Category: Romance

#BestsellerCode100: A Writer’s Review of The Next Always by Nora Roberts

Let’s take a look at The Next Always by Nora Roberts from a writer’s perspective.

This post contains spoilers.

 

The Next Always by Nora Roberts

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary: Clare Brewster returns to her hometown of Boonsboro, Maryland after losing her husband. Running a bookstore and taking care of her three sons keeps her busy, but somehow she finds time to check out the renovation of a local inn, and also the architect in charge of the project, Beckett Montgomery. He is also a busy man, but not too busy for Clare.

This novel is book one of the Inn Boonsboro Trilogy.

Karen has really already said it all in her review, which you should read first.

Where’s the Hook?

If you are a popular and prolific author like Nora Roberts, you don’t have to start your book with an obvious hook for the first line. Instead you can start with exposition about stone walls.

The stone walls stood as they had for more than two centuries, simple, sturdy, and strong.

Even though she does manage some nice alliteration, somehow I don’t think a beginning author could get away with that first sentence.

If you are a popular and prolific author, you can also get away with featuring your own businesses as most of the setting.

Characters

Nora Roberts is great at developing characters. Each individual  in The Next Always is unique. I was particularly impressed with her male characters – the guys can often be cardboard cutouts in romances –so I located an interview with her to find out how she does it.

It turns out Nora Roberts has four older brothers and two sons. She has had plenty of experience with how men act. That is why the three Montgomery brothers and Clare’s three sons are so authentic.

Nora Roberts is also the queen of dialogue. Every character is not only unique, but also has their own agenda. The characters are often at cross purposes, just like people are in real life.

“What’s up?” Owen demanded. “We’re just knocking off.”
“And I want a beer,” Ryder added…

{Beckett shows them a sign he made.}

“This is it, Anybody doesn’t like it, I’ll kill them with a sledgehammer. I’ll feel bad if it’s Mom or Carolee, but I’ll still do it.”
Ryder studied it, said, “Huh.”
“What font is that?”
“The one I picked,” Beckett told Owen, “I can kill you. I have a spare brother.”

 

 

Plot

The plot is straightforward. Beckett has loved Clare since school. Clare married someone else and has three young sons, but now has moved back because her husband died. The central story problem is whether the two will now find true love.

The story moves along quickly because it is mainly dialogue. In fact there is very little exposition. Opening randomly to pages 220-221, 7 lines out of 63 are exposition. The rest of the lines are all dialogue.

A side story is a thread of the plot that does not solve the main problem, but adds depth to the novel. In this case the side story involves a stalker who is obsessed with main character Clare. It is clearly the weakest part of the book. The stalker isn’t developed well enough to be believable. Apparently the side story was thrown in as an afterthought to add some tension, but Roberts heart wasn’t in it.

The stalker side story also involves an obvious Deus ex machina (which is when a problem in a story is solved by an unlikely device). In this case, the ghost tells everyone to get over to Clare’s house and rescue her from the stalker. Really?

Discussion

Overall, although it is an easy, frothy read, I did not enjoy The Next Always as much as Karen did. I won’t look for the others in the series. I haven’t, however, given up on Nora Roberts completely. I am going to look for the futuristic romantic suspense/police procedural series she writes as J. D. Robb.

Have you read any novels by Nora Roberts or J.D. Robb? What did you think?

Join us on social media:

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What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog. Links in the list go to the landing page from this blog where the discussion starts. However, this is an open-ended challenge so feel free to jump in with any of the books at any time.

The next book is number 58.  Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good (2014) by Jan Karon  – Discussion begins June 11, 2018

#BestsellerCode100: A Reader’s Review of The Next Always by Nora Roberts

The Next Always by Nora Roberts is next up on our 100 Bestsellers List reading challenge.  Nora Roberts is an extremely successful and prolific writer.  She has written over 200 novels, many of them bestsellers, and there are over 500 million copies of her books in print.  With that many novels written, I was surprised to realize that I have never read any of her works.  This reading challenge is definitely introducing me to new authors!

This post does contain spoilers.

 

The Next Always by Nora Roberts

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

The Inn

As Roberta stated in her #BookBeginnings post, the Inn Boonsboro that is so lovingly restored in this novel is a real bricks and mortar bed & breakfast in Boonsboro, Maryland, that Nora Roberts and her husband restored and currently operate.  If you love watching renovation shows on cable television, you’ll delight in following the progress of the inn restoration throughout this book.  If you are not as interested, then this book will be a fast read as you skim through all the details of tile and wood and brick.  I’m squarely in that latter camp, but still, I would love to go to Maryland and see the actual Inn.  It sounds quite luxuriant and memorable.

After reading The Next Always, I was curious what other readers and professionals had to say about this book – was it a good indication of the caliber of Nora Roberts’ novels?  I found very mixed reviews, but many of the professional reviewers felt that this novel was one long infomercial for Roberts’ and her husband Bruce Wilder’s businesses in Boonsboro (they also own the real Turn The Page Bookstore & Café and the Gifts Inn Boonsboro gift shop).  I see their point, and it would be a valid one if the story itself didn’t work, but I felt that the story did work and that the Inn was a good setting.  Honestly, after writing 200 books, who can blame Ms. Roberts for diversifying a bit and cashing in on her writing fame?  And after writing 200 books, I’m sure she has a large faithful fandom that would love nothing more than to come stay at her Inn, walk the streets of the town where she’s placed one of her series, and even possibly have the chance to see the novelist in person.

It’s The Dialogue

One of the things I liked most about The Next Always was the dialogue.  The dialogue revealed strong love and respect between the three brothers (Beckett, Owen, and Ryder), between the three friends (Clare, Hope, and Avery), and even between Beckett and Clare’s 3 young sons without the author having to tell us about it.  There was very little to none agonizing head talk and angst for the reader to slog through as we’ve had in some recent romance novels.  The dialogue provided the action and the smooth flow of the story.

The family units were strong in The Next Always.  The relationships both within the two families (the Montgomery’s and Clare & her sons) and between the friends are what most readers wish they had in their own lives.  If there is such a thing as a cozy romance, The Next Always is definitely such.  Even the Inn’s ghost was a helpful, friendly ghost.  The side plot of Clare’s stalker played up the strength of the family and friendship bonds to the max, while providing the catalyst for the love declarations at the end between Clare and Beckett.

Three Brothers, Three Loves?

Nora Roberts knows how to write interesting characters.  Some of the romance novels we have read concentrated on the two main love characters to the detriment of the rest of the supporting cast.  In The Next Always, Roberts gives us three strong male characters in the Montgomery brothers. And it isn’t just coincidence that there are three female best friends.  Can you say trilogy here?  One can easily see early on the seeds being laid for two more romance novels to come. And you know what?  I loved it!  I want more and have already reserved the next book in this Inn Boonsboro trilogy, The Last Boyfriend, from my public library.  I do so want Owen and Avery to find true love.

 

Do you have a favorite Nora Roberts novel to recommend? I need more books to add to my “to read” list!

Related posts:

  1. Book-beginnings, a discussion of the first line of the novel
  2. Karen’s review from a reader’s perspective
  3. Roberta’s review from a writer’s perspective

You can also join us on social media:

__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog. Links in the list go to the landing page from this blog where the discussion starts. However, this is an open-ended challenge so feel free to jump in with any of the books at any time.

The next book is number 58.  Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good (2014) by Jan Karon  – Discussion begins June 11, 2018

#BestsellerCode100: Number 59. The Next Always by Nora Roberts

Time to start the discussion of our next novel from The Bestseller Code 100 list, The Next Always by Nora Roberts

This post does not contain spoilers.

 

The Next Always by Nora Roberts

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary: Clare Brewster returns to her hometown of Boonsboro, Maryland after losing her husband. Running a bookstore and taking care of her three sons keeps her busy, but somehow she finds time to check out the renovation of a local inn, and also the architect in charge of the project, Beckett Montgomery. He is also a busy man, but not too busy for Clare.

This novel is book one of the Inn Boonsboro Trilogy.

 

Have you read The Next Always by Nora Roberts? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Related posts:

  1. Book-beginnings, a discussion of the first line of the novel
  2. Karen’s review from a reader’s perspective
  3. Roberta’s review from a writer’s perspective

You can also join us on social media:

Do you have suggestions for ways to improve this reading challenge? We’d love to hear them.

Have you written about The Next Always by Nora Roberts? Feel free to add a link to your review in the comments.
__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog. Links in the list go to the landing page from this blog where the discussion starts. However, this is an open-ended challenge so feel free to jump in with any of the books at any time.

The next book is number 58.  Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good (2014) by Jan Karon  – Discussion begins June 11, 2018

#BestsellerCode100: Reader’s Review of The Choice by Nicholas Sparks

The Choice by Nicholas Sparks is next up on our 100 Bestsellers List reading challenge.  Gabby moves to small town Beaufort, North Carolina, to be nearer her long-time boyfriend and hopefully soon-to-be fiancé.  She just happens to buy the house next door to a good-looking, adventurous, and fun-loving confirmed bachelor, Travis.  A series of mishaps and misunderstandings (typical romance novel set-ups) brings these two together and sparks fly (or we’re expected to believe sparks fly).  Can you tell I wasn’t buying it?

This post contains spoilers.

The Choice* by Nicholas Sparks

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

A Tale of Two Romances

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens wasn’t referring to our last two romance novels, but that’s how I felt after reading Me Before You and The Choice back to back.  Me Before You gave the reader the best that romance novels can offer and The Choice gave the worst.  Me Before You created memorable and believable characters; The Choice offered two clichéd main characters and a supporting cast that we barely got to know.  The plot of Me Before You presented each of the main characters with life choices to make and allowed them come to realistic decisions; The Choice had a Hollywood-scripted plot and the pro forma happy (unrealistic) ending.  Me Before You gave me renewed hope that romance novels were worth reading; The Choice only reinforced my previous belief that romance novels aren’t worth my time.

The Choice

This novel is split into two parts.  Part One presents Gabby’s dilemma: will she listen to her head and stay with her long-time boyfriend whom she expects to marry or will she listen to her heart and build a life with her neighbor Travis, who has turned her life upside down in a whirlwind romantic weekend.  But as Roberta writes in her Writer’s Review, due to the prologue, we already know which choice she makes, so there’s no suspense and no emotional investment by the reader.

Part Two presents the Real Choice of the novel: will Travis follow his head regarding Gabby’s specific instructions concerning her present medical situation (a long-term coma) or will he follow his heart.  I found Part Two to be even more clichéd and unbelievable than Part One, if that is possible.  Where Gabby was too much in her own head in Part One, dithering back and forth between her choices, in Part Two it is Travis’s turn to bore the reader as we are forced to listen to his feelings of guilt over the accident that caused Gabby’s coma and his anguish about the resultant choice he must make.  Truthfully, by then, I ceased to care.  I won’t even go into just how unbelievable Gabby’s remarkable recovery was from her long-term coma – it was the expected happily-ever-after ending, but totally unrealistic.

The Right Choice

 If you want a feel-good, tear-jerker, realistic romance novel to read this summer and you have two choices on the shelf, Me Before You by JoJo Moyes or The Choice by Nicholas Sparks, do yourself a favor and spend your money on Me Before You.  You won’t be disappointed.

Have you read The Choice by Nicholas Sparks? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Related posts:

  1. Book-beginnings, a discussion of the first line of the novel
  2. Karen’s review from a reader’s perspective
  3. Roberta’s review from a writer’s perspective

You can also join us on social media:

__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog. Links in the list go to the landing page from this blog where the discussion starts. However, this is an open-ended challenge so feel free to jump in with any of the books at any time.

The next book is number 60.  In the Woods by Tana French (2007) – Discussion begins May 14, 2018
Mystery

#BestsellerCode100: Writer’s Review of The Choice by Nicholas Sparks

Let’s take a look at  The Choice by Nicholas Sparks from a writer’s perspective.

This post contains spoilers.

The Choice* by Nicholas Sparks

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary: Travis Parker is happy being a bachelor. However, when he meets his new neighbor Gabby Holland, his life turns upside down.

The Choice was made into a movie that was released in 2016.

Genre

Like our previous novel for The Bestseller Code challenge, Me Before You, The Choice is a love story/romance. Also like our previous novel, it strays from the typical romance format as the love interest has health problems due to a severe car accident.

Where the two diverge, however, is that in Me Before You, the complications add depth, making it a compelling story. In contrast, in The Choice, the complications are a formulaic attempt to gain sympathy and instead distance the reader.

Why did one work and the other did not?

The Choice by Nicholas Sparks

 

Incorporating Emotions In Fiction

In fiction, readers like to be touched by what they read. They like to experience what the characters are going through, and get swept away by their emotions. Many authors struggle, however, with how to authentically incorporate emotions into their stories.

There are several ways to write about a character’s emotions. One technique is to simply name the emotion, such as “George felt happy.” It is best to avoid this method for several reasons. First of all, it is telling the reader, rather than showing, which leaves the reader flat. Also, people tend not to be all that aware of their emotions, so naming them outright is unrealistic.

People are much more likely to be aware of the physical sensations they experience when emotional.  For example, ” The muscle in her neck that always tightened when she was under stress began to twitch.” The secret with this technique is to use sensations that are universal enough so the reader can recognize them, but that are not overused or cliché. Raising eyebrows, rolling eyes, or a heart hammering in the chest are examples of physical descriptions that are overused.

Experienced authors have even more tools. They may reveal a character’s emotions through their actions, through metaphors, through punctuation (Oh no!), or through the use of the objective-correlative, which involves using objects, descriptions, or situations to convey a particular emotion.  A simplified example of the latter might be, “She pressed her nose into the roses, hugged the chocolates to her chest, and smiled up at the forest of balloons bouncing overhead.” The roses, chocolates, and balloons are all things related to happy events, so the reader can infer the character is happy.

Comparison

So, why does The Choice fall flat?

Nicholas Sparks incorporates plenty of emotions, but he tends to name the emotions.

Molly was sitting near the back door, her tail thumping, and Gabby felt anxious at the thought of the future.

or

He was still sitting at the table, feeling slightly shell-shocked, when he spotted his sister approaching.

 

To be fair, he also uses physical descriptions:

Her heart squeezed again, and this time she tried to hold on to the feeling.

In contrast, in Me Before You:

“I — I’m Lou.” My voice, uncharacteristically tremulous, broke into the silence. I wondered, briefly, whether to hold out a hand, and then, remembering that he wouldn’t be able to take it, gave a feeble wave instead. “Short for Louisa.”

It probably helps that it is in first person, but can’t you sense the intensity of her nervous awkwardness , even though she never says directly she’s feeling nervous?

Discussion

I didn’t enjoy this book for several other reasons, in addition to the flat emotions.

The characters were inconsistent. In the beginning Gabby, who has a job as a physician’s assistant, accuses Travis’s dog Moby of fathering puppies with her dog, Molly. This rang false with me, because even lay people can tell a neutered male dog from an non-neutered one. A medical professional should definitely be able to tell. But I gave her the benefit of the doubt because maybe Moby was far away in the distance at all times (except he wasn’t).

When her dog Molly gives birth and has a medical problem, Gabby definitely should have known right away what it was and I suspect should have been able to give first aid, rather than simply rushing off. Yes, in real life people are inconsistent, but that seemed excessively so.

It was also apparent that Gabby and Travis were going to get married right from the beginning. Novels work best when they create mysteries that keep a reader guessing and wanting to read on to find out the answer. The minimal tension that did arise seemed artificial. Gabby had to make a decision, but because she wasn’t the main character, we could guess what it would be.

Overall, The Choice works too hard to try to tug at the reader’s heartstrings, and leaves them feeling nothing instead.

 

Join us on social media:

__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog. Links in the list go to the landing page from this blog where the discussion starts. However, this is an open-ended challenge so feel free to jump in with any of the books at any time.

The next book is number 60.  In the Woods by Tana French (2007) – Discussion begins May 14, 2018
Mystery

#BestsellerCode100: Number 64. Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walker

Time to start the discussion of our next novel from The Bestseller Code 100 list, Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walker

This post does not contain spoilers.

 

Beautiful Ruins* by Jess Walker

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:  Touted both as literary and a historical romance, Beautiful Ruins follows the lives of five people, including Pasquale Tursi and a young movie star named Dee Moray, who meet by chance in an Italian village. Years later Pasquale comes to Hollywood to find her.

 

beautiful ruins

Have you read Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walker? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Related posts:

  1. Book-beginnings, a discussion of the first line of the novel
  2. Karen’s review from a reader’s perspective
  3. Roberta’s review from a writer’s perspective

You can also join us on social media:

Do you have suggestions for ways to improve this reading challenge? We’d love to hear them.

Have you written about Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walker? Feel free to add a link to your review in the comments.
__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog. Links in the list go to the landing page from this blog where the discussion starts. However, this is an open-ended challenge so feel free to jump in with any of the books at any time.

The next book is number 63. The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes (2011) – Discussion begins April 2, 2018
Literary fiction, won the Man Booker prize

#BestsellerCode100: Number 72. The Marriage Bargain by Jennifer Probst

Time to start the discussion of our next novel from The Bestseller Code 100 list The Marriage Bargain by Jennifer Probst.

This post does not contain spoilers.

The Marriage Bargain by Jennifer Probst


(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:  Alexa Maria McKenzie needs money badly. Billionaire Nicholas Ryan has to have a wife right away. She is his sister’s childhood friend, so getting married as a business arrangement seems the best solution. Or is it?

This novel is part of the bestselling Marriage to a Billionaire trilogy.

 

 

Have you read The Marriage Bargain by Jennifer Probst? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Related posts:

  1. Book-beginnings, a discussion of the first line of the novel
  2. Karen’s review from a reader’s perspective
  3. Roberta’s review from a writer’s perspective

You can also join us on social media:

Have you written about The Marriage Bargain by Jennifer Probst? Feel free to add a link to your review in the comments.
__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog. Links in the list go to the landing page from this blog where the discussion starts. However, this is an open-ended challenge so feel free to jump in with any of the books at any time.

The next book is number 71. The Bourne Betrayal by Eric Van Lustbader (2007) –  Discussion begins December 11, 2017
Thriller

#BestsellerCode100: Number 85. The Klone and I by Danielle Steel

Time to start the discussion of our next novel from The Bestseller Code 100 list, The Klone and I by Danielle Steel.

This post does not contain spoilers.

 

Danielle Steel’s The Klone and I*

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary: When her husband of thirteen years leaves, Stephanie isn’t ready for the dating world. That is, until she meets someone during a spontaneous trip to Paris. Has she finally found her match or more than her match?  This is one of the oldest books on the challenge list, published in 1998.

Have you read The Klone and I by Danielle Steel? Do you think it deserves to be on the list of the 100 best? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Related posts:

  1. Book-beginnings, a discussion of the first line of the novel
  2. Karen’s review from a reader’s perspective
  3. Roberta’s review from a writer’s perspective

You can also join us on social media:

Do you have suggestions for ways to improve this reading challenge? We’d love to hear them.

Have you written about The Klone and I by Danielle Steel? Feel free to add a link to your review here.

__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog.

The next book is number 84. A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler (2015) – Discussion begins June 26, 2017
Literary Fiction – nominated for Booker Prize

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