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Posted at 10:00 PM ET, 10/23/2011

Nora Roberts and her big love affair with small town Boonsboro, Md.


The entrance of the Inn BoonsBoro — and cover of the "The Next Always" by Nora Roberts. (Courtesy of Penguin )
When it’s love, you just know. Ask Nora Roberts, best-selling romance author, who knows a thing or two about the subject.

“It had me,” Roberts said. “I wanted it really bad.”

Roberts, 61, is talking about her passion for the Inn BoonsBoro — a 1790s stone bed-and-breakfast in this tiny Maryland village that oozes small-town charm. She grew up in Silver Spring but has lived in Boonsboro for 40 years and owns, among other things, the eight-room inn that she meticulously restored three years ago. “I knew I could do something with this place,” she told us. “I could give it back its dignity. I could make it beautiful again.”

The inn is the setting for her newest romance trilogy (the first of the series, “The Next Always,” just came out) and the site of Saturday’s benefit for Washington County libraries and Pro Literacy Worldwide. The silent auction featured works by local artists including Roberts’s husband of 26 years, Bruce Wilder (they met romance-novel-cute when she hired him to build bookcases for her). The live auction had 31 pieces of jewelry — gold and precious and semiprecious gems — donated from the author’s collection.

Roberts loves the bling — and boy, can she afford it. Her 200th book (hard to keep track, she writes four to five a year) comes out next spring and will sell like crazy, just like all her other books. She’s sold millions ... well, guess how many. Just guess. You’re not even close.

The answer: 400 million books.

Which means she could afford to restore the crumbling stone inn, even after a devastating fire tore through the building in 2008. But hey — the $3 million renovation was a labor of love. Roberts was in on every detail and named each room after happily-ever-after couples: Elizabeth and Darcy, Nick and Nora, Titania and Oberon.


Roberts bidding at the live auction Saturday night at her Inn Boonsboro Inn. (Roxanne Roberts/The Washington Post)
Sipping champagne and nibbling on hors d’oeuvres, the invitation-only crowd toured the inn, then settled in to bid on Roberts’s rocks. The tiny author — clad in an emerald and diamond necklace, diamond bracelet, emerald silk dress and sparkly Jimmy Choo heels — urged her guests to buy, buy, buy. And they did, raising almost $50,000. (There’s an online auction for fans, too.)

Even Roberts got into the act for the painting by Jeff Kollins that graces the new book cover. Roberts opened at $1,500 — and her family kept driving the price higher by outbidding her. “Stop right now,” she warned them between laughter.

She finally got it for $3,100 and will hang it in the lobby of the inn. Another happy ending, natch.

By  |  10:00 PM ET, 10/23/2011

 
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