Morgan & Whitney Dish: Nora Roberts' The Next Always

This month Nora Roberts kicks off her new The Inn BoonsBoro Trilogy with The Next Always. The series follows the Montgomery family’s project to bring an old inn back to life and maybe find love along the way. In this installment, the middle Montgomery brother, Beckett, finally gets a chance to make a move on the woman he’s always had a sweet spot for … but will he fit into this widow’s ready-made family or is he not cut out to be a father to three young boys?

Morgan: I’ve been reading La Nora for years and years and years. And I can say without a doubt this book is a Nora Roberts (capital N, capital R) through and through.

Whitney: But what genre is this Nora book? She is known for stories with paranormal elements with fairies and ghosts, romantic suspenses and then the sweet, small town contemporary romances ...

Morgan: This falls in the last category, however, even with the rock solid footing in very realistic small town life, we also may see a ghost or two ...

Whitney: But the book’s focus isn't on Lizzy, the inn’s resident ghost, it’s all about the Montgomery brothers finding love.

Morgan: You have to admit these are three pretty intriguing heroes.

Whitney: Ryder, Beckett and Owen are sure to please, whether you like the strong oldest brother, the quiet middle sibling or the fastidious youngest in the family.

Morgan: They are guys’ guys. Drinking beer, beating up on each other. There are no prissy men in suits here.

Whitney: Not that it’s not nice to have a guy in a suit sometimes — I mean, the Montgomery boys certainly know how to dress up well — but these guys are beer and pizza people, not fois gras and champagne people.

Morgan: The brothers reminded me of the Mackades. (Those who have followed Nora for a while will remember these Harlequin books featuring four brothers living in Antietam.)

Whitney: Speaking of where characters live, I absolutely fell in love with Inn BoonsBoro. La Nora’s descriptions were so complete that I really felt like I could see the inn come to life and I’m not going to lie, I would have really loved to book a night in one of the chic but still comfortable-sounding couples rooms. (My favorite is the Nick & Nora suite).

Morgan: I think the reason that the sections in the book read so realistically is that Nora (the author) and her family actually did rehab the inn she writes about. Guests can stay in the rooms she describes. And I have to tell you, I would have much rather stayed at Inn BoonsBoro than read about it.

Whitney: Too much detail for you?

Morgan: I felt like I was sitting in the middle of a construction zone! But never fear because Nora saves the story with her unbelievably well drawn characters.

Whitney: Agreed! And it wasn’t just the Montgomery boys and their artistic mother who kept this story moving. Everyone in town got multi-dimensional personalities — like the owner of the local pizza joint, Avery, who keeps dying her hair crazy colors, I think she was my favorite character.

Morgan: And I fell absolutely in love with heroine Clare’s three little boys. They were each unique and real characters in their own right. It is hard to write young characters well, and too frequently children come across like add-ons and they are forgotten if something else is happening in the story. But in The Next Always, the boys are the heart of the story.

Whitney: Beckett loves them as much as he does Clare, which is what really goes a long way to making this fivesome a family.

Morgan: How could anyone not love these little boys? There’s Harry, the thoughtful oldest who always looks out for his siblings, Liam, the spunky middle brother and Murphy, Clare’s littlest man, who is quite, shy and will steal your heart.

Whitney: It’s no surprise that Beckett falls for these kids quickly, but I loved that he treated them with respect all the way through the story. It’s rare that my favorite scenes in a romance don’t include the couple getting an HEA, but there were several with Beckett and the boys that were absolutely precious.

Morgan: Like “Man Night” when Beckett is babysitting the boys for the first time and spaghetti dinner turns into a food fight … no, a food war!

Whitney: Hands down my favorite moment of the book is when Beckett meets Clare and the boys on Halloween and everyone is dressed up like X-Man characters. It is absolutely the sweetest interaction in the whole story.

Morgan: But that’s not to say that Clare and Beckett don’t have their own chemistry —

Whitney: Of the adult variety!

Morgan: But their relationship doesn’t start out perfect. Clare is a widow and while she feels ready to get back into the dating world, her self-confidence in that area is nil, especially after the couple’s first almost kiss.

“[J]ust before contact, he looked at me like I’d kicked him in the balls. Just stunned...And I stopped, and we both made excuses. After, he kept his distance, like I was radioactive.”

Whitney: Beckett has totally had a crush on Clare for years, so this is a really big deal for him, he just wants to make sure he gets it right.

Morgan: It’s no small potatoes for Clare either; Beckett is the first man she’s really been out on a date with since her husband died five years ago. I really loved watching Clare get back on the dating scene.

Whitney: She’s certainly got several issues to work through, trusting someone else, learning to depend on someone else …

Morgan: It’s only natural that she’s unsure of herself after being off the market for so long. But there’s no hesitating. Like I always say, “When it’s right it’s right.”

Whitney: And with one Montgomery meeting his match, I can’t wait to see whom the next two brothers fall for. My fingers are crossed that one of them wind up with funky Avery!

Morgan: Well if that does happen, we’ll be sure to let everyone know about it and in the meantime, next week we’ll be reading the third novel in Ellen Connor’s Dark Age Dawning series, Daybreak.

Let us know what you thought of the newest Nora Roberts novel The Next Always in the comments below and to read along with us for the next dish, pick up your own copy of Daybreak by Ellen Connor aka Carrie Lofty and Ann Aguirre!