Rating: 4 out of 5Review: Frightened for her life but without the means to be a self-sufficient woman prompts Katie to finally run from everything she knows after an entire year of careful preparation. Ending up in a small Southern town that is more a tourist hangout than a place to put down roots, Katie begins a new job while catching the eye of the local shop keeper, Alex. Widowed and raising two kids, with a past in law enforcement, Alex has a keen sense, and he knows Katie is hiding from a past – and the threat is a danger that still frightens her. Paralyzed by the life she left behind, Katie’s resistance to Alex is soon challenged when she slowly finds herself relying on his protective embrace and her heart is lost to his two children, all of which is threatened when her past rears its ugly head.
If Nicholas Sparks were to be found in the dictionary, his name would be synonymous with the words, romance (that one should be obvious), beach (his settings always involve one) and tragedy (cruelly he has a penchant for breaking the reader’s heart as well as his protagonists). In the pattern that has become his stories, so much of the plot involves secrets and a leading couple who go through multitudes of issues and mentally, free-falling emotions that engage not only them but the reader just to be left wondering if the couple even have the promise of one day being together – and even then, sometimes, the lovers are parted. Fortunately, I’ve gone two-for-two which chose a happier approach (but to be fair, I should confess that I cheated, knowing that was to be the case). Safe Haven is only the second novel I’ve read and were it not for such a lackluster ending, I’d have quite adored this book. It’s different with its hints of mystery and a frightened heroine who sees potential danger in every shadow, something that not only grips the reader but heightens in us a sense of awareness.
As always, Sparks provided compelling characters. Katie, Alex and his two small children captivated me. I didn’t want to quit reading of their delightful adventures and felt satisfied with so many of the story elements. This included an above-board romance (though not for the “right” reasons) in addition to a prose that entices, enchants and engages. Each of the chapters further develops the characters though the prose is a bit flawed – or perhaps it’d be the way the story is told that is most at fault. Multiple chapters re-count one event, making certain moments far too long then there is the switch from two POV’s to three midway through plus Katie’s wrenching narrations of her past life. During these portions and approximately three-fourths of the way through, Katie’ personality seems to become less of the kind-hearted woman we’ve come to love. While she remembers that past, it wrecks havoc with the reader’s feelings to experience first-hand the things she did and dealt with in order to make life “easier.” Because of that, the book is less romance and wonders into more of a mysterious territory which is said to be a departure from normal for Sparks. Indeed the book did read differently.
Common as this story may be, it’s a hard look at the touchy topic of abuse while keeping pace with some lighter, happier moments that balances everything really nice. The ending does sneak up on us and that lessens the sense of that “warm, fuzzy feeling” a happy-ending girl like me appreciates. By the end of the book, I was impressed. Perhaps the plot wasn’t as unique as it could have been or the character’s were sometimes stilted and still, for a Nicholas Sparks novel, it’s a keeper.
What to know: Profanity is rare with few uses of commonplace words like sh*t, da*m, etc. At least two sex scenes are described – both being an act meant to pacify a man with a short fuse. Elsewhere there are some mild innuendoes; a woman teases a man with a promise of a night of intimacy. Tense moments include a fire and implications as well as scenes involving physical abuse.
Synopsis: When a mysterious young woman named Katie appears in the small North Carolina town of Southport, her sudden arrival raises questions about her past. Beautiful yet self-effacing, Katie seems determined to avoid forming personal ties until a series of events draws her into two reluctant relationships: one with Alex, a widowed store owner with a kind heart and two young children; and another with her plainspoken single neighbor, Jo. Despite her reservations, Katie slowly begins to let down her guard, putting down roots in the close-knit community and becoming increasingly attached to Alex and his family.
But even as Katie begins to fall in love, she struggles with the dark secret that still haunts and terrifies her . . . a past that set her on a fearful, shattering journey across the country, to the sheltered oasis of Southport. With Jo’s empathic and stubborn support, Katie eventually realizes that she must choose between a life of transient safety and one of riskier rewards . . . and that in the darkest hour, love is the only true safe haven.