"The Next Always," Nora Roberts

Pros: Love the ghost; enjoyable pair of characters; love the setting and hearing more about the inn concepts; you can really “see” the setting
Cons: If you don’t care about the inn, this might come across like a sales pitch; the stalker plot is predictable and feels tacked-on for tension’s sake; the main characters aren’t the most interesting ones in the book
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Review book (uncorrected proof) courtesy of Penguin Group
Expected publication date: 11/1/2011


Beckett Montgomery is one-third of a trio of brothers renovating and rebuilding the venerable Inn Boonsboro for their mother—and themselves. He’s the architect of the family, and he’s having a blast working with the historic building. Since everyone in the small town continually pesters him and his brothers for details on how things are going and what the inn will look like, it makes a great pretense to chat frequently with a certain bookstore owner—one he’s had a crush on since she was 16. Of course now Clare is widowed, with children, and a successful businesswoman. She’s changed—is she still the woman he could love? Can he handle the way her life revolves around her children and her business? And what will he do when the inn’s ghost gets nosy, and Clare develops a rather determined stalker? For such a small town, things sure do get exciting…


I do enjoy Nora Roberts’s books, and she has the romance trilogies down to a science. Luckily she’s adept at creating interesting and enjoyable new locations and characters, so I don’t feel as though I’m reading the same books over and over. In this case, the setting is a small Maryland town. If you don’t already know, the setting for this one is based in reality. Roberts and her family did buy an old inn to renovate into a bed & breakfast. They did decide to theme the rooms after romantic literary couples. It’s even called Inn Boonsboro. Because of that, if you don’t find the concept interesting or aren’t a fan who wants to know about the project, the lovingly detailed descriptions of theme concepts, coming up with ideas, hiring an innkeeper, and so on might sound like a sales pitch instead of a novel. However, if it’s something you find interesting (and I do, simply because I think it’s a really neat concept), then it’s fascinating to look over the characters’ shoulders as they make decisions, change their minds, and turn their vision into reality.

The stalker plot does feel a bit predictable and tacked-on for tension’s sake. While stalker plots are interesting, using them to add tension to a romance is overdone, and this one doesn’t offer enough that’s new or interesting to overcome that.

Besides her settings, my favorite thing about Nora’s books is her charming characters. Unlike some authors, she doesn’t endlessly repeat the same exact personality pairings. Her characters have enjoyable chemistry, and in particular I love some of the side characters in The Next Always: the Montgomery brothers’ mother, the new innkeeper, the ghost, and so on. I look forward to seeing more of them in the next two books!

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