Wednesday, November 23, 2011

'A Tasty Reader' Reviews

The Next Always
Inn BoonsBoro Trilogy
Nora Roberts
Released Nov 1st, 2011
324 Pages
Berkley Trade
Reviewed by:
Amy Lineaweaver

        Poor Nora Roberts – a victim of her own overwhelming success – has released the first installment of a planned trilogy. Entitled “The Next Best Thing”, Nora, once again, takes the readers to Maryland and introduces us to a band of three handsome brothers and the town (and ladies) that love them.
        “Why ‘Poor Nora’?” you may ask. Well, Nora Roberts is the grand high duchess poobah of romance literature. As prolific as she is popular, many of us can identify that Nora Roberts book that touched us so viscerally and profoundly that is was altered the way we interpret her subsequent work. For instance, I think the Quinn Brothers of the Chesapeake Bay Saga is just about the best thing since cheese in a can. No one, but no one, can top Cameron Quinn and Anna Spinelli for pure entertainment value and emotional connection and that jumpy, swimmy in-love squee that the best romance books invoke. The problem with this success is that the reader expects to be gripped the same way every time and it’s just not possible.
        Back to Boosboro, Maryland. We find three brothers, Beckett, Owen, and Ryder Montgomery, restoring a colonial-era stone inn that has faded with neglect. The brothers, together with their mother and aunt, are looking to restore the inn to its glory as the hub of the town. Enter Clare Murphy Brewster, a young army widow with three stair-step boys. Recovering from her loss, she opens an independent bookstore in town. Hot, sweet, kind Beck has crushed on luminous Clare from afar since high school, but she only had eyes and heart for her late husband. Thus, we have the seminal high school crisis; he loves her, but she loves someone else.
        Clare has completed her five steps of grief and is really ready to open her heart to Beck. Beck adores the girl from high school, but loves the woman she has become and the fatherless trio of boys who love super heroes. Meanwhile, Clare works to reconcile that her heart can indeed belong to two men and that her love is not divided between them. Throw in a creepy creeper from high school and we have the plot.
        I appreciated that “The Next Always” incorporated the supernatural elements of earlier Roberts’ series in the form of a honeysuckle emitting spirit named Elizabeth who inhabits the inn. It adds an element of mysticism that communicates the sense that these two are indeed star-crossed and destiny is on their side. It is an overly common theme in the romance genre to have the woman pine away for the untouchable guy who then pulls a Jake Ryan somewhere between the tenth and twentieth year high school reunion and proclaims his undying love. I like that Roberts turned that paradigm and had the boy admire the girl from afar. My inner feminist appreciates the idea.
        Beckett and Clare are ultimately likable. One understands that Clare will definitely be loved and respected and her kids will be adored and supported. But there is something about them that doesn’t have the reader rooting and cheering for them. Call it woo factor. These people got no woo.
        I liked “The Next Always”. It was … fine. It feels like a bit of a retread in lots of ways. She brought very little new material or energy to the “The Next Always” that a Roberts’ reader won’t recognize from other books. Will it join the Quinn Brothers in my choice of “greatest hits”?  No. Was it a waste of time?  No. Was it worth the ten bucks? Probably not. Five bucks? Probably.
 But it was an enjoyable enough read and I will finish the rest of the series, because, fundamentally, not so deep down, I’m a Nora Believer and I believe that she’ll once again grab me.

Amy Lineaweaver is a mother, wife, and speech-language pathologist who is a recently moved home to the Pacific Northwest. When not responding to the beck and call of motherhood and wifedom, she is an obsessive reader of romantic fiction. She loves a clean house, a dirty mind, and a filthy mouth.

1 comment:

Lisa Filipe said...

Thanks so much for Guest reviewing today!!

I agree with your review. I had a lot of trouble getting through this book, and was slightly disappointed. I guess because I was expecting more...MacKade Brothers....and this book just missed the mark. But like Amy, I will read the whole series...Why, you ask? Because...I am nosy and need to know what happens to the reat of the Cast of Characters!