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.

    Inspiration for The Guardian

    For a long time, I’d wanted to write a love story that incorporated both love and danger. I suppose it’s partly due to the fact that I enjoy novels that keep me on the edge of my seat.

    Growing up, I enjoyed the works of many authors, and had read a variety of the classics while still in high school. While it would be wonderful to claim that I enjoyed everything about such novels as The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy, Look Homeward Angel by Thomas Wolfe or Moby Dick by Herman Melville, I must admit that I didn’t. Perhaps it was age related, but I found myself able to put those books (and others like them) aside for days before eventually picking them up again. I’d initially begun to read them because my mom had recommended them to me; strangely, it took me a long time to notice that when my mom settled in to read for the night, she often chose modern story-tellers such as James Herriot, Dick Francis, and Agatha Christie.

    Sometime around the age of 15, my dad recommended that I try a novel by Stephen King, and from the moment I opened the cover, I couldn’t put it down. It was The Stand—destined to be a classic in the horror genre, I believe—and the ever-mounting tension compelled me to read long after I should have gone to sleep.

    This dramatic tension associated with fright was something I wanted to create in my own novel, not only because of my own preferences, but as a way to keep this particular novel fresh and original for my readers. Yet, creating fright and tension wasn’t as much of a change in the style of my novels as most people might assume, even though I’m most known for writing love stories. Throughout my career, I’ve varied the theme in each of my novels, which is the reason, for instance, The Notebook is hard to compare to A Bend in the Road. After all, the theme influences everything in the novels – characters, settings, structure, length, and voice of the narrator– and by changing themes, it’s my hope that the reader never knows exactly what to expect. In the past, I’ve written about everlasting love, love after loss, first love, love as rescue, love and forgiveness, love and sacrifice and for The Guardian, I simply chose to write about love and danger. In other words, I wanted to write a story in which two believable characters fell in love, but I wanted to add elements of suspense that would ultimately put both characters in jeopardy.

    Swansboro, NC

    Swansboro, NC

    Swansboro, the setting for Nicholas Sparks’ romantic thriller, The Guardian, is a historical waterfront community located where the White Oak River spills into the Atlantic Ocean. Known as “The Friendly City By the Sea,” Swansboro’s laid back atmosphere of Eastern North Carolina is evident in the vibrant community between neighbors and businesses that give it a small-town feel. Swansboro has many things to see, from the unique waterfront shops, boutiques, and dining, to outdoor activities like boating, water sports, and fishing. The open spaces, unspoiled beaches, and miles of coasts make it the perfect setting for Sparks to weave a suspenseful tale of mystery and desire in The Guardian.

    The Guardian, unlike my previous novels, is a story completely derived from my imagination, yet the conception of the story wasn’t necessarily more difficult than it has been in the past. Once I’d decided on the theme – love and danger – it was simply a matter of getting the right elements into the novel. The first, and most obvious question dealt with the cause of the danger. My choices were simple – it could either be a dangerous place, a dangerous event, or a dangerous person. In the end, I went with the latter, simply because I believed it would be the most interesting for the reader. And with those thoughts in mind, I sat down to start writing, thinking the story would be both simple and enjoyable to write.

    Only later would I find out how wrong I was.

    The Guardian - audio excerpt

    Book FAQs

    • Why did Singer have to die?

      Singer embodied a variety of themes in the novel: companionship, the love owners have for their pets and vice versa, loyalty, bravery, and even how a person can love someone in spite of his or her irritating habits. Yet, because I write tragedies, there has to be a tragic event in my novels. This was Singer’s role to play, and even from the beginning of the novel, I knew exactly what would happen to him. Quality dramatic fiction has to make the reader feel a variety of emotions – love, joy, happiness, anger, betrayal, jealousy and yes, sadness and loss. This isn’t to say that I don’t like dogs. I love them – currently, I have three. I’ve also had dogs die in the past, so I know how much it can hurt to lose a pet. So do many people, and I suppose that’s the reason people were so affected by what happened to Singer. I, too, was sad when I wrote the scene, even though I knew it was inevitable. Also, it’s worth noting that in American literature, as opposed to movies and television, the dog almost always dies. Old Yeller, Where the Red Fern Grows, and My Dog Skip are but three examples, and I wanted to stick with tradition.

    • Was the story inspired by actual events in your life, as your other novels were?

      No, the story behind The Guardian was a figment of my imagination. I’ve never known anyone like Richard, nor has any member of my family. Thank goodness.

    • Is Swansboro a real town?

      Yes, it is. Swansboro is located between Jacksonville, North Carolina, and Bogue Banks (an island near Morehead City). Swansboro, like many of the towns in eastern North Carolina, is small and picturesque, though some changes to the town were made in order to better accommodate the story.

      How hard was it to create a “dark” character like Richard?
      Creating frightening attributes in a character isn’t challenging; the challenge lies in trying to make such a character original. There have been so many “dark” characters on television, in movies, and in other novels that it seems almost impossible to come up with something original, unless it’s incredibly far removed from reality. A person such as Hannibal Lecter falls into that category. But I wanted a frightening character that was both original and believable. To do this, I created an obsessive character (not too original, I’ll admit), but that I made him obsessive almost immediately (original). Most stories that deal with obsession are centered around longer relationships – this story did just the opposite. This immediate obsession, to me, is very frightening – imagine going on one or two dates with a person, only to have them believe you can never leave them. It would be like a nightmare, albeit one that could happen all too easily.

    • Is there going to be a sequel to The Guardian?

      Perhaps. I have no plans to attempt a sequel at the present time (or even in the near future) but I said the same thing about The Notebook years ago. Only one of my novels was written with a definite sequel in mind (True Believer), but that was only because I had two books coming out that year, and the story lended itself to a sequel.

    • What about Mike? He’s so different than your other male characters. How did you come up with the idea for his character?

      Mike was a fun character to write and, to be frank, I liked writing about someone who wasn’t completely comfortable with the opposite sex. I think Mike is a lot closer to reality than most of the major characters people come across in novels. Most seem too good, too confident to be real. Mike, on the other hand, was entirely believable, and I wanted to create a character that seemed like many people of the people I know.

    • Will The Guardian be adapted into a film?

      Who knows. I’ve written the first draft of the screenplay, but as of this writing, Hollywood has little interest in the project. Hence, I’ve kept the screenplay on file and haven’t submitted it yet. I’ve learned never to predict what the studios intend to do with my work.

    • Will you ever write another love story with suspense elements?

      In time, I probably will. I have a few more stories I want to get to first.

    • You wrote the screenplay for The Guardian. What’s happened with it?

      So far, nothing. I haven’t submitted it yet. It needs a good polish, and I’ve been too busy to get to it. When my schedule clears a bit, I’ll get back to it and we’ll see what happens.