Title: The Return
Author: Nicholas Sparks
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date: September 29, 2020
Trevor Benson never intended to move back to New Bern, North Carolina. But when a mortar blast outside the hospital where he worked sent him home from Afghanistan with devastating injuries, the dilapidated cabin he’d inherited from his grandfather seemed as good a place to regroup as any. Tending to his grandfather’s beloved beehives, Trevor isn’t prepared to fall in love with a local . . . yet, from their very first encounter, Trevor feels a connection with deputy sheriff Natalie Masterson that he can’t ignore. But even as she seems to reciprocate his feelings, she remains frustratingly distant, making Trevor wonder what she’s hiding. Further complicating his stay in New Bern is the presence of a sullen teenage girl, Callie, who lives in the trailer park down the road. Trevor hopes Callie can shed light on the mysterious circumstances of his grandfather’s death, but she offers few clues—until a crisis triggers a race to uncover the true nature of Callie’s past, one more intertwined with the elderly man’s passing than Trevor could ever have imagined.
Ugh, Nicholas Sparks. I hemmed and hawed about even bothering to review this book at all, but in the end, I read it, so I’m committed to reviewing. You may or may not know of my dislike for Nicholas Sparks. He’s the author I love to hate. I get great joy from reading these terrible airplane books and then complaining about how bad they are with friends. Summer is always my go-to time for picking up the latest Sparks novel.
One this I did enjoy about this novel was that the story is rooted in the mystery surrounding protagonist, Trevor’s grandfather’s strange passing, as well as his relationship with the town’s mysterious Callie. Blending traditional romance with a little bit of drama is Nick’s MO, but this serious mystery was actually quite engaging.
Otherwise, this story was exactly what one expects from Mr. Sparks. His books are always consistent in their predicability, the underlying traditional southern values, and their plethora of sweet tea. The protagonist came off way too strong and insistent throughout, pursuing his love interest, Natalie, with vigour despite her very clear signals that she wants to keep her distance. He keeps reading into her “interest” in him, despite her words and actions clearly keeping her at a distance. It came across as very one-sided and left me feeling icky. TBH, there’s some mega creepy vibes. Natalie, if she’s interested in him at all, is far too guarded to be able to interpret her feelings for him as positive. Even when then end up in romantic situations, she seems hesitant and is almost coerced by his persistence. It definitely left me feeling uncomfortable.
Can’t say I’d recommend this one with any sort of enthusiasm.