Sunday, November 20, 2011

Review: The Next Always by Nora Roberts

Hi everyone!! How's your week-end going? Mine is great, but I feel so unproductive :( Didn't do anything.. and it's worst considering that I had Friday off as well because I went in for a doctor appointment. Sigh. Also, I haven't been reading... Just don't know what to pick up ^_^; At least, I have been re-reading, but it doesn't feel right sigh. And today, I'm meeting friends the whole day, so no reading either. Ah well, hopefully, I'll make it up this week...

Once again, no Hauling Sunday post this week as I haven't gone to the bookstore. Shocking right? LOL. But it proves that I can do it! Of course, lack of release and pre-orders play a big role. I still have my Monthly Reads post for October to post, but I didn't feel like it since I've just post September's last week. Maybe next week? :) So instead, you get this review!

I had other books I wanted to review first, but after the discussion topic of this week, I thought it would tie-in well if I reviewed The Next Always... and so The Next Always it is :) Enjoy the review!

The Next Always by Nora Roberts
published by Berkley in November 2011
The historic hotel in Boonsboro 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. Beckett is the architect of the family, and his 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.

After losing her husband and returning to her hometown, Clare Brewster soon settles into her life as the mother of three young sons while running the town’s bookstore. Busy, with little time for romance, Clare is drawn across the street by Beckett’s transformation of the old inn, wanting to take a closer look... at the building and the man behind it.

With the grand opening inching closer, Beckett’s happy to give Clare a private tour - one room at a time. It’s no first date, but these stolen moments are the beginning of something new - and open the door to the extraordinary adventure of what comes next...
Genre: Contemporary romance
Series: Inn Boonsboro trilogy, Book #1

The Story: The Montgomery brothers - Ryder, Owen and Beckett - along with their mother Justine are committed to bringing Inn Boonsboro back to its splendor and re-opening it for business. Beckett, the youngest, is the architect on this project, although he doesn't mind strapping on his tool belt to pitch in whenever necessary.

Clare Murphy Brewster married right out of high school and followed her husband who enlisted in the army to Kansas. After his death, she moved back to Boonsboro with her three boys and opened Turn the Page, her bookstore.

Beckett has been sweet on Clare since high school. With the inn bringing them closer together, Beckett seizes the opportunity to make his move on Clare and start his courtship...

My Opinion: I was a bit worried when I started this book because the reviews have been so-so... However, it turned out that I really enjoyed The Next Always! Perhaps it's because I went in with low expectations, but most probably I think it's because this book really suited my mood at that time :)

It seems to me the keyword to The Next Always was normal. Beckett and Clare live in Boonsboro where they grew up and therefore know almost everyone. They have normal lives, normal jobs, normal families. No big, dark secrets in their closets, no recent changes to adapt, no upheavals to overcome. Simply two persons who were friends and took their friendship a step further, with no obstacle standing in the way :)  It sounds simple and perhaps a little boring, but it wasn't. Sometimes, you need books like The Next Always because they're nice and feel real :)

I really liked the H/H in The Next Always. Beckett was a nice guy, fun even. He's had a crush on Clare for a long time and even now, often stops by her bookstore for books and coffee to see her :) I thought that was really sweet :) I loved how he connected with Clare's boys. He really enjoyed spending time with them and it showed. I liked that he wasn't out of his depth dealing with boys under 10 years old... Probably because he remembered being a boy of that age :) I also enjoyed Beckett's camaraderie with his own brothers. They really knew and understood each other well and had a good relationship. They also loved their mother, were a little scared of her and that was cute :) As for Clare, I liked her a lot as well. She was a great mom and her boys were happy and well adjusted. The children were definitively her priority, but she had space in her life for more :) I liked that she wasn't scared of starting a relationship with Beckett, that she didn't over-worry too much. I also liked her friendship with Avery and Hope - every woman needs girlfriends :) Ms Roberts also did a great job with the secondary cast. I loved Clare's sons, especially Murphy. They were a blast :) I liked what I've read so far of Owen, Ryder, Avery and Hope and I think Ms Roberts did a great job at keeping the sequel baiting at a minimum :)

The romance was nice and sweet :) Some feel that there wasn't enough focus on it, that Beckett and Clare didn't have enough alone time, but I didn't mind. They've known each other for a long time, so I didn't feel the need for them to always be together. Also, they were two busy persons - Beckett with the inn, Clare with the boys and the business, so it made sense to me that they couldn't always get together. However, when they did, they enjoyed it and that's what mattered :) The fact that there wasn't any big conflict worked for me, although it doesn't mean that the relationship was smooth sailing. There were a few kinks of course, but Beckett and Clare did a great job at communicating and compromising :) They were simply good together :)

One important part of the book was the inn and I know some feel that Ms Roberts focused a little bit too much on it... and most probably, they are right, but it didn't bother me. I considered the inn like another character of the book and as it is the central element to this trilogy, why not? In addition, I thought it was interesting to read about it. It made me feel part of the project. To read about Beckett and Justine's vision and reading about the brothers making it real... Also, may I say I really like the concept of the inn? The atmosphere they're aiming for, but also the rooms theme. Knowing it's real just makes it more awesome LOL. Oh and I thought the ghost was a nice touch to the story :)

The only thing that didn't really work for me is the stalker plot. I don't know, I think it didn't really fit with the mood of the book, although at the end, it was a good plot device to make Beckett and Clare's relationship advance. Also, now that I'm reviewing the book, it does seem that The Next Always is lacking a bit of depth. I mean, we really just see the surface of everything - the characters and the relationships. It doesn't bother me, but perhaps it will others ^_^;

My Grade: BThe Next Always is not Ms Roberts' most memorable book, but it worked for me. The writing was solid as usual and I liked the characters, the setting, the romance and the simplicity of the book :) I'm definitively looking forward to the next book in this trilogy, The Last Boyfriend. I really liked Owen - I find his organization skills sexy LOL.