Sunday, January 1, 2012

Review: The Next Always by Nora Roberts

by Nora Roberts
Release Date: November 1st, 2011
2011 Berkley Books
Softcover Edition; 341 Pages
ISBN: 978-0-425-24321-3
Genre: Fiction / Romance
Source: Review Copy from Publisher

3 / 5 Stars

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...

My Thoughts
The Next Always is one of those books you can always count on from Nora Roberts, fun, lighthearted, and enjoyable.  This is one those books that I always look upon as a filler for those deeper, heavier, more philosophical books that I read; it's a novel about second chances, with an element of the paranormal thrown in, as well as a second storyline that you know will lead into the sequel.  It's formulaic, fairly predictable, but sometimes that's exactly what is needed to fill an afternoon when you are looking for something to take you away from a stressful world.

I really liked Clare as well as her friends Hope and Avery.  Clare's relationship with her three boys seemed warm and close; it also seemed very real as the boys were very rambunctious, and I loved how they would negotiate all the time with her over every little thing (felt quite a bit like home, actually!).  Beckett was a very likeable character, and although the relationship between Clare and Beckett felt real, it didn't really seem to have that sizzle.  And the whole stalking episode felt like something that was just thrown in for good measure; it's not that I don't believe it can't happen as I have seen it happen to people, it just didn't seem to fit into the novel the way the events unfolded. I would have liked to have seen more developed characters, ones that were more fully fleshed out, but the focus on the restoration did not allow for this development.  I did really enjoy the scenes where the three boys were involved as they were often funny and touching; I loved how the oldest boy, Harry, really looked out for his mom and was very protective, it was so sweet.

The Next Always is the first in a trilogy that follows the Montgomery brothers as they restore an old inn back to life.  While the story is intriguing, I felt like I was in the middle of a promotion for an actual inn a lot of the time as the details for each room went a bit overboard, and took away somewhat from the story.  And then I read that the author herself was in fact restoring an old inn, so the story made perfect sense at that point.  (If you're interested in the Inn BoonsBoro and the history, and how Nora Roberts became involved, click here.)  Unfortunately, while I really enjoyed the details personally, and loved the idea of restoration, including the little bit of paranormal that was introduced in the form of a ghost, I still think a lot of the story got swallowed up in these details.

The Next Always was one of those lighthearted reads that you need, but there was really no depth to this novel and the romance was fairly predictable and formulaic.  While I have always been a huge fan of Nora Roberts, I thought the continuous discussions surrounding the restoration of the Inn went on for too long, and just weren't the place for a romance novel.   Hopefully more emphasis will be put on the romance and the greater development of the characters, the more richly textured and developed backgrounds to which readers of Nora Roberts are used to, in the next two novels of this trilogy.  Will I read the next two novels?  Probably, but I won't run out to get them.