Julie Barenson’s young husband left her two unexpected gifts before he died – a puppy named Singer and the promise that he would always be watching over her. Now, four years later, twenty-nine-year-old Julie is far too young to have given up on love. She may be ready to risk caring for someone again. But who? Should it be Richard Franklin, the sophisticated, handsome 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.
The Guardian contains all the qualities readers expect from Nicholas Sparks. But here, he adds a new electrifying intensity – and page after page of riveting suspense.–Grand Central Publishing, 2003
I read The Guardian because it promised to be something different from Sparks’ practicable romances that he shoots out like a t-shirt cannon. And I have to say it did live up to the promise. But the exposition describing the sleepy southern town of Swansboro and it’s inhabitants made for an excoriatingly slow start. I had relegated the story to the unreadable pile till I ran out of credits on Audible and had nothing else to listen to and picked it up again.
Worse of all, the exposition that made me toss the story near an open fire wasn’t even necessary. All the characters’ predictable stereotypes of: the eccentric matron, the pretty girl with low self-esteem who dates jerks, the incompetent police office and his smarter female side-kick, the kind handyman who’s always been there, but you’re just noticing now and so on, were well developed through their actions. The only character with any real personality is the damn dog, Singer.
Julie fills the sweet neighborhood girl role, who Sparks tries to spice up by giving her a tumultuous upbringing that her white knight of a husband saves her from off-panel. Which took away the grit Sparks was trying to give her to make her interesting. While Julie isn’t interesting, she is extremely relatable. Especially her experience dating a self-absorbed accountant who only talked about himself, Richard and his over the top gestures, and trying to see Mike as more than a friend.
The sense of helplessness, the fear, letting your guard down only to regret it, questioning if you did something to encourage the behavior, perfectly illustrates the trauma of being stalked. Sparks forewent the opportunity to ratchet up the tension and the mystery by confirming the identity and intentions of the stalker. Not being sure if Julie is overreacting or is indeed in danger would have definitely made this story the riveting suspense it aspired to be. –Borrow it