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REVIEW: The Next Always by Nora Roberts

Meet the Montgomery brothers – Beckett, Ryder, and Owen – as they bring an intimate bed-and-breakfast to life in their hometown.

The historic hotel in Boonsboro, Maryland, has endured war and peace, the changing of hands, and even rumored hauntings. Now it’s getting a major face lift 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 sixteen…

Dear Ms. Roberts,

Next Always	Nora RobertsThere’s a great story here buried underneath all the inn refurbishment stuff. Seriously, if I wanted to learn how to rehab a historic inn, I’d go back and read these parts carefully but, here’s the important part, I’m reading this as a romance, not a blueprint how-to. And since I know that you and your husband recently rehabed a historic inn in, guess where?, Boonsboro, Maryland, I felt uncomfortable that this is one big sell for you – write a book, hawk your inn and maybe get some customer reservations from it. It isn’t just the Inn, but also the bookstore, and and every Boonsboro reference that seems to read like one giant, but beautiful, infomercial.

I can honestly say that I’ve enjoyed a lot of your contemporary romances and as I said, there are parts of this story which are great vintage Roberts. The relationships of the two sets of brothers – the hero and his potential hero brothers plus the three young sons of this heroine – are wonderful. The book has that easy, comfortable and insulting in that casual way that among men says “I love ya bro” way about it. It’s also got a realistic heroine who occasionally has babysitting issues and has to work around the boys and their schedule. A working mother of young sons who doesn’t have this, who miraculously always has enough sleep, the laundry folded and never worries about coverage for potential dates would make me think she’s a space alien. I really enjoyed watching Beckett and Clare fall in love. They’ve got pasts, lives outside of the romance and ties to the community. They seem like real people.

I usually hate it when I feel that book one is all about the set up of the characters for the next two books – which is the stated goal of this series. Here, it’s annoying me to some degree but the characters are still mainly here to play a role in this book.

I didn’t much care for the subplot with Clare’s stalker. A bit of him to shift Beckett closer to declaring himself is okay but the whole thing went from annoying to psychotic in a heartbeat. And the warning from Lizzie is just bizarre. Sorry but it’s truly bizarre.

Beckett’s “Men Nights” with the boys and his manly gifts to them are funny and touching. Also that he kept his promise to talk things over with Harry before asking Clare to marry him. See there are parts of the book that are fabulous, that are simply effortlessly good. And then more inn stuff would come along which would send me into FF mode.

It’s a fast read, especially when I’m basically skimming most of the stuff about the inn, but there was way too much of that. And yes, I noted the reference to Eve and Roarke. The romance part gets a B but the information brochure about the Inn Boonsboro got old very quickly. Overall grade C

~Jayne

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Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

36 Comments

  1. minnchica
    Nov 01, 2011 @ 10:06:54

    The inn refurbishment stuff didn’t bother me as much as the ghost part. I thought it was annoying and very poorly done. Granted, I hate ghost plots in my contemporary books… but this went beyond hate for me.

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  2. Becca
    Nov 01, 2011 @ 10:37:42

    I had the same problem with the Garden trilogy – there were times when I felt like I was reading a gardening textbook, rather than a romance.

    I hope this series is better than the Brides quartet, which I felt was almost phoned in in places.

    Still, as a die-hard Nora fan, I’m looking forward to reading this.

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  3. Mandi
    Nov 01, 2011 @ 11:08:12

    I liked the hero and heroine – and the brothers. But the remodel details really weighed this one down. And the ghost at the end made me roll my eyes.

    But I’ll probably read the next one..I like how the brothers are set up :)

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  4. Lynda the Guppy
    Nov 01, 2011 @ 11:26:53

    I didn’t feel so much that it was a “How to” for refurbishing the Inn. I felt that it was just one long infomercial for BoonsBoro in general, and since I know it’s “based” on a real town and real people, I never got sucked into the book like I usually do with her. There was always a little part of me seeing it as a tourism guide.

    Which is too bad, because like you said, the romance part (when she gets to it) is really great. The kids were adorable without being precocious, and the brothers were believable. The problem for me was the romance was just completely BURIED under everything else, and it was particularly frustrating because I could see it could be So. Damn. Good. *sigh*

    I also didn’t like the Garden trilogy for similar reasons. The romance was completely buried under all the LOOK! NORA LOVES GARDENING! AND FLOWERS! stuff.

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  5. Kim
    Nov 01, 2011 @ 11:40:58

    @Jayne: Did the Montgomery brothers ever run into Nora anywhere? *g* That would really be breaking the fourth wall.

    This sounds like NR’s book, Tribute, where there was all that detail on how to remodel a house. I don’t mind some how-to details, but in Tribute, it took up large chunks of the story. Is that what it’s like in The Next Always? Also, is this a contemporary or paranormal?

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  6. Carolyn
    Nov 01, 2011 @ 13:03:32

    I preordered this book because of the inn restoration. I never bought any of the Bride books after the first one, just not my style, I guess.

    The restoration in Tribute didn’t bother me at all and I hope this book will be the same. I love that stuff and I can live vicariously through Nora.

    It just downloaded into my Kindle, so we’ll see.

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  7. cecilia
    Nov 01, 2011 @ 17:24:54

    Wasn’t there another trilogy where one of the heroines was renovating an inn, or a bed and breakfast?

    Anyway, I’ve reserved this from the library – many of NR’s books have seemed like they’ve got some kind of gimmick that she did a lot of research about (e.g., dog rescuers) and then you get a great big book from the research with a thin veneer of a romance pasted on. They’re not horrible reads, exactly, but it’s been awhile since I’ve felt really satisfied.

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  8. Estara
    Nov 01, 2011 @ 18:14:05

    I actually really like romances that focus on introducing you to something as long as it’s well integrated – I liked that about the old Elizabeth Lowell/Ann Maxwell contemporary suspense romances and a LOT about many NRs – I loved the glass blowing in Born in Fire, for example.

    What I had a problem with when reading the excerpt of the first chapter is that the dreaded triple repetition of impressions, verbs and phrases was in full force, until we got to some dialogue.

    I may pick this up at some point.

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  9. Jayne
    Nov 01, 2011 @ 18:18:04

    @Kim: Nah they never met Nora – that would have creeped me out.

    The Inn is haunted and Beckett – and a few others – have sensed her at times and smelled honeysuckle which they took to mean she was present. At the end of the book

    kind of spoilers here

    Clare is in danger from a stalker and it’s the ghost who puts on a sound and light show to warn Beckett to go save her.

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  10. Jayne
    Nov 01, 2011 @ 18:23:18

    @Estara: I like well integrated interests for a hero or heroine too but here it felt as if almost half the book was Inn renovation stuff or renovating another piece of property the Montgomerys own which – of course! – all of Mrs. Montgomery’s ideas are wonderful! and perfect! despite how much her sons grumble about it.

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  11. Jayne
    Nov 01, 2011 @ 18:26:11

    @Carolyn: I think you’re going to love the book. Of course now that the Inn is renovated and almost open for business, I’m not sure what the next two books will be about.

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  12. Jayne
    Nov 01, 2011 @ 18:31:05

    @minnchica: Me truly hated the ghost stuff too. Really, truly hated.

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  13. Zara
    Nov 01, 2011 @ 20:12:22

    I used to impatiently wait for NR new releases. After paying good money for The Search and Chasing Fire, I realized that I’ll only read her new books if someone gifts them to me. Both of those were massively disappointing, and I’m glad that you (Jayne) were brutally honest about how she always seems to be plugging her own current obsession. Part of me thinks her time has come and gone, and she is simply riding the wave of her famous name. I was curious to see how this latest would be reviewed on DA, and now I have my answer. I will spend my precious book allowance elsewhere!

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  14. MaryE
    Nov 01, 2011 @ 23:18:52

    I’ve just started reading the book and already I am uncomfortable with it – the town, the inn, the bookstore.

    The book absolutely feels like an advertisement for the town in general and Nora Roberts’s family interests in particular. I’ve enjoyed the occupational details in some of her other books, because I’ve always felt like I was reading fiction – often well researched fiction, but fiction all the same. And while Roberts has set more than one book in this general area of Maryland, never before has it seemed so calculating.

    This book, set in a series of places so particularly personal to the author, is different. It doesn’t feel entirely like fiction and I find myself distracted, wondering about the author’s motivation for writing the book and including all these real life places. Does she regard the book as love letter to her town? Is it an advertisement? What was she thinking?

    When I read, I like to get lost in the book. I’m finding it very difficult to lose myself in this book. It is just too distracting.

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  15. BlueRose
    Nov 02, 2011 @ 03:57:16

    I havent read this but I have enjoyed NR for some years, and I really like her contempory standalones. She does do a lot of info dump, but usually I surprise myself about how much I enjoy that, I like learning new things,and she shares that information well incorporated into the story (eg I didnt think I would like the hostage negotiation one but I did)

    I liked Search. Chasing Fire was a different style, more snappy dialogue and more current feeling (I adored the dialogue btw)

    Being a furriner, I have no vested interest in wherever this is set. I dont necessarily think she is plugging a particular obsession with each book, more that the research involved (and its clearly a lot) makes here a bit obsessive about it at the time?

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  16. Jayne
    Nov 02, 2011 @ 06:44:38

    @Zara: I wouldn’t read the next one until after I see some reviews for it.

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  17. Jayne
    Nov 02, 2011 @ 06:46:17

    @MaryE: I read the Inn stuff as an advertisement for her Inn. If you go to her website, there’s a picture of the front porch of the Inn which looks exactly like she describes the “fictional” one looking.

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  18. Jayne
    Nov 02, 2011 @ 06:51:03

    @BlueRose:

    Being a furriner, I have no vested interest in wherever this is set.

    Well, in real life NR lives in Boonsboro, Maryland, she and her husband just finished restoring a historic 200+ year old Inn (Inn Boonsboro) and her husband owns a bookstore called Turn the Page.

    In the book, the story is set in Boonsboro, Maryland, deals with 3 brothers and their mother who are restoring a 200+ year old Inn (Inn Boonsboro) and the heroine owns a bookstore called Turn the Page.

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  19. Jeannie
    Nov 02, 2011 @ 08:49:09

    Yowza, talk about drawing from personal experience.

    I give credit where credit is due, and LaNora is the queen, no doubt. BUT, having said that, I haven’t liked her books for quite some time and I can’t really put my finger on exactly what it is. Maybe a combination of things…the info-dumpage, the weird things thrown in – like a ghost! Then there’s the books made into Lifetime movies. *sigh* After seeing LeAnn Rimes play the heroine it totally ruined any hope that I’d enjoy that book because I’d see her face and hear her voice when I read her on the page. Word to the wise – read the book BEFORE watching the movie.

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  20. Kim
    Nov 02, 2011 @ 09:22:47

    Any chance that NR was advertising Boonsboro not for her own financial benefit, but to show off an area of the country that she loves and hopes other people discover, too. Granted people will be going there to see NR’s enterprises, but did it also showcase the land (parks, rivers, etc.)? I haven’t read the book yet, so perhaps I’ll have the same uncomfortable reaction as Jayne.

    Someone mentioned the different style in Chasing Fire and liking it. I had a different reaction: I didn’t feel I was : reading a Nora Roberts’ book. The “voice” was so different that it felt like someone else’s book.

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  21. Jayne
    Nov 02, 2011 @ 09:35:25

    @Kim: If she didn’t have a financial interest in the Inn, this wouldn’t have bothered me as much. But she does.

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  22. Janet P.
    Nov 02, 2011 @ 10:01:16

    Started it last night and I agree that the story is really bogged down in descriptions of the Inn and to a minor extent the bookstore. I’d prefer much more people interaction with the setting as a backdrop. It seems reversed – for as much as I’ve read it seems like a book about “Boonsboro” and the people are a backdrop. Heck, I’d even be interested in visiting the Nora R. Inn but I want my romance novels to be romance novels!

    I love Nora Roberts cover art though. They are always so classy without a naked man chest in sight.

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  23. library addict
    Nov 02, 2011 @ 10:18:19

    I thought there was a too much info about the rehab, particularly at the beginning, but the characters won me over so the book was more hit than miss for me.

    I know she owns the Inn, TTP, etc, but was able to tune that out while I was reading the book. Maybe because I’ve never been there?

    I didn’t mind the ghost through most of the story, but the bit toward the end was a bit of a cop-out. I would much rather the heroine had totally saved herself. I am hoping the ghost fits in better with the rest of the trilogy.

    I really liked Owen, so am eager to read his story.

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  24. Anne
    Nov 02, 2011 @ 12:44:54

    I didn’t mind the rehab stuff, or the inn – but I’m rather bothered by the fact that the bookstore has the exact same name as Nora’s bookstore and the name of the town is the same as the town she is living in.

    How hard is it to find a different name for a bookstore, or a fictional town-name?

    That being said, I still enjoyed the book overall, and the man-night plot was pure gold. I wish those kind of plot points were more frequent. It is the stuff of older Nora books.

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  25. Rahaf Harfoush
    Nov 02, 2011 @ 12:56:55

    @Becca: Yes! Phoned in has been what her latest stuff has been. For those looking for some great reads try: The Villa, Three Fates, Birth Right, all amazing contemporaries!!

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  26. Angela
    Nov 03, 2011 @ 08:48:38

    I just finished this last night. Nora’s always a … comfort read for me, I guess. I usually read her when I hit a slump, or can’t find anything I want to read. She usually makes everything all better in my reading world.

    The first couple of chapters of the book really felt bogged down by the rehab. I enjoy the details that go into a lot of her books, but this felt like way too much. I felt like I wasn’t getting to know characters at all – just reading about how to rehab a house.

    But then I either didn’t notice it anymore, or it got better, because I really enjoyed the book from that point on.

    The stalker was a bit over the top, and I think the story could have been done without him to be honest. The ghost interests me, I hope they find out who she actually is by the end of the book. But I think I’m more accepting of that type of thing, because I believe in ghosts – have seen them, so I expect them to be in places that have seen a lot of life (and death).

    The man-night stuff was perfect. Clare’s reaction to the ghost really struck me. And the ending, with the permission asking, was perfect.

    Enjoyed the book overall..

    @cecilia: I don’t recall one with rehabbing an inn, haven’t read Tribute though, but there was the Key trilogy with the three women remodeling a house to make a connected business out of it.

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  27. Becca
    Nov 03, 2011 @ 10:11:42

    I’m part way through it now, and yeah, it’s reading like a love letter to the area as much as a romance between two people. And I do wish she’d changed the names of the town and the businesses. the financial interest in those businesses really bothered me.

    I did like that she at least re-named the Penthouse though, rather than calling it the Eve and Roarke room, which I believe is it’s name in real life.

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  28. Jayne
    Nov 03, 2011 @ 12:19:26

    @Angela: I agree that the majority of the inn stuff was early on and if you can slog through that, it gets better.

    I also liked Clare’s reasoning for her dislike of the ghost and think that NR handled Clare’s first marriage well.

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  29. MaryE
    Nov 03, 2011 @ 14:21:47

    Well, I finished the book last night and I enjoyed it a lot more as I got into it than I thought I would as I started it.

    The beginning feels jarring and distracting, with the descriptions of real life Boonsboro businesses, including those in which Roberts has a financial interest. That felt like the advertising and promotion portion of the book. However, once the story got moving, I really enjoyed the portrayal of the families – both the Montgomerys and the Brewsters. Beckett’s way with the little boys was just great.

    I think Nora does a great job of portraying families and of writing children. They “sound” like children without all the awful baby talk some other authors resort to when they don’t know how to write children. Roberts could teach a master class in how to write kids properly.

    I didn’t mind the rehab stuff at all. It was how the men were spending their days, it felt right for the story. The ghost’s involvement with the climax of the book felt a bit much and the manner of her manifestation seemed too obvious, but I don’t mind the idea of a ghost in an old building.

    Angela, you are right, it was in the Key trilogy that the women rehabbed a house for use as a business. In Tribute, the heroine rehabbed her late grandmother’s home to use as her private home.

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  30. Angela
    Nov 03, 2011 @ 15:11:13

    I thought the first marriage was handled really well too, and I liked that Clare loved her first husband – that there wasn’t drama there, other than her losing him. It was a sincere, love filled relationship.

    One thing, that I just thought of, that bothered me – and I’ll freely admit that this kind of thing drives me batty in real life – the abbreviations. TTP, J&R, E&R, P&M. Gah! I don’t know anyone that talks in abbreviations like that. Or thinks in abbreviations. Writes in them, types in them, Yes. Any I could understand the room abbreviations that the guys used (even though they said they referred to them by number), because if you type it enough, or write it enough, it becomes that in your mind too.

    But Turn the Page? Drove me nuts. The first time I saw TTP, I had to page back in my kindle to remember the store name.

    Like I said though, text-speak and abbreviations like that don’t work for me…

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  31. Robin/Janet
    Nov 03, 2011 @ 23:26:40

    Reading this review has me wondering if the clear overlap between RL and fiction in the series is at least partially aimed at Roberts’s hardcore fan base — those who do buy their signed In Death books from Turn the Page, follow her touring schedules, and relish whatever details of her life outside the books, including her experience with the Inn, she shares. I’m not sure who else would be the intended audience for this series, frankly, especially considering the irony of Roberts’s oft expressed insistence that her characters and books should never be compared to her or her RL.

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  32. Becca
    Nov 04, 2011 @ 10:27:25

    Well, I finished it, and in spite of the egregious ghost and the infomercial at the beginning, I enjoyed it – certainly more than the Brides quartet. The people seemed real, and I loved the kids, and the friends-to-lovers trope gets me every time. But the overlap between real life and fiction was jarring, and I wish she’d changed the names of everything.

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  33. library addict
    Nov 05, 2011 @ 01:34:33

    @Becca: The Penthouse is one of the guestrooms on the third floor. It’s an extra room they added to the floorplan after the fire along with Westley & Buttercup. It’s in addition to the other 6 named rooms, which Eve & Roarke is one of.

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  34. Luna
    Nov 05, 2011 @ 10:14:17

    Uh, I don’t know about you guys, but this book was a combo of Garden Trilogy and Bride Quartet. What’s going on with NR?? I stopped buying her books new and get them at a used book store for $1. Has she lost her touch?? And I totally forgot she did buy an inn. That’s just shameful to put it in a book of hers. Methinks Nora is going cuckoo. Nora, you got some splaining to do!!

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  35. Max
    Nov 24, 2011 @ 19:08:09

    Inn refurbishment will go down a treat here in the UK, we love doing up old property. And a trilogy all dedicated to Boonsboro, infomercials and product placement ! Maybe someone has bought up all the real estate in Boonsboro? What next ? A theme park?

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  36. mia jones
    Jul 12, 2012 @ 01:37:26

    ive always been a fan of nora roberts from he earlier books to her newer ones . this book is another favorite cuase ive always favored her family sieries such as the stanislanskis , the macgreggors , the ohruleys and the mackades . yes this book is simerler to the mackades , the diffrence between these sets of brother is obvisous . while rider and rafe are a simaler in way both construction workers with a temper and falling for the so called perfct woman .
    owen and jared tough are much diffrent . and devin and beckett are diffrent as well while falling forthewoman fromthe town with the kids beck dosent haveb near the scars as devin and clares life as a militry wife was a stay in a five star hotel compared to cassies life with joe ( aka scum of the earth ) . and there is no shane . but one thing i love about nora roberts books is her abilty to create menyou love such as . nick lebeck from waiting for nick , mikhail stanislanski from luring a lady , rafe mackade fom the return of rafe mackade , shane mackade from the fall of shane mackade , tucker longstreet from caral innocences , and ford sawyer from tribute . no dont get me wrong shes got many more great men these are just my favorites . while i love everyone from the inn boonsboro triligy rider is my fovorite , him nick rafe and ford make up my for faves followed by shane mikhail and tucker . i fr one lve this sieres and cant wait for the perfect hope .

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