Jove, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-515-15149-7
Contemporary Paranormal Romance, 2014 (Reissue)
You know you are truly a league above other authors when you use a series to promote your own business ventures as well as characters from your books written under another pseudonym. Nora Roberts has done a marvelous thing here: she made her readers pay money for what is essentially advertisements of her other stuff that she’s selling. Mind you, the impact of The Next Always is dampened on me due to the fact that I bought this and the other two books of The Innsboro trilogy from
a bargain basement bin heavily discounted bookstore, but I’m sure it was great for those other readers out there who bought it full price or, even better, in the trade paperback format when the book first came out in 2011.
The Montgomery family couldn’t bear to see the landmark inn of Boonsboro fall into a state of disrepair, so they decided tp renovate and reopen it. When this story opens, Beckett Montgomery, the architect, has done a great job and good things are in store for the inn and the place. He has adored Claire Brewster, a single mother of three who runs the town bookstore, and now that he is back in town, maybe it is time to court the lady. Oh, and there is a ghost in the inn, but I have no idea why that thing is here, since the story could have functioned just fine without its awkwardly inserted presence. But I guess the ghost is necessary because someone has to help the hero during the obligatory penultimate “She’s in danger! Manly man of a hero must save her!” moment.
The romance here is a pretty standard tale of a well-moneyed hunk meeting a single mother and charming her kids. There is no need for any hard work on both characters’ part because the attraction has always been there; both never acted on it until now. Both characters are standard sorts – if you have read previous books by Nora Roberts, you will be pretty familiar with these two. In fact, the whole story may feel very familiar as well. Nora Roberts certainly isn’t rocking her bestselling formula anytime soon.
This one would have been a shorter story, a category romance-sized read perhaps, were not for all the extra pages filled with very thorough descriptions of how lovely Boonsboro is and why all of you should go there and do lots of shopping, how one does electrical wiring and gardening and toilet training the kids and more (don’t ask), and other details that seem to be more at home in an instructional manual. Conveniently enough, Beckett gives Claire the job of writing the promotional brochure despite the fact that she has no experience in copywriting, so here comes the exposition on the scenery. There are also various secondary characters, all of them awesome and amazing aside from the token villain, and the setting up for the next two books in this series to pad the book to its full-length size.
There is nothing wrong with The Next Always in terms of readability, but it feels a lot like a shorter story padded to the brim with things that don’t add much to the core story. But I suppose that’s to be expected, considering that it is a commercial as much as it is a romance novel.