's also the opportunity to notice more clearly one's own reactions to certain scenes by the intonation of one's voice, by the way.

What stood out was that all of the characters had their hurts, their traumas and their resultant coping mechanisms, deeply ingrained because of years of practising this "habit" of the narrative of 'I'll-wear-a-mask-all-the-while-distracting-myself-with-useless-activities-and-hide-myself-because-it's-too-painful-not-to', basically resulting in hardly more than a cynical attitude towards life. (Observing people in real life, it somehow makes more sense now why there's so much hiding and so much misunderstanding. Narratives rule.)

Then comes along the significant other and opens an internal passageway to one's true self. Both help each others' true self emerge more and more via presenting a powerful counterweight against those narratives and the distorted self-image, nourished by their love, encouraging to become the best versions of themselves. It means work, but it pays off big time. I especially appreciated Ian McKenzie's progress with his specific issue over the course of the series.

The sixth book 'The Wicked Deeds of Daniel MacKenzie' was the most intense for me in terms of emotional reactions. I could relate very much to the heroine Violet and suddenly found myself in the middle of an emotional release, tears flowing and at the same time asking myself 'How strange, I don't think I've experienced any type of trauma as the heroine in this story, then why does this hurt so much? Why does it feel so real?' It was a feeling of hurt and healing at the same time, if that makes sense. The story beautifully showed how healing the heroine's issues within the context of that relationship was possible via learning to truly trust and learning to love (as in, the verb, the activity of truly loving via one's actions). And it had resemblances to my own experience with my husband.

So the story of Daniel McKenzie and his wife really hit home, because from my own experience I could see how the right amount of understanding, patience, safety, trust - and still being mirrored in each others' mistakes without it representing any sort of looming dread or abandonment, coupled with the will to keep improving and supporting each other, really being there for each other, i.e. living love - that's how it works, step by step.

In the other McKenzie books, it was tears welling up, being very moved emotionally, because of the kindnesses, the upright characters, the little and the grand gestures of love, friendship, giving. Sometimes it was sadness, sometimes simply just being on the emotional roller coaster of the hero or the heroine and sometimes in anger over how long they needed to finally open up and be real!

There was one noteworthy day about two weeks ago where I was overcome by a gratefulness so huge I had to cry and express it verbally - grateful for all the gifts bestowed by DCM, for all the opportunities and doors opening towards learning, and even for doors opening for learning when I'd fallen, made mistakes in my life, hurt others - thankful that I still had the chance - via living this life - to make amends and learn from my mistakes and do it better the next time.

Another interesting thing were two situations in which I seemed to grasp a situation via my heart - which was new to me. I know how this sounds, but there's no other way to describe it but to say I felt an understanding in my heart area as opposed to the usual intellectual grasping with my head. Sound it as it may! There does in general now seem to be more energy in my heart area than before and in my daily life I see how I'm more understanding towards others (less judging, e.g. when someone is a Corona believer) and how that already can help the other person in some way, or improve a situation or make a conversation more constructive and fruitful.

Now it's on and down into The Survivor Club Series by Mary Balogh. We've just started the first book and it already shows the difference in writing style and enfoldment of the story line. Here, the topic of the narratives is so central and shows how difficult we all make our lives by falling for and feeding into our own narratives (even maddeningly so!) - when just being upfront would save so much hassle, hurt and misunderstanding.

Thank you to everyone for sharing your impressions and thoughts, and thank you to Laura, what a godsend this assignment is!
 
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