Chicklit Club



The Return (2020)


When Trevor Benson’s grandfather dies, he inherits the tumbledown cabin in New Bern, North Carolina, where he spent many a happy time with his grandfather tending his beehives. His return to New Bern is intended to be a stopgap before he takes up a residency as a psychiatrist after leaving Afghanistan wounded and suffering PTSD, but Trevor can’t help but be captivated by Deputy Sheriff Natalie Masterson.
Then there is the mystery of his grandfather’s death, and more precisely, what caused him to be in Easley when he died. There isn’t much to go on, but teenager Callie may have the answers. The only problem is that the two people in New Bern who Trevor wants to get to know are the two who are the least receptive.
It’s been a while since I’ve read a Nicholas Sparks book and despite being a fan of previous books, sadly this one didn’t live up to its predecessors or my expectations. There are all of the ingredients for this to be a great book, but I didn’t feel as if they were used well enough. For instance, Trevor’s PTSD is referenced throughout but never feels especially real, whilst Callie appears at the start of the novel but then is largely in the background until the novel’s finale, such that she becomes more of a prop than an authentic character and it feels like a major missed opportunity.
The focus instead is on the slow-burn relationship between Trevor and Natalie, and very little happens particularly in the first two-thirds of the novel – although there are plenty of details on beekeeping, if that appeals! I felt even the romance of this story came up short; neither Trevor nor Natalie are especially easy to warm to, and the intensity and speed of the relationship between them just didn’t convince me. I won’t be writing Nicholas Sparks off any time soon, but this was far from his best work to my mind. (JC)


See Me (2015)


Twenty-eight-year-old Colin Hancock has made a number of mistakes; mistakes he is ready to leave behind and focus on building up a new life for himself. He is focussed on getting his teaching degree and spends a lot of time working out in the gym, staying away from places that could get him into trouble.
If there is one thing he certainly isn’t looking for, it is love. But when he meets Maria Sanchez, he is immediately taken by her and can’t seem to get her out of his mind. Maria starts to fall for Colin as well, but the start of their relationship is quite troublesome as things from Maria’s past start to come back to haunt her and the ones she loves. Will Colin and Maria be able to overcome everything that is thrown their way to be together or will it simply be too much?
I can’t believe See Me is already Nicholas Sparks’ 19th novel and I have to say I was once again completely intrigued by the characters and storyline. Colin and Maria both had their own background story and personality, which the author conveyed in his own distinctive way. While the chemistry between the two of them didn’t necessarily spark off the pages straight away, there was definitely a connection between them, and it’s wonderful how the story between them developed.
The novel is, of course, a romance read, but there is definitely a good dose of mystery added to it this time around, which actually had me guessing until the end. Nicholas Sparks’ writing style is just fantastic and no matter what he writes about, I am always intrigued and captivated from the start and sad when I’ve reached the very last page. I wouldn’t say this is my favourite one of his novels, but it’s another stunning read and one I really recommend to any romance fans out there. (JoH)


The Longest Ride (2014)


Ninety-one-year-old Ira Levinson has crashed his car due to the icy weather and slippery roads. While he is trying his very best to stay conscious, he is visited by his late wife Ruth, whom he loved with all his heart. She continues to tell him to hold on because it isn't his time to go just yet and together they bring back all the memories of their life together.
At the same time, Sophia Danko, an art history student at college, is trying to recover from a broken heart after she discovered her boyfriend cheating on her. However, she now finds herself at the start of a new love story when she meets Luke, a cowboy and bull rider. Sophia feels herself falling for Luke more and more every day, but she doesn't know that Luke is hiding something, something that could change everything within seconds...
No one can write a love story like Nicholas Sparks can, and this book once again proves that. Especially since it includes not just one tale of romance, but two which are connected. Ira's story was on the one hand heart-breaking, but on the other also really gripping and enchanting. The love between Ira and Ruth is the kind of love most people hope to find at one point in their lives and Sparks managed to describe this in such a brilliant and captivating way. The fresh romance between Luke and Sophia is in contrast to the deep and timeless love between Ira and Ruth, but I enjoyed reading both of them just as much.
Like with every Nicholas Sparks novel, love has its obstacles, and this makes the story realistic. There is also a great twist at the end which made this novel even more wonderful in my eyes. It's a beautifully written, engaging, wonderful book which revolves around two parallel love stories; a simply stunning read which I can't recommend enough. (JoH)


The Best of Me (2011)


When attorney Morgan Tanner calls Amanda and Dawson to tell them their friend and mentor Tuck Hostetler has passed away, they have to leave behind the separate lives they have carved out for themselves and return to their childhood home of Oriental and face each other again.
Dawson, born into the notorious Cole family, tried to escape the abuse of his father and cousins Ted and Abee, finding shelter with Tuck, but it was Amanda who was his salvation. But Amanda was a Collier, and faced pressure from her parents to end the relationship and go to college. Not wanting to hold her back, selflessly Dawson gave her up.
Whilst she moved away to university, Dawson was left in Oriental, where the events of one fateful night irrevocably shaped his life. In the years since, Amanda has married and had three children, while Dawson has settled down to a modest, single life in Louisiana. Now, it seems that Tuck has conspired to bring them back together to get them to confront the love they shared.
As they rediscover the bond they once had, Dawson and Amanda are made to ask serious questions about their lives, but in true Nicholas Sparks' fashion the course of true love never does run smoothly. With an emergency in Amanda's family and Dawson's cousins Ted and Abee still wreaking havoc, Sparks sets up a dramatic conclusion. Although Sparks delivers another poignant narrative, the romance between Amanda and Dawson is somewhat lost in the other concerns of the novel and the ending felt a bit rushed and incomplete. (JC)


Safe Haven (2010)


Alex, the owner of a store in the North Carolina town of Southport, is a single parent, after losing his wife recently. One day Katie moves into the area, leaving Alex and others in the close-knit town wondering where she has come from and what is her story. Katie has a secret that she doesn't want anyone to know. Alex finds himself becoming more and more intrigued by her and is desperate to know Katie's story. The two fall in love and face the darkness of their lives together.
The characters are very easy to warm to as with all Nicholas Sparks' characters. The novel is very predictable - I quickly guessed the secret that Katie was harbouring - but on the other hand very well written. This epic love story is definitely a must-read for people who believe in true love. (SG)


The Last Song (2009)


Ronnie's life is turned upside down when her mother and father get divorced and her father, Steve, moves miles away. Ronnie distances herself away from her parents, especially her father. But her mother decides that enough is enough and that the 17-year-old should spend some quality time with him in North Carolina. She sends Ronnie and her brother Jonah to live with him for the summer.
New York girl Ronnie is expecting it to be the worst summer of her life. Steve, a former concert pianist, is working on his church and on his music. Ronnie is also an excellent pianist. While at first Ronnie hates living with her father and misses her friends, she begins a relationship with Will. He shows her that life is not all that bad living with her father and the love story between the two blossoms. When a tragic event hits the family, it brings Ronnie and her father closer than ever.
This novel is a real tearjerker and will have you thinking of the relationships that you hold with members of your own family. I would definitely recommend this to any fan of Nicholas Sparks. Miley Cyrus plays Ronnie in the movie adaptation and does the role great justice. (SG)


Dear John (2006)


Torn apart by fate. Bound together by hope. John Tyree is stuck in a crossroads in his life, with a father who has Asperger's and no direction, he decides to enlist into the army. On a break from his tour in Germany, John meets a student called Savannah and quickly falls head over heels in love with her.
What neither of them counted on was the disastrous events of 9/11 and how that would change their lives. John has to make the decision to settle down with Savannah or re-enlist in the army. Young love is never easy, but can it ever survive the distance?
Nicholas Sparks is famed for his beautifully romantic novels and this one is no exception. Falling in love with these characters is easy and you can't help but shed a tear whilst reading this. A movie adaptation stars Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried. (LL)


At First Sight (2005)


How far can you run from your past? When Jeremy met Lexie, she quickly fell pregnant. Now planning to marry each other after a short fling and move to Boone Creek, will everything go to plan? With their life settled in their now home, Jeremy starts to receive mysterious messages that disturb memories from his past, leaving him questioning his future. Jeremy soon realises that his old life is closer to him than he thinks.
This is a sequel to Sparks' True Believer but stands alone without you needing any prior knowledge of the previous book. Once again Nicholas delivers on so many levels leaving a bittersweet taste long after you have finished. You will be laughing and crying and questioning what you would do for love. (LL)


The Wedding (2003)


Is love always worth the fight? This is a sequel to Sparks' immensely popular novel The Notebook. (It would be difficult to read this book without prior knowledge of The Notebook.) Allie and Noah's son-in-law Wilson is finding that with his 30th wedding anniversary approaching, he and his wife, Jane, have grown apart. With the knowledge of his parents-in-law's love affair, can he find his way back into his wife's heart and recapture the love they once shared?
Nothing Sparks writes will ever be as beautiful as The Notebook so it is hard to forget that story whilst reading this one. However, as always you fall in love with his writing and get lost in the lives of his beautiful characters.(LL)


Nights In Rodanthe (2002)


Adrienne is a grieving widow who is struggling to bring up her two children alone and decides to tell her eldest daughter the story of her relationship with a man called Paul in an attempt to show her daughter that after tragedies, life goes on. It's 1988 and Adrienne has been abandoned by her husband for a younger woman.
An opportunity comes along to look after a friend's guesthouse for the weekend in the coastal town of Rodanthe and Adrienne can't think of any reason not to get away. Newly divorced Paul is heading to Rodanthe to get away from his old life and start again. As they both arrive in the small town, a storm starts to close in and the two strangers are brought closer together than they ever could have imagined. Neither of them know that this one weekend will resonate throughout the rest of their lives.
Sparks has once again written a tearjerker that will have you gripped until the very last page. Curl up in bed with a hot chocolate and a box of tissues and prepare to fall in love with a story that will stay in your mind forever. The film version stars Richard Gere and Diane Lane. (LL)


The Notebook (1996)


Now a popular tearjerker movie starring Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams, The Notebook is the classic tale of two people from opposite sides of town falling head over heels in love. Born and raised in the same North Carolinian town, Noah Calhoun is destined to live an ordinary life. Until he meets Allie, the girl of his dreams.
For one summer they are deeply in love, until they are ripped apart by the brutal reality of their situation. He is free and simple and she is supposed to marry rich and famous, following what is only described as the "caste system of the South". But Noah never gives up hope and he continues to write to her, and as the years go on, he slowly comes to terms with the fact that she will never write back and moves on with his life.
However, an article in the newspaper will suddenly bring the lovers together again though under unfortunate circumstances. Allie is now engaged, though she is still very much in love with Noah. And thus she must decide who she must marry, her soul mate who she's never stopped loving or the man who can provide her with all she needs. Sparks takes the reader on a journey which will forever be remembered. (SN)



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