Tuesday, 7 August 2012

The Last Boyfriend by Nora Roberts

The Last Boyfriend (2012) (Piatkus)
Nora Roberts
Grade: C
Genre: contemporary romance
Sex scenes: mild
Source: library
Inn Boonsboro: (1) The Last Goodbye, (2) The Last Boyfriend, (3) The Perfect Hope

Only the last finishing touches are left on the construction side of things at the Inn Boonsboro and the Montgomery brothers are almost ready to step back and allow the women in with the furniture to make the inn start to look like the finished article. With Beckett handling the plans, Ryder the main design work and Owen making sure that all the tiny details are seen to, the Montgomery brothers - under the watchful eye of their mother, Justine - make a formidable team. The Inn had been in a derelict state for years before the Montgomerys added it to their portfolio and soon the building will be fully restored to its former glory, much to the excitement of everyone in the town.

The most awesome thing about Inn Boonsboro is that the rooms are named after famous literary couples. Guests have a choice between Elizabeth and Darcy, Titania and Oberon, Nick and Nora, Marguerite and Percy, Jane and Rochester, Westley and Buttercup, Eve and Roarke and The Penthouse. Each is decorated in its own unique style to match the relevant time period and it sounds lush. Even better is that Inn Boonsboro is an actual place in NR’s actual hometown, making it that tiny bit awesome. I admit to being rather disappointed by the photos of the real thing (Titania and Oberon and Westley and Buttercup look the best) as my imagination had gone rather wild at all the brilliant descriptions in the books, but nevertheless, it’s a great concept for a hotel.

Avery MacTavish runs Vesta, the place to eat in Boonsboro. She had a less-than-idyllic childhood as her mum slept around and finally left Avery and her dad without a word when she was twelve, but Avery has always had her dad, Willy B, to rely on. The Montgomerys have been like a surrogate family to her and Owen was her first boyfriend when she was five, even going so far as to propose to her with a little plastic ring from a gumball machine. Ah, young love.

When Avery was sure that cooking and running a restaurant was the path for her, the Montgomerys helped her financially (being the landlords of the building) and now business is booming with Avery looking to expand. With Vesta only across the square, Avery has felt like she’s been a part of Inn Boonsboro every step of the way during its restoration and she’s eager to do all she can to help where she can.

Owen is the dedicated nitpicker of the three brothers. He’s the go-to man for paperwork and when small details need to be dealt with and loves to alphabetize and colour-coordinate his notes. Beckett and Ryder might provide the heavy-duty side of the work but Owen’s role is no less important in making sure that everything runs smoothly on schedule. Owen might spend his days buried in documents and inundated with phone calls and emails, but he is always willing to lend a hand on the construction side when need-be.

Quick intro to other important cast members: Clare and Beckett are the protagonists of the first book, The Next Always. Clare returned to Boonsboro as a widowed mother of three so that her children could be closer to their grandparents. Her husband had died heroically while serving in the army and she wants to give herself and her sons a fresh start. Beckett had been in love with Clare forever, losing his chance with her when she married Clint. To cut to the chase, they end up together by the end of the book.

Ryder is the third Montgomery brother and the least enthusiastic about getting shackled for life to a woman. He’s completely happy remaining a bachelor, living a carefree life for the foreseeable future, in quiet solitude with his dog, Dumbass – D.A. for short. Hope is Inn Boonsboro’s newest housekeeper after their first choice became pregnant and pulled out. She went to college with Avery and was the manager of a semi-large city hotel. She gets on well with Avery and Clare but most of all, is looking for a fresh start after a painful separation from a now ex-boyfriend. While there is no doubt that she’s perfect in every way for the job, Ryder was adamantly opposed to Hope in the beginning and they’ve never fully been able to recover from their shaky start.

As with several of NR’s other contemporaries, there’s a supernatural element at play here (In the Garden series, Donovan legacy, Gallaghers of Ardmore etc). The inn is haunted by a female ghost and Bennett names her Lizzy in The Next Always because she has a particular preference for the Elizabeth and Darcy suite; it just so happens that her name is Lizzy, too. While Lizzy might freak them out at times when they’re not expecting it, they’ve mostly got used to her presence and she’s generally quite a benevolent character. She played quite an important role in The Next Always and The Last Boyfriend allows us to discover more about her past and how she came about to haunt the building. I’m hoping we find out more about the circumstances of her death in The Perfect Hope.

Avery and Owen were each other’s first girlfriend/boyfriend/fiancées – however serious you can get at five years old – and have grown up together through adolescence and Avery’s ever-changing hair-colours. They’re right to be cautious about not wanting to ruin their friendship, but will they take that final step so that Avery’s first boyfriend will be her last?

NR's series are always fabulous. One thing I despise about series is when there's absolutely no link between the characters of one book and those of the next. Why on earth call it a series if there are no recurring characters to bridge the books together? That's never the case with NR: her series always feature siblings/relatives or very close friends and there's a fantastic intimacy that you don't often find in other books. NR knows how to let characters that have already found their happy ending, step back out of the limelight while at the same time, lay the breadcrumbs for the next couple. It's like watching a master at work.

Where the Bride Quartet gave us wedding porn, the Inn Boonsboro trilogy is giving us inn/renovation projects porn. And there you thought that porn was limited to sexual fantasies: not at all, shows NR. While still exciting to read, I did prefer the wedding porn. Yes, it was amazing to read about all the beautiful features and furniture being unloaded into the inn and how dazzling it all looks now that it’s finally complete, but the wedding stuff just had the edge. Possibly because it’s based around a set of four female friends rather than three brothers, but also equally validly, because I’m such a girl and like reading about weddings. Take your pick.

I loved the renovation porn, but otherwise I was a little bored. Apart from all the hype with the Inn, nothing much else of note happens (IMO, anyway) and so it was very slow going. It’s not really an action-y book and so it’s a testament to NR’s brilliance with her characters, dialogue and descriptions that I managed to keep going and get to the end. If it had been another author, I doubt that I would have.

The supernatural aspects are always a tad iffy. I’d class the Inn Boonsboro series as contemporary romance, but the supernatural element makes this very questionable. In the series that I mentioned before, I think I mostly accepted the inclusion of a ghost-character, but only because it’s NR: it’s a little strange in an otherwise straight contemporary novel. I’m not too hot on it and it still has me on edge a little; this is definitely not my favourite series where NR has used ghosts. Sure, it’s interesting and I’m curious to find out more about Lizzy and her secrets, but it seems like it has only been used to make the series more exciting than it would otherwise be, and it’s getting a bit old.

Perhaps the main reason why I was so enthusiastic about getting through TLB is because I’m so looking forward to Ryder and Hope’s story. The same was with the Bride Quartet where I was highly anticipating Parker’s story (the last) the most. Both Hope and Parker are the heroines that I relate most to in their respective series; they’re both highly ambitious and perfectionists in their area of expertise. While Parker is a detail-person like Owen and we see a little less of this from Hope, both ultimately aim to please the customer and handle this aspect of their jobs like pros. They’re both my favourites. Hope and Ryder had an antagonistic start and haven’t improved much on their initial impressions of one another. While Ryder has pretty much accepted that Hope is perfect for the job, he’s still far from nice towards her. They shared a kiss at a New Year’s Party in TLB that stunned them both. Their eventual and inevitable relationship will be electric. It’s going to be brilliant to watch.

Would I recommend this? It is NR, after all. I have my own personal goal to read all of NR’s books and I’m almost there. Her series are always exceptional and while The Last Boyfriend wasn’t great in terms of its story, the characters really made the book and it’s primarily for this reason that I’ll come back for the last book. It had better deliver.

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