Review: The Next Always by Nora Roberts

The Next Always

Ah, it was nice to drop back into a world created by Nora Roberts. She has a gift with character creation and storytelling, and this book was no exception. Usually in Romance we find that it’s the heroine that has had a secret crush on the hero for quite a while. The author decided to flip the standard here and cast the hero as the one with the secret crush.

Beckett has been in love with Clare since high school. He’s a self assured guy who has never had a problem with the ladies—unless that lady is Clare. He is absolutely hopeless at being smooth with her. He hid his crush and never acted on it because she never really saw him. They weren’t even close friends. They were friendly, sure, but she was friendly with all of his brothers. Unfortunately for him, Clare was in love with someone else in high school and went on to marry him and move away. Fast forward quite a few years and a widowed Clare, with three kids, has moved back to her home town and opened a business. Beckett still never acts on his crush, but he hasn’t forgotten it. He has to remind himself daily that it doesn’t matter.

I found it absolutely adorable that Beckett was the one with the crush. He was such a sweetie! His brothers loved to razz him about it, but he took it in the good natured spirit it was meant and never became too sensitive about it. I felt a little sorry for him since everyone could see it but Clare, but he was able to eventually get it together enough to make a move. Beckett was quite a likable hero. I can’t say that he’s one of my favorite NR heroes—boy, can she write some delicious ones—but he certainly wasn’t hard to read about. 😉 I really liked his friendly attitude toward Clare and her kids. Who can resist a guy that falls for the kids as well as the mom?

I thought it was very clever of Roberts to write a book centered on the construction of her real life business. One, there’s no need to spend extra time researching—she’s already an expert. Two, it is a great way to stir interest in the Inn. I, for one, couldn’t resist googling for more information when Beckett called a family meeting in the “Eve and Roarke” room. FYI, there really is one! Each room is modeled after a romantic couple in literature who got their HEA. How fitting that Eve and Roarke are in there. :) At times the time spent on the rehab slowed the book down, but I enjoyed the details for the most part. Plus, it provided a realistic way of Beckett’s family being able to hang around so much. And I wouldn’t have traded Beckett’s scenes with his brothers for the world. They were so funny!

“Told you not to tell her.”

“That’s not how I work things. That’s not how you build a relationship.”

“Build a relationship.” Ryder snorted as he sent the drill whirling again. “You’ve been reading again.”

“Blow me.”

At times Clare could be a little frustrating, but I was able to understand and sympathize with her for the most part. I especially empathized with her difficulty leaning on Beckett after spending so much time running things in her marriage. I don’t know how well that reasoning will be received by someone who hasn’t spent any time close up with the military, but it struck a chord with me. I’ve known a lot of wives who have been changed in that exact way by the frequent deployments their husbands had to go on.

I’m not usually a fan of kids in my Romance, but Clare’s kids won me over. Maybe it’s because I saw so much of my own kids in them. The fighting, the superhero plates, the singing while they pee…it all hit close to home. I liked that they weren’t perfect little kids who existed in the story only to be precocious or wise beyond their years. They didn’t conveniently exit the stage when they weren’t being cute, either. Clare was a mom through and through and they were an integral part of the story and her burgeoning relationship with Beckett.

A (Semi) Brief Moment of Rambling:

I know that some people complain about Nora Roberts being formulaic, but that has never bothered me. I guess if the formula sucked it would be different, but it doesn’t so I don’t mind. Sure, I felt things were a little fresher with her older books, but I’ve been reading her since high school, so that’s to be expected. The fact that I still always look forward to seeing what unique spin Roberts will put on the characters and situations in the current book tells me that this author hasn’t gone stale for me.

With that said, I have struggled for years to figure out what felt different about Roberts’s present style. I still enjoy her books, but there has been some subtle change to it that has kept me from loving them the way I used to. Some people say it’s the formula, but I disagree. I think I’ve finally figured it out after reading this book. The characters and the way they think and act are still as awesome as ever, the dialogue is still dead on for the contemporary world (and funny to boot!), the setting is detailed and rich like usual, and the writing style is still the same. So what is it? Well, I think that things have gotten a little too close to real life.

The characters have become more and more reasonable and adult. If there’s a fight, it’s usually quickly resolved through well reasoned inner contemplation. The drama is close to nil because the characters are logical and they’re willing to try to work things out. And that’s great—to a point. Somehow, it has become so lifelike that it has edged out the magic and the intensity of the romance. That’s honestly the biggest complaint I have about this book and most of her other more recent offerings. The spark is gone and it’s because everything has become too reasonable and well balanced. The characters are steeped in their families and their work and the romance is no longer focused on as in depth as I prefer. It may be realistic—and kudos to the author for managing to do that—but it has lost some of the punch that I depended upon.

P.S. I almost forgot to mention that there’s a ghost in here. If you’ve read a lot of NR then you’re probably not surprised by this, but if you haven’t, heads up. :)

Favorite Quote:

Ryder sent Beckett a slow smile. “So, you’re hitting on Clare the Fair.”

“I’m not hitting on her. I’m exploring the possibility of seeing her on social terms.”

“He’s hitting on her,” Owen said around a mouthful of chips. “You’ve still got that thing you had for her back in high school. Are you still writing bad song lyrics about heartbreak?”

“Suck me. And they weren’t that bad.”

“Yeah, they were,” Ryder disagreed. “But at least now we don’t have to listen to you playing your keyboard and howling them down the hall.”

Rating: B-
The Next Always by Nora Roberts
November 1st 2011 by Berkley Trade
Contemporary Romance
GoodReads Reviews
Tempting Teaser
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  1. says

    Great review Catherine! I LOVED Beckett and his brothers together. For me, they made the book so much more.

    I personally hated the whole ghost thing. I thought the book would have been so much stronger without. :( But, that’s just me.

    • says

      I’ve saw NR do it before in her one of her Irish trilogies, so I wasn’t surprised, but it worked much better there. It had a whole legend going for it and it played a central role in the stories.

  2. says

    I had mixed feelings on this one. I enjoyed both hero and heroine, and I liked their romance but felt the details of the Inn remodel really weighed down the story. And there wasn’t enough focus on the romance.

    And while I didn’t love the ghost, it was fine until the end. Her actions at the very end made me roll my eyes.

    But I liked the set-up for the other two brothers so I’ll probably keep reading :)

    • says

      I plan to keep reading too. I wish the romance would have had more focus, but I liked what I saw of it.

      The ghost bit toward the end made me grit my teeth a bit. It was way too convenient.

  3. says

    It’s been forever since I read a Nora Roberts book! This one sounds super cute.

    PS Montana Sky best robert’s bk evah!!?

  4. Jenifer says

    I’ve tried several times to read Nora Roberts books, but have only managed to complete one, Sanctuary, which I really enjoyed. I have a hard time getting into her books. Maybe I’m just attempting the wrong ones, lol.
    So, what are the “must read” Nora Roberts books?

    • says

      Tell me which ones you’ve tried and what didn’t you like about them, and what you did like about Sanctuary. That’ll help narrow down a rec.

      • Jenifer says

        Honestly, I only remember the actual name of one of the books I tried, Honest Illusions. I’ve tried them over the last few years and I only remember them not being able to keep my interest in the first few chapters, but then if I tried to skim to the meatier sections, I was missing information found earlier. I basically got frustrated with them and gave up. As far as Sanctuary, the characters caught my attention right away and I enjoyed the mystery. I actually found HIdden RIches in a box of Nora books that my Mom gave me & started it last night. I’ve read the first 10 chapters & so far, so good! It could just be the timing of when I was attempting to read one. I do remember one time starting one after finishing a series of paranormal romance and found myself bored with the Nora Roberts book. I was just curious as to which ones you had read that made you a big fan of hers and which ones had those delicious heros you mentioned in your review :)

        • says

          Let me know what you think when you finish it!

          Hmm, the ones that stick out the most for me are Hidden Riches, Homeport, Carnal Innocence, True Betrayals, and Birthright. I really enjoyed all of those. There are others that I’ve loved, but they’re part of trilogies, so you might want to stick to trying out the standalones until you feel more confident you like her style.

          NR seems to have certain character types for her heroes. Some are adorably awkward and nerdy, but some have a dangerous air to them that’s delicious. Most folks think of Roarke (from the In Death series) when they think of hunky heroes, but I tend to remember Michael Fury and Jed type of guys.

  5. Jenifer says

    Thanks for the recs, Catherine. I loved Hidden Riches and finished it in 2 days. Jed is definitely my type of romance hero. I’m off to find the others that you suggested now :)