I haven’t read a Nora Roberts book in forever. I used to read her all the time, I have every book on her backlist tucked away. Then I added a few more – and then quite a bit than a few more – authors to my ever-growing list, and then I started reviewing books, so a few of my favorites got pushed to the background. So I was doubly excited when I received The Next Always to review. Nora Roberts is the perfect comfort read. Reading her stories is like coming home after being gone a very long time. It’s so nice to be home.
Also, Ms. Roberts writes brothers better than anyone. My first books of hers were the Quinn brothers of the Chesapeake Blue series. They’re still my favorites, but the Montgomery brothers in this new series are giving the Quinns a serious run for their money. Beckett, Ryder, and Owen Montgomery are the heroes of these books, diligently working to restore a very old and dilapidated building into the Inn BoonsBoro. They have the typical sibling relationship, but written by Ms. Roberts just makes that more special in my eyes. Not only are the brothers, and their heroines of course, the center of this story, the inn itself as well as the town are just as front and center. You get that feel from the first page, and as that inn more and more comes into its own, you could swear it’s living and breathing just like the other characters chapter after chapter.
What also makes this book so intriguing and fun – something I didn’t know before I read it – is the fact that these events are right out of Ms. Roberts’ life. She and her family live in Boonsboro, Maryland; her husband owns Turn the Page, the local bookstore; her son owns Vestra, the pizzeria on The Square; and she and her husband bought the building we’re talking about and rebuilt it just as the Montgomery brothers have done and named it Inn BoonsBoro. Only the characters have changed in this walk through a portion of her life.
Beckett has had a thing for Clare since high school, but she had eyes for only Clint Brewster. The high school sweethearts married and Clint’s military service took them away from home to travel the world at the Army’s behest. When her husband is killed in Iraq, Clare brings her children home to Boonsboro, where she opens a bookstore, Turn the Page – both the best decisions considering the circumstances. Beckett never thought the day would come he’d be sharing a kiss with Clare, but his dreams have finally come true with the lovely widow. Hoping for more, he asks her out and a new and exciting relationship is born.
For Clare, she experiences the ability to feel when she’s in Beckett’s arms, a feeling she thought she might never have again. The more she gets to the know the man he’s become, the more she falls for Beckett, especially when she watches him with her sons. His patience and fun streak knows no bounds and her boys take to the man like ducks to water. Only her oldest son has vague recollections of Clint, so it warms her heart they could have the perfect role model in Beckett.
This relationship between them is honest, fun, and heart-felt from the beginning. They each have to face the depth of their feelings on their own along the way, and with each issue that crops up, good or bad, those feelings are further cemented in their hearts. Some of those feelings did bring tears to my eyes several times, while others make me laugh out loud just as many times. Everyone flourishes in this community. They love the small-town feeling of BoonsBoro, where everyone knows everyone’s business, but also where that business is embraced like a loving family. Each thrives in that atmosphere, just as the inn does as more of it is revealed to both the reader and the townsfolk. I’m betting a lot of readers from Small Town America will see their towns, boroughs, or parishes in BoonsBoro. Being from a small agricultural community myself, I can just picture my little town in a lot of the scenes in this book.
The Inn BoonsBoro is a beauty of a place. Ms. Roberts does a fantastic job of describing the reconstruction at different stages in the book, so that it’s like growing along with a character over time, one you love and want to see only good come to. There’s just the right amount of detail given in each meeting the brothers have, each tour they give, each scene that takes place in the inn. It’s never overwhelming or boring, like it could be considering this is a romance novel. There is a bit of paranormal associated with the inn, and it would be interesting to know if any such things also happened during the real reconstruction or if it’s all a product of Ms. Roberts’ imagination. Either way, those scenes are a nice addition, especially those with Beckett.
One of my favorite secondary characters is Avery, one of Clare’s best friends. She owns the local Italian restaurant, Vestra, where a lot of scenes take place throughout the book. Avery is outspoken, never backs down, and is just a riot to read. Hope is the other best friend, and she comes to BoonsBoro to take over as innkeeper when the former has to bow out. There’s a bit of a spark between Hope and Ryder, so I’m looking forward to see how that relationship evolves. Of course, the other brothers in the series, Clare’s sons, are also a lot of fun and their scenes with Beckett are some of my faves. And the villain. There’s a slimeball of a villain, and I’m with the Montgomery boys wanting to beat the jerk to a pulp.
I have to mention the cover of this book. It’s absolutely beautiful, and I found myself looking at it at different points while reading. It’s just enough to give you a hint of what this restored landmark might truly look like. Kudos to the artist.
The next book, The Last Boyfriend, is still more than six months away. Much too long. But the anticipation is half the fun, and mine is already ramped up about 50 percent. I’ll definitely be in need of some more comfort by the time I crack that one open, and I know Ms. Roberts will deliver exactly that once again.
The historic hotel in BoonsBoro, Maryland, has endured war and peace, changing hands, even rumored hauntings. Now it’s getting a major facelift from the Montgomery brothers and their eccentric mother. As the architect of the family, Beckett’s social life consists mostly of talking shop over pizza and beer. But there’s another project he’s got his eye on: the girl he’s been waiting to kiss since he was fifteen…
Read an excerpt.
Other books in this series:
The Last Boyfriend (May 2012)
The Perfect Hope