Romantic Fiction, Reality Shaping and The Work

I'm about 85% through Mary Balogh's Heartless. I feel it is darker than the entire Marriage of Convenience series and Wagers of Sin series combined. I feel like the negative energy is covering me, and I need to get to the end where I presume a happy ending awaits to shed the negative energy. Maybe this indicates Balogh is really good at conveying the characters' terror and pain to me, or maybe I'm reaching a threshold from the culmulative effect of the books on me.
I'm about 85% through Mary Balogh's Heartless. I feel it is darker than the entire Marriage of Convenience series and Wagers of Sin series combined. I feel like the negative energy is covering me, and I need to get to the end where I presume a happy ending awaits to shed the negative energy. Maybe this indicates Balogh is really good at conveying the characters' terror and pain to me, or maybe I'm reaching a threshold from the culmulative effect of the books on me.
I read that one this week. It was the most intensive ride ever. The darkness lifts, though you really wonder at times if it will ever lift and how.

Balogh does tap into a collective and timeless wound with Heartless, but I certainly wouldn't start the recommended reading list with this book. Something "lighter" is preferable for starters, i.e. Georgette Heyer or Elisa Braden where you chuckle quite a lot here and there.
It is something special when you know and understand so many main characters (11 families in 19th century I think, and separately those ancestors in 18th century), all what they went through in their lives, and when they get together in weddings or other gatherings, all finally looking so happy and in peace with their lives, dancing to the sounds of bagpipes and drums. It just gives me so much on emotional side.

I'm reading this series, and I love it. I'm going to write about themes and generalities without specific spoilers, however, if anyone who hasn't read the books yet doesn't want to know anything about it then you might want to skip this post.

There is a steadily building organization of the health, love, and unity of the Mackenzie family, and it starts with the characters in the first book. Probably why that one (and Ian and Beth) has remained my favorite. The love and connection that develops between Ian and Beth set dominoes in motion for the whole family. This particular over-arching theme has a Wizard of OZ quality in terms of Dorothy always having the ability to return home. The characters, mainly the men, had lots of trauma and suffering and were living broken down and alone because of it. Underweight their wounds they still loved. The romances are of course front and center, but behind that is also a good story of brotherhood. Their traumas also forged good in them - great capacity to see truth and beauty, strong wills (not initially always used in best of ways), and the desire to protect are a few examples. The strong women in their lives were able to give them the loving trust they needed so they could tap into their gifts, do a bit of 'course correction' and use them to emotionally and perhaps even spiritually enrich their lives and those they love. It created a positive feedback loop that continued to give and connect. Beautiful books.
One of the other things that the McKenzie series demonstrates is that the McKenzie brothers weren't short on the masculine protective instinct by any means. They were often displaying the thoughts and actions of protecting each other and others that they cared for. But their efforts were kind of skewed for lack of feminine nurturing balance - the lack of communication and often stoic suffering between the brothers saw their protective instincts sometimes leading to unnecessary drama.
Those were some pretty interesting quotes, Anthony. Based on reviews, I'm beginning to think Balogh is the maestro of this subgenre and I'm interested to explore what kind of mind she has. She seems like quite an admirable writer and I haven't even read any of her books yet. Possibly even my heart could be touched by such substantive writing.
You've got to read Heartless by Mary Balogh.
I'm about 85% through Mary Balogh's Heartless. I feel it is darker than the entire Marriage of Convenience series and Wagers of Sin series combined. I feel like the negative energy is covering me, and I need to get to the end where I presume a happy ending awaits to shed the negative energy. Maybe this indicates Balogh is really good at conveying the characters' terror and pain to me, or maybe I'm reaching a threshold from the culmulative effect of the books on me.

I hear you! It's probably what I bolded from your post. Heartless was harrowing and I too felt like the negative energy was covering me, as you put it, but I think she did an excellent job, although I kept hoping they would just TALK, and explain! You'll see that it the end it all makes sense, and how it leads to important realizations for both main characters. And the next book, Silent Melody, though also intense, is a bit easier, IMO. At least you are sort of prepared to things being horrible in the background, after having read the first one. Well, for sure it's not like the other series you mentioned, but it's worth it, me thinks.
Amazon even lists the Suitor as Book #2, if somewhat cryptically. I wonder why Balogh suggests it be read after book 4, The Escape?
Is it possible one can't rely on what is written at the end of a book? It may reflect that the books were not written and published in the sequence we know. Perhaps a story developed, and then one character needed a story that took place before the original story. Here is a picture from the Website of Mary Balogh that shows what she presents:
The Laird by Grace Burrowes who seems to offer two chapters for free reading on her website, is on the list as a standalone and Laura, commenting on the book "The Duke's Disaster" wrote:
However, I do NOT like the writing style of Grace Burrowes very much. It's too full of anachronisms of thought and language and it's too breezy, staccato, snappy, and that sort of thing. Perhaps someone who is better at critiquing fiction will be better able to describe it than I am. Nevertheless, I did really like the story and the characters (especially the Ark-like duke) and wish someone with a more subtle hand had written it.

I had read another Burrowes book that I did not recommend for all of the above reasons of style, etc, however, I'm going to mention it now because some of you may actually like that style of writing and it was a darn good story. It's called "Tremaine's True Love". Another entitled "The Laird." These last two deal with issues that are represented in way too modern a way to be considered good historical fiction. Nevertheless, the issues are important and reading about them in a historical, romance setting, might be helpful to some.
Among the titles mentioned, The Laird is the only one I have read. It is in fact the final volume of the trilogy Captive Hearts, the descriptions of the two previous volumes may give a background for this one. About the book itself, I enjoyed the change of style from Elisa Braden. It is less intense, smooth and the longer descriptions of the inner dialogue in the opening chapter somehow led me to relax. Each author presents a different perspectives on people, their characteristics, relationships, environment, issues and the process of resolution of some of these issues. In The Laird, the elaborations of the characters, their thoughtprocesses and gestures are clear enough to give a good idea of the setting as is the process of healing from trauma and abuse which in this book involves the cooperation between lovers and friends perceptive enough to help the processes along, as the situations and circumstances allow. It was touching and admirable how gentle they went about it.

The fate of the antagonists, after having read a few novels, begins to conform to a number of known options: a duel, an accident, a suicide, killed in the course of a protagonist or a trusted helper defending him or herself, a court case, or an escape or departure if needed in another book. Involved is also an element of balance, because for a happy ending, there is a need for the antagonist to disappear in a way that does not upset the happy ending.

Notes to the setting of the story in Scotland
Since it was my first book, situated in Scotland, I decided to look up a few items. For instance the book takes place near the river Dee about which the Wiki writes:
The New Statistical Account of Scotland attributed the name Dee as having been used as early as the second century AD in the work of the Alexandrian geographer Claudius Ptolemy, as Δηοῦα (=Deva), meaning 'Goddess', indicating a divine status for the river in the beliefs of the ancient inhabitants of the area.
I don't know if the above was an inspiration, but the heroine is a very strong independent person who instinctively knows the capacity of wather to assist healing.

She was quiet for the time it took them to wind down the path to the river, and Michael had to approve of her choice of location. The sound of the Dee at summer ebb was soothing, the moonlight on the water lovely. Maybe what they had to say to each other would profane such beauty, or maybe the water could carry all the hurt and misery away, down to the sea, and out of their lives.
Out of their hearts.

The Dee river has an origin in mountains 1220 meter high in the Highland of the western part of Aberdeenshire and around the river there is today a conservation area.

In the book there is a mention of "Strathdee". In the Wiki it is an area, although it can also be a Scottish surname In "Strathdee", there is "Dee", the name of a river and strath:
An anglicisation of the Gaelic word srath, it is one of many that have been absorbed into the English and Scots languages. It is commonly used in rural Scotland to describe a wide valley, even by non-Gaelic speakers.
The climate in Scotland
In the book there are frequent references to the cold weather of Scotland, every so often during the first 2/3 of the book, we are reminded of how cold, windy, wet or snowy it is. But in reality much depends on where one is, at least with regard to precipitation which is much, much less in the eastern parts to which Aberdeenshire belongs. The amount of snow also varies, as does the duration it stays, with much less snow at lower altitudes and near the sea, while in the Highland some places have snow for up to a hundred days.

Scottish terms - tartan
Knowing a little about the place helps to understand some of the characters, their behavour and choices, but there are also quite a number of Scottish terms used, which at times are outside the capacity of the default dictionary on Kindle. A clan named Brodie really does exist and as mentioned in the book and they have their own tartan:
Tartan (Scottish Gaelic: breacan [ˈpɾʲɛxkən]) is a patterned cloth consisting of criss-crossed, horizontal and vertical bands in multiple colours. Tartans originated in woven wool, but now they are made in many other materials. Tartan is particularly associated with Scotland; Scottish kilts almost always have tartan patterns.
Tartans have a very long history, and has been found all the way to western China.
Today tartan is mostly associated with Scotland; however, the earliest evidence of tartan is found far afield from Britain. According to the textile historian E. J. W. Barber, the Hallstatt culture of Central Europe, which is linked with ancient Celtic populations and flourished between the 8th and 6th centuries BC, produced tartan-like textiles. Some of them were discovered in 2004, remarkably preserved, in the Hallstatt salt mines near Salzburg, Austria.[6] Textile analysis of fabric from the Tarim mummies in Xinjiang, northwestern China has also shown it to be similar to that of the Iron Age Hallstatt culture.[14] Tartan-like leggings were found on the "Cherchen Man", a 3,000 year-old mummy found in the Taklamakan Desert.[15] Similar finds have been made in central Europe and Scandinavia.[7]
The origins of the word "clan"
One finds in Scottish clans:
The Scottish Clans were originally families, who were usually related through the same line of descent, and were duty bound to pledge allegiance to the Clan chief.

The word ‘Clan’ comes from the Gaelic word ‘Clann’ meaning children of the family.

However, families with different surnames were allowed to join an existing clan, maybe for protection from enemies, or financial gain.

These families owed allegiance to the Clan Chief, they held no authority, and the chief had the power to outlaw anyone, even family.

Originally, the Clans were old Celtic tribes of Scotland and Ireland
. It’s thought that names spelled Mc were of Irish descent, and Mac was Scottish, but it was down to individual choice.

The 12th and 13th centuries saw a lot of turmoil, with the Norse, Scottish and English warlords competing to dominate, and during the Wars of Scottish Independence, more Clans emerged and new names appeared, like Menzies and Cameron.
It might have been beneficial to read up on Scotland before reading the book, but then it was only after reading, I knew what I really wished to know more about.
And the next book, Silent Melody, though also intense, is a bit easier, IMO. At least you are sort of prepared to things being horrible in the background, after having read the first one.
I just started Silent Melody, though I'm not sure if I should stop and read a different romantic book, because I think another round of Heartless type horror would be too much for me right now.

although I kept hoping they would just TALK, and explain!
After finishing Heartless last night, I did make a small confession to my wife. Talk and explain. After all, nothing is truly hidden; if the demons in exorcisms can see the entire history of a person, surely all our lives are open books for some others to see. So I told my wife, and it was like a scene out of these books.
Stepped out of MB's The Temporary Wife and Promise of Spring into The Gilded Web series. The latter book here was very character rich and psychologically deep for a number of characters that had also stepped out of the pages of the Promise of Spring. Laura had said of the two books before to pay attention to the side characters and scenes, and indeed the Lampman's, Perry & Grace, made an entrance, as did others.

The reoccurring themes (the over bearing father or mother, the pain and suffering of the individual, the hope for something better, their growth to aspire to something better - the brother who dies or suffers in war, or a war of their own inner making, the sister who overcomes) and places (the places they visit, get cloths, the balls, boxing et cetera) among authors has some consistency, and the simple inner truths of these people is common to all - there search for meaning and love.

Upon reading many of the books, and in particular some more than others - some situations more than others, there is this highly emotional steak that comes up from within from time to time that is deep, mostly in terms of the painful and joyous revealing between each character as they emerge into new awareness with each other.

I'm starting to find there is (cough) some sort of an addiction to reading these Romance novels, as the pile of other books gathers a layer of dust. Perhaps this is purely that these books (some more than others) stirs such universal things between people.

Been a fascinating experiment so far, and my partner has started in on them too.
I bought the Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie and also Seven Nights in a Rogue’s Bed on Audible. I’ve listened to both of them in full and there were a number of times throughout both novels where I could feel a welling up of energy in my throat.

I enjoyed the stories for what they were and admire the way some of the character’s individual profiles built up over the reading of each book.

I like many others never really thought of reading or listening to this genre but it’s a nice break.

I particularly liked that there was a murder mystery involved with the Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie, it made it more interesting and even with Seven Nights in a Rogue’s Bed the resolution at the end on the truth behind the family line and ending where she wouldn’t give in to his narrative of pushing her away was satisfying.

Marry in Scarlet is a hilarious love story. Georgianna’s spitfire character reminds me of Anne of Green Gables.

Because of her honesty and unpretentious attitude towards aristocrats she kept the duke, Hart, off balance. His attraction toward her was because she affected him in totally unexpected ways.

I put myself in the duke’s shoes and found it extremely hilarious seeing how I too would be befuddled by such a spitfire. I could imagine how my behavior would also be filleted by her honest assessments. Thanks to the inner dialog, this story is an enjoyable mirroring experience and has exposed my past clumsiness. I can remember my inner dialogs when going through the dating phase of life and how I would play the character that I thought would be most appreciated. Now I can see that being my real self would have worked best. However, I did not like myself back then, so I projected a unrealistic version of me. I can see now that my past defensive masking was just a failure of loving my real self.
Hi All,

The Romantic fiction experiment has been quite an eye-opener. initially, I could not believe that Laura was recommending we read Mills and Boon! Many years ago I remember really teasing my sister about reading such 'books", and I concluded long ago that they were responsible for the problems caused by most young women ;-D My "romantic" education was developed by reading from experts such as James Hadley Chase, :whistle:. So you will bear with me if my emotional centre appears to be somewhat warped, if not completely stunted!

Anyway, after carefully reading this thread, I opted to start with Anna Campbell's 7 Nights in a Rogues Bed. Surprisingly, I found it quite enjoyable and especially the many amazing English expressions that Anna Campbell uses such as "as cold as a Witches' tit". Can't wait to use that on an online business call :lol:. Here are a few key thoughts about my experience with this romantic experiment.

On starting the book, I had a few issues with Sidonie as I could not follow her thinking. In fact, her thinking left me completely exasperated. In the scene where she rushed from the bedroom out into the cold night, I could not understand WHY?? I expected that she would do the exact opposite so I was left feeling very confused at the inner workings of her mind. The frustration I felt on behalf of Jonas surfaced once again when she took off once again heavy with child. Clearly, there are some dynamics here that I cannot comprehend.
Jonas was not without his issues, but they were very left-brain thinking like most of us dudes :-P

As the story progressed, the British concepts of honour, Being a Gentleman and avoiding scandal were very prominent, especially with the ducal class. I enjoyed the story and on the first day after reading, I had a pleasant dream which I recalled and this has been rare.
After finishing 7 nights, I proceeded promptly to read "A Rake's Midnight Kiss." I found Genevieve a lot easier to understand than that mysterious Sidonie. The story flowed very well and her romance with the gracious "Mr. Evans" was very enjoyable.

The last book in the series, I found my frustration coming back with Penelope. I mean surely how would a 19-year-old refuse to marry a wealthy, handsome and principled DUKE that she loved.. HOW???? I can get that she wanted him to love her but surely she could see through him and know that there was more than just duty compelling him. l?? Again the same dynamic of trying to understand her thinking here left me in confusion. I don't quite imagine that happening in our current environment. (I mean look at Lady Di and her marriage to Prince Charles. When he proposed what chance did she have of saying NO ??)

This morning, I started on Mary Balogh's courting Julia. I've just finished and found it an amazing read. I totally like Julia as she is open and direct and does not do crazy "mind reads" like Sidonie (crossing characters here). I really enjoyed the way she is able to open up to her friends and ask for advice (Gussie), and the way she took time to speak to each of her cousins, ask them if they loved her and then let them know she wouldn't be marrying them. Very nice!

Onward with the project then and Dancing with Clara downloading.........
Just finished the first book of the Huxtable Quintet by Mary Balogh and must wait until tomorrows' post delivers supply so I can proceed in order.
In between I read the first book of the Sons of Sin series navigating me through some private turmoil in top of the global one.
I just sat here and felt a little ...irritated... that I must wait until tomorrow. I suppose I'm addicted.
... and just realised:
These books are a shield. Laura has provided us with a shield for these times. I just begin to fathom the deep importance of this.
Thank you.....

Now I'll try to stop myself from proceeding with book#3....Wish me luck!
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