The Last Boyfriend

Nora Roberts
May 2012, Contemporary Romance
Berkeley, $16.00, 352 pages, Amazon ASIN 0425246035
Part of a series

Grade: B-
Sensuality: Warm

There's not much one can say about Nora Roberts that hasn't already been said in the 100+ reviews AAR staffers have written for her books. Her popularity, quality, and role in the romance world has evolved, and right now for me she has settled in comfortably as a go-to author who is always enjoyable, but rarely wows me. The Last Boyfriend falls very much into that category: Good, but not particularly groundbreaking - unless you really, really like interior decorating and carpentry, in which case this book will be the best of the year for you.

This book more or less picks up after the end of The Next Always, the first book in her Inn Boonsboro trilogy. In this novel, Owen Montgomery, the "details man" of the family contracting business, and Avery McTavish, owner of the popular local pizza joint, are long time friends turned lovers. They were each other's first boyfriend and girlfriend, at the tender ages of 8 and 5, and Avery had proudly declared that she would marry Owen. Twenty-something years later, they are still very close friends when something in their relationship shifts, and they start seeing one another in a different light.

This book doesn't have a particularly active plot. There's the inn's benevolent ghost "Lizzie," whose life and death become a bit of a mystery, and Avery has some commitment issues after being abandoned by her mother at the age of twelve. And, of course, there is a lot - a lot - of self-satisfied discussion of furnishings, the perfect shelf placement, and lamps. Yes, it does sound lovely, but it's more decorating porn than anything else, and a bit pretentious.

One thing I couldn't help but notice was the lack of financial concerns. This book, like Ms. Roberts' Bride quartet, seems to take place in a fantasy world where money doesn't exist. It is not that the characters are extravagantly wealthy the way Roarke is in the In Death books, it is that these are small business owners who are working on major developments or expansions, and I don't think the word "budget" appeared once in the entire novel. Considering the economic state of our country, it felt tone-deaf.

Given these complaints, you might wonder why I gave this book the grade that I did. That is because the heart of the story - the romance between Owen and Avery - is lovely. I loved them individually, and I loved them together. Their friendship-turned-romance was believable, authentic, and deeply felt. The friendships and relationships in this book were all strong, and I enjoyed the parts in which Ms. Roberts laid the groundwork for the third book in the trilogy.

Yes, this book is a bit pretentious, and yes, this book's lavish descriptions of upholstery and window treatments and accent lamps made my eyes glaze over sometimes. But in the end, Avery and Owen made me keep reading.

-- Jane Granville

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