Well this is my second attempt at reading this book. I tried back in 2017 and just gave up at that point. I think it was all of the information provided about the renovations and decorating. Sorry, I just didn't care. And this was before my whole house needed to be renovated in 2018 and even then I have to say I doubt I would have cared this much still about decorative details. For readers who don't know. the Inn BoonsBoro is a real live place that Roberts owns and operates. And yes the inn does have rooms based on romantic literature pairings. There is an Eve and Roarke room which...I am sorry, still makes me laugh. The book itself was solid though when you ignored the decorating and renovation stuff. I liked the characters of Beckett and Clare. I thought that Roberts did a great job with a widow moving on so this had shades of 'second chance' romance since Beckett and Clare knew each other as kids, but not quite since they only became involved in this book. That said, this book borrows a lot from previous Roberts trilogies. I wonder at all of her single mom characters having three kids (see "In the Garden" and even "The Chesapeake Bay series" that had three boys initially which expanded to four boys.)
"The Next Always" follows Beckett Montgomery (shout-out to Jude Deveraux's Montgomery series) and Clare Brewster. Clare returned to BoonsBoro after the death of her husband. She owns a bookstore and is raising her three young sons with help from her parents and her in-laws. She thinks about romance, but no one has touched her the way her dead husband Clint did. That is until Beckett Montgomery. Clare has known Beckett for years. She now wonders about him and feels heat when he is near. As for Beckett, he had feelings for Clare way back in high school but never stood a chance with her when she fell in love with her husband. Now he has a chance with her and wants to make it work. Throw in Clare's three sons, a ghost, and a stalker, and you have "The Next Always."
I really did like Clare, I loved how open she was with still loving her husband Clint, but realizing she was developing feelings for Beckett. I hate romances which either make the dead spouse a louse and or just make it that the woman or man in question was not as big a love as the new one (looking at you Cedar Cove and Virgin River series). I think that is why most romance readers stay away from widow/widower romances, because you have to wonder at the person finding love again when the first time sucked so bad. Clare's three sons were adorable and cracked me up.
Beckett was great and we get some insight into him and his brothers, Ryder and Owen. Have to say that I loathed Ryder in this one. Him refusing to call a woman by her first damn name and just her job description ticked me off. I also liked Beckett realizing he was dating a single mother and she came in a package. He also didn't get his back up about Clare's first marriage.
The secondary characters such as Owen, Hope, and Avery were great. As said above, I hated Ryder. Can Roberts not always include some random asshole that no one calls out for his assholiness? I noticed in her later book she has pretty much done away with the alpha male trope (thank God). I am remembering how much I loved "Currents" for this very reason. We get a male who can actually discuss his feelings and not be a jerk to the woman he supposedly loves.
The mom in this one was pretty absent besides popping in and demanding her sons change things. She needed way more development.
The writing was pretty good, think the whole stalking angle was a wash though since it didn't really fit in the book, I imagine Roberts did this to add in some tension.
The setting of BoonsBoro sounds pretty cool. I have driven past this area before (I live in VA and my family is back in PA) so I have to admit I am tempted to go by it to just see if it matches what is in my head. Onto the next book in the series when it is available via the library!