Sunday, November 13, 2011

Review: The Next Always (Inn BoonsBoro #1) by Nora Roberts

The Next Always: Inn BoonsBoro is the first book in Nora Roberts latest romance trilogy. This trilogy is set in BoonsBoro, Maryland where the three Montgomery brothers, Ryder, Owen and Beckett are in the process of giving the historical Inn BoonsBoro a major overall.

The Inn is described almost as a character who views the town as it changes throughout time and comes alive as it changes throughout this story, and of course as in many old buildings with such history, this one has its own ghost in residence. Both the Inn and the resident ghost seem to like the changes the Montgomery brothers are making. This might be because the gorgeous Montgomery brothers share a dream, know what they're doing and how to go about getting results. Ryder is the constructions expert, Owen the administrator and go to man, and Beckett the architect of the family, but all three of them can put on a tool belt and wield a hammer with the best of them.

Beckett dreams of seeing his designs come alive as the Inn is restored and secretly yearns for Clare. He fell in love with her when he was fifteen and was heartbroken when she fell in love, married and left town with Clint Brewster. After Clint was killed in Iraq, Clare returned home and opened the local bookstore, Turn the Page, to make a life for herself and her three boys. She sees Beckett as an old friend and he turns into a tongue-tied fifteen year old whenever she's around. Everything changes between them after Beckett gives Clare a tour of the Inn and they share a charged moment and an almost-kiss.

Clare sees herself as the mother of her three boys and doesn't really have much time for being a "woman." She's the only one surprised by Beckett's attraction to her and by her response to him, but why shouldn't she be attracted? He's gorgeous, single and as her best friend Avery says, he's been crazy about her for years! Huh?! Clare is clueless. This is a woman totally focused on her daily life -- children, business, home life -- and nothing else. While married to Clint who as a soldier was away for most of their marriage Clare learned to depend on herself and to take care of everything, so that's what she does on a daily basis. Even when drowning from stress, she turns away friends and family willing to help her cope.

Clare and Beckett begin dating as Clare's attraction for Beckett grows. Her children are very much a part of her life and Beckett slowly begins the process of incorporating himself into that life. However, Clare's focus on her daily life and Beckett's focus on the Inn's reconstruction constantly interrupt this romance. They have to schedule minutes to see each other and then are ruthlessly interrupted by friends and family who don't seem to believe in privacy. Clare makes the time to meet with her girlfriends and doesn't miss one single celebratory meeting with them, but always seems to be too busy to meet Beckett. I found that weird to say the least, hmm...

From the beginning this just felt like a one-sided love affair, and it took a long time for me to feel a real connection between Clare and Beckett as a couple. I actually felt more of a connection between Beckett and Clare's boys, and in a way feel that in the end Clare fell in love with Beckett because of that connection. Heartwarming, but not very romantic.

Nora Roberts builds a wonderful relationship between the brothers, both the Montgomery brothers and Clare's boys, the Brewster brothers. I loved those relationships. There are other secondary characters that really make an impact in this story, but of those my favorite has to be Clare's best friend Avery, the owner of the local Italian restaurant Vestra, who speaks her mind no matter what and steals every single scene. I looked forward to all her appearances in the book. There is also a ghost included in this story, and although that plot line affects both the romance and the ending, I thought it was pretty much meaningless as there's really no explanation for the ghost's presence. Maybe in the next book? There's also a villain in this story and I like the way Roberts works in the reality of that situation with light fiction.

And speaking of Vestra, Roberts also does an excellent job of portraying the small town of BoonsBoro, Maryland. Maybe it's because she has taken the town and businesses out of her own life experiences, but they all come alive for the reader. I love her description of the small town, its people and businesses -- Turn the Page Bookstore, Vestra Restaurant, and of course Inn BoonsBoro. Roberts' description of the Inn with its reconstruction and decorations are detailed and you can just feel the love and care that goes into every single detail shared in this book. The small town atmosphere and secondary characters also make an impact when reading the story -- mother Montgomery is a ruthless riot!

Overall The Next Always by Nora Roberts was an enjoyable read for me. I love the small town atmosphere and Roberts' characterization usually works for me, especially when it comes to building relationships between family and friends. It does in this book too. Unfortunately, I found the romance to be lukewarm with an unfinished and rather abrupt ending right after Beckett and Clare's big moment finally comes along. I do think this is a good beginning to Nora Roberts' latest romance series and won't be missing the next book in the series, The Last Boyfriend.

Category: Contemporary Romance
Series: Inn BoonsBoro, Book 1
Publisher/Release Date: Berkley/November 1, 2011 - Kindle Edition
Grade: C+

Visit Nora Roberts here.


  1. It does sound a little like it has First in series book syndrome.

    I felt a bit like that about Vision in White - like the romance was lukewarm, the couple serving mostly to set the stage for the series.

    But I still want to read it a lot! :D

    LOL I just like this type of books, I guess.

    Thanks for you lovely review

  2. The only Nora Roberts books I've read have been the books of the Chesapeake Bay saga, which I adored. There are so many others I just end up not reading any :( So...any suggestions on where to go to next greatly received!

    And lovely review Hils :)

  3. Hi there!
    Humm, so you'd say this book isn't one of the best first book in a series by her?
    I'm a fan too, it was Nora Roberts who got me reading romance and started my addiction lol, so I keep reading her books, always. But I'll wait for all the books to be out and I'll read them all one after the other...Like you said, the best thing she does is that family connection, that deep love between people, so it will be like reading a bigger book.
    If I don't think too much about it, I can manage the wait lol
    But I'll still look forward to see your opinion on the remaining books.

  4. Alex, you should definitely read it! There is a lot going, the set up for the series, introducing all those characters, plus the romance all happening at the same time. Clare and Beckett are very nice. I'm hoping the second book will focus more on the couple. I love this type of book too. :D

    Orannia, I would recommend the Born in Trilogy... (Born in Fire, Born in Ice, Born in Shame). Set in Ireland. That one is about three sisters. :) Then go for the Irish Trilogy, lol!

    Hello S.! I know you are a big NR fan like me. :D I think what you'll find when you read this book is that it's a good beginning -- not great or outstanding compared to the start to some of her other trilogies. The atmosphere, relationships and connections are wonderful as always (there are some great characters here), but for me personally the romance in this one book is not up to par. And this is a romance. You might be on to something... waiting for that third book to release and then reading all of them, you'll experience the whole a lot better!

  5. Seems like I enjoyed it more than you, Hils :) I think though I read The Next Always at the right moment. Just when I need this sort of romance. I simply felt that the relationship between Clare and Beckett was realistic. Also, I can see how Beckett would bond with the boys ;)

    I'm really looking forward to Owen's story! :)

  6. I'll wait for the library copy :) I didn't read the review, but the grade says it all for me. Her last few haven't been the best in my opinion.

  7. Nath, I glad you enjoyed this book. :) I'm really looking forward to Owen's story too. I liked him, Ryder and their future HEAs. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I'll enjoy those more.

    Mariana, I agree with you. The last few books are not on my favorite list of reads either. I still enjoy her work, though. I'm hoping the other books in this series will be better reads for me.

  8. Hi Hilcia,
    I've read a few reviews for this book with a similar reaction to yours. Sounds cute, but just average. Oh well, I plan on reading it, anyway.. but will be borrowing it from the library. IF they ever get it. I'm still waiting. :)

  9. Christine, yes. I guess I'm not in the minority this time. It's a good read and I'm glad I read it, but no, it wasn't outstanding in my opinion. It's NR, of course your library will get it, lol! Hope you enjoy it. :D


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