Publisher: Grand Central
Publication Date: 10/13/2015
Narrator: Christopher Ryan Grant
Publisher: Hachette Audio
My Rating: 5 Stars
Gifted Southern storyteller, Nicholas Sparks continues to “pull out all the stops” with his new romantic thriller, SEE ME —assured to be yet another bestseller, and blockbuster movie.
A novel of second chances, as the past and present collide, with a roller-coaster ride of emotion, suspense, mystery, and thriller . . And, as always, a love story running in the background, found in the most likely of places.
SEE ME, just as I see you . . . what powerful words.
Set in Wilmington, North Carolina – the iconic novelist has published eighteen novels and two non-fiction books. SEE ME,focuses on a young man named Colin Hancock, who is trying to shed negative influences in his life, and Maria Sanchez, a hardworking lawyer and daughter of Mexican immigrants who has her own dark past. The protagonists meet by chance, when she has car trouble during a rainstorm; however, their budding romance is threatened by a hidden menace.
You can depend on two things: Sparks' books being set in NC and a couple will fall in love. Let me start out by saying, SEE ME offers more intrigue than some of his previous books. More of a twisty mystery thriller, keeping the reader in the dark, as to the identity of the bad guy.
Colin Hancock has a history with an unfortunate past, prone to fights and violence. From PTSD, ADHD, a childhood of bullying, trouble with the law---and many wrong turns along the way. From a wealthy family raised by a series of nannies, from one fight to another with serious issues. His parents shipped him off to military school -a downward spiral. At twenty-five, he was given a second chance. (You will love his famous "OK". His answer to everything is, "just, OK", showing no emotion).
Presently, Colin is doing his best to stay on the straight and narrow. He is focused, and determined to achieve his goals. Back to college at UNC Wilmington, at age twenty-eight he is studying to be a teacher, to mentor children. With religious trips to the gym, and lots of anger management classes behind him, to control his demons, while working as a bartender in the local Wilmington area. He continues to be involved in MMA-Mixed Martial Arts as a means to keep his violence intact, with a perfect GPA.
He continues to stay out of trouble, and does not put himself in or around any environment which could lead to fights, or screw up his parole. He has the looks, the ripped muscular body, to turn heads; however, a little rough around the edges with tattoos, a tough outward appearance. His personality is cut and dry, and is not about trying to impress or engage in conversation. His past crime record has been expunged (thanks to his dad); however, if he screws up one more time, he is back in prison. There is a local cop just lurking, waiting for him to screw up again, so he can put him away.
Colin lives in a downstairs apartment, he rents from his oldest best friend (landlord), conservative--Evan, an accountant, a financial planner, and his beautiful fiancée, Lilly who is around most of the time. His best friend has been there for him through thick and thin, and Lilly, the prim and proper society Charleston Southern Belle, is always there to offer her advice and “Bless your Heart” reassurance; a drop dead debutante, and an accent as sweet as honey. Lilly has tutored him in the evenings, and kept him from making impulsive decisions, as well as Evan helping to keep him in line. He has his work, MMA, and his studies. He knows his limits and keeps his anger in check.
Maria, age twenty-eight, believes in working hard to achieve your status and career goals. The daughter of Mexican immigrants, she comes from a very close knit family. She has beauty, charm, and brains. Her parents and family, own and operate a local Mexican restaurant. She and her beautiful sister (she is funny), and her best friend. The two sisters attend weekly brunches with family—they like to keep their personal lives private, from their parents conservative eyes.
With a law degree from Duke University, Hispanic Maria is now trying to fit in with a prestigious law firm in Wilmington, NC, and desires to make partner. She left a DA position in Charlotte, NC, after a horrific case she was involved in with one of her clients, which led to her death. The case still haunts her, along with the stress of her job, as why the decision to move to Wilmington. However, there is an older married partner of the firm, sexually harassing the women, and putting the pressure on her. She wants no part of this. In the meantime, her sister is always after her about dating. She is not interested, and has enough pressure at work-She has no time for a personal life.
When Maria gets stuck on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere, with a flat tire--Colin steps out of his Camaro stopping by to offer his assistance--she is afraid of him. He is scary looking, after a fight the previous night (he fights competitively), he is a fright. All she needs is a scary escaped convict. She does not need his help. She cannot find her phone and is frantic, now late for an important appointment. They wind up meeting again later. Her younger sister happens to be in class with Colin, and when they later go out for drinks at the bar where he works, their paths cross once again.
An unexpected connection. They wind up meeting again, slowly become friends and openly share their past. They struggle trying to deal with their mismatched backgrounds. However, when meeting the parents, does not go so well, with Colin’s violent past. With numerous obstacles trying to pull them apart, can they possibly have a future together?
There is something bigger going on---an evil plan, playing out in the background, involving a past event. Vengeance. A dangerous stalker, and Maria’s family is targeted. From Serena, Maria’s sister, to Maria . . . someone knows their every move. This is where the danger and mystery comes front and center in the story.
When a past case of revenge begins to cause danger for Maria’s family, Colin will risk it all to save the woman he loves. Crossing many genres, this is not a sappy love story; it is part psychological, crime, mystery, and thriller. Layers of suspense, surrounding a love story with characters from different walks of life.
SEE ME offers a different twist, keeping readers on their toes, turning pages, by keeping the nature of the threat obscured. Until the end, you do not know the identity of the hidden bad guy.
What can you say about Nicholas Sparks that has not been said? One of the top authors of this genre- mastering romantic suspense. Each of his books dive deep into human emotions and dynamics, with layers of tragedy and loss, with well-developed everyday characters, seeking second chances when unfortunate elements continue to pull them down. In the end, they come out stronger.
Since I have read all his books, and movies, everyone asks how SEE ME compares? Each book is unique and delivers a different story and set of circumstances. What I enjoy about his work, is each book delivers a different emotion---some have more mystery, crime, or suspense, than others. There is always strong powers of conflict.
SEE ME is powerful; however, did not find myself with endless tears; not quite as dramatic as some in the past; however, more of a character-driven novel, and this is where it shines. Sparks does a fantastic job of combining love story with thriller components, as he allows the love story to take more of a back seat, to the danger in the forefront.
As a Charlotte, NC native, raising my family in Winston-Salem, NC and having worked in Charleston, SC---it is always nice to hear mentions of familiar places in the NC/SC area. All youDorothea Benton Frank and Mary Kay Andrews’ fans will enjoy the humor of Lilly--as she mentors Colin --how to dance, and what clothes to wear, as she works to smooth out some of Colin’s rough edges to make him acceptable in the eyes of his new found relationship and her family.
I always pre-order Sparks’ audiobooks when he has a new release. Over past years, his audiobooks have accompanied me with my long road trips from NC back to Florida, or NC to Georgia.
Audiobook: The narrator, Christopher Ryan Grant one of the BEST!! He delivered an outstanding performance, ideal with a wide range of voices and personalities; for the quiet dry, Colin; Hispanic, Maria; the funny Serena; parents, the kick ass attorney, Jill; the all American boy, Evan; the Southern cop; and the “to die” for performance of Lilly, the Southern Belle. Highly recommend the audiobook, as Sparks and Grant, make for one stoppable team!
My only negative: The front cover does not truly capture the mood of the story, as his previous books; however, sure with the upcoming formats and publications, it may change.
Upcoming Sparks News: If you haven't heard The New Bern author is working with ABC to develop a comedy titled “The Next Chapter,” which centers on a best-selling romance novelist who is recently divorced. Ten of Sparks' novels have been turned into movies and he expects his new film production company, Nicholas Sparks Productions, will eventually adapt "See Me." "The Choice," which is scheduled to release in February, will be the company's first film and a script for "The Guardian" is in the works.
Can't wait to see what is next!