Nora Roberts is the undisputed master of the romance but she might have just come up with a really clever concept this time.
She outdid herself with the excellent Bride Quartet series and in The Next Always combines her stand-alone romance with a series of three giving us both love and danger.
So here’s the rub. You can be a cynic and wonder if The Next Always simply acts as a total promotion for the inn which Roberts did indeed buy and renovate. The real place is called Inns BoonsBoro and is an American B&B in Maryland (www.innboonsboro.com). The rooms are also inspired by literary couples – including J.D. Robb’s Eve and Roarke – and you can buy the bathroom products.
All this is actually part of the plot line in the new book and it might just be a stroke of genius. You read the book, fall in love with the hotel, want to taste the pizza from Vesta and just hope you might meet one of the rather hunky Montgomery brothers when you walk down the street.
Viola! It’s the perfect recipe for romance and daydreaming which is somehow made more potent.
Three Montgomery brothers, the town’s favoured sons, are working on renovating an old inn. Clare Brewster comes home to run the town’s bookstore after her husband is killed in action. With three young sons, romance is the furthest thing from her mind but Beckett Montgomery has decided he’s waited too long to kiss her.
An escapist and entertaining romance, once it gets going you know how it’s going to turn out. But the fun is the journey of getting there and between Clare and Beckett it’s going to take more than a dinner date to bring it all together. Cue flowers, puppies, food poisoning and superhero action figures.
Roberts’ inclusion of the whimsical and lifesaving ghost – every good hotel has one – adds another layer to the story which hopefully we’ll get to find out more about in the next two books.
The other thing which Roberts does really well in her series is set up the characters. You can picture them very clearly in your mind and by the end, you come to have a good deal of affection for them.
Chocolate at the ready? Check. Pining for romance? Check. Guilty pleasure button on? Check. A night on the couch? Perfect!