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Nora Roberts – The Next Always

Romance writer Nora Roberts has added a new trilogy to her lengthy bow, and the first book in the series promises a peek into the author’s own wealthy, self-made lifestyle.The Next Always is centered around a historic inn in Boonsboro, Maryland – the same town in which the author runs a boutique hotel.The inn is getting a face-lift and it’s not long before Beckett (an architect) attempts to win the heart of his high school crush, Clare – now a young widow with three boys, who’s returned to Boonsboro to run the local book store.The shop also has a base in reality – Nora’s husband owns a book store with the same name as the one in the story, Turn The Page.Helped by the author’s own experience decorating her boutique hotel, there’s plenty of description devoted to how the inn is being transformed into a modern lodge. While it’s hard to believe the ghost featured in the novel has any realistic basis, the mysterious smell of honeysuckle in the rooms and eerie ghost writing on the mirror does add an interesting twist.Part of Nora’s charm stems from the fact she was instrumental in helping to shift romance novel heroines away from the traditional “young virgin” role, as well as in providing more insight into the mind of the male love interest.Certainly, the heroine of The Next Always is a realistic character – Clare occasionally has babysitting issues trying to work around her young boys and their schedules.The relationship between Beckett and Claire is a slow burner, but there’s a great story buried underneath the inn- refurbishment saga, with some classic Nora Roberts magic woven into their romance. The Next Always sets the stage for two more love matches in the series and like the name of the book store in the novel, it’s a page-turner that’s out in time for Christmas.

(Piatkus Fiction, $36.99)

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