The Guardian – Nicholas Sparks
From the author of some of the most memorable love stories of our time comes an explosive tale of betrayal and obsession – and a daring look into the darker realms of the heart.
Julie Barenson’s young husband left her two unexpected gifts before he died – a Great Dane puppy named Singer and the promise that he would always be watching over her. Now, four years have passed. Still living in the small town of Swansboro, North Carolina, twenty-nine-year-old Julie is emotionally ready to make a commitment to someone again. But who? Should it be Richard Franklin, the handsome, sophisticated engineer who treats her like a queen? Or Mike Harris, the down-to-earth nice guy who was her husband’s best friend? Choosing one of them should bring her more happiness than she’s had in years. Instead, Julie is soon fighting for her life in a nightmare spawned by a chilling deception and jealousy so poisonous that it has become a murderous desire…
I still remember my first Nicholas Sparks book with startling clarity. It was the middle of ninth grade or so (or maybe even earlier than that, since the movie wasn’t out yet). My friend lent me A Walk to Remember, and I bawled for weeks afterwards, every time I recalled the ending. Then the movie adaptations began rolling in, and I was introduced to The Notebook. Again, it took me weeks to get over the heartbreak I felt at the Noah-Allie saga. I even bought that damned poster… the one with the iconic kiss in the rain. And every time I saw it up on my dorm-room wall, I got misty-eyed and sighed. My ex began to cover it up with my spare bed sheets every time he came to visit (I don’t blame him).
The appeal of Sparks’ romances lies in one basic concept – he gets what women want. His books carry quite the magical vision of what a real romance between a man and woman should be like, according to the woman. It makes you visualize you and the love of your life growing old, sitting side by side in matching rockers on a big porch, watching the kids play in the backyard. You know, the comfortable, secure sort of love… instead of the lusty, breathe-y, leave you guessing type.
But here’s the problem – you read one Sparks novel, you’ve read them all. Nights in Rodanthe failed to win me over, even after the movie came out (and despite the James Franco and Richard Gere screen time). I foretold the entire story and ending of Message in a Bottle before I’d read the first page. Ditto for all the others.
So what made me pick up The Guardian? Well, first of all, I’m an idiot, and an optimistic fool. I still hold out in the hope that he will surprise me, even if he can’t bring back the hopeless romantic in me. So I thought, okay, here’s a supposed thriller… maybe he pulled it off… maybe I’ll go back to shipping Nicholas Sparks like it’s my day job…
I was wrong.
Though the action is masterful at times, the book overall is just as predictable as any of the others. You can pick out the roles of everyone pretty much just by reading the cover, and you know exactly how it’ll all play out within the first two chapters. The people are all through-and-through good and earnest, and devoted Southerners, except for that one darned outsider who’s up to no good. Seriously, the bias against whoever isn’t from NC is a little… blatant.
There’s some good things here, though. The second half of the book, especially, holds some potentially good action and suspense, and you do start to wonder how it will all play out, and who all gets hurt in the process. If you’re a desperate fan of anything to do with violence and crime, you could probably skim over the first half just to get to the real meat of it all. And Sparks has definitely done his research on the mind of a psychopath, so it’s interesting to read about that. Sort of.
All in all, read this one only for advice on how to avoid and/or what to expect from stalkers. Otherwise, this one’s a definite skip.
Rating: 1/5 crowns