Sunday, November 13, 2011
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
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