Romantic Fiction, Reality Shaping and The Work

gottathink

Dagobah Resident
FOTCM Member
I have finished Mary Balogh’s Huxtable Quintet and the first two books the series of the Westcott family.
Also Seven Nights.
And while I am adoring the beautiful stories, shedding many tears because they are so moving but, it has left me with so much sadness for what is missing in my relationship, that never started with love or attraction only need. I avoided reading any of these books fearing exactly this, and have reignited a longing for what I’d dreamed of when I was younger, love and romance.
I feel so absolutely inadequately human.
 

Tuatha de Danaan

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
I feel so absolutely inadequately human.
Yes gottathink, I seem to be saying to myself if only I knew when I was younger what I have learned from these books. It's always a case of "if only".
However I am trying to turn that around and say "well at least I have learned now" and try to change my thinking as the lesson is finally learned. I'm still somewhat stubborn to accept these faults in me but I'm getting there slowly. Hope I've explained myself as words are hard to find for the feelings we have sometimes.
 

whitecoast

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
I have finished Mary Balogh’s Huxtable Quintet and the first two books the series of the Westcott family.
Also Seven Nights.
And while I am adoring the beautiful stories, shedding many tears because they are so moving but, it has left me with so much sadness for what is missing in my relationship, that never started with love or attraction only need. I avoided reading any of these books fearing exactly this, and have reignited a longing for what I’d dreamed of when I was younger, love and romance.
I feel so absolutely inadequately human.

It has also brought to mind for me lots of ways in which my own romantic relationships had shortcomings. It also made it much clearer for me what could be the basis of a lasting and loving relationship and what cannot be, which I am thankful for.
 

iamthatis

Dagobah Resident
FOTCM Member
Well I'm partway through the Huxtable Quintet. I've been astounded by the way marriage is laid out by Balogh. In these novels, there is a high degree of 'sacrifice' involved - usually made on behalf of the family. The characters do not marry just on their own behalf, because they are 'in love' (neurochemically). They take the risk of marriage, often to absolute strangers, on behalf of the wellbeing of their families. In that way, they sacrifice their naive ideals as to what marriage can be - it's not all roses, roses. They discover that it is Work. They discover that it is also a high adventure! They discover that happiness is a choice. They discover that they've never really understood what love is.

Recently in my life there has been a number of 'partner-swapping' incidents and betrayals of trust amongst the group of people who I came to think of as my family. Three incidents in the past year and a half, including my partner sleeping with two men behind my back.

So the recent events of my life have been starkly juxtaposed to the way in which the characters in the Huxtable Quintet deal with temptation, relationships, and difficult times. I couldn't help but let loose some tears of grief and gratitude. Life as we live it can 'overcode' our sense of what's possible. That's my experience, at least. These books have helped open the door to a different realm for me. There is honour - there is humour galore, a determination to commitment, sex as healing, the flowering of conscience, and love arriving, oftentimes against all odds.

I've also had a great time telling friends about my newfound appreciation for romance novels, and have laughed along with them at my enthusiasm.

It's a good time to be alive.
 

Redrock12

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
Well into The Arrangement. It speaks to me of how mutial commitment to one anothers wellbeing can overcome physical, emotional, and mental limitations, as well enhance talents, abilities, and responsibilities.
This is love in action and it seems to be a central theme in The Proposal, and probably in all of her novels.
Balogh's novels,imo, should be highly suggested reading for couples planning to get married or involved in an intimate relationship. I wish I would have had this knowedge fifty years ago. Heck, six weeks ago.
Oh well, all there is is lessons.
Thank you for this reading project Laura. It's a real blessing.
 

gottathink

Dagobah Resident
FOTCM Member
Balogh's novels,imo, should be highly suggested reading for couples planning to get married or involved in an intimate relationship
I agree Redrock, and I wish I’d read these when I was young. How many people are brought up in single parent or dysfunctional families and have no idea how to care and feel in a relationship. These books certainly help set an example of what to do to cultivate romantic love.
 

Martina

Jedi Master
Oh, I have like 400 comments to read to get back on a horse:lol:, honstly I got some mental melting caused by romantic novels but in a good way.I have a friend whose name can be translated as romantic novel , yes:-D so I was spending my free time with her family, lots of birthdays lately... Before that I have read the Courting Julia series and 1791 duke club and I loved it.
 

Voyageur

Ambassador
Ambassador
FOTCM Member
Stepped out of MB's The Temporary Wife and Promise of Spring into The Gilded Web series.
Finished the Web trilogy, and there is much to say that has been said and also knowing there are those yet to read it. So will limit to a few mentions.
Very well put. In Mary Balogh's Web of Love the war against Napoleon takes centre stage at one point in the book, which was exactly what I needed. A few months ago I read Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind which deals with the Civil War in the US and her descriptions of the ravages of war were excellent and very helpful to me. My mother told me she was allowed to read the book for a history course at university! According to her professor it was that good. Some people may think that these romance novels are just that, fiction written for lonely housewives, but the knowledge of war these writers share with us is priceless IMO.

I come from a family where the second world war seriously uprooted the lives of my parents and grand-parents, not just during the war and in the immediate aftermath of it but later in life when my parents had children and passed on the unconscious impact of war on us kids. Except for some anecdotes they never really discussed their experiences and I never realised how the emotional impact of war exerted itself in my life until recently.

I can't put my finger on it exactly, but I feel this novel helps me process my family history, since I have felt a deep need to explore war, the way I felt the need to explore (romantic) relationships. And I agree with you, ryu, that we can learn a lot from these inner and outer battlegrounds and how to deal with them and tap into that 'resilience of the human spirit'.

Yes, this came through in that book and it had brought back some distant memories. When very young, my uncle had decided to expose me to the opening of the movie Waterloo, in downtown Montreal. This film was the first real exposure to that war, other than in books and museums, and I did not until reading this Web book by Mary think of it other than in the politics later learned around it. Perhaps it impacted me more than I ever knew. In reading of Ellen, Madeline, Dominic and other in the story who suffered under the weight of this wars horrors, it made its mark.

My experiences of youth also bore into my families times in the later wars (grandfathers and fathers - and their wives, my grandmothers), including diaries read. I agree with you, Mariama, something about these books has evoked a deeper look into the past and what suffering meant, and the romances that flourished or their possibilities, and what baggage prevents them and what scares remained to pass along to their children.

In the trilogy, the underlying theme with each was this bottleneck of suppressed sharing in words that impacted their emotional worlds with each other, and this was explicit with James and Madeline in the final book. To tell you the truth, while reading it - Madeline and James, I wanted to throw the book against the wall and only was prevented in doing so because it was on a Mac laptop, so had to shut down the screen a few times. And that was Mary's aim, to keep these two characters apart (other characters just the same) on the very basis of the fear to say what needed saying that would bring other aspects of their emotional authentic-selves into being with each other.

What book next...
 

Laura

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Finished the Web trilogy, and there is much to say that has been said and also knowing there are those yet to read it. So will limit to a few mentions.

<...>

In the trilogy, the underlying theme with each was this bottleneck of suppressed sharing in words that impacted their emotional worlds with each other, and this was explicit with James and Madeline in the final book. To tell you the truth, while reading it - Madeline and James, I wanted to throw the book against the wall and only was prevented in doing so because it was on a Mac laptop, so had to shut down the screen a few times. And that was Mary's aim, to keep these two characters apart (other characters just the same) on the very basis of the fear to say what needed saying that would bring other aspects of their emotional authentic-selves into being with each other.

Yes, the story of James and Madeline was sheer torture. And what made it worse for me was that I KNEW people who had been so messed up by similar harsh, religious parenting. All of James' idealistic and noble instincts were twisted and distorted and how could he help but see himself as a devil? Poor Madeline... though she certainly had some issues.

If you haven't read the Survivor's Club series, you might want that one next. Totally different kind of issues.
 

nicklebleu

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
Wow, what a ride ... So far I've read the Sons of Sin books, the Courting Julie Trilogy and now I am on my second book of the Sins and Scoundrel series.

I would never have thought that I would be able to immerse myself that much into these books. Granted, many of them are quite formulaic, and the end is always known from the get go - but the character development is often remarable. I like the switching between the male and female protagonists, where you get insight into their own thinking, rather than having a narrator standing on the outside. Even though the end result is always known, the suspense is in how will they get there, given all the hurdles they face or have built up around themselves.

And it has been a welcome relief to the current madness of the outside world, kind of a balancing view where there is no question about relativizing what is good or bad - things are good or bad in a much more clear sense and every person knows what is good, decent and just, even if they don't follow these values.

What is interesting is, a while ago my wife mentioned to me that reading those novels had a positive effect on me, or rather on my relationship to her. She said that I was much more emotionally expressive and open. I was quite astonished, even though I had deliberately tried to apply what I read in those books. Partly because a lot of the drama in those books arises from misconceptions the protagonists have of each other, for example that they are not lovable as they are or don't express the positive feelings they harbor to each other (and I certainly have been guilty of that in the past). And not feeling lovable myself I would often not tell my partner that I loved them - how could I when I was sure that the other couldn't possibly love me. So now instead of waiting for the other to do the first step (and mind you, my wife is not one to hold back!) I go 'out on a limb' and express my appreciation more openly.

I still kind of struggle with the expression I love you, because it's such a throwaway line in our society. Its more like a handshake than a declaration of love, a bit like See you later! But I have found other ways to say the same, verbal and non-verbal ones.

Looking forward to reading more. I think I'd like to keep that going long term, and my plan is to alternate between romance novels and non-fiction books (which have begun to pile up quite precipitously). I find that if I have a break from the romance novels for too long, it seems like the content, or the message, slowly dissolves within me and I segue back into my old ways, but as soon as I get myself immersed in them again, I bounce back. So I think I'll keep myself on a deliciously slow and steady romance novel diet for the forseeable future.
 

seek10

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
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.

I agree, Silent melody is not as intense ( i.e. terror and helplessness ) as Heartless, but the author was able to maintain the suspense (of who caused Ashley's troubles) until the last chapters. I had known some disabled people, later married, had children and always wondered about how this works. It was like the magic of life. It was tough to write communication between Emily and Ashley in the language they understand each other and keep it understandable to the readers. she did well. I enjoyed witty comments about the few months old Harry. :lol:
The children will have yet another cousin with whom to play. Though Harry will doubtless sleep through it all. He seems content to sleep his life away, except at three o’clock each morning, when he thinks ’tis time for a leisurely meal and a play. His papa had a stern word with him about it just last night, but Harry merely yawned at him and blew bubbles and tried to pull his nose.

“Harry has decided to kick his heels and exercise his lungs,” Luke explained.
 

3DStudent

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
I finished the third book in the Marriage of Convenience series last week. This was the one with Rose. It seemed weaker than the others, and the themes more generic. Listening to the last one now. I hope it helps with grounding in this interesting week to come!
 

placematt

Jedi Master
FOTCM Member
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.

I completely agree Renaissance. I'm actually finding that i'm having more of an emotional reaction to the relationship between the brothers, rather than the intergender/ romantic relationships. I have 3 brothers myself and we aren't very close, we all live in seperate states actually and are all so different and just never had that sort of family dynamic of looking after eachother. It's somewhat difficult to read this material because of that, however, it's also emotionally rewarding to be given ideas of how it could be. Ideas to the power a functioning family has in the world and the value it brings to each individual member. How they push each other towards growth and health. It's just refreshing.
 

Mari

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
I´ve also finished yesterday Balog´s Web trilogy.
I don´t even know where to start with this post, this trilogy left really deep impact on me.

In the trilogy, the underlying theme with each was this bottleneck of suppressed sharing in words that impacted their emotional worlds with each other, and this was explicit with James and Madeline in the final book. To tell you the truth, while reading it - Madeline and James, I wanted to throw the book against the wall and only was prevented in doing so because it was on a Mac laptop, so had to shut down the screen a few times. And that was Mary's aim, to keep these two characters apart (other characters just the same) on the very basis of the fear to say what needed saying that would bring other aspects of their emotional authentic-selves into being with each other.

Yes, the story of James and Madeline was sheer torture. And what made it worse for me was that I KNEW people who had been so messed up by similar harsh, religious parenting. All of James' idealistic and noble instincts were twisted and distorted and how could he help but see himself as a devil? Poor Madeline... though she certainly had some issues.

Yes, thank you Voyageur for summing it up.

It was a remarkable to read all the personality switches and astonishing descriptions of how person thinks and feels, with all his longings and wants, and what actually comes out to the surface in form of his/hers words and behavior!

It was exactly a torture for me to read it, with a difference I didn´t wan´t to throw my tablet - but I cried - it was not just crying, but shaking and sobbing during the last few chapters of the Devils Web (from the duke´s ball till the end of the book). I was so stressed out with so many memories and regrets coming to the surface that I couldn´t control myself.

I really don´t know what to say any more, I´m still under the strong impression with this experience.
 

flashgordonv

Dagobah Resident
FOTCM Member
I have finished Mary Balogh’s Huxtable Quintet and the first two books the series of the Westcott family.
Also Seven Nights.
And while I am adoring the beautiful stories, shedding many tears because they are so moving but, it has left me with so much sadness for what is missing in my relationship, that never started with love or attraction only need. I avoided reading any of these books fearing exactly this, and have reignited a longing for what I’d dreamed of when I was younger, love and romance.
I feel so absolutely inadequately human.
I too have just finished the Huxtable Quintet and three of the series about the MacKenzies. I admit to being gobsmacked as to how readable these novels are and how absorbed you get in the storyline. Not what I was expecting. All of these stories generate quite a bit of introspection around relationships past and present which in my case is definitely good for my soul.

I am looking for my next reading assignment and will probably stick with Mary Balogh as I appreciate her writing style and character development.
 
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