Books are cheaper than heroin, but they DO add up....

Amy, Carrie, Chanin and Sarah buy (and read and review) their own stuff. They've been known to shop around from dealer to dealer looking for the best price. If you're interested in slipping them something to try out, just contact us.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Next Always by Nora Roberts

One of the joys of reading, for me, is the discovery of new authors. This joy, though, is risky.  For every new author who's brought me delight at least three have felt like a waste of my time and money.  So one of the other great joys of reading is turning to a tried and true author whose stories I can slip into like a pair of fleece pajama pants or sink my teeth into like a toasty grilled cheese sandwich.  Warm, comfortable, easy.  A sure thing.  

(Okay.  Anyone else totally distracted by the thought of comfy pajama pants and good grilled cheese?  Yeah, me, too. Mmmm. Grilled cheese.  Ahhh.  Pajama pants.  I made this awesome taco soup last night and ate it while wearing flannel pajama pants.  That's not quite the same level of fleece-comfyness, and the soup would have totally been improved with a half a grilled cheese sandwich.  Obviously, I won't make THOSE mistakes again. Uhh, this isn't a food blog.  How did I get onto this topic?  Right.  I digress.)

Nora Roberts has written over 100 novels.  I'm pretty sure I've read 80% of them.  Any I've missed would have been the early releases written under the Silhouette label.  She first started publishing in the early '80s, and I'm pretty sure I started reading her work in the late '80s.  As writer and reader, we've been together for a long, long time. We're good together, me and Ms. Roberts, if a bit predictable.  That means that Ms. Roberts rarely writes anything that surprises me*.  Happily, I find her as consistent as she is prolific; she rarely writes anything that disappoints me.

*Ms. Roberts has three basic book types.  She has her completely fantastic, long-running Eve Dallas series written under the J.D. Robb pseudonym.  (Any author or TV writer who wants to know how to sustain a long-term, successful romance between two main characters should read this series.)  She has her "big books" that stand alone as a (usually) suspenseful romance where one of the main characters has a job or hobby that the reader learns about in great detail.  Then she has her trilogies. Families feature big in Ms. Roberts' books, so the trilogies often include a set of siblings or three friends who might as well be family (or, conveniently, both).  The trilogy characters are fairly routine after all this time.

The Next Always is the first of a trilogy, the Inn Boonsboro trilogy.  (This one will feature brothers AND three women who are close enough friends to consider themselves sisters.  Plot-wise = convenient.  Reader-wise = predictable.)  For me, at this point, the question at the beginning of each new trilogy is to see if the reiteration of the characters is engaging enough for me to read a story that, for most plot purposes, I've read before.  Is the dialogue fresh?  Are the characters believable?  Do they have interesting jobs?  Do I believe in the spark or connection between the love interests?  That's the difference between sitting down in front of a television rerun and saying "oh, look, I love this one. Don't change the channel" instead of "oh, boo, I've seen this one before." 

Not all of the trilogies hit that mark, but I'm happy to report that I really liked The Next Always.  The three brothers and their mother are renovating an old inn. That part of the story will continue through all three books.  The main characters in the first one are the architect/carpenter brother and the bookstore owner he had a huge crush on in high school.  She's now a war widow with three kids and a stalker.  The inn under renovation has a ghost.  The story of the renovation is obviously something close to Ms. Roberts' heart because that's what really drew me in.  I liked the characters, but it was their compelling purpose with the inn that made me think "oh, look, I love this one."  I finished reading it wanting to root again for my old friends**, the stock trilogy characters.

It's a romance novel, so you all know how it ends, but I think it's safe to say that you'll want to keep reading to see for yourself.  There's an inn to complete and a ghost to figure out, so I suspect you'll be back for the next two, as well--preferably cozied up in a pair of fleece pajama pants.

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  1. **This is for Sarah. Please note I said old friend, not close personal friends. There are no musical Canadians here.

  2. This one I didn't enjoy nearly as much as the wedding quartet. I didn't feel as involved with the characters - not because of who they were, but because I didn't feel they were as well developed. But I'm sure I'll read the rest, eventually, because, well...

  3. That's funny, Chanin, because I was thinking just the opposite of them. However, upon further reflection, I loved the first wedding one. It was the last one-two that I read out of duty more than anything.

    The new series I would compare to the previous trilogy based around the horticulture/plant store/landscaping business; I guess because of the ghosts. ;)